Moderns versus an imagined solidity of the past

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Self-awareness and built-in distance

Institutionalized self-reflection

We have never been in place the way we presume animals are in their environment, nor should we romanticize the premodern as such a realm of immediacy. Inner division is part of what it means to be human.

Nor is self-consciousness enough to denature a place. Imagined remote mountain villages free from tourism are a modern fantasy of a life free from self-questioning. While it is true that many pre-modern societies were less doubting about their values and customs, their imagined solidity is an illusion fostered by different kinds and rates of change, especially in oral cultures.

What is different in modern societies -- and it is an enormous difference -- is not the presence of self-reflection and self-questioning, but our particular modes of self-reflection, the degree of their public institutionalization, and their centrality to the processes by which we assure one another of our humanity and mutual regard.

These modern changes were well under way long before the onset of mass media and globalized capitalism. The market and its media do bring modernization's effects to a new pitch, yet even though the market is a circulation that we cannot but tap into, this does not mean that all places automatically become commodities.