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This content was posted on  14 Oct 20  by   Brent Cooper  on  Medium
The Hypermodern Highway to Hell

Cultures of Excess and the Dark Side of Technology

Blade Runner, 2049

Hypermodernism: “Nihilism in its aesthetic form (skeuomorphism) masquerading as postmodernism.” — Urban Dictionary


Metamodernism is dead; hypermodernity usurped it. The exponential growth of capitalism and technology is taking credit for what’s good in the world while eroding the human spirit and the literal ground of being; from the soil beneath our feet to the toil between our tweets. This is the violent thrust of hypermodernism — unethical technological and social relations bringing the martian landscape to us at the speed of blight. The ongoing political crisis has been over-determined by unbridled greed, ego, and incompetence on the part of elites and masses, exacerbated by technology and media. . Understanding the depth of the crisis via the lens of hypermodernism is key, and this article will review the literature.

I’ve argued prior that ‘metamodernism’ missed lots of its own academic source material and lacks proper context without juxtaposition with hypermodernism. The latter has an equally rich bibliography which is just as fragmented as metamodernism, requiring synthesis. With this framing, everything becomes more clear. Humanity has a choice between Ecosocialism or Barbarism — roughly paralleling the dichotomy I propose between metamodernism and hypermodernism. The problem is people aren’t being enabled to choose freely and wisely — because the choice should be obvious. The ‘Social Dilemma’ documentary does not go deep enough, to the underlying crisis of capitalism itself, thus its shallow critique reproduces aspects of hypermodernism.

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Dystopian visions have become very real (note the imagery above), at least periodically and in some places. From the nihilistic android fantasy of Blade Runner to the scorched earth wildfires of Australia and the US this year, the hypermodern is art imitating not life, but simply death, an arid and vapid future that we ushered. The status-quo tempts the crisis being permanent and ubiquitous unless we mobilize collective power to instantiate a relative utopia for everyone, but it demands paradigm shift. And that requires a resolution to the political death spiral of hypermodern forces, and a correction and empowerment of metamodern values.

The tl;dr is as follows. There is a lot of ground to cover but I start in the deep history of the concept. What is Hypermodernism? introduces the concept via the Krokers (1987–1990), and how I contentextualize it based on Borgmann, who used it as well. Hypermodern Half-Time covers Trepczyński (2018) and his source Węgierski (1992), and Willmott (1992), and how those versions make complementary ontributions. Thrust Violently Into Hyperspace focuses on Armitage (2000) and Virilio, who broaden the scope of the field, extending to authors like McKenzie Wark. Finally, The Black Mirror of Hypermodernism refracts the idea through culture a bit and some other contemporary authors. Lipovetsky (2005), Charles (2009), Gottschalk (2009), Shapiro (2016), and Ebert (2018). I don’t yet provide a synthesis, but a map, capped off by a brief conclusion.

What is Hypermodernism?

Hypermodernism is postmodernism put into overdrive by technology, speed, and consumption, in the spirit of the modern (which is by no means neutral, but rather colonial). The word hypermodern has different precise usages (in chess and art, for example) but in culture it broadly refers to the excessive technological and socio-economic exploitation characteristic of late stage capitalism, with neofeudalism and neofascism in tow. While the hypermodern discourse is seeded by thinkers like Baudrillard and Virilio, their work is situated at the edges of the postmodern, prefigurative of the more explicit hypermodernism that comes later.

Hyper- can mean over, above, and beyond, not dissimilar from meta-, but hyper- typically means excess and energized, such as is in hyperactive, hypervigilant, hyperbolic, and the hyperreal. This is what makes hypermodernism largely bad compared to a more normative and positive metamodern ideal that is common (especially the idea of ‘new sincerity’). The framing of hypermodernism as the opposite of metamodernism is employed in several places, such as my article — The Meta-Convergence Continuum — reviewing the book Smart Cities and Artificial Intelligence (2020), which builds on my exploration of Borgmann’s bifurcation and other sources. Borgmann described a fork at the end of the Cold War, where postmodern culture didn’t just wane (to use Jameson’s terms), but rather it split:

Given the bifurcation hypothesis, I take just as much interest in and responsibility for this alternative term. My “Missing Metamodernism” series fills in the blind spots and highlights the notion of the hypermodern but did not have the space to discuss it, thus it is the focus here, as a counterpoint. I further developed the relevance in my article in The Side View, Vol 2, №1, Mapping Metamodernism for Collective Intelligence, where I take the broadest possible view in the short space to try to synthesize a third order metamodernism, that is revisionist and goes beyond other authors. It outlines the importance of irreducible postmodernism and the dominant approaches to metamodernism; cultural/historical (“Dutch”) and political/ developmental (“Nordic”), put into a broader container.

In the conclusion of that essay, I noted Kroker et al. (1990), who labelled America’s postmodern culture as going hypermodern, describing our sense of “vibrating between poles of despair” with a “high speed oscillation between meaning and meaninglessness, control and chaos” (p. 443). Such language is coincidently exactly the “oscillation” framing of metamodernism used by Luke Turner, and Vermeulen and van den Akker, but applied in a different way. Kroker’s piece thus serves as a jumping off point for the present article, and provides confirmation for Borgmann’s bifurcation.

Kroker et al. cite Herbert Marcuse noting the tendency of the post-1960s political culture drifting to the Right, and asking whether the Left could negate the corporate slide into fascism (445). I would say no, the political left has been divided and co-opted into a corporatist Democratic party that has effectively abandoned the “left” for the center. The Krokers also note that the authoritarian personality (cf. Adorno) is prevailing in culture at that time, which is especially true today with Trump and the post-truth media landscape.

Invoking J.K. Galbraith and Robert Reich, Kroker et al. observe that neoconservative economics amounts to “a barely disguised class struggle of rich against poor.” Economic greed and austerity are a root cause of social injustice and inequality, and perceived through Walter Benjamin’s prophetic philosophy of history, the trends of anti-democracy, the breakdown of Rousseau’s ‘general will’, and anxiety manifest as nostalgia are all salient features of the predicted entropy of liberalism making up the hypermodern landscape.

As if predictive of Cornel West calling President Trump a ‘gangster’, Kroker et al. quote Bertolt Brecht saying “gangsters strut around like statesmen on the stage of history” (448). And just as Walter Benjamin was “suicided by society”, along with other intellectuals and poets, we are urged to remember that we are the survivors stuck between a critical past and hopeful future, where “the intellectual responsibility of thinkers today is… to address, on behalf of a suffering of humanity, the “wound” of history” (449).

Kroker et al. go on to discuss malls as voyeuristic force fields, churches of consumerism, where we are “hyper-looking”; not just looking at products or at each other, but for our lost selves. We become vectors of the capitalist gaze, almost as if eyes of the surveillance state itself. The article concludes with television being the ‘fourth branch of American government’, noting the televised “hyper-charm” (454) of the likes of Gary Hart and Oliver North; from the postmodern screen to “panic USA as a postmodern scream” (459), as Kroker et al put it in 1990.

Several years earlier in 1987 the writing was on the wall, as Arthur and Marilouise Kroker wrote that “hyper-subjectivity has because the condition of possibility for the operation of power at the fin-de-millenium”, referring to the marginalization of the body as a condition of hypermodernism, where the mind is exteriorized into a parasitical and cynical postmodern media culture. Today its normal to perversely speculate about uploading their disembodied consciousness to the internet, but back then the prefigurative narrative was well underway. The body is at once fetishized as supreme and rendered disposable by techno-capitalist culture. The Krokers’ forgotten insights help frame and predict the hypermodern hellscape of today.

“the hyper-modern condition: a violent and hallucinogenic scene of the unbound sign of the aesthetic operator flashing across the simulacrum like the trace of the “virtual particle” before it…” — Kroker and Kroker, 1987

These few papers and others suggest that a new theoretical opening (for both metamodernism and hypermodernism) was becoming salient around the end of the Cold War. It was the ‘end of history’, according to Fukuyama who was famously myopic and self-interested about it. As the Berlin Wall was torn down and the digital revolution began to further interpenetrate borders, new walls were also being built, behind closed doors and from within the halls of power, as well as projecting into our living rooms, being erected in our hearts and minds. The task at hand is to undo the damage and truly understand our hyper-history, so we can reconcile the present and future potential, and the dialectic can find expression in the metamodern project.

Hypermodern Half-Time

In the article Hypermodernism as Deceleration, Re-stabilisation and Reconciliation (2018), Marcin Trepczyński takes an awkward turn and tries to frame hypermodernism in positive terms, as rising above both modernism and postmodernism, synthesizing them. He even notes that his definition could be understood as metamodernism as well, but attempts to subtly distinguish from both Vermeulen and van den Akker’s metamodernism and other definitions of hypermodernism. While Trepczyński has many valuable insights, it is too much of a semantic stretch to redefine the word hypermodern, so I count his contribution as a variation on metamodernism.

Trepczyński incorrectly notes that Mark Węgierski essentially coined the term hypermodernism in The Dilemma of Hypermodernity (1992), which I have disproven with both the Kroker and Borgmann citations. Like with metamodernism, we find these discontinuities in the literature (ie. missing Kroker’s use a couple years earlier), giving us a patchy understanding, not to mention Trepczyński’s redefinitions. Węgierski takes the classical view of hypermodernism, denoting the exponential growth of knowledge and technology, matched by a frenzied culture, such that “one may well wonder to what ultimate end all this unbridled expansion is taking us.” Reminiscent of Kroker, Węgierski describes the mall as a sort of dead zone of human culture, and also cites the proliferation of cancer and heart disease as revealing of the impotence of technology amidst social decay.

Beginning with some exposition via a long list of techno-dystopian cinema as hypermodern (including Robo Cop, Total Recall, Terminator, Blade Runner, and even non-technology driven films like Network, Wall Street, and Batman), Węgierski unpacks many of the excessive traits therein, and how we live under systems of control which calls forth a lonely heroism.

And yet these stories do little to empower average people, who “wander about half dazed and half broken, not even conscious of what is plaguing them and the society as a whole.” Meanwhile, Nietzchean ubermensches (or so they think) are actually a “feckless oligarchy” who “preside over this imploding kingdom”, revealing the hypocrisy and impotence of modern individualism and capitalism. From the neuroses fostered in big American cities spreads a ““PlanetTeen” — a borderless, planet-wide socioeconomic system, dominated by North American pop culture, consumerism, and all-pervasive technological saturation.”

“It can be said to represent the triumph of technology over humanity, of the mechanical over human culture, of oligarchy over community, of soulless capital over human decency. This alternative can simply be termed hypermodernity.” — p. 35, Węgierski (1992)

Węgierski describes an alternative to the hyper- trends, which he redundantly terms postmodernity. This is because he’s attempting to salvage and carry forward the many positive hypercritical aspects of postmodernism. Adding to the confusion, Węgierski acknowledges that the extant discourse of postmodernism is similar to what he’s calling hypermodern because much of it takes a cynical tone, but he uses the latter to differentiate a more pathological form, and sticks with ‘postmodernity’ to refer to the preferred alternative.

Again, Węgierski’s description of the desired ““postmodern” society” is more akin to Borgmann’s metamodernism which, coincidentally, Borgmann later called postmodern realism. Point being, it would seem Węgierski is in fact advocating for this extended sense of the metamodern, seeking “to combine that sense of spirit, community, and closeness to nature…” (36), but just calling it a positive postmodernity. Bypassing the confusing moves of both Trepczyński and Węgierski (not to mention Borgmann), I prefer to synthesize the sense of a postmodern bifurcation into hypermodernism and metamodernism, to preserve the importance of these early contributions. Having framed the struggle between humanity and technology, Węgierski attempts to pivot to solutions, while warning that…;

“…the coming struggle for humanity will demand the utmost sacrifice and commitment from every person who is more-or-less conscious of the near-impending disaster before us.” — p. 38, Węgierski (1992)

This scale of “sacrifice and commitment” is unthinkable for most people. That is, perhaps at least until the global pandemic and subsequent uprisings arrived recently, which has now put the breaks on capitalism for the moment and made such change thinkable and necessary. Węgierski reflects on how culture provides the distracting means to ignore or deny the inconvenient externalities of hyper-capitalism, and actually critiques academia as holding the top spot in “the hierarchy of escapisms” (p. 40). He places the futility of it above such culture shaping phenomena as music, film, and TV which attract more loyalty than religions and national identities do these days. Academia becomes a trap, trading off creativity for competition in a constrained discourse and ever-constricted job market.

Węgierski outlines a 5-point philosophy of history (p. 38) that dovetails with sentiments from Solzhenitsyn (ie. nowhere left to go but “upward”). 1) A Hegelian synthesis can be applied to world history, from pre-modernity, to modernity, to postmodernity (and beyond). 2) Human development follows a graduated pattern, from childhood, to adolescence, to adulthood. 3) This growth is complemented by a return to innocence at the end, a mature but magical worldview (a la William Blake), where adults re-integrate the optimism of youth. 4) Likewise, education takes us on a journey through ignorance, to criticism, to wisdom. Finally, there is a 5) movement away from myth first, then toward science, and then to a non dualistic “postrational” “virtuous circle” where reason and mystery co-mingle.

All of these syllogistic formulations are truisms but can also be traps. This is the incorrigible event horizon of metamodernism, that invites us to save the world with a limited sense of how, and a risk of lapsing back into postmodernism. Węgierski continues by describing Rousseau’s ‘third garden’, the first of which is the raw state of nature, the second is artificiality imposed to a geometric and virtual degree, while the third is a balance through conscious human co-creation. Similarly, I’m reminded of Bhaskar Sunkara’s metaphors of Singapore, Budapest, and Finland Station, the third being a new alternative beyond the neoliberalism and crude collectivism of the first two.

At any rate, these are global issues that the Western gaze alone cannot perceive nor solve, where metamodernism finds its authentic inspiration in a much more distributed cosmopolitan consciousness:

“It is probably in the peripheries, rather than in the North American node of the world system, that serious hope for change lies.” —p. 41, Węgierski (1992)

It is, in fact, everwhere though, that this potential exists. In an ironic twist, Węgierski writes that post-Soviet Russia and its satellite states are more cultured than the US — more literate and grounded — despite losing the Cold War. Though “Western consumerism” won out over “puritanical Marxism”, the cost for America has been high — such that its brought us to a situation where America is collapsing and Russia is one of the high-growth BRIC countries and stands accused of dictating US elections.

Point being, capitalism is actually not always rational at allocating resources, such as with the amount of time spent (read: wasted) commuting in vehicles that is bad for the planet and personal sanity alike. Rather, it (capitalism) drives us. Węgierski advocates a sense of localism (44) which echos Borgmann’s, and invites what sounds like degrowth measures, where the decrease in a lifestyle defined by quantity is rewarded by increases in quality; the creation of time and space for reflection, belonging, and participation in community. Alternatively, as Węgierski warns back in 1992, we may be on the road to hell already;

“The other path for humanity, of hypermodernity, which the planet today un- fortunately seems to be moving on with a startling degree of unidirectional intensity, implies an increasingly dystopic future for humanity.” — p. 45, Węgierski (1992)

Like with Borgmann, these insights are incredibly prescient, and important traces of the development of metamodern consciousness, and particularly of making salient the hypermodern curses of technology and excess. Węgierski ends with a provocative conclusion, that “the future, though uncertain, can still be won” (55). Of course, we look back on this optimism sombrely, as ignoring or suppressing such progressive and prescriptive foresight has been the shameless byproduct of hypermodernism blindly barrelling towards our potential extinction. We can’t simply re-assert such hope, but have to make up for lost time in order to win the present, so there can even be a future.

Also in 1992, Hugh Willmott’s article Postmodernism and Excellence: The De-differentiation of Economy and Culture, gives us yet another original impression of hypermodernism, where “(postmodernist) ploys are mobilized to sustain and extend a fundamentally modernist project” (58). In the 1980s, Willmott argues, the hypermodern discourse of “Excellence literature” emerged in corporate culture to confront the insurgence of postmodern discourse. Without naming an alternative, Willmott also attempts a synthesis beyond modernism and postmodernism, illustrated by his comments that modernism is critical of feudalism before it, and that postmodernism is “a manifestation of this modernist capacity” (65), adding…;

“…modernism must recognize its own imprisoning powers which are most oppressive when the emancipatory potential of postmodern discourse is denied.” — p. 65, Willmott, 1992

Willmott writes that despite the ‘Excellence’ literature’s claims to flatten hiearchy by rhetorically embracing postmodern play and chaos, there is a “hypermodernist concern to secure hierarchy and determinacy” (65). He likens postmodernism to the ‘shadow’ of the human psyche (and modernism), not as the dark underbelly, but as a critical force that becomes pathological when repressed. Thus, in the world of business, hypermodernism is ironically used to “cope with and further quicken” (66) ecological collapse and economic development, which walk hand in hand along the highway to hell. Willmott ends by lamenting that postmodernism lacks a “political voice and programme” to affect the change it desires, but that hope may yet live on the horizon.

I am enthralled by the depth of each of these three sources from the early 90s (four including Borgmann), and yet disheartened at the failure to consolidate and integrate the insights of hyper/metamodernism early on. The meta-crisis is laid bare in these shortcomings, and in our constant grappling with it. Blame it on the siloization (compartmentalization) of academia, or just the sheer incomprehensible complexity of human nature and our hypermodern age. Regardless, we must overcome the nasty splintering of postmodernism and unify the social sciences and society alike, without turning it into a monoculture.

Thrust Violently Into Hyperspace

The decade of the 1990s is a key phase of globalization for understanding the predicament of today, stressing the importance of hypermodern discourse. It is the period between the Cold War and the War on Terror, which under liberal auspices increased and deepened neoliberal hegemony. It is when the millennial generation came of age (I myself was 18 when 9/11 struck; a very formative event both personally and for the world). As we passed through 90s, the internet began to come online and transforms global communications infrastructure almost overnight. Since the turn of the century we have truly been in both a metamodern and hypermodern age, but make no mistake — the latter has been dominant.

In 2000, John Armitage published Paul Virilio: From Modernism to Hypermodemism and Beyond, an edited volume to honor Virilio’s work and highlight the hypermodern trend. In most literature, Virilio is considered as some variant of a postmodern author, but Armitage describes him as hypermodern, namely for his impactful work on speed, war, politics, and technoculture. Interestingly, from the above sources I point to above only Kroker et al are invoked in Armitage’s book, but he does reference McKenzie Wark (1994) and Friedrich Kittler (1997) as hypermodern cultural theorists, though they don’t appear to have used the term. This helps broaden the horizon. Critical of our blind embrace of technology, Virilio argues that with a ‘dromocratic’ society (based on speed), conventional aesthetics disappears and…;

“…the screen becomes the new ‘city square’ and ‘the crossroads of all mass media’, the ‘phantom landscape’ of all those driven blind by the speed of light (Virilio, 1991b: 25–7).” — Armitage, 2000

Virilio argues that speed itself is a somewhat an attractor, pulling us into the future, finding particular expression in military technology and dromological society. After all, I would point out, Nascar is often considered among the top spectator sports… and they’re just going in a big loop; sort of the definition of going nowhere fast. It’s all spectacle, just like contemporary politics (with a few exceptions). Armitage argues that this sense of acceleration and militarization makes a break away from stale debates over the difference between modernism and postmodernism, which is why he argues Virilio is a hypermodern theorist despite being of the postmodern era. Oddly, Virilio considers himself a modernist and an anti-Marxist yet ‘loathes’ the monopolies that dominate (even naming Bill Gates specifically).

Virilio claims that only an ecological “integral accident” can stop the technological march of modernity, and he predicts it in a general sense. The history of inventions is also one of crashes. We really have to wonder if we are finally at this moment today. In The Information Bomb, Virilio argues this replaces the thread of nuclear bombs. Information transmission is accelerated, and we are threatened by its bombardment, saturated by its noise, such that there is fallout from this kind of bomb as well.

Virilio argues that there is “a caste of technology-monks” who are fundamentalist and informational monotheists, creating a civilization via the military-industrial complex. We might say that the (infosec) jobs of people like Edward Snowden (before his conscientious whistleblowing) are part of this anti-humanist army. This “bomb” will destroy the socius (a productive sector of society), as well as tradition, social relations, and community. Again, this seems to fit our frame of hypermodernism vs. metamodernism, and Trump would seem to be the perfection of a disinformation bomb.

Armitage’s book as a whole has much to offer, but for the sake of moving on, I will close with his description of hypermodernism as “the cultural logic of late militarism”. For Virilio, we are in a definitive war of speed, accelerating towards technological, social, and ecological singularities as it were. Because of deference and addiction to screens, we have lost both sight and faith. Virilio implores us to be attentive to the ‘waning of reality’ itself, where as postmodernists were concern with the waning of depth, affect, and historicity (all of which return in metamodernism). At the same time, instead of having to go out into the world, the world comes to us, for better or worse.

With respect to the ‘intellectual battlefield’ of ideas, Virilio’s hypermodernism is useful as “a critical analysis of modernism and modernity through a catastrophic perception of technology.” (p. 15).Armitage calls hypermodernism “the cultural logic of late militarism” (also dovetails with what Lipovetsky and others call ‘hypercapitalism’. This commentary helps complete a powerful relational framing of our favored paradigmatic descriptors:

Postmodernism; the cultural logic of late capitalism (Jameson)
Post-postmodernism; the cultural logic of just-in-time capitalism (Nealon)
Metamodernism; the cultural logic of post-capitalism (various)
Hypermodernism; the cultural logic of late militarism (Armitage)

The Black Mirror of Hypermodernism

The show Black Mirror quite obviously depicts a hypermodern word, as I’ve discussed it thus far, where technology is invasive, oppressive, and humanity is dehumanized. Though it may qualify as metamodern television, its title is a reference to the shiny glass displays of smart phones, those pocket sized monoliths from a Kubrickian space oddysey that reflect dark truths back: addiction, cobalt mining, wage slavery, etc. We are through the looking glass of the black mirror, on the precipice of unfolding catastrophe, the shattered screen fragmenting the image of our dreams. Hypermodernism could also be said to represent a “structure of feeling”, akin to Vermeulen and van den Akker’s adaptation of Raymond Williams’ phrase.

As noted at the outset, hypermodernism has a comparable tradition of scholarship to metamodernism with similar claim as a successor paradigm, all of which there is still not room for here. Vermeullen and van den Akker appear to brush it aside, leaving only one reference, to Lipovetsky, whom I now come to. Vermeulen et al also make a bold move to subsume these other -modern (digi, re-, super-, etc…) discourses in their new ‘metamodern’ turn, whereas I argue the distinctions are still important, and a more rigorous metamodernism is necessary.

Lipovetsky describes hypermodernism in terms of a new redemptive historicity as well, but with a focus on the explosion of technology undermining humanity through hyper-individualism and accelerationism. Lipovetsky theorizes that the liberalization and deregulation of markets has “outstripped” the same liberal (postmodern) efforts applied to the aesthetic, philosophical, and political spheres. “ In other words, the acceleration of capitalism has captured postmodern critique, leading to a culture of excess and crisis of individualism. The quickening of time itself is a major focus too. Lipovetsky’s theory also overlaps with many other terms, such as post-postmodernism, digimodernism, altermodernism, and automodernism. Thus his approach is quite comprehensive, but also still one among many others.

In For a Humanism Amid Hypermodernity (2009), Sébastien Charles offers a defence of postmodernism as a relevant container for a particular era and complex set of ideas, reinforcing its relevance. The humanities and social sciences have an important role to play in the knowledge economy. You would think this is obvious, but our hypermodern economies are primarily organized around attractors like risk (ie. insurance) and profit, not sociological insight. Education and knowledge production are undercut and instrumentalized towards social control rather than emancipation. In this context, we can see opportunity for a metamodern sensibility to address the hypermodern trends.

In the article Hypermodern Consumption and Megalomania, Simon Gottschalk (2009) writes that “the idea of excess seems central” (307) to hypermodernism. His particular focus is on the “superlative rhetoric” (307) of commercial culture, where everything is characterized by extremes, and such language deforms our social reality. Gottschalk provides an overview of the concept through the academic literature. Hypermodernism presents it self as a distinct theoretical break for a new phase of contemporary society, similar to metamodernism and yet aside from Borgmann’s brief proposal in 1989–1992, I provide the only instance of a comparative approach between the two concepts.

According to Lipovetsky’s model, since the 1990s we’re in a third phase of consumption, where consumerism goes beyond material goods and colonizes our experiential and emotional domains, generating hyper-individualism, narcissism, and megalomania en masse. Chogyam Trungpa’s idea of ‘spiritual materialism’ as self-centred new ageism relates to this subtle hypermodern excess in consciousness culture (which also relates to McMindfulness). Gottschalk closes on a reflective point about the relationship between hyperbole real outcomes in the world. Gottschalk warns that this represses the collective aspect of biography, ie. the social consciousness, historical awareness. The more hyper-individualism is normalized the harder it is to understand the social organism, and the more it generates social problems. As Gottschalk articulates:

“the task of finding biographical solutions to systemic contradictions is not only severely compromised but is also bound to unfold in pathological forms.” (Gottschalk 2009, 324)

A dire warning from Gottschalk that appears to have come true, whether in the hyper- methodological individualism prescribed by orthodox and heterodox (ie. the Intellectual Dark Web) liberal thought, to the narcissism established in Trump’s cult of personality. The hypermodern is essentially modernist futurism with a dark twist, and it is unmistakably the dominant trend of the past three decades, and perhaps longer.

There are more sources still for hypermodernism. Apropos of the black mirror of fractured and comparmentalized cultures, I will close with two more original threads of hypermodernism. In 2016, Alan N. Shapiro posted his “Lecture: What is hyper-modernism?”, which affirms a “recursive cybernetic epistemology” that is must be “trans-disciplinary and it must be embodied” with a renewed humanism. Shapiro doesn’t cite much else, and like several others discussed here, his version is open ended (to have a positive expression), since there is no juxtaposition with metamodernism. Shapiro closes with the point: “To creative capitalism and to democratic socialism”, which speaks to this bifurcation in which we must choose the more meta(-noaic) path.

In 2018, John David Ebert posted “On Hypermodernity”, which seems to give another consistent account, also with no citations (at least to hypermodernism). Ebert’s take is original, scholarly, but not framed by the literature itself, which I am doing here. This recurrent problem of redundancy, where concepts co-originate and are independently discovered (‘convergence’), is not necessarily a bad thing, as it speaks to a common zeitgeist. The question is what do we do with it all, such darkness, and there is still much work to do.

“In their new book, Hypermodernity & The End of the World, John David Ebert, Brian Francis Culkin and Michael Aaron Kamins map out the cartography of Hypermodernity, an epoch which the authors demarcate as having come into being in 1995 with the advent of the Internet. As they travel across the digital medial landscape, the authors discuss the transformations wrought by Hypermodernity across the domains of economics, politics, art, film, literature and culture generally. The deworlding of the human individual by computational technologies wed together with neoliberal capitalism is discussed in great detail, as well as the rise of the avataric subject, pandemic narcissism, the ominous significance of Donald Trump, data mining by privateers, the dissolution of community, the erosion of cultural values and the eclipsing of the human by the Abyss — it’s all in here, the first ever thorough discussion of the implications of Hypermodernity as a structurally distinct epoch from Modernity and Postmodernity. So buy your ticket, step right up, strap on your seatbelt, and get ready for a wild ride.”


Sebastian Charles joked in his paper that hypermodernism might as well be the word “bafflegab”, which I had to look up and means “incomprehensible or pretentious verbiage, especially bureaucratic jargon”. Indeed, we were already awash in postmodernism jibberish, by the time all these new terms emerged. But to clarify, my intentions to abstract the discourse are to distill what is true in them conceptually, and there is a lot here. And the culture war still rages over postmodernism, with no awareness of these alternative perspectives, or even really a firm grasp of postmodernism.

I could but only skim the surface of some of my sources, but it invites a deeper understanding and more profound metamodern turn. Yet another area for future integration remains in transmodernism as well, which largely overlaps with metamodernism (especially my version), from a Global South perspective. For the moment, hypermodernism would seem to be a more salient frame than metamodernism, because it helps contextualize the failure of metamodernism thus far, the impotence of research in general, and its capture by various reactionary forces and anti-intellectual traps. After all, those from the political right — during the latest peak of a right wing authoritarian and regressive wave no less — who have either rejected or tried to colonize metamodernism, are actually its hypermodern foil.

The hypermodern highway to hell is the road that ends with a brick wall (or a cliff) while we argue over where to sit in our accelerating car — gas, electric, or otherwise. It is techno-capitalist dystopia, to which almost all of us are “committed” in the clinic sense, even on our best days. On the other hand, the metamodern meandering path is seeking a return to a home we are still building, a humble homeostatic homestead, a relative utopia. The hypermodern impulse holds us hostage; by jobs, by debt, by criminals and kleptocrats, and it’s going to take a whole lot more sociological shadow work and political mobilization to defeat.

I’ve touched on over a dozen authors contributions to a hypermodern theory and discourse. They share many common themes such as time, historicity, technology, speed, excess, individualism, and very late/militarized capitalism. The bifurcation of postmodernism into of hypermodernism and metamodernism provides a more elegent frame for understanding the global transformation and political schisms. There is still hope through the horror. A revision and synthesis in the respective literatures is at least possible if not more fruitful in juxtaposition, in order to determine what each is and is not, and what should be in our imminent (and immanent) unfolding future.

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The Hypermodern Highway to Hell was originally published in The Abs-Tract Organization on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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