Reconciliation and Confrontation between Singular Modern Vie
Tags: 2018-05-17
Reconciliation and Confrontation between Singular Modern View and Pluralistic Modern View

Ren Jiantao
Member of Academic Committee of Zijin Media Think Tank
Professor, Doctoral Supervisor of Department of Political Science, Tsinghua University
Distinguished Professor and the Changjiang Scholar of the Ministry of Education

Qualitatively, “modern” is a new type of special general social structure, and it was created by humans. The “modern” social structure was originally from the Western world. Since the last stage of 20th century, an idea of replacing this Western structure of mono-modern view emerged, and it emphasized the critical contribution made by the Eastern countries. Such contribution is even more essential than what the Western countries had done during the process of modernization (aka during the 17th and 18th centuries). Since then, the idea of modern was redefined, and the progress of globalization rewrote, and the explanation of the concept of modern entered an era of its disruption. Some have asked that as the understandings of modern was completely wrong until the late 20th century, would there be a strange picture for people about recognizing modern? People would realize and reconsider the two ideas of single modern and pluralistic modern views with a more balanced attitude, and the value of the sharp attack from the latter to the former one should be reviewed, so that it could have explanation that is more reasonable. Thus, the practice could fulfill the idea of constructing a community of shared future for humankind, which was recalled by the 19th CPC National Congress.
 
 
1. Singular modern view: the “Western” Self-sufficient Explanation

It used to be an undoubtable truth that the word “modern” came from the West, and the theory of “modern” is widely accepted to be a Western thing. However, when talk about the concept of modern, there are two meanings for it, one for modern, and one for “modern” [1]. Without the quote marks, modern is just a part of the words representing the natural continuation of human history. With the quote marks, however, “modern” has much more special meanings. First, “modern” is the opposite of “traditional”. The modern general social structure consists of market economy, democratic politics, and diverse cultural background, which are either missing or different in the traditional general social structure. Secondly, the “modern” general social structure has based on the fundamental framework, which formed a complex mechanism of dual interaction between the state and the society: on the aspect of state power structure, there is a constitutional democracy which divided and balanced the power of each; on the aspect of economic activity, there is a modern enterprise organization mechanism led by the industrial enterprises. On the third point, modern and “modern” are social structures that naturally blended together. In the comparative historical perspective, the definitions of modern and “modern” only mostly overlap in the Western countries. Meanwhile, in the other countries, modern and “modern” are usually operated separately. It is reasonable for us to think that the definitions of modern and “modern” in those non-Western countries are also naturally overlapped because of some primary factors of “modern” in those countries, but “modern” was not from such countries to the human society at all.

In terms of “modern”, historical narrative always promised a basic historical fact, that Western countries are definitely way before the others, and brought the human society everything about “modern.” Such argument excluded the contributions made by non-Western on building a real “modern,” while affirmed the uniqueness of the Western countries’ contribution. This is the basic definition of singular modern view.

The mainstream theory of “modern” came from the Western scholars, with plenty explanations. Since there is a distinction between Europe and the rest of the world about “modern” and “great divergence,” numerous theories about “modern,” such as European centralism and Western centralism went out in history. During the great divergence, German philosopher Hegel could represent those who brought the theories out, and Max Weber, the German social theorist was the most representative during the time when the Western countries were the most developed in the world during the 20th century. Later, the theorist Jameson who was thought to sympathize the non-Western countries for their contributions on building “modern” was a great sample.

According to Philosophy of History by Hegel [2][3], he utilized the basic concepts of “free” and “rational” to make the Western countries the only successful case of the practice of modern, while exclude the Eastern (oriental) countries from the “modern” world history completely. Moreover, according to Hegel’s exclusive narrative, those non-Western countries were extremely underdeveloped, and thus could not step into the stage of world history, as they lack freedom and ration. Such discourse represents the Western centralism.

During the early stage of 20th century, Max Weber strengthened Hegel’s narrative based on the social theorist perspective. Weber also admitted that all the structural elements of the modern Western countries, such as science, arts, history, architecture, art of printing, career officials, economic calculation, currency, tax, etc., exist in the non-Western countries in some levels. However, Weber also claimed that it only could be in the Western countries if we combined all these social elements and shape them into the capitalist modern social structure [4]. This claim is generally showing the same idea with Hegel, who considered ration to be the key factor in the great divergence between Western and non-Western countries. What is more, similar idea could be found in the works of scholars who used to show more sympathy and respect to the non-Western countries. On the other hand, Fredric Jameson always held a critical attitude towards the Western capitalism, along with a rare enthusiasm towards China for him as a Western scholar [5], but even him had pointed out that, during a guest speech in China about modern geographical attitudes, modernity is the same as Western modernity, which is a kind of singular modern view. Thus, in the two kinds of Western scholars, those who did not sympathize and understand the modern contributions of non-Western countries, such as Hegel and Weber, naturally dismissed their modern contributions, while those who did sympathize and understand the countries would also classify modern as something Western, once it reaches the problem of the geographical attribution. Jameson’s proposition of mono-modern view represents the process of the development and spread of singular modern view in the modern Western world, and was made consistent by the Western scholars.

 
 
2. Pluralistic Modern View: The Highlight of non-Western Countries’ Modern Approach

The mainstream idea of the Western scholars is the singular modern view. The popularization of mainstream idea could lead to another kind of extreme idea: since the historic opportunity of creating “modern” was Western-only, are the non-Western countries really had no contribution to the rise of modernity? Such doubt pushed the creation of multi-modern view: which means that modernity exists in different nation/country at various time and space, and thus there are different kinds of modernity with diverse characteristics, which could not be generalized. In other words, pluralistic modern view exists because there are different kinds of “modern” that coexist in the world.

This confronting orthopedics arose in the second half of the 20th century, and there are about three factors that pushed their rise.

(1). When the Western countries pushed the world historical progress of modernity with their hard and soft powers, they had experienced the historical fact of pluralistic cultures by themselves, and thus gradually understood the world history of multi-modern view clearly, which is a cognitive result led by the diverse cultures within the Western countries and the globalization of foreign cognition.

Two important historical facts need to be emphasized here. First is that the Western countries began slave trades after they developed due to the lack of enough labor power. The black slaves who came from distinct cultural backgrounds brought cultural conflicts into the Western society, and thus shocked the mono-modern view. Secondly, as the Western countries became strong developed countries, they received massive immigrations from diverse countries, and gradually formed de facto multi-cultural structure. The Western scholars would not ignore the multi-culture as long as they face the reality, and the spiritual basis of singular modern view was completely shocked as the Western countries met flourishing multiculturalism in the second half of the 20th century. “I have suggested, elsewhere, that what we may call Liberal Multiculturalism is a normative precept motivated by concern for the dignity and well-being of all human beings. It is a precept which affirms that in the circumstances of contemporary Western societies a political attitude of fostering and encouraging the prosperity, cultural and material, of cultural groups, and respecting their identity, is justified” [6]. Such viewpoint of justice is a precious outcome of the Western countries that replaced the discriminative and superior attitudes from the advantaged majority to the disadvantaged minority with political philosophy that promotes equality. Moreover, the Western scholars should use similar attitude to look at the diverse countries, nations, cultures, and even civilizations equally.

(2). Its rise is related to the reflection of the Western countries, which is the cultural psychological basis within the Western culture.

The Western countries relied on both their soft and hard powers to push the modernization of the world. Before bringing the human society into a real state of prosperity, power, and harmony with the unprecedented “modern” precept, they had brought the world bloody wars, slave trades, and unfair trading market, etc., which made the world history of “modern” full of moral and political sins. Those Western scholars within such process would see more history rationality, which pushed them to conclude the primary cause of power triumphs the weak, and thus to prove the cultural uniqueness based on freedom and rationality. However, as the Western countries started praising the global modernization, their sound historical consciousness and tender moral rationality grew. With similar spirit of freedom and rationality, the Western scholars started their reflections over what the Westerners had done in the modern world historical progress, with three kinds of cultural mentalities as a result.

The first kind of mentality is based on sympathy and understanding, as the scholars promoted studies about the conquered non-Western countries’ histories and cultures in depth and pushed them to find the uniqueness of each country and what they had done to promote their own modernization. Such is the direct psychological basis of Discovering History in China: American Historical Writing on the Recent Chinese Past by Cohen (2017). Cohen (2017) suggested that the perspective of his book centered on what is in the inside of China instead of the perspectives that Westerners prefer as important, natural, or normal [7], which is only conductive to the transformation of idea relates to the rise of multi-modern view, but without such transformation the multi-modern view will loss supports from the reliable and diverse multi-cultural historical facts.
 
The second kind of mentality is about the perspective of comparing the histories of civilizations, which equally evaluate the contributions made by both Wester and non-Western countries for the global historical process of “modern”, aka globalization. Thus, the Western scholars could surpass the Western or European centralism and turn to diverse pluralistic modern view. This is more than just take a great leap forward over the idea of viewing the history of non-western countries in terms of Western history (e.g. China Centralism), as it is completely different from the way singular modern view only view relative problems in the Western perspective.

The third mentality is about the evolution of the Western countries’ spirit world, which promoted postmodern philosophy with the “post-modern” perception in the situation of rational philosophy dominating the ideological circle that could hardly open new realm of thought. The May 1968 events in France was a huge social event that impacted the future of Western society which not just turned the critical reflection of past modern mainstream into the new mainstream, but also let the spiritual intention of the post-modern philosophy, such as deconstruction, decentralization, diversification, relativization, etc., became significant [8]. Thus, the Western scholars are now working on constructing global historical view that surpass the singular modern view, so they could correct the habitual narrative of modern history: reinsert the modern history of the Western countries and treat all countries equally when studying the modern world history, so all of them and their contributions to “modern” could be highlighted.

(3). The external power that pushed the Western scholars to reexamine singular modern view is their close connection with the non-Western countries’ accomplishments of freeing from the colonial system and developing.

This is related to the two world wars: The World War I let the world system of colonialists and colonies crumbled, while the World War II brought a completely official collapse to the colonial system. The era of “global division” has come. The new independent nations/countries no longer follow the world system constructed by the Western countries, but become relentlessly critical towards the Economic plunder taken by capitalist imperialism after military conquest and political exploitation [9]. On one hand, the historians from the Third World countries started to record their own countries’ history based on individual democratic positions. On the other hand, a general record of the history of the whole Third World might be urgently needed by its people [10]. These changes led to structural changes within the explanation of “modern” history.

Meanwhile, as some of the Third World countries rose, their will of rewriting the “modern” history got stronger, especially the recent rise of China has brought it the world energy from the “modern” leap of a country, as well as strong will of innovation about “modern” culture. The state power added cultural confidence to its list of confidence (the old three are theoretical, systematic, and direction confidence), while the academic circle promoted the Confucian plan for China's "modern" revival. This plan is about the "modern" narrative based on Chinese experience as the goal of the theorists, and the "mainland neo-Confucianism" that alienate the neo-Confucianism in Hong Kong and Taiwan is very representative [12]. In general, a polarizing situation that works on transforming the singular modern view into pluralistic modern view is now appearing in front of people.

The three kinds of pushing factors above have led to three distinct knowledge system that helps to promote pluralistic modern view.

 

The first one is the reflection about the negative structures of the Western singular modern view. Such reflection has highlighted the limitedness of the Western singular modern view. For some reason Jameson’s singular modern view included two possibilities: (1) To emphasize the modern world historical progress that highlight the original Western modernity and the imitative non-Western modernity, so that the proposition of singular modern view is further promoted. (2) At the same time of pointing out that the non-Western countries are only imitating, such theory also preset all the corollaries of developingcountries trying modernity. Thus, the promotion of pluralistic modern view theory could have more possibilities. What is more, this proposition of Jameson, which not just promote a somehow pluralistic modern view based on post-modern position, but also strongly advocated the Western original “singular modern view,” has insurmountable logical contradiction, and the Western scholars are now reflecting about it: these defects might not only exist in “modern,” but a part of human nature. The reflection of such defects in the “modern” background makes them the sin of “modern,” and thus requires effective restraint from “modern.” The post-modern theory led to the self-reflection of Western countries, as well as the non-Western countries’ criticism towards modern, and these two reactions formed the double powers of such knowledge system. There is no doubt that this kind of attempt largely pushed the rise of pluralistic modern view, and then weakened the singular modern view of its capacity over self-defense and theoretical validity.

The second one is about the rise and prosperity of global historical view. The world history writings guided by singular modern view are basically all about the Western history, while the “global history” that appeared and became popular around the 1960s were about world history writing guided by the pluralistic modern view concept, with a total different historical ideology comparing to Hegel and Weber: It is no longer about Western-centered, but put all the countries into a unified world historical process; it shows the rise and fall of both Western and non-Western countries in different historical period instead of simply viewing the non-Western ones as declining countries all the time; it replaces the preset Western core values, such as freedom and rationality, with different values from different cultures and civilizations, and thus no longer view the values of non-Westerners as inferior; it also neglects the linear history of Western development and non-Western degeneration, so that it may cover the history of non-Western countries lead the world as well.

The third one is about the creation of modern concept of developing countries. Such concept could be classified into two kinds: The first kind is from those Western scholars who prefer to sympathize the developingcountry and decided to overturn the discourse about mono-modern view, so that they could help to highlight the global leadership these countries, especially the Asian countries, used to have. One good example can be found in the arguments of ReOrient: Global Economy in the Asian Age by Andre Gunder Frank (1998). The second kind is more related to the non-Western countries themselves, as they, especially the developingones, are working hard on reconstructing the modern way of description. For instance, China is now working with its unique “modernity” with passion, which is quite representative. The popularity of the discourse about “do it Chinese way” is now a familiar proof and does not need any more illustration.

3. Is the Singular Modern View Concept Overturned?

As this article has talked above, the pluralistic and singular modern view are conflicting with each other. The basic situation of such confrontation represents pluralistic modern view’s harsh criticism and direct denial towards singular modern view. Thus, the pluralistic modern view is now totally in advantage compared with the singular modern view.

In comparison, the singular modern view theory has way too many disadvantages than the pluralistic modern view theory. These disadvantages are mainly represented by the focus of singular modern view: it focused on emphasize the advantage traits of the strong nations and the disadvantages traits of the weak nations but ignored the rest traits of each nation. Of course, this is an unfair comparison. Besides, like Hegel and Weber, those who presented singular modern view never show any sign of regret about the negative outcomes of the Western way of modernization, and thus left the singular modern view theory in a moral hazard. At the same time, since the pro-singular-modern view scholars treat the modern experience of the Western countries and the idea of “modern” (which covered more than that) without distinction, they are arrogant for have learned and known the only “modern” knowledge, which makes the singular modern view a closed modernity.

The relatively advantages of the pluralistic modern view are significant. Firstly, it showed respect to all country/nation about their historical, cultural, and traditional characteristics. Secondly, it showed high respect to the racial minorities in the Western countries about their cultures and values, and thus relieved the racial tension within these countries. Thirdly, the pluralistic modern view treated history with a more complex perspective that see things in long term and considered the global history a history of how the Western and non-Western countries take turns to rise as world leaders instead of a history of the Western countries rule the world all the time. Fourthly, it had comprehensive evaluation over what the Western countries had done as world leaders. It neither overestimated their unique contributions to all the human beings, nor underestimated how the Western countries hindered the developing nations. This neutral attitude allows the Western and non-Western countries to achieve historical understanding and get along with each other.

Based on both the advantages and disadvantages of the two kinds of modernity, the pluralistic modern view became the guiding concept since the late 20th century. Nowadays, people prefer to understand the modern history through a pluralistic modern view perspective, instead of establishing the expression of “modern,” which is suspected of essentialism, as the core concept of modern history. They prefer to study modern world history with a more thorough perspective instead of considering it as the history of world expansion of some regions. People prefer to take the moral high ground when treating the modern situation and development outcome of both developed and developing countries equally, but not simply classify their ability of development based on when they start it. People prefer to evaluate the situations of development around the world with a self-consistent multi-center modern development logic rather than evaluate modern world history with a strong but self-limiting western logic that drives the world. They also prefer to view modern world history with a rational attitude that overpass the historical pain without stay in the violence and bloody part of the history between nations/countries when talking about the past and future of world history.

In general, the singular modern view has the potential of retreat, while the pluralistic modern view has a potential of enterprising. Pluralistic modern view is more than a mainstream orientation for historical narrative and historical philosophy. Nowadays, the Western society considered it as a part of political accurate rules, while the non-Western society considered it a natural law of history, and utilized it as a critical reason of maintaining the countries’ original modern contributions.

 

However, the pluralistic modern view has not completely replaced singular modern view yet. This is because the two explanations of modernity each has their own bases and will continually work on self-proving. Moreover, although the two modernity theories have significant repellency about their historical and theoretical explanations, their contradicting explanations are not absolutely incompatible, and they could still acquire historical and theoretical defense in their own explanation contexts.

According to the explanations of the two theories of modernity, the mono-modern view did show how the Western countries’ modern historical practice highlighted its planning connotation and form of structures. This explanation caught the exact meaning of Western modern countries’ regional “modern” practice: freedom and rationality, which are of course necessary mental qualities for constructing “modern.” What is more, its normative interpretation only existed wholly in the Western world of thought during the original period. In that case, the Western modern practice and modern representation do have their own uniqueness. However, the absolute exclusion of singular modern view theory made the meaning of modern less abundance, as it is now in the inferiority of both knowledge and moral. Meanwhile, the pluralistic modern view theory showed traits better than the mono-modern view theory in many aspects, such as the diversity of history, the richness of modern development, and the high standing of morality. Nevertheless, the pluralistic modern view is not perfect, as its good traits are also its limits: the diversity of history is shown, but the structural breakthroughs and exact time is missing; the richness of modern development is clear, but the connotation of standard of “modern” is vague; the high standing of morality is way better than the Western narcissism of the singular modern view, but it could not replace or cover the modern development gap between countries, and what they could show as the connotation of standard of “modern.”

The most essential thing is, most of the pro-pluralistic-modern view scholars usually made their decisions based on the requirement of political correctness. Of course, political correctness is supported by constitution [13] and with the basis of political regulation it could promote political virtue: within the state, all the citizens shall care about each other, and in larger scale it means all the nations, race and ethnicities should respect each other. The states and countries should get used to be respect about each other’s habits, and try their best to provide each other with sympathetic understanding about different historical cultures and politics.

Furthermore, it is vital that we need to realize that once pluralistic modern view became a political habit and even a political virtue, it might become something contrary: as people must respect and consider pluralistic modern view as a virtue, this social moral atmosphere will force all the other social political demands. As a result, it will definitely cover up some of the historical facts and value concepts people does not want to but must respect:

The first one will be covered is the equal care and restraint from constitution for both the ethnic majorities and the minorities. Multiculturalism always prefer to call for the rights of minorities. Similarly, when talk about the international relationships, they said the early-developed Western countries should also be humility to the developing countries all the time, which means it is difficult to realize an equal political engagement, and thus sustain a public-accepted political order.

Another on will be covered might be the real relationship between the historical facts and models. Once we placed the modernized first and last into the moral bench of modern history, the first-developed modern Western countries must receive moral condemnation, and all the countries might lose the necessary historical reason, aka the rational judgment for each country about their unavoidable situation in modern, and thus let the confession of the Western countries and the indignation of the non-Western countries replaced historical reason.

One more thing is that, since the Western countries gradually presented the normative implications of the modern world process and highlighted what is leading the basic state of modernity during their modern development period, and thus they felt proud of adding new energy for human beings, which also made the non-Western countries start to have impulse of exclude their “modern.”

The pluralistic modern view is limited by its internal and external limitations, so that it could not overturn and terminate singular modern view. To conclude the reasons, we can see it is not just about the political correct attitude of the pluralistic modern view, but also because its theory lacked claims supported by typology. Based on the historical narrative perspective of pluralistic modern view, the reflection from the Western narrative subject and the rejection from the non-Western narrative subject become the two supporting points of this narrative: the Western narrative subject’s reflection is mainly about the Western countries’ reflection about their violent acts that strongly advance the course of modernity, as well as their sincere cognitive about the non-Western countries’ modern contributions; the pluralistic modern non-Western narrative subject, on the other hand, gets its supports from resist philosophy, subversive psychology and the desire to rebuild. The former does not require many explanation, as it is the corresponding western theory that occupies the mainstream position of modern theoretical discourse we know. The latter one, aka the related narration from the non-Western countries, is an inevitable outcome of special historical situation: as the Western countries utilized their early-began opportunities to acquire more material resources and start expansion into the non-Western countries, the non-Western countries must have a different modern narrative to against their actions. Such narrative structure is usually relied on the resistance over the humiliation and aggression of Western countries against non-Western countries. This significant philosophy of resistance has caused more damage over the non-Western countries themselves than benefits it has on condemning the abuse of western countries and safeguarding the pluralistic "modern." As about the impulses built upon pure aesthetic sense and subverts the essence of “modern,” they had directly blocked the path for the non-Western countries to further develop. The attempt to totally exclude Western modernity and generalize “modern” as exactly the same as Wester modernity, and thus abandon both ideas and determined to find a new way of exploring the “modern” reconstruction, should be seen as a foolish behavior misled by pluralistic modern view.
 
4. One blueprint, different realities: the reconcile of two modern views

The positions of singular and pluralistic modern views can be reconciled through analyzing their confronting academic positions.

The reconciliation reveals their inherent relationship. From the perspective of the course of modern world history, the contribution of pluralistic modern view is the revelation of the diverse origins of modernity, while singular modern view emphasizes a complete model for modern. Combining the two so that they could present a complete historical process of the evolution from the start to the end. Thus, the two modern views are closely connected for their effects over the course of history. From the perspective of facts and norms, the Western modern model promoted by singular modern view only showed us a part of the connotation of the standard of “modern,” while pluralistic modern view enriched that graph by promoting the “modern” contributions made by both Western and non-Western countries. Thus, countries’ processes of modernization are put on the same level based on their “modern” contributions, as nobody could fully understand “modern” if any is separated. From the perspective of politics and morality, mono-modern view revealed the critical role played by political economic power in the modern process, and thus extend the topic to the internal connection between “modern” and spiritual characteristics like freedom, rationality, enlightenment, etc. Meanwhile, pluralistic modern view blamed the Western countries for bullying the non-Western countries during the modern process. However, we know that social factors are closely linked to each other, and we could only understand why the attempts of the developing countries is a continued period of all the human beings by considering the early modern attempts of the Western countries as an initial state of modern moral growth. From the perspective of the process from regional development to global development, singular modern view focused on the “modern” contributions from the Western countries, so that its modern attempt is a global model beyond geographical limits; pluralistic modern view focused on the “modern” contributions of the non-Western countries and even the worldwide, as it believes that the attempt of each country’s specific attempts all helps to present “modern.” However, we could only handle the general situation of “modern” by combining the regional and global modern knowledge. Based on the four perspectives listed above, we could find that the two modern views are compatible.

 

Furthermore, based on the state of the constitutive state of internal chimerism of modern world history process and "modern" basic model, the “modern” standard means separated from the Western countries’ modern process has already been out of their certain historical experiences, with the normative power to guide the modern developing countries. Although the Western modern efforts are inseparable from the initial pattern of “modern,” we could not mix the regulation of “modern” and the Western modern attempts. Thus, we could understand why the modern developing countries always have their targets on independent development. This ownership relationship of modern practice is highly valuable because it allowed the modern late-developed non-Western countries not just free from the limits set by the modern Western countries, but also let them find their own way to become “modern” through hard-working.

On the other hand, it is not easy as said to distinct the boundary of “modern” standard highlighted by the modern attempts of the Western countries. This is not just limited by the current analytic capacity, but also limited by the tragic memories of modern world history. If the former factor is something we could improve through rational practice, then the latter directly touched the non-Western countries’ deep memory of the history full of grief and anger due to the Western countries’ invasion and bully. More critically, the state apparatus run by the underregulated power of modern developing non-Western countries frequently creating antimodern, as well as mixing the ideas of Western modernity and “modern,” discourses, which delays the non-Western society of its action on examining the difference between modern and “modern.” In order to push the non-Western countries onto the real pathway towards “modern,” there are two major problems we need to deal with:

One problem is, do the non-Western countries have reasons to reject any of the “modern” precepts originally from the Western countries? And first of all, we need to know if the developing countries’ modern attempt was forced from the Western countries to the non-Western ones. What modern world history revealed is that our current widely accepted “modern” model relied on two kinds of powers: The first power was from military violence and the forceful promotion of trade utilized by the Western countries, while the second power was from the non-Western countries who went on to seek their own development. We could say the former one is simply a direct pushing power for the modern developing countries to transform, and the latter was the real critical factor for a country’s “modern” development. In other words, the Western modern has never been a critical factor for the non-Western “modern” comparing to the latter’s self determination when facing “modern”: “modern” is so attractive to the developing countries [14]. In that case, the multi-modern situation is determined by the huge difference between the various practice processes and results of countries. However, such will be a secondary kind of multivariate instead of primary while a primary meaning problem should be like whether the normative meaning of “modern” is put into the modern attempt of a country. Thus, what a singular modern view revealed is about the unshakable of the “modern” connotation presented by the Western countries. As for the diverse practices of modern, on one hand they would not damage the basis of “modern,” and on the other hand they would significantly increase the diversity of modern practices.

Another problem is, could the non-Western countries totally be free from the original “modern” patterns of the Western countries, and innovate a brand-new modern structure? All the attempts to innovate completely new models differs from the Western one has failed: no matter it is an all-opposite of “modern” pattern in the Soviet Union style, or numerous countries that tried to become modernized through transforming the traditional structures, or even other utopian protects, all failed because of lacking strong “modern” standards as a support. Thus, the current “modern” practice relies on the corporation of the two forces: one is the force to regulate original “modern” and the other one is the modern development determination specified by each of the developing countries. The two forces shall corporate, as failure will come in the absence of any of them.

For the developing countries, they need to clearly determine that “modern” and modernization are unavoidable, but not some Western countries forced survival situation that can change as the non-Western countries wish, and thus keep working on constructing a “modern” country. Meanwhile, those countries which successfully “modernized” during this process usually have some westernized characteristics but that does not mean a westernized national structure. It simply means these countries agreed with what Western created, but followed the “modernization” which could develop by itself. Thus, westernization and modernization became a topic the non-Western countries have been debated about. Such topic was created by the non-Western countries to reduce the tension of approving the Western original “modern” about their own transforming: the modernization of non-Western countries is not westernization. Nevertheless, without the Western original “modern” the non-Western countries will not have internal and external pressures for modernization, as well as motivations for positive reactions. Meanwhile, without the non-Western countries’ innovative efforts to change modern, there will not be the course of world history about innovative “modern.”

In general, the singular and pluralistic modern views are compatible because the highlight of “modern” normative meaning and various modern attempts have a relationship similar to one blueprint and different real outcomes: On one hand, we must admit it is possible that the Western original “modern” model is the only model for modernization, which means singular modern view is an idea with existential meaning and can hardly be overturned. On the other hand, it is sure that any modernization of the developing countries, which is late than the Western countries, is a new result with the country’s unique features. Thus, a blueprint of “modern” first created by the Western countries has been proceed by different countries, then there are unimaginable diverse outcomes. In other words, this means the pluralistic modern view is more an epistemological idea instead of an idea with existential meaning: it is hard to prove this view could be totally independent from original modern pattern and exist alone. From the perspective of modern practice, for the Western countries, they are the absolute modern pioneers, as they contribute “modern” blueprint. Anyway, the non-Western developing countries’ modern processes are induced by the Western countries, so their modernization processes will more or less be affected by “westernized” ideas. For them, the top psychological challenge is to first admit the fact that they are out of date in the course of “modern” world history, and then admit that they must work hard to catch up, then admit the importance of being innovative in the attempt of imitate modernization. If they could not do that, the non-Western countries will not even be able to have the power of constructing their own version of “modern” in real life, and thus will have to face failure.
 

This article is an excerpt from Ren Jiantao: “A Singular Modern or a Pluralistic Modern: A Reconciliation Conclusion of the Contrary Interpretations of Modern”,
Wuhan University Journal (Philosophy & Social Science), 2018, Vol.71, No.1