Anthropological Perspectives on Modern-Postmodern Ideas

In this constantly changing world, there are many instances where large populations that were totally unfamiliar with one another come into close contact. From an anthropological perspective, there are many political and economic relationships that made up both modern and postmodern cities, including surveillance, regulation, and social ordering. Other variations of these terms, such as modernity, postmodernity, postmodernism, and modernization theory are seemingly the same, yet different perspectives on society.

One of the biggest changes to an urban area of society came in the form of industrialization. Various changes in technology, specialization of labor, and other factors led to the development of industry on an extensive scale. According to Madan Sarup, the various changes of social development which occurred because of industrialization are known as modernity. Due to scientific and technological innovations from the industrialization period, many socio-economic changes were generated (Murphy, par. 4). Modernity refers to a set of theoretical, political, and ethical ideas.

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The label modern, which was first used in nineteenth-century sociology, was meant to distinguish the present era from the previous one, which was labeled “antiquity” (Baldwin, par. 5). Various aspects of an era can be considered modern, including architecture. An example of modern architecture can be seen in New York at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. The walls of the center are covered with black glass, attached to steel beams. The entire outside of the building looks futuristic, with a repeated design of black cubes, in various shapes and sizes.

Fundamentally, according to Sarup, modernity is the “progressive economic and administrative rationalization and differentiation of the social world” (Murphy, par. 2). By creating order out of chaos, society would function better as a whole (Baldwin, par. 10). Globalization is an example of modernity. It seems to be unifying the world, but on an ordered and restricted basis. Globalization unifies money markets, speculative financial flows, information, and the organization of production. However, while the movement of money remains seemingly free, the movement of people remains segmented.

Many aspects of society were influenced by modernity. In modern society, the individual became priority over the whole community. Basically, the best interests of a community were secondary to the self-interests of a particular individual. During the Industrial Revolution, where modernity was most prevalent, the division of labor changed from older methods to modern institutions that performed specific and specialized tasks. In addition, governing institutions and modern regulations were implemented into society.

In a modernist society, knowledge was associated with science. A person gained knowledge through education, in order to be knowledgeable (Baldwin, par. 17). With industrialization, the economy became extremely important, with larger levels of output, investment, and growth. The modernization theory, created by Walter Rostow, attempts to explain why only certain countries flourish economically. The theory claims that self-sustaining economic growth could be achieved by following a five stage model of growth.

The stages consist of traditional society, the preconditions for take-off, the actual take-off, drive to maturity, and high consumption (Tipps, 203). Limited technology regulates production in the first stage. As these limitations are removed through education and changes in the value system at the second stage, scientific ideas, infrastructure, and business plans assume greater importance. During the take-off period, there is a higher rate of investment. In the drive to maturity stage, investment increases and modern technology spread throughout the economy.

The mature economy is created, and its resources can be used for high mass consumption (Tipps, 216). Although the outcome is not entirely positive, using the assumptions of modernization theory dealing with the construction of infrastructure, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and many private banks loaned third world countries money to build factories, roads, and invest in education in the 1960s and 1970s (Khalaf, par. 6). Debts from these projects have arisen, even though the projects they funded have on occasion failed.

This is currently the source of the debt crisis in parts of third world countries. Postmodernism relates to the academic thinking and cultural expressions that are becoming more apparent in present-day society. These ideas question the morals, principles, and values that are at the center of the modern state of mind. Post-modernity, however, refers to the era in which people are currently living (Grenz, 12). Post-modernity tries to combine positive aspects of modernity with ideas of the past.

Post-modernity transforms the aspects of social, economic, and political modernity that were around in Western industrial nations from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century (Grenz, 13). In a post-modernist society, knowledge becomes a functional aspect of society. A person learns things in order to make use of that information, which contrasts modernity, where only knowledge was important, and not actual use of that information. The creation of computer technology changed the form of knowledge production, distribution, and consumption in society (Baldwin, par. 3).

In addition, where modernity consisted of a hierarchy and centralized control, post-modernity was fragmented, with a loss of centralized control. The term postmodern refers to a way of thinking and its products. Cultural expression has led to postmodern art, theater, and architecture (Grenz, 13). An example of such a postmodern product can come in the form of television, namely MTV. The television station has many shows that are stacked together, in a fragmented fashion. This method of production is normal for people that grew up with the station.

However, for older generations, the channel appears to be too fast-paced or disjointed. Its constant barrage of music videos, game shows, reality-shows, documentaries, and advertisements can leave people feeling disorientated within this postmodern society. When attempting to relate these terms to the final project, the most relevant topic includes the term postmodern, in relation to architecture. I. M. Pei, architect of the Jacob Javits Center, is an advocate of postmodern architecture.

His architectural work focuses on abstract form, and uses materials such as stone, concrete, glass, and steel. About 40 years ago, architects went against the modernist belief of “form follows function” (DeAnguera, par. 4). Architects felt that they wanted to build a structure that embodied its surrounding community, the people using the building, and the actual history of architecture. Unfortunately, the postmodern idea of including the surrounding community in the design of the building was not successful, in my opinion, of the Jacob Javits Center.

Pei’s choice of black glass is a flaw in the design of the building. The black glass prevents a person from looking into, entering, or connecting with the structure. The dark glass hides the activity of the building, making it appear extremely dull. The repetition and the monotony of the glass support the idea that the building does not connect with the neighborhood. Further analysis of this structure will help greatly when associating the true idea of postmodern architecture with actual reality.