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Postmodernity: Societal Changes Essay

2553 words - 10 pages

As the term postmodernity suggests, it follows on from modernity therefore, to understand postmodernity, we must first understand the concepts of modernity and modernism. Once this is achieved, we can then examine whether present western society is or is not post-modern and what societal changes have led to the development of this debate. Therefore, modernity and its’ key features will be considered first, followed by an examination of the term postmodern and the key features said to be associated with it. The idea of the modern world originated from social thought which sought to explain the political and economic change which began to emerge within the frame work of traditional ‘semi-feudal/absolutist, pre-modern society. Therefore, Modernity is the term used to describe the particular attributes of modern societies.

Modern societies typically have industrial capitalist economies, democratic political organisation and social classes (Abercrombie 1994:270). Modernity developed in Europe from the sixteenth century onwards although it was most popular in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The main features associated with modernity are: the economic, the political, the scientific and the cultural. There is less agreement on the cultural features of modernity, which are said to include, fragmentation of experience, a commodification and rationalization of all aspects of life and a speeding up of daily life (Abercrombie 1994:270).

Pre-modern economic relations and practices in feudal and agrarian societies were centred locally; production was primarily for need, rather than for the re-investment necessary for economic growth. Therefore, the pre-modern economy was static. The modern economy is associated with the growth of production for wealth, incorporating increased buying, selling and wider markets. This created social and geographical mobility in the pursuit for work, leading to the unequal division of labour. The transgression from the pre-modern to the modern economy can be summarised as the, movement from small scale competitive production, to large monopolies which became dominant in the nineteenth century, resulting in capitalist society.

Pre-modern political power was also localised, power was held by land owners and local Lords and aristocrats. In the move to modernity power became centralised. Modern politics produced a bureaucratic nation state, leading to emergence of political parties. The ideas of: liberty, equality, democratic participation, individualism and free thought become dominant, following a long struggle against aristocratic conservatism. Governments are now held accountable by the electorates. Democracy is regarded as the most appropriate form of governance in the context of capitalism.

In the course of modernity science has progressed. Most significantly, science has challenged traditional beliefs and myths such as, religion. Religion, particularly, the fear of God strongly...

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