Modernism, Postmodernism and Resistance in Todays World
Modernization is not simply only a process of rationalization of society, but a process in which political choices are made that can lead to new societal conditions that can be viewed as an improvement of the present conditions under which we live. The history of Western Europe gives some tragic examples of political movements that had as their main objective the end of Western modernity and the creation of a quite different type of society. The examples are Nazism and other types of Fascism and communism
1. The stages of modernization
During the first stage of modernity we witness the rise of critical rationality and the coming of some elements of rational organization in armies and in some services of states. During this stage the daily life of the large majority of the Western populations does not undergo important changes.
During the second stage, especially in the second half of the 19th century, the industrial society develops rapidly. Moreover, this is a stage in which the daily life of important segments of the population changes rapidly. It is the coming of the class society with its proletariat of largely unskilled workers. This is the effect of modernization, the continuous growth of formal, rational organizations, a growth that goes together with a beginning of the weakening of traditional structures of society in which the sense of community, of belongingness and of collectivistic thinking played a dominant role. It took a rather long time before organized political reactions were developed.
In the third stage, the bad working- and living-conditions of the large majority of these European working-classes lead to the rise of strong political movements and to ideologies that emphasize the improvement of the working and living conditions of the lower classes of society. At the end of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century these political movements obtain tangible positive results for the working-classes. These imply also important adaptations of the main characteristics of modernity. But we must not forget that in the 20th century, the European societies were also confronted with political movements that wanted to change the societal development into the direction of antimodernity. Fortunately they failed….
During the fourth stage, after World War II, we witness a further development of the modernization process. The ongoing rationalization of social and economic life leads to new types of adaptations. These imply a growth of new categories of individual rights, especially at the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century.
2.The Cleavages of Modernization: Individualism and collectivism
Many discussions about modernity and modernization suggest that ongoing modernization means a growth of individualism and a gradual disappearance of collectivism. Nevertheless, ongoing modernization does not imply this. Individualism is dependent on collectivism and vice versa. Moreover, we have seen that we can discern 7 types of individualism and 5 types of collectivism.
Collective structures and collectivism are not disappearing in the wake of modernization. Quite the contrary is taking place and for good reasons. A society cannot be modelled totally according to the requirements of the market, as a society is much more than that. Each society represents also an idea of the common good and of principles and convictions which cannot be tampered with.
The ongoing modernization will be accompanied by old and new types of collectivization and collectivism. We have seen that this is even taking place in the very core of the modern production processes, that ‘modern’ market behavior is imbued by collectivism and that economic growth is strongly dependent on this. Other types of collectivism will continue and may even be reinforced under modern living conditions. Such is the case with religious beliefs. It is evident that religious beliefs, when being primarily individualistic, can be readily reconciled with the conditions of modern life. This not the case with universalistic fundamentalism, be it religious fundamentalism or worldly fundamentalism. Even the ideology of modernization, interpreted in a fundamentalist way, can endanger the march of modernization in the years to come.
Postmodernity is the presentation of the world as one in which many persons have lost their faith in progress as the consequence of scientific development and the dominance of critical rationality
We should also keep in mind that the types of adaptation and resistance are nourished by the three main tensions which are inherent to modernization and that those tensions may have different consequences in the major domains of social life. The different collective representations of society do not take into account these main tensions, as is shown below.
The discussion of the different types of individualization and collectivization, together with the presentation of the types of individualism and collectivism, leads to the following pivotal question: In which ways and direction will our society develop in the next decades? By now it is evident that the future will not only be the further unfolding of modernity, that not everybody will be better off when we leave the future to the forces of science and technology and to the forces of the global market.
Collective political choices have to be made which will strongly influence the living-conditions of future generations. In some respects it is obvious that some options have to be curtailed or erased totally. This has been done in the past when Nazism and other fascist movements and regimes were pushed vigorously side as alternative models of development.
3. Modernization: a universal process?
After the preceding analysis of Western modernity and modernization, it will be evident that modernization cannot be a universal or global process. In other parts of the world, outside Western Europe, it can be observed that modernity’s major characteristics are adopted, but that does not mean that the following modernization process will have a great similarity with the Western process. We have already noted that even within Western Europe there is a lot of diversity.
Other parts of the world also show much dissimilarity. Beware not to fall into the pitfall of Huntington’s thesis about the war between civilizations. Huntington presentation of civilizations as closed systems which determine the decisions of those persons and structures which are included in them do not exist. And also the opposite idea that modernization or globalization is a universal process is a pure fiction. The analysis that I have presented here demonstrates that clearly. But does this lead to the conclusion that we have arrived at the end of the modernization process? Are we really entering a postmodernity age?
4. Conclusion: Postmodernity
The idea that we have arrived at a new age after a long period of modernization arose during the eighties of the 20th century in the USA. Postmodernity is the presentation of the world as one in which many persons have lost their faith in progress as the consequence of scientific development and the dominance of critical rationality. Postmodernity rejects the idea of the scientific and Western Cultural dominance and praises the merits of multiculturalism and of cultural differences.
In France, it is in the first place Jean-François Lyotard who has popularized the concept of postmodernity in his La Condition postmoderne (1979). For him, ‘postmodern’ means ‘disillusion’ of persons who have lost their orientation points in their life and continue to live in a society without a future, without a past and without transcendence.
Wikipedia states that Postmodernity (post-modernity or the postmodern condition) is the economic or cultural state or condition of society which is said to exist after modernity. Some schools of thought hold that modernity ended in the late 20th century—in the 1980s or early 1990s—and that it was replaced by postmodernity, while others would extend modernity to cover the developments denoted by postmodernity, while some believe that modernity ended after World War II. The idea of the post-modern condition is sometimes characterized as a culture stripped of its capacity to function in any linear or autonomous state as opposed to the progressive mind state of modernism.
Postmodernity can mean a personal response to a postmodern society, the conditions in a society which make it postmodern or the state of being that is associated with a postmodern society. In most contexts it should be distinguished from postmodernism, the adoption of postmodern philosophies or traits in art, literature, culture and society.
*Head of Political Science and International Relations; Dean of Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences, Dumlupinar University / email@example.com