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As a historical category, modernity refers to a period marked by a questioning or rejection of tradition; the prioritization of individualism, freedom and formal equality; faith in inevitable social, scientific and technological progress and human perfectibility; rationalization and professionalization; a movement from feudalism (or agrarianism) toward capitalism and the market economy; industrialization, urbanization and secularization; the development of the nation-state and its constituent institutions (e.g.
Machiavelli in turn influenced Francis Bacon (Kennington 2004, chapt. Important modern political doctrines which stem from the new Machiavellian realism include Mandeville's influential proposal that "Private Vices by the dextrous Management of a skilful Politician may be turned into Publick Benefits" (the last sentence of his Fable of the Bees), and also the doctrine of a constitutional "separation of powers" in government, first clearly proposed by Montesquieu.
In this sense, it refers to a particular relationship to time, one characterized by intense historical discontinuity or rupture, openness to the novelty of the future, and a heightened sensitivity to what is unique about the present (Kompridis 2006, 32–59).
As an analytical concept and normative ideal, modernity is closely linked to the ethos of philosophical and aesthetic modernism; political and intellectual currents that intersect with the Enlightenment; and subsequent developments such as existentialism, modern art, the formal establishment of social science, and contemporaneous antithetical developments such as Marxism.
"—a literary and artistic quarrel within the Académie française in the early 1690s.
In these usages, "modernity" denoted the renunciation of the recent past, favouring a new beginning, and a re-interpretation of historical origin.Some writers have suggested there is more than one possible modernity, given the unsettled nature of the term and of history itself.