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A future for the theory of multiple modernities: Insights from the new modernization theory
Elsje Fourie Social Science Information 2012 51: 52 DOI: 10.1177/0539018411425850 The online version of this article can be found at: http://ssi.sagepub.com/content/51/1/52

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SSI51110.1177/0539018411425850FourieSocial Science Information

Theory and methods/Thorie et mthodes

A future for the theory of multiple modernities: Insights from the new modernization theory
Elsje Fourie

Social Science Information 51(1) 5269 The Author(s) 2012 Reprints and permission: sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/0539018411425850 ssi.sagepub.com

School of International Studies, University of Trento, Italy

Abstract In recent years, the concept of multiple modernities has emerged to challenge the perceived Eurocentrism and unilinearity of traditional theories of convergence, and has led to renewed efforts to appreciate differing trajectories of contemporary political and social development. Its exponents key argument that forms of modernity are so varied and contingent on culture and historical circumstance that the term itself must be spoken of in the plural is particularly pertinent in an era where a preoccupation with modernity in societies around the world has not lately been adequately reflected in the academic literature. This article reviews the main principles of this approach, synthesizes its evolution and analyzes its strengths and shortcomings. The article finds that the notion of multiple modernities has been useful in widening the scope of study, and that it focuses on important questions that its rivals have not yet addressed. However, three challenges continue to pose problems for the theory: it has been reluctant to engage with the complexities and evolution of the modernization theory it critiques; it has not consistently delineated and defined its major unit of analysis; and it has not yet identified the core of modernity itself in a way that allows for ideas, movements or societies to fall outside its remit. Although theorists have begun to address the unit of analysis problem by incorporating political dynamics into the study of civilizational difference, the selective incorporation of the empirical methodology and findings of Inglehart & Welzels valuebased, path-dependent approach offers another means by which multiple modernities theory can overcome the challenges identified. Keywords civilizational analysis, culture, modernization, multiple modernities, path dependency

Corresponding author: Elsje Fourie, School of International Studies, University of Trento, Via Verdi 8/10, TN 38100 Italy Email: elsje.fourie@sis.unitn.it

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Rsum Ces dernires annes, le concept de modernits multiples a merg pour contester leurocentrisme ambiant et lunilinarit des thories traditionnelles de convergence, et a conduit des efforts renouvels pour apprcier diffrentes trajectoires de dveloppement politique et social contemporain. Les arguments cls pour cette monte en puissance savoir que les formes de la modernit sont si diverses et dpendantes de la culture et des circonstances historiques que le terme lui-mme doit tre employ au pluriel sont particulirement pertinents une poque o lintrt pour la modernit dans les socits de par le monde ne se reflte pas clairement dans les publications acadmiques rcentes. Cet article passe en revue les grands principes de cette approche, synthtise son volution et analyse ses forces et ses faiblesses. Lauteur constate que la notion de modernits multiples a t utile pour largir le champ dtude, et quelle se concentre sur des questions importantes que les approches concurrentes nont pas encore abordes. Cependant, cette thorie fait face trois dfis qui continuent de poser problme: la rticence se mesurer la complexit et lvolution de la thorie de la modernisation quelle critique, labsence de dlimitation et de dfinition des principales units danalyse et labsence didentification du principe cl de la modernit elle-mme de telle sorte que les ides, les mouvements ou les socits puissent ne pas relever de son champ de comptence. Bien que les thoriciens aient commenc sattaquer au problme des units danalyse en intgrant la dynamique politique dans ltude des variantes des civilisations, lincorporation slective de la mthodologie empirique et des rsultats des recherches dInglehart & Welzel bases sur les valeurs et sur la dpendance au chemin emprunt (path-dependency) offre une autre voie pour que la thorie des modernits multiples puisse surmonter les dfis identifis. Mots-cls analyse des civilisations, culture, dpendance au chemin emprunt (path-dependency), modernisation, modernits multiples
Some, of course, question the value of the very idea of modernity, but the word is all around us, and it may already be too late to legislate its uses. The rhetoric itself may be taken as a sign that, in spite of our contemporary intellectual incredulity toward them, historicist or stageist ideas of history and modernity are never far from our thoughts. We must, therefore, engage and reengage our ideas about modernity in a spirit of constant vigilance. Dipesh Chakrabarty (2002: xx)

Although the gap between academic and popular discourse is often wide, in the case of certain concepts this gap can become a chasm. One such unfortunate term is modernity: it has been unfashionable in the social sciences and especially in its parent discipline, sociology for some time now, and has been disowned and deconstructed to the extent that no formal discussion of it seems complete without a distancing of author from subject. Yet switch on a television, open a newspaper or stroll through any city and one is likely to encounter the term or its variants; clearly, modernity is in the streets more than ever (Kaya, 2004: 47), and so continues to shape our understanding of the world around us.

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The past decade has seen the emergence of several academic alternatives attempting to reconcile the criticisms of modernity with its continued utility, and thereby bridge this divide. One of the most influential of these, the theory of multiple modernities, has argued that modernity continues to have an undeniable global impact, but that this impact is so radically mediated by the historical and cultural backgrounds of each society it encounters that it makes more sense to speak of the concept in the plural. The first section of this article reviews the literature on multiple modernities, synthesizing its central assumptions and problmatiques. Despite attracting valuable debate and bringing an important perspective to the study of modernity, the theory has not yet made the inroads into scholarly or public debates that its proponents have hoped for. The next section of the article, in assessing the strengths and weaknesses of this school of thought, explores why this is the case. It finds that three important stumbling-blocks continue to prevent multiple modernities from realizing its potential, although one strand of the theory has gone some way towards mitigating some of these flaws. The article ends by suggesting collaboration with a new variant of the modernization theory traditionally so derided by the multiple modernities literature, which could offer valuable insights into overcoming the three weaknesses highlighted previously.

Multiple modernities: Assumptions and central concerns Starting points


The theory of multiple modernities, being of recent origin and placing an emphasis on diversity, is neither fully developed in form nor homogeneous in content. The term was coined in the late 1990s by sociologist Schmuel Eisenstadt, who in many ways has been the architect of the theory. Two additional important early scholars, Johann Arnason and Bjorn Wittrock, have been joined by a range of theorists with a variety of interpretations, many from societies in which modernity is said to diverge from the traditional norm. And, indeed, if there is one starting point on which advocates of multiple modernities converge, despite their differences, it is a rejection of the traditional theories of modernization. These are criticized for two fundamental teleological assumptions, namely that modernity is a single, unified homogenizing process, and that the West is the yardstick by which success is measured (Eisenstadt, 2005; Kaviraj, 2005). The convergence theories of Talcott Parsons and others, influential during the 1950s and 1960s, come under particular attack for assuming that structural differentiation and the growth of institutions such as liberal democracy, capitalism and the bureaucratic state are inevitable in modernizing societies throughout the world and will naturally be accompanied by individualism, a secular worldview and other cultural dimensions. For Parsons (1966), societies have little choice but to follow a unilinear path from the primitive to the modern, and it is this view of modernity as a uniform, unambiguously structured pattern in progress towards harmonious integration (Kaya, 2004: 36) to which multiple modernity theorists take particular exception. Most multiple modernity theorists are also highly sceptical of the classical modernization theories of Weber, Hegel, Marx and Habermas, reading them as parochial and focused on the impact of single, uni-causal cultural or institutional factors (Tu, 2005: 198). A few accounts (Eisenstadt et al., 2002) have a more nuanced reading and see in the earliest

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literature an awareness of both the liberating and destructive elements of modernity; but most object to what they see as a determinism and exceptionalism that fail to provide an accurate picture of global processes. Similarly, although there is some recognition that these traditional accounts have become contested since the 1970s and 1980s, multiple modernity theorists argue that a new set of totalizing theories have emerged since the end of the Cold War. Many write of the need for a third way between Fukuyamas (1992) end of history thesis (the logical endpoint of homogenization) and Huntingtons (1996) clash of civilizations thesis (which views modernity as uniquely Western) (Eisenstadt et al., 2002: 2). In place of these theories, then, the theory of multiple modernities argues that all modernization should be seen in the light of its historical context. Because the impact of modernity around the world is and always has been highly contingent on the cultural backgrounds of individual societies, its ideological and institutional manifestations are bound to vary greatly. According to Eisenstadt (2005: 2), modernity is a process of continual constitution and reconstitution of a multiplicity of cultural programmes, whereas Kaviraj (2005: 138) likens modernization to the process of learning a new language but retaining ones original accent and patterns of thought. A further central tenet and starting point for the theory is the fact that modernity has been multiple from its beginnings, and that, until very recently, large parts of Europe could scarcely be called modern themselves. Throughout the past two centuries, Western economies, political systems and societies have been organized in very different ways, with the role of the state in Europe and the United States being only one example of divergence (Wittrock, 2005: 33). Europe, as a whole, has never been economically modern and has only very recently become politically modern, if these concepts are taken to be synonymous with the liberal market economy and nation-state/constitutional republic respectively. Throughout its expansion, modernity has been heavily contested in Europe the Vienna Congress and Holy Alliance were nothing if not comprehensive attempts to make Europe safe for tradition (Wittrock, 2005: 47). At other times, competing visions of modernity in Europe came destructively to blows, during the Second World War for example. As modernity transformed (and was transformed by) Europe, its various incarnations were exported to the spheres of influence of each modern power, with the result that India came into contact with a completely different set of values and institutions than did South America (Mazlish, 2002: 71). The results were far too complex and multidimensional, hold the advocates of multiple modernities, to be described simply as Westernization. Multiple modernities, in locating the spatial beginnings of modernity, thus accords the European experience an important, albeit not homogeneous or hegemonic, position. As regards modernitys temporal evolution, there seems to be general agreement that the late 18th century witnessed the deep-seated epistemic transformations and interconnected cultural transformations necessary for observers to speak of a new age (Wittrock, 2005: 41). The roots may lie deeper, specifically in the urban, feudal, intellectual and papal revolutions of the 12th and 13th centuries, or the Enlightenment, but it was only really with the American War of Secession, the Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution, advocates argue, that modernity began to emerge as a cultural and political programme. Although the key features of this programme will be discussed shortly, it is important to note here that these radical new changes are not held to be mere intensifications of trends that had come before,

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but an abandonment of universal Enlightenment values and discourses in favour of forms of representation and endowment of rights based on territoriality or membership in a linguistically and historically constituted and constructed community (Wittrock, 2005: 45).

The problematics of multiple modernities


The past two centuries have thus been fundamentally different in some way, but how? In attempting to answer this question, the theory of multiple modernities contains within it several additional closely related questions or themes. The first concerns the antinomies of differentiation and integration. At modernitys heart a tension has always existed between the legitimacy of individual interests, on the one hand, and totalizing ideologies, on the other (Eisenstadt, 2005: 8). Because modernity fosters these competing visions of the public good, it contains within it the seeds of its own continual destruction and reconstruction. Multiple modernity theorists thus argue that the multiplicity of political and societal forms today are merely a continuation of this process and occur within, rather than outside, modernity itself. A further question leads on from this, and asks whether modernity is a substantive set of processes and phenomena, or merely temporal. Can we speak of modern societies (and thus necessarily of non-modern societies) or is it enough to say that we live in an epoch where modernity has become a common global condition? Multiple modernity theorists, on the whole, tend towards the latter conclusion: to Wittrock (2005: 38), our age is marked by the fact that modernity now forms a reference point around which even its self-professed opponents must construct their opposition and identities. These theorists thus view the ascendancy of challenges to liberalism not as do some as the beginning of a postmodern condition, but as the continual reinterpretation and contestation of a concept whose demise many have been too quick to herald. Some of the literature takes this open-ended notion of modernity to considerable lengths, viewing it as a loosely-structured constellation, open to modification and redefinitions (Arnason, 2002: 132). Some proponents argue that attaching a definition to modernity will render it a closed monolith and that it is thus neither necessary nor possible to work outside modernity (Kaya, 2004: 45). The extent to which certain societies are modern or not modern is considered less important than doing away with such binary oppositions altogether. However, several other exponents of the theory have remarked on the potential erosion and loss of meaning that such an amorphous approach can entail (Gle, 2005: 91) and have attempted to define the core and thereby also the limits of modernity. This core is never institutional or organizational, but is situated at the far more abstract level of ontological and cultural orientations. This, ideally, allows multiple modernities to explain the evolution of political and economic forms around a number of fixed principles. The most important of these principles is a conception of human agency that was radically new at the time that it developed two centuries ago a conception of humans as autonomous and able to exercise control over their environment through rational mastery and conscious activity (Eisenstadt, 2005). Societies hitherto embedded in a world-view ordained by God were freed to re-evaluate the foundations on which they operated and to construct new institutions accordingly.

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These critical notions of autonomy and rational mastery over self, society and nature had numerous consequences. New forms of popular participation were born, and the relationships between the centre and periphery were inexorably redefined. The identities of the individual moved beyond the fixed, the local and the narrow, and began to take on universal significance (Lerner & Inkeles, quoted in Eisenstadt, 2005: 4). The vision of political and public space was transformed, and with it the very relationship between the polity, society and civil society. This new conception of the political sphere has proved to be greatly destabilizing. To Wittrock (2005: 137), modernity offered and continues to offer a specific set of what he terms promissory notes, namely the standards that macrosocietal institutions are held up to, at least in principle. Every society articulates promissory notes, which are publicly expressed, realizable, and, in acting as points of departure for proposals and counterproposals, form generalized reference points for that society. What makes the promissory notes of modernity unique seems to be the new forms of political organization they advocate, as well as the controversy and revolutionary upheaval around which they centre (Wittrock, 2005: 42). This potential for revolutionary upheaval is crucial. Many authors emphasize the utopian and even eschatological or Jacobin visions which seem to play such an important role in modern political and cultural programmes (e.g. Eisenstadt, 2002). Because modernity is, in one sense, so totalizing and irreversible, themes of protest and the complete reinvention of society feature strongly. Conflict and struggle is inherent in modernity, be it conflict between multiple cultural orientations (Arnason, 2002: 133) or between competing visions of the collective good within a polity. This renders modernity, and modernizing societies, highly reflexive, self-questioning and self-conscious. In a sense, modernity places agents outside of their time and place, bringing about an unprecedented historical consciousness.

Contributions and challenges


The theory of multiple modernities shares much of the above definition with other contemporary scholarship on modernity. Modernitys emphasis on autonomy and agency (Chakrabarty, 2002: 46; Wagner, 2008) as well as its revolutionary potential and reflexivity (see, particularly, Kolakowski, 1990, for the famous characterization of modernity as being on endless trial) are not entirely unique to the theory. Multiple modernities is also not the only theory to characterize the age itself, and everything inside it, as inherently modern. A number of scholars have argued for the inclusion of ostensibly unmodern movements in an analysis of modernity, arguing that modernitys telos of emancipation leads to the creative adaptation and reimagining of modernity by unlikely social groupings (Domingues, 2009: 128). Gaonkars theory of alternative modernities has been most notable in this respect, arguing that creative adaptation allows people to make themselves modern and thereby actively construct their own notion of modernity (Gaonkar, 2001: 17). However, the contribution of the multiple modernities theory lies in the thesis that cultural and historical backgrounds lead different civilizations to have sufficiently different interpretations of these core features so as to result in various distinctive modernities. Multiple modernities is therefore notable and controversial among theories of modernity for its reliance on comparative civilizational analysis. For Eisenstadt (2005: 4), for example,

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cultural entities such as China, Japan or Western Europe are characterized by certain core identities stemming from earlier periods of cultural crystallization. This orientation towards civilizations (in the plural) is born partially from the need to combat the view of civilization (capitalized and in the singular), which was once so prominent in discussions on progress, and partially from the view of modernity as a conscious political and cultural project that bound people together in collective understandings and responses to the modern. Multiple modernities, especially in its earlier incarnations, also places a strong emphasis on the cultural elements of modernity. Coinciding with the so-called cultural turn witnessed in the social sciences in the 1990s, its proponents have argued strongly against a perceived neglect of cross-cultural and comparative-historical analysis. Something fundamental clearly separates us from our pre-modern ancestors, it remarks, and yet the spread of institutions has been so uneven that the change must lie elsewhere. Cultural orientations are embodied in institutions, but are not reducible to them (Arnason, 2005: 65). Whatever the weaknesses of a cross-civilizational and cross-cultural approach (and these will be discussed shortly), it opens the way for two further contributions. Firstly, being site-based, it allows for the examination of several highly topical cases. China, and East Asia more generally, comes under particularly intense scrutiny, sometimes as instances of Confucian modernity (Tu, 2005; Wakeman, 2002). In a region where elites have been struggling for more than a century to formulate their responses and construct their own identity in reference to modernity, the tensions between supposedly value-neutral modern imports such as technology and the cultural heart that elites have sought to preserve have been profound (Wakeman, 2002). Islamic, Communist, American and Indian (or Hindu) modernities are similarly analyzed. In addition, an emphasis on culture has allowed for the examination of the complex interplay between the modern and the traditional in the creation of collective cultural identities globally. Elites and intellectuals have been able to participate actively in some of the practices of modernity whilst actively rejecting others. As Eisenstadt (2005: 14) puts it, it has been possible for these groups to incorporate some of the Western universalistic elements of modernity in the construction of their own new collective identities, without necessarily giving up specific components of their traditional identitities. For many around the world, modernity has been double-edged, containing within itself both the hope of freedom and material benefit, but also the loss of identity. This ambivalence of universalizing visions (Sachsenmaier, 2002: 45), this threat of destruction and promise of emancipation, can only be theorized by a conception of modernity and culture that sees the two as intertwined rather than in continual opposition. Criticisms of traditional theories of modernity have been numerous in recent decades. However, they have tended either to take the form of postmodern accounts of disillusionment that originate from the West or, as one author points out (Sachsenmaier, 2002: 60), have been articulated within specific national contexts (such as that of Turkey), which have portrayed themselves as the sole hold-outs in a modernized, homogenized world and nation. Multiple modernities must thus be given considerable credit for taking the first step towards constructing a comprehensive cultural-historical critique of modernity theory while simultaneously acknowledging the continued importance of the concept itself. The accusation that cultural differentiation is secondary in importance to more explicit patterns of institutional co-variation (e.g. in Schmidt, 2006: 88) seems rather arbitrary; although institutions

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are more malleable and measurable than culture, and phenomena such as urbanization or democratization more tangible than values such as autonomy or rationality, this does not make them inherently more significant. Schmidt suspects that modern-day Japan is more similar to contemporary Canada or Germany than it is to traditional Japan (2006: 81), but this surely depends on how convergence is operationalized. As studies of institutional variation fill the need for an understanding of the diffusion of those modes of societal organization born in 18th-century Europe, multiple modernities fills a similarly important gap in our understanding of how societies and traditions that predated these changes understand their roles and futures in the midst of this diffusion. However, a number of criticisms can, in turn, be levelled against the theory of multiple modernities itself, three of which are of particular significance. First, it tends to misrepresent or at the very least engage insufficiently with its predecessors and contemporaries. Particularly those authors who condemn all prior modernization theory as Panglossian forget, for example, Webers Iron Cage of bureaucratic control and economic compulsion (Weber, 1976 [1920]: 181), or the wistfulness with which he describes the disenchantment of the world (Weber, 2004 [1948]: 155). Nor do all advocates of modernization theory see the process as unilinear; even the convergence theory of Parsons and others does not claim that all difference between (or within) cultures will disappear and that countries will become exact replicas of the United States (Schmidt, 2008: 4). Similarly, there is little meaningful engagement or refutation of postmodernism, yet any theorist who claims that scholars have only very recently begun to pose serious questions about Eurocentric theories of modernity (Kaya, 2004: 36) must first explain why the questions of postmodernism (or, for that matter, Islamic fundamentalism) are not considered to have at least started the ball rolling. By dismissing all prior discussions of modernity as Western in nature, multiple modernities does a disservice to the rich and varied tradition that has existed for decades in the developing world, in fields such as subaltern studies (e.g. Chakrabarty, 2002).1 Multiple modernities remains unique in its project to move beyond these criticisms into a more coherent, global theoretical whole, yet it would do well to take them into greater consideration. Second, the theory exhibits serious ontological confusion at times, especially in its inconsistency regarding its units of analysis. At times, each civilization is seen to have its own variant of modernity, while elsewhere religion or the territorial state is seen as providing the major dividing lines between modernities. In Eisenstadts most influential explanation of how such crystallization came about, he builds on Jaspers notion of the Axial Age, a seminal period spanning 800200 BC that witnessed the emergence of the major world religions and, with them, competing visions of how to reconcile the transcendental and the temporal (Eisenstadt, 2003: 197). For Eisenstadt, the civilizations that resulted have responded to the changes wrought by the modern world in distinctive and cohesive ways. If European modernity was as diverse from its birth as the theorists of multiple modernities claim, however, can it be possible to speak of a single Confucian modernity? It also remains unclear why modernity itself is open to constant revision and fragmentation, yet the societies it comes into contact with are not. Civilizational crystallization is one thing to explain, but civilization persistence that stretches for millennia is more difficult to illustrate, and Eisenstadts silence on the mechanisms by which this may occur is a weakness of the theory (Knbl, 2010: 91). Societies and civilizations are not, by their nature, closed,

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static entities. After all, if modernity is above all a force of dynamism and agency, then it would be contradictory to imagine that it can so easily be shaped and reified by culture (Wagner, 2008: 3). Empirical research could elucidate some of these questions, yet multiple modernities has tended to remain firmly in the realm of theory. Several authors have made significant (but still primarily theoretical) contributions towards overcoming this problem, signifying a more general recognition of its seriousness within the theory at large. An early first step came from Arnasons (1997) examination of the Japanese encounter with modernity. Eschewing explanations dependent on religion and ritual in favour of an emphasis on the role of imperial projects in creating distinct modernities, Arnason focuses on the crucial role that Japanese projects of state-building (ironically borrowed from the Chinese model of national unification) have played historically in creating and imagining the Japanese civilization so often taken as immutable (Arnason, 1997). In so doing, he reintroduces questions of political power and elite-led mobilization into the areas of civilizational analysis and multiple modernities. Building on these insights, Knbl (2010: 91) has argued for a renewed focus on power, politics and other mechanisms by which civilizations reproduce themselves and evolve over time. This notion that modernity is constructed, particularly by political elites or certain other indigenous modernizing actors, is increasingly present in the multiple modernities literature. Duara (2002), for example, argues that contemporary civilizations, in their essentialist, reified forms, resulted from the modernity project of the early 20th century rather than from authentic historical trajectories. By creating civilizations which embodied supposed sets of values defined in binary opposition to the West, they were able to lend authority to political leadership and were appropriated by the nation-state system (Duara, 2002). This perspective has the neat effect of portraying civilizations as a suitable unit of analysis due precisely to modernity and the distinctive political and ideological configurations that stem from it. Another promising approach to the dilemma is that of Wagner (2010). Unlike the abovementioned authors, who largely favour the retention of the concept of civilizations (albeit much theoretically strengthened) as the primary units of analysis, Wagner argues that civilizations are only one particular form of societal self-understanding. By taking societal self-understandings as a more inclusive foundation for the existence of various incarnations of the modern, multiple modernities would better be able to account for the myriad contested and dynamic ways in which people in heterogeneous political units, such as Brazil or South Africa, interpret their modern trajectories (Wagner, 2010). The final, and most significant dilemma concerns the question of the core or definition of modernity. As mentioned previously, rational mastery and autonomy are two themes that often emerge in the literature as central to modernity. However, even where multiple modernity theorists agree that the expression of these principles constitutes modernity (and not all do agree), both rational mastery and autonomy are often interpreted so loosely as to be in danger of losing coherence. In an effort at inclusiveness, operationalization is usually eschewed and all major contemporary developments deemed modern. Yet delineation of a concept is surely possible only if certain objects of analysis are deemed to fall outside its limits. Here, too, empirical inquiry that constructs typologies and similar comparative frameworks could be useful in making sense of this diversity. Jeppersons (2002) division of European multiple political modernities into social-corporate, state-corporate, statenation and liberal variants, and Wagners (1994) examination of mutations of Western

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modernity are examples of important site-specific work that has been done in this regard, but these are both concerned with a single continent and are not typical of the multiple modernities literature as a whole. One particular case that of Islamic fundamentalism demonstrates this definitional danger particularly well. Multiple modernities theory holds that autonomy and rational mastery are central to modernity, but that different societies can interpret both of those concepts in radically different ways. For this reason, it argues that these contemporary religious fundamentalist movements are themselves modern and are essential in bringing about a uniquely Islamic modernity. Theorists acknowledge that Islamism rejects the dominant features of modernity (Gle, 2005: 93), and that anti-modern symbolism and a yearning for a mythical past set it at odds with certain aspects of the concept. However, at the same time, they argue that, because this past is imagined and selectively interpreted, and because a radical break with recent history is advocated, Islamism is, paradoxically, only seemingly anti-modern. In fact, they hold, its view of the state as sovereign and territorial, and its desire to purify a corrupt society make it a very modern movement (Kaldor, 2003: 2). Religion, too, is reappropriated and subject to constant revision and reflexivity. In this way, Islamism introduces Muslim agency into the modern arena and enables Muslims to participate collectively and critically in the modern age. Participation in Islamist movements, some allege, even allows women to redraw the boundaries of traditional gender roles and obtain visibility in public life, bringing about what Gle (2005) calls the forbidden modern. Much of this is certainly true: Islamic fundamentalism is possible only in a modern age, as these groups obsession with modernity makes clear. It is also true that much of this supposed denial of modernity is selective, and that Islamisms interactions with modernity are more sophisticated and open to mutual co-option than meets the eye. However, totalistic essentialist movements existed before modernity, and, I would argue, are likely to outlive it. It would seem that a modern ideology must not only be self-reflexive, but must have at its heart the human autonomy and rationality mentioned previously. As such, it is doubtful that a religious movement which has as its primary aim the ultimate surrender of this agency to a higher, transcendental authority can be inherently modern, unless the concept is to lose some of its meaning, no matter how multiple its manifestations. In addition, an ideology that seeks to return to the past (even in an imagined, unrecognizable form) is as much reactionary as it is revolutionary. Islamic fundamentalism may thus be best understood as a critique of modernity. Rather than speaking of modernities defined by Islamic (or Hindu or Christian) fundamentalism, it is perhaps preferable to speak instead of modern societies where religious fundamentalism and the values of freedom and rational mastery are continually engaged in a complex, multi-directional interplay. This may indeed result in a new form of modernity one defined not by the religion of those who live within it, however, but by the new values that form in the interaction between these competing principles. The question of whether this autonomy can be collective as well as individual is a more difficult one, and one that Arnason (2005) and others have explored in discussions of communist modernity. Given the impact of Marxist thought on modern state-building and the mobilization of entire societies to create a vision of the future where the traditional bonds constraining freedom are severed forever, the evidence that communism is not a rejection but instead a distinctive model of modernity is more conclusive here. In any case, the concepts

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of autonomy and rational mastery can be interpreted differently from society to society, but they cannot be stretched indefinitely. Together, the unit-of-analysis and definitional dilemmas point to the intellectual tightrope that the theory will have to walk if it is to achieve lasting explanatory and predictive power. On the one hand, multiple modernities is attempting to deconstruct established notions of the modern in order to explain the plurality of socio-political forms around the world. On the other, it realizes that it is not enough to simply posit infinite, meaningless variation, and therefore often reverts to exactly the casual cultural generalizations it is hoping to avoid. In so doing, it lays itself open, at the one extreme, to charges of essentialism, cultural determination and ahistoricism (as articulated, for example, in Des Forges, 2002: 672; Wagner, 2008: 3), while, at the other, it can be accused of stretching the boundaries of modernity so far that they begin to collapse. Multiple modernities theory must be careful to avoid charges that it only distances itself from what it takes to be the most objectionable views of modernization theory without offering an alternative definition (Schmidt, 2006: 78). The work of theorists such as Wagner, Knbl and especially Arnason has gone some way towards reconciling this tension. By focusing on the construction of various discrete configurations of modernity by purposive political and social actors, their refinement of the theory puts clear yet flexible boundaries around the units that multiple modernities aims to analyze if not always around the definition of modernity itself. If multiple modernities theory is to use comparative civilizational and societal analysis as part of its toolbox (and that is indeed where its unique contribution lies), it would do well to focus on the process and mechanisms by which such entities come into existence. This is one promising branch that can grow out of the theory. However, other potential offshoots exist. Multiple modernities does not necessarily have to jettison its roots in cross-cultural theorizing. This rich area of possibility, first opened up by Eisenstadt, can continue to guide scholars of modernity, allowing for a clearer understanding of the ways in which the collective values and cultural practices of people affected by modernity around the world both diverge and intertwine. For them to do so in a sophisticated manner, however, they will need to find ways to overcome the three difficulties mentioned above. The next section introduces a body of literature that holds the potential to help multiple modernities in this regard by focusing on the pathdependency of societal values in the face of modernity.

Multiple modernities and modernization theory: Reconcilable after all?


As has been demonstrated, the theory of multiple modernities faces three obstacles at present: it misrepresents and misunderstands modernization theory; it has difficulty in defining its primary unit of analysis without succumbing to cultural essentialism; and its definition of modernity is often so inclusive as to lose coherence. As the theory of multiple modernities has been developing, its opponent, modernization theory, has itself witnessed a resurgence, as well as a movement in several intriguing new directions. The most well-developed, prominent and for our purposes promising of these is the path-dependency variant developed by Ronald Inglehart and Christian Welzel. Taking a positivist political-science approach and drawing on two decades of lengthy

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Figure 1. The InglehartWelzel cultural map of the world (Inglehart, 2009b)

surveys conducted in an ever-expanding sample of countries, the theory measures cultural values on issues such as sexual equality, democracy, trust and religious belief. Plotting these on a graph with two axes one running from survival values to self-expression values and the other from traditional values to secular-rational values, Inglehart & Welzel (2005, 2009b) find that countries with a similar cultural, linguistic and/or historical background tend to cluster together (Figure 1). In addition, industrialized countries tend to place high on secular-rational values, and wealthy countries usually also adhere to values of self-expression. The correlation is by no means neat or perfect, however, leading the authors to conclude that a given countrys values are as much shaped by historical path dependency as by the factors such as technological innovation and economic growth that are usually associated with modernization (Inglehart & Welzel, 2005). Industrialization and the mechanization of labour tend to push societies towards rationalism and away from otherworldly interpretations; over time, the accumulated economic growth and accompanying material security that such developments have historically produced pushes societies to value individual self-expression over the

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survival values they now take for granted. At the same time, however, the values each country or, presumably, its component cultures held before these changes occurred continues to shape the impact of modernization on the values of its inhabitants. Socioeconomic development does tend to propel various societies in a roughly predictable direction, but different societies follow different trajectories even when subject to the same forces of modernization (Inglehart & Welzel, 2005: 19, 21). Although it is safe to say that this modified, updated version of modernization theory has both more critics and more admirers than the theory of multiple modernities, it is not without its flaws, a detailed examination of which lies outside the scope of this article. However, a selective engagement with the work of Inglehart & Welzel can go some way towards reconciling some of the gaps and tensions inherent in the study of multiple modernities. To date, the two theories have moved largely on parallel tracks, separated by a significant methodological divide. In keeping with its critical orientation and interpretive approach, multiple modernities has largely eschewed positivist, quantitative methodologies. Comparative civilizational analysis is not essentially incompatible with these techniques, however. As one advocate of civilizational analysis rightly chides, the contours of civilizations have to be detected empirically, they must not be set by a priori decisions (Knbl, 2010: 87); one such method of detection could be the use of survey techniques. Those scholars of multiple modernities willing to employ mixed methods may use the data generated by the World Values Survey as a starting point, before using qualitative and interpretive analysis to explore anomalies, convergences and shifts in cultural orientation within regions or individual societies. If a bridge can be built between any contemporary theory analyzing modernity, on the one hand, and any contemporary theory analyzing modernization, on the other, the multiple modernity and path-dependency variants would appear to be the most promising candidates respectively. The former is recently attempting to blend the consideration of political factors into a strand of analysis that has long been primarily cultural in nature, in order to allow for the comprehensive comparison of large modern collectivities around the world; the latter attempts a similar thing by bringing culture back into a theory that was previously seen as primarily economic and political in nature. Inglehart & Welzel have sought to ameliorate many of the flaws that multiple modernity theorists decry in traditional modernization theory. Their analysis allows for the possibility that a society may revert to values of survival in the face of severe economic hardship, for instance, thereby rejecting the teleological notion that modernization is inevitable and uni-directional (Inglehart & Welzel, 2009a). In addition, the interplay between historical and modernizing forces prevents the theory from lapsing into the simplistic economic determinism posited by the convergence theorists. If the theory remains resolutely optimistic and preoccupied with universalistic ideas of human progress, this is an area where multiple modernities could offer a valuable corrective. An engagement with an updated theory of modernization, therefore, could help the multiple modernities literature to overcome that reluctance to engage with modernization theory in its varied, nuanced forms, as mentioned earlier in this article. Such an engagement is also likely to alleviate the second shortcoming identified by this study, namely the unit-of-analysis problem. Path-dependency theory collates survey data by country, giving each individual country surveyed a unique place on the InglehartWelzel

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cultural map of the world. At the same time, countries cluster into a number of cultural zones (Inglehart & Welzel, 2005: 6). Some of these are religious in origin (Confucian, Islamic, Orthodox), some geographical in nature (Africa, South Asia and Latin America), some a combination of these two factors (Catholic Europe, Protestant Europe) and some based on common encounters with colonialism (English-speaking). This inconsistency reflects the inductive nature of the research and allows for interesting conclusions regarding the relative importance of religious processes (such as those analyzed by Eisenstadt) in some parts of the world, and the significance of political processes (as emphasized by Arnason) in others. This is indeed a move away from the a priori drawing of civilizational boundaries decried above. The two-level analysis that results is consistent with Mausss highly influential definition of civilization as a family of societies held together by historical, linguistic, archaeological and anthropological facts (Mauss, 2006 [1929]: 62). It allows multiple modernities to use established political entities as the building blocks which create larger, more nebulous civilizations (although Inglehart & Welzel do not use the latter term). The borders of these civilizations can be roughly delineated at any time, but are in constant flux, undergoing subtle changes over time. Such an approach is thus in keeping with the status of the Westphalian nation-state as a central institution of modernity, and with the recognition that a focus on this institution is important but insufficient. Naturally, this leads to several anomalies, exceptions and blurred boundaries Polands values place it in the South Asia zone, and Ethiopias show it to have more in common with the Islamic world than with other majority-Christian countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Rather than weakening the theory, however, such puzzles can serve to open up intriguing new areas of inquiry for multiple modernities, which is more suited to the close sociological analysis required for a deep understanding of how countries came to be placed where they did, how they are likely to evolve and how this process is likely to reshape the boundaries of the civilization to which they belong. Finally, aspects of the path-dependency approach may be able to bring multiple modernities closer to a more satisfactory solution to the dilemma of what to include in the definition of modernity. First appearances notwithstanding, the definitions used by the two approaches are remarkably similar; Inglehart & Welzels modern values of secular rationalism and self-expression align well with the rational mastery and autonomy of multiple modernities. The difference lies in the former theorys willingness to designate certain cultures or societies as more modern or less modern than others, on the basis of the values held by their populations (e.g. Inglehart & Welzel, 2005: 275). Of course, many will view such an argument with trepidation: can the designation of something or some group as non- or pre-modern ever be anything but a gesture of the powerful? asks Chakrabarty (2002: xix), for instance. However, this was a far greater danger before the Janus-faced nature of modernity was truly recognized, and when modernity was still viewed as a holy grail which could cure all societys ills. Inglehart & Welzels approach can be rightly criticized for its unbridled optimism the authors equate modernization with human development in a way that multiple modernities does not need to accept. Multiple modernities, by continuing to explore the disorienting, disenchanting and destabilizing aspects of modernity on societies, can act as a valuable corrective to this belief that modern values unfailingly indicate higher levels of human welfare in a society. Ultimately, however, multiple modernities must confront the fact that, for modernity to retain any utility as a concept, we must be able to speak, as well, of the unmodern.
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Do we live, as multiple modernities suggests, in an age of modernity, where proposals and counterproposals all use certain key, modern principles as reference points? Are we all modern, but in ways sufficiently unique to warrant the plural of the term? The answer, this article would suggest, is that all societies are modern, but that some are more modern than others. As both the path-dependency and the multiple modernities literature show, all societies are caught up in the same interplay between the complex and contradictory forces that mark the modern age. No countrys values place it squarely in the bottom-left corner of Inglehart & Welzels map, illustrating the dynamic debates occurring within even the most traditional societies. Modernity is multiple because terms such as rationality and autonomy are interpreted differently around the world. Despite this fact, rationality and autonomy are not valued equally by all people in all societies, as modernity has not yet completely remade the world in its image. The above observations notwithstanding, it is less important to determine whether modernity is singular or multiple than it is to understand what comprises the defining features of modernity, and to what extent variation on these features exists around the world. The scarcity of studies of African modernity or even African modernities in the multiple modernities literature indicates that it is perhaps vaguely aware of the uncomfortable possibility that different levels of modernity may exist even within this modern age.

Concluding thoughts
Multiple modernities is a promising theory in an area of political sociology that is still underdeveloped and has had to contend with wide-ranging and rapid global transformations in recent years. Notable for its comparative civilizational and cultural approach, its emphasis on the varied forms that modernity has taken around the world has filled a gap left by those who repudiate modernity as a contemporary research agenda and those who particularly in the past viewed convergence as the only possible outcome to the forces of modernization. Its often-sensitive exploration of the temporal, spatial and substantive aspects of modernity has brought important insights from sociology into a field dominated, for several decades, by anthropology and political science. The approach itself, however, is still in need of further development if it is to go beyond the level of critique and make use of empirical findings to strengthen its theoretical analysis. Usually a nuanced theory, multiple modernities nonetheless fails to engage the many variants of modernization theory with sufficient sophistication and sensitivity. The theory suffers from two further problems. Precisely because multiple modernities seeks both to collectivize (by analyzing distinct social and political entities) and to deconstruct (by doing away with the notion of one single modernity), it faces attacks on two almost opposing fronts. On the one hand, it stands accused of using cultures, religions and civilizations as units of analysis in a arbitrary and essentialist fashion; on the other, it is charged with subsuming so much under the label of modernity that the concept begins to lack meaning. The growing tendency to eschew Eisenstadts original focus on religion and ritual as the glue which binds civilizations in favour of an emphasis on the politics and power behind civilization-building has served as a possible corrective to the unit-of-analysis problem. Another remedy and the one proposed in this article is the selective use of empirical, even quantitative, data as found in Inglehart & Welzels revised theory of modernization. In this way, multiple modernities might take advantage of recent, parallel (but hitherto
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unacknowledged) advances in modernization theory, whilst simultaneously improving on some of the weaknesses of the later. A value-oriented approach allows for the boundaries of civilizations to emerge empirically, and for anomalies to highlight the complex and flexible nature of civilizational change. It measures modernity in a way that is concrete yet cultural (rather than primarily institutional or economic), along two indices rationalism and autonomy that closely correspond to multiple modernities existing understanding of modernity. Multiple modernities does not have to accept the causal inferences or the optimism of Inglehart & Welzels approach in order to take the point that the same modern values are found in individual societies to greater or lesser degrees. Shared values are one measure by which to differentiate between the various path-dependent manifestations of modernity that exist today whether that modernity stems from culturally transmitted practices, conscious political projects or technologically driven economic growth. Multiple modernities began its life as a critique of post-war modernization theory and rightly so. It is only by realizing that its traditional opponent has since developed and increased in sophistication, however, that multiple modernities will be able to do the same. Acknowledgements
The author would like to thank Peter Wagner, Vincent Della Sala and several anonymous peer reviewers for their valuable comments on this work.

Funding
This work was supported by funding from the University of Trento.

Note
1 Ashis Nandys critical traditionalism, discussed at length in Chakrabarty (2002), is only one example of the theorizing that multiple modernities claims has been lacking until recently.

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Author biography
Elsje Fourie is a PhD candidate in the School of International Studies at the University of Trento (Italy). Her current research focuses on the influence of the East Asian model of development on the modernization strategies of Ethiopian and Kenyan elites. She holds an MA and MPhil from the University of Bradford (England).

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