20 September 2009

Modernity: Secularisation

A key feature of modernity is secularisation. From the Encyclopedia Britannica:

Secularisation consists of the following features:

1. Action by Choice
Prescribed actions are those in which an individual is expected to behave in a specific way. Actions by choice are those in which the individual selects his own course of action, and is obliged only to observe certain general rules in making his choice. In traditional societies, most actions are prescribed actions. In modern societies, most actions are actions by choice. Example: choosing one's profession or spouse.

2. Acceptance of Change
Pre-modern societies do not accept change in most of their institutions. In modern societies, change is expected or required. Pre-modern societies institutionalise tradition. Modern societies institutionalise change.

3. Differentiation of Institutions
Societies vary in the number and nature of the institutions devoted to carrying on essential functions such as the provision of goods and services, defence against military attack, education, religion, etc. Pre-modern civilisations show a considerable differentiation of institutions, but these involve only a tiny minority of the population, such as priests, warriors and traders. All institutions in the traditional society are dominated by the same values and norms.

In modern society, the differentiation of institutions and social division of labour proceed almost without limit. The institutions become more and more autonomous. All human activities are fragmented by increasing specialisation.

Increasing secularisation leads away from a single system of values toward pluralism in values. Such pluralism tends to erode the very foundation of an integrated social system: its common core of shared values and norms.

No comments: