• Alain Touraine 13 May 2013
    Two opposite statements must be rejected with the same rigor. First (1) is that a few countries have identified themselves with modernity by their scientific, technical and economic achievement and that the rest of the world, which is lagging behind the ‘advanced countries’, must follow in their footsteps and imitate their example. The article first of all sets out the falsity of such a statement, because there is not one but many western paths of modernization, and indicates that it is nothing but a colonialist ideology, which spread from European and American societies and cultures and destroyed all independent efforts of modernization in other countries, in particular China. The hegemony of the western capitalist model is more than challenged by other ways of modernization, for though the soviet model has failed, other countries are ‘emerging’ or have already emerged. Second (2) the opposite representation defends the idea of a complete multiculturalism including political regimes and human rights. It fights against the previous colonialist model and supports a total relativism. But this view makes impossible the communication between completely different countries and cultures and reciprocal fear leads to an extreme conflict between ‘civilizations’, such as S. Huntington has described. This view leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable if each civilization has a complete internal unity and a complete control on all its activities. But the world is not divided into various theocratic states: no single theocratic state commands the whole or the majority of Muslim population. The central problem remains real and difficult: how to combine unity and diversity, the difference between cultures and the capacity for them to communicate with each other? The most useful idea is to elaborate one general definition of modernity, as a culture which is based on universalistic principles. The western mode of modernization is not the only possible one; nor is it at all sure that the western process of separation of temporal and spiritual powers is the only possibility. We cannot assert that universalism must penetrate social life only through political institutions and citizenship. It is beyond any reasonable doubt that modernity, with its universalistic components, cannot be identified with only one type of social organization and cultural values.
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