In the eyes of modernization theorists, the past tends to harden into the form of an 'almost automatic reaction,' a one-off break will not suffice: what is needed is a continual breaking from it. In such acts of break or rupture, cultural goods must be permanently filtered out of the present, discarded, and declared irrelevant. This repeated dropping of ballast takes place through a performative "relegation to the past" of that which, up to that point, had continued to exert a claim on the present and so was still considered relevant. A particularly striking rhetorical strategy used to produce such hiatus-experiences within the continuum of time is the repeated declaration of the "death" of every possible cultural institution or value.

Aleida Assmann, Is Time Out of Joint? 100-101

Personal identity itself came to seem problematic. Part of the difficulty was the individual will and action were hemmed in by the emerging iron cage of a bureaucratic market economy. But the trouble ran deeper: the rationalization of urban culture and the decline of religion into sentimental religiosity further undermined a sense of self. For many, individual identities began to seem fragmented, diffuse, perhaps even unreal.

T J Jackson Lears, No Place of Grace, 32