Jonathan Friedman’s Panorama of Cultural Strategies

[I found this excellent chart in an obscure little book called Modernity & Identity, which is about modernism & postmodernism and how these permeate into different areas of culture. Rather than having it be lost, perhaps forever, I feel that it deserves some affection.]

0  Modernist:

(a) Progressive evolutionist, development of self and society and world.  Deviations from this life-strategy are classified as pathological or as just plain underdeveloped and infantile, in the sense that all non-modern states are ultimately reducible to a lack of the necessary means to achieve modernity: intellectually, technologically, motivationally.

1  modernism, can be expressed in general cultural terms; in terms of political institutions conducive to democratic solutions and efficient moral governance; in terms of economic growth; and social modernization, that is, modern institutions.

 (a) political debates in modernist discourse focusing on variant interpretations of the implementation of the modernist strategy; for example whether social democracy is more efficient and fair than liberalism, the role of the private vs. public sector, marxist vs. other approaches, etc.

2  Asian modernism displays most of the basic characteristics of the Western model, the main difference lying in the role of the individual as an instrument of the group rather than as an autonomous agent.


In the decline of modernist identity:

1  postmodern-modern-consumptionist:

(a) cynical distancing from all identification, but an acute awareness of the lack of identity

(b) consumptionist: narcissistic dependency on the presentation of self via the commodity construction of identity.  Highly unstable and can easily switch over to religious of ethnic solutions.

1  variation on the above is the consumption of roots as commodities, the creation of a life space reminiscent of a nostalgic vision or pastiche of eras based thereupon.

2  traditional-religious-ethnic

(a) solution to lack of identity, the failure of the modern project.  The individual feels the acute need to engage himself in a larger project in which identity is concrete and fixed irrespective of mobility, success and other external changes in social conditions.

1  traditionalist refers to the general aspect of this strategy, the emphasizing of concrete values and morality, social rules and cultural practices.

(a) religious: usually traditional, fundamentalist in form, sometimes tied to ethnicity.

(i)  local based, community oriented

(ii) international, mankind oriented, anti-ethnic yet concrete, i.e. species oriented

(b) ethnic: the constitution of concrete regional of historical-linguistic based identity-not so much connected to a value system as to a set of distinct cultural practices and beliefs.

2 closely connected with the traditionalist strategy is the ecological or green strategy.  If the former bases itself in culture the latter bases itself in nature: the correct relation between man and the ecosystem.  The overlap is clear and occurs in the evolutionist cosmology where traditional = close to nature = adapted to nature (that is, ecologically sound)

3  Third World – strategy of attracting wealth flows, strategy of attachment and dependency:

(a) state-class ranking system with chains of client in which sumptuary consumption plays a central role in defining position.

(b) strategy is unequivocally oriented to the centre as a source of wealth, and to the modern as the form of power to be appropriated and in the rank-strategy described above.

(c) strategy is thus pro-development defined not in terms of infrastructural growth but in terms of the consumption of modernity or its products that function as symbols of prestige and, as such, power.

4  Fourth World – strategy of exit from the system, the formation and/or maintenance of culturally organized communities that are self-sufficient and politically autonomous:

(a)  strategies usually take the form of cultural movements for the re-establishment of formerly repressed identity and lifestyle.

(b)  strategies usually reject all forms of modernity and especially the notion of universal development. They are traditionalistic, and attempt, further, to establish a functioning social order based on particular world-views and/or religious schemes.

(c)  tendency to egalitarianism, since there is no basis for ranking in such movements: often local history is re-envisaged so that an original state of existence without any form of social hierarchy is posited at the beginning of time.  If leadership is posited, it is invariably in the form of the charismatic leader who is the saviour or father or mother of his/her people and is the embodiment of their values.

Lash, S. & Friedman, J. (Eds.). (1993). Modernity & Identity. Massachusetts: Blackwell, in the essay  “Narcissism, roots and postmodernity” by Jonathan Friedman


About Graham Joncas

We are a way for capital to know itself.

Posted on December 8, 2011, in Culture, Politics, Quotation. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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