December 20th 2011
Hypermodernity and Paradoxical Individualism
1. Some writers like to say that the eyes are the mirrors of the soul. They are wrong: fashion is… at least in our 21st century society. Foucault has greatly contributed to shape our understanding of the consequences of disciplinary power on us through time. Modernity was the time during which things such as the rise of bureaucracy; institutions and other psychologically enslaving features were beginning to be openly talked about and criticized with hope for change on the long-term. Fashion has been used to picture and reinforce the disciplinary system established by society: people have had to dress in certain ways to “describe” who they were and what their societal function was. The postmodernist society has seen a different alteration occur; the mindset of people radically changed and the mass started to seek autonomy and freedom from those disciplinary methods and one easy way to pursue that goal was to do it through fashion: “fashion’s constant shifts result above all from a new position and representation of the individual in relation to the collective whole”. Our rational ego relativizes and still wants us to believe that we are defending the “everybody’s equal” theory but the spreading fashion is a conspicuous signifier that directly contradicts our main belief without us explicitly realizing it, this is the strength of personalization. But it does not matter because the new ideology is one that lies in the present. Looking back to the past is poisonous and we should not waste time doing that at any time. To oversimplify the matter, I would say that the simple call for thinking might be considered too much; we shall live off from impulses condensed through fashion. Postmodernism has divided the functions of fashion into three categories: ephemerality, seduction and marginal differentiation. In a way, this reinforces the arguments I have been giving here above: ephemerality is living in the present; seduction is a way like another to fulfill some of our impulses and differentiation is in fact the unconscious reinforcement of the previously societally imposed class differentiation. In short, give the people some freedom and they will abolish your rules to reinstall them using different names. When Lipovetsky argues that postmodernity is the achievement of the principles of the enlightenment, and despite the balancing restrictions he highlights for this comparison, I am not sure if I really agree with him. In fact, I see the form as similar but the content is different. The humanistic approach of enlightenment philosophers would never be fulfilled with the vision of our postmodern consumerist diagram. To sum up, history repeats itself and sociocultural demarcation is not an exception. I am not sure if by any means we could stop this repetition from occurring but one thing is certain, it is not through capitalism that this will change. In the current system, people will always need to stand out from the crowd or to belong to a certain group. Hypermodernity just gives us more opportunities but we do not really beneficiate from them to go forward and make the most out of it and we always end up copying, in a way the old way of behaving. But one thing definitely changed: we became hyperconsumers and we consume even more than ever. Why? Because we can.
2. Hypermodernity is the result of tens of decades of mixed ideologies and theories that shaped a socio-cultural category in which some people, including Gilles Lipovetsky, think we fit today. I believe it all started with Epicurus, his philosophical research and the introduction of Epicureanism. It is incredible to look back and realize that the ancient Greeks already shared the same ideas as we do today and this also proves that ancient Greece’s literature is still a source filled with an incredible amount of wisdom and answers waiting to be debated and interpreted today in our “place the...
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