The Many Americas: Civilization and Modernity in the Atlantic World

European Journal of Social Theory 13 (1):117-133 (2010)
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Abstract

Civilizational analysis has not concerned itself too greatly with the historical experiences of the American New World. There are good reasons to correct this position and Shmuel Eisenstadt’s principal work on America’s distinct modernities goes some way to establishing the colonization of the Atlantic world as an opening phase of modernity. Nonetheless, a more far-reaching analysis of the distinctiveness of diverse American societies can be developed that goes beyond the image of a Protestant North America contrasted with southern Latin cultures. This article outlines the basis for a more nuanced approach in three steps: a focus on intercivilizational engagement, examination of civilizational factors neglected by Eisenstadt and reconsideration of the conceptual range of the notion of ‘civilization’ itself. The archetype of two Americas is replaced by a model of four with some consideration given to indigenous civilizations as a fifth America.

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