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Second modernity as a research agenda: theoretical and empirical explorations in the 'meta-change' of modern society

The British Journal of Sociology
Volume 56 No 4 December 2005
pages 525-557

Abstract

In this article we are reformulating the theory of reflexive modernization as an empirical research programme and summarize some of the most recent findings which have been produced by a research consortium in Munich (integrating four universities, funded by the German Research Society (DFG)). On this basis we reject the idea that Western societies at the beginning of the twenty-first century move from the modern to the post-modern. We argue that there has been no clear break with the basic principles of modernity but rather a transformation of basic institutions of modernity such as the nation-state and the nuclear family. We would suggest, therefore, that what we are witnessing is a second modernity. Finally, we reform the theory of reflexive modernization in reaction to three uttered objections.

Keywords: Reflexive modernization, postmodernity, individualization, globalization, boundary transcendence, decision-making

Ulrich Beck
Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich and

Christoph Lau
Department of Philosophy and Social Sciences, University of Augsburg

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