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Giddens on Consequences of Modernity

April 1, 2008

Notes:  The Contours of High Modernity[1]

 

Obviously Giddens rejects that we have moved from a modern society to a post-modern or informational society.  Rather he promotes that we are still in the modern age perhaps a “high modern society”.  Giddens takes no small amount of time to discuss three conceptions regarding society and modernity.  These three concepts are “institutional diagnosis of modernity”, “society as the primary focus of sociological analysis”, and “the connections between sociological knowledge and the characteristics of modernity” (10, 11).  Then proposes that in order to understand what makes modernity what it is we must not follow these concepts (16).

 

Rather Giddens says that what makes modernity what it is relates to three other “sources”: Modernity and ‘time and space’; ‘disembedding’ of social systems; and ‘reflexive ordering and reordering’ of social relations” (17). 

 

Time & Space.  Both pre-modern and modern society have time and space.  With modernity became uniform and in the last decades has become coordinated.  Space used to be closely connected with place, such as the act of going to work meant traveling from home to the office or company.  Once there you were in the place fulfilling your function (space) at a given time.  In the current age (ICTs) technology has enabled us to disjoin space and place.  As Giddens mentions “advent of modernity increasingly tears space away from place by fostering relations between ‘absent’ others, locationally distant from any given situation of face-to-face interaction…. it becomes increasingly phantasmagoric” the society is enabled to be socialized through sometimes quite distant points (19).  This “distanciation” seems to me to relate to a concept of “virtual” reality which we have discussed earlier.  Much like telework, telemedicine, and other such “distance” mediated activities, even a class conducted via Blackboard!  This frees up opportunity to interact, allows organized society to connect in greater and newer ways, and world-wide associations are brought together at one time thereby allowing many different historical trends to converge into a new reality.

 

Disembedded Systems.  Upon this concept of time and space is constructed the concept of disembedding of social systems.  Two types of disembedded systems are proposed: symbolic tokens (things for exchange) and expert systems (ways to organize social environments or large amount of material).  Giddens uses money as the example of the symbolic tokens process.  Money has been taken out of the local realm of negotiation and exchanged purchase.  Now money is more than simply a check or even a credit card.  The Concept of money that allows an otherwise exchange of perhaps unrelated items or services may only be a “digital string of numbers”.  The medium of exchange once recognized “currency” (commodity money or bank money) is no longer needed in order to allow people to consummate a transaction.  Now those who may never meet, nor physically exchange currency may come together in hyper-text and consummate a deal or purchase a product on e-bay (money proper).

 

Money is one example, but the crux of the thought is that for the disembedded mechanism to function there must be trust and faith (a type) within the institutions of modern society.  Institutions are of course “abstract” social concepts that assist society to flow and function properly.

 

Expert systems are ways to organize and manage.  Expert knowledge is integrated into the society so that it is continuous and ever present (27).  Examples are OSHA safety rules, Housing Inspections, Building Codes, Judicial System, Utility Companies, the transportation system, communications system, our pay check, insurance, and other daily services and regulations we normally do not think of each day of our lives.  We have faith that these things exist and will assist our lives.  In other wise we respect a concept of “authority” or superior construct that makes sure our world turns each day.  We accept and rely on this social order although we never perhaps are able to actually define the processes.

 

Trust.  Faith leads to trust and trust bridges the gap to confidence.  Trust is associated with absence of space and time.  There is a definitive definition of trust at page 34.  Trust and risk are associated.


[1] Giddens, Anthony. 1990.  “The Contours of High Modernity.” Pps. 1-34 in The Consequences of Modernity.  Cambridge: Polity

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. July 20, 2010 12:58 am

    This material is very helpful for my assignment in IGNOU, thanks to avail this very special.

  2. February 28, 2012 8:03 pm

    Q4: Discuss the theory of surplus
    value?
    Theory of Surplus Value:
    With the increasing exploitation of labor, the profit of the capitalists also accumulates. The Theory of Surplus Value refers to the quantity of value produced by the worker beyond necessary time. The price of any commodity is determined by the amount of labor it takes to produce it. The increasing exploitation leads to the surplus wealth accumulated by the capitalist thereby dividing the society into rich and poor.

    Surplus Value:
    Surplus Value is the social product which is over and above what is required for the producers to live. The measure of labour is labour time, so surplus value is the accumulated product of the unpaid labour time of the producers. In bourgeois society, surplus value is acquired by the capitalist in the form of profit. The capitalist owns the means of production as Private property, so the workers have no choice but to sell their labour power to the capitalist to live. The capitalist then owns not only the means of production, and the worker’s labour power which he has bought to use in production, but the product as well. After paying wages, the capitalist then becomes the owner of the surplus value, over and above the value of the worker’s labour-power.
    In all societies in which there is a division of labour, there is a social surplus. What is different about bourgeois society is that surplus values takes the form of capital, and surplus value is in the fact the essence of production in capitalism – only productive work that is work which creates surplus value, is supported. All ‘unproductive labour’ is eliminated. The capitalists may increase the amount of surplus value extracted from the working class by two means
    By absolute surplus value: extending the working day as long as possible.
    By relative surplus value: by cutting wages.
    Attempts by individual capitalists to increase their profits by introducing machinery or speeding-up production by technique fail as soon as their competitor copy the new technique and restore their market share. The end effect of these improvements in production may be to increase the productivity of labour, but unless the rate of surplus value is increased proportionately, the rate of profit will actually fall. Having been accumulated as capital, surplus value must then be distributed to landlords, bankers and other parasites, and expended via taxes on the various expense of maintaining the social fabric.
    -Karl Marx.
    Q5: Explain the functional perspective of power?
    Theoretical Perspectives
    Theories in sociology provide us with different perspectives with which to view our social world. A perspective is simply a way of looking at the world. A theory is a set of interrelated propositions or principles designed to answer a question or explain a particular phenomenon; it provides us with a perspective. Sociological theories help us to explain and predict the social world in which we live.
    Sociology includes three major theoretical perspectives: the structural-functionalist perspective, the conflict perspective, and the symbolic interactionist perspective. Each perspective offers a variety of explanations about the causes of and possible solutions for social problems (Rubington & Weinberg, 1995).
    Structural-Functionalist Perspective
    The structural-functionalist perspective is largely based on the works of Herbert Spencer, Emile Durkheim, Talcott Parsons, and Robert Merton. According to structural-functionalist, society is a system of interconnected parts that work together in harmony to maintain a state of balance and social equilibrium for the whole. For example, each of the social institutions contributes important functions for society: family provides a context for reproducing, nurturing, and socializing children; education offers a way to transmit society’s skills, knowledge, and culture to its youth; politics provides a means of governing members of society; economics provides for the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services; and religion provides moral guidance and an outlet for worship of a higher power.
    The structural-functionalist perspective emphasizes the interconnectedness of society by focusing on how each part influences and is influenced by other parts. For example, the increase in single-parent and dual-earner families has contributed to the number of children who are failing in school because parents have become less available to supervise their children’s homework. Due to changes in technology, colleges are offering more technical programs, and many adults are returning to school to learn new skills that are required in the workplace. The increasing number of women in the workforce has contributed to the formation of policies against sexual harassment and job discrimination.

  3. February 28, 2012 8:04 pm

    Q2: What is modernity? Discuss
    Gidden’s concept of modernity?
    The term “modern” (Latin modernus from modo, “just now”) dates from the 5th century, originally distinguishing the Christian era from the Pagan era, yet the word entered general usage only in the 17th-century quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns — debating: “Is Modern culture superior to Classical (Græco–Roman) culture?” — a literary and artistic quarrel within the Académie française in the early 1690s.
    In these[which?] usages, “modernity” denoted the renunciation of the recent past, favouring a new beginning, and a re-interpretation of historical origin. The distinction between “modernity” and “modern” did not arise until the 19th century (Delanty 2007).
    Sociologically
    In sociology, a discipline that arose in direct response to the social problems of “modernity” (Harriss 2000, 325), the term most generally refers to the social conditions, processes, and discourses consequent to the Age of Enlightenment. In the most basic terms, Anthony Giddens describes modernity as
    …a shorthand term for modern society, or industrial civilization. Portrayed in more detail, it is associated with (1) a certain set of attitudes towards the world, the idea of the world as open to transformation, by human intervention; (2) a complex of economic institutions, especially industrial production and a market economy; (3) a certain range of political institutions, including the nation-state and mass democracy. Largely as a result of these characteristics, modernity is vastly more dynamic than any previous type of social order. It is a society—more technically, a complex of institutions—which, unlike any preceding culture, lives in the future, rather than the past (Giddens 1998, 94).
    Giddens on Consequences of Modernity” concepts
    Obviously Giddens rejects that we have moved from a modern society to a post-modern or informational society. Rather he promotes that we are still in the modern age perhaps a “high modern society”. Giddens takes no small amount of time to discuss three conceptions regarding society and modernity. These three concepts are “institutional diagnosis of modernity”, “society as the primary focus of sociological analysis”, and “the connections between sociological knowledge and the characteristics of modernity” (10, 11). Then proposes that in order to understand what makes modernity what it is we must not follow these concepts.

    Rather Giddens says that what makes modernity what it is relates to three other “sources”: Modernity and ‘time and space’; ‘disembedding’ of social systems; and ‘reflexive ordering and reordering’ of social relations”.

    Time & Space. Both pre-modern and modern society have time and space. With modernity became uniform and in the last decades has become coordinated. Space used to be closely connected with place, such as the act of going to work meant traveling from home to the office or company. Once there you were in the place fulfilling your function (space) at a given time. In the current age (ICTs) technology has enabled us to disjoin space and place. As Giddens mentions “advent of modernity increasingly tears space away from place by fostering relations between ‘absent’ others, locationally distant from any given situation of face-to-face interaction…. it becomes increasingly phantasmagoric” the society is enabled to be socialized through sometimes quite distant points. This “distanciation” seems to me to relate to a concept of “virtual” reality which we have discussed earlier. Much like telework, telemedicine, and other such “distance” mediated activities, even a class conducted via Blackboard! This frees up opportunity to interact, allows organized society to connect in greater and newer ways, and world-wide associations are brought together at one time thereby allowing many different historical trends to converge into a new reality.

    Disembedded Systems. Upon this concept of time and space is constructed the concept of disembedding of social systems. Two types of disembedded systems are proposed: symbolic tokens (things for exchange) and expert systems (ways to organize social environments or large amount of material). Giddens uses money as the example of the symbolic tokens process. Money has been taken out of the local realm of negotiation and exchanged purchase. Now money is more than simply a check or even a credit card. The Concept of money that allows an otherwise exchange of perhaps unrelated items or services may only be a “digital string of numbers”. The medium of exchange once recognized “currency” (commodity money or bank money) is no longer needed in order to allow people to consummate a transaction. Now those who may never meet, nor physically exchange currency may come together in hyper-text and consummate a deal or purchase a product on e-bay (money proper).

    Money is one example, but the crux of the thought is that for the disembedded mechanism to function there must be trust and faith (a type) within the institutions of modern society. Institutions are of course “abstract” social concepts that assist society to flow and function properly.

    Expert systems are ways to organize and manage. Expert knowledge is integrated into the society so that it is continuous and ever present. Examples are OSHA safety rules, Housing Inspections, Building Codes, Judicial System, Utility Companies, the transportation system, communications system, our pay check, insurance, and other daily services and regulations we normally do not think of each day of our lives. We have faith that these things exist and will assist our lives. In other wise we respect a concept of “authority” or superior construct that makes sure our world turns each day. We accept and rely on this social order although we never perhaps are able to actually define the processes.

    Trust. Faith leads to trust and trust bridges the gap to confidence. Trust is associated with absence of space and time, Trust and risk are associated.
    Q3: What is civil society? Discuss its role in a democracy?
    Civil society is a term that’s increasingly popular with government ministers, academics, diplomats, aid-workers, international agencies, teachers and a host of other professions. It’s an idea that affects everyone in every nation.
    Talk Of A Civil Society
    Civil society is a term that’s cropping up more and more amongst those concerned with the changing shape of modern society.
    Politicians talk about the needs of a civil society; in fact next to the state and the market, advisors to the US Government have suggested that it is ‘the ultimate third way’ of governing a society.
    In his inauguration speech US President George W Bush stated that:
    ‘A civil society demands from each of us good will and respect, fair dealing and forgiveness.’
    Diplomats also talk of the value of a civil society. Addressing a conference recently UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan said:
    ‘The United Nations once dealt only with Governments. By now we know that peace and prosperity cannot be achieved without partnerships involving Governments, international organisations, the business community and civil society. In today’s world, we depend on each other.’
    Even journalists reflect on the likelihood of a civil society; the British journal The Economist recently commented:
    ‘After decades of totalitarianism and centuries of autocracy, it would be silly to expect Russia to sprout a strong civil society.’
    By this definition, civil society includes charities; neighbourhood self-help schemes; international bodies like the UN or the Red Cross; religious-based pressure-groups; human rights campaigns in repressive societies; and non-governmental organisations improving health, education and living-standards in both the developed and developing nations.
    Roles:)
    Civil society organizations make (at least) five types of contributions to the cognitive side of political deliberation –knowledge of the conditions of affected groups, best practices, understandings of underlying factors, evaluations of claims made and space for discussion. Whether or not these contributions are significant in any particular case, or whether they promote democracy will depend on, among other things, the informal institutions that link civil society associations together, and to the polity.
    Many believe that strengthening civil society in Latin American countries will strengthen democracy. Others think that civil society associations weaken and fragment the political parties and government institutions on which democracy depends. In this paper I take both as serious possibilities, and look for a way to discover what factors make the difference.
    Those factors will surely include the overall political conditions (e.g., the regime and whether it is legitimate), the size and resource base of the civil society organizations themselves, and the quality of their leadership. In this short essay, I want to highlight two other factors, the politically relevant structure of civil society itself, and the institutions and practices which have evolved linking civil society and the state. In this I am joining with many others who respond to the question of whether civil society organizations are promoting democracy by saying, “It depends on the political context.” I share the view that, with the exception of situations of breakdown, civil society organizations cannot substitute for the state or political parties. But on the other hand, I believe that in contemporary circumstances, parties and government depend on civil society associations. The issue at hand is to discover what sort of relationship between them works.
    Even narrowing the topic of democratizing factors to the self-organization and political links of civil society, however, leaves an enormous agenda. In this paper I will deal with only one – but an important – aspect of the relationships of civil society associations and politics. I start from the observation that civil society associations’ positive and negative contributions to democratic politics can’t be understood without discussing how they fit into the cognitive side of deliberative politics. NGO’s, social movements, labor unions, special interest groups, professional associations, think tanks, neighborhood organizations, self help organizations, environmental groups and all the other formations in the rapidly changing world of civil society organizations generate information and ideas, and help (or hinder) debate and discussion. All political actors, including those in civil society, do other things in politics – represent interests in political bargaining, participate in election campaigns, have a share in implementing policies, demonstrate to influence legislators, even riot to delegitimize power holders. But another thing they do is to gather information, conduct research, formulate strategies and debate with many others on what the real preferences of actors are, what the circumstances are that shape opportunities, and what, in the end, will work. It is my contention that without assessing the role of civil society in this deliberative process, we will miss important contributions to democracy made by civil society, as well as arenas where they may do the most damage.

  4. Meer permalink
    November 2, 2015 8:52 am

    I can’t say thank you enough, sir!! I’m in love with this article.. I’ve been having a hard time processing his book. This helped me to write my assignment in no time :).

    • Malcolm L. Rigsby permalink*
      November 6, 2015 12:36 pm

      Welcome Meer. All I ask is that your list me in your references and cite me in the article/paper. Blessings. Would love to have a digital copy of your paper.

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