A Closer Look Into Modernity

In this second part of chapter one, Giddens gives insight into the foundation of Modernity and rejects the Post Modern mindset. Some of the key words he stresses in the beginning of this section are “Trust”, “Confidence”, “Risk”, and “Danger” and the distinction and correlation between each of them. Giddens compares trust and confidence with the main theory that trust comes with the awareness of risk while confidence does not. He offers the example of buying a used car; the consumer carries the risk of getting a “dud”, yet trusts in the company selling them the car all the same. Giddens notes that, “An individual who does not consider alternatives is in a situation of confidence, whereas someone who does recognize those alternatives and tries to counter the risks thus acknowledged, engages in trust.” (P. 31). This quote distinguishes the difference between someone acting out of confidence and someone relying on trust. Those with confidence don’t put any more thought into alternate options of their decision but instead act immediately. The next distinction he wants to convey is the differences that lie between risk and danger. His argument is, “a person who risks something courts danger, where danger is understood as a threat to desired outcomes.” (P. 35). What Giddens is trying to say is that by taking a risk, one knows that danger is plausible to be present and is necessary to define risk. In Gidden’s example, the voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in a small boat versus a large vessel holds a much greater risk due to the extent of danger. Giddens follows with exploring the meaning of Modernity as the Reflexivity of Modernity or contrast with tradition. He asks the reader to reflect on the pass and acknowledge the symbols and values of recent generations, so one can distinguish time and space which is necessary for Modernity. Giddens also emphasizes the misunderstanding between knowledge and certitude by bringing up the point that, “Modernity is constituted in and through reflexively applied knowledge, but the equation of knowledge with certitude has turned out to be misconceived.”(P.39). So much of everyday knowledge has already been discovered but at no point can one be absolutely sure that the information someone thinks they know won’t be disproved. As philosopher Karl Popper noted, nothing in science can be proven no matter how much evidence supports it. Giddens returns to the topic of does one really live in a post modernistic world, and concludes that from the foundation he has discussed thus far that we have not yet achieved that stage. However still in modernity, he accepts that there are still many social organizations that are branching away from modern institutions.

7 thoughts on “A Closer Look Into Modernity

  1. I was really interested in your post, where you talk about the relationship between trust, risk, and confidence, especially the passage where you write, “Giddens compares trust and confidence with the main theory that trust comes from the awareness of risk while confidence does not.” However, I believe that Giddens was trying to say that perhaps trust is related not to knowing the risk, but with naively accepting a circumstance based on lack of knowledge. He also relates trust to faith in the sense that, trust is derived from faith and that all trust, is blind. In the passage, Giddens also writes that, “It has been said that trust is “a device for coping with the freedom of others,” but the prime condition of requirements for trust is not lack of power but lack of full information” (p.33) My question to you is can you think of any examples of how trust can be created without necessarily knowing the risks involved? And whether you agree that trust explicitly requires knowledge of risk or not in its definition?

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    • I was very impressed with your post “A Closer Look Into Modernity”, you did an exceptional job of going into detail on Giddens’ beliefs about the different meanings of the words trust and risk explained in the second half of the first chapter of his novel. I appreciate the fact that you brought up the quote on page 31, and then went on to explain it in your own words by saying, “This quote distinguishes the difference between someone acting out of confidence and someone relying on trust. Those with confidence don’t put any more thought into alternate options of their decision but instead act immediately.” This is a great interpretation of the quote and you did an exceptional job of explaining it in your own words. You also did well explaining Giddens’ beliefs on the differences between knowledge and absolute certitude. As far as the blog post goes, perhaps you could have gone more into detail about why Giddens feels “post-modernity” is not a proper term to describe the era that we live in.

      -CP

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    • You’re absolutely right. The group assignment we did in class the day before really helped make sense of the complication Giddens makes in his argument both ‘for’ and ‘against’ modernity, as we summed up that post-modernism is a definition that can be used in the arts or literature as in, things that are palpable and authentic. We are able to look back on it, make comparisons and draw conclusions. However, when describing ideals or social constructs, post-modernism is not such a great term to use, since these things are subjective, constantly changing, and involves a great deal of sociology and history which Giddens would rather not describe in too much detail. Now that I understand more about how he defines the term “post modernism”, it would’ve been much more helpful in my own analysis of the first half chapter 1.

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  2. This post caught my eye because of the evaluation of these four simple yet complex words; trust, confidence, risk, and danger. I find Giddens relationships between these words very interesting and sensible. You also did a great job clarifying them! When one trusts another person, he or she is taking a risk. Taking a risk can then lead to danger. However, on the other hand, trusting someone can also lead to confidence. How is confidence and risk differentiated in terms of trust, though? Can one ever decipher the two? I also find your Karl Popper reference very fitting because in reality, science can never be proven, despite the amount of evidence. This somewhat answers my questions regarding confidence and risk.

    Elizabeth

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  3. You seemed to be able to summarize the terms: trust, confidence, risk, and danger very well. You were able to pull the quote “This quote distinguishes the difference between someone acting out of confidence and someone relying on trust. Those with confidence don’t put any more thought into alternate options of their decision but instead act immediately.” out of the book and summarize it in your own words which then helped me have a better idea of what was trying to be said. I would be interested in your thoughts on Luhmann’s statement “if you refrain from action you run no risk”. Would you disagree with him like Giddens or would you agree with Luhmann?

    JF

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  4. In the post the author starts off by saying, “Giddens compares trust and confidence with the main theory that trust comes with the awareness of risk while confidence does not.” Yes trust and confidence are different but they are connected as well. Risk and trust are associated with one another. The author brings up Giddens’ example of the used car. Risk and trust in some cases like this are associated, but you wouldn’t think about them due to the risk being very low which is proven by statistics and knowledge. This very low risk is not just for people driving cars, or flying in airplanes, but also for those who do nothing. Giddens says, “Inaction is often risky, and there are some risks which we all have to face whether we like it or not, such as nuclear war” (32). So if every day we encounter risk that isn’t our fault, why do we think our lives are not decided by fate anymore when in an instance the human race could be destroyed?

    Stephen

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  5. Blake,

    Thanks for this thoughtful engagement with the text. We don’t think about it on a daily basis, but Giddens helps us see that “at no point can one be absolutely sure that the information someone thinks they know won’t be disproved.” I wonder, then, how knowledge interacts with values. Giddens says that they “are connected in a network of mutual influence” (54). How does this play out?

    DM

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