Neomodernism is a term that has at times been used to describe a philosophical position based on modernism but addressing the critique of modernism by postmodernism. It is currently associated with the works of Ágnes Heller, Carlos Escudé, and Victor Grauer and it is strongly rooted in the criticisms which Habermas has leveled at postmodern philosophy, namely that universalism and critical thinking are the two essential elements of human rights and that human rights create a superiority of some cultures over others. That is, that equality and relativism are "mutually contradictory".[this quote needs a citation]
Soon after the modern movement, reactions were formed based in the philosophies of Friedrich Nietzsche and Søren Kierkegaard. The reaction took on the name of existentialism, and was characterized by the phrase "existence precedes essence". Existentialism was followed by postmodernism, which embraced Nietzsche's critique of the will to truth, which is the standing characteristic of modernism. Neomodernists maintain that truth still exists in a universal form and directly refute existentialist and postmodern viewpoints that the essence of an existent is formed in the observer's bias. Neomodernists stand against the discrediting of the concept of authorial intent in postmodern hermeneutics. Instead, they state that a text written in simple terms can only have the meaning that the author intended, rather than finding that even the most straightforward text can have multiple interpretations.
Neomodernism accepts some aspects of postmodernism's critique of modernism, notably that modernism elevated the world view of dominant groups to the status of objective fact, thereby failing to express the viewpoint of "subaltern groups," such as women and ethnic minorities. However, in her view, neomodernism rejects postmodernism as:
- Unscientific: the ability of science to generate useful knowledge cannot be waved away as "scientism".
- Journalism: as not giving any explanation as to how or why things happen.
- Local: as being unable to recognise patterns that occur across time or location.
- Unverified: as lacking any validation process, and therefore proceeding by fad and hierarchy.
In 1982, Victor Grauer attacked "the cult of the new," and proposed that there had arisen a "neo-modern" movement in the arts which was based on deep formal rigor, rather than on "the explosion of pluralism." His argument was that post-modernism was exclusively a negative attack on modernism, and had no future separate from modernism proper, a point of view which is held by many scholars of modernism.
In "Natural Law at War", a review essay published on 31 May 2002 in The Times Literary Supplement (London, TLS No. 5174), Carlos Escudé wrote: “Postmodern humanity faces a major challenge. It must solve a dilemma it does not want to face. If all cultures are morally equivalent, then all human individuals are not endowed with the same human rights, because some cultures award some men more rights than are allotted to other men and women. If, on the other hand, all men and women are endowed with the same human rights, then all cultures are not morally equivalent, because cultures that acknowledge that ‘all men are created equal’ are to be regarded as ‘superior,’ or ‘more advanced’ in terms of their civil ethics than those that do not.” Escudé's brand of neomodernism contends with “politically-correct intellectuals who prefer to opt for the easy way out, asserting both that we all have the same human rights and that all cultures are equal.”
Neomodernism has been cited in law as applying to an approach which grants economic rights to indigenous peoples, but without restricting them to their traditional economic activities.
- Chall, Leo P. (1952). Sociological Abstracts: User's Reference Manual. Sociological Abstracts. p. 2040.
- Downtown Review, Vol. 3 Nos. 1&2, Fall/ Winter/ Spring 1981/82. Available at http://doktorgee.worldzonepro.com/MODERN.htm. Retrieved 4 August 2010.
- Shapovalov, Aleksandr (Spring 2005). "Straightening Out the Backward Legal Regulation of "Backward" Peoples' Claims to Land in the Russian North: The Concept of Indigenous Neomodernism". Georgetown International Environmental Law Review. Retrieved 2009-03-12.