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010133 SE Interpreting Modernity (2010S)

4.00 ECTS (2.00 SWS), SPL 1 - Katholische Theologie
Continuous assessment of course work


Note: The time of your registration within the registration period has no effect on the allocation of places (no first come, first served).


max. 20 participants
Language: English


Classes (iCal) - next class is marked with N

Thursday 04.03. 17:30 - 20:30 Seminarraum 4 (Kath) Schenkenstraße EG
Thursday 11.03. 17:30 - 20:30 Seminarraum 4 (Kath) Schenkenstraße EG
Thursday 18.03. 17:30 - 20:30 Seminarraum 4 (Kath) Schenkenstraße EG
Thursday 25.03. 17:30 - 20:30 Seminarraum 4 (Kath) Schenkenstraße EG
Thursday 29.04. 17:30 - 20:30 Seminarraum 4 (Kath) Schenkenstraße EG
Thursday 06.05. 17:30 - 20:30 Seminarraum 4 (Kath) Schenkenstraße EG
Thursday 10.06. 17:30 - 20:30 Seminarraum 4 (Kath) Schenkenstraße EG


Aims, contents and method of the course

We know that people evaluate their position in the world and construct a social reality by values. We also know that any society is based on a certain set of values. Then what are the values of the modern western world? Do these values change, and, if so, in which direction? Does religion influence these values, and, if so, in which way? These questions do not have clear-cut answers as they depend on how we interpret modernity. Some scholars argue that the key element of western modernity is rationalization, but others emphasise subjectivity, individuality and choice. For a long time scholars viewed western modernity in terms of a decline of religious values, but recently this approach has come to be challenged and the subject of (sometimes heated) debate. Some scholars, following Karl Marx, define western modernity in economic terms, and they argue that economic development determines cultural change. Others, to the contrary, claim that cultural values (including religious beliefs and traditions) are the fundamental building blocks shaping the very foundations of modernity... or modernities, since many different models of modernity can be seen as emerging inside and outside of Europe. So, what are the core values of western modernity? What does it mean to be a "modern person"? We will approach these questions in the framework of the international empirical studies conducted in Europe and in the larger world within the last two or three decades: the World Values Studies and the European Values Studies, the Surveys of Religion and Values Aufbruch, the Religion Monitor, and GfK Surveys of Socio-Styles, as well as some national and local studies, such as the Kendal project (United Kingdom) and national surveys conducted in Eastern (Central) Europe. We will look at the methodology and theoretical backgrounds of these studies, and, particularly, at how they interpret modernity and what do they consider to be counter-modernity, how they define values and how they measure the value change.

Assessment and permitted materials

2 short class presentations. One presentation is about the proposed idea for the research, another - closer to the end of the seminars - about the results received. At the end of the seminars students are expected to submit an essay, 15-20 page-long, written in German or English on their topic of research.

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

The seminars welcome students with different academic background interested in the general discussion about the nature of modern society and human values. A preliminary acquaintance with social surveys is desirable but not necessary. Seminars will begin with an introductory lecture (in English) and will continue with the presentations of students' own research, which can be done in English or German.

Examination topics

Discussion of students own research, analysis of literature and data analysis. Students' research topics should focus on the issues of modern society, beliefs, values, or value change, and should include a critical reflection on the theoretical approaches or empirical results of the aforementioned surveys. Depending on the size of a group, we might devote one blocked seminar to a discussion of a film (or a novel) dealing with the problem of clashing values or values change.

Reading list

Basic Sources
an additional list of literature will be available on the E-Learning Platform

Taylor, Charles. 1989. Sources of the Self: the Making of the Modern Identity. Cambridge University Press. (selected chapters)
Eisenstadt S. N. 2003. Comparative Civilizations and Multiple Modernities: A Collection of Essays. Leiden: Brill.
Bauman, Zygmunt. 2003. Flüchtige Moderne, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp (selected chapters).
Berger, Peter L. (ed.). 1980. Der Zwang zur Häresie: Religion in der Pluralistischen Gesellschaft. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer.

Specific literature and references:

World Values Studies
Inglehart, Ronald and Christian Welzel. Modernization, cultural change, and democracy: the human development sequence. Cambridge University Press, 2005.
Pippa Norris, Ronald Inglehart. Sacred and secular: religion and politics. Cambridge University Press, 2004.
Inglehart, Ronald and Baker, E. Wayne. "Modernization, Cultural Change, and the Persistence of Traditional Values"; in American Sociological Review 65, 2000: 19-51.

European Values Study
Christian Friesl, Regina Polak, Ursula Hamachers-Zuba (Hg.). Die Österreicher/-innen. Wertewandel 1990-2008. 2009. Bericht zur Europäischen Wertestudie 2008. Österreichteil. Czernin, Wien.

Jugendwertestudie Österreich
Friesl, Christian, Ingrid Kromer, Regina Polak (Hg.). Lieben - Leisten - Hoffen: die Wertewelt junger Menschen in Österreich. Wien: Czernin, 2008.

Zulehner, Paul M./Tomka, Miklos/Naletova, Inna. 2008. Religionen und Kirchen in Ost(Mittel)Europa. Zehn Jahre nach der Wende, Ostfildern.
Tomka, Miklós / Zulehner, Paul M. 2000. Religion im gesellschaftlichen Kontext Ost(Mittel)Europas. Ostfidern.

The Kendal Project
Paul Heelas, Linda Woodhead, & others. 2007. The Spiritual Revolution: Why Religion is Giving Way to Spirituality, Oxford: Blackwell.

Richter, Rudolf. 2005. Die Lebensstilgesellschaft. Wiesbaden.
_____ 2006. Österreichische Lebensstile. Wien: LIT.
Slater Don. 2005. "The Sociology of Consumption and Lifestyle" in Calhoun, Craig J. (ed.) The Sage Handbook of Sociology, London: Sage Publications.

The Religion Monitor
Bertelsmann Stiftung (Hrsg.). 2008. Woran glaubt die Welt? Analysen und Kommentare zum Religionsmonitor, Verlag Bertelsmannstiftung.
_____. 2007. Religionsmonitor. Verlag Bertelsmannstiftung.

Association in the course directory

(freies) Wahlfach für 011 (02W), 012 (02W) und 020;
für 011 (08W) D31

Last modified: Mo 07.09.2020 15:27