In your book you try to pinpoint a structural break in 1977, from modernity to postmodernism, in short, from universal claims to individual, singular ones. This fraction is perhaps most pointed in a quote from Baudrillard that you cite. He speaks of a new type of “violence”, of which “we no longer know how to analyze it”. What did one no longer understand?
The quote comes from a text about the Center Pompidou, which opened in 1977. He describes it as a cultural center in which the meaning of art implodes, as it were, even disappears. In this context, he looks at those political activists who move outside the grid of classic left politics – the “urban Indians” or the “radio pirates” in Italy – movements that are no longer conquering the “center”, but rather, a metaphor want to form “tribes” at this time and want to be recognized in their peculiarities, in their culture. Baudrillard then says that this is no longer the “expansive age of capital and revolution” as which he understands modernity. Rather, the energy turns around and falls back, as it were, like into a black hole. And then he says: I no longer know what it is, I can no longer classify it in the modern schemes of explaining the world. Lyotard will then say two years later that there are no more “great stories”, which describes this historical moment in a similar way.
Not everyone perceived this as a break. You also quote Niklas Luhmann, who considers the dissolution of all certainties to be a sign of modernity and says: Since the French Revolution, at least since industrialization, one no longer knows “what is the case”.
Interestingly, Luhmann’s description that modernity is characterized by the fact that everything that exists becomes corrosive, i.e. decomposes, is not that far removed from Lyotard, for example. The difference, as Lyotard then writes in his book on postmodernism, is that the grief over it is gone, the longing for a whole, the possibility of believing in it. But I am less concerned with a conceptual distinction. I have tried to make modernity and its fading historiographically, as a story, almost narrative, comprehensible.
Why did you choose 1977 exactly? You yourself write that there are two major competitors nearby: in 1973 with the oil crisis and in 1979 with the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Ultimately, of course, this is contingent. My starting point was actually quite succinct: Michel Foucault had a semester off in 1977 – and I had the impression that exactly then his thinking began to shift. The year thus settled in my head, and soon many, of course, more significant events came into view: the German Autumn, the emergence of the Internet and the personal computer, Eurocommunism – or also punk, disco and hip-hop, the Postmodern architecture et cetera.