Post Modernity or Modernity?

In Chapter 3 of Joseph Harris’ Rewriting, he discussed the topic of “countering”, which is a move to examine what a text leaves unmarked or unquestioned to highlight details that were overlooked. Countering is used to re-examine and then critique topics or subjects of other literary texts by breaking it down into three significant methods: “arguing the other side”, “dissenting”, and “uncovering values”. Of all the note-worthy methods, this essay will focus specifically on dissenting. Dissenting is described by Harris as “identifying a shared line of thought on an issue in order to note its limits”(Harris,p.57). As typical of many of Gidden’s arguments made in the chapters we’ve read up to so far, Giddens is not only likes to focus on his argument, he is willing to cite and summarize opinions or ideals that are related to his own subject. He tends to try to explain both sides of the subject before making his final opinion in his discussion. The dissenting method will be used to examine Giddens’ review of the terms “post modernity” and “modernity”, and his opinion of which definition most appropriately suits our current era of living and society.

The beginning of the section Gidden establishes the definitions of post modernity and what it actually refers to, and what we think it means. On page 46 he writes, “the term usually means one of the following: that we have discovered that nothing can be known with any certainty…that ‘history’ is devoid of teleology and consequently no version of “progress” can plausibly be defended”. He goes on to say that the term post-modernity has “been associated not only with the end of foundationalism but with the ‘end of history'”(Giddens,p.50). In-between these arguments he mentions a few other philosophers that have included this subject in their own writing, such as Marx, Nietzsche, and Heidegger. In their separate arguments, both Nietzsche and Heidegger agree that “modernity can be linked with history in that it can be identified as a progressive appropriation of rational foundations of knowledge”(Giddens,p.47). Giddens also credits Nietzsche for initially separating post modernity and modernity, something he does agree on. His rejection of the use of post modernity agrees with this separation, but disagrees that post modernity means ‘the end of time’. To Giddens, if there is an end of time, we certainly have not reached it. In the beginning of his final summations, he responds directly to the question: post modernity or modernity? “We have not moved beyond modernity but are living precisely through a phase of its radicalism”(Giddens,p.51). His discussion of both terms applied to current time is extensive, and although he does include other writers’ take on the subject, he does not himself adopt either term fully in his own argument.

The logic of Gidden’s argument is simple. If post-modernity actually means that we’ve reached the pendulum of success, that it is associated with the notion of “end of history”, then clearly we are not in a post modern era. He frequently uses the terms ‘history’, ‘foundations’, ‘progress’, and ‘knowledge’. These terms all agree on the same idea that post-modernity to Giddens means we have passed a certain point in history that he argues may not even exist to say with any certainty. However, on page 46 he also writes, “If we are moving into a phase of post-modernity, this means that the trajectory of social development is taking us away from the institutions of modernity toward a new and distinct type of social order”. But isn’t that the best way to define our current time society? We see a change in nationalism, a rise in globalization, and a closer international society through the use of social media. Giddens tends to use many definitions in his argument, but only uses a select few to support his opinion. However, if there is one thing we have all learned from his book, is that post-modernity is many things, described by many writers. The greatest changes we are seeing in our society are the development of social institutions than the development of technology. How does the functions of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram fit into his rejection of post modernity? It is in how we are responding, utilizing, and progressing these technologies for our personal and international uses that creates globalization, which Giddens tends to touch on only briefly in favor of analyzing the definition of the word.

2 thoughts on “Post Modernity or Modernity?

  1. You did a good job in summarizing how Giddens uses other people’s opinions in his own work, “He tends to try to explain both sides of the subject before making his final opinion in his discussion.” It’s clear throughout the book that Giddens never bashes another writer. Instead he talks about their opinions and then either agrees with it or disagrees with it in a professional way. You transition nicely into how Giddens uses dissenting on the ideas of modernity and post modernity. You state that, “post-modernity is many things, described by many writers.” Why isn’t there a set in stone definition of post-modernity? Is it too complex of an idea for there to be just a simple definition that everyone can agree on?

    -ML

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  2. Your acknowledgment of Giddens statement, “If we are moving into a phase of post-modernity, this means that the trajectory of social development is taking us away from the institutions of modernity toward a new and distinct type of social order” (Giddens 46) to be a strong definition of our society left me again questioning if our society was in a post-modernity stage. I strongly agree with you in that Giddens statement is “the best way to define our current time”. Suddenly, I wonder why Giddens is so passionate about defining the time and place in which our society is right now (or in 1990 when he published this book). What do you think drives Giddens to have an abundant number of definitions in his argument? Do you think that Giddens realizes that he uses so few of his definitions to support his opinion?

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