The first part of this talk develops the concept of industrious modernity. Contrary to industrial modernity, industrious modernity is organized around the imperative to change the world, without providing a clear direction for such efforts. Industrious modernity is grounded in the material conditions of labour intensive, small-scale market-oriented actors who perceive the economic activity as means towards the realization of subjectively or collectively held values. Industrious modernity is not a historically new condition. It was the experience of the pre-capitalist market society that brought in industrial modernity; it was the modernity of Weber’s puritans before they built the iron cage. Now industrious modernity is coming back, growing in the cracks of industrial modernity in seemingly terminal decline. Industrious modernity is the experience of today’s digital ‘petty producers’: precarious knowledge workers, start-uppers, and social innovators, as well as more the more popular participants in the global pirate economy.
In the second part of the talk, I want to draw on our experience of the covid pandemic to reflect on the future of industrious modernity in the Anthropocene. Can industrious modernity offer an alternative to top-down approaches to climate change and disease prevention? How is the new industriousness related to the prevailing paradigm of safety, or to the negationist view that has marked a growing minority? What can we learn from the pandemic in relation to the future of industrious modernity?