This video essay introduces students to the necessity—and difficulty—of engaging with the concept of ‘modernity’: the quality or condition of being modern. Reflecting recent literature on the subject, it suggests that the best way of understanding this contested concept is to accept that is an essentially contradictory and complex social condition, one that is composed of a number of processes that pull in different directions at the same time. It offers two examples of this: (i) urbanization and the development domestic privacy; and (ii) the growth of both bureaucracy and democracy.