The Terms & Conditions of Modernity

The beginning of Anthony Giddens’ book is set about to develop a style of analysis and accompanying guidelines of modernity, which in this book is described as “modes of social life or organization which emerged in Europe from about the seventeenth century onwards…”(p.1). His plan includes examining the social and cultural influences of modernity described by the term “radicalized modernity era”. We are still in that age, constantly changing and reinventing new social institutions. These institutions he calls “unique” and “distinct in form from all types of traditionalist order”(p.3). He addresses our generation, all those looking intrinsically into what is shaping our society. His analysis is largely focused on the differences between traditionality and modernity, and the “discontinuities” between time and space that in his opinion no longer apply to us, and thus is redeveloping everything we’ve thought about modernity and globalization previously.

He argues that our stage of modernity cannot be compared to what has been used to define it previously. We are not bound to the things we were once previously bound to. We have much less reason to look to our ancestors’ and what is socially acceptable or what social limits existed. These generations have much more flexibility due to to new laws and new forms of gaining knowledge that was once very limited and held by a relative few. Although others may describe the history of modernity using a ‘storyline’ framework,  modernity has too many contributing factors to also study–such as globalization–in terms of importance of influence. In this way he is trying to get us to think of modernity differently, and view the intersectionality that modernity has affected us both personally and globally, and the consequences of our improving society. This new frame includes a level of intersectionality, cross-examining the real-life contributors to how society builds upon itself and consequently, its modernity. What other analyses have lacked however, is this examination, and many of the consequences of a newly globalized world goes unheard in favor of the benefits.

There are a few concepts about modernity studied previously with the inclusion of sociology and anthropology that his own opinions seem to agree with, such as the idea that “human history is marked by certain discontinuities and does not have a smoothly developing form”(p.6) is similar to thoughts recorded by Karl Marx. He also gives the readers three ways to analyze, or identify, the discontinuities of more recent modernity. These features include pace of change, scope of change, and nature of modern institutions. These features contribute to the conversation by providing more evidence to the change, and observing the differences between then and now. I think Giddens wants us to examine the concept of modernity in an unconventional manner, because it opens up the conversation instead of making routine predictions. He discusses how no one had predicted the influence of nuclear weaponry before its’ invention. In the same sense, we must also look beyond these years and contemplate the outcomes of different issues such as environmental safety, global poverty, and law making.

3 thoughts on “The Terms & Conditions of Modernity

  1. Kayla:
    You remind us of some important points here, that Giddens focuses on the differences between the modern and premodern worlds and that he wants us to look at modernity in new ways. Is “radicalized modernity era” a direct quote? From where?



    • Um, no, I interpreted the sentence on p.3 which stated, “sequences of modernity is becoming more radicalized”. If it doesn’t fit in quite right, I can remove it.


  2. I really liked how, in your conclusion, you tied in the fact that we must try to predict the outcomes of the issues facing us today with the mention of nuclear weaponry. Though it is not quite true that “… no one had predicted the influence of nuclear weaponry before its’ invention.” H.G. Wells predicted the invention and destructive powers of nuclear bombs in 1914 (pg.9). That is about 30 years before the first bomb was dropped. Giddens does not blame the sociologist for missing the prediction of nuclear bombs but points out how interestingly enough a science fiction writer was able to predict it.


Comments are closed.