A wide variety of terms are used to describe the society, social life, driving force, symptomatic mentality, or some other defining aspects of modernity. To an extent, it is reasonable to doubt the very possibility of a descriptive concept that can adequately capture diverse realities of societies of various historical contexts, especially non-European ones, let alone a three-stage model of social evolution from premodernity to postmodernity.
As one can see above, often seemingly opposite forces such as objectivism and subjectivism, individualism and the nationalism, democratization and totalitarianism are attributed to modernity, and there are perhaps reasons to argue why each is a result of the modern world. In terms of social structure, for example, many of the defining events and characteristics listed above stem from a transition from relatively isolated local communities to a more integrated large-scale society. Understood this way, modernization might be a general, abstract process which can be found in many different parts of histories, rather than a unique event in Europe.
In general, large-scale integration involves: Increased movement of goods, capital, people, and information among formerly separate areas, and increased influence that reaches beyond a local area. Increased formalization of those mobile elements, development of 'circuits' on which those elements and influences travel, and standardization of many aspects of the society in general that is conducive to the mobility. Increased specialization of different segments of society, such as the division of labor, and interdependency among areas.
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Seemingly contradictory characteristics ascribed to modernity are often different aspects of this process. For example, unique local culture is invaded and lost by the increased mobility of cultural elements, such as recipes, folktales, and hit songs, resulting in a cultural homogenization across localities, but the repertoire of available recipes and songs increases within a area because of the increased interlocal movement, resulting in a diversification within each locality.
This is manifest especially in large metropolises where there are many mobile elements. Centralized bureaucracy and hierarchical organization of governments and firms grows in scale and power in an unprecedented manner, leading some to lament the stifling, cold, rationalist or totalitarian nature of modern society.
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Yet individuals, often as replaceable components, may be able to move in those social subsystems, creating a sense of liberty, dynamic competition and individualism for others. This is especially the case when a modern society is compared with premodern societies, in which the family and social class one is born into shapes one's life-course to a greater extent. At the same time, however, such an understanding of modernity is certainly not satisfactory to many, because it fails to explain the global influence of West European and American societies since the Renaissance.
What has made Western Europe so special? There have been two major answers to this question. First, an internal factor is that only in Europe, through the Renaissance humanists and early modern philosophers and scientists, rational thinking came to replace many intellectual activities that had been under heavy influence of convention, superstition, and religion. This line of answer is most frequently associated with Max Weber, a sociologist who is known to have pursued the answer to the above question.
Second, an external factor is that colonization, starting as early as the Age of Discovery, created exploitative relations between European countries and their colonies. It is also notable that such commonly-observed features of many modern societies as the nuclear family, slavery, gender roles, and nation states do not necessarily fit well with the idea of rational social organization in which components such as people are treated equally.
While many of these features have been dissolving, histories seem to suggest those features may not be mere exceptions to the essential characteristics of modernization, but necessary parts of it. Rodwin was the author or editor of 11 books, including a forthcoming edited volume with Bishwapriya Sanyal , The Profession of City Planning: Changes, Images and Challenges, His research and scholarship have contributed to many aspects of the planning field: studies on the future of the metropolis; essays on images and themes of the city in the social sciences Cities of the Mind, Plenum, , with Robert Hollister ; research on the relation between national policies and urban growth, shelter and development, industrial change and regional economic transformation; and analyses on the experience of development -- Rethinking the Development Experience: Essays Provoked by the Work of Albert Hirschman edited with Don Schon, Brookings, As a teacher, Rodwin trained generations of planners around the world.
He was known for his use of socratic questioning, a technique he drew from his studies in philosophy and applied to the study of complex and controversial issues in planning. In the classroom, Rodwin would typically get students to state their position and ask a few disarmingly simple questions which usually resulted in students changing their views. When asked what they learned years later, students often said, "He taught us how to think!
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