Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, October 29th, 2020

The Intellectual Position of Afghanistan in Postmodern Era


The Intellectual Position of  Afghanistan in Postmodern Era

Before going to the main part of discussion, we need to have a clear understanding about concept of postmodernism, modernism and pre-modernism. Postmodernism is a western philosophy referred to, a late 20th-century intellectual movement characterized by broad skepticism, nihilism, subjectivism and relativism. It believes that Western intellectual and cultural norms and values are a product of the ideology of dominant or elite groups which serves their interests. Postmodernists also hold an ironic attitude towards grand narratives and ideologies associated with modernism, often criticizing enlightenment rationality and focusing on the role of ideology in maintaining political or economic power. According to postmodernism, nothing is naturally right or wrong because no truth or no reality exists beyond the words or individual subjectivity. Nevertheless, neither there is a philosophical consensus on postmodernist theories and nor it holds an organized perception about concepts of ontology, anthropology and sociology. Some scholars think postmodernism was a reaction against modernism while others recognize it as a critical questioning of the ideas and values associated with a form of modernism that believes in progress and innovation. Modernism insists on a clear divide between art and popular culture but postmodernism does not designate any one style of art or culture.
The fundamental differences amidst pre-modernism, modernism and postmodernism is that pre-modernism believe in absolute knowledge comes from God; modernism believes that science can give absolute answers to everything; postmodernists believe that there is no universal truth or answer and everything is production of subjectivity. Pre-modernism was generally based on idealism and a utopian vision of human life and society and a belief in progress, modernism was based on positivism and excremental reasoning while postmodernism was born of skepticism and a suspicion of reason. For postmodernists every society is in a state of constant change; there are no absolute values, only relative ones; nor there any absolute truths. Postmodernism believe in several principles  such as no objective reality and, no scientific or historical truth. The fundamental principles of modernism were reasoning, empirical scientific knowledge and rationality. It was an attempt to overcome prejudices, myths, narratives, knowledge sacralization, religious dogmas and traditions of the previous ages. It aimed to make human reasoning the main tool in managing human affairs which was believed to lead to human progress, growth and advancement.
Historically, Post-modernism starts around 1950. Politically, it attacks modernism by attacking on power structures that modernism created. For example, the notion of the divine right of kings was replaced with empiricism and an absolute knowledge from science and logic. Postmodernism doesn’t replace modernism, it criticizes it. Post modernism views word war second as the culmination of modern thinking putting faith in technology and so it is often defined against modernism, rather than being defined as a new paradigm to replace modernism. So basically, we started with the divine right of kings, knowledge revealed by God. Then we move to modernism where science rules, science has all the answers. And eventually, philosophy swings around to realize that science can say nothing about spirituality, purpose, and meaning. Now, being at the post-modern era, the question is what is the position and reaction of Afghan intellectual community towards modernism or postmodernism?
Although, Afghanistan lies in postmodernist era, there are many traditional facts and manifestations that shows our current position is similar to the pre-modern era, not modern or postmodern era. For example, the Taliban and many other superstitious elements are not yet ready to adapt the rational norms and values of modernism let alone to talk about the postmodern concept. That’s why they cannot accept the new political system and current political mechanism which has been established on the basis of modern norms and values. Although the modern constitution of Afghanistan has not forgotten the position of local tradition and Islamic values, intellectually it seems untimely for many to adopt even the modulated manifestation of the modern era. On contrary to this, the new generation of Afghanistan are familiar with the phenomena of globalization and the higher educational system of the country broadly discuss these theories at academic level and  social media.  As a result of the mentioned intellectual gaps, there have been serious social and cultural chaos and dissociations among different groups and class in the country.   For example, the first wave of modernization during Amanullah Khan was faced with extreme reaction of radical traditionalists when he commenced sudden reformation in the country.
Given the past experience, no radical movement – rightist or leftist - can succeed in the country. We should accept that neither it is possible to overturn everything over a night and nor it is acceptable to return the country to the medieval era.  Everyone must note that retrogressive era has not only expired but also it is in conflict with the general spirit of globalization and advancement. Today we live in the era of globalization and advancement which has provided good opportunities for advancement of all southern countries including Afghanistan provided that the processes are not postponed by the aforementioned elements. The Afghan thinkers, writers, media workers and more importantly the Afghan civil society members should not let the country go back to the dark era. This is high time that civil society groups open their eyes and not let its government alone. Thus, the political parties have very sensitive responsibilities in direction and management of public opinion when there is a fear of returning Afghanistan to the dark era. Although political parties have not been formed in the true sense in the country, they have some bright minded people who love their country and wish the progression of their country.

Mohammad Zahir Akbari is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at mohammadzahirakbari@gmail.com

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