The project aims at advancing the analysis of the contemporary plurality of societal self-understandings and related institutional structures of polities in the current global context. It will analyze these self-understandings against the background of the historical trajectories as sequences of socio-political transformations of those societies. The analysis of multiple forms of modernity is the major challenge to current social and political theory and comparative-historical and political sociology. Scholars tend to either underestimate variation and succumb to ideas of global trends of neo-modernization or overestimate historical continuities and provide some culturalist explanation of civilizational difference. In this light, the objectives are: - to complement the prevalent institutional analysis of modernity with an interpretative approach that focuses on societal self-understandings, and to elaborate an understanding of how novel such interpretations emerge and how they contribute to reshaping institutions; - to disentangle the overly complex concept of modernity into components that are empirically analyzable in terms of both commonalities shared by all modern societies and differences that are due to the variety of possible interpretations of modernity; - to analyze two selected non-European societies South Africa and Brazil in terms of their specific articulations of these components of modernity and their historical transformations; - to confront prior analyses of European modernity with the new analyses of non-European modernities with a view to laying empirically rich foundations for a global sociology that recognizes the specificity of the European trajectory of modernity but does not confuse it with a model or a unique interpretation.
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