The Dark Side of Modernity

The Dark Side of Modernity

by Jeffrey C. Alexander
     
 

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In this book, one of the world’s leading social theorists presents a critical, alarmed, but also nuanced understanding of the post-traditional world we inhabit today. Jeffrey Alexander writes about modernity as historical time and social condition, but also as ideology and utopia. The idea of modernity embodies the Enlightenment’s noble hopes for

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Overview

In this book, one of the world’s leading social theorists presents a critical, alarmed, but also nuanced understanding of the post-traditional world we inhabit today. Jeffrey Alexander writes about modernity as historical time and social condition, but also as ideology and utopia. The idea of modernity embodies the Enlightenment’s noble hopes for progress and rationality, but its reality brings great suffering and exposes the destructive impulses that continue to motivate humankind.

Alexander examines how twentieth-century theorists struggled to comprehend the Janus-faced character of modernity, which looks backward and forward at the same time. Weber linked the triumph of worldly asceticism to liberating autonomy but also ruthless domination, describing flights from rationalization as systemic and dangerous. Simmel pointed to the otherness haunting modernity, even as he normalized the stranger. Eisenstadt celebrated Axial Age transcendence, but acknowledged its increasing capacity for barbarity. Parsons heralded American community, but ignored modernity’s fragmentations.

Rather than seeking to resolve modernity’s contradictions, Alexander argues that social theory should accept its Janus-faced character. It is a dangerous delusion to think that modernity can eliminate evil. Civil inclusion and anti-civil exclusion are intertwined. Alexander enumerates dangerous frictions endemic to modernity, but he also suggests new lines of social amelioration and emotional repair.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This book offers a highly engaging and insightful overview of modernity"
Political Studies Review

"No major figure in American social theory has reached so far beyond regional traditions to reinvent the language by which we interpret culture, politics, and the dilemmas of modernity. The Dark Side of Modernity collects superb essays representative of Jeff Alexander's special gift for clear expression, unflinching criticism, and creative thinking."
Charles Lemert, Center for Comparative Research, Sociology, Yale University

"Modernity has had its critics from the beginning, but social science in general and sociology in particular have mainly supported the idea that it is a 'good thing.' Few were willing to look squarely at the dark side of modernity, Weber being a partial exception. Jeffrey Alexander has looked unflinchingly at the dark side, not holding it to be the only truth about modernity, but an inescapable aspect of it. His new book is indispensable for anyone who wants to look at modernity whole."
Robert Bellah, University of California, Berkeley and coauthor of Habits of the Heart

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780745665061
Publisher:
Wiley
Publication date:
04/25/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
180
File size:
1 MB

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"No major figure in American social theory has reached so far beyond regional traditions to reinvent the language by which we interpret culture, politics, and the dilemmas of modernity. The Dark Side of Modernity collects superb essays representative of Jeff Alexander's special gift for clear expression, unflinching criticism, and creative thinking."
Charles Lemert, Center for Comparative Research, Sociology, Yale University

"Modernity has had its critics from the beginning, but social science in general and sociology in particular have mainly supported the idea that it is a 'good thing.' Few were willing to look squarely at the dark side of modernity, Weber being a partial exception. Jeffrey Alexander has looked unflinchingly at the dark side, not holding it to be the only truth about modernity, but an inescapable aspect of it. His new book is indispensable for anyone who wants to look at modernity whole."
Robert Bellah, University of California, Berkeley and coauthor of Habits of the Heart

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