A vision relatively common on modernity and that we have already criticized several times here, is the idea that modernity is -preferably – a cultural project. Wagner has been one of the most important proponents of this idea, and here in Chile is basically the vision that Morandé has of modernity (and therefore of because we would not be modern).
And in the end, it may be, one can define the concepts as one wants to; but to suggest that the change of modernity is centrally about a cultural project that you forget some of the changes that are of great relevance. Let us think about another change of great magnitude, one that was associated with the birth of ‘civilization’, or at least to the birth of cities, the State and the writing -that even if were not always together, they tended to do so. Now, this is an observable change without any relationship to cultural issues or project: The remains of the cities you can observe, in the same way that inscriptions and other records of scripture, and the type of construction performed (ranging from large monuments to aqueducts, passing by works of irrigation).
The case is that the same thing can be asked of the associated changes in the NINETEENTH and TWENTIETH centuries. An archaeologist of the future could well observe the remains of cities of great magnitude and extension, railway lines and roads, even the considerable traces of garbage, the remains of shipwrecks, of increase of population, and the territory used by humans; even of increased longevity and the height (comparing skeletons). A whole lot of changes that would distinguish clearly these centuries from the rest of the story.
One may well name the things as you want, but clearly a change of such magnitude -the equivalent of the already appointed or of the so-called neolithic revolution – need a name to be identified. The modern societies seem to be the name that most clearly could receive that use. Compared with these material changes, in reality the project’s theme, identity, or modern culture does not have as much importance.
(*) This argument can be used, mutatis mutandis, against Wallerstein. His argument is rather that the Industrial Revolution is not so relevant because, well, the modern world society was already established. Which may well be so, but the case is that the magnitude of the transformations experienced in the last 2 centuries can’t be overlooked or looked at in less.