Modernism? What is really all about?

tumblr_lhyqmwpHVj1qcg92oo1_400Roger Griffin, in his article “Modernity, modernism and fascism”, affirms Fascism to be a form of political modernism. To agree with this idea or not, it’s necessary, first of all, to clarify the difference between modernity and modernism. Modernity is a period of time mainly related to a highly industrialisation and use of technique; one of the most common examples of it is the First World War which became the maximum expression of a technological society through military tools and massive destruction never seen before. The highly dehumanisation of this war weapons marked, among other things, a change of mentality in the Western society. Modernism then is the reaction to modernity, to this new cultural phenomenon of highly mechanisation.

However, modernism is a quite contesting term as far as it is full of contradictions and ambiguity. Griffin explains how modernism looked for a regeneration of the Western culture in a period of important decadence especially outlined by Nietzsche. This view lead to a seeking for an elite to guide society into new values , a defence of eugenics or a protection of the pure race in different European countries. A very important example of that is the Bloomsbury Group. It should be noted how this aspect of modernism is usually kept apart. But modernism seems more a kind of cultural monstrosity, nor less interesting, where a writer such as Virginia Woolf could both defence eugenics and produce a work full of sensibility like To the Lighthouse. (It could not be forget that later on, nazis will be one of the most cultivated elite).

Griffin says fascism to be a political modernism, it means then, fascism is a reaction against modernity and its main treats such as mechanisation. But was not the whole Holocaust a very highly technical process of extermination? An extreme rational plan to renew the Western culture? Was not Nazism a new elite like the ideas of the Bloomsbury Group? But was not UK the great ideological enemy of German?  It seems we have here modernity and modernism (in its aims to “save” the European culture) at the same time.

All this casual politically incorrect connections seem to put in question the first part of the 20th century. I would suggest we need research and a lot of courage to look at things and understand them.


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