So my friend who starts using new philosophical terminology months before I hear it from anyone else has introduced me to another new term: Metamodern.
Now, I’m not really one of those people who keeps up with the latest trends in contemporary thought. Most of the people I know barely register Postmodern as a thing, and Post-Evangelical runs straight past them. The construction industry isn’t exactly known for its deep thinking, after all.
For myself, I’m still not convinced that we need the term “post-Evangelical”, but I don’t really consider a lot of the excesses that post-Evangelicalism appears to be reacting against as real Evangelicalism. For me, “Evangelical” is still a useful, positive and good term; what do we need a “post-” for?
I’m probably not intrinsically opposed to Metamodernism, though being so absolutely new to it I’m still not sure I properly understand it.
But the term itself bothers me.
“Meta” is a Greek-derived prefix technically meaning “beyond”, though in most actual English usage it is meaningless except as a signifier of “derivative of”.
But I’m told that the “meta” in Metamodern isn’t referring to the Greek prefix but to Plato’s idea of Metaxy. Or in other words, at least as far as I can understand it, the idea of a sort of “in-between” state of creative tension between two opposed extremes.
Um, that may be so, but linguistically I’m not sure it works. “Metaxamodern” would be the appropriate way to refer to Metaxy, but I’ll grant you it’s clumsy. “Metaxic”, perhaps?
For me, the Metaxy reference is completely lost, just looking at the word.
We have Post-Evangelicalism. We have Post-Modernism. Paranormal. Transgender. What “Metamodern” looks like is “add a different prefix”.
You think you know what “postmodern” means now, and we’re not that, because it’s crap. But we don’t want to return to Modernism, because that was crap, too. “Meta” is a nice, malleable prefix that we can make mean whatever we say it means. Here, have a new derivative!
Now, I’ll grant you that it’s better than “Post-Postmodern”, but that seems to be effectively what it is. Another reaction against its immediate predecessor, appearing to define itself purely negatively in exactly the same way Postmodernism did.
What’s “Modern” doing in there at all? Can’t we be any more nomenclatively creative than just swapping prefixes? Can’t we come up with a real new term that actually communicates what it is, not what it isn’t?
Now, I know I’m basing a lot of this purely on the word used. Metamodernism doesn’t seem to see itself as solely a reaction against postmodernism, nor as a generally negative movement. But names are important, particularly in this sort of sphere in which they describe a system of thought and belief that people choose to align themselves with. Exchange one silly prefix for another even more meaningless one and you have a new term for a new reaction against the reaction against Modernism.
I think we shall call this “Post-meta-transmovementism”. The desire to stop making infinite derivatives of the same old movement in reaction against one another.
It may be that my relationship to Metamodernism is rather like my relationship to Feminism. By any reasonable definition I am a feminist, but I still don’t much care for the term. As a man, I don’t find it helpful. It doesn’t appear to have anything for me. Similarly, I might actually be technically Metamodern in outlook (I’m not sure yet), but I find the term itself unhelpful.
There it is.