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Modernity is a topic commonly associated with the history of the western European countries dating from the early seventeenth century through to mid -twentieth century. Some of the key aspects of modernity such as the change from feudal economy to the industrial capitalism increase in urbanization, departure from the constraints and authority of old traditions and religious beliefs while embracing scientific rationality (Martins, 1994). Liberalism philosophical, rational and egalitarianism are some of the aspects of modernity. Shifts in consciousness, economic and technological transitions are manifestations of modernity. The most important aspect of modernity is the coming up of the individual as an entity significant to economic, social and cultural influence. This research paper highlights the benefits and risks of modernity based on opinion held by Durkheim.
Modernity symbolizes progressive social organization with certain benefits in the contemporary society such as high living standards, higher life expectancy levels, and better education, civil liberties for marginalized groups based on race, sexuality, gender and ability. There are certain disadvantages and risks associated with modernity such as the modern consumer culture, which promotes passivity and conformity (Martins, 1994). The challenges of modernity in the present society manifest themselves through individual deprivations, homogenization of culture, subtle individual and social challenges. The erosion of social support networks, erosion of local communities and unclear alternatives to the failing impacts of religion emerge because of modernity. The erosion of traditions, an aspect of modernity is responsible for the waning moral civilization. Capitalism, colonization, imperialism and industrialization associated with modernity thrive on human exploitation, social and ecological neglects (Durkheim ,1960).
Egoism can be a product of modernity, which tends to weaken the collective power of culture and society and this can make individuals retreat to their animal and primary nature. Lack of respect for others and selfishness are the key manifestations of the negative effects of modernity. Modernity can make individuals become less social, less civilized and seek to live without deriving human identity and meaning from the collective hence causing existential crisis. In his work "Suicide" (Martins, 1994); Durkheim observes that egoistic act pushes a person back to himself and with little integration in the society.
Such a person is likely to become psychologically, personally disintegrated and can easily harm himself to the extent of self-destruction. According to Durkheim, egoistic suicide is because of the erosion of societal norms, which are undergoing change courtesy of modernity. Egoism makes individuals have less regulated minds leading to depression, detachment from reality, disillusionment and this can result in self-harm. However, Durkheim takes cognizance of the fact that high-level of certain group integration in the modern society can motivate one to carry out harmful activities either on themselves or others ,if the group demands for and the present day suicide bombers and terrorists exemplify this group of individuals.
Individuality in a non-anomic or egoistic sense in the modern society manifests itself in what Durkheim refers to as "cult of the individual" (Martins, 1994). In this case, individuals orient themselves in certain societies in which body work such as tattoos is a mark loyalty to the groups. A person therefore uses the body to express individuality and the same time celebrates and demonstrates collectivity. Modernity also allow individuals to express individuality, demonstrate their group belonging and loyalty through bodywork.
Social disorientation (risk) is another challenge, emerging from modernity because of the emergence of new circumstances beyond the control of individuals. We simply do not understand some of these circumstances. Discontinuity of the tradition is one of the key aspects of modernity. There is acceleration in the place of social and cultural changes occasioned by modernity. Durkheim criticizes modernity because it is responsible for capitalistic society associated with exploitation of people, unsustainable exploitation without taking into consideration the common interest of society and communities into account but for individual gain (Martins, 1994).
Reflexive embodiment is an element of reflexive rebuilding of the self. In all societies, there is the practice of body maintenance and modification both in the modern and in the traditional society except for the transformation arising because of modernity. According to Durkheim, the maintenance and modification in the traditional societies depend on the collective rituals and perform definite functions or roles (Martins,1994). Durkheim observes that modernization is responsible for removing the traditional sources of identity, status, future trajectory and biography. Durkheim holds that modernization led to the dissolution of many traditions hence interfering with the social norms of certain communities.
Flourishing and development
According to Durkheim, modernity promises both increasing social cohesion due to the division of labor and individual freedom. He holds that division of labor can only produce solidarity in case it is spontaneous. This means the absence of anything that has the capacity to shackle, directly or indirectly the manifestation of social power every individual possess. Modernity in this sense can therefore promote ideal of a society in which every person has an opportunity to thrive and develop as an individual. According to Durkheim, human ideal is a component of 'spontaneous' division of labor if an individual approach it as a modern social dynamic (Durkheim, 1960).
According to Durkheim, social inequalities should reflect the natural inequalities. The question as to whether such Isomorphism is any significance to the development of an individual is very important. This isomorphism may be of significance to every person's equal measure of development of his or her own potential. The point is that every person has the qualification to enable them flourish and develop depending on their potential as individuals within a society in which others also exist thus requiring an anti-reactionary, republican anthropology.
Equal opportunity and contractual justice are products of modernity. Durkheim holds that absolute equality in external factors or conditions of struggle are important. He however argues that it is not possible to mathematical determine the social worth of a service and thus the need to rely on the general knowledge in the context of public conscience. This concept means that "free" market and "free" contracts cannot work properly without incorporating the concept of justice. Contractual justice ideally relies on "public conscience" which calls for an exact reciprocity or pay in service exchanged (Martins, 1994).
The "public conscience" (Martins, 1994) equally emphasizes the demand for equal opportunity and equality in the general sense. Durkheim urges the modern society to strive to eradicate or eliminate all forms of external in equalities in every possible way. This notion is consistent with the idea that everything occurs mechanically. Durkheim defends 'spontaneous' division of labor by arguing that it does not create consequences on its own, but only in abnormal and exceptional circumstances (Durkheim ,1960). This kind of division of labor has mechanisms of countering the ills by ensuring that nothing emanating from the outside distorts it. Public education is a key benefit of modernity as it can act as a tool of social mobility. Education is important for the human culture for the purposes of entrenching both social and human ideals. According to Durkheim, the citizen requires education for both individual and social progress.
In conclusion, it is important to note that Durkheim in his works acknowledges individual differences but emphasizes the need to operate within the collective concept. His works on human ideal and the modern citizenship, which refers to the developing and flourishing of everyone as autonomous figure of both thought and action but which, requires the collective and broad human culture. Sordid commercialism is a hindrance to realizing human ideals as it reduces morality to interest. In his work, he highlighted the benefits and risks of modernity.