Europe and the emergence of modernity. The entanglement of two reference cultures

Delanty, Gerard (2015) Europe and the emergence of modernity. The entanglement of two reference cultures. International Journal for History, Culture and Modernity, 3 (3). pp. 9-34. ISSN 2214-9910

[img] PDF - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (626kB)


This article offers a theory of the notion ‘reference culture’ by taking as major examples modernity and Europe. Both constitute reference cultures and while different are closely related. A certain entanglement took place between the emergence of modernity and the formation of European culture whereby the latter came to be one of the main carriers of modernity. However, they need to be separated in that Europe, while being the first major expression of modernity, is not the only embodiment of modernity. Modernity can be termed a first-order reference culture and Europe a second-order one. While there have been many second-order reference cultures, the European one was an influential and powerful one, but it was also a temporary one. This article sets out the main features that define the specificity of Europe. Against accounts that emphasize a master narrative or an underlying cultural unity to Europe, it is argued that crucial to the making of Europe was the formation of modes of communication that enabled common practices to develop across a range of different cultures. In this way, it is argued, Europe consolidated as a consequence less of endogenous factors than exogenous ones. Important, too, was the mobile nature of European culture which facilitated translation into other cultures and which was also receptive to modernity. The twentieth century has witnessed the emergence of other varieties of modernity and the global decline of the European model

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Sociology
Depositing User: Gerard Delanty
Date Deposited: 21 Dec 2015 09:36
Last Modified: 03 Jul 2019 01:50

View download statistics for this item

📧 Request an update