Modernity

The notion of ‘modernity’ may be taken as an example of a narrative environment, more specifically a framing narrative, which concerns a particular historical narrative woven into the material and geographical environments of Western Europe and the USA at a particular moment in time, beginning in the mid-18th century but accelerating during the 19th century.

As well as being useful in the design of specific narrative environments, modernity may also be useful for contextualising and orienting narrative environment design as a situated practice within the development of design practices since the 18th century. Modernity may be especially useful when considered alongside such related terms as modernism, the avant-garde and post-modernism; and when taking into account the ways in which everyday life and everyday experience (Dasein) is conceived within these frames.

Dallmayr (1989: 378-379) writes that the Renaissance and Reformation, along with the discovery of the ‘New World’, heralded a break with the classical and mediaeval past. However, the notion of a distinctly ‘modern’ period emerged only slowly in the aftermath of these events. Habermas suggests that Hegel was the first philosopher to develop a clear conception of modernity. Together with his philosophical precursors, Hegel situated the core of modernity in the principle of subjectivity, which carried for him the connotations of individualism, critical-rational competence and autonomy of action. While accepting the principle of subjectivity, Hegel also recognised both its emancipatory potential and its ambivalence, i.e. that it is both a world of progress and of alienated spirit.

While referring initially to a European and American socio-historical experience, the processes with which modernity is interwoven and co-arises, such as migration, urbanisation, industrialisation, technologisation and bureaucratisation, may be of relevance to other countries at other times, who thereby experience modernisation and modernity in their own distinct ways.

In socio-political terms, between 1840 and 1845, Lefebvre (1995: 170) argues, Marx found need of a concept of modernity, a concept which is primarily, but not exclusively, political. It defines a form of the state that is elevated above society. However, also important for Marx is the relation this form of state has with everyday life and with social practice in general: it separates everyday life, taken as private life, from social life and political life.

In academic terms, John Protevi (1999) states that modernity’ s temporal range depends on which academic discipline is being discussed. What can safely be said is that it concerns post-1600 Europe at the earliest, i.e. the post-Renaissance period, in the Northern European version. Whatever the causes, the years after 1750 saw various governmental and cultural changes accompany and accelerate these economic changes, in “mutual presupposition”.

Habermas (1997: 39) writes that, “Anyone who, like Adorno, conceives of ‘modernity’ as beginning around 1850 is perceiving it through the eyes of Baudelaire and avant-garde art.”

Modern thought, as summarised by Protevi (1999), can be characterised as an admixture of:

1. Humanism: the human being is the source of meaning and value; the value of nature is its utility to humans; and the development of human potential is the highest goal of politics.

2. Individualism: the individual is both ethically and intellectually prior to society; humans have rights governments must acknowledge in limiting government action; and intellectual progress, and hence techno-economic progress, is made by leaps of genius.

3. Rationalism: the natural human faculty of theoretical and practical reason moves from universal principles to particular applications; while remaining antithetical to power, which is centralised and repressive.

4. Secular moralism: human reason alone can allow moral actions and moral society, if freed from the superstition and prejudice of religious dogmatism.

5. Progressivism. human history is progressive: people in the modern age are more humane and moral than in previous ages, because of the public use of reason in governmental rationality.

There are many different views on modernity. For Habermas, for example, the goal of modernity is the attainment of a fully democratic society. Modernity is to him, therefore, an ‘unfinished project’ which must be pursued if that potential is to be released (Terry, 1997).

For any particular narrative environment design, it may be relevant to decide, depending on the character of the design in question, how it is situated in relation to the issues raised by modernity:

Is it assumed, like Habermas, that the goal of modernity remains an unfinished project, towards which the design contributes?

Alternatively, does the design operate under the sign of neo-avant-gardism or post-modernity, i.e. incorporating a degree of scepticism and a critical attitude towards the grand narratives of progress, in both the scientific-technic-epistemic realm (wholly integrated or systematised knowledge) and the political-ontological realm (complete human emancipation and salvation)?

Or does it seek to move beyond the problematics of modernity and engage in considerations of the post-human, new materialism, and materialist feminism, opening up a new terrain that displaces the teleological and productivist orientation of modernity?

However, whichever direction one chooses, as Derridean deconstruction shows, one cannot simply make a complete break with modernity and its problematiques.

Sources

Dallmayr, F. (1989). The discourse of modernity: Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger (and Habermas). Praxis International, 8 (4), 377–406.

Habermas, J. (1996). Modernity: An unfinished project. In: Habermas and the Unfinished Project of Modernity: Critical essays on the philosophical discourse of modernity, edited by M. P. d’Entreves and S. Benhabib. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 38–55.

Lefebvre, H. (1995). Introduction to modernity: twelve preludes, September 1959-May 1961. London, UK: Verso.

Protevi, J. (1999). Some remarks on Modernity and Post-modernism and/or Post-structuralism [Webpage]. Available at: http://www.protevi.com/john/DG/PDF/Remarks_on_Modernity_and_Post-Modernism.pdf [Accessed 24 September 2013].

Terry, P. (1997). Habermas and education: knowledge, communication, discourse. Pedagogy, Culture and Society, 5 (3), pp.269–279. Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14681369700200019 [Accessed 4 March 2014].

 

edited 27 July, 2016 by Allan Parsons

Associated Practices

Since narrative environments are concerned with the relationship(s) between narrative phenomena in various media and embodied, enacted phenomena in various material environments or -spheres, the work of the European avant-garde movements, with their concern for the relationships among art practices, aesthetic practices and political practices is of great interest and relevance, from technical, methodological and purposive perspectives. Avant-garde practices can be linked to the discussion of ontological metalepsis.

The figurative use of the word avant-garde to denote radically progressive leaders of both art and society can be traced to the French utopian socialist Henri de Saint-Simon, I760-I825, Donald Egbert (1967: 340) states.

Saint-Simon’s conception of artists’ dual role leads to a persistent dilemma for radically avant-garde artists. As members of an elite social avant-garde, they may be expected to make art that directly promotes radical social ideas, in accordance with the later doctrines of Saint-Simon, and still later those of Marxists and Marxist-Leninists. Such art, this doctrine maintains, should be socially realistic, so as to be more readily understood by the masses, and thus be socially useful for propaganda, as Lenin, Stalin, and their official successors in the Soviet Union maintained. However, as members of a purely artistic avant-garde elite, should they divorce themselves, as well as their art, entirely from all social interests, as the more extreme upholders of art for art’s sake have insisted? Alternatively, should they, like Oscar Wilde, be socially concerned in some way, but keep their art and their social ideas essentially separate? (Egbert, 1967: 346)

Ales Erjavec (2015) argues that part of twentieth-century art can be designated specifically as an ‘aesthetic’ avant-garde. The term ‘aesthetic’ itself is of very specific provenance. It derives from Friedrich Schiller’s use of the term. For Schiller, the aesthetic conjoins art, the individual and the community, bringing together the art of the beautiful and the art of living.

Schiller, Ales explains, taking a lead from Ranciere (2004), was the first thinker to connect explicitly the domains of aesthetics and politics, arguing that the problem of politics in practice cannot be approached other than through the problem of the aesthetic because “it is only through Beauty that man makes his way to Freedom”.

Ranciere (2004), discussing what he calls the ‘aesthetic regime of art.’, locates the seeds of modern aesthetic education in the writings of the German Romantic, Friedrich Schiller. Rancière considers that, by suspending the opposition between active understanding and passive sensibility, Schiller’s aesthetic state seeks to break down an idea of society based on the opposition between those who think and decide and those who are doomed to material tasks. This breakdown is achieved using an idea of art. Rancière thereby offers a historical and philosophical account of the link between modern aesthetics and a democratic principle. (Frimer, 2011)

Erjavec, thus, classifies twentieth-century avant-gardes in two ways. First, he divides them into generations: the early twentieth century from 1905-1930; the later neo-avant-gardes emerging in the USA and Europe in the wake of the Second World War; and the postsocialist avant-gardes of Eastern Europe and other post-Soviet-era former-communist countries . Second, he considers that within each generation there is a spectrum running from artistic avant-garde’s at one end to aesthetic avant-garde’s at the other end. Artistic avant-garde’s introduce into art new styles and techniques, such as those to be found in Cubism and Surrealism. Through such styles and techniques, new representations of the lived world emerge.

At the other end of the spectrum, aesthetic avant-garde’s seek to reach beyond art into ‘life’, and aim to transform not just artistic styles and techniques but also the world. The artistic elements of such works are set within an experience-transforming orientation.

Aesthetic avant-gardes seek to affect our ways of experiencing and sensing the world, to change in significant ways the modalities in which we perceive and experience reality. In the words of Jacques Ranciere, they aim at a “redistribution of the sensible”, bringing attention to the ways in which systems of classification assign parts, supply meanings and define relationships among entities in the (common) world.

‘Postsocialist avant-garde’ is the name given by Erjavec to movements from present or former socialist countries whose art had features common to other avant-garde art of the twentieth century.

Erjavec looks forward to the possibility of a fourth generation ‘aesthetic’ avant-garde.

Sources

Egbert, D.D. (1967). The Idea of ‘Avant-garde’ in art and politics. American Historical Review, 73 (2), 339–366. Available from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1866164 [Accessed 6 June 2016].

Erjavec, A. (2015). Introduction. In: Erjavec, A., ed. Aesthetic revolutions and twentieth-century avant-garde movements. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1–18.

Frimer, D. (2011). Pedagogical paradigms: Documenta’s reinvention. Art & Education. Available from http://www.artandeducation.net/paper/pedagogical-paradigms-documentas-reinvention/ [Accessed 16 December 2015].

Ranciere, J. (2004). The Politics of aesthetics: the distribution of the sensible. London, UK: Continuum.

edited 19 June, 2016 by Allan Parsons

 It may be of value in thinking about narrative environment design, as a particular kind of, or approach to, design, to consider it in relation to design history.

As Arturo Escobar (2013) states, serious inquiry into the history of design as a practice must engage with the trials and tribulations of capitalism and modernity, beginning with the emergence of industrialisation through to the current era of globalisation and pervasive technological development. Design has been a central political technology of modernity and the processes of modernisation. It was with the full development of the industrial revolution in the mid-19th century that industrial design came to prominence as a field and set of practices, the products of which were showcased at the Crystal Palace in 1851 and subsequent world fairs.

The Arts and Crafts movement sought to counteract the dominance of machine production in design practice during the second half of the 19th century. However, by the time modernism emerged in the 20th century design has become fully wedded to functionalism. The aim of designers, as ‘stylists’, was, in large part, to improve mass-produced artefacts through the use of new materials and techniques.

During the first half of the 20th century, with the Bauhaus and Ulm schools of design, as well as design schools in other parts of Western Europe, modern design sought to articulate a new view of the intersection of art (ars) and technology (techne) as it instilled new ways of living in the mass of the population through the design of lived environments (Lebenswelt, Umwelt) and the functionality of objects. Functionalism, however, Escobar concedes, carried the day.

As a design practice of the 21st century, narrative environment design stands among those design theorists and practitioners who are seeking different kinds of engagement, i.e. other than strictly functional, between design and the world at all levels, from everyday life to infrastructures of all kinds through to experience itself. In short, narrative environment design is part of design practice for a complex world, seeking to enable people to have more meaningful and environmentally responsible lives, an environment that, while still part of the Earth’s geosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and atmosphere, is increasingly ‘designed’, or at least modified and modifiable through the intentional and unintentional acts of design.

If it is assumed that the contemporary world is a great design failure, as Escobar contends, the question becomes how we can design our way from that situation towards a more sustainable world. In this context, narrative environment design may be considered an endeavour which seeks to offer the means to devise courses of action aimed at changing existing conditions into preferred ones, as part of a shift from object-centred to human-centred, or rather, human-environment-centred, design.

References

Escobar, A. (2013). Notes on the ontology of design [Draft paper]. Available from http://sawyerseminar.ucdavis.edu/files/2012/12/ESCOBAR_Notes-on-the-Ontology-of-Design-Parts-I-II-_-III.pdf [Accessed 4 September 2016].

edited 6 September, 2016 by Allan Parsons

For Protevi (1999), modernism is a 1920s to 1950s phenomenon in literature and the arts, and includes the work of Joyce, Eliot, Pound, Schoenberg, Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and others.

In other accounts, the discourse on modernism in art began with the French poet and critic Charles Baudelaire’s book The Painter of Modern Life (Le Peintre de la Vie Moderne), first published in Paris in 1863. In that book, he explains the fundamental difference between the first Modern painter, such as Manet or Courbet, and the academic painters.

The difference between them was not how they painted, but what they painted. The academics painted idealised pictures drawn from Greek or Roman ancient history or allegorical scenes from the Bible. The Modernist painters painted the everyday life of the nineteenth century when they lived. The change in subject matter was shocking to nineteenth century audiences and provoked major scandals at the time.

Some confusion exists in the use of the terms Modernism and avant-gardism. The trends in the complex development of literature and art, beginning with 1905, can be divided into groups and one of the principal groups is that of the avant-garde (Szabolcsi, 1971: 51). While being avant-garde implies being Modernist, it is nevertheless possible for an artist to be a Modernist, and not be an avant-gardist.

One key difference between the Modernist and the avant-gardist lies in the avant-garde’s disruption of the basic expectations of what makes a work of art. The scandals caused by Modernist works arose from violating a prohibition against painting the contemporary, everyday world of the nineteenth century. However, these Modernist works did not fundamentally challenge the idea of “art” itself.

It is this challenge to the definition of “art” that is essential to the definition of the avant-garde.

In literary scholarship in English-speaking countries and in France, Szabolcsi (1971: 50) notes, the term modernism is used in a generalising sense, usually taking it to cover every trend that contrasts with the previous period, which is that of Romanticism and realism. While literary historians date the beginning of the modernist revolt back to the 1890s, most agree that what is called high modernism came after the First World War. The year 1922 alone, for example, saw the publication of such monuments of modernist innovation as James Joyce’s Ulysses, T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, and Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room, as well as many other experimental works of literature.

Huyssen (1986: viii-ix) argues that both modernism and the avant-garde defined their identity in relation to two cultural phenomena: traditional bourgeois high culture, especially the traditions of romantic idealism and of enlightened realism and representation; and vernacular and popular culture as it was increasingly transformed into modern, degraded commercial mass culture.

Both Adorno and Greenberg, for example, insisted on the categorical separation of high art and mass culture in the late 1930s in order to save the dignity and autonomy of the art work from the totalitarian pressures of fascist mass spectacles, socialist realism and an ever more degraded commercial mass culture in the West.

References 

Abrams, M.H. (1999). A Glossary of Literary Terms, 7th ed. Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle.

Baudelaire, C. (1995). The painter of modern life and other essays, 2nd ed. London: Phaidon.

Huyssen, A. (1986). After the Great Divide: Modernism, Mass Culture, Postmodernism. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Protevi, J. (1999). Some remarks on Modernity and Post-modernism and/or Post-structuralism [Webpage]. Available at: http://www.protevi.com/john/DG/PDF/Remarks_on_Modernity_and_Post-Modernism.pdf [Accessed 24 September 2013].

Szabolcsi, M. (1971). Avant-garde, neo-avant-garde, modernism: questions and suggestions. New Literary History, 3 (1), 49–70. Available from http://www.jstor.org/stable/468380 [Accessed 24 February 2016].

edited 22 May, 2017 by Allan Parsons

Buchanan (1998: 64) considers the development of design in the 20th century to have had three distinct periods,

“Design began as a trade activity, closely connected to industrialization and the emergence of mass communication. After a period of time, professions began to emerge, with traditions of practice and conscious recognition of a distinct type of thinking and working that distinguished our professions from others. Professional practice diversified in many forms – in a process that continues to the present. However, we are now witnessing the beginnings of the third era of design, marked by the emergence of design as a field or discipline.”

It is through and against this emerging field or discipline of design that narrative environment design, as a design practice and a design intervention, should be thought.

Design practice, as it developed in an Anglo-Saxon context, is closely tied to the development of functionalism and the Modern Movement (Burkhardt, 1988: 145-146). In this tradition, the design of objects was conceived on the model of architecture. Specialisation within the field of design did not take place until the latter half of the 19th century in England and, subsequently, in Germany, followed progressively by France, the USA, Scandinavia, Italy and Japan.

As a form of design practice, narrative environment design seeks to, if not to break away entirely from the architectural model and functionalism, then, at the very least, to minimise their importance and to contextualise their significance in a rethinking of such ideas as form, function and materiality through an emphasis on ‘matters of concern’ and a questioning of the ‘matters of fact’ upon which the architectural model and functionalism rely, or rather assume.

At the time of its rise to prominence, the notion of functionalism served a particular purpose. The above-mentioned Anglo-Saxon tradition involved a certain ethical project: to restore to the object its ‘truth’ and ‘honesty’, i.e. to assert that it had some ‘intrinsic’ value in this world (this-worldly-value), and was not just a cipher for a value in an other world (other-worldly-value). This was a reaction to prevalent historicist ideas which relegated objects to the realm of appearances (accidence) rather than reality (essence). The leading advocates of this position, who effected functionalism’s rise to pre-eminence, were Webb, Lethaby, Voysey, Ashbee in England; Muthesius and Riemerschmid in Germany; Wagner and Loos in Austria; and Sullivan in the USA (Burkhardt, 1988: 146).

These thinkers considered the relationships among form, function and material, insisting that they be interpreted in a cultural perspective, taking into account contemporary life-styles and aspirations. They were also closely linked to the leading artistic movements of the time and therefore had an aesthetic orientation.

With the growth of specialisation, the relationship between design and architecture became more tenuous, and design came to see itself linked to systems of industrial production and to economic growth. It therefore took on a very pragmatic approach, form of industrialised, instrumentalised, econo-pragmatism. Design took on a key role in economic policy, as an instrument in the quest for market share and for the satisfaction of national ambition in the display of sovereign power.

Design came to mean a commitment to mass production, with an industrial logic. Ironically, in the context of the forms of contemporary design where, technically, each category of product is much the same, design enters as a means of differentiating products at the level of appearances, in the form of trade mark or brand.

Design, in this phase, is reduced to styling and designers to employees in companies within which they have little autonomy. To break with this situation, they would require greater institutional autonomy and the necessary conceptual equipment. Early examples of attempts to break free from the constraints of functionalism and econo-pragmatism include the ecological and pacifist movements in the USA in the 1960s, the Des-In group in Germany, the counter-design movement centred on the work of Ettore Sottsass and the Florentine Archizoom group. Later developments include the creation of the Alchimia group in 1978 by Ettore Sotsass, Andrea Branzi and Alessandro Mendini and Sottsass’s Memphis Group in 1980.

Nevertheless, these remain minority tendencies. For the majority tendency,

“ …this notion of an everyday culture, of culture as a means to emancipation, allowing people to distance themselves from the world and take a critical look at it – this barely exists at all in the Anglo-Saxon world, where designers are closely linked with industry, and where design associations occupy themselves not with critical discussion but merely with business problems.” (Burkhardt, 1988: 149)

Narrative environment design, then, in part, makes a positive case for that notion of an everyday culture which permits critical distancing; and for the critique of functionalism, not as such, but to combat its hegemonic ascendancy and the assumption of its instrumental simplicity. In short, narrative environment design includes the possibility that the ‘function’ of a designed environment is to subvert the way ‘function’ is understood. As Burkhardt (1988: 151) expresses it,

“Any object can be an object of design, and their multiplicity of evocations should correspond to the multiple possibilities which our society offers of identification and identity.”

Sources

Buchanan, R. (1998). Education and professional practice in design. Design Issues, 14 (2), 63–66. Available from http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/1511851.pdf?acceptTC=true [Accessed 14 January 2012].

Burkhardt, F. (1988). Design and ‘avant-postmodernism’. In: Thakara, J., ed. Design after modernism. London, UK: Thames and Hudson, 145–151.

edited 17 April, 2018 by Allan Parsons

There is no single approach or methodology for designing narrative environments although, whatever the approach, a narrative environment is taken to be a more or less complex whole or assemblage, although not necessarily a unified whole or totality, integrating different kinds of material reality, in short a narrative environment may be said to constitute a ‘world’, with its ontological assumptions about what exists and can exist in this ‘world’. While forming a ‘world’ as a form of sphere or envelope, a ‘world’ that is co-created by the designer, the design and the participants who enter the designed narrative environment, narrative environments remain open or porous to the other ‘worlds’ in relation to which they exist.

For example, developing an actantial approach, taking its orientation from the work of A.J. Greimas, Jacques Lacan and Bruno Latour, a narrative environment may be considered to be articulated from three main classes or kinds of actant, narrative actants, environmental actants and human actants, each of which act upon the others and become entangled to form a complex whole or field of actantiality.

Alternatively, in an approach which relies more heavily upon the terminology employed by Etienne Souriau, Christian Metz and Gerard Genette, this complex whole may be termed diégèse.

The design of narrative environments could be seen as part of a post-Humanist, non-instrumentalist, materialist approach to understanding and re-designing the ‘real’ or ‘actual’ world, in which human agency is not taken to be the centre of the world but is an emergent phenomenon within, for example, a sphere (Sloterdijk), a network (Latour) or a living system (Maturana and Varela). It therefore partakes in the ‘ontological turn’ in design, in particular a relational ontology, as discussed, for example, by Escobar (2013).

References

Escobar, A. (2013). Notes on the ontology of design [Draft paper]. Available from http://sawyerseminar.ucdavis.edu/files/2012/12/ESCOBAR_Notes-on-the-Ontology-of-Design-Parts-I-II-_-III.pdf [Accessed 4 September 2016].

edited 4 September, 2018 by Admin

Critical thinking in the West can be traced back back to the Socratic-Platonic tradition, with Plato formalising the Socratic critique of received opinions into a distinction between knowledge, in the form of episteme, and doxa, in the form of belief. This serves as the basis for distinguishing the elevated position of the philosopher, as having epistemic knowledge, from the common man, who has only doxic belief (Biesta and Stams, 2001).

However, Biesta and Stams insist, it is Kant’s three Critiques which remain, for the contemporary 21st century reader, a major attempt to articulate what it could mean for a philosophy to be critical. Kant also provided an explicit argument for linking critique and education. Judith Butler (2009: 775) contends that Kant extended the scope of critique yet further, arguing that while  critique arrives at its modern formulation within philosophy, it also makes claims that exceed the particular disciplinary domain of the philosophical. In Kant, Butler states, critique operates not only outside of philosophy and in the university more generally but is also a way of calling into question the legitimating grounds of various public and governmental agencies.

The term ‘critical theory‘, which develops within the same conceptual frame, has a narrower scope, however, referring to the thought of several generations of scholars within the Frankfurt School.

What is particular interest in the context of narrative environment design is the relationship between critical thinking and creative thinking. Thinking about the relationship between the critical and the creative can be assisted by considering the thought of Bruno Latour and Jacques Derrida, amongst others, who consider what has been called a ‘crisis of the critical’.

Latour, for example, starting from a materialist anthropological perspective, sees critical thinking as a ‘modern’ conception based on the separation of the subject (critic) from the object (the criticised), as in Cartesian-derived dualistic thinking. Contemporary problems, Latour argues, require overcoming this dualism by recognising the implication of the critic in the problematique, not standing apart from it, and as part of the constitution of the ‘object’, ‘subject’ and the ongoing situation in which they are inter-related.

Derrida similarly, but with a very different style derived from philosophical discourse, questions the binary assumptions concerning the ground upon which the critic stands, arguing that this cannot be simply outside or above, in the sense of ‘exterior and ‘transcendental’, but rather must remain on a level with that with which there is a critical engagement. The critical engagement is both an intervention, or event, and an invention, or creation, for Derrida.

References

Biesta, G. and Stams, G.J.J.M. (2001). Critical thinking and the question of critique: some lessons from deconstruction. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 20 (1), 57–74.

Butler, J. (2009). Critique, dissent, disciplinarity. Critical Inquiry, 35, 773–795.

edited 30 April, 2019 by Allan Parsons

Associated Terms

Michel Foucault argues that the term humanism should not be confused with that of Enlightenment. The importance of grasping the notions of humanism and Enlightenment for narrative environment design is that it bears directly upon how the domain of humanity and the human is understood in the design process and in the created narrative environments, i.e. how is human actantiality and potentiality understood in the ways the narrative environment works.

Foucault argues that the Enlightenment is a set of events and complex historical processes that is located at a certain point in the development of European societies which includes elements of social transformation, types of political institution, forms of knowledge, projects of rationalisation of knowledge and practices and technological mutations. All of this is very difficult to sum up in a word, even if many of these phenomena remain important today.

Rather than a set of events, Foucault (1984: 44) points out that humanism is a set of themes that have reappeared on several occasions over time in European societies. These themes are always tied to value judgments and have varied greatly in their content as well as in the values they have preserved. Furthermore, they have served as a critical principle of differentiation. For example, in the seventeenth century, there was a humanism that presented itself as a critique of Christianity or of religion in general; and there was a Christian humanism opposed to an ascetic and much more theocentric humanism.

In the nineteenth century, there was a suspicious humanism hostile and critical toward science; and another that, to the contrary, placed its hope in that same science. Marxism has been a humanism; as have existentialism and personalism.

In the twentieth century, there was a time when people supported the humanistic values represented by National Socialism and when the Stalinists themselves said they were humanists.

Sources

Foucault, M. (1984). What is Enlightenment? In: The Foucault Reader, edited by Paul Rabinow. New York, NY: Pantheon Books, 32–50.

edited 30 April, 2019 by Allan Parsons