According to Flew (2002), defining features of modernity and modern societies have included:

  • The development of nation-states as the principal form of political and legal organization.
  • The rise of capitalism as the dominant economic form, relying on private land ownership, production for profit, and economic transactions through market exchange.
  • The bureaucratic administration of public life by governments within the geographically defined territories of nation states.
  • Industralization, and the increasing importance of science and technology for economic production.
  • Urbanization and the growth of cities, promoted by economic and employment shifts from agriculture to industry, and by the development of extended communication and transportation networks.
  • Declining significance of religious and traditional influences over ideas and actions, and the rise of scientific and secular forms of thought and knowledge.
  • The intellectual ‘project of modernity’, to pursue human emancipation through the development of rational forms of knowledge, the linking of thought to purposive social action, and the declaration of universal human rights and moral and ethical values.
  • The decline of fixed social hierarchies, and the appearance of a more fluid and less tradition-bound set of social and sexual relations; with the emergence of new forms of class gender, racial hierarchy and inequality.
  • Imagined communities of the nation-state.

Anthony Giddens has made a number of profound contributions to the concept of modernity. Giddens suggests three sources for the dynamism of modernity:

  • Time-space distanciation
  • Disembedding of social systems – The lifting out of social relations from a local context.
  • Reflexivity – A process through which social practices are constantly examined and reformed.


Flew, T (2002), New Media, Oxford University Press, Oxford.