WHY THE CENTER – PERIPHERY DIVIDE MAKES NO SENSE: MODERNITY AS A TRAVELING SPHERE OF OPTIONS
There are two dominant explanations for the global reach of modernization processes. On the one hand, we have the representation of a vast network of mainly economic interests, centered in the highly developed Western world that gradually covers the whole planet. On the other hand, the global span of modernization is seen as the gradual imitation and internalization by marginal cultures and civilizations of a consistent system of emancipatory values that emerged in Western Europe and North America. Even if severely opposed, these two doctrines share an essential assumption: modernity and modernization derive from a set of positive, non-conflictual beliefs. But modernity can be understood, in complete opposition to „consistency-theories”, as a social and cultural process which essentially expands at a global scale the intellectual contradictions of modernity: liberty versus equality, responsibility versus solidarity, cooperation versus competition, innovation versus conservation, historical teleology versus historical skepticism, moral absolutism versus moral relativism. At the same time, modernity is the process of elaborating ways of coping with structural social and cognitive indetermination, and the virtual sphere that contains all possible patterns of response. Once we re-draw the picture of modernity as a global process along these lines, the distinction center-periphery, at least for intellectual processes, loses much of its grip. My main argument is that irrespective of its place of insertion in a presumed hierarchical network of civilizational influences, the theoretical mind is confronted with, and responsible for, finding plausible, even if vulnerable and transitory answers to essentially the same cognitive and ethical conundrums.
Keywords: multiple modernities, cultural disquiet, homeless mind, adaptation, philosophy as a way of life.