Modernity as Experience and Interpretation
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Modernity as Experience and Interpretation

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Description

We are all modern today. But modernity today is not what it used to be. Over the past few decades, modernity has been radically changed by globalization, individualization, new inequalities, and fundamentalism. A novel way of analysing contemporary societies is needed. This book proposes such an analysis. Every society seeks answers to certain basic questions: how to order life in common; how to satisfy human needs; how to establish knowledge. Sociology long assumed that the answers had been found once and for all: a liberal-democratic state, a market economy, and free scientific institutions. This trinity used to be called 'modern society'. By contrast, this book is based on the idea that, under conditions of modernity, there are no stable and certain answers to these questions. There is a plurality of possible answers, every proposed answer can be criticized and contested, and every society needs to find its answer on its own. This new sociology of modernity proposes two key instruments through which to understand the answers given to those questions: the experiences human beings have of their own modernity and the interpretations they give to those experiences. It reviews the history of 'Western' modernity in this light and then focuses on the specific answers that were and are being developed in Europe.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 296 pages
  • 152 x 224 x 26mm | 480.81g
  • Polity Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1. Auflage
  • 0745642195
  • 9780745642192
  • 830,718

About Peter Wagner

Peter Wagner is Professor of Social and Political Theory at the European University Institute.show more

Back cover copy

We are all modern today. But modernity today is not what it used to be. Over the past few decades, modernity has been radically changed by globalization, individualization, new inequalities, and fundamentalism. A novel way of analysing contemporary societies is needed. This book proposes such an analysis. Every society seeks answers to certain basic questions: how to order life in common; how to satisfy human needs; how to establish knowledge. Sociology long assumed that the answers had been found once and for all: a liberal-democratic state, a market economy, and free scientific institutions. This trinity used to be called 'modern society'. By contrast, this book is based on the idea that, under conditions of modernity, there are no stable and certain answers to these questions. There is a plurality of possible answers, every proposed answer can be criticized and contested, and every society needs to find its answer on its own. This new sociology of modernity proposes two key instruments through which to understand the answers given to those questions: the experiences human beings have of their own modernity and the interpretations they give to those experiences. It reviews the history of 'Western' modernity in this light and then focuses on the specific answers that were and are being developed in Europe.show more

Review quote

Already established as the master analyst of modernity, Peter Wagner now brings us to new levels of understanding of the idea. After reading this splendid volume, I stopped cursing the day that the concept of modernity was invented. Wagner effectively addresses its embarrassments, snarls, paradoxes, and complexities. He brings us far toward a new comparative grasp of the variations and vicissitudes of its intertwined political, economic, and scientific-philosophical dimensions. It is not too much to say that he has brought modernity up to date. Neil Smelser, University of California BerkeleyPeter Wagner's analysis is unfailingly intelligent and judicious, and often brilliant. This is twenty-first century social and political theory at its very best. William Outhwaite, University of Newcastleshow more

Table of contents

* Preface * Chapter 1 * Ways of understanding modernity * Part I * Interpretations of political modernity: liberty and its discontents * Overture * Multiple interpretations of political modernity * Chapter 2 * Modernity and the question of freedom * Chapter 3 * The political forms of modernity * Chapter 4 * Modernity as a project of emancipation and the possibility of politics * Part II * Interpretations of economic modernity: the endgame and after * Overture * Capitalism and modernity as social formations and as imaginary significations * Chapter 5 * The critique of capitalism and its impasse * Chapter 6 * Towards a comparative-historical sociology of capitalism * Chapter 7 * The exit from organized economic modernity * Part III * Interpretations of epistemic modernity: distance and involvement * Overture * The quest for knowledge beyond experience and interpretation * Chapter 8 * The critique of science and its prospects * Chapter 9 * Varieties of socio-political interpretations of modernity * Part IV * The European experience and interpretation of modernity * Overture * European integration as an interpretation of modernity * Chapter 10 * Logics of European history * Chapter 11 * Regionalizing European modernity * Part V * The analysis of modernity and the need for a new sociology * Overture * When the light of the cultural problems has moved on * Chapter 12 * The social theory and political philosophy of modernity * Chapter 13 * The conceptual history and historical sociology of modernity * Referencesshow more