chapter  2
17 Pages

Collective identities, public spheres, civil society and citizenship in the contemporary era

With some observations on the Israeli scene

In this discussion, I draw attention to two important aspects of the new international scene that has developed in the contemporary period. First, there has been the undermining of some of the older Western hegemonies and of the modernizing regimes in different non-Western societies. This has often taken place in situations in which the perception of such weakening became relatively obvious among active elites in non-Western countries – as, for instance, after the October War and the oil shortage in the West. A crucial event on the international scene was the demise of the Soviet Union and of the salience of the ideological confrontation between Communism and the West – a demise which was sometimes perhaps paradoxically interpreted as an exhaustion of the Western cultural program of modernity and as signaling the end of history. Concomitantly there took place continuous shifts in the relative hegemony of different centers of modernity – in Europe and the U.S., moving to East Asia and back to the U.S. These transformations in power and influence became continually connected with growing contestations between such centers around their presumed hegemonic standing.