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theBrilliance * : What Is Modernity?

It is generally agreed that ‘modernity’ refers to a powerful set of cultural, political, economic, and spatial relationships that have fundamentally influenced the nature of social life, the economy, and the use and experience of time and space. The general characteristics of these relationships include: an emphasis upon rationality and science over tradition and myth; a belief in progress and improvement; confidence in human mastery over nature; a focus on humanism, individuality, and self-consciousness; a close association to the birth and development of market capitalism; and a strong reliance upon the state and its legal and governmental institutions. Modernity is a historical process, incremental in its formation. Its legacies are powerfully embedded in the organization and experience of contemporary social life and its various formations continue to mutate and evolve. The making of modernity and the coming together of these different characteristics and their consequences has not been an abstract process. Despite the universalizing tendencies of modernity that tend toward increasing integration, homogeneity, and standardization, in itself it is not an abstract process. Modernity is best grasped as a set of relationships that have been assembled in contextual and situated ways and assumed much of their influence through their capacity to affect change in often divergent and geographically diverse contexts. While frequently contested, the geographical reach of modernity is by now practically limitless. It has become a globalizing phenomenon, and its impact on culture and human consciousness has become immensely powerful. However, as much as modernity is strongly associated with order and progress, the human experience of modernity can be unsettling and unpredictable. Thus, modernity is often regarded a paradoxical event, layered with complexity, contradictions, and diversity. Modernity is then an endurably powerful and instrumental force, but one that alternates between order and chaos, and is built upon a series of contradictions and paradoxes which are perhaps symptomatic of the nature of human transformation itself.

Sources : International Encyclopedia of Human Geography

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