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WAS SEPTEMBER 11 THE END OF THE LEGITIMACY OF WESTERN MODERNITY AS THE DOMINATING MODEL ?

The interview of Marc Luyckx which follows here offers a glimse of what a transmodern age could be. As opposed to a postmodern concept which merely rejects the values and ideas of modernity, the transmodern paradigm seeks to combine some of the positive achievements of modernity (human rights, democracy, scientific research, etc.) and the quest for a more holistic and spiritual, a less materialistic and individualistic worldview together with more responsible world citizenship. This interview with Marc Luyckx was taken by Sawsan Hussein of the Al-Siyassa Al-Dawliya journal (The International Politics Journal).

Former general secretary of Network Cultures, Marc Luyckx recently granted an interesting future-oriented interview to a leading arabic journal about the tragic attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001 which he sees as a dramatic signal of a potentially hopeful shift towards a post-modern world (which is better called trans-modern). The twin towers of the WTC symbolised the triumph of western modernity. That people would be willing to destroy this symbol is an indication that, from now on, modernity is fundamentally lacking legitimacy. As the regretted philosopher Ivan Illich would have said, modernity becomes "counter-productive" when it reaches a certain limit. It leads humans to dependence ("heteronomy") and meaninglessness.

Luyckx's recent publications include : Au-delà de la Modernité, du Patriarcat et du Capitalisme : la Société Réenchantée, with preface by Nobel prize winner Ilya Prigogine, 2001 (English version in preparation).
(…)

(…) You have written that the values of Western civilisation are no longer accepted in the West and even in the European Union and the United States. Could you elaborate on this ? (…)

(…) My hypothesis is that it is not so much Western civilisation that is in crisis, but rather the modern paradigm itself. The rational, analytical, top-down, abstract, male-dominated and secular logic is in crisis, because it cannot provide a satisfactory answer to the question of social justice and of our collective future. (…)

You have said that since 11 September the world has entered a deep paradigm shift, like a 'renaissance'. Could you explain this ?

I was in Beijing in April 2002, for a EU-China congress on the knowledge society, and, in a meeting with Chinese intellectuals, one newspaper director said : "Perhaps 11 September represents the end of the legitimacy of Western domination". Not the end of Western domination. But it is the end of its legitimacy.
I also had the honour to be invited to address the EU-Mediterranean Council of Ministers at their meeting in Brussels on 18 October 2001. I said that 11 September was the end of the legitimacy of Western modernity as a dominating model. This paradigm is still dominant, but it is accepted less every day by civil society worldwide. This modern rational secular Western vision has produced a lot of positive and negative things. It has transformed the world, but it is now not able to provide us with a decent sustainable future.

Renaissance ? Yes. Because modernity has cut us all off from our souls, from the spiritual dimension of life. And if modernity is out, this means that, progressively, people will begin, and are indeed beginning, to rediscover in their lives a very spiritual dimension. This renaissance of the soul, this new reconnection between our bodies, intelligence and souls, liberates within us a lot of energy and hope. This is a real renaissance. And millions of people around the world are going through this silent positive experience today.

Max Weber explains also that modernity has 'disenchanted' the world, or, in other words, taken away from it what is sacred. In the modern rational paradigm, nothing is sacred anymore. There are no sacred values, everything is reduced to rationality, and religion is considered something that will progressively disappear forever.

Renaissance came when the medieval structures of thinking were obsolete and a new paradigm was evolving. The pioneers were proposing a 'Renaissance', a new vision of life, which was welcomed progressively with enthusiasm by one part of the population. We are now in a similar transition from the modern towards the transmodern paradigm. Transmodernity is a synthesis between the best of our cultural and religious roots - without intolerance - and the best of modernity - without secularism. It is a renaissance of our souls. It is also an opening towards the future, a hole on the horizon of despair, because everything - economics, politics and institutions - must and will be rethought and reframed.

The real crisis of the stock markets is most of all a crisis of trust in the US economy and in the US dollar. It is the very economic system dominated by the US that is seriously questioned. It could be interpreted as a crisis of transition towards another economic paradigm. The modern, rational, top-down, male-dominating economic logic, is perhaps loosing ground - but for a time or forever ?

At the beginning, the new class of merchants and artisans was a silent minority. Intellectuals like Copernicus, followed by Galileo and Newton, were marginal and even persecuted. Those ascending new classes suddenly became the dominant ones - in France, for example, after the French Revolution, or a few centuries earlier, in Britain, through the Cromwell reforms. Meanwhile, the Church and the clergy, which had been the dominating intellectual and political force for many centuries, slowly became marginalised. (…) Nobody likes to loose political, economic and/or military strength. A number of wars and revolutions slowly pushed the new class upward and the old dominating class down. The light of the Renaissance, which has transformed Europe forever, also had a deep shadow of violence and destruction.

My hypothesis is that we are now entering the next red area, the transition between modernity and planetary transmodernity. However, this crossing appears much more problematic because it also signals the end of patriarchy and the beginning of a new type of partnership between men and women. Today, we are living through a crossing which has never happened in recorded history. (…)

What do you think are the reasons behind the current trend in religious groups around the world towards extremism and racism based on form rather than content ?

First, let us start from the fact that modernity is in crisis. Out of the modern room there are two doors : the back door and the front door. The back door is the pre-modern one. It is easy. We know it. Let us go back to it. The front door is the transmodern one. It is the unknown. Many do not dare to innovate in that direction. (…)
Religious extremism has to be analysed as a huge manifestation of despair, the absence of meaning and a struggle for justice. Religions suddenly appear as the last refuge of hope and action for a just world, and a meaningful world.
What makes this cocktail between pre-modern religions and political extremism so attractive is that it makes sacred the violent form of this legitimate fight for more justice, and there is hardly anything else on the market for the youth to cling to. I must add that this political extremism is often permeated by the patriarchal values of the sacredness of death and violence. Women could play a very crucial role here in helping to shift to transmodernity, to a lesser, and more effective, type of fight.
Third, in a time of crisis there is always this tendency and danger of a regression towards the back door. Some of President Bush's speeches are pre-modern, like his enemy bin Laden.

   
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