Feelings and Metamodernism


I have been deep in discussion with Eric Harris-Braun about metamodernism. Probably time to mention that here. 

"...rather than simply signalling a return to naïve modernist ideological positions, metamodernism considers that our era is characterised by an oscillation between aspects of both modernism and postmodernism. We see this manifest as a kind of informed naivety, a pragmatic idealism, a moderate fanaticism, oscillating between sincerity and irony, deconstruction and construction, apathy and affect, attempting to attain some sort of transcendent position, as if such a thing were within our grasp. The metamodern generation understands that we can be both ironic and sincere in the same moment; that one does not necessarily diminish the other." Luke Turner

I find GameB and metamodernism to both be a bit heady. That isn't as ironic for GameB as it is for metamodernism. Because metamodernism is expressely about feeling:

Metamodernism is a feeling, and all that constitutes the feeling and flows from it. When we consider the mystery of consciousness and the human drama playing out on this charming anomaly of a planet, feelings are far from trivial – they have cosmological significance. The metamodern feeling co-arises through the perception of our context writ large; it is aesthetic in nature, epistemic in function, historical in character, and it serves to call into question the purpose of the world as we find it, and the meaning of life as we know it.[2]

If, dear reader, you do not feel called upon to read further, to try to understand more fully what metamodernism means, I cannot blame you, and even envy you a little. Life is short, there is work to do, and we cannot dance with every ism that gives us the eye." Jonathan Rowson

As I have sought to understand thrivability and what makes it more possible (and what hinders it), I have looked for various levers that change the course of society. I have looked to Donella Meadows work on change in systems. What makes a paradigm propagate, if that is the largest of levers? 

The Gaps: Awe, Gratitude, and Mystery

Here we explore this work from my wanderings and weave it with your experiences and wisdom too. The last couple months have been about filling in some major gaps that I see from where I was a decade ago. Not that I didn't see them then, but that I wasn't talking about them as much as I think, in hindsight, that I should have. 

Thrivability, for me, is deeply rooted in awe and gratitude and mystery. It is these things that give rise to the right energies for cooperation and stewardship. Who we are BEING and HOW shapes what we do. If you don't take feelings into account, then we end up in rational actor/game theory/people should be computers. 

Metamodernism is pointing at this feeling stuff as driving forces in change, particularly in the present. 


I would go further. Feelings are the sensors we use for our relation to ourselves and our social connections. Society, perhaps, has always been about how individuals can be themselves and also cooperate with others. And that is wetware hacked into our systems. One crucial component of how that works is shame and guilt. Shame is the dirty feeling of having acted wrongly in the social context and triggers the fear of being ostracized. Guilt is the feeling of making a mistake but still believing you can manage right relations.

If we do not get through shaming, the way shaming is being used to control the population, who all simply want to belong in a world where identity has imploded, then we won't, I believe, overcome QAnon and post-truthism. 


One thing that I friggin' love about Brene Brown is that, like me, she didn't want to be here. She wanted to keep her cowboy boots on and get stuff done. But her research was undeniable. I would love to stay in the doing or even in the thinking. Yet, more than those things, I am a strategist. What is going to WORK? What makes a difference? How do these strange creatures we call humans operate and thus what can be done to help humans be their best versions of themselves? Strategy.

It is past time that we talk about feelings and which ones do what. It is past time to reckon with grief and how that drives human action and how to be WITH each other through it. It is time to be clear where to feel shame and where that should instead be guilt and action. 

I am here to do hard things with you because I am deeply convinced our future involves the power of empathy to find our way home together. That is not about sappy superficial kumbaya, and if you think it is, then I feel sad about your denialism and defensiveness.  

If you too sense that emotion is a driving force in our issues, then let's dig in together.

For more, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jtZdSRst94








All that said, the Salon next week will focus less on these things and more on data, governance, structure, with just one session focusing on human behavior and motivation.




  • Herman Wagter 
    Feelings.....I work hard to separate non-verbal signals that my mind and body give me in two categories: A. My subconscious mind (" Thinking Fast") tries to tell me something, B. My emotions are triggered. For me, thinking about emotions as the tension between 'what I would like to be happening' and 'what i perceive or expect to be happening'  helps as well. Over the years I have learned to recognize A., trust my subconscious signaling and act upon these signals.  B. requires reflection on myself and why I am triggered. Metamodernism seems to conflate A and B, that does not work at all for me.
    • jean m russell 

      Excellent point about the "Blink" / Thinking Fast and Slow system v the emotionally reactive. Indeed, I do not see them distinguishing between these two modes. I will sit with that.

  • Eric Harris-Braun 
    Most of the meta-modernism stuff I've been looking at is the Political Metamodernism of Hanzi Frienacht (https://metamoderna.org/).  I think there's lots to learn from all that thinking, but the part that landed most strongly for me was the chart at the bottom of this post: https://metamoderna.org/how-to-outcompete-capitalism/  where they describe how the main concern of the attention economy (which is what's emerging from late-stage capitalism) is "Emotional Energy", i.e. this is what society (not individuals) is now beginning to focus on creating structures for it's coherent provision.  This is contrast to Property in the industrial age, and Security in the Agricultural age.  There's lots to complain about regarding the matrix they provide.  But I think the insight of the social body now turning to coherent solutions the provision of workable Emotional Energy states for its people, is quite deep and worth thinking about, especially in the context of thrivability, and especially because coherent solutions are not necessarily the pleasant or good ones we might want.
  • katie teague 
    I finally read "The Listening Society" last year (Hanzi) and appreciate the playful tone of the meta-modernizing. Lots of profound insight on the need for deliberately "developmental" societies and yet I have grown allergic (along with Nora Bateson) to an over-adherence on stage theory (having trained years ago in Spiral Dynamics and drank the Ken Wilber koolaid). Like many of our tools, useful but potentially dangerous. I've come to use the term developemental not in a stage theory sort of way but in the etymological sense of the word -- to unveil. This has more of a Gebser-ian (The Everpresent Origin) flavor of "structures of consciousness." 
    • jean m russell 

      Oooh, love that katie teague !!! I am also loving the Graeber-Wengrow resistance to stages and wonder how we can talk about differences and course corrections rather than "better than" stages. I have not yet thoroughly reworked my languaging though. I will consider how to do that.

  • Eric Harris-Braun 
    So what is it when a new grammatic capacity comes into existence? Whether that's deep ones like DNA and Language, or the shallower ones like Hormone + Receptors, Neurons, and Writing, which expand the capacities created by the deep ones. When these things show up, it's a new stage for what ever system they show up in. Radically different things can happen. It seems problematic to talk about them as developmental stages in some grand evolutionary or teleologic narrative.

    But from a systemic analysis point of view they really do create a marked difference in what's possible. And I think it's worth talking about that, because, after all, it seems like that's precisely what we are after, marked differences in what's possible.
    • jean m russell 11mo
      Totally hear that. Seems like the development stage stuff needs to be more discerning about dependencies and pathways. Also seems like maybe there are worthwhile distinctions to make between physics and the limits and possibilities there v social dynamics. In the social especially, being too materialist is a bit foolish maybe?
      Grammars may increase composability across the spectrum from physical into spiritual or emotional.... But the dynamics and impacts may differ depending on the medium.