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Sérgio Rouanet addresses modernity at the opening of the Olavo Setubal Chair

Sergio Paulo Rouanet
Rouanet, the first holder
of the Olavo Setubal Chair

Political scientist, philosopher and diplomat Sérgio Paulo Rouanet, former National Secretary of Culture and author of the cultural incentive law that bears his name, will give the inaugural conference of the Olavo Setubal Chair of Arts, Culture and Science, of which he is the first holder.

Rouanet will address the influence of modernity in the economic, political and cultural contexts through the ideas of sociologists Max Weber and Manuel Castells, and philosopher Jürgen Habermas. Modernity and its Ambivalences will take place on May 17, at 10 am, in the former University Board Room.

The debaters will be jurist Celso Lafer, former Minister of Foreign Affairs; philosopher Renato Janine Ribeiro, former Minister of Education and coordinator of the IEA's Research Group The Future Inquires Us; and sociologist Barbara Freitag, professor emeritus from the University of Brasília (UnB). The opening of the seminar will be attended by the president of USP, Marco Antonio Zago, by the director of the IEA, Paulo Saldiva, and by Eduardo Saron, director at the Itaú Cultural Institute.

A project of the IEA in partnership with the Itaú Cultural Institute, the Olavo Setubal Chair will be a space to discuss and promote activities related to the world of arts, with special focus on cultural management. Its goal is to foster interdisciplinary reflections on academic, artistic, cultural and social issues of regional and global scope.

The concept of modernity

According to Rouanet there are still doubts about the concept of modernity even though it is being discussed more than ever before. One of the definitions has been presented by sociologist Anthony Giddens: "Modernity refers to the ways of life and the social organization that emerged in Europe from the 18th century, and subsequently became global in their influence."

However, Rouanet believes that "if we want to give a concrete content to this mature chronological frame, we should go back to the classical analyzes of Max Weber," for whom modernity is the product of cumulative rationalization processes that occurred:

  • economically – free mobility of production factors, wage labor, rational techniques of accounting and management, and continual incorporation of science and technology to the production process;
  • politically – replacement of the decentralized feudal state by the centralized national state;
  • culturally – secularization of traditional worldviews (Entzauberung) and their internal division into value spheres (Wertsphären): science, morality, law and art.


Rouanet seeks to integrate these Weberian categories in the context of Habermas's theory of communicative action. As a case study, he proposes the analysis of more abstract questions about books and their future prospects in the face of new technologies of information and communication, taking advantage of Castells's approach.

Photo: Cecília Bastos/USP