Comment on What makes us modern?
Modern means technology, industry, cities, cars.
That is a current meaning of the word modern. The word modern in 1500 meant “now existing”, “of or pertaining to present or recent times”. It derived from the French moderne or late Latin modernus. Over the several hundred years the meaning of this word stayed close to the time of use. Modern now means something else than from the word modern used a hundred years ago. So now it does mean technology, industry, cities, cars. Amongst things.
The traditional life was circular. We were tied to the land.
Our current lives stretch out in a long linear line between our early to late twenties to the day we get our pension, usually the late sixties. Children do not play a large part in this line. We raise them up and let them go, free to find what they want to do. In earlier times children were more inclined to follow the footsteps their father made. The seasons played a big part in our lives then. Now we have lights outside and inside to enlighten our after sunset hours. I don’t think we were tide to the land more, apart from the farmers whose work was to till the land.
Separating time and space
The quantification of time and space, the measurement of time and space makes us experience the world differently. The clock has standardized time, making each minute the same. The meter, or yard, or whatever measurement you take, has calculated space to its finest grain. This does change the meaning of the words time and space. We all live our lives within the standardized use of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks and years.
Trains only make sense if we know what time they are leaving.
It was the arrival of train in the 19th century which made the clocks in a country more standardized. Until that time clocks in a city was closer to the sundial time. There was no way to compare the time of different cities with each other. You traveled on horseback or walking between cities. Train made the distance smaller, and also measurable. In November 1840 in the UK the first railway time was first applied.
The disembedding of social systems. Disembedding refers to our ability to interact with one another without having to make face-to-face contact. We can make mass appointments with people all over the world and state that at a certain time at a certain date we will all take each other hands for example. I do remember in 1995 for the first time i talked with someone who lived on the West coast of the United States in Micromuse, an online mud type environment. I felt amazed by that.
Money depersonalizes. It is a system which gives almost everything a certain value. Everything can be measured against anything else. A days work, a car, a tomato, anything will be given value. And the things that fall out of this, a persons life, a smile, anything like that, are of no value at all. In this system.
Modernity requires faith. Faith in the expertise of other people, who are trained to know a lot about a specific quite small area.
Trust is integral to modern life. What is the other side of trust? Risk. Trust involves an absence from local decisions. We trust that we know that the professionals know what they are doing.
Our whole world is build on trust. But are we sure the professionals are looking after our personal interests? Of course we are not.