Intro to Analyzing Social Life

Anthony Giddens, author of The Consequences of Modernity, made his point crystal clear within the first paragraph of his book. Similar to any other concept, one must thoroughly understand all angles, sides, and ideas. In this case, modernity is deeply analyzed in a cultural and epistemological sense. Giddens breaks modernity down for the average reader by defining it as so: Modernity is a mode of social life. From a sociologist standpoint, Giddens distinguishes the difference between the nature of modernity, which he favors, and the reality of modernity.

Life is a grand narrative or storyline, claims Giddens. Essentially, this claim represents a definite past and a predictable future. In simpler terms, history is based on actuality and facts and our future is predictable based on those actualities and facts. Jean-Francois Lyotard, the author responsible for popularizing post-modernity, supports his post-modern outlook by stating, “generalizable knowledge about social life and patterns of social development can be achieved (pg 2).”

This links us to Giddens ideas of continuity and discontinuity, which ultimately creates evolution. In order to analyze these concepts, we must identify the discontinuities that separate modern social institutions from traditional social orders. Three of the most prevalent are listed as so: the pace of change, the scope of change, and the intrinsic nature of modern institutions. Now, in relation to continuity, Giddens highlights the intimate connections between modernity, time, and space, claiming “All pre-modern cultures possessed modes of the calculation of time (pg 17).” For example, the calendar is a universal tracking technique of day-to-day life, along with the invention of the mechanical clock, which are both considered socio-spatial markers. Another example of this notion is the year 2000, which represents a global event. Different new years continue to coexist, essentially linking back to the idea of universality and past and future.

Giddens deeply furthers his point by addressing the relationship between sociology and modernity. Sociology, defined in “textbook form”, is the study of human societies. There are great connections between sociological knowledge and the characteristics of modernity, like their ambiguous notions.

Done tastefully and logically, Giddens formed a brilliant outlook on modernity, while perhaps forming fresh perceptions for his readers. Giddens subliminally alters his reader’s minds by breaking the concept of modernity into multiple pieces. Throughout the introduction, Giddens continuously refers to a select few terms such as continuity, discontinuity, history, future, and society, which evidently directly connect to his main idea.

In terms of uses and limits, I believe Giddens provided a wonderful introduction to his own idea of modernity. Ultimately, his idea of modernity is similar to mine considering I never gave the actual idea much thought. Giddens strategically structures his introduction by stating personalized definitions of key terms such as modernity and sociology. Once those key terms are clarified, he continues into an in depth description of each.

One thought on “Intro to Analyzing Social Life

  1. Elizabeth,

    There are some strong moments here, like when you focus in on what Giddens says in the first paragraph and when you show us how Giddens breaks modernity up into digestible pieces. That said, you give a number of misreadings in your second paragraph. Can you correct these? How does this change your stance?

    DM

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