When the etymology of the word “modern” is looked up, (online etymology dictionary) the following definitions are encountered. The word is derived from Latin “ modo ‘just now, in a (certain) manner’, from modo (adv.) ‘to the measure,’ ablative of modus ‘manner, measure’”. It is evident that “modern” defines a certain manner or approach which is relevant to “now”. The key word in this context is “now” pertaining to certain time defined by certain scholars of different fields of study. Modern art, modern history, modern medicine, modern dance and the like each of which defined to have different time periods. Husserl defines modernity as “historical consciousness” therefore it would be wise to shed light to different fields of study under this description.
Over time, the understanding of art has changed. With modern art nourishing from its traditional roots, it has become a different branch. From Sandro Boticelli to Salvador Dali, some differences are easily noticed. The more a work of art is modern, the more abstract it gets. It is believed modern art dates back to 1860s when the traditions of art changed its nature with a new approach which was believed to be sourced from enlightenment. This school of thought brought new perspectives and freedom to the artist. Enlightenment enabled the artist to imitate traditional art more freely. For example, Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci is considered to be a masterpiece and it depicts the face of a beautiful woman. Picasso, however, among the modern artists, depicted “Weeping Woman” in a modernist style which leaves room for the observer to find more abstract concepts. Both paintings are still admired by today’s audience.
Throughout history, mankind is believed to have evolved anthropologically, philosophically, sociologically, biologically and theologically. Do these all make mankind modern? Philosophically, man has become more rational. This rationalism has influenced him in religion, economy and politics. Rational thought has made man to shift from monarchy or aristocracy to democracy, from religious authorities to secularism, from exploitation to free trade, from hand-made manufacturing to mass production and the like. All of these aimed to provide mankind better life conditions. Therefore, it would be a wise assumption to conclude that modernity aims to bring comfort in every field where human beings benefit from.
The term “modern” refers to “capitalism” in economics. From feudalism to capitalism, it could be an accurate comment to say that mankind made a progress. Compared to feudalism, the “modern economy” is more organized and has a certain system. However, capitalism brought many negative aspects with itself. For example, a farmer would only work for four or five months in a year. In today’s world, with capitalism bringing the term “efficiency”, companies forced themselves to maximize their outcomes given the limited resources. That is why; “child labor” became a major issue with the industrial revolution because the children could work longer with a low salary. Thus, “modernity” in economics brought human rights violations. Moreover, according to Gapminder’s graphic on GDP, the gap between the rich and poor continues to widen. At this point, a question arises: “What does modernity really mean in economics?”
With the technological and economical development, science has made a huge progress over centuries. Humankind has sought for better conditions for humanity in medicine, physics, chemistry, biology and technology via scientific research. New cures and methods are found for incurable diseases and yet new diseases emerge. Physics and technology allow people to travel beyond their imagination i.e. few people are to be chosen to travel to Mars in the days to come. In the meantime, Higgs Boson is bringing a whole new perspective to the existence of the mass. That is why progress and development become the fundamental milestones for modern life.
If modernity is applied correctly in the fields of art, history, science, economics, and politics, it has many advantages in the progress of humankind. It would be wise to note that capitalism still might put these in jeopardy due to its manipulative force. For example, a new invention or a discovery could be used for the worse of humanity. That is why, “The challenge of modernity is to live without illusions and without becoming disillusioned.” Antonio Gramsci.