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date: 20 March 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter traces connections, affinities, and contrasts between Max Weber’s interpretation of Western modernity and S. N. Eisenstadt’s notion of multiple modernities. Although Weber was aware of diverse components entering into the dominant pattern of modernity, he did not develop any systematic line of argument on varieties of modernity. Eisenstadt went beyond Weber’s problematic with a conceptual focus on civilizational dimensions. The chapter emphasizes three main implications of this turn: the civilizational aspect of human societies that stresses the variety of interconnections between cultural articulations of the world and social institutions, the conception of modernity as a new civilization centered on a vision of human autonomy that includes Weber’s cultural emphasis on rationality, and the idea that legacies of older civilizations affect the formations of modernity in different regions of the world. Eisenstadt addresses a spectrum of modern sociocultural worlds as well as a group of major civilizational traditions, both of which constitute broader fields for comparative research. This does not mean that Eisenstadt invariably improves upon Weber’s approaches. The interesting case of Japan, about which Eisenstadt wrote more extensively than Weber, shows that the latter’s more historical perspective still has merit.

Keywords: S. N. Eisenstadt, Occident, rationalization, civilization, modernity, multiple modernities, comparative analysis

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