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The Future of Theory

For decades, scholars have been calling into question the universality of disciplinary objects and categories. The coherence of defined autonomous categories—such as religion, science, and art—has collapsed under the weight of postmodern critiques, calling into question the possibility of progress and even the value of knowledge. Jason Ānanda Josephson Storm aims to radicalize and move beyond these deconstructive projects to offer a path forward for the humanities and social sciences using a new model for theory he calls metamodernism.

Metamodernism works through the postmodern critiques and uncovers the mechanisms that produce and maintain concepts and social categories. In so doing, Storm provides a new, radical account of society’s ever-changing nature—what he calls a “Process Social Ontology”—and its materialization in temporary zones of stability or “social kinds.” Storm then formulates a fresh approach to philosophy of language by looking beyond the typical theorizing that focuses solely on human language production, showing us instead how our own sign-making is actually on a continuum with animal and plant communication.

Storm also considers fundamental issues of the relationship between knowledge and value, promoting a turn toward humble, emancipatory knowledge that recognizes the existence of multiple modes of the real. Metamodernism is a revolutionary manifesto for research in the human sciences that offers a new way through postmodern skepticism to envision a more inclusive future of theory in which new forms of both progress and knowledge can be realized.


“It’s a long time since I’ve had such a vigorous—and rigorous—intellectual work-out! Metamodernism is not only an astute diagnosis of the confusions and contradictions of contemporary thought; it also offers compelling alternatives. Ambitious, lucid, and erudite, this is a book that demands to be read and argued over.”

Rita Felski, author of The Limits of Critique

“Storm’s previous book, The Myth of Disenchantment, was an extraordinary reevaluation of our understanding of modernity, a path-breaking achievement. His new work promises an equally thought-provoking revisioning of the tasks of theoretical work in the humanities—a new way of going beyond modernity.”

Simon Glendinning, author of The Idea of Continental Philosophy

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
Note on Texts and Citations
0.1-Into the Abyss: Postmodernism Unraveling
0.2-Overview of the Work

Part I. Metarealism
1-How the Real World Became a Fable, or The Realities of Social Construction
1.1-Realism as Scientism
1.2-Varieties of Mind-Dependence
1.3-When Realism Becomes Antirealism and the Reverse
1.4-Apocalyptic Realism and the Human Sciences, or Real as Socially Constructed
1.5-Metarealism: Modes of the Real
1.6-Conclusion: Modes of Reality; Modes of Existence

Part II. Process Social Ontology
2-Concepts in Disintegration & Strategies for Demolition
2.1-The End of Religion
2.2-The End of Art
2.3-Strategies for Demolition
2.3.1-Immanent Critique
2.3.2-Relativizing Critique
2.3.3-Ethical Critique
2.4-Family-Resemblance, Polythetic Concepts, and Other Category Errors
2.5-Conclusion: Legitimation Crisis
3-Process Social Ontology
3.1-A World in Motion
3.2-Natural Kinds
3.3-Process Social Kinds: A First Pass
3.4-Conclusion: Beyond Anti-Essentialism
4-Social Kinds
4.1-Homeostatic Property-Cluster Kinds
4.2-A Process-Cluster Account of Social Kinds
4.2.1-Socially Constructed
4.2.2-Dynamic Clusters of Powers
4.2.3-Causal Processes that Anchor Clusters
4.3-Deconstructing and Reconstructing Social Kinds
4.4-Conclusion: Changing the Social World

Part III. Hylosemiotics
5-Hylosemiotics: The Discourse of Things
5.1-Beyond the Linguistic Turn
5.2-A Minimal Metaontology
5.3-The Meanings of Meaning
5.4-The Lion’s Roar: A Brief Excursion on the Possibilities of Translation
5.5-A Hylosemiotics of Sign-Aspects
5.6-The Mind Turned Inside Out
5.7-Conclusion: A Light in the Abyss

Part IV. Knowledge and Value
6-Zetetic Knowledge
6.1-Doubting Doubt
6.2-Knowledge without Certainty
6.3-Zetetic Abduction and Prediction: Inference Beyond Pattern Recognition
6.4-Conclusion: From Skeptical Dogmatism to Emancipatory Zeteticism
7-The Revaluation of Values
7.1-The Values of Postmodernism
7.2-The Value of Value-Free Social Science
7.3-Illusions of Fact and Value: Overcoming the Is-Ought Distinction
7.4-The Human Sciences as a Way of Life
7.5-Revolutionary Happiness: Critical Virtue Ethics
8-Conclusion: Becoming Metamodern

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