SOME DEFINITIONS OF MODERNITY
(Students were assigned in the first week to define 'modernity' in 50 words or less and provide one example of a 'pro' and 'anti' modernist.)
It displays positivism in terms of combining reasoning with scientific methods to be applied to questions facing society. Typified by a capitalist mode of accumulation replicated by state organs and institutions. Measurement of progress is usually in materialist (measurable) terms. It presupposes that there are consensual values within society and, as a result, achievable objectives.
PRO: John Maynard Keynes
ANTI: Jean Baudrillard
For its adherents Modernity represents a stage in the development of knowledge, and is normatively linked to a positive image of progress. Specifically in 'modern' theorising emphasis is placed on the historical development of scientific rationality, and the freedom of the individual. It also implies a commitment to the new.
PRO: Auguste Comte
ANTI: Michel Foucault
Modernity is marked by the historical transition from feudal societies to 'modern' ones, as a result of commercialisation/industrialisation. This was accompanied by a Zeitgeist that was greatly influenced by the Enlightenment philosophers, who emphasised a belief in progress, a belief in ‘becoming’, and a strong belief in science and rationality.
PRO: Juergen Habermas
ANTI: Jean-Francois Lyotard
"Modernity" is a contemporary and retrospective pseudo-epithet. Its task is to give title to a supposedly homogeneous period of Western European cultural history – post "Enlightenment" – where increased empirical and rational investigation resulted in the gradual undermining of the providential status quo, replacing it with the conceptual endeavour of human amelioration.
PRO: Julian Huxley
ANTI: Alasdair MacIntyre
Modernity is something catchy, or something cool. It has been mighty among people. In that sense, it is as collective virtue. But, as is often discussed, its content is always elusive and unclear. It might be something nothing.
PRO: Carl Lewis
ANTI: Mr. Bean
Modernity is both a historical (temporal) and a substantive or normative category. From the temporal perspective it is the period of time that begins with the discovery of the Americas and the Copernican revolution in astronomy during the late Renaissance. From the substantive perspective, it is the emergence new attitudes and ideas like progress, secularisation of the world-view, emancipation from natural and political restrains, self-justification of the
existing order, break with tradition, etc.
PRO: Karl Marx
ANTI: Jean Francois Lyotard.
Modernity is like a cookery dish. It involves a number of ingredients. Each ingredient contributes something different to the dish. They can combine in varying amounts. If one or two ingredients are missing or substituted it can still be recognised as ‘modernity’. Sometimes the mixture doesn’t work. Like food, perhaps there is too much salt or the cream doesn’t compliment the chilli. Alternatively this is how a lesser known songster conceptualises modern things (it might be fun to see if anybody notices)…
"All the modern things like cars and such have always existed. They’ve just been waiting in a mountain for the right moment, listening to the irritating noises of dinosaurs and people dabbling outside. All the modern things have always existed. They’ve just been waiting to come out and multiply and take over. It’s their turn now."
PRO: Auguste Comte
ANTI: Plato and Gandhi
Modernity is a historical project that started in the post-feudal west, gradually influencing other civilizations today. It is driven by political and economic developments – Capitalism – that structure the life of everyone within it. Marx, a modernist, normatively examined its progressive movements. Nietzsche, an anti-modernist, challenged notions of progress in history.
ANTI: George Bush, Jr.
Modernity is a powerful religion breaking us from the past and the tradition, but no necessarily leading us to the future. Modernity is the departure from tradition and religion to individualism, homogenisation and integration; carried out in search for progress and a rationalising organisation of society(ies)
PRO: Capitalist Economy – progress through Globalisation
ANTI: Religious Right
Modernity: economic production, technology, capitalism-industrialization, urbanization, bureaucratic state, mass culture, rationalism-rationalization (& positivism), scientific knowledge, disenchantment of the world and God, inevitability of progress.
PRO (sociology): Comte
PRO (philosophy): Hegel & Wittgenstein
PRO (science): Galileo
ANTI *1: Nietzsche or the Frankfurt school
ANTI *2: Baudrilliard or postmodernism
*1 A critic or an ideological opponent of modernity (directly or indirectly). Not necessarily anti-modern even if he might be.
*2 Necessarily anti-modernist and necessarily modern (since he has made the breakthrough from modernity).