New Authorities, Works, and Disciplines

  • Thomas de Zengotita
Part of the Political Philosophy and Public Purpose book series (POPHPUPU)


This chapter addresses “modernism” (as opposed to the modern in general) and positions it as the proximate stimulus for the rise of postmodern theory, especially in France. Nietzsche is the pivotal figure. His concept of history as genealogy undermined the evolutionist “master narratives” of the Hegels and the Spencers. In the name of a Darwinian nature—in which the agent of selection is chance—Nietzsche replaced all teleological schemes with a picture of nature-in-history as a field of forces in perpetual contention. The founding posture of modernity, the reliance on reason to discern nature’s plan and to guide humanity’s enterprises accordingly, was eroding: with World War I, it was shattered. “Modernism” names the way the modern subject adapted to this condition of abandonment and shows that in the arts and in the academic disciplines, the great creators responded as if in concert. They turned away from the senseless mess of history and the meaningless routines of mass society in the machine age and focused instead on their “works”—their art works and their disciplines, conceived and carried out by the only authors of meaning left: themselves.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas de Zengotita
    • 1
  1. 1.New York UniversityNew YorkUSA

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