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Some Fundamental Questions of Modernity A Comparative Glance at Finland, Japan, and Russia Göran Therborn University of Cambridge ”Scrutinizing Modernities”,

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Presentation on theme: "Some Fundamental Questions of Modernity A Comparative Glance at Finland, Japan, and Russia Göran Therborn University of Cambridge ”Scrutinizing Modernities”,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Some Fundamental Questions of Modernity A Comparative Glance at Finland, Japan, and Russia Göran Therborn University of Cambridge ”Scrutinizing Modernities”, Alexander Institute, Helsinki 12.9.2013

2 Modernity: Making Use of a Concept Avoiding redundant labelling Avoiding idiosyncracy: etymological respect Opening investigations A time culture, focusing on the present & oriented towards a new thisworldly future, questioning/rejecting the authority of the past

3 Breakthroughs of Modernity Conception of History – Linear, Evolutionary: 18th c. Enlightenment Cognition – Ancient authority rejected: Vesalius, Bacon, Descartes et al : late 16th- early 17th c. Aesthetics – Partial breaks: Renaissance; Quérelle des anciens et des modernes – Full break, late 19th c.: Baudelaire, Impressionism, Art Nouveau Economics – Radical agricultural improvement; industrialization Politics – Re-form & re-volution turned to the future – Politics of nations, nation-states

4 4 Major Pathways to Current Modernity & 2 Major Hybrids by Pattern of Conflict The European – Internal: the nation/people vs. the prince & (mainstream) aristocracy The Settler ”New World” – The settler nation vs the motherland prince & the natives The Ex-Colonial – The colonized people turning the modern politics of the colonizers against them Reactive Modernization:Japan, Siam, Abbyssinia – Section of existing elite importing national politics to defend traditional realm Hybrids: Russia : European internalism & Reactive Modernization China: Failed RM, part anti-Colonial, part European-type class war

5 Enduring Consequences of the Roads to Modernity I European Internalism Conception of the nation – Constructed, as historically rooted in language, culture, experience Leading force of the nation – The (stratified) people Notion of representative government – Rights of the people Reactive Modernization Conception of the nation – Given, Ex-subjects of the realm Leading force of the nation – The government & associated (economic) elites Notion of representative government – Instrumental: Ensuring social cohesion & state force

6 Enduring Consequences of the Roads to Modernity II European Internalism Role of religion & the supernatural – Path towards thorough secularization & disenchantment Social relations, (in)equality – Salience of class & class organization – Path towards general equalization Reactive Modernization Role of religion & the supernatural – Re-vitalization of state religion, Reproduction of folk religion & of magical beliefs Social relations, (in)equality – Marginalization of class – Reproduction of existential inequality (status hierarchy, deference, misogyny) – Delimitation of economic inequality for cohesion

7 Finland on the European Road F belongs to the Nordic cluster of gradualist, negotiated political modernity (l917-18 civil war an aberration, due to then part of Russian empire in revolution) Also to the Nordic cluster of class, with strong farmers & limited distance popular classes-bourgeoisie Within Russia F was a vanguard of modern development, in Nordic region a latecomer to prosperity Part of the East-Central European variant of national language development & change F was culturally well connected & a Nordic centre of aesthetic modernism: architecture, poetry, design

8 Japan: The Paradigmatic Case of Reactive Modernization The Charter Oath of l868: “Evil customs of the past shall be abandoned and everything shall be based upon the just laws of Nature. Knowledge shall be sought throughout the world …” The universalist modern program is then cut down into characteristic Japanese particularism, continuing : “…so as to strengthen the foundations of Imperial rule.”

9 Japanese Specifics of the RM Road Imperial ambition & capacity Continuist ”embrace of defeat” Preocupation with location & identity – Out of Asia, or Leading Asia? – Japanese ”overcoming of modernity”, Nihonjin ron and studies of Japaneseness

10 The Russian Hybrid I. Set-Up The European Mould – ”The Third Rome”, late 15th c. Italian architects in the Kremlin, 18th-19th c- dynastic intermarriages, upperclass Francophony – 1st half of l9th c.: the gendarme of Europe – European workingclass movement – A centre of early 20th c. European art modernism The Experience of Backwardness – Outside medieval & Renaissance Europe – Overwhelming rurality – Serfdom & its pull-down socio-cultural effects Bases of European Distanciation – Cultural: Slavicism & Orthodox Christianity – Spatial: Eurasian bridge

11 The Russian Hybrid II. Consequences Stalinist, statist RM overtaking the workingclass October Revolution – Revolutionary violence adding to violent dynamics of RM The Khrushchevite project continuing catching up with & overtaking the West - & its imploding failure under Gorbachev – Social meaning of Communism underdeveloped Post-Communist amalgamations of pre-revolutionary religion & deference and Soviet big power institutions & practices – Social reform perspective lost

12 Prospects: After Modernism I. Current State Finland – Goals achieved: Nordic prosperity, independence of Russia, standing in Europe – Lost: frontier of electronics & design Japan – Achieved: economic world power – Lost: Chance of becoming No. 1 Russia – Achieved: Return to big power status – Lost: parity with US, & chance of overtaking it

13 Prospects: After Modernism II. Futures Finland – Possibility of peaceful prosperous periphery without much need of modernism, though clouded by the fall/sale of Nokia and the coming structural decline of the pulp & paper industry Japan – Difficulties to adapt to old age serenity, blocage of immigration, current attempt at nationalist growth unlikely sustainability – Improbable but still conceivable prospect of ”overcoming modernity”, as a secure, serene, aesthetic stationary state Russia – Fragile economy, brittle political institutions, clearly in need of some futuristic modernist social project


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