Metamodern Times: Going Beyond Nihilism

Lidia Zuin
12 min readJan 9, 2021

Disclaimer: This essay was originally published on Tab UOL, in Portuguese.

In 2010, researchers Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker published the essay Notes on metamodernism, later translated to Portuguese and published in 2017 on the magazine Arte & Ensaios published by the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. At that time, the researchers aimed to put in words this feeling that we were experiencing as a society in the turn of a new century. What they diagnosed and what seems to make sense, in a general sense, is that we are no longer living in times that could be classified as post-modern, but rather in a period with other characteristics that still hold some important elements of post-modernity as well as modernity.

In chronological terms, modernity starts with the First Industrial Revolution and it’s often related to the development of capitalism. This period can be traced back between 1760 and 1840. Post-modernity, by its turn, becomes the norm after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and, with the arrival of the new century, or more specifically, with the beginning of the 2010 decade, we are now confronted by a new mindset or a new generalized feeling about our world and our contemporaneity.

As argued by Vermeulen and den Akker, we are not modern anymore because we no longer have this idea of utopia or linear progress; we don’t even believe in big narratives or in reason in its pure form. On the other hand, we are not post-modern anymore because we no longer are completely ironic and nihilistic; we don’t hold pure disbelief and we aren’t able to completely dismantle our big narratives or the whole notion of truth. With metamodernism, we fit “epistemologically with (post) modernism, ontologically between (post) modernism, and historically beyond (post) modernism,” which means that metamodernism is not inscribed in the extremes of the previous philosophical currents, but rather a merge that never reaches a balance.

In order to understand this unnamed movement, authors such as Gilles Lipovetsky argued that a so-called hypermodernity could be taking the place previously held by post-modernity, in the sense that “ today’s cultural practices and social relations have become so intrinsically meaningless (i.e. pertaining to past or future, there or elsewhere, or whatever…

Lidia Zuin

Brazilian journalist, MA in Semiotics and PhD in Visual Arts. Researcher and essayist. Technical and science fiction writer.