Mankind is always transforming, moving progressively in a direction that modernizes the very fabric of being, ultimately impacting the socioreligious, cultural, economic and geopolitical aspects. Modernity, as a whole, is a reactive force–a reaction of comparisons and contractions to that which existed before. Some institutions and values of society are carried through modernalistic changes, often those notions thought to be progressive and valuable to the new transitional society. Resistance to modernity is evident, but inevitably any resistance will end in failure.
Modernity, as defined by Webster’s Dictionary, is the state or quality of being modern. The human process of modernity has always been constant, if though at times subtle; examples of modernity have come in the form of such things as simple stone tools, the plow, and the stirrup. However, not until the 16th and 17th centuries did a great leap of modernization occur.
Scientists do not wholly understand what caused the lead to modernity or really why it occurred in such a defining way. What is known is that it happened between the 16th and 18th centuries. What information also known is that modernity first began in the northwestern countries of Europe, mainly; England, the Netherlands, northern France, and northern Germany.
Northwestern Europe in the early 16th century, to put it nicely, was rather backward, both culturally and technologically. The countries therein absorbed most of its innovations from surrounding countries, primarily Spain and Italy. Realistically, northwestern Europe did not seem to be a region that would become the economic and modernistic leader of the rest of Europe.
In the 16th century of northwestern Europe changes in religion were occurring. It was in the Protestant Reformation that modernalism was setting in to take place. Protestantism broke down the distinction between the religion and the rest of the world: between the church and the marketplace. Protestantism valued the aspect that everything man did was in sight of God, and therefore man should take a greater initiative in his work and work ethics. “Work was to be pursued with a fitting seriousness and order, in a spirit of rational enterprise that eschewed waste and frivolous adventurism (Britannica.com).” The Protestant reformation in a sense was the launch of modern capitalism.
The Protestant Reformation can also be attributed to the underlying start of the advanced development of modern science. In this time, people began to steer away from religion and religious based thinking and looked towards science for answers. Effectively, it is in the shift from religion to science that was fuel to the leaps of modernity. Scientific methods of observation, experimentation, theory and discovery were practiced–thought, at first, not considered beyond skepticism and scrutiny by most of society. These scientific changes and advancements allowed people to expand and modernize–to look out progressively.
Modernity impacted all realms of society. A transformation was made in the basic core structure of modern society. Rather than the group or community, it was the individual that became most important. Where one would once have thought about the good of the village, that person might then be thinking about the better good of himself. Another change occurred in the division of labor. Which once was the main unit of production, the family (in peasant society) transformed and shifted to modern institutions that performed specific and specialized tasks. Society also underwent the establishment and impact of governing institutions. Rather than persons being guided by custom or tradition, modern general rules and regulations were implemented. The legitimacy of these rules stemming from methods and finding in science (Ibid.).
Modernity, effectively led to and was in the pnumbra of the industrial movement. With industrialization, the economy took off into a self-sustaining growth. Investment, output, and growth took a drastic leap and the industrial system itself produced many technological changes.