ABSTRACT

Nowadays, the existence of multiple paths toward modernization seems to be a widely acknowledged fact and thus no longer controversial. But we need greater precision in our use of the language of modernization. Accordingly, in this chapter I try to clarify what we mean when we speak of modernity and modernization. Secondly, I explain how the political identity of Europeans relates to modernity, and argue that this identity is essential to the legitimacy of the European Union. Finally, I argue that the modern pattern of politics is coming to an end, in particular with regard to certain global and potentially life-threatening challenges that humankind has brought upon itself. In the era to come after modernity, the legitimacy of a polity will be evaluated largely according to its ability to address those challenges—above all, those emanating from nuclear weapons and climate change. When it comes to meeting those challenges, Europe may have unique opportunities.