There was Spinoza, contra Descartes and perhaps contra Kant. Explain/explore the possibility of not having the mind/body split. There was the counter-Enlightenment but what about critiques of Enlightenment that are not dully postmodern? Modernity carries values like authenticity, and believes in foundations, whereas the postmodern does not. This is why I am far more modernist than postmodernist, but is there some other way out of the contradictions that inhere in the idea of the modern?
There was Benjamin, contra Marx. Explain/explore the possibility of a materialist history that is not totalizing or unidirectionally progress-oriented.
Max Weber is the one who conceptualized “modernity” as the direction of history that had Europe as a model and a goal. He also discussed some contradictions between modernity and modernization.
But modernity is not truly in the skyscraper or the bank or even the savoir faire. It is in the movement of a dangerous gift, transmitted from the West to the rest. Modernity says: we have the good, and we will give – or teach, or sell – it to you. Modernity is salvation through this gift from your prior self. It is Sir Stamford Raffles of the East India Company turning Temasek, the fishing village, into Singapore, the trade hub and aspiring metropolis. It is the magnificent edifice of Cambridge University turning Melissa, the girl who wore cheap pajamas sewn by her grandma to bed, into Melissa, the cosmopolitan, who graduated in a Hepburn dress and a fur hood.