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The horrors of the two world wars made a colossal impact on the culture. The first fifty years of the twentieth century wiped out the large store of accumulated wealth leveling the economic state of the population, which led to the emergence of the strong middle class. Additionally, the realization of the worthlessness of human life due to the rise of science and technology led to the development of existentialism as a protest to the pressures of the changes provoked by the wars. In short, the horrors of the world wars created a philosophic and financial basis for the cultural production of modernism and post-modernism.
The rise of modernism is connected with the appearance of numerous middle class in the western world. In the nineteenth century, art was mostly enjoyed by aristocrats, and the land-based aristocracy was the primary stimulus of cultural progress. The world wars eliminated this class by destroying the accumulated wealth and redistributing the money based on the rules of capitalism. After the war, industrialization created extremes of wealth and poverty, simultaneously stimulating the emergence of the middle class. The bourgeoisie and the middle class created a vast market for art (Kallir 2).
However, the art had to change and reflect the moods of rejecting the values that led to the disasters of war. At the same time, art evolved for the new audience to be able to appreciate the message. One of the most prominent examples of the phenomenon is pop art and the denial of depth and substance by Andy Warhol. He started a revolt against the intricacy of thought, making his post-modernistic art understandable for larger audiences. Therefore, the two world wars made culture production to change in order to meet the needs of the new market.
The post-war period is associated with the rise of existentialism as a reaction to the diminished importance of life an individual. During the wars, people were killed using weapons of mass destruction, underlining the insignificance of the influence of one human being. Existentialism focuses on authenticity, saying that existence precedes essence (“Existentialism”). This notion means that the most important thing for individuals is that they are independent conscious beings rather than the roles they play in life.
The philosophical movement affected many works of art in literature, theatre, and movies of modernism. The most famous people influenced by the philosophy are Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. It is only natural that the violence and trauma of the world wars made ordinary people feel despair due to the fear of the technological end of the world. The emotion made people deny the unimportance of their lives by promoting the idea that every life matters.
The two world wars were devastating not only for the economy but also for the psychological well-being of people around the globe. However, the wars created a new market for art by destroying the large stores of wealth and diminishing the power of aristocrats. The bourgeoisie and the middle class became the new consumers of culture, stimulating the changes in art. As for the psychological impact, the after-war period is known for the rise of existentialism, which is considered a reaction to the decreased importance of the life of an individual. In conclusion, the horrors of the two world wars had considerable influence on the cultural production of modernism and post-modernism.
“Existentialism.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2015. Web.
Kallir, Jane. The End of the Middle-Class Art. 2018. Web.