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The cultural code of modernity and the problem of nature : a critique of the naturalistic notion of progress

Der kulturelle Code der Moderne und das Problem der Natur : eine Kritik des naturalistischen Fortschrittskonzepts
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Eder, Klaus

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Abstract The idea of progress has in recent years increasingly been put into question. The key experience contributing to disengaging the idea of progress from the idea of rationality has been the ecological crisis. This crisis has made modern culture look like it fosters a way of organizing social life that is self- destructive. The crisis has nourished cultural movements counter to modernization. There are groups and discourses, everyday ones and intellectual ones, that plead for reenchantment as opposed to disenchantment. Modern culture has started to react to this experience by putting into question its key concepts: rationalization and rationality. Modernization based on rationality appears to be only one of many alternative ways of organizing modern social life. It appears to be nothing but the social form forced upon the majority of societies in the world by a dominant European culture and its American and Russian derivatives. Modernity is a cultural force that has imposed upon us a form of social evolution that cannot control its own consequences. New, alternative ideas and movements are increasingly being directed against this type of modern rationality. These counterprocesses are not adequately described as antimodern or traditionalistic regressions. Instead, they represent another type of rationality and rationalization within the legacy of modern culture. The increasing concern with nature that we experience today is symptomatic of a fundamental cultural cleavage within the culture that underlies, accompanies and regulates the development of highly complex societies in European-type modernization processes. This cultural cleavage is traceable to the Semitic and Greek origins of modern culture. Two conflicting traditions, one of bloody sacrifice and one of unbloody (vegetarian!) paradise, still define the cultural universe within which we live. Expanding the notion of cultural traditions constitutive for the European experience of modernization and conceptualizing it as the manifestation of competing codes of modern culture, we are able to identify not one but two types of relationships with nature in modern society. Thus we arrive at two types of rationality encountered in modern culture: utilitarian rationality and communicative rationality, and at two types of culture within modern culture: culture as profit and culture as communication. Ultimately, we have the outline of a new theoretical notion of progress. It is one that puts into question any social theory premised on its own progressiveness in terms of the European version of progress. The current ecological crisis has destroyed the last bastion of the belief in natural progress, the mastery of nature. Social theory should continue the task of de-illusioning this self-ascription, of disengaging European-style progress from the notion of modernity.

Der Verfasser skizziert zunächst das Rationalisierungsparadigma bei Marx und seine Radikalisierung bei Weber, um vor diesem Hintergrund nach neuen theoretischen Perspektiven zur Erfassung der Kultur der Moderne zu fragen. Im Mittelpunkt seines Ansatzes stehen zwei alternative Optionen moderner europäischer Kultur - die griechische und die jüdische Tradition. Jede dieser beiden Traditionen hat ein eigenes Verständnis von Natur und dementsprechend ein eigenes Muster des Umgangs mit Natur. Der kulturelle Code der Moderne ist dementsprechend ein doppelter, wie der Verfasser in der Gegenüberstellung der Gegensätze Rationalität und Romantik, Evolution und Gleichgewicht sowie utilitaristische und kommunikative Vernunft zeigt. Die konfligierenden Naturbegriffe kommen in unterschiedlichen Versionen der praktischen Vernunft zum Ausdruck, in der utilitaristischen und der kommunikativen Vernunft. Der Verfasser zeigt abschließend, wie sich die Handlungsfelder Natur und Kultur sowie die Handlungsorientierungen Kommunikation und Nutzenoptimierung zu vier Möglichkeiten einer praktischen Nutzung des Fortschrittskonzepts kombinieren lassen. (ICE)
Keywords culture; nature; modernity; naturalism; progress; rationality; reason
Classification Cultural Sociology, Sociology of Art, Sociology of Literature; Ecology, Environment
Method basic research; theory formation
Free Keywords nature; environment; ethics of nature; naturalistic; naturalism; criticism of modern society; capitalistic society
Collection Title Rethinking progress : movements, forces and ideas at the end of the 20th century
Editor Alexander, Jeffrey C.; Sztompka, Piotr
Document language English
Publication Year 1990
Publisher Unwin Hyman
City Boston
Page/Pages p. 67-87
ISBN 0-04-445753-7
Status Published Version; reviewed
Licence Creative Commons - Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works