Tuesday, 12 July 2011


Modernization and National Development are two terms that are often used interchangeably by many scholars but the fact remains that though they are closely tied together, they are still two phenomena that are very distinguishable.

Modernization theory tends to describe and explain the process of transformation from traditional or underdeveloped societies to modern societies. In other words, it is seen as the process of change towards those types of factors; social, economic and political that have developed the entire human society through the ancient days.

National Development in its analysis implies economic growth, but not necessarily through transformation from the predominance of primary production to manufacturing, and not necessarily as characterized by modernization theory. The major relationship that exists between the two phenomena is that both are concerned with the growth of the economy, the removal of the shackles of pre-modernity and underdevelopment of the ancient societies of the world.

Modernization and National Development provide the basic instrument for the study of each other. Modernization theorists study the social, political and cultural consequences of National Development and the conditions that are necessary for industrialization and National Development to occur. Modernization specifies the particular content and processes of societal changes in the course of National Development.

Modernization theory has been one of the major perspectives in the sociology of National Development in the recent years. Primary attention has been shifted to the ways in which past and the present pre-modern societies become modern through processes of National Development and change in social, political and cultural structures. In general, modernization theorists are concerned with National Development within societies as indicated by measures of gross national product. Mechanization or industrialization are the ingredients in the process of National Development. Modernization is narrower as it tends to be more specific in scope but development is more general. For instance, modernization theorists see National Development mainly as the economic output per capita but other theorists see it as the development of autonomous productive capacity, equitable distributions of wealth or meeting the basic human needs. Both modernization and National Development pay particular attention to the determinants of modern structures within social, political, economic and give greater importance to structures or institutions within their realm for explaining other development in society.

Sociological modernization theory lays major implicit or explicit tenets that are also undergone in National Development; (1) societies develop through a series of evolutionary stages (2) these stages are based on different degrees and patterns of social differentiation and re-integration of structural and cultural components that are functionally compatible for the maintenance of society; (3) contemporary developing societies are at a pre-modern stage of evolution and they eventually will achieve National Development and will take on the social, political and economic features of the developed societies which have progressed to the highest stage in social evolutionary development; (4) this modernization which result as complex western technology is imported and traditionally structured and cultural features incompatible with such development are overcome.

Modernization theory at its core suggests that advanced industrial technology produces not only National Development in developing societies but also other structures and cultural changes. The common characteristics that societies tend to develop as they become modern may differ, but in general, all assume that institutional structures and individual activities become more highly specialized, differentiated and integrated into social, political and economic forms characteristics of advanced western societies.

For example, in the social sphere, modern societies are characterized by high levels of urbanization, literacy, research, health care, secularization, bureaucracy, mass media and transportation facilities. Kinship ties are weaker, and nuclear conjugal family systems prevail. Birth rate and death rates are lower, and life expectancy is relatively longer. In the political sphere, the society becomes more participatory in decision-making processes and typical institutions include universal suffrage, political parties, a civil service bureaucracy, and parliaments. Traditional sources of authority are weaker as bureaucracy institutions assume responsibility and power.
In economic sphere, there is more industrialization, technical upgrading of production, replacement of exchange economies with extensive money market, increased division of labour, growth of infrastructure and commercial facilities and the development of large-scale markets.
Associated with these structural changes are cultural changes in relations and personality varieties. Social relations are more bureaucratic, social mobility increases, and status relations are based on such ascriptive as age, gender or ethnicity and more on meritocratic criteria. There is a shift from relations based on tradition and loyalty to those based on rational exchange, competence, and other universally applied criteria.
People are more receptive to change; more interested in the future, more achievement-oriented, more concerned with the rights of individual, and less fatalistic. Underlying the description of social features and changes that are thought to characterize modern urban industrial societies are theoretical assumptions and mechanisms to explain the shift from traditional to modern societal types. These explanatory systems draw upon the dominant theoretical perspective in the 1950s and 1960s, growing out of classical evolutionary, diffusion and structural functionalist theories.

The evolutionary perspective, stemming from the nineteenth-century theorists, contributed the motion that societies evolve from lower to higher forms and progress from simple and undifferentiated to more complex types. Western industrial society is seen as superior to pre-industrial society to the extent that it has progressed through specialization to more effective ways of performing societal functions. Diffusionists added the idea that cultural patterns associated with modern society could be transferred through social interaction such as war, trade, travellers, media, etc., and that there may be several paths to development rather than linear evolution. Structural functionalists (Parsons 1951; Hoselitz 1960 etc) emphasized the idea that societies are integrated wholes composed of functionally compatible institutions and roles and that societies progress from one increasingly complex and efficient social system to another. This contributed to the motion that internal social and cultural factors are important determinants or obstacles of economic change.
Research by Smelser (1969) draws on all three traditions in describing modernization of society through processes of social differentiation, disturbances and reintegration. In a manner similar to other conceptions of modernization, Smelser emphasizes four major changes: from simple to complex technology, from subsistence farming to commercial agriculture, from rural to urban population, and, most importantly, from animal and human power to inanimate power and industrialization. Parson’s later theoretical work (1964) also combines these perspectives in a neo-evolutionist modernization theory that treats societies as self regulated structural functional wholes in which the main processes of change are social differentiation and the discovery of certain “evolutionary” universals such as bureaucratic organisation and money markets. These, in turn, increase the adaptive capacity of the society by providing more efficient social arrangements and often lead to a system of universalistic norms, which, more than the industrial revolution itself, ushered in the modern era of social evolution.

Lerner’s (1958) empirical studies in several Middle Eastern societies identified empathy, the capacity to take the perspective of others, as a product of media, literacy, and urbanization and as a vital ingredient in producing rational individual behaviour conducive to societal development. McClelland (1961) felt that prevalence of individual with the psychological trait of high “need for achievement” was the key to entrepreneurial activity and modernization of society. In a similar vein, Inkeles and Smith (1974) used interview data from six societies to generate a set personality traits by which they defined “modern man”. They felt that the prevalence of individual modernity in society was determined by such factors as education and factory experience and that individual modernity contributed to the modernization of society.

Finally, Rostow’s (1960) well-known theory of the stages of National Development, which he derived from studying Western economic development, emphasized the importance of new values and ideas favouring economic progress along with education, entrepreneurship, and certain other institutions as conditions for societies to “take off” into self-sustained National Development. All these versions of modernization theory depict a gradual and more or less natural transition from “traditional” societal structures to “modern” social structures characteristics of Western European and North American societies. More specifically, these theories tend to share to one degree or another the views that: (1) modern people, values, institutions, and societies are similar to those found in the industrialized West, that is, the direction of change tends to replicate that which had already occurred in Western industrial societies (2) tradition is opposite to and incompatible with modernity (3) the causes of delayed economic and social development (I.e. underdevelopment) are to be found within the traditional society (4) the mechanisms of National Development also come primarily from within societies rather than from factors outside of the society and (5) these internal factors (in addition to industrial development) tend to involve social structures, cultural institutions or personality types.
In keeping with this orientation, empirical studies of sociological modernization tend to deal with the internal effects of industrialization or other economic developments on traditional social institutions or with the social, political, and cultural conditions that facilitate or impede economic growth within traditional or less-developed societies. Examples might include research on the impact of factory production and employment or traditional family relations or the effects of an indigenous land tenure system on the introduction of cash crop farming in society.

Attention to modernization theory in sociology has declined as a result of the theoretical and empirical weakness raised especially during the 1970s. Nevertheless, it is still the dominant perspective among government officials and international agencies concerned with third world development. Hoogvelt has noted its influence on development policies as follows: Because modernization theories have viewed the total transformation, that is westernization, of developing countries to be an inescapable outcome of successful diffusion of the western economic/technological complex, by methodological reversal, it is argued that a reorganization of existing social and cultural as well as political patterns in anticipation of their compatibility with the diffused western economic/technological complex may in fact facilitate the very process of this diffusion itself. This monumental theoretical error-which to be faire was not always committed by the theorists themselves-has in fact been made and continues to be made by modernization policy-makers such as those employed by western government, U.N organisations, the World Bank, and so forth. Thus, various indicators of social, political and cultural development (such as degree of urbanization, high literacy rates, political democracy, free enterprise, secularization, birth control, etc.) have frequently been promoted as “conditions” for National Development. Interestingly, as modern structures and institutions have spread around the world and created economic, political, social and cultural linkages, awareness of global interdependence and of the ecological consequences of industrial development and modern lifestyles has grown. It is now clear that finite natural resources and the nature of the global ecosystem could not sustain worldwide modern conditions and practices of European and North American societies even if modernization theory assumptions of evolutionary National Development were correct. Thus, new visions and interpretations of national and global development have already begun to replace classical modernization theory.

In conclusion, it is obvious that both concepts (Modernization and National Development) provide the basic ingredients for measuring each other. The theories laid down by modernization theorists provide the yardstick for studying and determining the rate of national development in any society. They are both related, in that no one can be studied in isolation and both share a common characteristic of urban life.

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