chapter
The modern and the modernizing
Pages 1

It is impossible not to discuss these words in anything other than sweeping terms. The self-conscious use of the word ‘modern’ has its roots in European intellectual life in the second half of the nineteenth century. Not coincidentally, the concern with ‘modern life’ as a cultural and intellectual problem, coincides with the florescence of classic social theory in the works of †Marx, †Durkheim, †Simmel and †Weber. Classic social theory is predicated on the assumption that there is something radically new about the modern world and its social and intellectual arrangements. Our era has no precedent, so the models of the past can only serve as contrasts to what we now have, and all we know for sure about the future is that it too promises to be different in equally unprecedented ways. The use of contrast as a means to come to terms with the present is the source of many of our most pervasive theoretical structures-tradition and modernity, †status and †contract, †mechanical and organic solidarity, †Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, †hot and cold societies. But in applying such contrasts to empirical situations in the present we displace our subjects to another time-the primitive, savage, premodern-omewhere in our past.