Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Alternative modernities or countermodernities

This passage comes from Maia Ramnath's Decolonizing Anarchism:
It bears mentioning that the words progressive and reactionary—in their most literal sense—entail relative direction, not necessarily political content or ideological value. One means to go forward into the direction of change, and the other means to generate friction, stoppage, or reversal. But what is the particular change we're talking about, and what was the status quo? It seems more pertinent to ask what a specific vision of utopia looks like— what its content is—than which direction we need to move in to reach it from where we are now—whether we envision it as having existed in a prelapsarian past or as the destination of future redemption. The legacy of utopian thought contains both kinds of narrative.

Neither an across-the-board improvement nor unmitigated ruin, modernization was rather a radically destabilizing rearrangement in the status quo, which benefited some and harmed others. A critique of modernism (or colonialism) or any of the phenomena of modernity (or coloniality) is not necessarily a bid to "go back" but instead an attempt to seek a different way forward that doesn't destroy beneficial aspects of an existing fabric, while improving on those aspects that were detrimental to the expansion of freedom and equality. Far from being reactionary, as an orthodox Marxist teleology would deem it, anticolonial critique of modernity was not necessarily an attempt to halt progress—as if the only options were to go forward or backward along a narrow track—but rather to choose a different direction—oblique, perpendicular, or spreading in a skewed delta of potential alternatives. In other universes, with other histories, maybe they are what modernity looks like. Resistance thus contains a range of adaptive, subversive, redirection, or dialectically synthetic responses not just to halt or reverse modernity but also to generate alternative modernities or countermodernities. (pp. 33-34)


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