This doctoral thesis examines how modernisation affects and is affected by existing local culture and identity. It is about the relation between the social and mental barriers experienced, expressed and manifested in the social culture of local community, and modernisation’s dynamic powers over time. The thesis deals with different time periods from the 1800’s until today with regard to expressions and consequences of modernity. People during the societal transformation of Sweden in the 19th and 20th centuries are culturally depicted from a micro-perspective.
An overall perspective for the analysis of modernity uses the concepts of basal and variable modernity, borrowed from the historian of ideas Sven-Eric Liedman. The perspective makes possible the separation between on the one hand the structural modernisation within the fields of economy, technology and natural sciences, and on the other hand the cultural modernity manifested in conceptions of the world, politics, existential viewpoints, aesthetic expressions and social culture. Within the first-mentioned fields, where basal modernity dominates, a uniform and cumulative developmental pattern emerges as well as an almost self-propelled continuity toward the next innovation or stage of development. Within the latter fields, however, a non-uniform pattern emerges, where modernisation is constantly the object of alternative interpretations and attitudes. This variable modernity is characterised by a cultural struggle between conflicting ideologies and strategies in relation to ongoing modernisation. Different individuals and groups position themselves between acceptance and resistance, progressiveness and the critique of civilisation, the preservation of traditions and the will to change. In this course of events new affinities and identifications, but also new dissociations and antagonisms are created in local social contexts. Modernity leads both to the obliteration of boundaries and to the emergence of new social and mental boundaries. This process can also lead to existing geographical borders being charged with a new ideological content so their importance is revitalised.