Damaged Life: The Crisis of the Modern Psyche

By Tod Sloan | Go to book overview

Chapter 3

The colonization of the lifeworld

Soon after embarking on a review of the extensive literature on modernization, one notices that the scholars, social planners and politicians who write on the topic have generally adopted stances either in favour of modernization or against it. For purposes of comparison, I will refer to these polar positions as the affirmative and the critical perspectives. Few people with opinions on the matter would fall completely into one camp or the other, but the two perspectives nevertheless operate powerfully at the level of what phenomenological philosophers call foreunderstandings. Such foreunderstandings operate as biases that influence decisions about what factors are relevant when evaluating modernization’s impact. Not only do they incline one to focus only on particular facets of modernization—political, economic, socio-cultural—but they also include judgements about what should be occurring in the sphere under consideration—e.g. democratization, privatization, secularization. Moreover, as we saw in Chapter 2, such foreunderstandings also determine the extent to which the psychological impact of modernization is a relevant consideration. To prepare the ground for an explanation of my own position on this matter, I will outline the two perspectives and briefly examine related issues. I have attempted to describe the affirmative and critical perspectives as neutrally as possible, but both are probably exaggerated slightly here in order to highlight differences between them.

The affirmative position holds that modernization (as exemplified by the historical development of Western Europe and North America over the last few centuries) has been basically successful. According to this view, people in modern Western societies are happier, healthier and more productive than any previous groups in human history. They enjoy great freedom of expression as well as geographic and social mobility. Their high material standard of living, the direct fruit of the dynamism of capitalism and democracy, has permitted an unprecedented flowering of culture and science. The affirmative view thus holds that the already industrialized societies have the responsibility to help less developed nations on the path to modernization. The advanced societies must also

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Damaged Life: The Crisis of the Modern Psyche
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Chapter 1 - Damaged Goods: the Modern Problematic 1
  • Chapter 2 - The Psychological Impact of Modernization 23
  • Chapter 3 - The Colonization of the Lifeworld 47
  • Chapter 4 - The Formation of the Psyche 67
  • Chapter 5 - The Domination of Desire 81
  • Chapter 6 - Ideological Formations and Their Transcendence 96
  • Chapter 7 - The Destruction of Meaning 110
  • Chapter 8 - Decolonization 127
  • References 147
  • Index 155
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