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Modernity as Experience and Interpretation

ISBN: 978-0-7456-4218-5
296 pages
June 2008, Polity
Modernity as Experience and Interpretation (0745642187) cover image
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.

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  • 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
  • References
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Peter Wagner is ICREA Research Professor at the University of Barcelona.
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  • Following on from the author’s previous successful work in this area, this is a groundbreaking new sociology of modernity debates
    Peter Wagner is an internationally respected thinker in this area
  • Wagner considers what we mean when we speak of modern societies as ‘modern’, and poses an original answer to this question
  • Reviews the history of ‘Western’ modernity and then focuses on the specific answers that were and are being developed in Europe
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Modernity as Experience and Interpretation (US $69.95)

-and- Modernity (US $17.95)

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