Modernity's pendulum

The bicentennial year of the French Revolution, in 1989, and the antitotalitarian revolutions in Eastern Europe during 1989 and 1991 lead the authors to interpreting modernity through the pendulum's metaphor, used in order to show the dynamics of the present social arrangement, pluralistic and autonomous, and which swings without stopping between radicalism and moderation. In order to make a diagnosis of the moderns' self-knowledge, the text analyses questions referring to modernity and its problems: Totalitarianism is the offspring of modernity? How to avoid it? Can the 1789 promises be kept? And it appeals to history for evaluating skeptically modernity starting from its two survival conditions: modernity's dynamic (dialectics), which works through the auto-reflective dynamic justice, and the modern social arrangement, a constant framework of symmetric and asymmetric (re) -distribution of freedom and life-chances. This article introduces the dynamic logics of modernity (the functional division of labour, statecraft and technology), showing that they, operating together or in conflict with one another, usually move the modernity's pendulum between the poles of "individualism" and "communitarianism", between "welfarism" and the practise of a self-regulating market, so that it doesn't swing between binary oppositions ("capitalism" and "socialism", "right" and "left", "progress" and "reaction"). At the end, the outcoming political effects derived from the perception of the pendulum's existence in modernity are emphasized. Politics becomes a postmodern one: the will to the transcendence of modernity ends; new alliances, "contextuality" and some universalist premises in the political field become important; the "way of life" prevails over the "class". However, the text points out the problems of these anti-holistic ideals which can bring about intolerance and the impossibility of a collective medium of understanding.

modernity; capitalism; socialism; dualism; social order; totalitarism; individualism


Departamento de Sociologia da Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas da Universidade de São Paulo Av. Prof. Luciano Gualberto, 315, 05508-010, São Paulo - SP, Brasil - São Paulo - SP - Brazil
E-mail: temposoc@edu.usp.br
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