The End of IllusionsPolitics, Economy, and Culture in Late Modernity
The End of Illusions
Politics, Economy, and Culture in Late Modernity
Translated by Valentine A. Pakis

We live in a time of great uncertainty about the future.  Those heady days of the late twentieth century, when the end of the Cold War seemed to be ushering in a new and more optimistic age, now seem like a distant memory. During the last couple of decades, we’ve been battered by one crisis after another and the idea that humanity is on a progressive path to a better future seems like an illusion.

It is only now that we can see clearly the real scope and structure of the profound shifts that Western societies have undergone over the last 30 years.  Classical industrial society has been transformed into a late-modern society that is molded by polarization and paradoxes. The pervasive singularization of the social, the orientation toward the unique and exceptional, generates systematic asymmetries and disparities, and hence progress and unease go hand in hand. Reckwitz examines this dual structure of singularization and polarization as it plays itself out in the different sectors of our societies and, in so doing, he outlines the central structural features of the present: the new class society, the characteristics of a postindustrial economy, the conflict about culture and identity, the exhaustion of the self resulting from the imperative to seek authentic fulfillment, and the political crisis of liberalism.

Building on his path-breaking work <i>The Society of Singularities</i>, this new book will be of great interest to students and scholars in sociology, politics, and the social sciences generally, and to anyone concerned with the great social and political issues of our time.

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  • September 2021
  • 244 pages
  • 153 x 232 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $69.95
  • 9781509545698
  • Paperback $24.95
  • 9781509545704
  • Open eBook $56.00
  • 9781509545711
Table of Contents
List of Figures

Introduction: The Disillusioned Present

Progress, Dystopia, Nostalgia

Disillusionment as an Opportunity

From Industrial Modernity to the Society of Singularities

1.    Cultural Conflict as a Struggle over Culture:
Hyperculture and Cultural Essentialism

The Culturalization of the Social

Culturalization I: Hyperculture

Culturalization II: Cultural Essentialism

Hyperculture and Cultural Essentialism: Between Coexistence and Conflict

“Doing Universality” – The Culture of the General as an Alternative?

2.    From the Leveled Middle-Class Society to the Three-Class Society:
The New Middle Class, the Old Middle Class, and the Precarious Class

The Global and Historical Context

Underlying Conditions: Post-Industrialization, the Expansion of Education, a Shift in Values

In the Paternoster Elevator of the Three-Class Society

The New Middle Class: Successful Self-Actualization and Urban Cosmopolitanism

The Old Middle Class: Sedentariness, Order, and Cultural Defensiveness

The Precarious Class: Muddling Through and Losing Status

The Upper Class: Distance due to Assets

Cross-Sectional Characteristics: Gender, Migration, Regions, Milieus

A Trend toward Political Polarization and Future Social Scenarios

3.    Beyond Industrial Society:
Polarized Post-Industrialism and Cognitive-Cultural Capitalism

The Rise and Fall of Industrial Fordism

The Saturation Crisis

The Production Crisis and Polarized Post-Industrialism

Globalization, Neoliberalism, Financialization

Cognitive Capitalism and Immaterial Capital

Cultural Goods and Cultural Capitalism

Winner-Take-All Markets:

The Scalability and Attractiveness of Cognitive and Cultural Goods

Extreme Capitalism: The Economization of the Social

4.    The Weariness of Self-Actualization:
The Late-Modern Individual and the Paradoxes of Emotional Culture

From Self-Discipline to Self-Actualization

Successful Self-Actualization: An Ambitious Dual Structure

The Culture of Self-Actualization as a Generator of Negative Emotions

Ways Out of the Spiral of Disappointment?

5.    The Crisis of Liberalism and the Search for the New Political Paradigm:
From Apertistic to Regulatory Liberalism

Political Paradigms and Political Paradoxes

Problems and Solutions: Between the Paradigms of Regulation and Dynamization

The Rise of the Social-Corporatist Paradigm

The Crisis of Overregulation

The Rise of the Paradigm of Apertistic Liberalism

The Threefold Crisis of Apertistic Liberalism

Populism as a Symptom

“Regulatory Liberalism” as the Paradigm of the Future?

Challenges Facing Regulatory Liberalism



About the Author
Andreas Reckwitz is Professor of Social Theory and Cultural Sociology at Humboldt University, Berlin.
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“This is a fascinating read, truly imaginative and remarkably wide-ranging. Andreas Reckwitz presents a compelling, novel outlook on the global challenges ahead.”
Patrick Baert, University of Cambridge

“In The End of Illusions, Reckwitz conducts a ‘socio-analysis’ of a patient known as late modernity and reveals the contradictions, paradoxes, and anomalies that characterize contemporary society. The hard work involved in this sobering analysis pays off: while pathways toward a better society are neither obvious nor linear, embracing today's ambiguities opens up spaces to reimagine our shared futures.”
Urs Gasser, Harvard University

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