This answer (https://graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/a/117364) to a question on Graphic Design contains the phrase "postmodern era". I guessed that it meant "postmodernist era" and thought that therefore the latter phrase would have been more appropriate.

Googling the phrase "postmodern era" ,in quotes, mainly resulted in articles about postmodernism, as if Google thought that was what I really wanted.

One of the hits was from History.com (https://www.history.com/topics/art-history/history-of-modernism-and-post-modernism) but it didn't answer my question. I was taken aback when I read, in that article, the following: "Post-modern work in the 1970s was sometimes derided as “art for art’s sake,” but it gave rise to the acceptance of a host of new approaches." It seemed absurd.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postmodernity seemed promising. I found it by searching in Wikipedia for "postmodern era" and it said at the top, "redirected from postmodern era". I found in it a passage that seemed useful, if confusing:

"Postmodernity is a condition or a state of being associated with changes to institutions and creations (Giddens, 1990) and with social and political results and innovations, globally but especially in the West since the 1950s, whereas postmodernism is an aesthetic, literary, political or social philosophy, the "cultural and intellectual phenomenon", especially since the 1920s' new movements in the arts. Both of these terms are used by philosophers, social scientists and social critics to refer to aspects of contemporary culture, economics and society that are the result of features of late 20th century and early 21st century life, including the fragmentation of authority and the commoditization of knowledge (see "Modernity").[citation needed]

The relationship between postmodernity and critical theory, sociology and philosophy is fiercely contested. The terms "postmodernity" and "postmodernism" are often hard to distinguish, the former being often the result of the latter. The period has had diverse political ramifications: its "anti-ideological ideas" appear to have been associated with the feminist movement, racial equality movements, gay rights movements, most forms of late 20th century anarchism and even the peace movement as well as various hybrids of these in the current anti-globalization movement. Though none of these institutions entirely embraces all aspects of the postmodern movement in its most concentrated definition they all reflect, or borrow from, some of its core ideas.[citation needed] "

So the terms "postmodernity", and "postmodern era" seem highly confusing, while "postmodernism" has a clear meaning.

So, my question is, should one avoid the phrase "postmodern era"?

  • 1
    I am afraid, there is no avoiding it. What Wikipedia got right is this:"Some schools of thought hold that modernity ended in the late 20th century – in the 1980s or early 1990s – and that it was replaced by postmodernity, and still others would extend modernity to cover the developments denoted by postmodernity". Emergence of this era (as opposed to modernity continuing) is controversial, but the meaning is quite distinct from postmodernism, which is just one movement in it (albeit paradigmatic enough to get the name). Some label is needed even if to debate whether the era it labels exists.
    – Conifold
    Commented Mar 17, 2023 at 22:00
  • You should speak in a way that makes sense to your audience (or anyway, has the effect that you desire on your audience). The usage you've found on the graphic design site makes little sense to me, but I suspect the writer is using postmodern in the Jordan Peterson sense of "things that I don't like and seem to be somehow leftist". But to the Peterson acolytes, the phrase "postmodern era" may be very clear. Using the phrase in that context would be meaningful and mark you as part of the in-group, which could be something you want to do.
    – Juhasz
    Commented Mar 17, 2023 at 22:10
  • 1
    Modern means the present time, the moment at which the statement was uttered, so postmodern cannot refer to anything.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Mar 17, 2023 at 23:18
  • @ScottRowe: Where does that leave the Futurists?
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Mar 18, 2023 at 19:49
  • @CriglCragl they just have to wait until their time has come. Then they can be the Nowists. Until the next day, when they are back in the past along with everyone else. Everything is in the past. The past is designated by years in which things occurred.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Mar 18, 2023 at 21:41

1 Answer 1


I personally dislike the term. It initially comes from a good place, as most thing do, but gets distorted along the way, this time, by the type of person using the word. It has been over used (and incorrectly so) to the point of frustration in the same manner as "ironic" has been. And we all know about the fate of ironic. A certain subset of people have misused the word ironic until, upon hearing it, it creates a new distinct association between the word and its usage. For me, I associate the word with idiots. As such, being used by idiots, the word itself, concequently, becomes idiotic by association. Its an automatic, unconscious correlation that occurs naturally in a normal human brain. Usually, by the time this happens, its too late to take back under normal circumstances. I dread to see what will be next. Those words have been ruined for me and they're just words. I look out my window and ponder the state of society feel only dreadful emotions for what is to come and what has already come to be. Sadly, I'm young enough that I'll probably be around to see it all crash down. By then, it won't even be satisfying to say I told you so

  • Gosh, I used to feel the same way. But the world has creaked along for 30 some years since. There is something I call Euphemism Creep, where we create a usage like 'toilet' and that ends up referring to the commode and what we do with it, so the word 'washroom' is born. But that becomes associated with the commode, and... Then bathroom, restroom, facilities, comfort station... I agree that once a word had taken on a negative connotation in any sense, then it is hard for me to use it anymore. I almost never utter the word 'black' now - the new B-word, I guess. Ugh.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Mar 18, 2023 at 19:08
  • I just find hipsters annoying. Exceedingly so. If you're going to wear flannel and grow a beard, you better know how to fell a tree and skin a deer without having to look up an instructional video
    – GENxDevo
    Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 1:59
  • So your idea is that stylistic things can be taken on like euphemisms are? Perhaps the theme here is authenticity or integrity? Be what you say and say what you be. Don't avoid unpleasant words, but don't fling them around?
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Mar 21, 2023 at 0:56
  • 1
    Words are just words, they have an ability to be unpleasant, true, but, in this situation, it's not intrinsic to the word. That came later. We can all think of something we liked that has been ruined by other people. It shouldn't take much stretching of your mind
    – GENxDevo
    Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 3:54
  • 1
    I like your ways, scott
    – GENxDevo
    Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 3:57

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .