How to reopen the question of modernity? Some proposals

The paradoxes of modernity
Some proposals
By Pablo Blitstein, Cyril Lemieux

Often considered in connection to evolutionism and sometimes accused of maintaining neocolonial domination, the field of studies on modernity and the processes of modernization has been progressively discredited in the social sciences over the last forty years. However, for some time now, a number of historians and sociologists have sought to reinvest this field on new bases. Rejecting both the miserabilist and populist approaches that have held modernity in their grip for too long, their work outlines a research program, whose consistency and main arguments are brought out by this article. We show that this program proposes a properly methodological definition of modernity—as the present of humanity—and imposes on researchers four major shifts: the refusal of stato-centrism; an attention to the practical foundations of different conceptions of “modernity”; an adherence to the principle of contemporaneity; and finally, situating the generalizing ambition of social sciences within a rigorous search of processual analogies.


  • modernity
  • modernization processes
  • evolutionism
  • miserabilism
  • subaltern studies
  • multiple modernities
  • social conflicts
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