"Modern", "modernity", "modernism", "modernization": these notions convey an important cluster of ideas which aim to describe the world in which we live. But the premises underlying these ideas are becoming outdated. They tend to assume a link between modernity and industrialism which can no longer be sustained. The author moves beyond these limitations by proposing a world of multiple modernities of which industrial modernity is but one.Taylor develops a geohistorical argument which focuses on the periods and places of modernities, offering a grounded analysis of what it is to be modern. He identifies three "prime modernities" which have defined the development of our modern world: today's consumer modernity preceded by the industrial modernity of the nineteenth century which was itself preceded by mercantile modernity. In each case one particular country is implicated in the creation of the new modernity, first the Dutch Republic in the seventeenth century, followed by the British industrial revolution, and finally Americanization in our times, sometimes known as the consumer revolution.
Using this geohistorical framework of multiple modernities, old conundrums seem much less difficult: the rapid demise of the USSR, the growth of suburbia, the erosion of the state, the rise of environmentalism, the ambiguity of home life, the emergency of McWorld, and the threat of globalization are all brought into new focus. But one critical question remains. Is the Earth big enough for the creation of a modern global society to satisfy us all?This concise and wide-ranging book will be essential reading for students of human geography, historical geography, sociology and social theory, and it will be of interest to anyone concerned with the debate about modernity and postmodernity.
Peter Taylor is Professor of Geography at Loughborough University.