Volume 4, Issue 1, Spring 2018
Festschrift for Peter Wagner
World-Sociology Beyond Eurocentrism
Considerations on Peter Wagner’s Theory of Modernity
In his recent work Peter Wagner has dealt with understandings of modernity in different world regions. He has expanded the analysis of modern transformations in Europe to parts of the Southern world. This turn in his work has been a response to challenges about the development of Western modernity, including his own earlier arguments. This article explores some features of Wagner’s recent research on the Brazilian, European and South African trajectories of modernity and his proposal for a world-sociology. The aspects of his work that I am especially interested in are: i) the establishment of the Atlantic connection for the ‘enablement’ of the modern transformation in the nineteenth century; ii) the question about the spaces where experiences happen and the interpretation of temporal transformations and historical continuities. As a sociologist who takes a classical approach to the analysis of historical transformations, Wagner has developed a conception of trajectories of modernity using the notion of societal self-understanding to challenge both conceptually and empirically the presuppositions of communality and continuity assumed as guiding ideas to account for difference in the modern world. I explore in this article the advantages of Wagner’s unorthodox sociological perspective that is to propose both a general understanding of autonomy as key features to comprehend historical transformation and to show how reflexivity opens up a variety of ways of being in the world.