Virtually no one today seems to want to make the large human connections that the idea of modernity entails. Hence discourse and controversy over the meaning of modernity, so lively a decade ago, have virtually ceased to exist today.
Many artistic and literary intellectuals have immersed themselves in the world of structuralism, a world that simply wipes the question of modernity — along with all other questions about the self and history — off the map. Others have embraced a mystique of post-modernism, which strives to cultivate ignorance of modern history and culture, and speaks as if all human feeling, expressive-ness, play, sexuality and community have only just been invented — by the post-modernists — and were unknown, even inconceivable, before last week. Meanwhile, social scientists, embarrassed by critical attacks on their techno-pastoral models, have fled from the task of building a model that might be truer to modern life. Instead, they have split modernity into a series of separate components — industrialization, state-building, urbanization, development of markets, elite formation — and resisted any attempt to integrate them into a whole. This has freed them from extravagant generalizations and vague totalities — but also from thought that might engage their own lives and works and their place in history. The eclipse of the problem of modernity in the 1970s has meant the destruction of a vital form of public space. It has hastened the disintegration of our world into an aggregation of private material and spiritual interest groups, living in windowless monads, far more isolated than we need to be. (33-34)
Marshall Berman | All that is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity