Are not the parallels with the past century remarkable? While World War does not appear eminent, it is doubtful that one hundred years ago the political meltdown that ensued in the west was on the (not yet discovered) radar screen.
The completion of the Panama Canal was fueling investment imaginations all over the western world in 1913. However, canal completion would come too late and the world economy would revert to the old ways of doing business: war and centralizing economic controls. Any way we measure it, one lifestyle and one way of making money was on the way out, and a brand new one was on the way in. The only question left to settle was about the nature of the change: bumpy ride or a smooth transition?
We find ourselves today in a similar historical moment. About to leave behind most of the new technologies of the last century—and radicalizing everything else—social change is on the march and economic restructuring is already underway. Could politics be far behind?
The clearest narrative shows us leaving behind the worst excesses of “Modernism” and—by some accounts—returning to the challenge of constructing a new “Modernity”. Too often Modernism turns on private wealth and public squalor, whereas the project of Modernity stands for social progress; freedom of choice; equality (among groups that acknowledge and celebrate difference); and improving the lot of human kind with benefits wrought from a modern technology still accelerating at a break-neck pace.
In many ways Modernism has rejected all that, capitulating political power to a private sector standing behind the thin veil of corporate interest, and purporting to measure social values using the same stick—profit. Today, rising costs of service delivery lead political discussion, with some advocating for the markets and private businesses to add value back into society. Of course, their view fails to take into account profit motives running on narrowly defined self interest. Thus, against a one-size-fits all market economy, Modernity inches forward entrenching the common good in the day-to-day operations and management of our social order—one year at a time.