Modernity the Juggernaut

This was by far my favorite chapter we have read of Giddens so far. I felt that this chapter was easy for me not to only counter, but to forward as well. The key word of this chapter was Juggernaut. The definition of a juggernaut is as follows : “A huge, powerful, and overwhelming force or institution” (Google). Giddens says the modernity is very much like a juggernaut, which I agree with. However, I am not sure if I agree with Giddens if this is a good or bad thing.

Giddens puts a very negative connotation on the impact modernity has when it is juggernaut-like. He says, “In conditions of modernity, the social world can never form a stable environment in terms of the input of new knowledge about its character and functioning” (Giddens 153). Giddens is saying that because of constant forced social change, society will never reach one norm of social interaction. He seems to think that this is a bad thing. However, I disagree. Change is what keeps people going. If one social norm was reached that constituted how we as humans interact with one another, life would be very plain and simple. It is human nature to want change and to be fulfilled by it. How can this juggernaut be seen as a negative one when you think of it like this. I do understand that it would make social life easier and more predictable, but it is not that black and white. He begins to confuse me when he speak about ‘Utopian Realism’ and ‘power’. He says, “The outlook of Utopian realism recognises the inevitability of power and does not see its use as inherently noxious. Power, in its broadest sense, is a means of getting things done.” (Giddens 162). Earlier in the chapter, Giddens was very hasty to the idea of change but now it seems as if he is defending it. I find his choice to use the word power is very interesting. I understand that power is not always a bad thing, but throughout history, power has the tendency to corrupt those who posses it. Is advancement through the use of power really something humans should strive for? I feel that with this method of advancement, we defeat the whole reason to progress as a society. Progressions should lead us to a better society not one where individuals are corrupt and too powerful.

9 thoughts on “Modernity the Juggernaut

  1. I especially liked your blog post because we have similar thoughts about modernity in reference to social change. You mentioned that, “Giddens is saying that because of constant forced social change, society will never reach one norm of social interaction,” and added “Change is what keeps people going.” I completely agree with this statement. Giddens seems to believe that this is a negative aspect of life, whereas it seems to be only natural. Social change is not a new concept, and it keeps our society moving progressively towards a better lifestyle.

    Giddens further discusses advancement by saying, “Social movements provide glimpses of possible futures and are in some part vehicles for their realisation. But it is essential to recognise that, from the perspective of utopian realism, they are not the necessary or the only basis of changes which might lead us towards safer and more humane world.” This statement leads me to believe that Giddens is not in favor or social change, nor does he believe that it will eventually lead to a “perfect” world. While I agree that there, most likely, will never be such a thing I do not believe that social change is a negative aspect of life. What do you think would come out of continuous social change?

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  2. Anthony,

    Like you, I also found this to be one of the easier chapters from The Consequences of Modernity to grasp. I’m not sure if it was the content or the practice from previous chapters, but either way, what a relief! I agree with you when you say that constant change is beneficial to society. Every day, new innovations are created to make our lives easier and new social norms remold our interactions among others. For the most part, I believe that change can only improve our lives.

    When Giddens said, “In conditions of modernity, the social world can never form a stable environment in terms of the input of new knowledge about its character and functioning” (153), do you think he was talking about the stark differences between the modernity of a developed country, like ours, versus the modernity of a developing country? Though it is 2014, many sub-Saharan African countries lack the technology we had decades ago. Do you think the rapid, extreme social change we experience daily is beneficial when we compare it to a “third-world” country’s pace of social change? Are we, as a whole, human population, truly advancing if not all of us are?

    EEM

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  3. Very interesting outlook on the Juggernaut section of Giddens. When you wrote, “Change is what keeps people going. If one social norm was reached that constituted how we as humans interact with one another, life would be very plain and simple.” It had me thinking about change in relationship to the other terms he introduced. I think Giddens introduces power as a means for explaining why change is imminent, and why society is a juggernaut that we need to be cautious of. In society, those in power influence the change. This I think is a good thing. Sometimes the power lies in the majority, sometimes it is the minority. But those in power are the ones who can make change in society, which is why our government is in a constant power-struggle. Giddens also references government when he says on page 163, “the interests of business corporations often diverge from those of governments…social movements are no more immune from this tendency than established organisations,” What is your opinion on power being held by people or businesses? Who has the power to influence the most change?

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  4. Anthony,

    I found your blog post to be very straight forward and I agree with you on the fact that society being a juggernaut is a good thing. Your statement “Change is what keeps people going. If one social norm was reached that constituted how we as humans interact with one another, life would be very plain and simple” is how i exactly felt reading this chapter. If society were to find a resting point, then society would stop working, and I feel like it is impossible for society to find a resting point because it is always changing and adapting. I disagree with Giddens’ statement “For all these reasons,we cannot seize history and bend it to our collective purposes” (Giddens163) as well. I believe with all of the reasons he had stated above on that page that we should be able to learn from our history and advance and constantly evolve through the times. How do you feel about Giddens’ statement from 163?

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  5. Anthony,

    You raise an important concern about utopian thinking in Giddens, and maybe in general: “Change is what keeps people going. If one social norm was reached that constituted how we as humans interact with one another, life would be very plain and simple.” There is something terrifying about a world where everything is sorted out. But, as you discuss, to reach towards a better (not necessarily perfect) world, Giddens argues that we need to team up with those in power. Can you think of any compelling (rather than scary) versions of this?

    ~DM

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  6. The idea of social change is usually brought with positive connotations, and because of that, I enjoyed reading what you had to say. When you said “change is what keep people going”, I was in full agreement, but I couldn’t help think about those that oppose social change, like Giddens. I think what Giddens was getting at was, if something is working well, why should it be changed? Why should a community or anything else venture into the unknown, when they know for a fact that they are comfortable with their current lifestyle? As Giddens notes, and most people realize however, “social moevements provide glimpses of possible futures and are in some part vehicles for their realization” (Giddens 161). If there is wrong doing in society, there should be change and the only way to see that is through social movements. Without changes, no one would realize just how flawed or great everything around us is.

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  7. Anythony,

    I found your blog post to be both very interesting as well as very informative. I too enjoyed this chapter the most out of all of the reading we’ve done in Giddens to date. When you brought up Giddens’ quote from 153, “In conditions of modernity, the social world can never form a stable environment in terms of the input of new knowledge about its character and functioning”, and went on to explain it as, “Giddens is saying that because of constant forced social change, society will never reach one norm of social interaction.” I disagree with this idea as well, change is a positive aspect of life and it definitely “keeps people going.” You then further your point and finish off your post in a strong manner by questioning Giddens’ definition of the word power and expressing your own idea of the way society should be. Overall your post was very helpful and informative, it definitely got me thinking and I am in agreement with a majority of the things you said.

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  8. Thank you for bringing up an interesting issue. I agree with your observation “Giddens puts a very negative connotation on the impact modernity has when it is juggernaut-like”. Giddens continues, however, to state “In a situation of accelerating globalisation, seeking to maximise opportunity and minimise high-consequence risks certainly demands the coordinated use of power.”

    I see Giddens view is such that as long as he agrees with the goal, he himself throws his support, ironically juggernaut-like. Is this not typically the case for most people?

    In Giddens case “to maximise opportunity and minimise high-consequence risks” he not only supports it, but goes further and “demands the coordinated use of power.” What opportunities and high-consequence risks would you powerfully seek, and which ones would you avoid at all costs?

    -Chris

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  9. Modernity is a juggernaut, the future always is. But in a cultural change, society changes in ways modernity can’t be blamed. Modernity brings awareness but is not this force which brings mandatory cultural change. The idea that ,”Change is what keeps people going. If one social norm was reached that constituted how we as humans interact with one another, life would be very plain and simple.”, is not always true, for societies in the pre-modern period are typically regarded as being in stasis, the culture of today is similar incrementally changing according to various members and influences. Can an unchanging static culture be interesting, yes when the existence is random and violent, that is a static of environment of change. Can that exist?

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