All varieties of societies can be classified according to three main types: archaic (pre-industrial) society, modern (industrial) society and postmodern (postindustrial) one.
Modernism appeared in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century as a response to an emerging fully industrialized world and new economical, social and political conditions. It concerned all spheres of life from art, literature, architecture to activities of social organizations and daily life. It united those who considered that “traditional”ť forms were becoming outdating in the new developing society. It was the time of development and the rise of usage of modern technologies and progress. Modernism was the period of the maximum development of rational types of thinking and society organization as the way to break with irrationality of myths, religion, prejudice and despotism of authorities. It influenced culture and art greatly. Modernism artists tended to believe in a “total art”ť. It was an idea that all kinds of art should have worked cooperatively to transform the environment and significantly improve people’s physical and psychological conditions. Thus, “pure”ť art was denied in favor social aesthetics. The idea of integrating art into everyday life was supported as it could help to build a better world.
On the other hand, the time of modernism was the grim time of World Wars. That is why, people reacting to that time reality tried to create a better world through their creative works in art, design, etc. It can be seen in painting most vividly. Most artists showed the world another way it was usually seen by people. The world was deformed greatly that it could be hardly recognized as artists followed rather their imagination and feelings than actual images in reality. It was an attempt to show that the world wasn’t actually that one people used to see it. They tended to show that it was that one as it was depicted in the artists’ works. It was deliberate deviation from traditional conceptions.
Avant-garde wasn’t an attempt to create a new form of art. It was a new method of world perception that could be put in the place of traditional philosophy.
Postmodernism was a new movement that emerged in 1960’s and appeared as a reaction to modernism. The main characteristic feature of postmodern type of society was loss of faith in science. People became disillusioned with the idea that rational thought could make the world a better place to live. People believed no more in the idea of progress because its negative affects such as pollution, damage to environment and human populations began to eclipse its expecting benefit. However, it didn’t mean that it was against the development of new technologies and progress in general. Postmodernism was the period when old certainties were lost. The old distinctions as for gender roles, social class differences, aesthetic differences became less clear and people were able to choose easily how they wanted to behave or who they wanted to be. As for “old-fashioned”ť ideas that were so actively denied by modernism, postmodernism tended to combine a variety of styles together, borrowing something from the past, picking something from contemporaneity and mixing that all into a new approach. Thus, for instance, postmodern architecture didn’t follow the principle of “pure”ť form or “perfect”ť detail. Instead of that, all methods, forms, materials and colors that were available to architecture were at the disposal and could be picked up and combined according to personal preferences. The process of globalization played a marked role in the postmodern society. Traditional cultural boundaries of countries were blurring by its effect. New social movement appeared that connected people of different classes and ethnics all over the world (such as feminism movement, gay-right movement, etc.) The significance of nation states became less evident. Many multi-national companies appeared all over the world and became more powerful than some countries. Attitude to education changed. This process turned into a long-life process because employees were not sure any more that they could have long-term careers, there was a big increase in temporary and part-time employment and there were fewer chances to have jobs for life. Attitude to knowledge changed to. In modern societies knowledge was equal to science. One got knowledge by the process of education in order to be an educated person in general. In the postmodern society knowledge changed its function. A person learned something not only to know it but also to use that knowledge in everyday life. Skills and training became of more importance and value than just knowing certain general facts and information.
To sum up information mentioned above, there is following comparison of main ideas of modern and postmodern societies concerning certain spheres of life.
In the modern society people were disappointed with material truth and searched for abstract one. In the postmodern society people believed in no truth at all, either abstract or another one. Modernists were against existing order and followed the ideas of avant-garde.
Eclecticism and relativism with no ultimate truth were characteristic of postmodernism. Modernists believed in mastery and progress and considered that past affected present and future. Postmodernists saw future as something indeterminate and “lived”ť only in the present.
Modernists opposed high culture to low culture and believed that only high culture should have been analyzed and studied.
In the postmodernism society any culture was considered to be popular and deserved to be studied. Big ideas and centralized of political parties rule were in modern society politics. Capitalism was opposed to communism. In politics of the postmodern society ideas became fragmental, power was decentralized. “Late capitalism”ť rules prevailed. Modernism was the period of alienation, when essential truth and beauty could be still found and comprehended by means of ration and science. Postmodernism was the time of information, computerization when the world was seen as a multiplicity of text and discourses. Modern architectural forms followed function, while postmodern architectural styles were the mixture of past and present. Modern art followed the idea of creating a masterpiece, authors determined meaning. Postmodern art was just sampling when meaning was indeterminate in most cases.
Thus, modernism and postmodernism ideas have influenced greatly the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century. However, neither of them should be chosen as the only one theoretical perspective that could best explain the social world today. In the contemporary society there can be found the desire to return to the pre-postmodernism period and its ideas (modern, humanism, Enlightenment thinking, etc.) It is often associated with conservative political, religious and philosophical groups. But the pictures of the social world today is most likely interweaving of different ideas and believes, where, however, postmodernism tendencies prevail.