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
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
(…) 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
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.