Reflections Week 7: Modernization of Modernity

Happy Thanksgiving, all. Since there was no video lecture given by our professor for this week, I will be comenting on a related video, entitled “Modernity and Modernization in Mexico”.

The first thought that caught my eye were the disconcerting similarities between the definition given of modernity and that which is understood of progress. Especially, this is true when talking about technological and social innovation, as well as positive change to one’s society. However, although these definitions are somewhat similar and, one might say, interchangeable, they are not associated with the same era(s). In fact, modernity is often talked about in a philosophical and historical context, when discussing the Western world entering a certain historical era, whereas progress, and progressive politics, have been flowing in and out of political discourse for centuries. Other themes that are included in modernity, such as secularization and emancipation, are still discussed today, also. For instance, France and my home of Quebec have continuously and for decades brought forth legislation aiming for la laïcité de l’État (laicity of the state). La Charte de la laïcité de l’État in France and La Loi 21 only two recent examples of this principle. In the United States, ever since slavery and the emancipation of the slaves, there has been continued dicussion about reparations, and modern forms of slavery, and how to tackle them. Thus, these topics are still touched on in today’s political discourse.

Also, another element of modernity that is left unaccounted for or rather that is stated as true (but which isn’t) is how only a democratic regime and system are compatible with modernity. Nonetheless, although a democratic system is usually preferable for the well-being of a nation, it is wrong to assume that it is the only system that is compatible with modernity. This would only be true if seen through a Western, pro-democratic, liberalist (in the historical sense of the term) lense. There are two main elements of criticism to this notion. Firstly, the West at the time (and still today, to some extent) hardly fit the definition of a democratic regime, as many individuals and groups were (and are) barred from voting, including racial minorities, expats, ex-prisoners, and so forth. Additionally, there are many examples of countries and states which, although not democratic, fit into the definition of a modern state, mostly based on the level of human development and technological inovation. Notably, the People’s Republic of China, Singapore, and many Latin American countries, have historically proved this idea wrong.


3 thoughts on “Reflections Week 7: Modernization of Modernity

  1. Hanae

    Thank you for your blog and thank you for including French examples (I’m really missing home rIght now…). I really like your last paragraph but it made me think about the question of well-being. Talking about modernity is delicate because one has to realize at what cost progress can be achievable. Do you really think the labor force in China is benefiting from it? Don’t you think the nature of the government can change something in the accessibility of resources?

    1. Joseph Bouchard Post author

      Hi Hanae,

      Thank you for your comment. I miss home too (I’m from Quebec and my dad has been living in France for the last 11 years). I do think that the Chinese labour force is benefitting from it, mostly through more variety and better quality of consumer goods, more fields of work, and so forth. However, the Chinese government needs to do a much better job at making sure that most people reap the benefits of inovations and globalized markets, and that labour and living standards also follow a progressive path. One of the harder dilemmas that the Chinese government has been facing is how to keep its people well-off and happy while also maintaining hegemony and power.



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