Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Postwar = Postmodernization , a retrospective look at Forman's "The Primacy of Science in Modernity, of Technology in Postmodernity, and of Ideology in the History of Technology"

Memo : to North Americans.

Let us always remember that Boomers are a very small subset of a huge worldwide group : the first postwar generation of children.

This vast global cohort consists of all children too young to remember WWII's peculiarly scientism-tainted spirit.

This cohort effectively consists of all of us born after 1941 and before 1966, whether or not our nation experienced a very large baby bump after the war or not.

The Boomers were but a small part of a global demographic who experienced the wrenching transition from modernization & modernity to post-modernization & post-modernity in their key formative years, from teenager to young adult.

This Transition Generation existed just as fully in nations that never saw any noticeable baby boom.

Postmodernity did not happen worldwide simply because young parents in America, Canada and Australia chose to have a few more children in the 1950s than parents did in the 1930s (but less than parents did in the 1910s).

Pre-war = modernity ; Post-war = postmodernity

Better, I feel, to credit these postwar kids learning, through films and in school, of the searing science-driven tragedies of WWII, without also experiencing the enveloping wartime faith in scientism as the sole way to win the war. 

This caused these postwar kids to experience a loss of faith in scientism and the 'disinterested scientific method' that Paul Forman describes as the hallmark of this era of post-modernization, as detailed in this landmark article.

When children born in 1941 started to get tenure in 1981, postmodernization began to happen in the academic setting where Forman lives and breathes.

Forman seems inclined to discredit the events of WWII and to credit post-modernization's immediate causation to the youthful questioning of relevancy in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

But this questioning was largely the work of members of the postwar children generation, so I remain unconvinced that WWII doesn't lie behind post-modernization.

I think those born before about 1935 finished WWII with their faith in Science higher than it already was , because they saw scientists winning the war the infantry couldn't win alone.

These adults held all the powerful posts from 1945 till about 1985.

Little wonder that science was king in the long decade of the 1950s as I fully remember !

But they started retiring and dying and their postwar-born replacements didn't hold scientism in such high regard.

Ideas burned into us at age fifteen rarely change -- but those ideas' human holders do go through a cycle of new freshman student at university to full prof and department chair to retired prof and then death.

So I do not think Bruno Latour, to take one of Forman's examples, really changed his deepest assumptions about science and technology between the late 1970s and the late 1980s.

He merely bobbed along, as a small intellectual cork, in a demographic tide far far bigger than his powerful mind ...

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