Is Modernity Now History?

I was teaching in Bangkok recently and there was witness to gridlock in Thai politics where an election did not produce a majority political coalition. Then, I was in Australia just before the election which confirmed a very split electorate there as well. Now, we have election results in India which gave victory to the intensely Hindu communal vision of Narendra Modi.

Globally, we seem to have entered some new era of tension and standoff between very divergent political cultures. On one side is an internationalist mindset comfortable with globalization. On the other side is what has been framed as populist nationalism opposed to global institutions and arrangements.

Global internationalism seems the natural result of modernization – industrialization, the rise of middle classes, global supply chains, rational/legal bureaucracies and highly educated elites. Populist nationalism privileges national communities over internationalism and cosmopolitan tolerance of others.

Perhaps we should reconsider the once sacrosanct assumption that modernization will inevitably replace traditional cultures, values and behaviors?

We should then consider what role the Caux Round Table for Moral Capitalism’s principles for business, government, civil society and ownership of wealth might play in the interface between universalistic standards fit for globalism and the more parochial concerns of populist nationalism.

I thought of how the once very prominent thinking of Harvard sociologist Talcott Parsons, a student of Max Weber, might explain our dilemma of transition from modernity to some newer form of global community.

A review of Parson’s concept of “pattern variables” of social action is here for your consideration.