Tuesday, 03 October 2023

National modernity (Εθνική νεωτερικότητα)

What gives modernity its unique features is its linkage to a type of social organization which became dominant in the West after the English industrial and French political revolutions. Such an organization portrays social structural features which, in other combination are not to be found in pre-modern societies. Three such features stand out:
• The decline of segmental localism and the mobilization/inclusion of a whole population into the national center – the national center,
• The top-down differentiation of a society's institutional spheres,
• The wide spread individuation.


In ideal typical terms the decline of segmental localism meant the transformation of the local community into a self-contained social whole open to the direct influence of broader social forces. It meant the INCLUSION of the whole population into the nation state, into its economic, political and cultural arenas. This inclusionary process led to the transfer of material and symbolic resources from the periphery to the national centre.
From an actor's perspective it led to the concentration of not only the means of production but also the means of domination as well the means of cultural influence into the hands of national rather than local/regional elites. It is via such MOBILISING, "BRINGING - IN" processes that the modern state apparatus penetrated the periphery in a manner which was unthinkable in all pre-modern social formations, however despotic.
IB) As far as RELIGION is concerned, the massive INCLUSION into the religions centre, refers to the process of Religious RATIONALISATION. In the sense that traditional DUALISM between the pre-modern differentiation between elite and folk/popular religiosity is weakened. The elite religiosity is characterized by scripturality and the rational COHERENCE of the theological doctrine. Whereas the popular religiosity is less "pure" - since it coexists with superstitious, magical or pagan ideas and practices. Therefore religious rationalization means that the DUALISM between elite and popular religiosity is attenuated as the official doctrine spreads downwards: Those at the religious top controls the "locals" (priests and believers).
As a consequence, gradually the popular superstitious, magical of pagan elements are eliminated. In other terms those at the periphery are included to the religious center.
Moving to the second sociostructural feature of modernity that of top-down differentiation of institutional spheres (economic, political, cultural), each sphere starts portraying its own logic and historical trajectory.
Structural/functional differentiation is not, of course, unique to Modernity. Complex pre-modern social formations portray differentiation – But only at the TOP. The societal base is segmentally organized [Eisinstat].
It is only in modernity that institutional differentiation moves downwards – as well. If we take as an example the so called "domestic mode of production", with modernization the head of the family and often his wife and children move to the factory. Here we have a differentiation between the familial and the factory organization. Factory workers move also to other institutional spheres – institutional spheres, like education, recreational, cultural spheres.
Moving to the RELIGIOUS sphere we come to the issue of SECULARISATION. Usually in pre-modern situations the church has great influence or even control of other institutional spheres, educational, cultural, even political. With modernization this type of influence is drastically reduced. No religion spheres become more autonomous. This means gradual SECULARISATION. Religious control weakens and non religious institutional spheres become more autonomous, at least as far as the church is concerned. To put it differently as far as interinstitutional relations are concerned, we observe secularisation. In most countries this is IRREVERSIBLE (Except in religious authoritarian countries like Iran). But if on the interinstitutional level gradual secularization is unavoidable. BUT THE SAME is not true for the INTRAINSTITUTIONAL terms. Not always but very often one observes a strengthening or deepening of religiosity.
For instance many denominations in the United States, as well as PENTACOSIALISM [D. Martin] and the growing dynamism of the new religious movements show that secularization is not irreversible. Concerning the new religious movements for instance their beliefs are usually more fragile, but one can argue that at the same time they are more "authentic". They lead to a turning inwards (to an internal process of exploration which one finds less in the members of institutionalized churches.
So if in the interinstitutional sphere secularization is continuous and irreversible, in the intrainstitutional sphere one finds both secularization BUT also – the development of more fragile new religious movements. For instance therefore in forms of the religious intrainstitutional sphere we see both secular and non secular tendencies.


III A) Concerning the third feature of modernity, that of individuation, in late modernity traditional certainties decline, and a situation emerges where routines lose their meaningfulness and their moral authority. Unlike traditional societies where rules have greater solidity, in modernity individuals have to deal with "empty spaces". From whether to marry and then have children or not or to choose a style of life, they have to decide themselves in a "REFLEXIVE" manner. As Giddens put it, the individual has to create its "own BIOGRAPHY".
III B) In the religious sphere a very well known catholic philosopher Charles TAYLOR talks about EXPRESSIVE INDIVIDUALISM. A tendency which reacts against dogmas and the authority of organized churches. It is based more of UNMEDIATED EXPERIENCE, on a turning inwards, in an attempt to approach the divine EXISTENTIALLY, without intermediaries, priests or other religious elites. This type of orientation can be apophatic or cataphatic. In the cataphatic manner one is trying to construct what Beck calls a "GOD OF ITS OWN". In the apophatic situation one does not construct but deconstructs: In the sense that the individual tries to create an empty space from which the divine EMERGES. This is more the way of the Mystic. But in modern societies individuals who follow a type of meditation which focuses on the peripheralization of thoughts. This type of practices are Kenotic, a term taken from the Greek KENOS, meaning emptiness.


I think that the three features of modernity we examined above can also be seen at the global level. Given the present almost full globalization, there is an inclusion of almost all the world population into a global center. There is also global differentiation of institutional spheres as well as the spread of individuation all over the world.

A) Global inclusion
First, huge corporations and Big Tecks penetrate all countries (developed, developing and extremely poor) producing, mainly via their platforms, products and services that all people want. Most people around the world, via radio, television or mobile phones try to find what goes on in the planet. They are drawn into the global center. Moreover, they can also communicate with relatives, partners or strangers instantly everywhere.
Second, we are all drawn into the global center by global risks, such as climate change. For instance irreversible ecological destruction affects all, in rich and poor countries.
If in "national modernity" a Parisian at some point feels less Parisian and more French, something similar happens at the global level. People all over the world, in case of massive ecological destruction feel "members of the human race" facing risks that they cannot control.

B) Global institutional differentiation
As far as global institutional differentiation is concerned, here as well, when globalization advances, we see differentiation of global institutional spheres. We have already mentioned that in large scale social formations (for instance, empires) differentiation of institutional spheres between the economic, political, social and cultural spheres were only to be found at the top of social hierarchies. The base was segmentally organized. It is only today that institutional differentiation moves downwards. For instance, in the sphere of the global economy, it is the market logic which prevails. All other considerations are secondary. The same is true in most of the other institutional spheres. For instance, in the social sphere of humanitarian aid, OXFAM, or the Red Cross have branches everywhere. That is to say they have developed into global organizations whose main goal is not profit but support of poor, peripheralized human beings.

C) There is also another type of differentiation which relates to what Marshall McLuhan calls the global Village. In this case the institutional spheres consist of "imagined communities" (religious, political, cultural, recreational etc.) - each having a specific logic and trajectory. Anyone by using advanced technologies can participate in one or more of these virtual spheres. Therefore in this case we do not have homogeneity but differentiation/plurality. Young people for instance become autonomous from their family, relatives, teachers by entering one or more of the imagined spheres mentioned above. For instance, a person can enter the religious sphere focusing on protestant events, rituals, personalities etc. At the same time the same person may be interested in sports, fashion and even more "objectional" spheres related to pornography or violent games. All the above point to global individuation.

D) Global individuation
In globalized modernity individuation is everywhere. Here young people try to become autonomous from traditional families, severe parents, relatives, teachers etc. Individuation does not happen only in western countries. It is spreading particularly in urban centers in Africa, Asia and elsewhere. This is obvious if one takes into account that in the global village, the advanced media creates a global culture affecting everyone.
Finally there is a cultural sphere where there are global organizations whose main aim is to develop different modes of living and believing. For instance, the major churches (Catholic, Protestant, Muslim etc.) are to be found in most countries trying to tell people how to relate to the self, the other and the divine.
Following Mc Luan's global village and his concept of virtual communities, religiously speaking an individual may choose the religious sphere as well as other non religious spheres, economic, political, secular culture etc.
In that case we can talk about inter institutional secularization. Since the religion sphere is weakening by the existence of various non religious, secular community.
In case of the individual who focuses exclusively on the religious virtual community, in this case one may talk about intrainstitutional deepening, that is to say non secularization.


To conclude in this presentation I have tried to show that the notion of modernity, if seen from the point of view of its 3 sociostructural features (inclusion) institutional Differentiation and widespread individuation) provides a conceptual framework which enables a researcher to see the linkages between Religiosity and modernity in a more systematic and often new manner.

*Εισήγηση στο πλαίσιο του Παγκόσμιου Συνεδρίου "13th International Conference on Religion and Spirituality in Society". 

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