Jes Wienberg
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The faces of modernity

Chapter 4 investigates central concepts including time, change, duration, progress, decay, modernity, postmodernity, hypermodernity, and fluid modernity, and argues for a new perspective on modernity. The chapter begins with an exploration of the concept of time, creating a context for an understanding and a questioning of David Lowenthal’s famous claim that “The Past is a Foreign Country”. It goes on to discuss the relationship between progress and decay, whereupon it presents different views on what modernity is, has been, or ought to be. The theoretical and societal context of the concept and perception of modernity is mapped. The ambiguous relationship between different expression of modernity and tradition is explored. So is the persistent discourse by means of which scholars and intellectuals criticise contemporary society, modernity in particular. The author regards the concept of modernity as a collection of contradictory narratives, proposing an enlightened modernity that combines progress in both technology and ideas.

Time, change, and permanence

Time is an enigma. Indeed, there is but one truly serious existential problem, and that is time. To determine what time means is to answer the fundamental question of existence. But in what does the enigma of time consist?

Time escapes definition; for it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to define time without including time as a category from the outset. Time can be defined as the distance between two events, that is, the distance between two changes; but what is an event without the concept of time?

Time opens up a number of questions where the meaning of the words determines the answers. Does the concept of time combine both change and permanence? If time is change, what does it mean that time changes? And if time is permanence, what does it mean that time is unchanged? Is time absolute or relative? Does time have a beginning and an end? Why does the arrow of time point specifically towards the future? Is time travel possible to the past or to the future? Is time itself changeable over time? Finally, does time exist, or is it just an illusion?

There is no consensus about the concept of time. There are varying views about what time is – whether time is to be seen as a dimension, as something that flows or as a direction away from the beginning of the universe; whether time is independent of human existence; whether time can be perceived by human beings with their senses, words, and mathematics; and whether it is at all meaningful to ask what time “is” (e.g. Bardon 2013; Rovelli 2017 (Italian); 2019 (English)).

The associations of time with change, impermanence, greater disorder (entropy), and death also give the concept a fateful ring: “Är du beredd?” (“Are you prepared?”) asks Death in the film Det sjunde inseglet (The Seventh Seal) by the director Ingmar Bergman. The knight Antonius Block tried to cheat Death while the plague was raging; by playing chess with Death, Antonius managed to gain time and save his friends Jof and Mia along with their son Mikael (Bergman 1957 film). The film with its iconic representation of Death on the beach was intended, and was apparently also able, to help Bergman come to terms with his own death anxiety.

We can play with time in fiction, too. Thus readers of the novel Einstein’s Dreams, by the physicist and author Alan Lightman, can imagine what life would have been like in Berne in 1905 if time had behaved differently than expected; here theories about time can be applied in practice. We can dream about a time that repeats itself, stands still, and goes backwards, a time without events, a time that changes speed, varies locally, or jumps (cf. Lightman 1993). The film Lola rennt (English Run Lola Run), by the director Tom Tykwer, explores the counterfactual branches of time. Three times Lola has to run through Berlin, and each time a detail of her starting point is changed with fatal consequences. Lola has 20 minutes; but it is only during her final attempt that she manages to save both her friend’s life and her own (Tykwer 1998 film).

On the one hand, there is the human experience of temporal change, the future being transformed into the present and then into the past. The tripartition of time with expectation, existence, and memory is crucial to the way in which human beings experience and understand the world. On the other hand, there is the stable spacetime of natural science, which explains the world without necessarily accepting temporal change. This contrast between human experience and the logical reality of physics, between change and permanence, has not (yet) been resolved. Instead of asking “What is time?”, we are recommended to ask “What does time do?” (Bardon 2013: 79ff, 173ff). But with the question “What does time do?”, every archaeologist or historian is securely back in their own field.

Time may be enigmatic, and yet time is used in a relatively unproblematic way in countless contexts as a concept, a perspective, and, especially, a unit of measurement. Without the concept of time there would be no history to tell, nothing to remember, and no heritage to examine and preserve.

Time is a prerequisite for archaeology, irrespective of whether it is associated with origins, arche; whether it is seen as the study of a distant past; or whether it is linked to excavation, in which different layers of time are examined stratigraphically. As an academic discipline, archaeology devotes a great deal of care to establishing times specifically in the form of datings, chronologies, and periods. For without a temporal context, it is difficult to use artefacts as sources of knowledge. And without time, there will not be any narratives about the past, nor any discoveries to reflect on.

Time is crucial for connecting events, a once-in-the-past with a now-in-the-present and a once-in-the-future, a here-in-one-place with a there-in-another-place. Time is a necessary condition of narratives, irrespective of whether they are tales of facts, counterfactuals, or fiction, and irrespective of whether they are science or literature (Wright 1971: 42ff, 103ff; Ricoeur 1984–1985 (French); 1984–1988 (English)). Time is hence a prerequisite for the ability to create meaning – at the same time as it is difficult to give time itself a meaning.

The philosopher Henri Bergson asserted that time cannot be reduced to moments that follow on from one another, to points on a line, or to successive spaces. Time is real, and it is characterised by permanence, by continuance. Experienced time is a movement, a continuing constant change. What is new in that change is dependent on the past that shaped us. And as a result of the uninterrupted growth of the new in the present, ever more past is accumulated. So the past is constantly present in a transient now, as a growing quantity of memory and matter (Bergson 1889 (French); 2001 (English)).

Paradoxically, Bergson’s view of time was formulated at the point in time when film was invented. A film sequence by the photographer Louis Le Prince from Roundhay Garden in Leeds in 1888 is the first known film (Roundhay Garden Scene, 1888 film). Bergson’s view contrasts with the idea and technology of film, in which every single moment is brought together in the form of a series of static photographs on a roll of film so as to create the illusion of movement.

With a reference to Bergson, the archaeologist Laurent Olivier has emphasised that every present is multi-temporal. The present is composed of accumulated matter from previous epochs, matter that is of differing duration. But when Olivier viewed his surroundings from his window in a farmhouse in France, he saw buildings from the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, whereas the twentieth century was only visible in details; and everything that was supposed to be typical of his own present in the 1990s was invisible. The past with its weighty matter is therefore seen as dominating the present (Olivier 1999; cf. 2008 (French); 2011 (English); also Latour 1991 (French): 101ff; 1993 (English): 74ff).

From my window in Lund in Sweden, I also look out over a mosaic of times that is, at a first glance, characterised by older periods. Archaeologicum, the building I work in, was built in 1853 and was originally the Anatomy Department of Lund University. From here I look out over Universitetsplatsen, the open space in front of the main University building, and Lundagård, with runic stones from the Viking period, busts of dead scholars, and buildings from the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in particular. Most centuries since the foundation of the city are represented. So the past is everywhere, but it is neither foreign nor distant. The past is familiar and present in my everyday life.

The architecture of Universitetsplatsen can easily be recognised in old pictures where the great changes of recent times have not yet taken place: an academic campus that wants to assert tradition and continuity in the midst of the renewal, modernity, and growth that characterise the city and the region. But the immediate experience of tradition and continuity is a double illusion.

First, the view is a piece of historical stagecraft. In several cases, the architecture is historicised and refers to the styles of previous periods. The barrow with runic stones is a memorial from 1868; the runic stones used to stand in completely different locations. The Academic Society’s medieval castle is from 1850–1851; the cathedral’s “Romanesque” towers were erected in 1869–1876; Kungshuset (the King’s House) from the sixteenth century was greatly altered in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. And life both in front of and behind the facades is characterised by hurry and change. Passing through the area are pedestrians, bicycles, and the occasional car, all bearing the stamp of prevailing fashions. On the grass and benches are students with the newest smartphones and laptops connected to wireless networks. Behind their facades, the buildings are constantly being modernised in accordance with current needs and the latest technological options. All parts of this view are in constant change at different speeds.

Second, the view described above is a memory. My workplace has now been moved to LUX, a faculty campus consisting of buildings from 1917, 1961, and 2014. And the view is no longer of Universitetsplatsen and Lundagård but of the university hospital’s high-rise “central block”, opened in 1968, and of the accident and emergency department from 2004, where people and ambulances rush in and out.

In cosmological terms, the elements of matter originate from supernova explosions billions of years ago. And the matter of the past may be accumulated everywhere in me and in the view from my window, but a continuing past does not dominate my experience of the present; far from it. The present with its changes is extremely familiar and manifest.

Where Bergson with his “flowing” time formulated a concept of time that combined change and permanence, concepts such as heritage and modernity presuppose a separation and contrast, as do the canonical and critical traditions of heritage. Heritage refers to culture that is inherited or passed on over time; that is, to something that lasts despite changes. The concept of heritage thus emphasises continuity with the past, whereas modernity suggests discontinuity. The concept of modernity refers to the new that is created in time; that is, to something that forms a break with that which lasts. Modernity carries connotations of change, progress, and the future, while heritage has associations with the old that has survived into the present, with permanence.

Consequently, we rediscover the abstract question of the relationship between change and permanence in the relationship between modernity and heritage. Here modernity is seen as representing change and the forward-looking and accelerating time, whereas heritage is regarded as representing permanence, stasis, and the backward-looking. This dichotomy runs through the entire field of heritage, across the canonical and critical traditions of heritage and across justifications, motives, values, and crisis theories.

In the book Zeit und Tradition (English Time and Tradition), the literary scholar Aleida Assmann sets up time in the sense of change against tradition in the sense of permanence. In line with crisis theories, Assmann sees traditions as a cultural strategy for creating permanence; that is, a compensatory strategy (Assmann 1999).

But are change and permanence, modernity and heritage, necessarily opposites? Can change be a precondition for permanence and permanence a precondition for change? An examination should be made as to whether modernity and heritage might not also be inextricably entangled.

Irrespective of whether our purpose is to describe time from a psychological, mechanical, or cosmological perspective, we are obliged to employ metaphors that refer to geometrical forms, to human beings, and movement. The pictures used in the metaphors – pictures that are recognisable, but nevertheless absurd in the relevant context – are intended to establish a pattern in the enigmatic, make the incomprehensible comprehensible, and give time a meaning that we can understand (cf. Gärdenfors 2006: 105ff): Time is a point, is linear, circular, or an arrow; it is short or long, light or dark, foreign or familiar. Time stands still, walks, runs or flows, shrinks or accelerates. Time means steps forward or backward, rise or fall.

The Past is a Foreign Country by David Lowenthal had a broad impact with its anthropological look at the past. As the title suggests, and as the content of the book confirms, the idea is that the present has been alienated from the past. The past has become different, remote, and exotic – a “foreign country” (Lowenthal 1985: xvi, 406; 2015:3f, 8ff, 358ff).

Lowenthal’s title was taken from the author L. P. Hartley’s novel The Go-Between, whose opening sentence is, “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there” (Lowenthal 1985: xvi; 2015: 3; Hartley 1953: 9). In the novel an older Leo Colston relives, with the aid of his diary, the summer of 1900 when, as a boy, he was a guest at Brandham Hall. Colston revisits the place and the persons. But his memory and visit are paradoxically characterised by both yearning and rejection, both nostalgia and loathing. The past has become foreign to him. The foreign element in the past has to do both with the innocent and almost naive period before puberty, when the world of adults was unknown or incomprehensible, and with a British class society that met its downfall with the First World War.

The people of the past are supposed not to have been like us; they were different. They thought differently, and they lived and died differently. The past becomes an enchanted time zone, distinct from the present where the people of the past become “the others”. The rise of modernity is supposed to be what has created a radical, alienating, and disenchanting break with the past. Then we can try to travel to the country of the past to attain knowledge about other forms of life, travel nostalgically in a flight from our own time, or visit the past in order to honour the dead and their memorials.

But the past cannot be described as either foreign or familiar, as either progress or decline, any more than the Middle Ages as an epoch can be described as either dark or light. What the past was, what the present is, and what the future will be depends entirely on the choice of perspective. For every change or permanence can be experienced differently. Time, change, and permanence are experienced differently depending on the perspective applied; that is, by who is looking and from where, when they are doing it, and how.

Progress and decay

There are two fundamental and mutually opposing conceptions of the changes wrought by time, one being characterised by optimism and the other by pessimism. Changes can either be viewed as progress, an improvement in relation to the past, a development – or as decline, a downturn, decay, or a fall. Irrespective of whether this division is incorrect, misleading, or irrelevant, it forms the starting point of two distinct traditions of thought about time (cf. Toulmin & Goodfield 1965: 106ff; Frängsmyr 1980).

The idea of progress is the notion that it is possible to improve human life and society. The conception of progress as both a possibility and a reality emerged gradually in Europe. It entailed a liberation from a previous, more static view of time laid down by the Church and Christianity with a predetermined development from creation, ingeniously dated at 4004 BCE, up until the expected return of Christ. The idea of progress was promoted by the Enlightenment from the seventeenth century onwards, gained new importance with the discovery of the great depths of the past in the eighteenth century, and culminated in the middle of the nineteenth century with the formulation of the theory of evolution by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace (Toulmin & Goodfield 1965).

With the idea of progress, the past becomes something unsatisfactory, something to leave behind, “dark” Middle Ages or a “primitive” Stone Age (cf. Mommsen 1942; Kuper 1988). The present also runs a risk of rapidly becoming old and unmodern. The ideas and technology of the present must constantly be ready to be “updated” to the latest version – click here to download the new 2.0!

A number of intangible and material innovations serve as icons of progress. The intangible icons of progress are such liberal notions as reason, freedom, democracy, and equality, notions with a long history in which philosophers and politicians are agents. They gain new relevance with the Enlightenment starting in the seventeenth century, see a political breakthrough at the time of the American and French Revolutions at the end of the eighteenth century, and are, in some cases, affirmed as human rights in conventions in the twentieth century, albeit constantly disputed (e.g. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948; Bring 2011).

The material icons of progress are to do with new, cross-border technologies in which inventors and engineers are agents. They are technologies that have widened the horizon and increased the range and speed of human beings. They include lenses used in spectacles, telescopes, and microscopes. They also comprise the development from the astronomer Galileo Galilei’s first telescope to present-day satellite telescopes that have gradually permitted humanity to gaze into space, and therefore backwards in time. The material icons of progress include modes of transport such as the sailing ship, the steamship, the train, the car, the aircraft, and the rocket. They encompass forms of communication that join the world together, such as the telegraph, telephone, radio, TV, and the Internet. And they include technologies that permit the construction of ever-higher buildings, which are erected in a spirit of competition between states and major cities and appear to run counter to the laws of nature.

In Utopia, progress and its icons are projected into a fantastic future. The picture of an ideal society to strive towards is outlined. Utopia means “no place” and goes back to the Renaissance, when the politician and author Thomas More introduced the concept. More had to reformulate his political criticism away from the contemporaneous society to a distant and foreign place, a non-existent island called Utopia (Moro/More 1516 (Latin); 2012 (English); cf. Claeys 2011). Utopia is thus related to L. P. Hartley’s and David Lowenthal’s “foreign country”, where they do things differently.

The most extreme expression of the idea of progress came in Futurism, which aimed to create a new future liberated from the past but was soon compromised by its link to Fascism. Futurism, with roots in anarchism, arose in a northern Italy characterised by rapid industrialisation. In 1909, the author Filippo Tommaso Marinetti formulated a manifesto that entailed a radical reckoning with the past. The Manifesto of Futurism praised the future, speed, technology, war, masculinity, the masses, and the big city, whereas the institutions of the past were to be destroyed. Futurism also observed a division into two cultures, praising forward-looking technology but rejecting backward-looking humanities:

Nous déclarons que la splendeur du monde s’est enrichie d’une beauté nouvelle: la beauté de la vitesse. … Nous voulons démolir les musées, les bibliothèques, combattre le moralisme, le féminisme et toutes les lâchetés opportunistes et utilitaires. … C’est en Italie que nous lançons ce manifeste de violence culbutante et incendiaire, par lequel nous fondons aujourd’hui le Futurisme, parce que nous voulons délivrer l’Italie de sa gangrène de professeurs, d’archéologues, de cicérones et d’antiquaires. (Marinetti 1909 (French))

We affirm that the world’s magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. … We will destroy the museums, libraries, academies of every kind, will fight moralism, feminism, every opportunistic or utilitarian cowardice. … It is from Italy that we launch through the world this violently upsetting incendiary manifesto of ours. With it, today, we establish Futurism, because we want to free this land from its smelly gangrene of professors, archaeologists, ciceroni, and antiquarians. (Marinetti 1973 (English): 21f)

Progress was given metaphorical expression by Walter Benjamin. A refugee at the time, Benjamin described progress as a disastrous storm from Paradise, a storm that creates ruins. In his final essay, “Über den Begriff der Geschichte” (“Theses on the Philosophy of History”), he commented on a picture by the artist Paul Klee called “Angelus Novus”:

Der Engel der Geschichte muß so aussehen. Er hat das Antlitz der Vergangenheit zugewendet. Wo eine Kette von Begebenheiten vor uns erscheint, da sieht er eine einzige Katastrophe, die unablässig Trümmer auf Trümmer häuft und sie ihm vor die Füße schleudert. Er möchte wohl verweilen, die Toten wecken und das Zerschlagene zusammenfügen. Aber ein Sturm weht vom Paradiese her, der sich in seinen Flügeln verfangen hat und so stark ist, daß der Engel sie nicht mehr schließen kann. Dieser Sturm treibt ihn unaufhaltsam in die Zukunft, der er den Rücken kehrt, während der Trümmerhaufen vor ihm zum Himmel wächst. Das, was wir den Fortschritt nennen, ist dieser Sturm. (Benjamin 1980 (German): 697f)

This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned towards the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress. (Benjamin 1970 (English): 259f)

Destruction was also of central importance to the economist Joseph A. Schumpeter, who developed the paradoxical concept of “creative destruction”. According to Schumpeter, industrial development is both creative and destructive. Innovations mean that old modes of production are laid waste (Schumpeter 1942: 81ff). Of necessity, progress thus leaves both ideas and buildings as ruins.

While the idea of progress is about development and improvements, the idea of decay is about liquidation and deterioration. The idea of decay places its utopia in the past, as a lost paradise, an idyllic Arcadia, a lost golden age, or a past period of greatness (Frängsmyr 1980; Lowenthal 1985: 23ff; 2015: 66ff). Previously, peace, happiness, and plenty reigned; now the rulers are war, disaster, and poverty. Once we lived in paradise, but we were expelled as in the Christian story of creation. Once, the region of Arcadia in Greece was a pristine idyll. Once, long ago, there was a golden age; but now we are seen as living in an Iron Age, as in ancient conceptions. Once the country was great and rich, but now it is diminished and poor, as in several national narratives. Once people lived in harmony with one another and with nature, but now the balance has been broken; or society and the climate are in crisis, as in the current debate.

There are several ways of applying a perspective of decay: the past can be admired with the eyes of Romanticism on ruins from Antiquity and the Middle Ages; people can use time travel to make their way back to the golden age in an escapist manner, the past serving as a nostalgic refuge, which is reconstructed and brought to life; the present can be brought back, along reactionary lines, to that magnificent state of things that was said to have existed once, before things got worse: “Make America Great Again!” There are attempts to recreate a belief, a policy, a territory, a position of power, or an organisation that has never existed in that way. The allegation of a crisis in the present and a nostalgic picture of the past pave the way for a reshaping of the present and the future.

The present can also be dismissed as decadent or in crisis, and with an added element of anxiety the future can be expected to be disastrous. The future then becomes a dystopia – an anti-utopia characterised by a breakdown of civilisation, famine, and either a nuclear winter or rising temperatures and floods. Where the Futurist wanted to pursue the speed of progress, survivalists or preppers want to prepare for the disaster by digging themselves into bunkers along with their supplies.

The relationship between progress and decay, between optimism and pessimism, has created its own genre, a genre that discusses the rise and fall of civilisations. The reason is that people who live in “civilisations” have been, and continue to be, fascinated by the development of other civilisations that have gone under. The genre covers everything from examinations of a single civilisation to global syntheses and prophetic statements about what is to be expected in the coming years. Several general theories of the development of civilisations have been formulated with phases of rise, stagnation, decline, and fall, paying attention to the importance of, for instance, religion, culture, the economy, the environment, values, and institutions (e.g. Kennedy 1987; Tainter 1988; Diamond 2005; Acemoglu & Robinson 2012).

How and why could once powerful civilisations collapse? Examples that have exerted fascination include Ancient Rome, the Maya in Central America, Angkor in Cambodia, the Norse settlements on Greenland, Easter Island, the British Empire, and the USSR. In our own time, there is a discussion about whether the US is entering a phase of decline and fall. Will China be the new superpower instead?

Ruins and wrecks are material icons of decline and decay. The sinking of the Atlantic steamer the Titanic in 1912 was a shock that called technological progress into question. The accident at the nuclear power station in Chernobyl in 1986 was a warning of the collapse of the USSR – after its collapse. And to the sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein, the collapse of the Twin Towers in New York after the attack in 2001 was an image of the decline of the US (Wallerstein 2003: 193ff, 198f, 202).

The genre of decay with its civilisation theories assumes that there is something that can be called civilised, in contrast to the uncivilised, savage, or barbarian. It also assumes that changes in civilisations can be described in stages of rise, stagnation, decline, and fall. Both these assumptions are dubious. Moreover, every period seems to be able to offer its own narrative as to why civilisations decayed and disappeared, its interpretation reflecting that which characterises the agenda of its own present: faith, culture, the economy, the climate, or the ability to change. Then criticism can be – and has, of course, been – levelled against the concrete interpretations (e.g. McAnany & Yoffee 2009).

Like the longing for a lost age or country, the genre of decay is an example of the use of the past to learn, to entertain, and also to reflect: Consider Forum Romanum (WHL 91ter, 1980, 1990, 2015), Chichén-Itza (WHL 483, 1988), Angkor (WHL 668, 1992), Hvalsey Church on Greenland, Rapa Nui/Easter Island’s “moai” (WHL 715, 1995)! Consider the UK! Consider the USSR! Consider the US! Consider what happened to the others! Consider and learn, so that we or you do not need to follow the same path! Or with malicious pleasure, be prepared for disaster! As a narrative, rise and fall can assume all the well-known forms – romance, tragedy, comedy, and satire.

The use of spolia in late Antiquity and the Middle Ages shows that there was an awareness about the past. Even so, ruins as fragmented buildings only became visible – and therefore depicted –  from the Italian Renaissance (Fabricius Hansen 1999: 146, 161ff). But the ruins had multiple meanings. On seeing the ruins of Rome in 1341, the poet Petrarch (Francesco Petrarca), the first to conceptualise a dark Middle Ages, thus thought of the greatness of Rome; conversely, on seeing the same sight in 1764, the historian Edward Gibbon, known for his theory of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, saw evidence of the decadence of Rome (Petrarca 1934: II, 93; Mommsen 1942: 232f; Gibbon 1966: 136 with note 7).

Where high speed and height are expressions of progress, stationary ruins have often been used as an icon of decay, impermanence, and death. Romanticism in the nineteenth century adored the ruins of Antiquity or the Middle Ages, which were reminders of the greatness of the past. Through their very existence, the ruins might encourage glorious deeds or humility (Roth et al. 1997; Woodward 2001; Eriksen 2014: 64ff).

The deindustrialisation of the West in recent decades has left a landscape of ruins that is speedily being redefined as heritage and becoming its own field of research – industrial heritage. The ruins of industrial society may be regarded as something unpleasant, disfiguring, and frightening that should simply be demolished, or as premises that provide possibilities of alternative activities – or as a heritage worthy of admiration, protection, and preservation.

The transformation of a factory into heritage and the reuse of premises with new functions such as arts centres, museums, offices, or housing have attracted attention in many studies, with World Heritage sites such as Ironbridge Gorge in England (WHL 371, 1986) and Zollverein in Germany (WHL 975, 2001) as already classic examples (e.g. Storm 2008; Willim 2008; also Alzén 1996). This is a narrative of the successful transition from the industrial to the post-industrial society – a narrative of success, in which defeat is transformed into victory.

Alternatively, abandoned and dilapidated concrete structures, factories, rusty machinery and cars, and statues are presented in numerous picture books, on websites, and in projects that are characterised by melancholy aesthetics, existential reflection, or criticism of the present time; urban decay places us at the edge of the abyss (e.g. Burström 2004; Edensor 2005; Burström et al. 2011; Jörnmark & Hausswolff 2011; Olsen & Pétrusdóttir 2014). One clear and early example here is Detroit in Michigan, an epicentre of the American dream, whose development from rise and expansion to decay and ruin has followed the cycles of car production (e.g.

Here the concrete remains of Benjamin’s “storm” and Schumpeter’s “creative destruction” are used as moral reminders of the failures of progress, of the impermanence of modernity and ideologies, and of the consequences of capitalism and neoliberalism. This field with its doom-laden book titles demonstrates a neo-Romantic fascination with decay which is quite as intense as the romantic notions about ruins that were rife in the nineteenth century. And at the heart of the field there is an ambiguous nostalgic exoticism, a fascination with a lost epoch and a “foreign country”, even though neither the nostalgia nor the exoticism is acknowledged.

Benjamin saw wreckage in the wake of the storm of progress. But all change can create ruins as a consequence of the creative destruction inherent in development. Ruins arose not only in the Reformation, the French Revolution, the industrial revolution, or the Chinese cultural revolution, but every time something has been replaced by something new. Existing expressions of ideas and technology change or are rejected, left behind, or destroyed when something new and – one hopes – better turns up. So progress and decay are inextricably linked, like two different narratives about the same shift.

Ruins are remains of the past which may be icons for both progress and decay. Ruins may be employed in the service of the true, the beautiful, and the good – of knowledge, narratives, and morality. They can be admired, feared, or despised. And paradoxically, ruins represent both dimensions of time: both change and permanence. Ruins are a consequence of constant change; but they are, at the same time, an expression of permanence; that is, something that has survived the renewal.

Abu Simbel is one such expression of the paradoxical duality of time. As temple ruins from the Egypt of the pharaohs, Abu Simbel was first made redundant by developments and forgotten in the sand dunes when dynasties fell and religious faiths changed. Later, though, it was rediscovered and drawn into a Western discourse about the Orient. Then, when the temples of Abu Simbel stood in the way of progress, their permanence was ensured through a radical change, a modernisation of heritage.

The faces of modernity

Words such as modern, modernisation, modernism, and modernity occur everywhere in narratives of human development. They deal with the triumph of progress, enlightenment, rationality, and science, the triumph of individualism, capitalism, urbanisation, industrialisation, and globalisation. But these narratives have been criticised for as long as they have been put forward, and their critics have stressed the dark and destructive reverse side of modernity – alienation, disenchantment, colonialism, genocide, environmental pollution, and climate change. And they are accounts that have been declared dead by postmodernists since the 1970s.

Essentially, modernity may be described as a grand narrative of origins and development, a narrative that is, like other narratives, intended to create meaning and identity in the present. Modernity is the narrative about what is seen as characterising the West, unlike other parts of the world, and the narrative about an epoch in the same way as the Middle Ages. Modernity thus creates a space in time that is thought to be marked by renewal. But open questions remain about what is central to modernity; how it should be defined as a period or in terms of geography; whether modernity is something favourable or unfavourable; and whether modernity ever existed in the first place.

Modernity has many faces. For on closer examination the grand narrative of modernity can be broken up into a number of smaller sub-narratives, each of which gives an account of the growth, impact, and consequences of modernity in a particular field. Depending on the perspective applied, different meanings – and hence varying durations – may be ascribed to modernity. Historians of ideas may stress the importance of science, school education, and religion; historians of technology will speak about the steam engine, railways, and electricity; physicists about the theories of relativity; sociologists about rationality, bureaucracy, and social acceleration; economists about the market economy; historians of architecture, art, literature, or music about experiments with form; human ecologists about the relationship between humans and nature; historians about historical thinking; and archaeologists about the use of tools and images.

In the Western history of ideas, modernity or the modern age is generally defined as beginning in the decades around 1800; that is, the period of the French Revolution and the subsequent Napoleonic Wars. In the work of the influential historian of ideas and philosopher Michel Foucault, we thus find a division between the classical and the modern epoch around 1800, but no explanations for the transition. In Les mots et les choses (English: The Order of Things), Foucault described a shift in which each epoch or episteme imposed limits on what could be thought and how. This shift meant that God was replaced by history as the interpretative framework, and the Church and the clergy were succeeded as the shepherding power by the State’s new control institutions, the police and the sciences (Foucault 1966 (French); 1971 (English)).

Modernity is also divided up into phases in order to bring out its origins and gradual development since the Renaissance. For instance, the literary historian Marshall Berman has divided modernity into three phases: from the beginning of the sixteenth century to around 1790; from around 1790 to around 1900; and the period after around 1900 (Berman 1982: 16f; cf. also Toulmin 1990).

The changing perspectives make modernity bewilderingly ambiguous both as a phenomenon and as an epoch. For some, modernity is thus something that made its appearance thousands of years ago; for others, it emerged some centuries ago. All epochs can have been modern, modernity can be a finished period in history, or modernity never existed.

Thus modernity has been used since the 1980s to define the emergence of Homo sapiens in the Palaeolithic Age; that is, to distinguish modern humans from previous species. Concepts such as “biological modernity” and “behavioural modernity” are used in this context (e.g. Klein 1989; Nowell 2010). Then the debate is about criteria, times, and places pertaining to the emergence of modern humans, but not about whether “modern” is a relevant designation.

Several commentators have undermined the idea of modernity as an epoch of its own. For example, the poet Charles Baudelaire wrote that there has been a modernity for painters of every period (Baudelaire 1863 (French); 1964 (English): 13). And Walter Benjamin described in Das Passagen-Werk (The Arcades Project) how every period has seen itself as being characterised by unique change and therefore believed that it was modern in its own way (Benjamin 1983 (German): II, 677; 1999 (English): 545). Here modernity is not a period, but a feeling and self-perception of living in a constant crisis caused by change.

When the philosopher Jean-François Lyotard launched the expression “the postmodern condition” in the eponymous book, it had a great impact on the debate in the 1980s and 1990s (Lyotard 1979 (French); 1984 (English); cf. Anderson 1998). Belief in progress and the modern project had expired. Postmodernity or postmodernism was thought to entail the demise of the grand narratives and therefore also the death of the narrative of modernity. Postmodern architecture, art, literature, and history evolved – as did postmodern archaeology, the latter under the name of post-processual archaeology.

One indication that modernity was dead – or was felt to be better dead, or was at least considered to be enfeebled – is that it began to turn up in museum-related and archaeological contexts as a phenomenon and period for critical study (e.g. Prior 2002; Thomas 2004; Ersgård 2007; Lihammer & Nordin 2010). Yet, at the same time, there is little talk about postmodernism or postmodernity these days. The terms have long since lost their news value, become unfashionable, and been filed away among all the other historical “isms”. Instead, modernity has experienced a renaissance in the debate.

A curiosity worth mentioning is that, in an often-quoted book about tourism, the landscape architect Dean MacCannell has surprisingly defined modernity as something that arises when industrialisation declines. MacCannell regards post-industrial society as modern – and musealised (MacCannell 1976: 36, 57f, 182). Here the term modernity is being used about what most scholars would call postmodernity.

Finally, the sociologist of science Bruno Latour claims in a book of the same name that Nous n’avons jamais été modernes (English: We Have Never Been Modern). For modernity is said never to have succeeded in achieving that which was supposed to be characteristic of it, namely the ability to distinguish between nature and culture, science and society, the non-human and the human, and things and signs (Latour 1991 (French); 1993 (English)).

Modernity’s narrative of the West has thus been challenged both from the inside and from the outside – from the inside as unwanted and from the outside by other competing narratives.

All that is solid melts

The word “modern” is not itself modern. The first occurrence of modernus in the sense of “new” or “newer” is in late Antiquity, in the writings of the prefect and author Flavius Cassiodorus in the sixth century CE, in a period that reused material spolia from Antiquity in new buildings (Le Goff 1988 (French): 68f; 1992 (English): 27; Fabricius Hansen 2003: 228f). The word “modern” is used rhetorically to stress the new at the expense of the old. The modern distinguishes past from present and introduces a movement forward, a progress. And the concept “modernity” in the sense of “the present” occurs in the early Enlightenment in seventeenth-century England (OED: IX, 947ff; Calinescu 1987: 41ff).

With the idea of progress in the nineteenth century, “modernity” is transformed into a term for the new society that emerges, either as a reality already in existence or as a future utopia, desirable or (often) undesirable. In the essay “Le Peintre de la vie moderne” (“The Painter of Modern Life”), Charles Baudelaire thus characterised modernity as the fleeting and the transient, something that is continually transforming itself, the opposite of the eternal and immovable (Baudelaire 1863 (French); 1964 (English); cf. Calinescu 1987: 41ff; Boym 2001: 19ff). For Baudelaire, modernity was that which was typical of the time and which changes – the opposite of that which endures.

Diagnoses of the present often appear in the debate. New terms are used not only to describe the present, but also to set an agenda and thereby to influence both the present and the future. Since the 1980s, sociologists, and also anthropologists and historians, in Germany, the UK, and France have launched new concepts in order to designate and analyse the state of the world. Modernity is again central; but something new has been added to mark what is typical of the period.

Ulrich Beck described his present as a “risk society” that was entering a “second modernity”. New dangers and risks required reflection, and Beck therefore formulated the concept of “reflexive modernity” (Beck 1986 (German); 1992 (English)). Anthony Giddens stresses similar themes such as security, danger, trust, and risk; but he describes the period as “radicalised” or “late modernity” (Giddens 1990). Zygmunt Bauman took the view that the present was insecure, did not permit consolidation, and therefore required flexibility. Bauman used the term “liquid modernity” (Bauman 2000; 2007).

Marc Augé has used the term “surmodernité” (English: “supermodernity”) in an examination of what he sees as non-places. These non-places are said to be characterised by movement or travel, examples being airports, bus terminals, hotels, and motorways (Augé 1992 (French); 1995 (English)). Gilles Lipovetsky uses the terms “hypermodern” and “ultra-modern” instead. His view is that the present is characterised by a focus on the now, on movement, changeability, flexibility, greater acceleration, and uncertainty. The past is mobilised as a reaction, with its museums, traditions, heritage, and religious and ethnic identities (Lipovetsky 2004 (French); 2005 (English)).

Speed and acceleration are also central to the work of Hartmut Rosa, who claims that the modernity of the present is characterised by a social and technological acceleration that creates devastation and alienation. This acceleration is described as pathological and totalitarian. Rosa perceives a rising tempo over time from pre-modernity and early modernity via classical modernity to the present late modernity (Rosa 2005 (German); 2012 (German); 2013 (English)).

A specific theme runs through the debate on modernity: it is the importance and consequences of speed. This theme is common to both those who confirm modernity and those who reject it. The theme runs from the nineteenth-century critics of modernity via the twentieth-century Futurists to present-day diagnoses. Where Baudelaire writes about the fleeting and the transient as well as about constant transformation, Beck, Giddens, Bauman, Augé, Lipovetsky, and Rosa have all regarded the present as being characterised by speed and flexibility, two phenomena that transform people and society, nature and culture. For them, then, there is more modernity around these days than ever before.

Speed and its consequences have attracted attention as a social problem and become a separate field of research (e.g. Virilio 1977 (French); 1986 (English); cf. Sokal & Bricmont 1998: 159ff; Tomlinson 2007). And a whole genre of literature has sprung up to describe and reflect on the acceleration of time (e.g. Gleick 1999; Hylland Eriksen 2001). This genre may encourage opposition to the tyranny of time, advise individuals about strategies for economising their time, or present slowness and the unchanging as a virtue. Global anthropogenic changes are now so extensive that they have named a new geological period after humanity – the Anthropocene – a concept that dissolves the boundary between nature and culture (e.g. Hylland Eriksen 2016; Sörlin 2017).

All the sociologists, anthropologists, and historians who describe and analyse the state of the present in the decades around 2000 are critical of modernity. They generally stress the unfavourable consequences of modernity; here the current debate is part of a long tradition of criticism of the present. Transience, acceleration, and the Anthropocene may be a reality; but there is an unmistakably nostalgic tone in the descriptions of modernity ever since the mid-nineteenth century. In earlier times, the present must have been slower, less mobile, fixed. Benjamin’s words about the way in which different periods regard themselves as standing at the abyss come back to mind.

It is necessary to have the right diagnosis of the present; but this is not sufficient to understand, explain, and possibly also influence developments. That also requires a theoretical model for the ways in which different phenomena may be interconnected.

Irrespective of how we choose to describe the present, it is apparently characterised by movement and greater speed. The present is modern, and more modern than ever before. The Manifesto of Futurism with its worship of speed, a controversial utopia a century ago, has now become a reality to confirm or regret. Greater speed is a fact that is easy to prove empirically, especially with the aid of information technology. But why transience and acceleration? Several attempts to understand and explain transience and acceleration point to the market economy, which drives developments in the direction of constantly higher speed, efficiency, and profit maximisation.

A few years before Baudelaire’s romantic description of the transience of the present, the philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote about the consequences of modern industrial production in Manifest der kommunistichen Partei (English: The Communist Manifesto): “Alles Ständische und Stehende verdampft, alles Heilige wird entweiht” (1848: 5; English: “All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned”, 1964: 63). This quotation was used as the title of Marshall Berman’s examination of the literature of modernity, All That is Solid Melts into Air (1982).

Modernity and the market economy, as well as a phenomenon such as World Heritage with its international convention, are easy to associate with globalisation – that is, how countries are interconnected in economic, cultural, and political terms. But globalisation itself is not a modern phenomenon (e.g. Frank & Gills 1993; Andrén 2011).

Concepts such as progress, modernity, the West, and capitalism are linked up in world-systems theory. The idea of a global system was developed by Immanuel Wallerstein in the trilogy The Modern World-System (1974–1989). Wallerstein described an economic development in which centres, with capital accumulation and production, were surrounded by a dependent semi-periphery and periphery both of which supplied raw materials. He regarded historical development as being characterised by cyclical periods in which centres have succeeded one another according to a set deterministic pattern. As a result of competition and rising costs, production – and therefore capital accumulation – moves to new rising centres while the old ones decline or collapse. Capital is decentralised and production moved, so there is a deindustrialisation of the previously dominant centres. In his view, the historical process of changing world-systems can be observed in successive empires and hegemonies since the sixteenth century: Spain, the Netherlands, the UK, and the US.

Inspired by and in opposition to Wallerstein, the social anthropologist Jonathan Friedman has developed a more general model of world-systems, a model that includes the dichotomy modernity versus tradition. This model has been extended backwards in time in order to explain developments since the Bronze Age or even earlier. Friedman’s global model is presented in detail in the anthology Cultural Identity and Global Process (Friedman 1994).

According to Friedman, modernity can be linked to the rise and culmination of the centres, whereas postmodernity and tradition are seen as characterising their decline. As the Western, that is to say American, hegemony over the world economy decreased from the mid-1970s onwards, belief in progress and modernity ceased. When the hegemony decayed, modernity – which was the central identity of the hegemony – “imploded”. A West in economic and political decline instead saw the spread of disorder, postmodern relativism and fragmentation, ethnification, and traditionalism. Dehegemonisation meant dehomogenisation. And traditionalism signified a nostalgic yearning for roots. To quote Friedman, “Modernity moves East, leaving postmodernity in its wake” (Friedman 1994: 15ff, 37ff, 190 quote; 1995; 2005; 2007).

But Friedman’s world-systems and view of cycles in the relationship between rise and decline, modernity and tradition, cannot be taken on board without scepticism. For it is remarkable that the nineteenth-century belief in progress and industrial expansion coincided with historicised architecture, the establishment of museums, and a reappearance of traditions. The relationship between modernity and tradition is not a simple dichotomy.

Between modernity and tradition

“You can be a museum, or you can be modern, but you can’t be both” (Mellow 1968). The author and art collector Gertrude Stein succinctly formulated a contrast between the modern and the museum. The original context is uncertain; but the words were said either as a critical comment on MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art, in Manhattan in New York, which wanted to take over her collection, or as a justification for why Pablo Picasso’s portrait of her went to the nearby Met, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, instead. But are modernity and the museum really mutually exclusive?

Perhaps Stein was inspired by the sociologist Lewis Mumford, who formulated a similar contrast between the modern and the monument: “The notion of a modern monument is veritable [sic] a contradiction in terms: if it is a monument, it is not modern, and if it is modern, it cannot be a monument” (Mumford 1938: 438).

On the one side stands modernity with its connotations of future, speed, and acceleration; on the other side stand the museum and the monument with their associations to the past, slowness, and stasis. These opposites also occur in criticism of modern society: on the one side, we find the alienation resulting from capitalism, the rational society with great cities characterised by speed, a lack of rules, rootlessness, and disenchantment, whereas the other side shows us the lost intimacy, community, and enchantment of feudalism, and small towns characterised by slowness, rules, and roots. The contrasts go back to the division of time into change and permanence; but here they are subsumed in nostalgic narratives about how things were better in the old days. The renewals of modernity are critically contrasted with the traditions of the old society. Changes in time are contrasted with the permanence of time.

Crisis theories also contain a patent opposition between modernity and various expressions of the non-modern. Either they interpret the museum, the monument, preservation, in fact the whole heritage sector, including archaeology, as a compensatory and therapeutic reaction to modernity; or they interpret the museum, the monument, preservation, and the heritage sector, including archaeology, as a compensatory and therapeutic reaction to the decline of modernity. In both instances, a dichotomy between modernity and non-modernity is a core premise for the interpretation of developments.

Like the Ritter School, the first, canonical, culture of heritage works towards a compromise, pursuing a balance between renewal and preservation. The second, critical, culture of heritage lines up, in its more extreme forms, with revolutionaries, Futurists, and entrepreneurs in giving the renewal of modernity priority ahead of preservation. Indeed, heritage is an obstacle that has to be confronted and, if possible, overcome. But both cultures presuppose an opposition between modernity and tradition, just as they both presuppose that modernity always means change and tradition always means permanence.

Critics of modernity have usually stressed that modernity is (or was) illogical, inconsistent, and contradictory (e.g. Compagnon 1990 (French); 1994 (English); Latour 1991 (French): 84ff; 1993 (English): 55ff; Thomas 2004: 42ff). Modernity claims one thing, but does the opposite. Modernity is guided by historicism; the idea of progress is followed by a reappearance of the past. The utopia of modernity is built like a medieval cathedral (cf. Källström 2000).

Several scholars have found it odd that modernity, of all things, has been so focused on the past. For instance, the ethnologist Agneta Lilja views modernity’s remarkable interest in tradition as a “paradox of modernity” (Lilja 1996: 37). And the archaeologist Cornelius Holtorf finds it ironic that modernism is so obsessed with preserving the past unchanged (Holtorf 2006: 102).

But there does not need to be an opposition between modernity on the one hand and history, memory, and heritage, museums, monuments or traditions on the other. These spheres, with their concepts, are entangled in one another. Modernity can include the apparently non-modern or even anti-modern. It depends on how concepts and phenomena are defined – or not defined, being kept ambiguously open.

When modernity and the museum, modernisation and musealisation, are often set up as mutually contradictory, this is due to our images of modernity as an expression of speed and change – and the museum as an expression of, or the very emblem of, slowness and immutability. On the one hand, urban bustle, density, and clamour; on the other, the peace, space, and quiet of the museum. But it can also be the other way round, depending on the point in time, the place, and – not least – what exhibition is being visited. When posters announce blockbusters such as Monet, Van Gogh, or Picasso – or Tutankhamun – the museum and its exhibition are indisputably part of hectic urban modernity.

On the face of it, the concept of the museum, from the Greek word museion meaning “temple”, does not contain anything that conflicts with modernity. Museums are built using the architecture current in their time. Walter Benjamin thus described the museum as the dream architecture of his time (Benjamin 1983 (German), 1: 511ff; 1999 (English): 407ff). Nor does the museum as an institution, with its different definitions and practices as a place for collections and exhibitions, exclude the modern. The museum is filled with objects that are not only relics from a lost world but also represent a modern present. Modern art came into museums when modernism was alive, even during Stein’s lifetime. Museums were founded early on specifically to collect and show the new – an example being MoMA, which opened in 1929 (, and Moderna Museet in Stockholm from 1958 ( And now that modernism has long been a canonised part of the history of art, the modern has also become a central part of the collections and exhibitions of most art museums.

Museologists and archaeologists have maintained that modernity is a necessary precondition for the museum as an institution and for archaeology as a discipline – indeed for the whole of rational science. Inspired by Michel Foucault, they describe the museum as an institution that disciplines knowledge, just as prisons, hospitals, factories, and schools are said to discipline people (e.g. Hooper-Greenhill 1992; Olsen & Svestad 1994; Bennett 1995: 95f; Svestad 1995; Prior 2002; Thomas 2004: 52ff). Donald Horne also linked the museum to modern society, but without comparing it to a prison. To him, a tourist visit to a museum – with its timetable, planned route, and focus on the material – reflected the values of industrial society (Horne 1984: 115f).

In line with Foucault’s thought, the archaeologists Bjørnar Olsen and Asgeir Svestad interpreted the foundation of the Old Nordic Museum in Copenhagen, and the establishment of archaeology as a practice and a discipline in the course of the nineteenth century, as an opportunity that opened with the breakdown of the classical episteme. They regard the breakdown of the classical episteme in around 1800, with its Genesis narrative and biblical chronology, as meaning that the past was transformed into a fog or darkness which the museum and archaeology, with their ancient objects, could fill with new knowledge. The “modern episteme” with its focus on origins and change thus enabled the growth of museums and archaeology (Olsen & Svestad 1994; Svestad 1995).

Modernity and archaeology are entangled in each other. However, archaeology as excavation and studies of the past existed long before the modern era. But the background of the development of archaeology as an academic discipline is the opening of prehistory; that is, a period before the history of texts. Archaeology uses modern technologies in its methods. Field archaeology is in itself a form of engineering to ensure the expansion of modern society (cf. Rosén 2007). And now, in the twenty-first century, modernity has become a field of research for archaeologists to explore (e.g. Ersgård 2007; Lihammer & Nordin 2010; Anthony 2016).

In principle, this argument may be repeated for monuments, as there is not necessarily any conflict between modernity and monuments. Monuments have all once been “modern” in the sense of “new”; they may be designed in a modern style, and they may serve as reminders not only of something in the past, but also of phenomena in the present or even the future. Temporary monuments may celebrate modern speed, as at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, held in the UK since 1993 ( And monuments can be (re)created using modern light, as has happened at the World Trade Center in Manhattan, New York, and with the Buddha statues in Bamiyan in Afghanistan, which were both destroyed in 2001 (cf. Melotti 2011: 121ff, 134ff). “Tribute in Light” using searchlights pointing up into the sky is thus intended as an annual commemoration of the terror attack on the Twin Towers on 11 September 2001 (; and the lost Buddha statues were recreated for a short time in a 3D light projection in 2015 (

Modernity and tradition are often presented as a contrast. Modernity may afford associations to capitalism, industrialism, urbanisation, movement, and change, while tradition may carry connotations of feudalism, crafts, rural areas, and stasis. Tradition refers to what survives from one generation to the next, to inheritance, security, repetition, and continuity; to that which endures. In crisis theories, tradition is a reaction to modernity. Conversely, too much tradition can also have a restrictive effect and bring about a need for renewal, for modernity. But modernity and tradition are not mutually contradictory or complementary in the sense of both necessary and incompatible. Innumerable threads run between modernity and tradition, linking them. The concepts are therefore inextricably entangled. Paradoxically, too, tradition can be a modern construction.

The idea that tradition is part of modernity was the influential thesis advocated by the historian Eric Hobsbawm. In his introduction to the collected volume The Invention of Tradition, Hobsbawm argued that new symbolic rituals intended to show continuity with the past are particularly apt to be established when rapid change in society weakens or destroys social patterns. Traditions are presented as being extremely old; but they are modern, and they may even be part of modernisation itself (Hobsbawm & Ranger 1983: 1ff; Prickett 2009).

One often cited, albeit contested, example from Hobsbawm’s anthology is the kilt, an icon for the Scottish and Highland clans. The kilt is said to be an innovation from around 1730 by an English manufacturer (Trevor-Roper 1983). Another example is ceremonies in the British Royal Family that are intended as evidence of consensus, stability, and community even though – or just because – society is undergoing powerful change; many of these ceremonies were in fact invented in the period between the 1870s and the First World War (Cannadine 1983).

Since the publication of The Invention of Tradition, the view that not only traditions but also museums and heritage are part of modernity has had a great impact in the cultural and social sciences. Modernity is said to have created traditions, museums, and heritage in a way that had never existed before. Similarly, urbanisation is said to have led to a new perception of rural areas, industrialisation to a new image of pre-industrial society, and literacy to an interest in oral culture. At the same time, complex society is said to have created a primitive counter-image and civilisation to have defined its own boundaries in relation to barbarity (e.g. Kuper 1988; Malina & Vasícek 1990: 218; Bausinger 1991; Eriksen 1993; Giddens 1999). So the central point is not the opposition, but the connections between modernity and a number of other phenomena.

However, modernity is not only many-faced and transient; it also has weight like a black hole. For modernity swallows other grand narratives or phenomena such as capitalism, industrialism, urbanisation, and secularisation – just as it swallows criticism and compensation. Paradoxically, then, reactions to modernity may themselves also be modern – museums, monuments, archaeology, traditions, and heritage. The core premise of crisis theories, the notion of a dichotomy between modernity and a number of nostalgic or therapeutic reactions, turns out to be false. Both Stein and Mumford were wrong when they contrasted the museum and the monument with the modern. Without a contrast, the paradox of modernity dissolves. The characterisation of modernity as ironic is mistaken as well.

Returning to the debate about heritage, it is possible to uncover a political and history-of-ideas context for the two cultures of heritage and to systematise different individuals and their positions. There are those who confirm modernity, those who want to see modernity, those who accept it because they must, and those who reject it. These positions may, if one so wishes, be discussed in relation to a political scale.

We meet eager modernists verging on Futurism in the shape of Pierre Boulez, who was all for destroying the past in order to move forward (Boulez 1976: 33), and of Cornelius Holtorf, who uses varying arguments and examples to advance the thesis that remains from the past do not need to be preserved and may instead be consumed, renewed, or replaced (e.g. Holtorf 2005: 130ff; 2006; 2018).

Several scholars have given vent to a feeling that modernity has been lost and that this is a thing to be regretted. In doing so, they have indicated where their sympathies lie. Agnes Heller, for instance, argued that Europe has abandoned its true identity, which she saw as progress and modernity (Heller 1988: 155). Robert Hewison wanted to see real industry doing real work (Hewison 1987). Patrick Wright wanted developments to be orientated towards the future (Wright 1985), and Frank Füredi claimed that the crises of modernity had resulted in stagnation, pessimism, and emptiness (Füredi 1992).

The Ritter School, with Joachim Ritter, Herman Lübbe, and Odo Marquard, noted the unfavourable consequences of progress and modernity, but accepted this development as a fact or a necessary evil (cf. Ritter 1961; Lübbe 1982; 1983; 1996; Marquard 1986; 2000). They perceived a task for the humanities, history, memory, and heritage in warding off the worst consequences of progress and modernity and trying to save what could be saved for the future.

Many have seen the unfavourable aspects of modernity and turned away from it, some by adopting postmodernity when it appeared. Norman W. Brown thought that his own present was in a state of sickness on account of civilisation, money, urbanisation, and capitalism (Brown 1959: 234ff). Claude Lévi-Strauss took the view that modern society creates social classes and human exploitation (Lévi-Strauss 1966: 121f). Fred Davis described modern society as characterised by discontinuity and problems (Davis 1979: 97ff). Donald Horne took the view that modernity had caused a crisis (Horne 1984: 21ff). Andreas Huyssen criticised the media and described his present as chaotic, fragmentary, and free-floating (Huyssen 1995: 25ff). And considering Françoise Choay’s vigorous condemnation of the electronic technology of our time, she can be classified as an anti-modernist and a neo-Luddite (cf. Choay 1992 (French): 187ff; 2001 (English): 164ff).

Once more, David Lowenthal makes up a category of his own. Lowenthal concluded that modernity was succeeded by postmodernity and regarded both with irony and criticism. If Lowenthal’s view of the “isms” is unclear, he was all the clearer in his assessment of the present, which he described as being characterised by traumatic losses and changes and by fear of the future (Lowenthal 1985: 8ff, 394ff; 1997: 1, 5ff; 2015: 31ff, 413ff).

However, Laurent Olivier is, if possible, even more dystopic. Olivier sees the wreck of the Age of Enlightenment since the twentieth century in a series of disasters – the two world wars, the Holocaust, Hamburg, Hiroshima, Chernobyl, the World Trade Center. With references to Benjamin, Heidegger, and Adorno, he looks on the industrialisation of war, the mass production of goods by machines, and the crisis for European civilisation; and he concludes: “There is no Future” (Olivier 2008 (French): 119ff, quotation 120; 2011 (English): 75ff, quotation 76).

To sum up, the canonical tradition of heritage may be positioned close to the Ritter School’s conservatism or liberal pragmatism, whereas the critical tradition of heritage spreads to both sides – to the right and, especially, to the left on a traditional political scale.

But modernity is so controversial as a concept and phenomenon that a debate easily runs aground. On the one extreme wing are modernists, revolutionaries, and Futurists, who need the past with its museums, monuments, ancient monuments, traditions, and heritage as a rhetorical counter-image. On the other extreme wing are the opponents of modernity, anti-modernists, reactionaries, and nostalgists, who have a rhetorical urge to defame progress, the present, and utopias. On the one side is the first culture of heritage, where modernity is seen as a threat that must be averted or balanced. On the other side of the gap is the second culture of heritage, in which remains of the past and antiquarian institutions are perceived as a threat.

The disputed position of modernity leads to scepticism when phenomena such as museums, monuments, ancient remains, traditions, and heritage apparently change sides, when they become part of the modern. Despite its many opponents, modernity continues to have a positive ring to it. Does the change of sides represent a new insight about the greater range of modernity? Or is it rather an attempt to win sympathy for something that risks being left behind as ruins after the storm of progress? To make sure that the whole field of history, memory, and heritage is not left behind as something that belongs in a museum, but is also part of the narrative of progress and the future? To make a virtue of necessity? The past must become modern to have a chance. So the past has always been modern.

If, however, modernity is not in conflict with history, memory, and heritage – in conflict with museums, monuments, archaeology, traditions, and nostalgia – then the relationship between modernity and World Heritage may be more complicated than first assumed. Modernity, with the Aswan High Dam and the need for electricity, was initially seen as a threat to the ancient temples of Abu Simbel. Clearly, then, things are not necessarily that simple.

The opponents of modernity

The film Modern Times by Charlie Chaplin, who was both director and actor, depicts the US of the 1930s (Chaplin 1936 film). It associates the modern with industrial society, with that society’s increasing speed at factory assembly lines, and with unemployment and social unrest. The film communicated a criticism of modernity that was typical of its time, but it did so in a humorous way.

For as long as modernity has been around, it has been fashionable to be critical of it; anti-modern people have always been modern. That massive criticism has been levelled against modernity itself as well as against a number of phenomena interwoven with it – progress, enlightenment, technology, industrialisation, capitalism, urbanisation, and secularisation. This criticism can be defiantly offensive or melancholically resigned. At best, it may contribute additional perspectives on what modernity has been, is, or ought to be. At worst, though, it may contribute to creating pessimistic myths about modernity, myths that liquidate human hope (cf. Tallis 1997).

Consequently, Romanticism and historicism in the nineteenth century may be interpreted as a reaction against the Enlightenment and the radical new elements of belief, science, art, and politics that culminated in the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the subsequent Napoleonic Wars. In Europe, what was modern at that time was opposed both by the melancholy contemplation of ruins, along with backward-looking architecture, and by a political reaction that reasserted the Church and the authority of the monarchy.

When Charles Baudelaire insightfully characterised modernity as the fleeting and the transient, something that is continually transforming itself, as the change of time, this was a view formulated precisely by a melancholy and nostalgic Romantic (Baudelaire 1863 (French); 1964 (English)). And despite differences, Baudelaire was completely in line with other social critics in his time in this respect.

Modernity, with its changing significance, has been criticised for leading to loss of meaning and alienation, to social and spiritual poverty, and to the disintegration of communities. We meet this criticism first in the UK, Germany, France, and the US, and then in Scandinavia – that is, in countries where industrialisation roared forward in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The critics are philosophers such as Karl Marx, Walter Benjamin, Max Horkheimer, Theodor W. Adorno, Martin Heidegger, and Georg Henrik von Wright, sociologists such as Ferdinand Tönnies, Émile Durkheim, Georg Simmel, Max Weber, Zygmunt Bauman, and Hartmut Rosa, and the human ecologist Alf Hornborg. This array is then joined by the philosophers Joachim Ritter, Odo Marquard, and Hermann Lübbe, the historian and geographer David Lowenthal, the historian Françoise Choay, and the literary historian Andreas Huyssen. These names represent widely different personalities, perspectives, and positions, everything from left to right on the political scale, and everything from analysis to agitation; still, these critics are united in a deep distrust of modernity in their own present.

In philosophy and sociology, several now classic concepts and perspectives are reused – and some new ones minted – in order to characterise the unfortunate consequences of modernity or phenomena linked to modernity: the concept of alienation (German Entfremdung) was used by Karl Marx in his “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts” of 1844 to describe the consequences of capitalism for workers in relation to their work, other people, and nature (Marx 1968 (German); 1975 (English)). Ferdinand Tönnies described the development from the pre-modern community (German Gemeinschaft) characterised by the family to the modern, rational society (German Gesellschaft) (Tönnies 1887 (German); 2001 (English)). Émile Durkheim used the concept “anomie”, the absence of norms, that could arise in both economic growth and decline. Great social changes and imbalances cause a crisis in society, leading to more suicides (Durkheim 1897 (French); 1951 (English)). Later, Georg Simmel described how people in the modern metropolis were affected by the division of labour and the money economy. While life in small towns was slow and characterised by personal contacts, the metropolis was characterised by continuous rapid transformations and impersonal contacts. Rootlessness threatened in the metropolis (Simmel 1903 (German); 1950 (English)). Max Weber employed the concept Entzauberung (“disenchantment”) in his lecture “Wissenschaft als Beruf” (“Science as Vocation”), delivered to German students in Munich in 1917. The science of the West, with its intellectualisation and rationalisation, meant a disenchantment and secularisation of the world that weakened the magic, mystic, and religious (Weber 1922 (German): 554; 1991 (English): 155). And in the 1940s, Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno formulated the concept of the culture industry (German Kulturindustrie) as part of their criticism of modern mass society and its entertainment industry (Horkheimer & Adorno 1947 (German): 144ff; 2002 (English): 94ff; Adorno 1967 (German); 1979 (English)).

Walter Benjamin’s image of progress as a storm was meant in a derogatory sense. The angel of history, Angelus Novus, saw a disastrous storm that created ruins on its way from Paradise (Benjamin 1970 (English): 259f; 1980 (German): 687f). And Benjamin associated modernity with standing at an abyss and with a chronic crisis (Benjamin 1983 (German): II, 677; 1999 (English): 545), which is not remarkable, given his own vulnerable situation as a refugee.

Zygmunt Bauman formulated a weighty but controversial critique of modernity in Modernity and the Holocaust (1989). Here, Bauman related modernity to the European trauma, the Holocaust genocide that culminated in the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex (WHL 31, 1979). According to Bauman, the technology and rationality of modernity, its science and bureaucracy, were prerequisites for implementing a genocide on an industrial scale (also Horkheimer & Adorno 1947 (German): 235ff; 2002 (English): 165ff). In his view, then, the Holocaust represented yet another face of modernity.

However, Bauman failed to recognise the irrationality of Nazism and how, for the most part, the Holocaust was not in fact implemented rationally or industrially, even at Auschwitz, but constituted a mass murder by traditional means in a society marked by political and administrative anarchy (cf. Snyder 2015; Cannon 2016).

An environmentalist line of thought that is critical of technology can be mapped from the late eighteenth century up to present-day notions about sustainable development. This is a line whose advocates have wanted to see progress and growth, but insisted they should not have unfortunate consequences.

Actual attacks on the new technology manifested themselves in early industrialism in England, where new textile machines were seen as a threat to the old crafts. In the 1810s, Luddites – named after their fictional leader Ned Ludd – thus sabotaged textile machines and factories in violent actions, threatening the lives of the owners if they offered resistance (Jones 2006).

A more abstract critique of technology was advanced by Martin Heidegger. In his essay “Die Frage nach der Technik” (“The Question Concerning Technology”), Heidegger asserts – once again in obscure words – that technology and its essence might be a threat to human beings’ pursuit of truth (Heidegger 1954 (German); 1977 (English)).

In recent decades, progress and modernity, with the utopia of boundless growth, have been criticised from many directions as being responsible for destruction of the environment and as a cause of global climate change. Georg Henrik von Wright became a leading figure of the environmentally critical movement against progress and economic growth with his Myten om framsteget “The Myth of Progress”. He described progress as a myth that would not survive the crisis of modernity in his present. Von Wright was critical of human beings’ unrestrained search for knowledge, critical of the ability of natural science and technology to solve the problems they themselves create, critical of growing quantification, and critical of the distortion of traditional patterns of life by industrialisation and what he called quasi-democracy. Instead, von Wright praised the classic modernity of the eighteenth century, the Age of Enlightenment, and the pre-industrial age, when, in his view, technology was useful and sensible (Wright 1993).

Most recently, Alf Hornborg has criticised the central element of progress, modernity, and industrialisation, namely the machine, which he regards as a fetish. According to Hornborg, the idea that machines save time is a myth. What machines actually do is redistribute resources, human time and labour, from the periphery to the centre of the economic world system. Hornborg also claims that industrialisation as we know it in the West is coming to an end. For industrialisation builds on oil and other fossil fuels, and the supply of oil is supposed to have peaked already. And in his view, a transition to other, more sustainable, forms of energy is not realistic (e.g. Hornborg 2001; 2010).

Clearly, then, an enormous importance has been ascribed to modernity as a global force that has reshaped human beings, nature, culture, and society. For there appears to be no end to all the things that modernity is thought to have caused. Masses of phenomena and “isms” have been viewed either as a consequence of or as a reaction to modernity: unemployment, social unrest, alienation, anxiety, stress, secularisation, disenchantment, fascism, Nazism, Islamism, the Holocaust, totalitarianism, fundamentalism, terrorism, environmental pollution, and climate change. It looks as if everything bad or wicked in the world is projected onto modernity. Moreover, Romanticism, nostalgia, modernism, and postmodernism are believed to form a reaction to modernity, as are history, memory, and heritage. Modernity with its many faces must apparently bear the responsibility for both the bad and the good in a development in which each time and place has its own needs, traumas, and crises. Modernity is made a scapegoat for whatever breeds discontent in life.

Indirectly, the criticism recapitulated above outlines a picture of human beings, nature, culture, and society before modernity. Pre-modernity was apparently a golden age characterised by usefulness, reason, employment, order, closeness, community, security, balance, sufficient time, belief, and mystery. There was no fascism or Nazism, no Holocaust and no totalitarianism, fundamentalism, terrorism, environmental pollution, or climate change. Judging by the criticism, the arrival of modernity must therefore have meant an epoch-making break with the past – or, more poetically, a brutal expulsion from Paradise. Things were better in the old days!

Pre-modernity is constructed as a lost paradise or a lost “foreign country”. The criticism is clearly a nostalgic reaction which may be counted among modernity’s numerous other consequences and counter-reactions. But the question now is whether the criticism of modernity, with its consequences and counter-reactions, has not itself been absorbed by modernity and come to be part of it?

In Modern Times, Chaplin made use of a modern mass medium, film, to ridicule modern society. Chaplin made use of the very cultural industry centred on Hollywood that Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno rejected, even though they lived in Pacific Palisades, just a half-hour trip by car from the Hollywood they criticised. But paradoxically, Chaplin’s Modern Times was unmodern in that it was Hollywood’s last great silent film, speech only appearing in carefully selected sections. Modern and unmodern technology were thus freely united in Modern Times and its entertaining criticism of modernity.

Enlightened modernity

Modernity has many faces. Modernity is something that began thousands of years ago, or a couple of centuries ago; or it is something that has not yet happened. Modernity is something that is over and done with, something that is still ongoing, or something waiting to happen in the future. Modernity can mean one thing and then another, depending on the perspective applied. To deepen the confusion, the concepts modern, modernisation, modernism, and modernity are often used randomly without clear distinctions. Moreover, modernity is linked with emphatic opinions as being either a good thing that should be promoted or something bad that we ought to reject. Modernity is thus both an ambiguous and a contested concept.

In linguistic terms the concept of modernity has to do with renewal, with modernising, and it is not restricted to a given field or a certain period or part of the world. Modernity is closely related to progress, which is generally to do with improvement through change, by doing something new. Only human ingenuity and the resources available set limits for what can be renewed and improved. The metaphorical openness of modernity in terms of both its characteristics and its consequences is hence something we must accept. Modernity is characterised by transience; and it is itself a transient concept which escapes definition.

The goal of renewal or modernisation is modernity. But as a goal in constant movement, modernity remains a utopia, because there is always something that can be modernised, either for the first time or once again. The goal is constantly being moved forward. It is possible to strive for new goals, new utopias. In this sense, to be modern is to be constantly on the way to a new time and a new place.

Modernity has been put to use and given a central role in the narrative of the West and progress. This is a basic narrative about the origins and development of human beings and of society, a story whose details may vary as required. Each field can contribute its own small part of the grand narrative. The pluralism of perspectives creates a common, but somewhat blurred, picture of modernity. Agreement may be reached both on this and that being expressions of modernity, even though, strictly speaking, the views in question are internally opposed. Modernity as a diffuse concept that is, on closer examination, often found to be full of contradictions helps enable different groups to nevertheless agree on a common way forward.

As in many other situations, the purpose of the narrative is to contribute to social cohesion. With its knowledge, form, and reflection, the narrative creates identity. The narrative is about who we are, where we come from, and where we are going. The narrative of modernity creates meaning and identity in an always chaotic present. It can be used to impose a meaning-creating structure both on the past and on the present and the future. But the “we” of identity presupposes the existence of “the others”. Hence the narrative of modernity is both inclusive and exclusive.

Modernity is part of the grand narrative of the development of the West, “the West” being another ambiguous concept. Originating in the Latin word for sunset, occidens, as opposed to sunrise, oriens, “the West” has, in practice, come to mean Europe and North America with their allies, countries seen as having market economies, representative democracy, and civil rights and freedoms. Despite all the differences – and there are many – it is felt that there are some common features that differentiate the West today from earlier periods, or differentiate the West from other areas. So modernity excludes both what happened in earlier times and those “others” who are held to not yet have attained modernity. But modernity as a narrative can, in principle, be all-inclusive, even though it is generally only about a selected part of humanity: the West.

In principle, modernity stands for an apparently innocent endeavour to improve the world. But the occasionally favourable but mostly unfavourable upshot is that modernity has landed in an infected debate about the unfortunate aspects of progress, the Enlightenment, technology, industrialisation, capitalism, urbanisation, and secularisation. In the West’s criticism of itself – and in others’ criticism of the West – the narrative of modernity has become a tragedy. Here the criticism forgets that modernity has many faces that complement one another.

Just like the Enlightenment, modernity has both a “hard” and a “soft” side (cf. Liedman 1997: 26ff) – or it displays two cultures, in line with C. P. Snow. Modernity is thus both a question of the humanities, and among them especially philosophy and the history of ideas, and natural science, technology, and economics. Modernity can be linked to ideas, concepts, and values – and to experiments, machines, and capital. Moreover, these perspectives are inextricably entangled with one another.

The Age of Enlightenment brought new ideas about the categories of the triad – the true, the beautiful, and the good – all of which are imbued with a universal ambition. Modernity is thus characterised by a new faith in the true, where knowledge is attained by reason and rational scientific methods. Here modernity is often related to the emergence of a new natural science, characterised by experiments since the seventeenth century, and to technological inventions; but modernity may equally be linked to new knowledge in the interpretative humanities. The central point is that the new knowledge lays the foundations for developments (e.g. Toulmin 1990; Liedman 1997).

Modernism is a collection of experimental movements in architecture, art, literature, and music since the end of the nineteenth century, a set of movements that questioned tradition and constantly sought the new. Modernism is normally regarded as a past phenomenon, but the duration of the period depends on what expression is being studied, and a febrile search for new forms of expression has continued. Moreover, according to the literary critic Matei Calinescu, modernity includes not only modernism, but also avant-garde, decadence, kitsch, and postmodernism (OED: IX 948f; Calinescu 1987).

Finally, new values have gradually been established from the seventeenth century onwards. They include universal ideas about political and religious freedom and legal, social, and gender equality as well as democracy – the idea that people should be able to elect their leaders (Liedman 1997; Bring 2011). The idea of human rights is a concrete example of conceptual innovation that has been given official status with the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). Another concrete example that might be adduced is the global reporting of the degree of personal, civil, and economic freedom, which is measured in the annual Human Freedom Index (

The Age of Enlightenment also brought developments in natural science, medicine, technology, and economics, where there are many statistical possibilities of measuring results or consequences: statistics pertaining to infant mortality, life expectancy, urbanisation, energy consumption, gross domestic product (GDP), the Human Development Index, capital accumulation, the distribution of patents, and the spread of mobile phones or the Internet.

For both the hard and the soft side of modern global development, facts will show a generally favourable trend which contradicts the chronic pessimism of crisis theories (cf. Pinker 2018; Rosling et al. 2018). In my view, the hard and the soft side of modernity meet in both concrete and metaphorical terms as light is shed on them.

Light as a guide can overcome the gap between different material and intangible perspectives on modernity. Light is associated with speed and transience, with Enlightenment and illumination. In physics, light is connected with time and matter and represents the highest attainable speed, the speed of light. On the one hand, light can be linked to the ideals of the Age of Enlightenment and is a prerequisite for reading; on the other hand, light can be followed in the culture of everyday life. Light is thus both a concept to think with and something transient that can be measured.

Light can be viewed as an idea-intensive concrete technology, with the development of light sources, windows, window glass, braziers, lamps, paraffin lamps, gas lamps, electricity, light bulbs (now low-energy bulbs), fittings, cables, fuses, transformers, generators in power stations, and solar cells (e.g. Brox 2010; Garnert 2016).

It has been shown that global economic production broadly corresponds to night-sky brightness as seen from a satellite. The contrast shows up clearly between, for instance, dark North Korea and shining South Korea. It is also thought that night-sky brightness may provide a more correct picture of economic activity than the traditional measuring of GDP. This is both because calculations of GDP may be uncertain and because there may be political reasons for over- or understating its size. It is, quite simply, hard to obtain credible global figures for economic activity. Night-sky brightness also permits analyses of regions across or within states (Henderson et al. 2009; cf. Croft 1978). The study of night-sky brightness recently advanced to the stage where it is possible to gauge the brightness of individual countries around the globe (Falchi et al. 2016).

The light in cities has been seen as a metaphorical expression of modernity, whereas darkness was taken as an expression of the past, the unmodern (Schlör 1991 (German); 1998 (English)). Indeed, several scholars have chosen global night-sky brightness as a concrete expression of modernity, since the quantity of light depends on energy conversion; that is, on the economy or the “technomass”, the quantity of machines (e.g. Hornborg 2010; Wienberg 2010).

My immediate reaction is that the picture of night-time brightness is beautiful, like an earthly firmament. But night brightness can also be viewed either as light pollution, an environmental problem (Bogard 2013;, or as a concrete expression of the uneven exchange of goods between the centre and the periphery and therefore as an expression of the skewed distribution of capital (Hornborg 2010: 1, 39, 150, 173f). In the conflicting perceptions of night-time brightness, we therefore again find the debate about developments as either progress or decline in the wake of modernity.

Many have expected that the dissemination of Western market economy and technology would mean that “soft” Western values would also spread globally. The clearest example is the political philosopher Francis Fukuyama, who optimistically wrote the essay “The End of History?” (1989) in the year that saw the fall of the Berlin Wall. Fukuyama concluded that Western market economy and democracy had won and that history had ended; but he also felt nostalgic, since the ideological and conflict-filled post-war period had now been replaced by a boring post-historical future.

A few years later, the political scientist Samuel P. Huntington was berated for the prediction made in his essay “The Clash of Civilisations?” (1993) regarding conflicts along cultural boundaries. According to Huntington, several non-Western countries have had a strategy “to modernize but not to Westernize” (Huntington 1993: 41, quotation 49); that is, to choose the technological and economic part of modernity without including the values of the West. But Fukuyama was mistaken – and Huntington turned out to be right.

History continued indefatigably and unpredictably. China’s growth shows that the market economy and technology are one thing, but that politics and values are something else: state-directed capitalism also works. A rising centre in the world-system is striving after modernity when it comes to technology and the economy, but without necessarily accepting Western values into the bargain. Other examples are Al-Qaeda, which used aircraft in its terror attack on the US in 2001 (Gray 2001), and IS, which has employed the Internet in its propaganda. The Islamic movements are happy to utilise the West’s modern technology, but are opposed to the world-system of the US and to modern Western values in general. The West’s own critics of modernity have normally associated modernity with technology and the economy as well as with unfortunate consequences; in doing so, they have forgotten other aspects.

The market and modernity are able to exist in symbiosis. Capitalism is able to use modernity as an ideology and a legitimation of an economic system. Economic development is assumed to help enable everyone to be better off, contributing to progress and growth. But modernity is not identical to or completely dependent on capitalism. For renewal can be justified and take place in different types of societies, that is, in widely different cultural, religious, political, and economic circumstances. So a society can accept technological and economic renewal, but oppose religious or political change. This means that the renewal of modernity does not need to be a goal in all areas. Modernity may also have existed before capitalism, and it may continue to exist even if capitalism disappears.

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World Heritage and modernity


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