¹ 1 - 2002
Wittrock B.

Modernity: One, None, or Many? European Origins and Modernity as a Global Condition

Originally published: “Daedalus”, 2000, vol. 129, ¹ 1. The author substantiates a concept according to which modernity is not so much a new unified civilization, global in its extensiveness, unparalleled in its intrusiveness and destructiveness. Rather, modernity is a set of promissory notes, i.e., a set of hopes and expectations that entail some minimal conditions of adequacy that may be demanded of macrosocietal institutions no matter how much these institutions may differ in other respects. For, in both cultural and institutional terms, modernity, as the author demonstrates, from the very inception of its basic ideas in Europe, has been characterized by high degree of variability in institutional forms and conceptual constructions. It has provided reference points that have become globally relevant and that have served as structuring principles behind institutional projects on a worldwide scale. Thus, he believes, we may look upon modernity as an age when certain structuring principles have come to define a common global condition. The existence of this global condition does not mean that members of any single cultural community are about to relinquish their ontological and cosmological assumptions, much less their institutions. It means, however, that the continuous interpretation, reinterpretation, and transformation of those commitments and institutional structures cannot but take account of the commonality of the global condition of modernity.