Notebooks

Modernity, Post-Modernity and All That

03 Feb 2003 17:01

The best definition of "post-modern" was that given by Patrick Scivenor in Egg on Your Interface: A Dictionary of Modern Nonsense, viz., "post-modern: so new it's out of date already." (Note that I didn't say this was the most informative.)

See:
• Rose Laud Coser, In Defense of Modernity: Role Complexity and Individual Autonomy
• William R. Everdell, The First Moderns: Profiles in the Origins of Modernist Thought [Review: Only Dissect!]
• Ernest Gellner
• Marshall G. S. Hodgson, The Venture of Islam [More exactly, the discussion of the nature of modernity --- or, as Hodgson prefers, "technicalization" --- in volume 3]
• Seth A. Marvel, Travis Martin, Charles R. Doering, David Lusseau, M. E. J. Newman, "The small-world effect is a modern phenomenon", arxiv:1310.2636
• George Steiner, In Bluebeard's Castle [Review]
• Stephen Toulmin, Cosmopolis: The Hidden Agenda of Modernity. [Parts are very interesting. Parts are quite unworthy of a philosopher of Toulmin's stature, e.g., the preposterous connection between Logical Positivism and artistic modernism.]
Not altogether recommended:
• Alexandra Maryanski and Jonathan H. Turner, The Social Cage: Human Nature and the Evolution of Society [They make an interesting argument, namely that human beings, like other apes, have evolved for social groups which are much more loose, fluid and "individualistic" than is typical of other primates, and that this original social condition is reflected in present-day foraging societies. The "social cage" of their title coincides roughly with the rise of agriculture and settlement, when people adapted, culturally but not genetically, to being vastly more socialized. Industrial society, in there view, is actually more consonant with human nature, precisely because of the features usually used to condemn it --- individualism, loss of community, the transitory and fluid nature of social ties, etc. I like this idea, but I can't say I like the book. Their citations on primatology, human evolution, neuroscience, etc. were twenty years old when they wrote this (1992), and their ideas on linguistics and cognitive science even more antiquated. Their ideas about evolutionary reasoning are crude and ill-informed (some positions they present as opposed to sociobiology are taken, in almost the same words, by Dawkins), and I'd be willing to say this applies to their ideas about social evolution, too. Finally, their writing is dreadful. There's a good idea here, but it needs somebody else to write it --- Steven Pinker, maybe?]
• Robert C. Allen, The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective
• Perry Anderson, The Origins of Postemodernity
• C. A. Bayly, The Birth of the Modern World, 1780--1914: Global Connections and Comparisons
• Hans Blumberg, The Legitimacy of the Modern Age ["takes issue with [the] well-known thesis that the idea of progress is a secularized version of Christian eschatology, which promises a dramatic intervention that will consummate the history of the world from outside. Instead, Blumenberg argues, the idea of progress always implies a process at work within history, operating through an internal logic that ultimately expresses human choices and is legitimized by human self-assertion, by man's responsibility for his own fate."]
• Steve Bruce, God Is Dead: Secularization in the West
• Roberto Calasso. Ruin of Kasch
• Steven Cassedy, Connected: How Trains, Genes, Pineapples, Piano Keys, and a Few Disasters Transformed Americans at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century
• Jack Goody, Capitalism and Modernity: The Great Debate
• Jurgen Habermas, Communications and the Evolution of Society
• Harvey, Condition of Post-Modernity
• Kwinter, Architectures of Time
• Richard Lachmann, Capitalists in Spite of Themselves: Elite conflict and Economic Transitions in Early Modern Europe [Or, how capitalism was born from the quarrels of tyrants]
• Scott Lash, Another Modernity, a Different Rationality
• Miriam Levin, Sophie Forgan, Martina Hessler, Robert H. Kargon and Morris Low, Urban Modernity: Cultural Innovation in the Second Industrial Revolution
• David Levine, At the Dawn of Modernity: Biology, Culture, and Material Life in Europe after the Year 1000
• Robert Jay Lifton, The Protean Self
• Michael Lowy and Robert Sayre, Romanticism Against the Tide of Modernity
• Niklas Luhmann
• Observations on Modernity
• Social Systems
• J.-F. Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition
• Abbas Milani, Lost Wisdom: Rethinking Modernity in Iran
• Reviel Netz, Barbed Wire: an Ecology of Modernity [Review by Ian Hacking]
• Vanessa Ogle, The Global Transformation of Time: 1870--1950
• Rose, The Post-Modern and the Post-Industrial
• H. T. Wilson, Tradition and Innovation: The Idea of Civilization as Culture and Its Significance [A very strange-looking and obscure book, in the long-obsolete series "International Library of Phenomenology and Moral Sciences". To quote the dust-jacket: "By viewing Western civilization as a culture, this study puts the common perspectives of our major Western institutions in bolder relief. The author shows how the institutionalization of central modes of Western rationality --- found in capitalism, industrialization, science, science-based technology, bureaucracy, the rule of law, the social and behavioral sciences --- has created a culturally and historically unique form of collective life: advanced industrial society. Indicative of this development is the nature and meaning of the so-called innovative society itself, where rationality is increasingly seen to repose in institutions and organized structures rather than in individuals. Professor Wilson argues that this rationality is becoming traditionalized as a central artifact of our form of life, one which believes in the independent existence of facts of life'. This is borne out by the increasing autonomy of what Professor Wilson calls disembodied disciplined observation', determined as it is to annihilate contemplation and reflection in its effort to reconstitute practice in its own image."]
• Bernard Yack, The Fetishm of Modernities: Epochal Self-Consciousness in Contemporary Social and Political Thought ["Offers a sustained critical examination of the concept of modernity, providing a fresh look at familiar modern ideas and practices such as nationalism, constitutionalism, and liberal democratic politics. Critiques the tendency to treat modernity as an integrated and coherent whole, and suggests that the real world presents far stranger and more unexpected combinations of these elements than are dreamt of in modernist and postmodernist philosophies."]