We are conditioned or “educated” to think that “modern” is good and “unmodern” or “old fashioned” is bad.
But what are the meanings of “modern”? What does it mean to be “modern”?
As we know, Cassiodorus (485-585 A.D.) was the first person to use the word “modern” in a similar sense as it is used today; from the Latin “mode” and the Greek “modus”, the “modern” of Cassiodorus was related to a perception of “changes”, or yet “changes for the time being”, when he came back from Constantinopla, where he were several years, and saw that Romans did not understand Greek language anymore. So he said that he was in “tempus modernus”.
The word “modern” was also used in medieval texts in a similar way, in times of Charles Magne for exemple.
“Modern Age” was a concept established between Leonardo Bruni (XIV-XVth centuries) and Christoph Cellarius (XVII-XVIIIth centuries) (both created the periodization of history), mainly as opposed to Middle Ages as a kind of “Dark Ages”, or an age of ignorance (as they supposed to be).
The use of “modern” reached a new step with La querelle des Anciens e des Modernes, The quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns, in the end of the XVIIth and the beginning of the XVIIIth centuries in Europe, mainly as an art debate.
In the end of XVIIIth and the beginning of the XIXth century, Hegel wrote about “modern times”, analysing a historical context.
In the end of XIXth and beginning of XXth century the Modernism or Modern Movement was a kind of reaction to the Realism. In a certain way, Modernism had some correlation with Romantism, and so we see that sometimes what is named “modern” or “new” has some charge of “return to the past”, although it speaks with the innovations in technology.
Anyway, during the XXth century the mass media popularized the use of the term “modern” as we see today in any banalities, for example, when someone buys a new product and says “I bought the modern one”, or “I bought the modern version”, or I am trying to stay modern by buying this new one”, etc, etc.
We must remember that Bruno Latour wrote “We Have Never Been Modern”(1991) criticizing the use of “modern” by scientific discourse, but we must also remember that there is a consecrated use of the word by the people as several other words.
Although the word “postmodern” appeared in the end of the XIXth century, it was after the book “The Postmodern Condition”, in 1979 by Jean-François Lyotard, that “postmodern” achieved a level of general discussion.
It is necessary to remark that “modern” and “postmodern” is used in different meanings by different disciplines at the same period of time. Sometimes it also used concepts as “modernim”, “modernity”, “postmodernism”, “postmodernity”.
After the first decade of the XXIst century it seems that we are living big changes.
The Postmodern Period started after the Second World War; characterized by “efficiency”, it seems to have ended...
The years between 2001 and 2008 were a march to the end of the “efficiency” as we knew then... After 2008 the world crisis continues, and the usual efficient measures do not effect anymore...
Still talking about words.
In the end of XXth and beginning of XXIst century many people started to use various prefixes before postmodern trying to carachterize that postmodern time is surpassed by history: neo, meta, trans, not, post, “etc-postmodern”... But also other people are asking “What comes after postmodern?”
Maybe we can ask: “what comes after the end of that revered efficiency of postmodern times, vanished with the several crisis of XXIst century”?