Modernity, it is claimed, is a historical epoch characterized by the attempt to universalise European culture in the name of ‘a priori truth’ and ‘rationality’. Central to this project was a particular notion of space and time, a notion that became increasingly problematic as the project of European modernity encountered its own internal and external limits.
After modernity’s early conceptions of empty space and linear time, its encounter with its cultural other transformed these notions into more relative variants; space in particular became enclosed as a culturally circumscribed ‘world’, grounded in familiar cultural practices and limited by cultural-difference as its cultural horizon.
We might then conceive of two modernities. Firstly, the age of radical modernity with its self-assured, expansive, conceptual confidence; and secondly the age of
20th centiry conservative modernity where the universal scope of reason begins to be questioned and reflexive philosophies of Kultur emerge to challenge the rationalist philosophies of modern European Zivilisation. On this account, conservative modernity is modernity at its moment of geographical and geo-political self-consciousness; the historical point at which modernity becomes aware of its own spatiality.
In this way, the philosophies of conservative modernity presuppose a new limited conception of space; infinite Euclidean space - where parallel lines never meet- is replaced by the ‘limited space’ of Riemannian geometries. The exapnding line becomes gthe infinitely self-enclosed and self-enclosing sphere.