Modernization theory: Wikis


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Modernisation theory is a theory used to explain the process of Modernization within societies. The theory looks at the internal factors of a country while assuming that, with assistance, "traditional" countries can be brought to development in the same manner more developed countries have. Modernization theory attempts to identify the social variables which contribute to social progress and development of societies, and seeks to explain the process of social evolution. Not surprisingly, modernisation theory is subject to criticism originating among communist and free-market ideologies, world systems theorists, globalization theory and dependency theory among others. Modernization theory not only stresses the process of change but also the responses to that change. It also looks at internal dynamics while referring to social and cultural structures and the adaptation of new technologies.


Earliest expressions of the theory

Émile Durkheim

Historically, the idea of modernization is relatively new. Its basic principles can be derived from the Idea of Progress, which emerged in the 18th century Age of Enlightenment with the idea that people themselves could develop and change their society. French philosopher Marquis de Condorcet was involved in the origins of the theory with the concept that technological advancements and economical changes can enable changes in moral and cultural values. Condorcet was the first to make the economic-social development connection and that there can be continuous progress and improvement in human affairs. With that said, new advancements and improvements would need to keep pace with a constantly changing world. Furthermore, he encouraged technological processes to help give people further control over their environments, arguing that technological progress would eventually spur social progress.

In addition to social structure and the evolution of societies, the French sociologist Émile Durkheim developed the concept of functionalism which stresses the interdependence of the institutions of a society and their interaction in maintaining cultural and social unity. His most famous work is The Division of Labour in Society, which described how social order was to be maintained in a society and how primitive societies might make the transition to more economically advanced industrial societies. Durkheim suggested that in a capitalist society, with a complex division of labour, economic regulation would be needed to maintain order. He stressed that the major transition from a primitive social order to a more advanced industrial society could otherwise bring crisis and disorder.

Durkheim furthermore developed the idea of social evolution, which indicates how societies and cultures develop over time -- much like a living organism -- essentially saying that social evolution is like biological evolution with reference to the development of its components. Like organisms, societies progress through several stages generally starting at a simplistic level and then developing into a more complex level. Societies adapt to their surrounding environments, but they interact with other societies which further contribute to their progress and development.

Modern sociology evolved in part as a reaction to the problems associated with modernity, such as industrialization and the process of 'rationalization'.

State Theory

Accordingly, internal situations in societies immediately affect the processes of modernization. A state in which favorites are rewarded and governmental corruption is prevalent causes the state to suffer in terms of modernization. This can repress the state's economic development and productivity and lead money and resources to flow out to other countries with more favorable investment environments. Such mechanisms slow the process of modernization and lead to the need to sort out internal conflicts so as to aid the process of modernization.

State theory is said to be mixed with internal politics, and that each country will have its own unique pathway to development. For a country to become more developed it is said that stability both inside and outside the country is essential. The State theory essentially implies that in order for modernization to grow and for societies to become more developed the state must be tamed and power to arbitrarily seize private property curtailed. From the taming of the state, a capitalist economy can better arise, resulting in increased productivity supporting the internal modernization of society. xuidhzufbHUSDvJYFdvsyatsfaytfdaydytsdfytaSdfasT&f

Globalization and modernization

Globalization can be defined as the integration of economic, political and social cultures and is related to the spreading of modernization across borders. It theorizes the development of a global economy in the sense that the world is moving in the direction of more efficient use of resources and the means of production.

Mass tourism could not have developed without air travel. Annual trans border tourist arrivals rose to 456 million by 1990 and are expected to double again, to 937 million per annum, by 2010 (Knowles, 1994: FT,7 January 1997: V11). Communication is another major area that has grown due to modernization. Communication industries have enabled capitalism to spread throughout the world. Telephony, television broadcasts, news services and online service providers have played a crucial part in globalization.

With the many apparent positive attributes to globalization there are also negative consequences. Economic development can often initially highlight the disparities between a society's rich and its poor. In major cities of developing countries there exist pockets where technologies of the modernized world -- computers, cell phones and satellite television -- exist right alongside stark poverty. This often begets an acute awareness of those in society initially or chronically left behind by economic progress.


New technology is a major source of social change. Since modernization deals with social change from agrarian societies to industrial ones, it is important to look at the technological viewpoint. New technologies do not change societies by itself. Rather, it is the response to technology that causes change. Frequently, technology will be recognized but not put to use for a very long time. Take for example the ability to extract metal from rock. It was not just a new technology at one time, but one that had profound implications for the course of societies. It was always there, but went unused for a great period of time. As Neil Postman has said, "technological change is not additive; it is ecological. A new technology does not merely add something; it changes everything". People in society are always coming up with new ideas and better ways of making life easier and more enjoyable. Technology makes it possible for a more innovated society and broad social change. What becomes of this is a dramatic change through the centuries that has evolved socially, industrially, and economically, summed up by the term modernization. Cell phones, for example, have changed lives of millions throughout the world. This is especially true in Africa and other parts of the Middle East where there is a low cost communication infrastructure. Therefore, widely dispersed populations are connected, it facilitates other business's communication among each other, and it provides internet access, which also gives greater value in literacy. In addition to technology being a great social and economic advancement, it also grants these more dependent societies to become more modernized despite internal conflicts or repressive governments, allowing them to reap the benefits of such technological advancements.

Throughout the world new technology has also helped people recover after the impact of natural disasters. In Sri Lanka after the Tsunami many people lost their livelihoods. A new technology in the coir industry has helped them get back on their feet. According to Zack Taylor of USAID, this new technology has brought the indigenous industry into the modern age. Coir products are made from fibrous husks of the coconut. Using a new technology called the decorticator, workers can extract coir fiber in a single day. In the past they have had to soak the coconut husks in salt water for 6–8 months until they are soft enough to be separated by hand. This new method of the coir industry will improve the income opportunities of the community that was once devastated. This project is being funded by USAID.


Among the scientists who contributed much to this theory are Walt Rostow, who in his The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto (1960) concentrates on the economic system side of the modernization, trying to show factors needed for a country to reach the path to modernization in his Rostovian take-off model. David Apter concentrated on the political system and history of democracy, researching the connection between democracy, good governance and efficiency and modernization. David McClelland (The Achieving Society, 1967) approached this subject from the psychological perspective, with his motivations theory, arguing that modernization cannot happen until a given society values innovation, success and free enterprise. Alex Inkeles (Becoming Modern, 1974) similarly creates a model of modern personality, which needs to be independent, active, interested in public policies and cultural matters, open for new experiences, rational and being able to create long-term plans for the future. Edward Said's "Orientalism" interpret modernization from the point of view of societies that are quickly and radically transformed.

Modernization and traditional society

Modernization theorists often saw traditions as obstacles to economic growth. Furthermore, while modernization might deliver violent, radical change for traditional societies it was thought worth the price. Critics insist that traditional societies were often destroyed without ever gaining promised advantages if, among other things, the economic gap between advanced societies and such societies actually increased. The net effect of modernization for some societies was therefore the replacement of traditional poverty by a more modern form of misery, according to these critics.[1] Others point to improvements in living standards, physical infrastructure, education and economic opportunity to refute such criticisms.

See also


  1. ^ Majid Rahnema, Quand la misère chasse la pauvreté, Arles: Actes Sud 2003


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