This weeks theme of modernization closely relates to what I have been studying for a sociology class on development and underdevelopment. In this class, we’ve been discussing modernization as a project. Defining modernization in this way suggests that it’s not a natural process but one that is enforced through a series of measures. Adding to this definition, modernization is an exclusionary project. An example that I thought of were the urban reforms in Rio de Janeiro in the late 19th century led by the mayor Pereira Passos and inspired by Paris. In order to expand the avenues and “clean” the centre of the city from the lower classes who used to live in cortiços, collective housing, they were forced to move to the periphery and with the lack of governmental support installed themselves at the hills, creating the favelas that Brazil known for.
Professor Jon’s lecture and the interview with Dawson demonstrate that in Latin America, what is considered to be modern is still largely influenced by the past and its values. Even though secularism was one of the pillars of European modernity, to this day in Latin America institutions and social practices are highly based on Christian values. Moreover, in spite of secularism being inscribed in the Brazilian constitution, there are religious artifacts decorating the National Congress and there are Evangelical political leaders influencing policies. The current minister of Human Rights, Family and Women, Damares Alves, is an evangelical pastor and has clearly positioned herself as pro-life. If as Professor Jon mentioned in the lecture “modernity is not just a way of thinking; it is also a way of being”, why are women having their bodies and their reproduction rights controlled by religious conservatism? I guess the answer is that unfortunately modernity in Latin America, especially when it comes to women’s rights and freedom, has been superficial.
Another contradiction of modernity is present in the Brazilian national flag, opposition between the notion of progress and the degradation of nature. The flag itself is paradoxical as the colour green is supposed to represent the vast forests that we have in Brazil. As an agricultural exporter in order to progress and development, the fires and deforestation have become to a certain group of people justifiable. It is no exaggeration to say that Brazil has been on fire in 2020. The Amazon rainforest, pantanal and cerrado are all biomes that suffered from fires this year. Investigations have pointed that these were not natural fires but manmade fires by farmers and ranchers. There have been several artists who used the Brazilian flag to critique the fires and the treatment of nature.
The questions that I have for these week are: Is modernization a constant goal? Is there an end to it? Why do traditional values continue to be practiced?
October 19, 2020 — 6:19 pm
I really enjoyed reading your post.
My answer to your first question is, no, I don’t think there is an end to modernity or modernization, especially since it’s defined as constant progress. When new ideologies or technology emerges, what we have now would be considered backward so I don’t think there can be an end.
I think people in general stick to old practices because that’s what they now and change can lead to improvement at its best but can also lead to destruction at its worst.
October 20, 2020 — 5:40 am
I am taking the same sociology class of development and underdevelopment, and it has been funny how closely these classes have often related to each other. I think in some sense modernization is an ongoing project that strives for a more developed future. Even if we think that Western societies have already reached the “modernity”, they still continue to strive for a more developed future, for example by developing technology and science. I think that the idea that economy must always expand and grow makes modernization an infinite project, since it creates the idea that we could always do a little bit better as nations but also as individuals. Furthermore, I believe that traditional values are a sign of how we as a society still continue to develop. Take for example how women struggle to achieve an equal standing with men, is a living example of how patriarchy is still thriving, even if modernity promised equality and justice.
October 20, 2020 — 4:15 pm
Thank you for the insightful post. I agree that secularism has been particularly hard to enforce in Latin America. It is almost as if to be Latin American is to be Christian (specifically Catholic). It wasn’t until 1991 that Colombia (with the introduction of a new constitution) declared church and state to be separate. And even now, couples can only get married through a government ceremony or Catholic church (that is, if someone got married in a synagogue it would not be a registered legal marriage).
October 20, 2020 — 9:00 pm
I enjoyed your question in that it created this whirlwind of more questions in my head. Is modernity a constant goal? I think there are so many elements to this question. One of the ideas mentioned was that modernity was a thought and feel sort of idea. As long as other countries or places progress, others will want to follow suit. Additionally, I feel like the idea of modernity is to constantly be moving forward, creating, innovating but I challenge when will it end? When as a country or a world do we stop?
October 21, 2020 — 5:14 am
Thank you for sharing.
Traditions seem to be carried on because people sometimes blindly follow their past generations. It creates a sense of familiarity and a connection between the past and present. Although, sometimes it seems to do more damage than good. I may even say it stands in the way of modernity due to the fact people hold on to these traditions and can’t move forward. In a perfect world, there could be bridge that creates somewhat of a middle ground.
October 21, 2020 — 8:41 pm
Hi! I thought it was super interesting what you said about the Brazilian flag. As for your questions at the end, I guess it depends what part of the world we are focusing on. In the West, I do think that modernization has been a constant goal, but I also think that recently there has been more of a focus on tradition. One specific example that comes to mind comes from an article I read about Canadians heading to Peru for the ayahuasca experience. A shaman was interviewed and he said that lots of them head down there because they are anxious and depressed due to their jobs and fast-paced life they live back home. He explained how they crave a sense of connection, which I argue many times can be found through tradition. I hear time and time again this saying of “human beings hate change”, yet we live in a world that is constantly changing. Great question, I think it’s super interesting to think about!