Metamodernism refers to a broad range of developments in culture and society that appear after and gesture beyond postmodernism. One definition characterizes metamodernism as an oscillation between aspects of both modernism and postmodernism; others see it as an integration of these as well as premodern (indigenous and traditional) cultural codes.
Since its introduction, metamodernism has increasingly become the predominant term to describe post-postmodernism.
Vermeulen and van den Akker
In 1995, Canadian literary theorist Linda Hutcheon stated that a new label for what was coming after postmodernism was necessary. In 2010, cultural theorists Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker proposed metamodernism as an intervention in this post-postmodernism debate. In their essay Notes on Metamodernism, they asserted that the 2000s were characterized by the return of typically modern positions that nevertheless did not forfeit the postmodern mindsets of the 1980s and 1990s. According to them, the metamodern sensibility "can be conceived of as a kind of informed naivety, a pragmatic idealism", characteristic of cultural responses to recent global events such as climate change, the financial crisis, political instability, and the digital revolution. They asserted that “the postmodern culture of relativism, irony, and pastiche" is over, having been replaced by a post-ideological condition that stresses engagement, affect, and storytelling through "ironic sincerity."
The prefix "meta-" referred not so much to a reflective stance or repeated rumination, but to Plato's metaxy, which denotes a movement between (meta) opposite poles as well as beyond (meta) them. Vermeulen and van den Akker described metamodernism as a "structure of feeling" that oscillates between modernism and postmodernism like "a pendulum swinging between...innumerable poles". According to Kim Levin, writing in ARTnews, this oscillation "must embrace doubt, as well as hope and melancholy, sincerity and irony, affect and apathy, the personal and the political, and technology and techne." For the metamodern generation, according to Vermeulen, "grand narratives are as necessary as they are problematic, hope is not simply something to distrust, love not necessarily something to be ridiculed."
In 2017, Vermeulen and van den Akker, with Allison Gibbons, published Metamodernism: Historicity, Affect and Depth After Postmodernism, an edited collection of essays exploring the notion of metamodernism across a variety of fields in the arts and culture.
Hanzi Freinacht and Nordic Metamodernism
In 2017, sociologist Daniel Görtz and theory artist Emil Ejner Friis, writing under the pen name Hanzi Freinacht, published the first volume in their 'Metamodern Guide to Politics' Series, The Listening Society. Employing metamodernism as their "philosophical engine," they considerably expanded the scope and vision of the term, construing metamodernism as an active intellectual, social, and political movement emerging to meet the crises arising from globalization.
"Freinacht" articulates a progressive political program heavily informed by developmental psychology, particularly the Model of Hierarchical Complexity (MHC), a neo-Piagetian framework developed by Michael Commons. In this context, metamodernism is best understood not merely as a cultural phase, but as a developmental stage, which is manifested at both the individual and the collective levels. The distinct stages of the MHC thus correspond to cultural expressions of these stages and their associated worldviews, or "effective value memes."
|MHC Stage||Cultural Code|
|Stage 7: Pre-operational stage||Archaic|
|Stage 8: Primary Stage||Animistic|
|Stage 9: Concrete Stage||Faustian|
|Stage 10: Abstract Stage||Post-Faustian|
|Stage 11: Formal Stage||Modern|
|Stage 12: Systematic Stage||Postmodern|
|Stage 13: Metasystematic Stage||Metamodern|
In September 2018, Görtz conducted a TEDx talk in Berlin outlining the development of "value memes" (influenced by the work of Clare W. Graves and Don Beck) claiming that the metamodern value meme constitutes the highest form yet.
In 2019, the second volume of the Series, Nordic Ideology, was published, providing Freinacht's detailed vision for a political metamodernism.
Brent Cooper of The Abs-Tract Organization, an Internet-based think-tank, focuses on sociological meta-theory, specifically abstraction as a cognitive process and social process of complexification, which he relates to an emerging metamodernism. Cooper wrote a longform review and analysis of Vermeulen, van den Akker, and Gibbons' 2017 book Metamodernism: Historicity, Affect, and Depth after Postmodernism, jokingly dubbing their body of thought "The Dutch School" of metamodernism, as his way of differentiating cultural, literary, and other academic theories of metamodernism from those that utilize the concept as a social/political activist intervention. Cooper's article The Abstraction of Benjamin Bratton attempts to identify Bratton as an implicit metamodern thinker, whose work highlights the intersection of abstract processes and the "accidental" creation of a global governance matrix which he calls "The Stack".
Jim Rutt brought metamodernism to the notice of the so-called "GameB" community through various interviews with Freinacht (Görtz), Stein, Cooper, and others on The Jim Rutt Show. On November 16, 2018, the topic of political metamodernism was broached on Revolutionary Left Radio hosted by Breht Ó Séaghdha, interviewing Austin Hayden Smidt, where they discuss the paradigmatic backdrops of modernity and postmodernity, and the need for leftist reform and unification which they suggest political metamodernism could guide. Douglas Lain of Zero Books has also explored the topic of political metamodernism on his podcast with Luke Turner.
In 2019, Lene Rachel Anderson published the book Metamodernity: Meaning and Hope in a Complex World, in which she claims: "Metamodernity provides us with a framework for understanding ourselves and our societies in a much more complex way. It contains both indigenous, premodern, modern, and postmodern cultural elements and thus provides social norms and a moral fabric for intimacy, spirituality, religion, science, and self-exploration, all at the same time."
2019 also saw the publication of The World We Create: From God to Market by Tomas Björkman, a work exploring the complex origins of our precarious situation today, along with a set of proposed solutions utilizing a metamodern framework.
In 2021, Perspectiva Press published Metamodernity: Dispatches from a Time Between Worlds, an anthology of essays on metamodernism and society by Jonathan Rowson and others.