Saturday, December 21, 2019

Alternative Modernities

How Modernity differs from the pre-Modern is rather difficult to succinctly state but suffice to say that there is a qualitative difference between pre-Modern and Modern societies which can be recognised by looking at them.

For the purpose of this post I want to take world as it was in 1940 to illustrate what I'm getting at. The England of 1940 was modern society compared to the England of 1640. Industrialization, urbanisation, mechanisation and so on had changed life to such a degree that the mode of living for the average citizen was substantially different.  England was modern in a way that Yugoslavia or rural Romania was not. Likewise Germany, France, USA, Sweden, Russia, Japan etc were modern societies.

While all of these societies were modern, the expression of their modernity was largely contingent up local factors which shaped the path of modernity in their countries. Germany, while modern, was different to the U.S.A., which was different to Japan. Remember, this is 1940.

One of the distinguishing features of modern societies is the rise of a managerial class which is responsible for the administration and co-ordination of all the institutions which make modern life possible. In Germany and Japan, this managerial class was fascistic, in Russia, it was Marxist and in England and USA it was Protestant. Modernity, in each of these countries was strongly influenced by the cultural values of its managerial class. The reason why the Anglosphere was a haven for individual liberty, freedom of conscience, respect for the person, prosecution of degeneracy and freedom of religion is because they were the values of mainstream Protestantism at the time. Anglosphere modernity was Protestant tinged. Mainstream Protestantism as it was 1940.

I don't want to get into Catholic modernity since it is a far more complex subject but suffice to say Catholicism has a very difficult relationship with it and its relationship to it has been frequently antagonistic instead of co-operative. In 1940 it proved to be relatively irrelevant to world affairs.

Anyway what I'm trying to get at is that modernity can assume many different forms and not all of them are intrinsically hostile toward religion. I think one of the great weak spots of Right wing thought is the anti-modernistic sentiment seen so often in many of the commentators. Agrarian simplicity is only appealing to those who have never had to work the land. The problem is not so much modernity as it is irreligion.


Bruce Charlton said...

This is an interesting line of thinking - which I don't want to discourage!

But there was a big difference between the US and the UK in 1940. The UK was affected very early by Fabian Socialism, which is gradualist non-revoltuionary bureaucratic Marxism. I used to be one of these, in my teens; and read some of the foundational texts from late 1800s early 1900s, plus the newer Fabian stuff from 50s and 60s. The US was very different, and didn't really get Leftism in a big way until the 1960s, and then it was New Leftism based on antiracism and feminism - not class.

The other point is to look at trends. There was never a genuine modernist Christianity - because the trend was always towards mass apostasy and elimination of Christianity from public discourse (except during the 39-45 war when there was a significant Christian revival in the UK). So I would strongly assert that Western modernity IS hostile to Christianity, and the contrary appearances are merely a relative lagging.

I have esoteric beliefs about the deep reasons behind this - but I don't think it is fixable. Bureaucracy, in particular, is not just intrinsically anti-Christian, but evil in its nature (because anti-moral, non-responsible); and while it continues to increase we will continue our 'progress' towards satanic totalitarianism.

Ground of Being said...

It wasn't because of ideology or Protestantism that the Anglosphere was the way it was - it was because there was a good number of people of a certain type who had power.

Blood, not abstractions, are what created the West that was worth having.

The Social Pathologist said...


So I would strongly assert that Western modernity IS hostile to Christianity, and the contrary appearances are merely a relative lagging.

I think a lot of this depends on how you think of Modernity, it I think it'll be the subject of my next post.

Correlli Barnett (British Military Historian) saw British modernity as fundamentally shaped by Evangelical Christianity and contrasted it, disapprovingly, to the American and German variants. As you said, there was a Christian revival in Britain between the late 40's to early 60's which in no way made Britain backward seeing modernity as anti-Christian I think is more a correlative than causative factor.

Interestingly, I was just reading up on the Munster Rebellion, which occurred in "pre Modern Times". This variant of "Protestantism"--and the lifestyle it advocated--is indistinguishable from some of the more radical visions of leftism. I still think that while Protestantism is able to co-opt modernity, it lacks within itself--in the majority of instances--the ability to maintain doctrinal stability. For example, My understanding of Fabian Socialism was that it was a secular branch of Methodism.

I think the reason why Modernity is associated with secualrity is because the secularists have been far more effective at proselyting their philosophy than the religious. There's a lot to this but I'd also add that democratisation was a disaster for western culture as was Romanticism. With respect to the Churches, the strong "traditional" aspect to their natures meant that they didn't know how to compete when the "ground rules" were changed.

As for bureaucracy that reason why its anti-moral and non-responsible is because we have made it so. One of the reasons why the "deep state" survives is because it is next to impossible to dismiss an evil bureaucrat. We need to reform the public service along the lines of Frederick the Great, where anyone could bring a public servant to court for an injustice and have them dismissed.

@ Ground of Being.

Blood, not abstractions, are what created the West that was worth having.

Genetic Calvinism, eh?

Bruce Charlton said...

Well, I disagree! I think you have the causal arrows reversed! And bureaucracy is (like voting) the kind of evil that becomes apparent mostly at its later stages, when it has become dominant, ineffective, inefficient and/ because converged. But expedient evil is still evil.