Modernism has many meanings. Here I want to focus on one kind of modernism: the claim that x is not old, long-established, traditional, but is instead a recent invention.
Now x can be many things:
- x=nations (Nations are new inventions says the modernist school of thought about nationalism: Ernest Gellner,* Eric Hobsbawm, Benedict Anderson and others.)
- x=civilizations (Immanuel Wallerstein** once said that civilizations are the ideological superstructure of the modern capitalist world system.)
- x=the states system (An invention of modernity, on the account of many.)
- x=genocide (according to Michael Mann*)
To put it bluntly, these examples of modernism are wrong. Nations, civilizations, the states system, genocide–none of these things is a recent invention. As I argued earlier, I do not for a moment doubt that in modernity there have been huge changes; but that is not the same thing as the claim that modernity conjured these things into existence out of thin air.
*Nevertheless, I am a fan.
**Not a fan at all: sweepingly wrong about so much for so long.