Sustainism is the new modernism

We need a new word for our new world and Sustainism is it, according to authors Michiel Schwarz and Joost Eiffers.  Sustainism is the New Modernism is part cultural manifesto, part design book.  Schwarz, a cultural theorist and innovator, and Eiffers a “symbol maker” and designer (the two are also childhood friends) have created a captivating book – in its written content but also in form and design – that’s hard not to get excited about.

Sustainism is relevant not just to the design community, but as a new cultural perspective

Positing that modernism (and postmodernism) ended with the 20th century, we are in the midst of a cultural paradigm shift that will allow us to effectively think about, engage with and act on the world’s big pursuits. Sustainism is this new ‘ism’ and Schwarz and Eiffers’ book offers the vocabulary and graphic symbolism to recognize, frame, and embrace what’s here and happening.  With quotes from world leaders, journalists, and authors who describe what Schwarz and Eiffers have named, they say “manifestations of Sustainism are emerging in all of culture:  from architecture and design to how we deal with food and our land, from media expressions and community to innovation and urban life.”

So What is Sustainism?

The Trefoil knot is the symbol of Sustainism, encompassing a world that is networked, digital and localist

Schwarz and Eiffers assert that Sustainism is a way of thinking about the world that is responsible – ethically, socially and environmentally so; that it shifts the global vs local discussion to understand it as “all locals are globally connected” – we should no longer talk of ‘the global village’ but of a ‘globe of villages’.  Sustainism also favours open source information and a networked, collaborative approach to innovation, technological and otherwise.

Sustainist symbols. Credit: Michiel Schwarz, Joost Eiffers, Sustainism is the New Modernism, 2010

Sustainism is the New Modernism is hard to put down between its noble ideas, snappy graphics, bold typefaces, and historical quotes.  Put it on your coffee table or give it as a gift to be sure to start an interesting dialogue.

Order the book via or Indiebound independent booksellers.

Michiel Schwarz and Joost Eiffers
Sustainism is the New Modernism
A Cultural Manifesto for the Sustainist Era
D.A.P/ Distributed Art Publishers Inc.
155 Sixth Avenue, 2nd Floor, New York, NY, 10013
December 2010
ISBN 978-1-935202-22-6

3 Responses to Sustainism is the new modernism

  1. Jay Banks says:

    It would be awesome if sustainism was the new modernism, but I am afraid claiming so is way too optimistic. Sustainism is something we could be heading to, but do you really feel that everybody sticks to the ideals you are talking about as they once did to modernism? Hardly.

    • Midori Tanaka says:

      Hi Jay,

      Thanks for your comment! I’m with you in that I’m not sure Sustainism is the next big ‘ism’. But I do more than hope it is. I agree with the authors’ assertion that a culture’s dominant paradigm defines the floor and ceiling to the ideas, dialogue and change we see. (I don’t necessarily think modernism is that paradigm, but that’s for another time.) I’d say we’ve certainly entered a digital age – for good and ill- and we need to update our language and thinking accordingly. And if we’re experiencing the dawn of a new era that requires a new vocabulary and symbolic language as the authors outline then (for me) that this new era be defined by the values and principles of Sustainism is welcome – and necessary- change. At the end of the day as a new mum, I don’t want the status quo to remain…

      It’s an interesting book to flip through and I haven’t done it justice here; a dialogue starter, evidently which in itself is valuable!

      Enjoy the rest of your weekend! – Midori

  2. Pingback: Five Design Books To Give As Gifts | The Design Tree by Greentea Design

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