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Title: What Do (or Should) We Mean by Modernity, Anyway
Authors: Schmidt, V.H. 
Issue Date: 16-Nov-2016
Citation: Schmidt, V.H. (2016-11-16). What Do (or Should) We Mean by Modernity, Anyway. What Do (or Should) We Mean by Modernity, Anyway. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: Since the last quarter of the 20th century, a growing body of literature has argued that we are rapidly stepping out of modernity, leaving it behind us & moving on to -- something else. The boldest versions of this argument hold that we have already reached a "postmodern" stage of societal evolution, others suggest we find ourselves at least in "high" or "late" modernity. The latter claim is reminiscent of the 1970s notion of "late" capitalism, which announced the imminent demise of an economic system that has since seen a triumphant global breakthrough. Not surprisingly, therefore, that notion has recently come a little out of vogue. Considering the worldwide proliferation of modern institutions & social structures during the past few decades, concepts such as late or postmodernity might well be headed for a similar fate. For once we adopt a global perspective, it appears as though the world is only just becoming (genuinely) modern. But what is modernity, anyway? The present paper argues that modernity, like all stages of societal development, ought best to be conceptualized through its primary mode of differentiation, which in the case of modern society takes the form of functional differentiation. Functional differentiation is compatible with enormous ground-level diversities, with a great deal of institutional & socio-cultural variety. This variety, in turn, has more recently given rise to yet another paradigm aiming to make sense of the present condition, namely that of "multiple modernities". However, like its forerunners, this paradigm appears to be seriously flawed, not least because it nowhere provides any hints as to what the various "modernities" might have in common. A concept of modernity that focuses on functional differentiation can accommodate the phenomena that other schools of thought cite in support of their respective proposals, because it shows that the fundamental structures of modernity remain intact despite continuous change at the surf, ace level, & that, to the extent that modernity has broken through at all, they are the same everywhere. For purposes of theory formation, it is therefore these structures that we must unearth before & above everything else.
Source Title: What Do (or Should) We Mean by Modernity, Anyway
Appears in Collections:Staff Publications

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