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Postindustrialisation in the Present Tense

Jeff Diamanti


Paolo Portoghesi’s 1980 Venice Architecture Biennale may not exactly represent the genesis of postmodernism, but it certainly codifies its institutionalisation as an architectural paradigm. That year, which incidentally was the first in which there was an exclusively architectural section of the Venice Biennale, named as its theme the emancipatory condition from which architecture could flourish after modernism: ‘la presenza del passato’ (the presence of the past). In the case of Venice, postmodernism was imagined not only as a horizontalisation of an aesthetic history, but just as much as a wager on an alternative economic and social trajectory through the economic uncertainty of postindustrialisation in the wake of the quick death of the welfare state only a few years earlier. Critics on the left tend to plot the explicit neoliberalisation of the global economy somewhere between when Nixon took office in 1969 and the oil shocks in 1973 and 1975, which for some – such as Antonio Negri, Michael Hardt and Maurizio Lazzarato, to name only a few – is shorthand for a radically new logic of global accumulation, and for others – such as David Harvey, Robert Brenner and Moishe Postone – marks an intensification of the capitalist value form at a larger scale. Of course, in a general sense it is not controversial to frame postmodernism and neoliberalism as contemporaneous with one another. That relationship has been well traced at this point and needs no reiteration here. My interest is instead in forwarding an argument about two fairly benign, though as I shall suggest later, central features of the relationship between culture and economics as it unfolded then and to a large extent is unfolding today.

© Georgina Rowlands, all rights reserved