In This Review

Reflections on the Modern and the Global
Reflections on the Modern and the Global
By Bruce Mazlish
Transaction Publishers, 2013, 170 pp

In a series of short portraits of historical eras and their thinkers, Mazlish captures the changing ways that Western societies have understood the self and visualized the world as they moved from medieval to modern life, a process he calls “a seeing revolution.” The great humanists and scientists of the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the Industrial Revolution make appearances, including Alberti, Copernicus, Bacon, Galileo, Kepler, Descartes, Adam Smith, and Hegel. During these time periods, traditionalism and religion gave way to the modernizing forces of science and capitalism, which helped transform human consciousness and redefine ideas about the individual and his rights and capacities. The book’s most interesting claim is that consciousness is being reshaped yet again by the forces of globalization, although Mazlish does not properly define that process. The world is surely witnessing an intensification of interdependence and a spreading understanding of humanity as a unified community inhabiting a fragile planet. Yet the book does not squarely grapple with the most important question: If there is a growing global consciousness, what are its political consequences?