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Modern Social ImaginariesModern Social Imaginaries

Charles Taylor

Narrated by Tim Lundeen

Available from Audible

Book published by Duke University Press

One of the most influential philosophers in the English-speaking world, Charles Taylor is internationally renowned for his contributions to political and moral theory, particularly to debates about identity formation, multiculturalism, secularism, and modernity. In Modern Social Imaginaries, Taylor continues his recent reflections on the theme of multiple modernities. To account for the differences among modernities, Taylor sets out his idea of the social imaginary, a broad understanding of the way a given people imagine their collective social life.

Retelling the history of Western modernity, Taylor traces the development of a distinct social imaginary. Animated by the idea of a moral order based on the mutual benefit of equal participants, the Western social imaginary is characterized by three key cultural forms—the economy, the public sphere, and self-governance. Taylor’s account of these cultural formations provides a fresh perspective on how to read the specifics of Western modernity: how we came to imagine society primarily as an economy for exchanging goods and services to promote mutual prosperity, how we began to imagine the public sphere as a metaphorical place for deliberation and discussion among strangers on issues of mutual concern, and how we invented the idea of a self-governing people capable of secular “founding” acts without recourse to transcendent principles. Accessible in length and style, Modern Social Imaginaries offers a clear and concise framework for understanding the structure of modern life in the West and the different forms modernity has taken around the world.

Charles Taylor is Board of Trustees Professor of Law and Philosophy at Northwestern University, Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Philosophy at McGill University, and former Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory at Oxford University. He is the author of many books and articles.


“Few contemporary thinkers can match the diversity, quantity, and quality of work produced by Charles Taylor.... [A] concise and rewarding book.”

—Mark Redhead, Perspectives on Politics

Modern Social Imaginaries is subtle, complex, and thought-provoking. It is a valuable contribution to the literature on a wide range of concerns within political philosophy and beyond.”

Contemporary Political Theory

“Charles Taylor is our leading interrogator of modernity.”


“Charles Taylor's new book continues his project of erudite investigations into the origins of the modern sense of self.... The author's breadth of learning and humanistic disposition constitute a rare fusion of qualities in the current climate of intellectual warfare....”

Montreal Book Review

“Few have been brave enough to confront the issue of Western modernity at such a general level as Taylor, or if they have, few have managed to be so succinct and explicit about it. I believe this book provides a valuable conceptual clarification of what is distinctive about Western modernity; at the very least, it will spark some valuable reflection on this much discussed yet much misunderstood topic.”

—David Thunder, The Review of Politics

“Taylor's Modern Social Imaginaries is rich in ideas and histories .... This book is worth reading for those concerned with ethics, politics, and modernity and rises to the top of Taylor's more recent work.”

—Jeffery L. Nicholas, Review of Metaphysics

“Taylor's prose is wonderfully clear and direct. It leaps across centuries of change and controversy with considerable grace. And it avoids the portentous huffing and puffing about imminent collapse that so often mars philosophical analysis of modernity and its prospects. Reading the book is like engaging in a conversation with a wonderfully intelligent and articulate friend, if one is lucky enough to have such a friend. It breathes a kind of serene confidence that one can approach even the broadest questions about what makes us tick in the calmest and most reasonable manner.”

—Bernard Yack, Ethics

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University Press Audiobooks