Modernity, a topic in the humanities and social sciences, is both a historical period (the modern era), as well as the ensemble of particular socio-cultural norms, attitudes and practices that arose in the wake of the Renaissance—in the "Age of Reason" of 17th-century thought and the 18th-century "Enlightenment". Some commentators consider the era of modernity to have ended by 1930, with World War II in 1945, or the 1980s or 1990s; the following era is called postmodernity. The term "contemporary history" is also used to refer to the post-1945 timeframe, without assigning it to either the modern or postmodern era. (Thus "modern" may be used as a name of a particular era in the past, as opposed to meaning "the current era".)

Depending on the field, "modernity" may refer to different time periods or qualities. In historiography, the 17th and 18th centuries are usually described as early modern, while the long 19th century corresponds to "modern history" proper. While it includes a wide range of interrelated historical processes and cultural phenomena (from fashion to modern warfare), it can also refer to the subjective or existential experience of the conditions they produce, and their ongoing impact on human culture, institutions, and politics (Berman 2010, 15–36).

As an analytical concept and normative ideal, modernity is closely linked to the ethos of philosophical and aesthetic modernism; political and intellectual currents that intersect with the Enlightenment; and subsequent developments such as existentialism, modern art, the formal establishment of social science, and contemporaneous antithetical developments such as Marxism. It also encompasses the social relations associated with the rise of capitalism, and shifts in attitudes associated with secularisation and post-industrial life (Berman 2010, 15–36).

In the view of Michel Foucault (1975) (classified as a proponent of postmodernism though he himself rejected the "postmodernism" label, considering his work as "a critical history of modernity"—see, e.g., Call 2002, 65), "modernity" as a historical category is marked by developments such as a questioning or rejection of tradition; the prioritization of individualism, freedom and formal equality; faith in inevitable social, scientific and technological progress, rationalization and professionalization, a movement from feudalism (or agrarianism) toward capitalism and the market economy, industrialization, urbanization and secularization, the development of the nation-state, representative democracy, public education (etc.) (Foucault 1977, 170–77).

In the context of art history, "modernity" (modernité) has a more limited sense, "modern art" covering the period of c. 1860–1970. Use of the term in this sense is attributed to Charles Baudelaire, who in his 1864 essay "The Painter of Modern Life", designated the "fleeting, ephemeral experience of life in an urban metropolis", and the responsibility art has to capture that experience. In this sense, the term refers to "a particular relationship to time, one characterized by intense historical discontinuity or rupture, openness to the novelty of the future, and a heightened sensitivity to what is unique about the present" (Kompridis 2006, 32–59).


The Late Latin adjective modernus, a derivation from the adverb modo "presently, just now", is attested from the 5th century, at first in the context of distinguishing the Christian era from the pagan era. In the 6th century, Cassiodorus appears to have been the first writer to use modernus "modern" regularly to refer to his own age (O'Donnell 1979, 235 n9). The terms antiquus and modernus were used in a chronological sense in the Carolingian era. For example, a magister modernus referred to a contemporary scholar, as opposed to old authorities such as Benedict of Nursia. In early medieval usage, modernus referred to authorities younger than pagan antiquity and the early church fathers, but not necessarily to the present day, and could include authors several centuries old, from about the time of Bede, i.e. referring to the time after the foundation of the Order of Saint Benedict and/or the fall of the Western Roman Empire (Hartmann 1974, passim).

The Latin adjective was adopted in Middle French, as moderne, by the 15th century, and hence, in the early Tudor period, into Early Modern English. The early modern word meant "now existing", or "pertaining to the present times", not necessarily with a positive connotation. Shakespeare uses modern in the sense of "every-day, ordinary, commonplace".

The word entered wide usage in the context of the late 17th-century quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns within the Académie française, debating the question of "Is Modern culture superior to Classical (Græco–Roman) culture?" In the context of this debate, the "ancients" (anciens) and "moderns" (modernes) were proponents of opposing views, the former believing that contemporary writers could do no better than imitate the genius of classical antiquity, while the latter, first with Charles Perrault (1687), proposed that more than a mere "Renaissance" of ancient achievements, the "Age of Reason" had gone beyond what had been possible in the classical period. The term modernity, first coined in the 1620s, in this context assumed the implication of a historical epoch following the Renaissance, in which the achievements of antiquity were surpassed (Delanty 2007).


Modernity has been associated with cultural and intellectual movements of 1436–1789 and extending to the 1970s or later (Toulmin 1992, 3–5).

According to Marshall Berman (1982, 16–17), modernity is periodized into three conventional phases (dubbed "Early," "Classical," and "Late," respectively, by Peter Osborne (1992, 25)):

  • Early modernity: 1500–1789 (or 1453–1789 in traditional historiography)
  • Classical modernity: 1789–1900 (corresponding to the long 19th century (1789–1914) in Hobsbawm's scheme)
  • Late modernity: 1900–1989

In the second phase Berman draws upon the growth of modern technologies such as the newspaper, telegraph and other forms of mass media. There was a great shift into modernization in the name of industrial capitalism. Finally in the third phase, modernist arts and individual creativity marked the beginning of a new modernist age as it combats oppressive politics, economics as well as other social forces including mass media (Laughey 2007, 30).

Some authors, such as Lyotard and Baudrillard, believe that modernity ended in the mid- or late 20th century and thus have defined a period subsequent to modernity, namely Postmodernity (1930s/1950s/1990s–present). Other theorists, however, regard the period from the late 20th century to the present as merely another phase of modernity; Zygmunt Bauman (1989) calls this phase "liquid" modernity, Giddens (1998) labels it "high" modernity (see High modernism).



Politically, modernity's earliest phase starts with Niccolò Machiavelli's works which openly rejected the medieval and Aristotelian style of analyzing politics by comparison with ideas about how things should be, in favour of realistic analysis of how things really are. He also proposed that an aim of politics is to control one's own chance or fortune, and that relying upon providence actually leads to evil. Machiavelli argued, for example, that violent divisions within political communities are unavoidable, but can also be a source of strength which lawmakers and leaders should account for and even encourage in some ways (Strauss 1987).

Machiavelli's recommendations were sometimes influential upon kings and princes, but eventually came to be seen as favoring free republics over monarchies (Rahe 2006, 1). Machiavelli in turn influenced Francis Bacon (Kennington 2004, chapt. 4), Marchamont Needham (Rahe 2006, chapt. 1), James Harrington (Rahe 2006, chapt. 1), John Milton (Bock, Skinner, and Viroli 1990, chapt. 11), David Hume (Rahe 2006, chapt. 4), and many others (Strauss 1958).

Important modern political doctrines which stem from the new Machiavellian realism include Mandeville's influential proposal that "Private Vices by the dextrous Management of a skilful Politician may be turned into Publick Benefits" (the last sentence of his Fable of the Bees), and also the doctrine of a constitutional "separation of powers" in government, first clearly proposed by Montesquieu. Both these principles are enshrined within the constitutions of most modern democracies. It has been observed that while Machiavelli's realism saw a value to war and political violence, his lasting influence has been "tamed" so that useful conflict was deliberately converted as much as possible to formalized political struggles and the economic "conflict" encouraged between free, private enterprises (Rahe 2006, chapt. 5; Mansfield 1989).

Starting with Thomas Hobbes, attempts were made to use the methods of the new modern physical sciences, as proposed by Bacon and Descartes, applied to humanity and politics (Berns 1987). Notable attempts to improve upon the methodological approach of Hobbes include those of John Locke (Goldwin 1987), Spinoza (Rosen 1987), Giambattista Vico (1984, xli), and Rousseau (1997, part 1). David Hume made what he considered to be the first proper attempt at trying to apply Bacon's scientific method to political subjects (Hume & 1896 [1739], intro.), rejecting some aspects of the approach of Hobbes.

Modernist republicanism openly influenced the foundation of republics during the Dutch Revolt (1568–1609) (Bock, Skinner, and Viroli 1990, chapt. 10,12), English Civil War (1642–1651) (Rahe 2006, chapt. 1), American Revolution (1775–1783) (Rahe 2006, chapt. 6–11), the French Revolution (1789–1799), and the Haitian revolution (1791–1804). (Orwin and Tarcov 1997, chapt. 8).

A second phase of modernist political thinking begins with Rousseau, who questioned the natural rationality and sociality of humanity and proposed that human nature was much more malleable than had been previously thought. By this logic, what makes a good political system or a good man is completely dependent upon the chance path a whole people has taken over history. This thought influenced the political (and aesthetic) thinking of Immanuel Kant, Edmund Burke and others and led to a critical review of modernist politics. On the conservative side, Burke argued that this understanding encouraged caution and avoidance of radical change. However more ambitious movements also developed from this insight into human culture, initially Romanticism and Historicism, and eventually both the Communism of Karl Marx, and the modern forms of nationalism inspired by the French Revolution, including, in one extreme, the German Nazi movement (Orwin and Tarcov 1997, chapt. 4).

On the other hand, the notion of modernity has been contested also due to its Euro-centric underpinnings. This is further aggravated by the re-emergence of non-Western powers. Yet, the contestations about modernity are also linked with Western notions of democracy, social discipline, and development (Regilme 2012, 96).


Die protestantische Ethik und der 'Geist' des Kapitalismus original cover
Cover of the original German edition of Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

In sociology, a discipline that arose in direct response to the social problems of "modernity" (Harriss 2000, 325), the term most generally refers to the social conditions, processes, and discourses consequent to the Age of Enlightenment. In the most basic terms, Anthony Giddens describes modernity as

...a shorthand term for modern society, or industrial civilization. Portrayed in more detail, it is associated with (1) a certain set of attitudes towards the world, the idea of the world as open to transformation, by human intervention; (2) a complex of economic institutions, especially industrial production and a market economy; (3) a certain range of political institutions, including the nation-state and mass democracy. Largely as a result of these characteristics, modernity is vastly more dynamic than any previous type of social order. It is a society—more technically, a complex of institutions—which, unlike any preceding culture, lives in the future, rather than the past (Giddens 1998, 94).

Other writers have criticized such definitions as just being a listing of factors. They argue that modernity, contingently understood as marked by an ontological formation in dominance, needs to be defined much more fundamentally in terms of different ways of being.

The modern is thus defined by the way in which prior valences of social life ... are reconstituted through a constructivist reframing of social practices in relation to basic categories of existence common to all humans: time, space, embodiment, performance and knowledge. The word 'reconstituted' here explicitly does not mean replaced. (James 2015, 51–52)

This means that modernity overlays earlier formations of traditional and customary life without necessarily replacing them.

Cultural and philosophical

The era of modernity is characterised socially by industrialisation and the division of labour and philosophically by "the loss of certainty, and the realization that certainty can never be established, once and for all" (Delanty 2007). With new social and philosophical conditions arose fundamental new challenges. Various 19th-century intellectuals, from Auguste Comte to Karl Marx to Sigmund Freud, attempted to offer scientific and/or political ideologies in the wake of secularisation. Modernity may be described as the "age of ideology." (Calinescu 1987, 2006).

For Marx, what was the basis of modernity was the emergence of capitalism and the revolutionary bourgeoisie, which led to an unprecedented expansion of productive forces and to the creation of the world market. Durkheim tackled modernity from a different angle by following the ideas of Saint-Simon about the industrial system. Although the starting point is the same as Marx, feudal society, Durkheim emphasizes far less the rising of the bourgeoisie as a new revolutionary class and very seldom refers to capitalism as the new mode of production implemented by it. The fundamental impulse to modernity is rather industrialism accompanied by the new scientific forces. In the work of Max Weber, modernity is closely associated with the processes of rationalization and disenchantment of the world. (Larraín 2000, 13)

Critical theorists such as Theodor Adorno and Zygmunt Bauman propose that modernity or industrialization represents a departure from the central tenets of the Enlightenment and towards nefarious processes of alienation, such as commodity fetishism and the Holocaust (Adorno 1973,; Bauman 1989). Contemporary sociological critical theory presents the concept of "rationalization" in even more negative terms than those Weber originally defined. Processes of rationalization—as progress for the sake of progress—may in many cases have what critical theory says is a negative and dehumanising effect on modern society. (Adorno 1973,; Bauman 2000)

Enlightenment, understood in the widest sense as the advance of thought, has always aimed at liberating human beings from fear and installing them as masters. Yet the wholly enlightened earth radiates under the sign of disaster triumphant. (Adorno 1973, 210)

What prompts so many commentators to speak of the 'end of history', of post-modernity, 'second modernity' and 'surmodernity', or otherwise to articulate the intuition of a radical change in the arrangement of human cohabitation and in social conditions under which life-politics is nowadays conducted, is the fact that the long effort to accelerate the speed of movement has presently reached its 'natural limit'. Power can move with the speed of the electronic signal – and so the time required for the movement of its essential ingredients has been reduced to instantaneity. For all practical purposes, power has become truly exterritorial, no longer bound, or even slowed down, by the resistance of space (the advent of cellular telephones may well serve as a symbolic 'last blow' delivered to the dependency on space: even the access to a telephone market is unnecessary for a command to be given and seen through to its effect. (Bauman 2000, 10)

Consequent to debate about economic globalization, the comparative analysis of civilizations, and the post-colonial perspective of "alternative modernities," Shmuel Eisenstadt introduced the concept of "multiple modernities" (Eisenstadt 2003; see also Delanty 2007). Modernity as a "plural condition" is the central concept of this sociologic approach and perspective, which broadens the definition of "modernity" from exclusively denoting Western European culture to a culturally relativistic definition, thereby: "Modernity is not Westernization, and its key processes and dynamics can be found in all societies" (Delanty 2007).


Modernity, or the Modern Age, is typically defined as a post-traditional, and post-medieval historical period (Heidegger 1938, 66–67, 66–67). Central to modernity is emancipation from religion, specifically the hegemony of Christianity, and the consequent secularization. Modern thought repudiates the Judeo-Christian belief in the Biblical God as a mere relic of superstitious ages (Fackenheim 1957, 272-73; Husserl 1931,).[note 1] It all started with Descartes' revolutionary methodic doubt, which transformed the concept of truth in the concept of certainty, whose only guarantor is no longer God or the Church, but Man's subjective judgement (Alexander 1931, 484-85; Heidegger 1938,).[note 2]

Theologians have tried to cope with their worry that Western modernism has brought the world to no longer being well-disposed towards Christianity (Kilby 2004, 262, 262; Davies 2004, 133, 133; Cassirer 1944, 13–14 13–14).[note 3] Modernity aimed towards "a progressive force promising to liberate humankind from ignorance and irrationality" (Rosenau 1992, 5).


In the 16th and 17th centuries, Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and others developed a new approach to physics and astronomy which changed the way people came to think about many things. Copernicus presented new models of the solar system which no longer placed humanity's home, on Earth, in the centre. Kepler used mathematics to discuss physics and described regularities of nature this way. Galileo actually made his famous proof of uniform acceleration in freefall using mathematics (Kennington 2004, chapt. 1,4).

Francis Bacon, especially in his Novum Organum, argued for a new experimental based approach to science, which sought no knowledge of formal or final causes, and was therefore materialist, like the ancient philosophy of Democritus and Epicurus. But he also added a theme that science should seek to control nature for the sake of humanity, and not seek to understand it just for the sake of understanding. In both these things he was influenced by Machiavelli's earlier criticism of medieval Scholasticism, and his proposal that leaders should aim to control their own fortune (Kennington 2004, chapt. 1,4).

Influenced both by Galileo's new physics and Bacon, René Descartes argued soon afterward that mathematics and geometry provided a model of how scientific knowledge could be built up in small steps. He also argued openly that human beings themselves could be understood as complex machines (Kennington 2004, chapt. 6).

Isaac Newton, influenced by Descartes, but also, like Bacon, a proponent of experimentation, provided the archetypal example of how both Cartesian mathematics, geometry and theoretical deduction on the one hand, and Baconian experimental observation and induction on the other hand, together could lead to great advances in the practical understanding of regularities in nature (d'Alembert & 2009 [1751]; Henry 2004).


After modernist political thinking had already become widely known in France, Rousseau's re-examination of human nature led to a new criticism of the value of reasoning itself which in turn led to a new understanding of less rationalistic human activities, especially the arts. The initial influence was upon the movements known as German Idealism and Romanticism in the 18th and 19th century. Modern art therefore belongs only to the later phases of modernity (Orwinand Tarcov 1997, chapt. 2,4).

For this reason art history keeps the term "modernity" distinct from the terms Modern Age and Modernism – as a discrete "term applied to the cultural condition in which the seemingly absolute necessity of innovation becomes a primary fact of life, work, and thought". And modernity in art "is more than merely the state of being modern, or the opposition between old and new" (Smith 2009).

In the essay "The Painter of Modern Life" (1864), Charles Baudelaire gives a literary definition: "By modernity I mean the transitory, the fugitive, the contingent" (Baudelaire 1964, 13).

Advancing technological innovation, affecting artistic technique and the means of manufacture, changed rapidly the possibilities of art and its status in a rapidly changing society. Photography challenged the place of the painter and painting. Architecture was transformed by the availability of steel for structures.


From theologian Thomas C. Oden's perspective, "modernity" is marked by "four fundamental values" (Hall 1990):

  • "Moral relativism (which says that what is right is dictated by culture, social location, and situation)"
  • "Autonomous individualism (which assumes that moral authority comes essentially from within)"
  • "Narcissistic hedonism (which focuses on egocentric personal pleasure)"
  • "Reductive naturalism (which reduces what is reliably known to what one can see, hear, and empirically investigate)"

Modernity rejects anything "old" and makes "novelty ... a criterion for truth." This results in a great "phobic response to anything antiquarian." In contrast, "classical Christian consciousness" resisted "novelty" (Hall 1990).

Pope Pius IX and Pope Pius X of the Roman Catholic Church claim that Modernism (in a particular definition of the Catholic Church) is a danger to the Christian faith. Pope Pius IX compiled a Syllabus of Errors published on December 8, 1864 to describe his objections to Modernism (Pius IX 1864). Pope Pius X further elaborated on the characteristics and consequences of Modernism, from his perspective, in an encyclical entitled "Pascendi dominici gregis" (Feeding the Lord's Flock) on September 8, 1907 (Pius X 1907). Pascendi Dominici Gregis states that the principles of Modernism, taken to a logical conclusion, lead to atheism. The Roman Catholic Church was serious enough about the threat of Modernism that it required all Roman Catholic clergy, pastors, confessors, preachers, religious superiors and seminary professors to swear an Oath Against Modernism (Pius X 1910) from 1910 until this directive was rescinded in 1967.


Of the available conceptual definitions in sociology, modernity is "marked and defined by an obsession with 'evidence'," visual culture, and personal visibility (Leppert 2004, 19). Generally, the large-scale social integration constituting modernity, involves the:

  • increased movement of goods, capital, people, and information among formerly discrete populations, and consequent influence beyond the local area
  • increased formal social organization of mobile populaces, development of "circuits" on which they and their influence travel, and societal standardization conducive to socio-economic mobility
  • increased specialization of the segments of society, i.e., division of labor, and area inter-dependency
  • increased level of excessive stratification in terms of social life of a modern man
  • Increased state of dehumanisation, dehumanity, unionisation, as man became embittered about the negative turn of events which sprouted a growing fear.
  • man became a victim of the underlying circumstances presented by the modern world
  • Increased competitiveness amongst people in the society (survival of the fittest) as the jungle rule sets in.

See also


  1. ^ Quotation from Fackenheim 1967, 272–73:

    But there does seem to be a necessary conflict between modern thought and the Biblical belief in revelation. All claims of revelation, modern science and philosophy seem agreed, must be repudiated, as mere relics of superstitious ages. ... [to a modern phylosopher] The Biblical God...was a mere myth of bygone ages.

    Quotation from Husserl 1931,:

    When, with the beginning of modern times, religious belief was becoming more and more externalized as a lifeless convention, men of intellect were lifted by a new belief, their great belief in an autonomous philosophy and science.

  2. ^ Quotation from Heidegger 1938:

    The essence of modernity can be seen in humanity's freeing itself from the bonds of Middle Ages... Certainly the modern age has, as a consequence of the liberation of humanity, introduced subjectivism and indivisualism. ... For up to Descartes... The claim [of a self-supported, unshakable foundation of truth, in the sense of certainty] originates in that emancipation of man in which he frees himself from obligation to Christian revelational truth and Church doctrine to a legislating for himself that takes its stand upon itself.

  3. ^ Quotation from Kilby 2004, 262:

    ... a cluster of issues surrounding the assessment of modernity and of the apologetic task of theology in modernity. Both men [Rahner and Balthasar] were deeply concerned with apologetics, with the question of how to present Christianity in a world which is no longer well-disposed towards it. ... both thought that modernity raised particular problems for being a believing Christian, and therefore for apologetics.


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  • Mandeville, Bernard. 1714. The Fable of the Bees, or, Private Vices, Publick Benefits. London: Printed for J. Roberts. Ninth edition, as The Fable of the Bees, or, Private Vices, Public Benefits ... with an Essay on Charity and Charity-Schools and a Search into the Nature of Society, to Which Is Added, a Vindication of the Book from the Aspersions Contained in a Presentment of the Grand Jury of Middlesex, and an Abusive Letter to the Lord C.. Edinburgh: Printed for W. Gray and W. Peter, 1755.
  • Mansfield, Harvey. 1989. Taming the Prince. The Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Norris, Christopher. 1995. "Modernism." In The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, edited by Ted Honderich, 583. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-866132-0.
  • O'Donnell, James J. 1979. Cassiodorus. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520036-46-8.
  • Orwin, Clifford, and Nathan Tarcov. 1997. The Legacy of Rousseau. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-63855-3 (cloth); ISBN 0-226-63856-1 (pbk).
  • Osborne, Peter. 1992. "Modernity Is a Qualitative, Not a Chronological, Category: Notes on the Dialectics of Differential Historical Time". In Postmodernism and the Re-reading of Modernity, edited by Francis Barker, Peter Hulme, and Margaret Iversen. Essex Symposia, Literature, Politics, Theory. Manchester: Manchester University Press. ISBN 0-7190-3745-X.
  • Pius IX (1864). "The Syllabus of Errors". Papal Encyclicals Online. Retrieved 25 September 2018.
  • Pius X. 1907. "Pascendi Dominici gregis" (Encyclical on the Doctrines of the Modernists). Vatican website (accessed 25 September 2018)
  • Pius X. 1910. "The Oath Against Modernism". Papal Encyclicals Online (accessed 25 September 2018).
  • Rahe, Paul A. 2006. Machiavelli's Liberal Republican Legacy. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-85187-9.
  • Regilme, Salvador Santino F., Jr. 2012. "Social Discipline, Democracy, and Modernity: Are They All Uniquely 'European'?". Hamburg Review of Social Sciences 6, no. 3 / 7. no. 1:94–117. (Archive from 24 May 2013, accessed 6 December 2017.)
  • Rosen, Stanley. 1987. "Benedict Spinoza". In History of Political Philosophy, third edition, edited by Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey, 456–475. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Rosenau, Pauline Marie. 1992. Post-modernism and the Social Sciences: Insights, Inroads, and Intrusions. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-08619-2 (cloth) ISBN 0-691-02347-6 (pbk).
  • Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 1997. The Discourses and Other Political Writings, edited and translated by Victor Gourevitch. Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-41381-8 (cloth); ISBN 0-521-42445-3 (pbk).
  • Saul, John Ralston. 1992. Voltaire's Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West. New York: Free Press; Maxwell Macmillan International. ISBN 0-02-927725-6.
  • Smith, Terry. “Modernity”. Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. (Subscription access, accessed September 21, 2009).
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  • Strauss, Leo. 1987. "Niccolò Machiavelli". In History of Political Philosophy, third edition, edited by Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey, 296–317. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-77708-1 (cloth); ISBN 0-226-77710-3 (pbk).
  • Toulmin, Stephen Edelston. 1990. Cosmopolis: The Hidden Agenda of Modernity. New York: Free Press. ISBN 0-02-932631-1. Paperback reprint 1992, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-80838-6.
  • Vico, Giambattista. 1984. The New Science of Giambattista Vico: Unabridged Translation of the Third Edition (1744), with the Addition of "Practice of the New Science, edited by Thomas Goddard Bergin and Max Harold Fisch. Cornell Paperbacks. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-9265-3 (pbk).

Further reading

  • Adem, Seifudein. 2004. "Decolonizing Modernity: Ibn-Khaldun and Modern Historiography." In Islam: Past, Present and Future, International Seminar on Islamic Thought Proceedings, edited by Ahmad Sunawari Long, Jaffary Awang, and Kamaruddin Salleh, 570–87. Salangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia: Department of Theology and Philosophy, Faculty of Islamic Studies, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.
  • Arendt, Hannah. 1958. "The Origins Of Totalitarianism" Cleavland: World Publishing Co. ISBN 0-8052-4225-2
  • Buci-Glucksmann, Christine. 1994. Baroque Reason: The Aesthetics of Modernity. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications. ISBN 0-8039-8975-X (cloth) ISBN 0-8039-8976-8 (pbk)
  • Carroll, Michael Thomas. 2000. Popular Modernity in America: Experience, Technology, Mythohistory. SUNY Series in Postmodern Culture. Albany: State University of New York Press. ISBN 0-7914-4713-8 (hc) ISBN 0-7914-4714-6 (pbk)
  • Corchia, Luca. 2008. "Il concetto di modernità in Jürgen Habermas. Un indice ragionato." The Lab's Quarterly/Il Trimestrale del Laboratorio 2:396ff. ISSN 2035-5548.
  • Crouch, Christopher. 2000. "Modernism in Art Design and Architecture," New York: St. Martins Press. ISBN 0-312-21830-3 (cloth) ISBN 0-312-21832-X (pbk)
  • Davies, Oliver. 2004. "The Theological Aesthetics". In The Cambridge Companion to Hans Urs von Balthasar, edited by Edward T. Oakes and David Moss, 131–42. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-89147-7.
  • Eisenstadt, Shmuel Noah. 2003. Comparative Civilizations and Multiple Modernities, 2 vols. Leiden and Boston: Brill.
  • Everdell, William R. 1997. The First Moderns: Profiles in the Origins of Twentieth-Century Thought. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-22480-5 (cloth); ISBN 0-226-22481-3 (pbk).
  • Gaonkar, Dilip Parameshwar (ed.). 2001. Alternative Modernities. A Millennial Quartet Book. Durham: Duke University Press. ISBN 0-8223-2703-1 (cloth); ISBN 0-8223-2714-7 (pbk)
  • Giddens, Anthony. 1990. The Consequences of Modernity. Stanford: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-1762-1 (cloth); ISBN 0-8047-1891-1 (pbk); Cambridge, UK: Polity Press in association with Basil Blackwell, Oxford. ISBN 0-7456-0793-4
  • Horváth, Ágnes, 2013. Modernism and Charisma. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9781137277855 (cloth)
  • Jarzombek, Mark. 2000. The Psychologizing of Modernity: Art, Architecture, History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Kolakowsi, Leszek. 1990. Modernity on Endless Trial. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-45045-7
  • Kopić, Mario. Sekstant. Belgrade: Službeni glasnik. ISBN 978-86-519-0449-6
  • Latour, Bruno. 1993. We Have Never Been Modern, translated by Catherine Porter. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-94838-6 (hb) ISBN 0-674-94839-4 (pbk.)
  • Perreau-Saussine, Emile. 2005. ""Les libéraux face aux révolutions: 1688, 1789, 1917, 1933"" (PDF). (457 KB). Commentaire no. 109 (Spring): 181–93.
  • Vinje, Victor Condorcet. 2017. The Challenges of Modernity. Nisus Publications.
  • Wagner, Peter. 1993. A Sociology of Modernity: Liberty and Discipline. Routledge: London. ISBN 9780415081863
  • Wagner, Peter. 2001. Theorizing Modernity. Inescapability and Attainability in Social Theory. SAGE: London. ISBN 978-0761951476
  • Wagner, Peter. 2008. Modernity as Experience and Interpretation: A New Sociology of Modernity. Polity Press: London. ISBN 978-0-7456-4218-5
Ahmed Akhchichine

Ahmed Akhchichine (Arabic: أحمد أخشيشين‎ – born 26 March 1954 in Marrakech) is a Moroccan politician of the Authenticity and Modernity Party. Between 2007 and 2012, he held the position of Minister of Education in the cabinet of Abbas El Fassi.Between 2003 and 2012, he was the president of the "HACA" (Haute Autorité de la Communication Audiovisuelle) Morocco's radio and television highest regulating authority.Although he belongs to the Authenticity and Modernity Party, he participated in the cabinet as an independent since his party, which formed in 2008, positioned itself in the opposition.

Anthony Giddens

Anthony Giddens, Baron Giddens (born 18 January 1938) is a British sociologist who is known for his theory of structuration and his holistic view of modern societies. He is considered to be one of the most prominent modern sociologists and the author of at least 34 books, published in at least 29 languages, issuing on average more than one book every year. In 2007, Giddens was listed as the fifth most-referenced author of books in the humanities.Four notable stages can be identified in his academic life. The first one involved outlining a new vision of what sociology is, presenting a theoretical and methodological understanding of that field based on a critical reinterpretation of the classics. His major publications of that era include Capitalism and Modern Social Theory (1971) and The Class Structure of the Advanced Societies (1973). In the second stage, Giddens developed the theory of structuration, an analysis of agency and structure in which primacy is granted to neither. His works of that period, such as New Rules of Sociological Method (1976), Central Problems in Social Theory (1979) and The Constitution of Society (1984), brought him international fame on the sociological arena. The third stage of Giddens's academic work was concerned with modernity, globalisation and politics, especially the impact of modernity on social and personal life. This stage is reflected by his critique of postmodernity and discussions of a new "utopian-realist" Third Way in politics which is visible in the Consequences of Modernity (1990), Modernity and Self-Identity (1991), The Transformation of Intimacy (1992), Beyond Left and Right (1994) and The Third Way: The Renewal of Social Democracy (1998). Giddens' ambition was both to recast social theory and to re-examine our understanding of the development and trajectory of modernity.

In the most recent stage, Giddens has turned his attention to a more concrete range of problems relevant to the evolution of world society, namely environmental issues, focussing especially upon debates about climate change, analysed in successive editions of his book The Politics of Climate Change (2009); the role and nature of the European Union in Turbulent and Mighty Continent: What Future for Europe? (2014); and in a series of lectures and speeches also the nature and consequences of the Digital Revolution.

Giddens served as Director of the London School of Economics from 1997 to 2003, where he is now Emeritus Professor at the Department of Sociology. He is a Life Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge.

Authenticity and Modernity Party

The Authenticity and Modernity Party (Berber: Akabar en Tẓori ed Tatrara, K.Ẓ.T.; Arabic: حزب الأصالة والمعاصرة‎; French: Parti de l'Authenticité et de la Modernité, PAM) is a Moroccan political party founded by Fouad Ali El Himma, advisor to King Mohammed VI and former interior minister, on 10 August 2008. From its foundation, it has been perceived by its opponents and the press as being backed and directed by the monarchy.

Behavioral modernity

Behavioral modernity is a suite of behavioral and cognitive traits that distinguishes current Homo sapiens from other anatomically modern humans, hominins, and primates. Although often debated, most scholars agree that modern human behavior can be characterized by abstract thinking, planning depth, symbolic behavior (e.g., art, ornamentation), music and dance, exploitation of large game, and blade technology, among others. Underlying these behaviors and technological innovations are cognitive and cultural foundations that have been documented experimentally and ethnographically. Some of these human universal patterns are cumulative cultural adaptation, social norms, language, and extensive help and cooperation beyond close kin. It has been argued that the development of these modern behavioral traits, in combination with the climatic conditions of the Last Glacial Maximum causing genetic bottlenecks, was largely responsible for the human replacement of Neanderthals, Denisovans, and the other species of humans of the rest of the world.Arising from differences in the archaeological record, a debate continues as to whether anatomically modern humans were behaviorally modern as well. There are many theories on the evolution of behavioral modernity. These generally fall into two camps: gradualist and cognitive approaches. The Later Upper Paleolithic Model refers to the theory that modern human behavior arose through cognitive, genetic changes abruptly around 40,000–50,000 years ago. Other models focus on how modern human behavior may have arisen through gradual steps; the archaeological signatures of such behavior only appearing through demographic or subsistence-based changes.

High modernism

High modernism (also known as high modernity) is a form of modernity, characterized by an unfaltering confidence in science and technology as means to reorder the social and natural world. The high modernist movement was particularly prevalent during the Cold War, especially in the late 1950s and 1960s.

Homo sapiens

In taxonomy, Homo sapiens is the only extant human species. The name is Latin for "wise man" and was introduced in 1758 by Carl Linnaeus (who is himself the original type specimen).

Extinct species of the genus Homo include Homo erectus, extant during roughly 1.9 to 0.4 million years ago, and a number of other species (by some authors considered subspecies of either H. sapiens or H. erectus).

The age of speciation of H. sapiens out of ancestral H. erectus (or an intermediate species such as Homo antecessor) is estimated to have been roughly 350,000 years ago. Sustained archaic admixture is known to have taken place both in Africa and (following the recent Out-Of-Africa expansion) in Eurasia, between about 100,000 and 30,000 years ago.The term anatomically modern humans (AMH) is used to distinguish H. sapiens having an anatomy consistent with the range of phenotypes seen in contemporary humans from varieties of extinct archaic humans. This is useful especially for times and regions where anatomically modern and archaic humans co-existed, for example, in Paleolithic Europe.


Hypermodernity (supermodernity) is a type, mode, or stage of society that reflects an inversion of modernity in which the function of an object has its reference point in the form of an object rather than function being the reference point for form. Hypermodernism stipulates a world in which the object has been replaced by the attributes of the object. The new attribute-driven world is driven by the rise of technology and aspires to a convergence between technology and biology and more importantly information and matter. Hypermodernism finds its validation in emphasis on the value of new technology to overcome natural limitations and emphasizes a dismissal of an object-driven past in favor of a flexible, attribute-driven heuristic.


Immorality is the violation of moral laws, norms or standards. Immorality is normally applied to people or actions, or in a broader sense, it can be applied to groups or corporate bodies, and works of art.

Islam and modernity

Islam and modernity is a topic of discussion in contemporary sociology of religion. The history of Islam chronicles different interpretations and approaches. Modernity is a complex and multidimensional phenomenon rather than a unified and coherent one. It has historically had different schools of thought moving in many directions.

Late modernity

Late modernity (or liquid modernity) is the characterization of today's highly developed global societies as the continuation (or development) of modernity rather than as an element of the succeeding era known as postmodernity, or the postmodern.

Introduced as 'liquid' modernity by the Polish-British sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, late modernity is marked by the global capitalist economies with their increasing privatisation of services and by the information revolution.

Modernist poetry

Modernist poetry refers to poetry written, mainly in Europe and North America, between 1890 and 1950 in the tradition of modernist literature, but the dates of the term depend upon a number of factors, including the nation of origin, the particular school in question, and the biases of the critic setting the dates. The critic/poet C. H. Sisson observed in his essay Poetry and Sincerity that "Modernity has been going on for a long time. Not within living memory has there ever been a day when young writers were not coming up, in a threat of iconoclasm."

Modernization theory

Modernization theory is used to explain the process of modernization within societies. Modernization refers to a model of a progressive transition from a 'pre-modern' or 'traditional' to a 'modern' society. Modernization theory originated from the ideas of German sociologist Max Weber (1864–1920), which provided the basis for the modernization paradigm developed by Harvard sociologist Talcott Parsons (1902–1979). The theory looks at the internal factors of a country while assuming that with assistance, "traditional" countries can be brought to development in the same manner more developed countries have been. Modernization theory was a dominant paradigm in the social sciences in the 1950s and 1960s, then went into a deep eclipse. It made a comeback after 1991 but remains a controversial model.

Mohamed Cheikh Biadillah

Mohamed Cheikh Biadillah (Arabic: محمد الشيخ بيد الله‎) (born 1949 in Smara, Morocco) is a Moroccan gastroenterologist and politician. He served as Minister of Health in the government of Driss Jettou from 2002 to 2007. He has been secretary general of the Authenticity and Modernity Party since February 2009.Biadillah was governor of the prefecture of Salé from 1992 to 1998, and wāli of the region Doukkala-Abda and governor of Safi from 1998 to 2002.He became president of the House of Councillors on 13 October 2009.

Orthodox Judaism

Orthodox Judaism is a collective term for the traditionalist branches of contemporary Judaism. Theologically, it is chiefly defined by regarding the Torah, both Written and Oral, as literally revealed by God on Mount Sinai and faithfully transmitted ever since. Orthodox Judaism therefore advocates a strict observance of Jewish Law, or Halakha, which is to be interpreted and determined only according to traditional methods and in adherence to the continuum of received precedent through the ages. It regards the entire halakhic system as ultimately grounded in immutable revelation, essentially beyond external and historical influence. More than any theoretical issue, obeying the dietary, purity, ethical, and other laws of Halakha is the hallmark of Orthodoxy. Other key doctrines include belief in a future resurrection of the dead, divine reward and punishment for the righteous and the sinners, the Election of Israel, and an eventual restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem under the Messiah.

Orthodox Judaism is not a centralized denomination. Relations between its different subgroups are sometimes strained, and the exact limits of Orthodoxy are subject to intense debate. Very roughly, it may be divided between Ultra-Orthodox or "Haredi", which is more conservative and reclusive, and Modern Orthodox Judaism which is relatively open to outer society. Each of those is itself formed of independent streams. They are almost uniformly exclusionist, regarding Orthodoxy as the only authentic form of Judaism and rejecting all competing non-Orthodox philosophies as illegitimate. While adhering to traditional beliefs, the movement is a modern phenomenon. It arose as a result of the breakdown of the autonomous Jewish community since the 18th century, and was much shaped by a conscious struggle against the pressures of secularization and rival alternatives. The strictly observant and theologically aware Orthodox are a definite minority among all Jews, but there are also numerous semi- and non-practicing persons who are officially affiliated or personally identifying with the movement. In total, Orthodox Judaism is the largest Jewish religious group, estimated to have over 2 million practicing adherents and at least an equal number of nominal members or self-identifying supporters.


Postmodernity (post-modernity or the postmodern condition) is the economic or cultural state or condition of society which is said to exist after modernity (In this context, "modern" is not used in the sense of "contemporary", but merely as a name for a specific period in history). 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 characterised as a culture stripped of its capacity to function in any linear or autonomous state like regressive isolationism, as opposed to the progressive mindstate 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 as well a historical epoch. In most contexts it should be distinguished from postmodernism, the adoption of postmodern philosophies or traits in the arts, culture and society. In fact, today, historical perspectives on the developments of postmodern art (postmodernism) and postmodern society (postmodernity) can be best described as two umbrella terms for processes engaged in an ongoing dialectical relationship like Post-postmodernism, the result of which is the evolving culture of the contemporary world.

Rationalization (sociology)

In sociology, rationalization (or rationalisation) is the replacement of traditions, values, and emotions as motivators for behavior in society with concepts based on rationality and reason. For example, the implementation of bureaucracies in government is a kind of rationalization, as is the construction of high-efficiency living spaces in architecture and urban planning. A potential reason as to why rationalization of a culture may take place in the modern era is the process of globalization. Countries are becoming increasingly interlinked, and with the rise of technology, it is easier for countries to influence each other through social networking, the media and politics. An example of rationalization in place would be the case of witch doctors in certain parts of Africa. Whilst many locals view them as an important part of their culture and traditions, development initiatives and aid workers have tried to rationalize the practice in order to educate the local people in modern medicine and practice (Giddens, 2013).

Many sociologists, critical theorists and contemporary philosophers have argued that rationalization, falsely assumed as progress, has had a negative and dehumanizing effect on society, moving modernity away from the central tenets of Enlightenment. The founders of sociology had critical reaction to rationalization:

Marx and Engels associated the emergence of modern society above all with the development of capitalism; for Durkheim it was connected in particular with industrialization and the new social division of labour which this brought about; for Weber it had to do with the emergence of a distinctive way of thinking, the rational calculation which he associated with the Protestant Ethic (more or less what Marx and Engels speak of in terms of those 'icy waves of egotistical calculation').


A tradition is a belief or behavior passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past. Common examples include holidays or impractical but socially meaningful clothes (like lawyers' wigs or military officers' spurs), but the idea has also been applied to social norms such as greetings. Traditions can persist and evolve for thousands of years—the word tradition itself derives from the Latin tradere literally meaning to transmit, to hand over, to give for safekeeping. While it is commonly assumed that traditions have ancient history, many traditions have been invented on purpose, whether that be political or cultural, over short periods of time. Various academic disciplines also use the word in a variety of ways.

The phrase "according to tradition", or "by tradition", usually means that whatever information follows is known only by oral tradition, but is not supported (and perhaps may be refuted) by physical documentation, by a physical artifact, or other quality evidence. Tradition is used to indicate the quality of a piece of information being discussed. For example, "According to tradition, Homer was born on Chios, but many other locales have historically claimed him as theirs." This tradition may never be proven or disproven. In another example, "King Arthur, by tradition a true British king, has inspired many well loved stories." Whether they are documented fact or not does not decrease their value as cultural history and literature.

Traditions are a subject of study in several academic fields, especially in social sciences such as anthropology, archaeology, and biology.

The concept of tradition, as the notion of holding on to a previous time, is also found in political and philosophical discourse. For example, it is the basis of the political concept of traditionalism, and also strands of many world religions including traditional Catholicism. In artistic contexts, tradition is used to decide the correct display of an art form. For example, in the performance of traditional genres (such as traditional dance), adherence to guidelines dictating how an art form should be composed are given greater importance than the performer's own preferences. A number of factors can exacerbate the loss of tradition, including industrialization, globalization, and the assimilation or marginalization of specific cultural groups. In response to this, tradition-preservation attempts have now been started in many countries around the world, focusing on aspects such as traditional languages. Tradition is usually contrasted with the goal of modernity and should be differentiated from customs, conventions, laws, norms, routines, rules and similar concepts.

Ulrich Beck

Ulrich Beck (15 May 1944 – 1 January 2015) was a well known German sociologist, and one of the most cited social scientists in the world during his lifetime. His work focused on questions of uncontrollability, ignorance and uncertainty in the modern age, and he coined the terms "risk society" and "second modernity" or "reflexive modernization". He also tried to overturn national perspectives that predominated in sociological investigations with a cosmopolitanism that acknowledges the interconnectedness of the modern world. He was a professor at the University of Munich and also held appointments at the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme (FMSH) in Paris, and at the London School of Economics.

Zygmunt Bauman

Zygmunt Bauman (; 19 November 1925 – 9 January 2017) was a Polish sociologist and philosopher. He was driven out of Poland by a political purge in 1968 engineered by the Communist government of the Polish People's Republic and forced to give up his Polish citizenship to move to Israel. Three years later he moved to the United Kingdom. He resided in England from 1971 and became Professor of Sociology at the University of Leeds, later Emeritus. Bauman was one of the world's most eminent social theorists, writing on issues as diverse as modernity and the Holocaust, postmodern consumerism and liquid modernity.

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