Can Understanding Post-Modernism Boost Your Career?

Back in the 1950’s and 60’s the world was recovering from the widespread conflict of World War 2. Old paradigms such as Empire were evolving into a new era characterised by progress based on education and science. Power and influence migrated from the beneficiaries of Empire to the liberated. Many aspects of society remained strong until later in the 20th century.

Examples of those are the nuclear family, social class structures, the value of tradition and one directional current affairs.


Technology Era

In 2018 Western cultures have evolved towards post-industrial consumer societies with manufacturing and brands increasingly globalised. Technology drives discovery. Computers, the information revolution and ubiquitous smartphone cameras have empowered the public and helped break down previously inflexible class structures. They’ve opened access to education for many more people and body-checked print and broadcast media dominance with frictionless sharing.

At an individual level we see increased pluralism and tolerance, particularly with the decline of religion as a dominant social force.


Postmodern Era

Postmodern culture emphasises the ephemeral and disposable, frees us from the rigid values of the past and typically rejects the notion of one truth in favour of pluralism. Record collections are displaced by music streaming subscriptions. Ditto that wall of VHS containing every episode (except one?) of Dallas Friends. Printed magazines regularly go digital only. With globalisation and the shrinking planet, colleagues can be geographically separated, communicating with their choice of Twitter, WhatsApp, Skype et al.

Speed of communication is important, not just the message. The early bird gets the first worm. Or, in the case of financial trading, derivatives let you book the profit on tomorrow’s worm today.

Understanding postmodern society helps evaluate and prioritise our observations.

Pre-Postmodern – Baby Boomers

Old modernist thinking still abounds, thus we see for what they are the negative opinions about social media, the merit of e-books, social interaction via the web and many other aspects. It’s partly the eternal “grumpy old sod” factor but significantly too a failure to understand the evolution to postmodernist culture.

Comparing generations, a typical millennial is lost without their smartphone, gaining information from numerous sources, interacting in real-time with friends and acquaintances. The silent generation (b. 1925-45) is more likely to use a phone occasionally to call people.

Differences and Consequences

Putting it all together, the modernist career had specialist education suited to the job, was a secure, clearly defined role in a clearly defined social hierarchy, and the employee was unlikely to move jobs.

The postmodernist career on the other hand is characterised by technology and globalisation, contract work creating flexibility for employers leaves workers less secure, often with great anxiety.

Greater responsibility for development is placed on the individual worker. Rapid learning of new skills is essential to keeping ahead of the constantly evolving landscape. Dynamic has replaced static.

In an era of short-term contracts, mega corporations, high personal taxes and sweetheart tax deals for international companies, it’s surely no surprise to see more workers focussing on holistic being over career or even loyalty to one organisation.

So, in a nutshell, in a post-modernist career, build your own reality, look after yourself, decide for yourself who and what you want to be, how and where you want to live, utilise technology, keep up to date. Don’t rely entirely on a company pension. For sanity’s sake, don’t define your ego in terms of a specific job; it could be gone with little warning.

Let’s just hope post-modernism stays out of brain surgery and aviation.


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Writer & Coffee Drinker. Authenticity is the new zeitgeist.