Understanding the Metamodern Turn – Realising the Existentiality of Love

Understanding the Metamodern Turn – Realising the Existentiality of Love


European School of Governance, position paper #211219-2 by Louis Klein

Realising the existentiality of love is the metamodern turn that allows us to transcend and dissolve the meaning crisis of modernity and safely navigate the challenges of the Anthropocene in the 21st century. In our attempts to escape the postmodern eddy, we find insight in the confluence of system sciences, integral theory, and theories of resonance. We find directions in the cultural between, the political after, the mystic beyond, and the existential underneath. We find an opening and rootage in growing a shared understanding embedded in epistemic humility trusting our human potential and our humanity, realising the existentiality of love. And we learn to navigate a humanising society.


The eddy

Jason Ananda Josephson-Storm does not like turns. In his seminal book “Metamodernism – The future of Theory” the US-American philosopher and social scientist lists a long array of turns. Starting with the linguistic turn, one turn after another echoed in a never-ending reverberation, not like amplified feedback, but rather constituting and sustaining the postmodern echo chamber. All the turning, the cultural, the interpretative, the historical, the cognitive and all those turns that followed, drifted inwardly in ironic deconstruction. The turns invigorated the postmodern eddy. And all further turns meant to escape this echo chamber collapsed and strengthened the eddy.

The group of Danish thinkers known as Hanzi Freinacht pioneered a hands-on approach to leave the eddy. In their book “The Listening Society: A Metamodern Guide to Politics” they dared to ask and to listen, not reducing their inquiry to exploring theory and philosophy. The notion that “Something must be done” suffuses their quest and their writing. For Hanzi Freinacht metamodernity is as much a practice as it is a philosophy. You may get your hands dirty trying to leave the eddy, nevertheless, those who dare learn and understand a lot.

Navigation is lost in a postmodern meta-crisis, argued the Scottish chess player and philosopher, Jonathan Rowson, in his latest essay on metamodernism venturing “The Cultural Between, the Political After and the Mystic Beyond”. The grand narratives are lost, and little remains to navigate the meta-crisis in the 21st century.  Scientists called it the great acceleration when all the parameters describing the development of humankind exponentially accelerated and left the chart. All the stories, theories and myths came to their end. It is not so much the end of history the US-American political scientist and political economist, Francis Fukuyama, foresaw. It is the end of navigating by those old stories, which allowed us to make sense and find orientation in our lives and our world.

The meta-crisis may be decomposed into, on the one hand, the multi-crisis growing from the challenges of the Anthropocene in the 21st century, the ecological meltdown, aka climate change, and the digital transformation pointing at transhumanism. On the other hand, the meaning crisis did not only emerge not only suffer from the end of stories in the great acceleration, meaning has been deconstructed already in the vortices of postmodern discourses. A dissociating map does not help to navigate the unknown. We swirl around in the postmodern eddy and all the hope is on metamodernity allowing us to escape the eddy and learn to navigate with confidence again.


Directions & Confluence

The cultural between, the political after, and the mystic beyond already give us a clue where to find orientation. If we add the existential underneath of Black Forest Metamodernism, we, alas, have the four directions. The cultural between resonates very much with the attempts to overcome the cultural divide of the global North and the global South, the East and the West, however, any dialogue in the cultural realm needs to venture the in-between where something new can grow. The new is not the result of a negotiation or a best-of-two-worlds approach. It is a fruit growing from the appreciation of differences.

The political after resonates especially with the end of the left-right scheme. The categories of progress and conservation do not hold in a time of great acceleration. They collapse. And something else got lost, namely the feeling of political confidence to identify an intention as justified and good. There is no normativity left in postmodernism. Politics as the dynamical interplay of diverse intentions lost its velocity and heat. If politics fail to remain the arena where legitimate interests meet – the interests of the individual the collective- and the living planet – all that comes out is at best half-baked.

The mystic beyond resonates with the crisis of spirituality. The US-American management scholar, Ronald E Purser, illustrated the decline of spiritual traditions in his bestselling book “McMindfulness – How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality”. In the quest to escape the spiritual by-passing of our age, we reach for a mystic beyond. We seek the magic in emergence. We may consult indigenous traditions. We hope for wisdom and may find it in places we did not look for it.

The existential underneath of Black Forest Metamodernism addresses the existential choice between fear and love. It argues that the end of modernity was the nurturing ground of an ideology of fear resulting in national socialism – and we could also argue the case for historical socialism – as a community of care, a community of worries and anxieties integrated and driven by fear. Finding the courage to fall in love transcends the choice and allows for the mind shift and heart shift we not only want to see in the world, but we need to escape the maze to challenge the postmodern eddy.

Regaining our ability to navigate again safely does not, as these four directions suggest, depend on the further quest for differences making differences. All four directions point towards the confluence of the formerly differentiated. In this sense metamodernity, as a theory and philosophy, allows for confluence.

Anthropocene thinking has been an earlier attempt to allow for such a confluence. Anthropocene Thinking brought together three traditions of research and inquiry able to embrace complexity: first, systems sciences, including chaos and complexity sciences as well as cybernetics, second, integral theory, and third, theories of resonance. It provided a fertile ground to inform and form each other. Systems theory was lacking resonance, resonance was lacking developmental direction and integral theory was lacking coherence. In their confluence, they strengthened each other. And in their interplay, they realised that they were still swirling around in the postmodern eddy. At least, they recognised the eddy. And they realised that they were lacking something altogether. The answer to that realisation, as to so many other questions, was of course: love.


Transcendence & Dissolvence

Modernity was about constructivism, postmodernity about deconstructivism. The creative construction of the one was met with the deconstructing scepticism of the other. The modern frenzies of feasibility drove the exploitation of our planet, our societies, and ourselves. Postmodernity allowed for the critical perspective which did not yet know how to put a halt to modernity beyond its negation. Metamodernism does not grow from either modernity or postmodernity. It is transcendent. In its cultural between, its political after, its mystic beyond and its existential underneath it uses the concepts and language of Anthropocene thinking. It addresses the systemicity and ecology of the interconnectedness and interdependence of the world. It articulates a process of development and civilisation in tune with integral theory, and it arrived at embracing resonance as the essence of all existence. As the Nada Brahma, the Sanskrit notion that all is sound, it arrives at the unity of being.

Systemicity and ecology integrate the metamodern view of the world. Where there is emergence there is dissolvence. What germinates grows from the humus of the old. There is no disruption, just the Yin and Yang of change and the metabolic properties of evolution. Yet, our human potential transcends evolution. We can choose love over fear. We can grow individually, and collectively as integral theory would advise. And we can realise beauty in our resonance to the world. We can, following Thomas Aquinas, realise the beautification of the world in coherence, resonance, and clarity. Realising beautification may be our astrolabe navigating by the appearances of these three coordinates of beauty: coherence, harmony, and lucidity, allowing for the ease of simplicity.


Opening & Rootage

Human beings are in need of meaning and love. This is Lene Rachel Andersen proposition in her book “Metamodernity – Meaning and Hope in a Complex World”. The Danish economist, futurist, and philosopher encourages venturing epistemology. She does not go straight to sensemaking and meaning-creation. She goes deeper and challenges first the conditions for the possibility to do so. This is where Metamodernism meets Tamkeen growing a shared understanding of our understanding.

Tamkeen is a Community Foundation for Human Development in Morocco. It is a development approach and process. Tamkeen is referred to as a philosophy and a practice. Tamkeen can be described as an experience-based, relationship-oriented, co-created, co-facilitated process of inquiry, learning, and understanding, embedded in epistemic humility, trusting our human potential and our humanity, realising the existentiality of love.

There is an opening and a rootage in Tamkeen. There is an opening to collective sensemaking and meaning-creation, in an experience-based, relationship-oriented, co-created, co-facilitated process of inquiry, learning, and understanding, embedded in epistemic humility. Sensemaking and meaning-creation become evident as a practice of co-reflecting shared experiences. Understanding grows from experience. It is an embodied understanding. This provides an opening to reflect with head, hand, and heart. It is sensemaking and meaning creation that seeks coherence, resonance, and lucidity.

There is a rootage in trusting our human potential and our humanity, realising the existentiality of love. Tamkeen could be described as going deep on discourse ethics. It provides an anchor for whatever we may arrive at in terms of dialogue, sensemaking and meaning-creation. If it does not realise the existentiality of love, we are not there yet. Tamkeen requires the courage to trust love. It requires the courage to trust our human potential and our humanity. And it requires the insight that our human potential is to trust our humanity. We may look at it as a choice between fear and love, however, the courage to trust our humanity transcends and dissolves the choice. When trusting love, fear is not an option.


Leaving, transcending, and dissolving the eddy

“Letting go” is what the veterans at sea advise you to escape an eddy. Letting go and fall in love could be the metamodern advice to escape the postmodern eddy regaining confidence in navigation. We may call it the metamodern turn. We may call it a Tamkeen-informed turn. And following Tamkeen’s example, we may even overcome the notion of escaping the eddy.

We may realise and appreciate the eddy for the confluence it is and for what it brought to the surface. We may realise that it is not an act of heroic effort to leave the eddy. Realising the existentiality of love transcends and dissolves the postmodern eddy. You leave the eddy and the eddy will have dissolved.

Metamodernity may follow Tamkeen’s example, becoming as much a practice as a philosophy, allowing its ecology to identify itself, being an approach and a process of development, understanding understanding, and understanding itself as an autotelic process. After we left the place where the eddy has been, we will never arrive but at another point of departure. It is a wide ocean out there.

Trusting our human potential to trust our humanity allows for growing and navigating a humanising society realising the existentiality of love. And for the time being in all our ventures, in leading our lives, in writing theory, in governing societies, it is worth asking the Turner question: “What’s love got to do with it?” And in all our desire and ambition to make metamodernity happen, we may allow the Turner postulate to guide us: “We don’t need another hero!” Humility prevails.