Living in modernity as opposed to life in pre-modern society is a major challenge due to the diverse changes that are mainly structural, of global proportion, and which continuously alter and impact on experiences, private realms, social life, industrial capitalism, growth of organizations and rational forms.
As a result of this difference, most scholars on modern sociology have pointed out that a lot of transformations involving cultural, political, economic and social processes have taken place and resulted in the emergence, development and flourishing of new structures in social life. Krauthammer points out that living in modernity typically means moving from post-traditional period and agrarianism to rationalization, secularization, industrialization and national states (379). This paper explores the distinctiveness of living in modernity and the impact it has on social life.
The concept of modernity
In his publication, Begbie points out that modernity is a phenomenon that encompasses diverse changes in society. Consequently, the author argues that the concept of modernity has exerted immense influence in world today in the sense that most aspects in contemporary life are duly affected by modernity (454). Conceptually, there is a very close relationship between modernity and modernism.
Nonetheless, both of these concepts are apparently associated with the rise of capitalism, social relations, social science, existentialism, Marxism and secularization among others. It is imperative to mention that the era of modernity has been committed to development of ideas which have ensured that production and use of reliable knowledge is made possible in order to foster the ability of human beings to shape and control their present and future lives.
Historically, the modern society is believed to have emerged in the late nineteenth century and begun flourishing in the early twentieth century (Begbie 458). It was driven by numerous and diverse contemporary aspects and interrelated processes such as production, growth and capitalism. Indeed, the concept modernity can be integrated quite well with the ideas and theories that were put forward by philosophers like Karl Marx.
One of the major developments of modernity that saw the growth of working methods as well as economic activities was the continuous and rapid escalation in capacity of production processes. Krauthammer points out that production was a crucial factor that not only led the emergence of societies in the modern world, but also their sustenance though use of industrial manufacture to replace agriculture with an aim of enhancing productive activities (378).
In agreement with Krauthammer, it is worth mentioning that inasmuch as production springs from a very long past, due to the factory system today, control of workers has been greatly established. This has led to massive productions due to segmentation of tasks and the division of labor that is sophisticated.
Besides production, early theorists point out that the origins of modernity has numerous features such as capitalism, a key precursor of industrialization that was used in the nineteen century for trade and agriculture and a driving force in industrial manufacturing. In her publication, Chipea posits that capitalism involves institutions, attitudes and entrepreneurs who systematically and in a sustained manner engage in pursuit of profits (99). Consequently due to it populations have grown, governments formed and nation states have occupied territories.
New political ideas have emerged such as conservatism, socialism, liberalism, democracy, citizenship and nationalism. In the eighteenth century, apart from capitalism, the understanding of the natural and social worlds was created via enlightenment and this heralded technological, scientific and medical innovations. Key above all this was the rise of modern societies due to the Western expansions worldwide leading not only to provision of raw material and wealth, but also to colonization, plunder and destruction of culture and societies.
Living in modernity
Living as a worker in the modern society
Chipea indicates that today, industrialization plays a pivotal role in changing the economic landscape and transforming relationships between the working and social classes (99). However, the development of industrial production and capitalism negatively impacts on lives of ordinary people. Initially, labor was not synchronized as power-driven machineries were not yet invented and factory system was not in place. However, after the nineteenth century to date, labor systems have transformed steadily giving rise to hierarchies of wages, trainings and skills. Consequently, division of labor has become more systematized, technical and involving.
Scholars in management studies argue that this is a cause for the formation of many by workers today who are either disgruntled, fighting against poor wages or resisting technological advancements that dilute their skills. Indeed, living as a worker in the pre-modern society was easier as financial remuneration was only necessary as a strategy to live and production processes were only carried out to attain non-monetary or subsistence obligations and not for massive production.
In agreement with Chipea, Begbie points out that the strain modernity has on employees today and the issue of wages de-personalizes the relationship that exists between the employees employers (458). Indeed, due to the issue of wages, living as a worker in the modern society has been complicated by the affected employer –employee relations due to the issue of wages. Most employees today are abstract forms of labor used suitably and efficiently by their employers to make profits.
Deriving from Sigmund Freud’s theory of modernism, workers living in the modern society are robbed of and separated from their products of labor (Chipea 99). Indeed, rather that owning the product of their labor, capitalist employers possesses it, undermines human nature by reducing them to production machines. It is imperative to note that the bourgeois and modern industrial society, unlike the pre-modern one, separates the class system and division of labor by creating rigorous occupations and ranks that brings disharmony through alienations and estrangements.
Marginalization of women living in the modern society in terms of employment and labor has become a distressing issue that has led to the loss of status that the household in pre-modern times enjoyed. In her publication, Krauthammer worries that in the modern society, the convectional view of the meaning of work in some societies is different and discriminatory as it marginalizes women and dictates that certain forms of labor are predominantly for men (380).
For instance, women in the UAE have for many years been discriminated against in terms of production due to factors such as religion and culture. Indeed, inasmuch as Krauthammer’s argument fails to capture the tremendous changes in the modern society that have paved ways for women involvement in all sectors of production, one thing however is true that some degree of sharp gender differences are being experienced today in industrial capitalism as there are inequalities and women are segregated from economic activities to carry out domestic roles.
Science and technology
Living in modernity has been made easy and successful due to the developments in science and technology. Begbie points out that unlike the era before enlightenment, living in modernity has been made much easier and simpler due to technology that has penetrated all sectors of the economy (460).
Proponents of science and technology laud the developments in technology as a modernist project that does not only hold a lasting solution to economic growth and organizational controls, but also a remedy to all forms of social ills. Indeed, technology has created rationalization whereby in a bid to pursue goals whether personal or organizational, optimum means via technology are used to achieve certain specified ends. However, inasmuch as the use of technology has been lauded by analysts, it is imperative to point out that it dilutes skills, enhances loss of jobs through replacements and encourages rationality.
Living in modernity where science and technology dominates has resulted to creation of rational social organizations and rational thoughts among individuals. In her ground breaking article Sociology, Chipea posits that science and technology has brought about the growth of rationality such that in the corridors of justice, codified laws are being used to represent rational organizations and capitalism in being enhanced through systematic and calculated pursuit of profit.
Besides, in production, rationalization is being used in industrial manufacture while in the education sector, rational thought has been greatly encouraged by growth of science. Of great importance are bureaucracies in educational establishments, transnational corporations and government ‘civil services where there are complex hierarchies. Individuals living in modernity are therefore subjected to the harsh disciplines brought about by bureaucracies while employees are forced to subsume their interests and feelings to those of the society. This indeed is not only dehumanizing, but also inhuman and should be regarded as irrational and inefficient.
Lastly, science and technology have led to modern developments in healthcare which was lacking in the pre-modern era. In fact, scientific inventions and theories such as that of Laennec who invented the stethoscope in 1961 and Louis Pasteur’s theory have been categorized to be important developments and achievements of science (Krauthammer 380).
However, modern science presents potential threat to the society today such as large scale pollution, global warming and possible biological, chemical and nuclear warfare. Paradoxically, individuals living in the contemporary life have become too attached to technology and science despite the prominent and potential threats discussed.
To sum up, it is imperative to note that the discussion on modernity has been argued under the thesis statement “living in modernity as opposed to life in pre-modern society is a major challenge due to the diverse changes that are mainly structural, of global proportion, and that continuously alter and impact on experiences, private realms, social life, industrial capitalism, growth of organizations and rational forms”.
The analysis has clearly brought out the fact that living in modernity has been made easier due to massive growth and development in terms of industrial growth and technological advancements. However, as exemplified in the discussion, living in modernity has been complicated by effects of changes from pre-modernization seen in capitalism and industrialization. Therefore, living in modernity may not be simply ruled out as a theory by philosophers. Instead, its effects are real and can be felt in the contemporary world on a daily basis. For instance, advances that have been made in science and technology are evident enough and cannot be refuted at all.
Begbie, Jeremy. “Pressing at the Boundaries of Modernity-A Review Essay”. Christian Scholar’s Review 40.4 (2011): 453-465.
Chipea, Floare. “Sociology”. Journal of Social Research & Policy 2.1 (2011): 99-100.
Krauthammer, Anna. “Melville and the Wall of the Modern Age”. Studies in the Novel 43.3 (2011): 378-380.