The Impasse Between Modernism and Postmodernism

Patrick Lee Miller in Quillette:

WaveCrashesBuying textbooks, writing syllabi, and putting on armor. This is how many students and teachers prepared to return to campus this past fall. The last few years have witnessed an intensifying war for the soul of the university, with many minor skirmishes, and several pitched battles. The most dramatic was last spring at Evergreen State, shortly before the end of the spring semester.1 Perhaps the most dramatic since then have been at Reed College and Wilfrid Laurier University.2There is no shortage of examples, filling periodicals left and right. Wherever it next explodes, this war promises more ferocity, causing more casualties—careers, programs, ideals.

What’s at stake? According to Michael Aaron, writing after the battle at Evergreen, the campus war is symptomatic of a broader clash of three worldviews contesting the future of our culture: traditionalism, modernism, and postmodernism.3 The traditionalists, he writes, “do not like the direction in which modernity is headed, and so are looking to go back to an earlier time when they believe society was better.” Whether they oppose changes to sexual mores or American demographics, Aaron adds, “these folks include typical status-quo conservatives, Evangelical Christians as well as more nefarious types such as white nationalists and the ‘alt right’.” In his estimation, they are done.

He concedes that the election of Trump has empowered them, but he believes “they have largely been pushed to the fringes in terms of their social influence.” A few hours in front of FoxNews, or browsing the massive comment threads of some PragerU videos, would disabuse him of this illusion. Traditionalists are veryinfluential in the national culture of the U.S.A, if not other countries, and hopeful predictions of their retreat have all proven false. But Aaron is correct, in a way.

More here.