Global Modernity and Its Repercussion

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 18:00
Oral Presentation
Volker H SCHMIDT, National University of Singapore, Singapore
This paper proposes the concept of global modernity, presented in a recent book (Global Modernity. A Conceptual Sketch, Palgrave Macmillan 2014), for mapping both recent historical trends and anticipated future developments that will in all likelihood profoundly affect the living conditions and life chances of human beings around the world. Starting from the observation that the past four decades or so have seen what arguably amounts to the greatest and most dramatic transformation in human history, and showing that the social and technological conditions to which this transformation has given rise provide the springboard for even more radical change, I will outline some of the theoretical and practical challenges this entails. On the theoretical plane, I argue that we need to transcend the confines of methodological nationalism and epistemological conservatism that mislead us by tying our representations of society to a past which has been surpassed by the realities of globalization. If we are to come to terms with these realities, we have to build a genuinely global sociology that treats the whole world as a singular social system, rather than a multitude of relatively self-contained societies (conveniently equated with nation-states) with the capacity to shape their own destinies independently of the others. That has never been a realistic assumption for the Global South, but has now also become untenable for the erstwhile leaders of modernity in the West. On the practical plane, I will explore three realms of change – those of world order; work and social policy; and our biological constitution – to show that and how orientation to the past may prove not only uninstructive, by misleading when thinking about policy responses for tackling the challenges they present.