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Modernity in Different Aspects

Modernity in Different Aspects
The term of civilization is emerged and is widely used in different contexts and
meanings in order the define society's nature. Just like all the researches and improvements
under the base of historical sociology, different approaches, and assumptions were used
during this process by different names; Shmuel Eisenstadt and Norbert Elias. One of the five
general theories that define casual agents and casual mechanisms - functionalist, rational
choice, power, neo-Darwinian, and cultural approach- are followed by these names.
To be able to investigate the reason, the process, and conclusions of the European
Civilization, two main periods of historical sociology must be identified first. Historical
sociology's first emergence was in 18. centuries but the war and the reality of the names who
are quite significant for this field were in battle, changed the priority of this field. At the same
time, these periods of war changed society, led to four empires two downfalls; The Russian
Empire, Ottoman Empire, Habsburg Empire, and the German Empire. The fear of
communism and the dominance of freedom that is represented by liberalism was feeling in
Europe. Liberalism was offered as the ultimate order mechanism without any lack of freedom
unlike the appliance of communism in east states such as China and Russia. The conclusion is
the periods of World Wars had huge effects in various dimensions in Europe. The American
intellectuals were agreed the collapse of The Soviet Union was one of the biggest proof for
the success of Capitalism and the failure of communism. It was even considered as the End
of History. Although it was expected that capitalism will end the suffering for humanity, the
results were quite different from the World Wars and all of their results. Under these
circumstances, with rationality, there is also irrationality emerged in society. Tension was
quite high all around the world and the tension triggered the biggest changes in society in a
long period.
The first perspective that will be discussed belongs to Shmuel Eisenstadt, who is an
Israelian sociologist and gave lots of pieces to this field. In the middle of the 1900s, Shmuel
Eisenstadt combined structural functionalism and social conflicts. Different from Lipset -who
thinks that the rise of American Society and its way is the best way that all the countries
should follow- he divided the history starting from the prehistoric times into three main parts;
Axial Age, Historical Empires, and Understanding the Modernity. He examined modernity as
the third stage of continental human progress. For this reason, according to him, to be able to
understand the process of society, a person should start investing the history from preChristianity times. Big personalities such as Confucius, Buddha, Mo Ti, Palestine, Homer,
Zarathustra dominated and had a huge and similar impact on the societies and that period
named as Axial age – the first significant change in human history-Effect of those emerges are
described by Eisenstadt in his book in as "These conceptions were developed and articulated
by a relatively new social element. A new type of intellectual elite became aware of the
necessity to actively construct the world according to some transcendental vision" (2003,
p.197). Those simultaneous, global, and abstract ideas spread, and under these beliefs,
empires and the trade systems among these empires started the emerge. This interpretation of
the Axial Age of Lipset is taken by Eisenstadt and arranged for use in examining historical
sociology. Eisenstadt used this method for early Christianity and early Islam. The difference
of Islam itself is, it achieved the turn of its philosophy into a socio-political system and
brought a new vision by the prophet itself. And the rulers of that time were claiming to come
from the same root with the prophets and acting radically with that charge that they claim they
have. Having that divine power might also have been the cause of contradictions and fights
among different units. Eisenstadt also believes that it is inevitable to stay away from "Eternal
Conflicts". This term refers to issues with life and the afterlife. Some of those old theories
imply that the afterlife is much more important and this belief made the rulers of this world
one step backward. The ideologies which order being humble for the ruler eventually led the
societies into the biggest units of their time. Overall, those ideologies redefined the meaning
of life and how to accomplish it. Big units under those ideologies are required. Furthermore,
the definition of men and the need for being a good man had changed significantly.
Metaphysical needs gained importance. By the time, as a result of God's importance's increase
Divine Rooted Kings lost their influence and the Secular Rulers emerged. This development
brought a rivalry between secular people and religious people at some points. The trade comes
with the change in society and the ruling field also brought wealth to the people. As a short
brief, the priorities for the society were changing and with it, the mechanism of society was
regulating itself too.
Norbert Elias was a German Jewish sociologist who has witnessed the drama of World
Wars. After fighting for Germany in World War 1, because of his thoughts about the war and
especially Germans, he was exiled and during that period he decided to continue his career as
a sociologist. Studying different aspects of sociology, his book "Power and Civility: The
Civilizing Process" got a huge interest after the translation into English. Elias's approach for
examining an event differed from the fundamental functionalist theory, he accepted society as
a living being but at the same time, he refused to see an event or a person as not just an
individual but also a part of a fluid process. From this perspective, he concluded that a
phenomenon is only suitable for inference by considering its past, that time's circumstances,
and the possible outcomes. Another interesting detail that can be realized from his studies is
the psychology background that he had was observable in his studies. The analyses that are
executed on an individual or a macro level affected his findings. He was able to show the
same success with relating the macro and micro level society. According to his descriptions,
civilization is a process that caused big changes in society by the macro-level actions and
individuals. These enormous changes did not occur with any intention. In his book Power and
Civility, Elias argues that "In fact, nothing in history indicates that this change was brought
about 'rationally', through any purposive education of individual people or groups" (1982,
p.230). His main thoughts were focused on the mechanism that was suppressing human
emotions and drives. The first emergence of the Feudal System was a trade with the warriors.
The feudal system that is emerged from the need for protection led these warrior charges to
turn into kingships by the time. The control mechanism that came with that regulation also
resulted in as big changes in individuals. These changes were in various aspects such as
emotions, morality, even the system itself. As a person who is interested in psychology, Elias
described this process as an increase in Ego that drives emotions and desires.
Comparing to that, in Eisenstadt's second stage or the continuation of the Axial Age,
Eisenstadt sees Historic- Bureaucratic Empires' emergence. The general idea of those periods
is "One central aspect of European medieval and modern history was the continuous
construction and reconstruction of chiefdoms, municipalities, feudal fiefs, and cities, as well
as of tribal or transtibial, regional, protonation, and national communities" (2003, p.458). In
these unit's emergence, the rivalry between the groups of society was institutionalized. The
hierarchy that is built by the time also carried the purpose of keeping these conflicts in a more
manageable state. The violence is used less and less often and the problem was delivered to be
solved to upper management. At this point delivering the power and the charge to the parts of
society was a way to keep the bureaucracy in a more stable state. According to Eisenstadt,
two necessities to keep the empire steady were the Ruler's Autonomy and Free Floating
Resources. Ruler's Autonomy allowed him to be a part of the whole system but at the same
time being self-governing on its own. This allowed the rules to influence the system but also
to avoid the effects when it is desired. The second necessity refers to the ruler's management
of sources on groups and society and the impact them. Diversifying the power and the sources
to the different groups of the society and blocking any tension that has the potential for chaos.
As an appliance of two necessities, Eisenstadt gives the example of the Roman Empire's
denial of Christianity for a long time due to the risk that it carries a risk for authority. After a
period, the Roman Empire embraced the belief itself as a part of the community more than a
threat. Besides that, the ruler had to manage tensions between different groups of people such
as; high bureaucratic persons or small and worldwide wars. From his observations, we can
observe generally, Eisenstadt examines society from a functionality perspective, had an
interest in social mechanisms, and also evaluates the power theory and its appliance on the
system. He studies the units of society and the charge that they had during important periods.
Before the Empire Stage, Elias paid attention to the Feudal Period of society. He used
French Court as a model to describe the regulations on human behavior. With an expansion,
these morals started to went down to other groups in society. After these conclusions, Elias
examined the change in Feudal System. The protectors of the people -which were mostly
warriors- became more and more elite and their behaviors were highly restricted. The
violence that was the biggest fear of society was no longer a threat for the people. Shortly,
obedience was accepted in return for safety and by that time, the power became more
centralized. This period continued with the formation of groups and their duties alongside the
charges and responsibilities that come with it. Those groups were divided for different aspects
but also an important part of the evolving society. With this unintentional process and also
with the expansion of the networks, the need and the possible effect of one group or
individual became more and more significant. The trade coming with the networks brought
the perspective of finance. Time brought the usage of money and at the same time, the
immigration to cities was accelerated. This development brought a bigger unit as a market.
As it is discussed above, Eisenstadt interprets history as a flow and according to him,
Modernity is the Second Axial Age. After the first Axial Age – big religions and the rise of
empires- the second enormous movement was the emergence of modernity. This movement
also changed society in many ways; including the question of the afterlife, morality, the path
of wealth for all. The main difference that can be discussed here is the answers to these
ultimate questions. The importance of the afterlife decreased more and more and by the time
it lost its place in the importance of the living world. In other words, the human mind gained
superiority against God's influence. But this change did not end with the disappearance of
religion, actually, new possibilities for evaluating this life and other afterlife occurred. This
replacement between the human mind and the divine order came with some results;
Individuals became autonomous, the liberalization occurred with the will of freedom from the
cultural and political authorities such as church and monarchy. The last result that will be
indicated here is understanding the world physically and having greater control over it. With
modernity, the misjudges were decreased and the world became open to new ideas and
movements. The certain answers were also decreasing for the big questions. One of the most
significant aspects of modernity is the way and the speed that is expanding. In the societies
that modernity has emerged, the minorities were included efficiently but gradually and by the
time – this also led to the problem of missing the line between the ruler and the casual, the
expanding were at a great speed, the understanding of modernity was started to be seen in
many places in the world in many faces.
Closer to the 21st century, according to Elias, technology is not the reason for the
change in human behavior, it is human behavior that is changing constantly. The rivalry
among the nations brought a new understanding of the human relationship. Elias considered
the possible negative outcomes for this situation among the nations. In his view, those
struggles can take nations to the lower steps of development in the best case. Worse cases
might be ending with violence. Also, the interwoven relationship between the hierarchy and
the ordinary people should not be ignored. "…according to the structure of each country, very
diverse countries of affect-formation emerge within the framework of civilized conduct"
(1982, p.256). He gives the upper class in England the regulation between itself and the
working class as an example. The monopoly of the time can be changed by the time and
alternative monopolies can be added to the scene such as economic monopoly. These changes
are sourced not only for the good of the individual but also to increase the power of the center
unit. The changes in behaviors were not only a process that is influenced by the below, this
adaptation can go on both ways on both sides. Today, especially the young generation started
to ask and interpret the questions that were already being asked since ancient times. The
reason and the background of the moral behaviors are asked more frequently. Elias also
indicates that very new-born child is grown up with the restricts that he or she will be exposed
that will be ending with taboos. These states are explained in his book as "All this, the
frustrations, the restlessness, the pressure of work, no less than the never-ending threat to life,
inherent in these inter-state tensions, produces anxiety and fears" (1982, p.329). According to
Elias, only when the balance between the individual's desires self-control is established there
is a better chance to be civilized fully. Elias says until that final point, there is only a process
of civilization that can be discussed.