Modernity is a post-traditional life that involves moving from agrarian to industrialization. Many argue that today we are in a new era of modernity where social sciences take people beyond modernity. There are advanced technologies that have improved life and services. According to Anthony Giddens and Zygmunt Bauman, authors of The Consequences of Modernity and Modernity and Holocaust respectively have their views about modernity. This essay analyzes the work of these two authors and their beliefs about modernity.
Bauman is a wolf of modernity that has worn sheep’s clothing of post-modernity. In his reading, he provides a spectacular critique of modernity where he challenges the idea that science, technology and rationality will allow people to control the nature more and provide greater freedom and liberty. The people of Germany, together with their guards in their camps were not cruel people. These people loved their children than any other population of that modern society then (Bauman, 1989). They read philosophy and literature and were reflective individuals. However, why were they involved in mass genocide? Bauman reasons that the Holocaust happens any time in any modern society because modernity has unique characteristics that allow it to happen.
In Modernity and the Holocaust, Bauman asserts that people should not understand The Holocaust as an accident towards modernity, but it is modernity that provided “necessary conditions” (Bauman, 1989) for the undertaking of The Holocaust. As Zygmunt argues that Holocaust was “a legitimate resident in the house of modernity” (Bauman, 1989 p 17) and supports this argument by saying that principles of efficiency and rationality that mainly characterize the modern time might have led to unplanned consequences such as the Holocaust. Holocaust did not conflict with these principles of rationality during the long and convoluted execution. According to Bauman, modernity was not main cause of the holocaust, but the fact that it did not prevent it from happening was the cause. Holocaust was rendered evil because of its long and tortuous execution and the fact that it aimed at destroying a whole human race on emphasis of efficient and rational mechanisms.
Bauman also talks about strangers in his article. He asserts that in modernity, there exists “gardening state” that splits unwanted elements from the wanted elements in the society. Bauman believes that nothing is dirty or clean. A piece of bread is something great, but when it falls on the ground, then it becomes dirty. The same also happens to people and so there is no one who is wrong or right. The place where one is modifies the behavior. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with asylum, foreigners or impaired people, although they need to stay in an appropriate place where they can assimilated in the wider society. Failure to assimilate them will separate them from the rest of the society to form prisons, camps and ghettos.
In The Consequences of Modernity, the author first defines modernity as social life that first started in Europe during the 17th century and the life was spread to other parts of the world through influence. This implies that modernity is associated with an original geographical area where it started and time period when it started. According to Giddens, we are not yet line in postmodern world. The unique characteristics of the major social organizations at the end of the 20th century suggest that people are moving towards a period of “high modernity” rather than the period of post-modernity. In the high modernity, consequences become more universalized and radicalized than before. The author argues that the post-modern social life may come about eventually, but it depends on the forms of cultural and social organizations that now dominate the history of the world (Bauman, 1989).
Giddens also argues that modernity is related to time and space. Pre-modern also had space and time although today modernity is more coordinated than before. Before, space and time were closely connected; for instance, the act of travelling from home to work, office or company. In the workplace, one fulfills his or her functions at a particular time. Today, ICT technology has disjoined place and space. Giddens says that “advent of modernity increasingly tears space away from place by fostering relations between ‘absent’ others, locationally distant from any given situation of face-to-face interaction. it becomes increasingly phantasmagoric” (Giddens, 1990 p19). The society now socializes when people are at far distances, they do not have to meet in person. This far distance communication is considered virtual where all activities are distance mediated. This opens opportunities for new ways of connecting with other people all over the world.
It is evident that Giddens and Bauman view modernity differently and both support their arguments. Giddens views modernity as a mode of social organization that can bring good opportunities, but also dangers to the society. To him, we are not yet to the post modernity, but we will if social and cultural institutions improve. Bauman, on the other hand, argues that modernity has characteristics that allow things like mass destruction to occur. He argues that the Holocaust was as a result of modernity and was not an accident. Modernity has the responsibility to assimilate strangers so that such events do not occur.
Bauman, Z. (1989). Modernity and the holocaust. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press.
Giddens, A. (1990). The consequences of modernity. Stanford, California: Stanford University