Term Paper: Modernity Might We Not Argue

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Might we not argue that modernity begins with the establishment of the bourgeoisie and that as a result, the vast majority of us are better off than we were before? Please include a definition of the word "modernity."

The concept of modernity is, first, necessarily a relative one, depending on one's (and/or one's group) position: economically; socially; culturally, and vis-a-vis both one's past and one's future; and one's lifestyle; concerns; hopes, and aspirations. In medieval and later Europe, modernity meant the rise of merchant and industrial classes (as opposed to strictly agrarian societies), and with that, the rise of the bourgeoisie (merchants and tradesmen): a brand new social class. In post-Civil War America, modernity included mass migration to large cities (i.e., leaving the farm behind) and mass industrialization (and with it, the rise of huge cities and a new American bourgeoisie). According to Webster's New American Dictionary (1995), the term "modern" means: "of, relating to, or characteristic of the present or the immediate past: CONTEMPORARY" (p. 333). The relationship of modernity, within today's world, to being either better or worse off is, in my opinion, likely a complex and dialectical one: modernity is both good and bad (i.e. both better and worse for us, in terms of our everyday lives). The good (or better) is contained within the bad (or worse), and the bad (or worse) within the good (or better).

The term "bourgeoisie" is also a relative one, depending on one's nationality, outlook, and materialistic and/or other perspectives. The original European concepts of "bourgeois" (used as an adjective) and "bourgeoisie" (used as a descriptive noun) probably originated in the 11 or 12th centuries, with the rise of medieval European cities considered, then, centers for commerce or trade: Western Mecca for merchants and tradesmen, the first capitalists.

Today, however, the terms "bourgeois" and "bourgeoisie" are synonymous with cultural shallowness; material worship; acquisitiveness; lack of historical perspective; absence of cultural or social sophistication. If modernity began with the rise of the bourgeoisie, that likely represented significant progress for serfs or peasants who now sought non-agrarian, easier, more equal ways of life. Medieval landowners losing live-in serf labor, though, were probably less overjoyed. The rise of the European bourgeoisie also brought a gradual end to feudalism, throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. This was good for the serf, bad for the landowner: that is, an example of progress being good for some, bad for others. In the 19th century, the European bourgeoisie pushed for civil rights and religious freedoms, which the bourgeoisie of Europe, America, and other places today take for granted. Such rights, though, were absent under feudalism. But about this time, key differences sprang up within and around the bourgeoisie: stratifications leading to "class consciousness" (which would lead, Marx argued, to revolutions).

In America since 1865, the spread of capitalism and the influences of technology have combined to create an ever-expanding middle class, to which everyone may (in theory, at least) aspire. The industrial bourgeoisie (e.g., Rockefeller, Carnegie, Mellon) of the 19th century differed greatly from the petty bourgeoisie (those who would be considered, by today's standards, white collar workers, managers, small business owners, etc.).

If anything, such class differences are sharper now, and more visible due to other modern "improvements," like television. Nowadays, the "petty bourgeoisie" (and the poor) can look right in, for their leisure time entertainment, on lifestyles of the rich and famous, or pretend to hang with Donald Trump. Such voyeurism arguably gives some of the less privileged among us fire and ambition to improve ourselves. Likely, though, it makes many more among us envious, discontented, even angry or resentful about our own relatively modest circumstances. In America today, increased crime rates; alcoholism; workplace violence; and drug and gambling addictions may possibly be, at least to an extent, the end results.

2. The flip side to the question in #1 is that modernity does not come without costs such as using science to develop weapons of mass destruction, issues concerning… [END OF PREVIEW]

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