Emilio C. Viano,
President of the International Society for Criminology. President at Bellagio Forum for World Security & Social Development. Vice-president of European Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.
The great transformation of the West and the great macrostructural processes of industrial modernity began around 1800 in England, and they spread worldwide, with delays due to resistance from traditional institutions (Polanyi,1974). Keep in mind that the concepts of urbanization, industrialization, nation-states and of the great transformation itself are all constructed narratives. It is never possible to clearly distinguish between events and their story, between the description of reality and evaluation. Everything that in the public space takes on the value of a historical event was built by those who narrated it. Think, for example, of the various narratives of revolutions, uprisings, colonial conquests, the fight for independence, the building or unification of a country by uniting separate territories and more.
When it comes to industrial modernity, we can identify six phases:
In all industrializing countries, the workforce massively moved from the primary sector at the time, agriculture, to the developing, still secondary one, industry. The last two centuries have seen a steady migration from agriculture to the industry, so that recently the swap was concluded in developed countries with the industry having now an estimated 85% of the workforce and agriculture 2%. For example, in Germany and the United Kingdom, only one person in 100 is employed in agriculture; in the United States, 0.5%. With the word “industrialization,” we generally mean the growing use of science and technology and the machinery, engines, and chemicals production that dramatically increased the return in value of human labor. We are witnessing the unfolding of the next phase, automatization, increasingly based on developing and harnessing artificial intelligence. It also generates a massive displacement of workers from the industrial and services sectors to automated production but with an added challenge: putting all that surplus workforce to work, earn and feel that their life has value.
Urbanization is the process of the continuing expansion of cities, in part planned, in part as the outcome of millions of individual decisions to move from the countryside to the urban center to accommodate various needs: career, proximity to the workplace, tertiary-level studying, access to several key services like those health-related, employment opportunities, social life, cultural life, entertainment and more. The city is seen as the place where one finds what is current and in fashion; that allows individualistic lifestyles that would be frowned upon and even rejected as deviant in a smaller settlement; that permits deviating from rigid and prescribed ways of thinking, acting and viewing reality with little or no room allowed for alternatives and flexibility; a refuge for those whose lifestyles, sexual preferences, religion, race or ethnic origin clash with the prevailing trends in smaller, tight communities. Predictions are that in this century, there will be a dramatic increase in the number of megacities. Projections expect that the biggest urban areas in 2100 will have more than 40 million inhabitants (Kii, 2021). These results highlight major challenges awaiting such growing cities, including enormous increases in housing demand and the need to invest in key infrastructure supporting transport, water, sewage, waste disposal, and other essential services. Urbanization generates a significant and growing demand for key services and goods like clean water, electricity, public transportation, food supplies, a large variety of governmental, business, and private services, security, crime control and prevention, and more. For example, until the 17th century, London was squeezed into one square mile; today, it occupies over 600; its population grew from 630,000 in the 18th century to 2 million in 1840 and then to over 8 million presently. According to David Galbraith (2009), the population of Rome during the Renaissance was quite small, irrespective of its global importance. When Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling (1508-1512), Rome was smaller than 60,000 inhabitants. At its nadir, the city was 1/7th the size of the labor force of Google (135,301 employees) and 1/39th that of Amazon (798,000 employees). Thus, the growth of Rome during the Industrial era was much greater than the rise of Ancient Rome, reaching almost 3 million inhabitants presently.
- The formation of the national industrial state
The nation-state is the most relevant corporate actor of modern times. This expression includes formal organizations not based on relationships between people but between traditional positions within a legal entity. The modern nation-state is expected to deliver four functions:
(i) forming a national unity by fostering the processes of coalescing, of joining the center and the peripheries, through the sharing of an education process that generates the loyalty of citizens, no longer based and justified by links with tangible communities like a family, tribe, ethnical belonging but rather built on an intangible cultural model that defines national identity. This is typically based on a Constitution, the building and adopting of a national language and of a common history with its heroes, battles and victories that do not always coincide with the reality of those events or previous ethnic affiliation. For example, in Europe, the mid-1800 saw some Constitutions being granted by previously absolute monarchies. The advent of the radio and especially the television in the 1900s substantially helped the diffusion and predominance of a national language and the weakening and eventual disappearance of local dialects, thus introducing and supporting a sense of national identity and unity.
(ii) fostering the participation of the people in the governance of the state by, first, establishing and protecting a public space that permits the citizens to exercise their rights peacefully. This is best exemplified by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution protecting freedom of speech and assembly. And, second, by remodeling the nation-state into a social state anchored on an inclusive ideal of citizenship. That is why, for example, even totalitarian regimes like fascism, nazism and marxism stressed the people’s participation in supporting the government as a key element of their approach. However, such participation, often forced, was mostly exploited as attestation and validation of the state’s power by moving the masses to participate in parades and celebratory gatherings. Totalitarian regimes astutely and effectively mimic the appearance of democracy by adopting a facade of carefully choreographed and controlled popular involvement.
(iii) ensuring the integration of the state and the economic activities of the citizens in the international economic order, for example, through treaties, conventions, and membership in international institutions. The movement to establish international organizations in Europe began at the cusp of the 19th and 20th centuries, with the industrial revolution fully underway. Examples are the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the International Court of Justice, the League of Nations and others.
(iv) answering the social question by supporting the establishment of an inclusive and dominating middle class from a political, economic and cultural perspective. The construction of a nation-state quickens the process of change. This, in turn, jointly with the development of commercial, financial and industrial capitalism, characterizes the transition to modernity. The concept of “social must be deeply understood. It is not only an indication of the unequal sharing of the riches generated by the Industrial Revolution. In a more profound meaning, it points to the conditions under which cooperation, collaboration, communication and coordination will occur to realize collective goals. It is the state that must invest in creating those dynamics. The most ruinous and enduring conflict of modernity, flaring up from time to time, is between labor and capital. Thus, settling the social question means identifying and establishing the conditions for cooperation between them.
And it is for this, both the revolutions and the counter-revolutions of industrial modernity are centered on the institutionalized cooperation between social classes. Examples are Fascist corporatism, Nazi socialism, and the interclass paternalism of Franquismo in Spain.
(v) guaranteeing governance of “flexible modernity.”
With the expression “liquid modernity,” Bauman (2000) in a book with the same title, the third volume in a trilogy including Globalization: The Human Consequences and In Search of Politics, examines how we have changed from a ‘heavy’ and ‘solid’ modernity, based on hardware to a ‘light’ and ‘liquid,’ software-based modernity. This transition, he argues, has brought profound changes to all aspects of the human condition. The remoteness and un-attainability of global systemic structures joined with the unstructured and under-defined, fluid state of politics and human togetherness require a re-examination of the concepts and cognitive frames used to narrate individual human experiences and their collective history. Bauman covers five basic concepts helpful in understanding shared human life: emancipation, individuality, time/space, work and community. He then traces their successive incarnations and changes of meaning.
Liquid modernity indicates the melting, under the pressure of the industrial revolution, of any permanent structures linked to a place and time. According to Bauman, this phenomenon is part of the wider shift from rigid, absolutistic and supposedly universal tenets in philosophy, theology, morality, politics and even personal relationships to the flexibility of relativism.
This melting changes the world into an open sky of possibilities, before unattainable for most people, offered for the free choice of individuals who mobilize, move, and change their status. They can acquire an education, learn new jobs, develop new skills, realize new possibilities and become upward mobile. The modern industrial state then becomes a society based on the free and rational choices of individuals who can study and educate themselves, learn new jobs, develop new skills and abilities to accomplish the many possibilities in front of them, ideally regardless of social class, race, and wealth at birth. Constant change and the need for retraining are major dynamics of today’s labor markets.
Liquid modernity has three constitutive dimensions. First, the technology, t providing efficient means to achieve the goals; secondly, the reflexivity, or the ability to observe and evaluate one’s choices to justify them in terms of value; thirdly, the predominance of elective action over the prescriptive one. Accordingly, Germani (1969) stresses that a fundamental characteristic of modernity is the ability of the individual to select his/her course of action without being forced to accept and conform to a pre-determined life pattern established by tradition and custom based on one’s gender, race, age or social status or caste.
Modernization consists of the progressive and continuous expansion of options the individual can choose from according to his judgment and preferences. Nevertheless, there is still an ongoing battle to uncover, understand and eliminate the limits and monopolies based on race, caste, gender, wealth and political structures.
- Interaction through the media
The birth of interaction through the media indicates the spread of the media in a very vast sense. “Media” is everything that allows us to interact at a distance, without having to share the place and the time in face-to-face interaction. The major consequence of this interaction pattern is that our identity and ability to act depend less and less on our location in space. Any place now can be our point of reference and our base of action. The Coronavirus epidemic has confirmed this and made it real for billions of people, especially professionals, from lawyers to doctors to professors to support staff. Any place and even any time are now open for activity mediated by our interaction network. The same applies to businesses. The “where” and even the “when” do not matter anymore or that much as long as our communication networks are available.
The competition between the Western alliance headed by the United States, the NATO countries, and their allies in the second half of the 1900s in opposition to the Soviet Union and its satellite countries, affecting crucial areas like the military; competing different ideologies – capitalism versus communism, and the technology and computer-based applications have overheated and skewed the development of industrial society producing major changes in its functioning and history. Some scholars have declared that humanity had reached the end of industrial society. Others, especially sociologists, began to use new conceptual frameworks to address the perceived discontinuity and analyze the new era in the history of capitalism. Several books published by respected authors covered these issues like Post-industrial Society by Daniel Bell (1973), Society of abundance or New industrial state by Kenneth Galbraith (1964, 1969), The era of discontinuity by Peter Drucker (1970), Inglehart’s “Silent Revolution” (1970) and several others. The impending and eventual fall of the Soviet Union at the conclusion of the XXth century ignited again the view of that time as “the end of history.” Several authors have stated that a particular systemic event is the “end of history.” Among them are Thomas More in Utopia (1516), Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Karl Marx, Vladimir Solovyov, and Alexander Kojève. Most recently, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Yoshihiro Francis Fukuyama wrote in 1992 The End of History and the Last Man in which he states that the spread all over the world of liberal democracies signaled the conclusion of humanity’s sociocultural evolution and came to be indefinitely the final form of human government. Fukuyama (1992) bases his analysis on Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Karl Marx, who saw human history as a linear progression from one socioeconomic period to another.
The key indicator of post-industrialization has been the growing importance of human capital, knowledge, and inventiveness for economic development supported and driven by increasing research and innovation investment. The key challenge for society’s survival and domination has switched from emphasizing the production of scarce goods to the sale of goods and the dominance of international markets. A society of plenty was born, facilitated by the enormous production of cheap consumer goods flooding the retail markets, mostly manufactured in China. The system recovered its stability based on a strong technostructure while the trade unions wedded to the past were increasingly weakened by adverse legislation, for example, in various “right to work” states in the United States.
A quiet revolution was underway, leading to a big change in values in industrial countries, moving away from the values generated by concern about scarcity, respect for authority, and stressing success towards post-modern and post-materialist values based instead on research anti-authoritarianism and aimed at maximizing well-being.
Four key points can summarize this evolution:
(a) The production and distribution systems are now based on automation and enhancing the human factor in all fields. One can speak of a re-humanization of work concerning the de-humanization of work criticized since the origin of the industrial era as an existentially unsustainable aspect of industrial society;
(b) The most productive investment has become the investment in human resources and human capital training. Human labor must be upgraded to a high level of efficiency to succeed in the post-industrial era and ensure successful economic growth and positive development;
(c) To facilitate applying science to all areas in the knowledge-based society characteristic of the third industrial revolution, the state must invest in the sectors that stimulate human capital growth characterized above all by intelligence and creativity;
(d) The new centrality of the third sector – services, education, research – leads to forming a new middle class that acquires control of the industrial system.
The tension and conflictual situations between capital and labor are weakening.
Globalization in all its different meanings can be defined as the acceleration of post-industrialization, caused by the end of the bipolar world, especially after the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991. One could say that post-industrialization in the post-bipolar world is characterized as globalization. The crash of the bipolar world resulted in a weakening of the nation-states. The radical economic deregulation brought competition to all industrialized countries, increased capital mobility, and gave impetus to expanding competitive markets to the whole planet. The demand for flexibility at all levels greatly increased. Nation-states were downgraded to mere support apparatuses that mostly serve to ensure order, low labor and ecological costs for businesses, especially for the multinationals that invest in their territory. This function of the nation-state is again being underlined and stressed in the post-Coronavirus period when certain business sectors demand that the governments reduce unemployment and emergency financial assistance to force workers to return to work, accepting again low wages and limited, if any, benefits. The reduction of tax pressure by the state was one of the central tenets of the “globalization of markets.” We see now a pushback to this practice in the G-7 recent 2021 agreement to explore instituting a global minimum tax of 15% on earnings for multinationals that have found ways not to pay significant, if any, taxes on their earnings.
An important aspect of globalization has been its impact on American supremacy worldwide and the possible beginning of a unipolar world.
The most important consequence of globalization is the progressive weakening and even dissolution of the boundaries between nature, society, technology, culture.
A post-modern environment has been created made up of “collectives” (Latour, 1991,1998,1999) where the possibilities, specifically human, to cooperate and form communities are closely related to producing objects through technology.
In any case, a world society based on environmental, moral, social and political risks can be seen as the final stage of globalization.
The macrostructural processes that we have briefly described are opportunities and threats at the same time that raise big foundational questions that we can address only on condition of problematizing the historicity of a society, or rather how it represents itself. These issues pertain to modernization and the history of the values and collective consciousness of industrial societies.
- The human sciences are a cultural apparatus
The planetary hegemony of Western civilization has three pillars: the industrial revolution, open public space and the humanities. The institutionalization of the human sciences, or rather of the “humanities” in the general area and the school system of the national industrial states made it possible to assert the collective critical consciousness, which allowed a “reflexive re-appropriation of traditions” by the masses.
In the process of modernization and searching for ways to govern it, a fundamental role is played by the human sciences, from which political movements draw their legitimacy.
We can conceive them as theories, narratives and stories, circulating in the public space. The human sciences are above all a cultural apparatus, a term coined by C. Wright Mills (1952) to indicate that most of what modern humans call “real facts, objective interpretations, sure knowledge, credible information, ” depends on institutionalized observation points, on authorized centers of processing, on authoritative interpretations, and on the repositories of information which, jointly, constitute the “cultural apparatus.”
“This apparatus is made up of all the organizations and environments, in which artistic, intellectual and scientific work is produced, and the means by which such work is made available to the media, the public and the masses. In this cultural apparatus, they create and spread art, science and culture, recreational activities, and information. It has an elaborate complex of institutions: schools, theaters, newspapers, census offices, studios, laboratories ”(Wright Mills, 1952) and, these days, electronic and social media networks.
The human sciences are a cultural apparatus that produces and guarantees the circulation in the public space of the texts and speeches that highlight the threats caused by the pathological development of mass industrial civilization. Such apparatus is of fundamental importance in the industrial state. It includes research centers, universities, specialized publications, links with the media, specifically with the “big press,” institutions specialized in empirical surveys and studies of society and more. These apparatuses carry out an essential project of modernity that we can summarize in the formula: “Transition from the unreflected continuity of traditions to the reflective appropriation of their contents. ” The term unreflected continuity of tradition indicates the reproduction of a tradition over time, without changes motivated by critical reflection on this tradition itself by those who belong to it. The term reflexive appropriation instead refers to the transformation that traditions undergo due to exposure to the critical conscience of their bearers. This critical consciousness, and the consequent reflective appropriation of the content of traditions, would be impossible without experience of fragmentation, obliteration and degradation of traditions due to the “Great transformation” (Polanyi 1944) brought about by the industrial revolution.
The human sciences express the central aspiration of modernity, that is, of submitting growth processes in all sectors of society to rational direction, legitimized by a citizen’s consent formed in the public space through free communication.
A constitutive feature of the human sciences is the uncertain boundary between the concept and the bias, between judgment and prejudice, between evaluation and description. Do the words like “class, flexibility, individualism, race, gender” and more express a concept or a preconception? One can never completely disengage and free the terminology of the human sciences from the values and prejudices of the communities from which the scientists who have invented it come. The concepts developed and disseminated in the public space by the human sciences are tainted and limited by the values and interests that have been transmitted to us by traditions, by our community, from the past, based on our social relationships, embedded in the groups within which we are raised and trained.
Current and vivid examples of these tensions and limitations are especially evident in the disinformation, manipulation of events, creation of “alternative facts,” and emotionally charged disagreements and fights that have characterized the political and cultural life of various countries, including advanced democracies like the United States, some European countries and developing countries like in 2021 Peru in the aftermath of the very close June presidential election. Conspiracies, stolen elections, networks of powerful and wealthy people, and their machinations to control the masses and conceal their deviance are among the current themes deeply dividing public opinion and politics. Even the Coronavirus pandemic, what to do about it, wearing or not protection masks, observing social distancing and other rules, whether or not to be vaccinated, the origins of the pandemic and more are hot topics of debate, strong disagreements, breaking up of long-standing relationships and even family ties, reflecting the hold that preconceptions deeply rooted in religion, culture, ways of life, sheltered or internationally traveled lifestyles and experiences and widely divergent views of the role of government, definitions of individual or religious freedoms, and mutual responsibility in society have, impacting and distorting the perception of reality, the acceptance of science and its conclusion and guidelines, and the view of what is appropriate individual and social behavior or not.
Is “cancel culture” a key approach to attain social justice, a way of combatting, through collective action, at least some of the massive power imbalances that frequently exist between public figures with far-reaching platforms and audiences, and the people and communities that their words and actions may damage or, as conservative politicians and commentators describe it, not a way to speak truth to power but an unbridled form of mob rule and exploitation of the social media that has spun out of control?
7a. Critical Race Theory
The strong backlash in many communities in the United States against critical race theory in general and integrating it into school curricula, anti-bias training in the government, schools, and corporations, public events and debates, university-level seminars and discussions is another contemporary illustration of the profound disengagement of certain groups, religious, and political orientations from the reality of the foundations of our social and economic system and the structural controls that limit access of many to the tools and pathways for personal advancement.
Critical race theory is an approach to issues of race in society, in this case, the United States, in use for over 40 years. Its central tenet is that racism is a social construct, not only the consequence of individual bias or prejudice but also a value system embedded in laws and policies affecting many key areas of life (Crenshaw et al., 1996).
Critical Race Theory is connected with other intellectual currents, including sociologists and literary theorists uncovering links between political power, social organization, and language. Its tenets have influenced other fields, like the humanities, the social sciences, and teacher education. (Stefancic, 2021). Recent events in the United States (and elsewhere) that have highlighted the systemic barriers, discrimination, the institutional violence by police at times blatant and fatal and the lack of fairness in the justice system towards minorities, especially the Afro-Americans, have given new impetus to the analysis and conclusions of the proponents of the Critical Race Theory. This has not been welcomed by more conservative people in the country who are lashing out at the movement and are trying to suppress it and discredit it (Ladson Billings, 1998).
In some cases, conservatives in state legislatures across the United States have proposed (and, in some cases, passed) legislation banning or restricting critical-race-theory instruction or seminars. One important variable to keep in mind in explaining the virulent rejection amidst the controversy about critical race theory is that reform itself creates its own backlash, which reconstitutes the problem in the first place.
One can never completely free the terminology of the human sciences from the prejudices of the communities to which the scientists who have developed them belong.
The concepts developed and disseminated in the public arena by the human sciences are limited by the values and interests that have been transmitted to us by traditions, by our community of life, from the past, from our social relationships, from the groups within which we are trained.
The effort to free the concepts that the human sciences use from the prejudices they necessarily contain consists of a dialogue implicit in those very concepts (Aronson & Laughter, 2016). This dialogue means making explicit its implicit content, unmasking the particular interests that promote it, and denouncing the privileges that the social and legal orders guarantee to certain groups, revealing hidden servitude and asymmetries. To conclude: the human sciences in general and modern sociology particularly are disciplines that arose mainly as a reflection on the threats related to the evolution of industrial civilization. The concepts elaborated by the human sciences became concrete projects of intervention supported by mass movements and adopted in different forms by political parties to search for majorities (Delgado et al., 2011).
We live in the post-industrial era, moving quickly to the next phase dominated by automated, artificial intelligence. This will continue the evolution of the world we live in, recently accelerated by the Coronavirus epidemic. A major outcome has been the inevitable adoption of existing real-time communications technology that revolutionizes our understanding and customs surrounding what it means “to go to work, shop, communicate, have a social life,” and more. We can now go to work by staying home, operating under the umbrella of electronic communications that eliminate previously unbreakable barriers that mandated our physical presence “at the office” and limited our international contacts and full presence abroad to when we could travel. We now know by experience that we can be stationary in our customary living space while being anywhere in the world we need or want to be and effectively communicate, work, participate in meetings, teach, defend or charge the accused in court, and even meet that special person who may become our life companion and conduct a full-fledged courtship while physically far away. All of this introduces new dimensions of understanding who we are, our role in society, how to be productive members of the community, and even how to love and build a long-lasting relationship. We have not yet fully absorbed the meaning of all of this and the impact it will have on many facets of our personal, studying, working, career, community, advancement, loving, and performing life. Given the sizable differences in access to internet technology worldwide, human experiences in this brave new world will be substantially different. This will affect this phenomenon’s social and historical construction and its impact as a change inducing innovation. While objectively, we will all per se use the same technology with varying degrees of complexity and sophistication, subjectively, there will be substantial differences in using, experiencing, accomplishing and benefitting from this electronically based transformation of how we operate at almost all levels of our lives. Thus, we can expect and should be prepared for widely different constructions of what is happening, continuing worldwide the polarity of perception, understanding, construction and evaluation of the human experience. The impact of the ever-growing application of artificial intelligence on every aspect of our lives as a person, citizen, community member, shopper, worker, professional, family member, patient, student and lover is just beginning to be felt. Its long-term consequences are still open to conjecture and speculation. Thus, a new chapter in the history of modernization has opened up, adding to the account of the great transformation of the West and the world and our understanding of the great macrostructural processes of post-industrial modernity.
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