Psuddenly it seems to exist again: the West. Since Russia’s attack on Ukraine, understanding of what the West is, whether it exists at all, and what constitutes it has received renewed impetus. Many see its institutions and values challenged and defend them against criticism. Others resent the new smug tone of his apologists. They point out that there is no reason to cultivate feelings of superiority in view of the overlapping of the global crises in which we are involved, and call for an exit from the dynamic growth tendencies of the West. However, the call to withdraw from the western order underestimates – as does their self-righteous defense – the potential for criticism and change that lies within it, because western modernity is not simply an optimistic future project that permanently disregards the limits of progress, which now, in the face of the worldwide crises to rethink.
If you take a look at its history of more than two hundred years, there can hardly be any doubt that western modernity, despite all the wide-ranging claims to growth and expansion and in part precisely because of these claims to increase, was at odds with itself from the very beginning. Her capacity for self-criticism is part of her identity, ingrained in her story and perhaps her best part. To state today that “the quasi-religious belief of modernity in the inevitability of progress will probably have to be said goodbye” (Andreas Reckwitz) means misjudging the long history of questioning this belief in progress since the Enlightenment, with which European modernity might begin can.