We are describing, based on certain observations, a phenomenon ‘out there.’ PNT might refer to a specific time, and it must always be understood within a spatial context.
What is normal always implies a context, so what is postnormal in one place might be different in another. In general, however, the world is confronting a host of old, dying orthodoxies: modernity; postmodernity; neoliberalism; hierarchical structures of society, institutions, and organizations; top-down politics; and everything else that has shaped and defined the ‘modern world.’ Though we believe they are dying, these forces continue to exert power in many places and will do so for years, if not decades, to come. There is a reason that we bury or burn corpses.
PNT IS A DESCRIPTION OF THE RAPIDLY CHANGING NATURE OF OUR WORLD. AND IT IS A CALL TO ARMS: AN INVITATION TO SEE THE WORLD FOR WHAT IT HAS BECOME AND TO IMAGINE HOW IT MIGHT BE DIFFERENT.
PNT is not merely another ‘post’—such as post-industrial, post-ideology, post-liberal and post-modern—concept for analyzing and deconstructing. Rather, we see it as both a diagnosis and prognosis. In normal times, we have confidence in our facts and values, and we can take our time in making correct and appropriate decisions. In PNT, there is a sense of urgency, and the future feels like a runaway train barreling into the unknown.
IN DESCRIBING PNT, WE USE THE LANGUAGE OF SYSTEMS: ANYTHING THAT CAN BE REPRESENTED AS AN INTEGRATED WHOLE, WITH A SET OF INTERDEPENDENT, INTERACTING COMPONENTS, AND RELATIONSHIPS.
Systems are defined by their relations, which are represented as inputs and outputs. So, when we talk about PNT, we emphasize how specific systems—some of which are on a global scale—are creeping towards postnormalcy. In many places, and for many people, things might appear to go on as ‘normal,’ but we know that this may be more apparent than real. Lurking beyond and beneath our perceptual capacity, the driving forces of PNT are at work shaping the present and manifesting pathways towards uncertain futures. Our task, then, is to make sense of the present and decolonize the futures before us.
For more on PNT, consult the Essentials section.