Modernity, a topic in the humanities and social sciences, is both a historical period (the modern era), as well as the ensemble of particular socio-cultural norms, attitudes and practices that arose in post- medieval Europe (after Renaissance and its Humanism and Anthropocentrism) and have developed since, in various ways and at various times, around the world, for example, in 18th century Enlightenment. While it includes a wide range of interrelated historical processes and cultural phenomena (from fashion to modern warfare), it can also refer to the subjective or existential experience of the conditions they produce, and their ongoing impact on human culture, institutions, and politics ( Berman 2010, 15–36).

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. representative democracy, public education, modern bureaucracy) and forms of surveillance ( Foucault 1995, 170–77). Some writers have suggested there is more than one possible modernity, given the unsettled nature of the term and of history itself.

Charles Baudelaire is credited with coining the term "modernity" (modernité) in his 1864 essay "The Painter of Modern Life", to designate the fleeting, ephemeral experience of life in an urban metropolis, and the responsibility art has to capture that experience. 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. It also encompasses the social relations associated with the rise of capitalism, and shifts in attitudes associated with secularisation and post-industrial life ( Berman 2010, 15–36).


The term "modern" (Latin modernus from modo, "just now") dates from the 5th century, originally distinguishing the Christian era from the Pagan era. In the 6th century AD, Cassiodorus appears to have been the first writer to use "modern" (modernus) regularly to refer to his own age ( O'Donnell 1979, 235 n9). However, the word entered general usage only in the 17th-century quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns—debating: "Is Modern culture superior to Classical (Græco–Roman) culture?"—a literary and artistic quarrel within the Académie française in the early 1690s.

In these[ which?] usages, "modernity" denoted the renunciation of the recent past, favouring a new beginning, and a re-interpretation of historical origin. The distinction between "modernity" and "modern" did not arise until the 19th century ( Delanty 2007).

Other Languages
Alemannisch: Moderne
العربية: حداثة
Bân-lâm-gú: Hiān-tāi-sèng
dansk: Modernitet
Deutsch: Moderne
eesti: Modernsus
español: Modernidad
فارسی: مدرنیته
français: Modernité
한국어: 근대성
हिन्दी: आधुनिकता
Bahasa Indonesia: Modernitas
íslenska: Nútími
עברית: מודרניות
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਆਧੁਨਿਕਤਾ
português: Modernidade
suomi: Moderni
svenska: Modernitet
தமிழ்: நவீனம்
Türkçe: Modernite
中文: 現代性