post-modernity: a way-station to the future

The TIMN Model describes how people have organized through history — first we lived as Tribes, then Institutions (church & state) dominated, and now Markets reign supreme. Each new form did not obsolesce the previous ones, but did change them. For example, tribes and clans have less influence over global markets than stock exchanges do. But families are still powerful bonding units between people. T+I+M is what David Ronfeldt calls a triform society, which we are currently in. T+I+M+N is when the Network form becomes our main way of organizing society. This will be a quadriform society. We are not there yet but can already see examples of what could be our future with  — networked warfare, networked cryptocurrencies, and networked social movements.

I have also mapped how our dominant communication methods could be the drivers for these shifts in organization. We moved along a similar path as we shifted from oral, to written, and then print communications. Electric, or digital communications began with the telegraph and have dominated first through broadcast electric media and now internet technologies.

The shift from triform to quadriform is well under way and one manifestation is post-modernity.

One project of modernity as Habermas put it has been the fostering of progress by incorporating principles of rationality and hierarchy into public and artistic life. Another philosopher Lyotard understood modernity as “a cultural condition characterized by constant change in the pursuit of progress”. Postmodernity then represents the culmination of this process where constant change has become the status quo and the notion of progress obsolete.’

… Artifacts of postmodernity include the dominance of television and popular culture, the wide accessibility of information and mass telecommunications. Postmodernity also exhibits a greater resistance to making sacrifices in the name of progress discernible in environmentalism and the growing importance of the anti-war movement. Postmodernity in the industrialized core is marked by increasing focus on civil rights and equal opportunity as well as movements such as feminism and multiculturalism and the backlash against these movements. The postmodern political sphere is marked by multiple arenas and possibilities of citizenship and political action concerning various forms of struggle against oppression or alienation (in collectives defined by sex or ethnicity) while the modernist political arena remains restricted to class struggle. —The Paradox of Modernity & Post-modernity

Is post-modernity the symptom of a society going through the shift from the Market Era to the Network Era — a ‘phase transition’? The Nordic Bildung project sees the next logical step of moving from post-modernity to meta-modernity.

  • The codes of modernity allow us to have science, technology, medicine, rule of law, individual rights, democracy, and personal freedom. All of this is good.
  • The codes of post-modernity allow us to analyze and deconstruct all of the narratives, power structures and social constructs above and to keep an ironic distance, and this is fantastic, it just happens to be impossible to build a society on deconstruction and irony, and therefore post-modernity is only a phase-transition. Albeit a crucial one.
  • The codes of meta-modernity enjoy all of the above in their due time and place

The authors of The Nordic Secret describe the post-modern era as — ad hoc, chaotic, filled with feeling and irony, with too much information and no boundaries. They see a move to meta-modernity — based on principles learned by Nordic countries as they transformed from agrarian societies to industrialized democracies — as a way to address the complexities ahead. Mapping this to the TIMN model we can say that:

  • Indigenous = Tribes
  • Traditional = Institutions
  • Modern = Markets
  • Meta-modern = Networks

The post-modern perspective appears to be merely a way-station occupied by confused people, some looking back wistfully on modernity and others embracing the confusion of post-modernity. Perhaps (hopefully) a few are building ways to get to a more stable cultural form of meta-modernity.


Continued: understanding the shift

4 Responses to “post-modernity: a way-station to the future”

    • Harold Jarche

      From: The Listening Society: A critical review

      “I also think this book might help spark a real political shift. If we put it in the hands of the ambitious and empathetic, I think they will be better equipped to curb some disturbing trends. Even though I of course lack data to back it up, it does seem like are two rampant kinds of disenfranchisement have created classes of people that can be sucked up by metamodernism.

      The first is the growing disenfranchisement between the ruling classes and the people in many modern welfare states, giving rise to strong xenophobic sentiments and value meme regression, evident in fascists rising in Europe and the US. The ruling classes are most often postmodern, whereas the modern value meme is still dominating society in general. Hanzi calls the Alt-Right postmodern, and I think he’s right. But the Alt-Right is great at rallying the premodernists and postmodernists, giving their values a place in the utterly postmodern, globalized world. Those wishing to combat the Alt-Right, or even Alt-Righters looking to outcompete feminism and identity politics, may look to metamodernism.

      The second is a similar disenfranchisement on the other end of the political scale: many on the left are growing tired of the postmodern approach. Even as the postmodernists rally more people behind feminism and egalitarianism, they do so in a way that is largely unproductive, more focused on criticism of modernity and emphasis on personal expression than actual material or spiritual improvements. As a political movement, strong identity politics make postmodern politics a hard project to be part of for those with a foot still in the modern project. Metamodernism offers a more nuanced perspective and allows the doubters of postmodernism into the church of progressiveness.”


  1. David Ronfeldt

    Harold, noticing that “The post-modern perspective appears to be merely a way-station…” is an insightful useful observation. Delighted to see you continuing with TIMN. I remain slowed down, but am working on additional papers. I’ll continue to stop by and catch up here now and then.


Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)