Reflections on Social innovations and Post-modernism

This article is the first of a planned series of articles that reflects on the social innovations for a post-modernist society. These reflections are made from the innovations that are either happening or in the offing. It covers these innovations from various verticals like Automotive, Telecommunications, Energy, Textiles, Agriculture, Banking & Finance and Governance.

In these articles, the word post-modernist/ post-modernism is used in the context of changes in the production processes, where the originals are those inherited from the 18th century industrial revolution era. These altered processes are termed: mass customization or decentralized production or local manufacturing etc…And a society with such production processes is characterized as post-fordist and post-taylorist.

I would like to categorically state that the usage of the word in the context of these articles has nothing to do with the Marxist criticism of the word in terms of class relations or it’s potential to advocate replacing class with identity politics in contemporary society.

While staying away from the discussion on post-modernism vis-a-vis it’s potential to drive identity politics, nevertheless, I feel that post-modernism addresses one of the most critical observations of Marx on labor i.e. Alienation. The work as envisioned being done in a post-modernist (post-taylorist/ post-fordist) society is to do it in “whole” as opposed to parts. One means of doing this work is by multi-skilling. In other words, the knowledge of the worker is THE KEY that contributes to the development of such post-modernist society.

Without getting into the conflict of ideologies between Capitalism and Socialism as two opposing means of socioeconomic growth, the closest approximation to the usage of the word post-modernism in our context could be a post-capitalist society as envisioned by Peter Drucker.

For those uninitiated into the wonderful world of Sociology (a scientific study of societies), from a sociological perspective, the words: modern, modernity, modernism, post-modernity and post-modernism connote a different meaning. Hence, we will begin by understanding the meaning of these words to set the right tone for the content that follows in these articles (Note: Some of the content in the below paragraphs was reproduced from several authentic texts on Sociology).

It was the Renaissance that first made the division of western history into three epochs – Ancient, Medieval and Modern. The age before the foundation of Constantinople in the fourth century could be labeled as Ancient; the period between this foundation till the birth of European Renaissance is labeled Medieval and the origins of Modern age lie in the “birth of reason” during Renaissance.

For a Sociologist, modernity is different from modernism. Modernity is the progress made in the politico-economic way of life through reason and Modernism is the cultural equivalent of Modernity. In other words, it could be inferred that what is being reasoned through freedom by questioning the prevailing belief and what has been/ is being cultivated as a culture or tradition are different and possibly in conflict, because of the changes wrought upon societies by the forces of modernity.

To the philosophers of modernity, the French Revolution was one of the principal expressions, as well as one of the principal vehicles, of the new consciousness. It announced the aim of the modern period as attainment of freedom under the guidance of reason.

If French Revolution gave to modernity its characteristic form and consciousness: revolution based on reason, the Industrial Revolution provided it with its material substance. To modernize was to industrialize.

Modernization – the social and economic processes of modernity – from the very beginning gave rise to modernism, the cultural critique of modernity.

Unlike the dividing lines between Modernity and Modernism as economic and socio-cultural realms of life respectively, Post-modernism breaks down these divisions. Hence, from a sociological perspective, there seems to be no difference between what constitutes post-modernity and post-modernism. (Note: There is a deeper significance and beautiful meaning to this integration of the economic and socio-cultural processes of a society – a reflection of which goes beyond what is intended in these articles).

From a technological perspective, a post-modernist society could be seen as post-fordist and post-taylorist as opposed to fordist and taylorist society characterized by centralized production, dehumanizing functional division of labor, alienation of labor and flight of capital towards profit maximization etc…

In the succeeding articles, we will explore how innovations that are driving changes in the production processes like, mass customization, decentralized production, local manufacturing and multi-skilled knowledge workers are ushering a post-modernist society using case examples from various verticals viz., Automotive, Telecommunications, Energy, Textiles, Farming, Banking & Finance and Governance.