He brings these ideas together by saying, ‘Moins le futur est prévisible, plus il faut être mobile, flexible, réactif, prêt à changer en permanence’15.” One way of understanding this notion of hypermodernity is by referring to other commentators, most notably the Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, who talks about the contemporary existence of society as being in a liquid modernity. This concept is echoed by Marx and Engels, who use the poetic phrase “all that is solid melts into air”16. This phrase suggests that society is now at a stage of modernity in which everything is in flux, and all barriers to it are permeable.
Lipovetsky reaffirms this when he mentions “une logique moderne dirigulière et désinstitutionnalisée”17, which represents the idea that the defined barriers of institutions have been broken down. This allows the individual to circulate through these institutions in a much more fluid manner. Lipovetsky adds to this concept of fluidity by suggesting that there is a hyperbolic dynamic to hypermodern society. He points to this when he says, “Dans ce contexte, les sphères les plus diverses sont le lieu d’une montée aux extrêmes, livrées à une dynamique illimitée, à une spirale hyperbolique”18.
This is also relevant to the individual as it can lead to burnout, for example, as a result of the obligation to constantly be on the move and adaptable. It could be argued that Lipovetsky is suggesting that this demonstrates the fact that the grand narrative of progress no longer exists. It is as if the individual is running to stand still. He suggests that this constant demand to be efficient is not driven by a collective aim to move towards a Utopian goal but rather by a need to survive19.
As mentioned earlier, the notion of insecurity that hypermodernity has brought about is a dominant theme in Les Temps Hypermodernes. Lipovetsky, on numerous occasions, refers to the way in which the sentiment of relaxation and freedom that characterized postmodernism has been replaced by a more intense and fast-paced dynamic in which individuals constantly feel the need to protect themselves against present and future dangers.
Le climat du premier présentisme libéralisationniste et optimiste, empreint de légèreté, s’est effacé, au bénéfice d’une demande généralisée de protection” . This can be attributed to the fact that people, particularly in the workplace, are no longer able to draw upon collective support networks of old that might help them deal with the pressures around them. It could therefore be argued that this intensification of individualization associated with hypermodernity has removed the outside parameters or external reference points by which individuals can define themselves.
Despite this intensified individualism that is present in hypermodern society, Lipovetsky maintains a positive outlook by claiming that there are still collective identifications that individuals can make. He suggests that although individuals no longer subscribe to large moral frameworks, they are still motivated by ethical and humanitarian issues. This demonstrates that people still have the capacity to come together but as individuals rather than a collective.
In conclusion, it is evident that Lipovetsky puts forward a thorough analysis of both the postmodern and hypermodern eras, demonstrating clearly how society has moved away from the control of the disciplinary era towards a more fluid and individualized culture, maintaining an optimistic outlook on the way in which the world is developing. His use of the terms postmodern and hypermodern can be argued to be significant in the sense that they offer a valuable framework of reference in examining the different ways in which the human condition and the dynamics of society have changed throughout these periods.
- Lipovetsky, Gilles. Les temps hypermodernes. Grasset, 2004.
- Foucault, Michel. Surveiller et punir. Gallimard, 1975.
- Lipovetsky, Gilles. La société de deception. Textuel, 2006.
- Lipovetsky, Gilles. L’ère du vide. Gallimard, 1983.
- Marx, K. and Engels, F. The Communist Manifesto, 1848.