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The Crisis of Global Modernity
Asian Traditions and a Sustainable Future


Part of Asian Connections

  • Date Published: December 2014
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107442856

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About the Authors
  • In this major new study, Prasenjit Duara expands his influential theoretical framework to present circulatory, transnational histories as an alternative to nationalist history. Duara argues that the present day is defined by the intersection of three global changes: the rise of non-western powers, the crisis of environmental sustainability and the loss of authoritative sources of what he terms transcendence - the ideals, principles and ethics once found in religions or political ideologies. The physical salvation of the world is becoming - and must become - the transcendent goal of our times, but this goal must transcend national sovereignty if it is to succeed. Duara suggests that a viable foundation for sustainability might be found in the traditions of Asia, which offer different ways of understanding the relationship between the personal, ecological and universal. These traditions must be understood through the ways they have circulated and converged with contemporary developments.

    • One of the world's leading historians compares and contrasts long-term historical processes in the west and Asia
    • Draws on transcendent Asian traditions to seek new answers to the global crisis of environmental sustainability
    • Proposes a new paradigm and narrative for 'sustainable modernity'
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Modernity in its Western guise has generated a degraded, unsustainable world. To find the basis for a more viable, 'post-Western modernity', Duara maintains that we must look beyond this tradition. Drawing on a capacious command of Asian history and society, Duara probes the region's older philosophies to offer a vision that might nurture a truly global commons. This is work that is ambitious in the best possible sense.' Jean Comaroff, Harvard University, Massachusetts

    'Duara's opus is both timely and important. By re-vitalizing ancient Asian traditions which also emphasize sustainability, we can develop a stronger global consensus to protect our global commons. Duara's magnificent book will do the world a great service.' Kishore Mabhubani, National University of Singapore

    'Incisive and inspiring … Duara draws on his deep knowledge of China and other Asian philosophical traditions. He locates rich dialogical resources for alternative modes of human flourishing. This book is a profound challenge to received models of modernity.' Kenneth Dean, McGill University, Montréal

    'Ranging across history, religion, politics and ethics as they have appeared in multiple traditions, Duara draws out implications of our now-global quest for 'modernity' and 'development' for environmental sustainability. This is a provocative intervention in some of the most fundamental issues of our times.' Kenneth Pomeranz, University of Chicago

    'The intersection of the personal, the ecological, and the universal is a key vector in Prasenjit Duara's disentangling of what it will take to achieve the 'physical salvation' of our world. This is a brilliant text; it contributes to the methodological understanding of our period.' Saskia Sassen, Columbia University, author of Expulsions

    'The perspective of The Crisis of Global Modernity is thus post-secular and post-national: Duara recognizes that the climate crisis has indeed changed everything and that it is futile to attempt to engage with it through the 19th and 20th century frameworks of economy and governance that created it in the first place.' Amitav Ghosh,

    'Prominent historian Duara has done some of the best historical studies on Asia, and in particular on China … In this new book, Duara expands his profound knowledge of China and other Asian societies to the entire globe, and offers a historical sociology of global modernity. … Duara maintains that Western modernity, marked by secularism and individualism, is in deep crisis; environmental degradation worldwide, the rise of non-Western powers, and the loss of transcendent authority all pose severe challenges to the national-modernization model. As Duara sees it, traditional philosophical thought in Asia, particularly Confucianism, may offer a viable path forward. Oriental wisdom, such as the emphasis on self-cultivation, harmony, cooperation, and responsibility, can help the modern world transcend national sovereignty and achieve physical salvation of the planet. While theoretically ambitious, the book's biggest strength lies in its rich historical narrative … intellectually rewarding. Summing up: highly recommended.' J. Li, Choice

    '… a short review of it at best can only be an invitation to readers to take it on. But is the reward is more than worth it. … At the end of the day, perhaps most reassuring is our confidence in the hopeful Duara who has, on thinking through this crisis of global modernity, recommended a way forward for us.' Roger T. Ames, Pacific Affairs

    '… a questing, ambitious and occasionally polemical work that charts his [Duara's] search for an Asian-inspired new ecological consciousness. … By presenting his inspiring new vision of an evolving pan-Asian civic-minded solidarity, Duara, with all his usual elegance and erudition, enables us to share in that hope.' Roy Starrs, Journal of World History

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    Product details

    • Date Published: December 2014
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107442856
    • length: 340 pages
    • dimensions: 236 x 152 x 25 mm
    • weight: 0.5kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Sustainability and the crisis of transcendence
    2. Circulatory and competitive histories
    3. The historical logics of global modernity
    4. Dialogical and radical transcendence
    5. Dialogical transcendence and secular nationalism in the Sinosphere
    6. The traffic between secularism and transcendence
    7. Regions of circulation and networks of sustainability in Asia
    8. Conclusion and epilogue: of reason and hope

  • Author

    Prasenjit Duara, National University of Singapore
    Prasenjit Duara is the Raffles Professor of Humanities and Director of the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore. He received his PhD in Chinese history from Harvard University, and taught at the University of Chicago between 1991 and 2008, where he served as Professor and Chair of the Department of History and Chair of the Committee on Chinese Studies. In 1988, he published Culture, Power and the State: Rural North China, 1900–1942, which won the Fairbank Prize of the American Historical Association and the Levenson Prize of the Association of Asian Studies, USA. Among his other books are: Rescuing History from the Nation (1995); Sovereignty and Authenticity: Manchukuo and the East Asian Modern (2003); an edited volume, Decolonization: Now and Then (2004); and A Companion to Global Historical Thought, co-edited with Viren Murthy and Andrew Sartori (2014). His work has been widely translated into Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and several European languages.

Prasenjit Duara on The Crisis of Global Modernity: Asian Traditions and a Sustainable Future

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