Modernization theory

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Modernization theory is a theory used to explain the process of modernization within societies. Modernization refers to a model of a progressive transition from a 'pre-modern' or 'traditional' to a 'modern' society. 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. Modernisation theory attempts to identify the social variables that contribute to social progress and development of societies, and seeks to explain the process of social evolution. Modernization theory is subject to criticism originating among socialist and free-market ideologies, world-systems theorists, globalization theorists and dependency theorists 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.

Some nations, including China, see modernization as a guide to rapid development. As a nation that developed later than others, some believe that "China's modernization has to be based on the experiences and lessons of other countries."[1]

Modernization theory maintains that traditional societies will develop as they adopt more modern practices. Proponents of modernisation theory claim that modern states are wealthier and more powerful, and that their citizens are freer to enjoy a higher standard of living. Developments such as new data technology and the need to update traditional methods in transport, communication and production, it is argued, make modernisation necessary or at least preferable to the status quo. This view makes critique of modernisation difficult, since it implies that such developments control the limits of human interaction, and not vice versa. It also implies that human agency controls the speed and severity of modernisation. Supposedly, instead of being dominated by tradition, societies undergoing the process of modernisation typically arrive at forms of governance dictated by abstract principles. Traditional religious beliefs and cultural traits, according to the theory, usually become less important as modernisation takes hold.[2]

Historians link modernisation to the processes of urbanization and industrialization, as well as to the spread of education. As Kendall (2007) notes, "Urbanization accompanied modernization and the rapid process of industrialization."[3] In sociological critical theory, modernization is linked to an overarching process of rationalisation. When modernization increases within a society, the individual becomes increasingly important, eventually replacing the family or community as the fundamental unit of society.[2][citation needed]

Earliest expressions of the theory[edit]

Émile Durkheim

The idea of modernisation 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. The French philosopher Marquis de Condorcet was involved in the origins of the theory with the idea that technological advancements and economic changes can enable changes in moral and cultural values. Condorcet was the first to make the connection between economic and social development and to suggest that there can be continuous progress and improvement in human affairs. The logic of this view implies that new processes and improvements are continually needed to keep pace with a constantly changing world. Furthermore, Condorcet advocated technological advancement as a means of giving 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 mechanisms for the maintenance of social order and the ways in which primitive societies might make the transition to becoming 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 was coined by Herbert Spencer, which indicates how societies and cultures develop over time; for Durkheim, social evolution is like biological evolution with reference to the development of its components. As with living organisms and species, societies progress through several stages, generally beginning at a simple level and developing toward a more complex level of organisation. Societies adapt to surrounding environments, but also interact with other societies, which further contributes to 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'.

Modernisation theory emerged further in the late 19th century and was especially popular among scholars in the mid-20th century. One notable advocate was Harvard sociologist Talcott Parsons whose Mandarins of the Future (2003) stressed the importance of societies remaining open to change and saw reactionary forces as restricting development. Maintaining tradition for tradition's sake was thought to be harmful to progress and development.[4] Proponents of modernisation tend to fall into two camps, optimists and pessimists. The former view holds that what some see as a setback for the theory (events such as the Iranian Revolution or the persistence of instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo) are invariably temporary setbacks [5] on the road to progress. Pessimists argue that certain 'non-modern' areas of the world are incapable of becoming modern.[6]

The eminent sociologist Max Weber also made important contributions to development theory. Weber's concept of "rationalization" was mobilized by those who held that the most important factor behind modernization was the growth of rationality as a core value. Normally rationality denotes the universally available logic underpinning thought and deliberation in a particular society. Most theorists consider it indispensable for the modernisation process. Rationality allows people to think in new and innovative ways; innovation is thus coeval with modernization.

State theory[edit]

Accordingly, internal situations in societies immediately affect the processes of modernisation. A state in which favorites are rewarded and governmental corruption is prevalent prevents the state from accessing the benefits of modernisation. 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 modernisation and lead to the need to sort out internal conflicts so as to aid the process of modernisation.

State theory is said to be mixed with internal politics. Some argue that each country has 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. State theory essentially implies that for modernisation 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 properly capitalist economy can better arise, resulting in increased productivity supporting the internal modernisation of society.

Globalization and modernisation[edit]

Globalization can be defined as the integration of economic, political and social cultures and, it is argued, is related to the spreading of modernisation across borders.

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 modernisation. 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. The dominant, neoliberal model of globalisation often increases disparities between a society's rich and its poor.[citation needed] In major cities of developing countries there exist pockets where technologies of the modernised world — computers, cell phones and satellite television — exist alongside stark poverty. Globalists are globalization modernisation theorists and argue that globalization is positive for everyone, as its benefits must eventually extend to all members of society, including vulnerable groups such as women and children.

Modernization theory and democratization[edit]

There is lively academic debate over the relation between democracy and modernization. Whilst some scholars argue democratization follows modernisation, others have also disputed this claim.

Some scholars have argued that democracy follows modernisation, perhaps with a time lag. As Seymour Martin Lipset put it, "All the various aspects of economic development — industrialization, urbanization, wealth and education — are so closely interrelated as to form one major factor which has the political correlate of democracy."[7] In the 1960s some critics argued that the link between modernisation and democracy was based too much on the example of European history, neglecting the Third World.[8] Recent demonstrations of the emergence of democracy in South Korea, Taiwan and South Africa have been cited as support for Lipset's thesis.

One historical problem with this argument has always been Germany, in which economic modernization in the 19th century came long before the move to democracy after 1918. Berman, however, concludes that a process of democratization was underway in Imperial Germany, for "during these years Germans developed many of the habits and mores that are now thought by political scientists to augur healthy political development.".[9]

Ronald Inglehart, and Christian Welzel (2009) contend that the realization of democracy is not based solely on an expressed desire for that form of government, but that democracies are born as a result of the admixture of certain social and cultural factors. They argue the ideal social and cultural conditions for the foundation of a democracy are born of significant modernisation and economic development that result in mass political participation.[10]

Peerenboom (2008) explores the relationships among democracy, the rule of law and their relationship to wealth by pointing to examples of Asian countries, such as Taiwan and South Korea, that have successfully democratized only after economic growth reached relatively high levels and to examples of countries such as the Philippines, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia and India that sought to democratize at lower levels of wealth but have not done as well.[11]

Adam Przeworski and others have challenged Lipset's argument. They say political regimes do not transition to democracy as per capita incomes rise. Rather, democratic transitions occur randomly, but once there, countries with higher levels of gross domestic product per capita remain democratic. Epstein et al. (2006) retest the modernisation hypothesis using new data, new techniques, and a three-way, rather than dichotomous, classification of regimes. Contrary to Przeworski, this study finds that the modernisation hypothesis stands up well. Partial democracies emerge as among the most important and least understood regime types.[12]

Highly contentious is the idea that modernisation implies more human rights, with China in the 21st century being a major test case.


New technology is a major source of social change. Since modernisation entails the social transformation from agrarian societies to industrial ones, it is important to look at the technological viewpoint; however, new technologies do not change societies by itself. Rather, it is the response to technology that causes change. Frequently, technology is recognized but not put to use for a very long time, for example the ability to extract metal from rock. Although it initially went unused, it later had profound implications for the developmental course of societies. Technology makes it possible for a more innovated society and broad social change. This dramatic change through the centuries that has evolved socially, industrially, and economically, can be summed up by the term modernisation. Cell phones, for example, have changed the 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. With cell phone technology, widely dispersed populations are connected, which facilitates business-to-business communication and provides internet access to remoter areas, with a consequential rise in literacy.


Among the academics 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 modernisation, trying to show factors needed for a country to reach the path to modernisation 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 modernisation. Seymour Martin Lipset in "Some Social Requisites of Democracy" (1959) argued that economic development sets off a series of profound social changes that together tend to produce democracy. David McClelland (The Achieving Society, 1967) approached this subject from the psychological perspective, with his motivations theory, arguing that modernisation cannot happen until a given society values innovation, striving for improvement and entrepreneurship. 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" interprets modernisation from the point of view of societies that are quickly and radically transformed.

Development and modernization theory[edit]

Development, like modernisation, has become the orienting principle of our time. Countries that are seen as modern are also seen as developed, and that means that they are generally more respected by institutions such as the United Nations and even as possible trade partners for other countries. The extent to which a country has modernised or developed dictates its power and importance on the international level.

Modernisation of the health sector of developing nations recognizes that transitioning from 'traditional' to 'modern' is not merely the advancement in technology and the introduction of Western practices; implementing modern healthcare requires the reorganization of political agendas, and in turn, an increase in funding by feeders and resources towards public health. However, rather than replicating the stages of developed nations, whose roots of modernisation are found with the context of industrialisation or colonialism, underdeveloped nations should apply proximal interventions to target rural communities and focus on prevention strategies rather than curative solutions. This has been successfully exhibited by the Christian Medical Commission and in China through 'barefoot doctors'. Additionally, a strong advocate of the de-emphasis of medical institutions was Halfdan T. Mahler, the WHO General Director from 1973 to 1988. Related ideas have been proposed at international conferences such as Alma-Ata and the “Health and Population in Development” conference, sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation in Italy in 1979, where selective primary healthcare and GOBI were discussed (although they have both been strongly criticized by supporters of comprehensive healthcare). Overall, however, this is not to say that the nations of the Global South can function independently from Western states; significant funding is received from well-intentioned programs, foundations, and charities that target epidemics such as HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis that have substantially improved the lives of millions of people but also impeded future development.[13]

Modernisation theorists often saw traditions as obstacles to economic growth. Furthermore, while modernisation 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 modernisation for some societies was therefore the replacement of traditional poverty by a more modern form of misery, according to these critics.[14] Others point to improvements in living standards, physical infrastructure, education and economic opportunity to refute such criticisms.

Case studies[edit]

United States[edit]

This painting (circa 1872) by John Gast called American Progress, is an allegorical representation of the modernisation of the new west. Here Columbia, a personification of the United States, leads civilization westward with American settlers, stringing telegraph wire as she sweeps west; she holds a school book. The different stages of economic activity of the pioneers are highlighted and, especially, the changing forms of transportation. The Native Americans and wild animals flee.

The Progressives in the United States in the early 20th century were avid modernisers. They believed in science, technology, expertise—and especially education—as the grand solution to society's weaknesses. Characteristics of progressivism included a favorable attitude toward urban-industrial society, belief in mankind's ability to improve the environment and conditions of life, belief in obligation to intervene in economic and social affairs, and a belief in the ability of experts and in efficiency of government intervention.[15]

Paul Monroe, a professor of history at Columbia University, was a member of The Inquiry—a team of American experts at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. He drew on his experience in the Philippines to assess the educational needs of developing areas such as Albania, Turkey and central Africa. Presenting educational development as instrumental to nation-building and socioeconomic development, Monroe recommended the implementation of a progressive curriculum - with an emphasis on practical, adult, and teacher training - in a national system of education, as a basis for self-development, except in Africa. His approach shaped American cooperation with developing countries in the 1920s and modernisation efforts during the 1920s-1930s.[16]

Germany's "Sonderweg"[edit]

Main article: Sonderweg

Kocka (1988) and Sheri Berman are historians who emphasize the central importance of a German Sonderweg ("special path") or "exceptionalism" as the root of Nazism and the German catastrophe in the 20th century.[17] Fritz Fischer and his students emphasized Germany’s primary guilt for causing World War I.[18]

Hans-Ulrich Wehler, a leader of the Bielefeld School of social history, places the origins of Germany's path to disaster in the 1860s-1870s, when economic modernisation took place, but political modernisation did not happen and the old Prussian rural elite remained in firm control of the army, diplomacy and the civil service. Traditional, aristocratic, premodern society battled an emerging capitalist, bourgeois, modernising society. Recognizing the importance of modernising forces in industry and the economy and in the cultural realm, Wehler argues that reactionary traditionalism dominated the political hierarchy of power in Germany, as well as social mentalities and in class relations (Klassenhabitus). The catastrophic German politics between 1914 and 1945 are interpreted in terms of a delayed modernisation of its political structures. At the core of Wehler's interpretation is his treatment of "the middle class" and "revolution," each of which was instrumental in shaping the 20th century. Wehler's examination of Nazi rule is shaped by his concept of "charismatic domination," which focuses heavily on Adolf Hitler.[19]

The historiographical concept of a German Sonderweg has had a turbulent history. Scholars of the 19th century who emphasized a separate German path to modernity saw it as a positive factor that differentiated Germany from the "western path" typified by Great Britain. The stressed the strong bureaucratic state, reforms initiated by Bismarck and other strong leaders, the Prussian service ethos, the high culture of philosophy and music, and Germany's pioneering of a social welfare state. In the 1950s, historians in West Germany argued that the Sonderweg led Germany to the disaster of 1933-1945. The special circumstances of German historical structures and experiences, were interpreted as preconditions that, while not directly causing National Socialism, did hamper the development of a liberal democracy and facilitate the rise of fascism. The Sonderweg paradigm has provided the impetus for at least three strands of research in German historiography: the long 19th century, the history of the bourgeoisie, and comparisons with the West. After 1990, increased attention to cultural dimensions and to comparative and relational history moved German historiography to different topics, with much less attention paid to the Sonderweg. While some historians have abandoned the Sonderweg thesis, they have not provided a generally accepted alternative interpretation.[20]

19th-century France[edit]

In his seminal book Peasants Into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France, 1880–1914 (1976), historian Eugen Weber traced the modernisation of French villages and argued that rural France went from backward and isolated to modern and possessing a sense of French nationhood during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.[21] He emphasized the roles of railroads, republican schools, and universal military conscription. He based his findings on school records, migration patterns, military service documents and economic trends. Weber argued that until 1900 or so a sense of French nationhood was weak in the provinces. Weber then looked at how the policies of the Third Republic created a sense of French nationality in rural areas.[22] The book was widely praised, but was criticized by some[23] who argued that a sense of Frenchness existed in the provinces before 1870.


Many studies of modernisation have focused on the history of Japan in the late 19th century,[24] and China and India in the late 20th century.[25] For example, the process of borrowing science and technology from the West has been explored.


Modernisation theory failed to explain the experience of China. Mao modernised the People's Republic of China with massive industrialization projects and social transformation.[26] However, China did not become a democratic country after its modernisation.[27] Nowadays, even though the Soviet-style authoritarian regimes have already collapsed worldwide, China did not have any major political reforms after Mao's death.[28] The country remained authoritarian, despite the size of its economic sector.[29]

China has been attempting to modernize ever since the Revolution of 1911 and the end of the Qing Dynasty, the last dynasty of China. Before the Qing Dynasty was overthrown, it attempted to reform from 1902 to 1908 to save itself and instigated reforms in infrastructure, transportation, and government. These reforms were based on Western models and even included aspects of democracy, which are often associated with the process of modernization. However, these reforms were largely unsuccessful and resulted in the Revolution of 1911. Following the Revolution of 1911, other movements such as the May 4th Movement of 1919 advocated for modernization, iconoclasm, and a rejection of foreign influence and imperialism. From the beginning of the 20th century until the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, China has been delayed in efforts to modernize due to an era of warlordism, the Second Sino-Japanese War, and civil war between the CCP and KMT.[30][31]

When the communist party came to power in 1949, Mao Zedong used the Soviet Union as China’s example for modernization. The Great Leap Forward from 1958-1961 was Mao’s version of the Soviet Union’s Five year Plan, and its goals were to create a modern communist society through industrialization and collectivization. Mao Zedong aimed to become a world power without foreign, mainly western, involvement, ideas, or capitalism and preached the idea of self-reliance. Mao did contribute to the modernization of China, however The Great Leap Forward is regarded as a failure and the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976 was detrimental to China's industrialization progress.[30]

The Modern Chinese City of Shanghai

However, during Mao's era, he transformed China from a predominantly agrarian country to an industrialized power.[32] In the 1970s, China was able to produce most of commodities and goods by its own industry. Mao laid the foundation for China's economic development in Deng's era.[33]

The economic reforms of Chinese Supreme Leader Deng Xiaoping are attributed to China’s economic success in the 21st century. Deng focused on four modernizations: agriculture, industry, national defense, and science and technology. The West was used as an example for several of these modernizations, however their management was completely Chinese. Deng began de-collectivization and allowed Township and Village Enterprises (TVE), Special Economic Zones (SEZ), foreign investment, profit incentive, and even privatization.

While Mao advocated self-reliance, Deng generated foreign exchange to finance modernization. His famous quote is, "It doesn’t matter whether a cat is white or black, as long as it catches mice." Post Deng Reforms continued on this path, which is acknowledged as a shift from the iron rice bowl to the porcelain rice bowl, or government owned to privatized. Although China’s economy has shifted towards privatization and capitalism, the PRC remains an authoritative regime, which is contradictory in comparison to other examples of countries that have modernized. Democracy is the political characteristic that has defined modernized nations in the past and the modernization theory suggests democracy follows with the development of a modernized state.[31] China was late in modernization and has thus had many other countries as examples to base its model of modernization off of.[30]

The One-Child Policy has also been a technique to contribute or even force the modernization of China. Instigated in 1978, the one-child policy has created a generation known as "singletons" or "little emperors" (xiao huangdi).[34] "The Chinese state enforced a rapid fertility transition designed to cultivate a generation of "high-quality" people with resources and ambition to join the global elite."[35] These little emperors are expected to compete with the first-world countries having no siblings to compete with for parental investment. Normally with modernization and urbanization smaller or nuclear families evolve as the result. China has switched this logic, hoping that creating the culture of the nuclear family with the one-child policy it will produce modernization.[35]

At the beginning of the 21st century, China is still in the process of modernization. In 2010 it had the third greatest GDP and GDP (PPP) in the world with the world’s largest labor force, and is acknowledged as the world’s second largest economy.[31][36] In 2010 its economy was still increasing in growth at 10.3%.[36] China has also successfully joined the largely Western international arena with its membership of the UN in 1971, the WTO in 2001, and hosted the Olympics in 2008. China’s goal is to continue modernizing until it joins the first-world and becomes the core instead of the semi-periphery or periphery, from the core-periphery model.[30][35]

The modernization of China through urbanization, industrialization, and economic policy has benefited the country economically as it rises as a world power in the 21st century. However it now is experiencing the problems associated the other modern countries and capitalism. These problems include the growing disparity between the rich and poor, urban vs. rural and migration, and ecological issues.[37]

South Korea[edit]

Modernizers in South Korea in the late 19th century were torn between the American and the Japanese models. Most of the Koreans involved were educated Christians who saw America as their ideal model of civilization. However, most used Japan as a practical model - as an example of how a fellow East Asian country, which 30 years before was also backward, could succeed in modernizing itself. At the same time, reformists' nationalist reaction against the domineering, colonial behavior of the Japanese in Korea often took the form of an appeal to international (Western) standards of civilization. The Western-oriented worldview of the early Christian nationalist reformers was complex, multilayered, and often self-contradictory - with 'oppressive' features not easily distinguishable from 'liberational' ones. Their idealized image of the West as the only true, ideal civilization relegated much of Korea's traditional culture to a position of 'oriental'.[38]

The self-image of Koreans was formed through complex relationships with modernity, colonialism, Christianity, and nationalism. This formation was initiated by a change in the notion of 'civilization' due to the transformation of 'international society' and thereafter was affected by the trauma of Japanese colonization. Through the process of transition from a traditional Confucian notion of civilization to a Western notion of acceptance and resistance, Koreans shaped their civilization as well as their notions of the racial, cultural, and individual modern self. Western Orientalism, in particular, accompanied the introduction of the Western notion of civilization, which served as the background for forming the self-identity of Koreans. The fact that the Japanese version of Orientalism emerged from the domination of Korea by Japan played a critical role in shaping the self-identity of Koreans. Consequently, Korea still maintains an inferiority complex toward Western culture, ambivalent feelings toward Japanese culture, and biased - positive or negative - views of their own cultural traditions. Thus both modernization and colonization have shaped the formation or distortion of self-consciousness of non-Western peoples.[39]

The US launched a decades-long intensive development starting in 1945 to modernize South Korea, with the goal of helping it become a model nation-state and an economic success. Agents of modernization at work in Korea included the US Army, the Economic Cooperation Administration, the UN Korean Reconstruction Agency, and a number of nongovernmental organizations, among them the Presbyterian Church, the YMCA, Boy Scouts and the Ford Foundation. Many Koreans migrated to California and Hawaii, and brought back firsthand accounts of modern business and governmental practices that they sought to adapt to Korean conditions.[40]


Modernization theory was not compatible with Japan's experience. After industrialization and economic modernization, a democratic society did not appear in Japan. Japan instead became an aggressive authoritarian fascist state, up until the Allied Forces defeated Japan in the Second World War.[41] There were almost no democratic principles or practices in pre-war Japanese politics. Prior to the liberation of Japan by the United States from its military government, Japanese culture always honoured obedience and hierarchy, and Japanese people also despised individualism and liberty.[42]

Japan had already modernized and became an industrialized country during its Meiji period, which happened long before Japan's defeat in the Second World War.[43] Japan was probably the first country in East Asia that industrialized successfully. It quickly became one of the imperialist and colonial powers. Japan defeated the Qing dynasty of China in 1894, and subsequently defeated Russia in 1905. Korea and Taiwan were annexed by the Japanese Empire later.[44] When Japan invaded China in 1931, it had already finished its industrializing process and had enough industrial power to wage a war itself. Japan's navy was among one of the world's most advanced navies, with almost no challenger in the Pacific Ocean.[45]

The performance of Japan after the Second War was simply a result of the military supremacy of the United States. The United States absolutely ruled over Japan after its defeat, with General MacArthur as the de facto emperor of Japan at the time. Japan had no choice but listen to the orders of General MacArthur and his colleagues. In order to be compatible with the foreign policy and national interest of the United States, SCAP and General MacArthur forced Japan to demilitarize and democratize after 1945.[46]

Japan quickly went through a lot of changes concerning modernization after their defeat. This happened starting with United States quickly intervening with Japan internally. American demilitarization and democratization was accepted by the people of Japan without strong resistance.[47]

Under the occupation of United States, SCAP (Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers) was established, which was an institution in charge of formulating policies. The goal of SCAP was to dissolve the army and navy, and also to punish responsible leaders, and it established the New constitution of 1946.[48] SCAP could not function without the assistance of Japanese government because the language barrirer was too high. However, this actually helped make bigger changes in creating demilitarization and democratization. SCAP helped people to gain freedoms of speech, press and the right to organize labor or farmer unions.

As such, the new constitution created by SCAP granted civil and political rights to the people; consequently, leading to modernization. It also allowed freedom of speech and association, right to organize labor association and movements, or create unions, and implemented grounds for incredible civil right for women.[49]

The government also held an important role in modernizing Japan. Japan concentrated on their industry and technology to achieve growth. For that, the state gave assistances to several industries and adopted protectionism policies. Government stepped in as lender, as facilitator of access to foreign exchange, raw materials, or technology licenses, and as rescuer when problems arise.[48] To illustrate, the most important guiding agency was the MITI (Ministry of International Trade and Industry). In addition, through the 1960s, Japanese government used economic policies such as tariffs to obstruct imports and protect Japanese firms from foreign competitors in domestic market to become a modernized country.


Turkey, under Kemal Atatürk in the 1920s and 1930s, engaged in a systematic modernization program called "Kemalism". Hundreds of European scholars came to help. Together with Turkish intellectuals they developed a successful model of development.[50][51][52][53]


The modernizing force of the post-civil war Greek society came primarily as a result of the European and US geopolitical strategy for the region of eastern Mediterranean. Greece ought to be a modern capitalistic state to counter the proximity of several eastern and third world bloc countries and the strong national communist movement. According to Truman doctrine and with the support of local elites, a great economical leap forward took place along with the severe repression that led to the 1967 coup d'état.[54][55] This dramatic change covered the long-standing cultural divide of greek academia, comparing modern and neo-greek to ancient and traditional identities. Music, art and cinema, influenced by the pioneers of American and European tendencies thrived,[56] until the milestone of 1967, in contrast to the authoritarian and traditionalist military and paramilitary structures. This dimension is vital as it reveals the process of modernization under the western directives in all social levels that came in fact in opposition to the political directives of the same source.[57]

Latin America[edit]

Since independence, modernization has been a driving force for Chile's political elites. Ree (2007) analyzes projects of modernization that have been implemented from above since 1964. Despite their ideological differences and very different understandings of what modernity is, these projects shared key characteristics in their construction and implementation, such as the use of developmental theories, their state-orientation, the prominent role of technocrats and state-planning, and the capacity of adaptation in sight of civil unrest. These projects have produced patterns of modernity that have proven particularly stable.[58]


Modernization has been attributed with creating positive development around the world, but in Modern times its ability to promote development, specifically in Africa, has been less than so. Modernization that has taken place in Africa can be described as something that has yet to benefit most of the African countries.

Modernization through development has led to problems in Nigeria by bringing in private, foreign owned oil companies that have been exploiting the natural resource wealth of the country. Because the oil companies are generally owned by a different nation, the profits are mostly being exported from Nigeria with only one fifteenth of the wealth produced in the region returning to it. Shell, the oil company operating in Ogoniland, Nigeria has helped the country develop and industrialize on a small scale, but it has primarily challenged the sovereignty and autonomy of Nigeria.[59]

A lot of scholars view modernization as a sort of westernization where western institutions such as national parks and industries are brought into existing cultures where their use does not make as much sense. Along with modernization comes a loss of culture and society, and the individual is strengthened. An African tribe known as the Ik was forced to change their habits due to modernization and the creation of individual countries caused by colonialism. Nationalization, as a tool of modernization, was imparted on Africa by colonialists who wanted to westernize and modernize tribal Africa. The creation of individual countries made life for the tribal Ik more difficult because they were forced out of their nomadic lifestyle into a settlement based around a newly founded national park that practically destroyed their livelihood by restricting their hunting grounds to specific non-park areas. The creation of national parks have increased cultivation, which can be seen as good development because people no longer depend solely on livestock. This creation of a new sort of livelihood has mixed improvements, because the tribal setting is not removed, but is put into a single place.[60]


Modernization theory has been criticized, mainly because it conflated modernization with Westernization. In this model, the modernization of a society required the destruction of the indigenous culture and its replacement by a more Westernized one. By one definition modern simply refers to the present, and any society still in existence is therefore modern. Proponents of modernization typically view only Western society as being truly modern arguing that others are primitive or unevolved by comparison. This view sees unmodernized societies as inferior even if they have the same standard of living as western societies. Opponents of this view argue that modernity is independent of culture and can be adapted to any society. Japan is cited as an example by both sides. Some see it as proof that a thoroughly modern way of life can exist in a non-western society. Others argue that Japan has become distinctly more western as a result of its modernization.

As Tipp has argued, by conflating Modernization with other processes, with which theorists use interchangeably (democratization, liberalization, development), the term becomes imprecise and therefore difficult to disprove.

It has also been criticised empirically, as modernization theorists ignore external sources of change in societies. The binary between traditional and modern is unhelpful, as the two are linked, and often interedependent; whilst 'modernization' does not come as a whole.

Modernization theory has also been accused of being Eurocentric as modernization began in Europe with the industrial revolution, the French Revolution and the Revolutions of 1848 (Macionis 953) and has long been regarded as reaching its most advanced stage in Europe. Anthropologists typically make their criticism one step further generalized and say that this view is ethnocentric, not being specific to Europe, but Western culture in general.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Qian Chengdan, "Constructing a New Disciplinary Framework of Modern World History Around the Theme of Modernization", Chinese Studies in History Spring 2009, Vol. 42#3 pp 7-24; in EBSCO
  2. ^ a b modernization - Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved on 2013-08-17.
  3. ^ Diana Kendall, Sociology in Our Times (2007) p. 11
  4. ^ Khan, p. 162–164.
  5. ^ Brugger and Hannan, p. 43.
  6. ^ Macionis, p. 953.
  7. ^ Seymour Martin Lipset, Political Man (1963), p. 41. The argument also appears in Walt W. Rostow, Politics and the Stages of Growth (1971); A. F. K. Organski, The Stages of Political Development (1965); and David Apter, The Politics of Modernization (1965)
  8. ^ Andre Gunder Frank, Latin America: Underdevelopment or Revolution (1969)
  9. ^ Sheri E. Berman, "Modernization in Historical Perspective: The Case of Imperial Germany," World Politics v.53#3 (2001) 431-462 quote at p 456
  10. ^ Ronald Inglehart and Christian Welzel, "How Development Leads to Democracy," Foreign Affairs Mar/Apr2009, Vol. 88 Issue 2, pp 33-48
  11. ^ Randall Peerenboom, China Modernizes: Threat to the West or Model for the Rest? (2008) p, 63. He suggests China will grant democracy human rights when it is as modern and as rich as the West per capita.
  12. ^ David L. Epstein, et al., "Democratic Transitions," American Journal of Political Science 2006 50(3): 551-569
  13. ^ Cueto, Marcos. 2004. The ORIGINS of Primary Health Care and SELECTIVE Primary Health Care. Am J Public Health 94 (11):1864-1874.
  14. ^ Majid Rahnema, Quand la misère chasse la pauvreté, Arles: Actes Sud 2003
  15. ^ John D. Buenker, and KABASO.S.MUYA. Progressivism (1986); Maureen Flanagan, America Reformed: Progressives and Progressivisms, 1890s-1920s (2007); Modernisation theory exerts a "powerful influence" on historians dealing with the 1896-1916 era, asserts Martin J. Sklar, The United States as a developing country (1992) p. 54
  16. ^ David M. Ment, "Education, nation‐building and modernisation after World War I: American ideas for the Peace Conference," Paedagogica Historica, Feb 2005, Vol. 41 Issue 1/2, pp 159-177
  17. ^ Sheri Berman, "Modernization in Historical Perspective: The Case of Imperial Germany," World Politics, Volume 53, Number 3, April 2001, pp. 431-462 doi:10.1353/wp.2001.0007
  18. ^ Jürgen Kocka, "German History before Hitler: The Debate about the German 'Sonderweg.'" Journal of Contemporary History, Jan 1988, Vol. 23#1, pp 3-16 in JSTOR
  19. ^ Wehler, Deutsche Gesellschaftsgeschichte: Vom Beginn des Ersten Weltkrieges bis zur Gründung der Beiden Deutschen Staaten 1914-1949 (2003) is the fourth volume of his monumental history of German society. None of the series has yet been translated into English. A partial summary appears in Hans-Ulrich Wehler, The German Empire, 1871-1918 (1997)
  20. ^ Helmut Walser Smith, "When the Sonderweg Debate Left Us ," German Studies Review,on May 2008, Vol. 31#2 pp 225-240
  21. ^ Joseph A. Amato, "Eugen Weber's France" Journal of Social History, Volume 25, 1992 pp 879–882.
  22. ^ Eugen Weber, "The Second Republic, Politics, and the Peasant," French Historical Studies Vol. 11, No. 4 (Autumn, 1980), pp. 521-550 in JSTOR
  23. ^ Ted W. Margadant, "French Rural Society in the Nineteenth Century: A Review Essay," Agricultural History, Summer 1979, Vol. 53 Issue 3, pp 644-651
  24. ^ Shuzo Teruoka, ed. Agriculture in the Modernization of Japan, 1850-2000 (2008); Cyril Black, The Modernization of Japan and Russia (1975)
  25. ^ Russell H. Jeffries, China's Agricultural Modernization (2009); June Grasso, Jay Cornin, and Michael Kort, Modernization and Revolution in China: From the Opium Wars to the Olympics (2009)
  26. ^ Eberstadt, Nick (1980). "Did Mao Fail?". The Wilson Quarterly. 4 4: 120–133. 
  27. ^ Hu, Shaohua (1998). "Balancing Development and Democracy: DENG'S ROLE IN THE CHINESE DEMOCRATIZATION PROCESS". World Affairs. 2 161: 69–81. 
  28. ^ Garver, John W. (1993). "The Chinese Communist Party and the Collapse of Soviet Communism". The China Quarterly: 1–26. 
  29. ^ He, Baogang; Mark E. Warren (2011). "Authoritarian Deliberation: The Deliberative Turn in Chinese Political Development". Perspectives on Politics. 2 9: 269–289. doi:10.1017/s1537592711000892. 
  30. ^ a b c d R. Keith Schoppa, ed. (2011). Revolution and Its Past: Identities and Change in Modern China (Third Edition ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. 
  31. ^ a b c Gardels, Nathan (2011). "The West No Longer Owns Modernity". New Perspect (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell) 28 (3): 61–64. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5842.2011.01271.x. 
  32. ^ Ebrey, Patricia (2013). Modern East Asia from 1600, A Cultural, Social, and Political History. Boston: Wadsworth. pp. 476–489. ISBN 978-1-133-60647-5. 
  33. ^ Tsui, Anne S.; Claudia Bird Schoonhoven, Marshall W. Meyer, Chung-Ming Lau and George T. Milkovich (2004). "Organization and Management in the Midst of Societal Transformation: The People's Republic of China". Organization Science 15 (2): 133–144. doi:10.1287/orsc.1040.0063. 
  34. ^ Jun Jing, ed. (2000). Feeding China’s Little Emperors:Food Children and Social Change. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. 
  35. ^ a b c Fong, Vanessa (2004). Only Hope: Coming of Age under China’s One-Child Policy. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. p. 17. 
  36. ^ a b "CIA". East and Southeast Asia: China. Retrieved 7 December 2011. 
  37. ^ Rowntree, Lester (2008). Diversity Amid Globalization: World Regions, Environment, Development (Fourth Edition ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-600554-3. 
  38. ^ Vladimir Tikhonov, "The 1890s Korean Reformers' View of Japan - a Menacing Model?" International Journal of Asian Studies 2005 2(1): 57-81.
  39. ^ Yong-hwa Chung, "The Modern Transformation of Korean Identity: Enlightenment and Orientalism," Korea Journal 2006 46(1): 109-138
  40. ^ David Ekbladh, "How to Build a Nation," Wilson Quarterly 2004 28(1): 12-20.
  41. ^ Berry, Mary Elizabeth (1998). "Public Life in Authoritarian Japan". Daedalus. 3 127: 133–165. 
  42. ^ Berger, Thomas U. (1993). "From Sword to Chrysanthemum: Japan's Culture of Anti-militarism". International Security. 4 17: 119–150. doi:10.2307/2539024. 
  43. ^ La Follette, Philip F.; Edward M. Coffman and Paul H. Hass (1980–1981). "With MacArthur in the Pacific: A Memoir by Philip F. La Follette". The Wisconsin Magazine of History. 2 64: 82–106. 
  44. ^ Samuels, Richard J. (1991). "Reinventing Security: Japan since Meiji". Daedalus. 4 120: 47–68. 
  45. ^ Yamamura, Kozo (1977). "Success Illgotten? The Role of Meiji Militarism in Japan's Technological Progress". The Journal of Economic History. 1 37: 113–135. doi:10.1017/s0022050700096777. 
  46. ^ Kitahara, Michio (1989). "Douglas MacArthur as a Father Figure in Occupied Japan After World War II". International Social Science Review. 1 64: 20–28. 
  47. ^ Ebrey, Patricia (2013). Modern East Asia from 1600, A Cultural, Social, and Political History. Boston: Wadsworth. pp. 461–464. ISBN 978-1-133-60647-5. 
  48. ^ a b A history of Modern Japan. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2008. 
  49. ^ Ebrey, Patricia (2013). Modern East Asia from 1600, A Cultural, Social, and Political History. Boston: Wadsworth. pp. 460–468. ISBN 978-1-133-60647-5. 
  50. ^ Craig C. Hansen, "Are We Doing Theory Ethnocentrically? A Comparison of Modernization Theory and Kemalism," Journal of Developing Societies (0169796X), 1989, Vol. 5 Issue 2, pp 175-187
  51. ^ Murat Ergin, "Cultural encounters in the social sciences and humanities: western émigré scholars in Turkey," History of the Human Sciences, Feb 2009, Vol. 22 Issue 1, pp 105-130
  52. ^ Arnold Reisman, Turkey's Modernization: Refugees from Nazism and Atatürk's Vision (2006)
  53. ^ Robert Ward and Dankwart Rustow, eds. Political Modernization in Japan and Turkey (1964).
  54. ^ Theodore A. Couloumbis, Greece in the Twentieth Century
  55. ^ Kostis Moskof, Isagogika shri istovia ton kinimatos tis evgatis taxis
  56. ^ Lydia Papadimitriou and Yannis Tzioumakis, Greek Cinema
  57. ^ A. Papachelas, The rape of greek democracy: The American Factor, 1947-1967
  58. ^ Gerard Van Der Ree, "Modernisation in Chile: from the 'Revolution in Liberty' to 'Growth with Equity'," Bicentenario: Revista De Historia De Chile Y America 2007 6(2): 39-69
  59. ^ Rogowski, edited by Patrick O'Neil, Ronald (2010). Essential readings in comparative politics (3rd ed. ed.). New York: W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-93401-4. 
  60. ^ Turbull, Colin M. (1972). The Mountain People. New York: Simon and Schuster. 


  • Bernstein, H. (1971). "Modernization theory and the sociological study of development". Journal of Development Studies. 
  • Berlie, Jean A., ed. Islam in China, Hui and Uyghurs: between modernization and sinicization (Bangkok, White Lotus Press, 2004) ISBN 974-480-062-3
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  • Chin, Carol C. Modernity and National Identity in the United States and East Asia, 1895-1919 (Kent State University Press; 2011) 160 pages; An intellectual history of American, Chinese, and Japanese views of modernity.
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  • Gilman, Nils. Mandarins of the Future: Modernization Theory in Cold War America (2003). 329 pp
  • Hua, Shipping, and Yang Zhong, eds. Political Civilization And Modernization in China: The Political Context of China's Transformation (2006)
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  • Jensen, Richard. Illinois: A History (2001), modernizers, traditionalists and post-moderns make state history
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  • Lipsett, Seymour Martin, ed. The Encyclopedia of Democracy (4 vol. 1996)
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  • McGuigan, Jim. Modernity and postmodern culture (2006) 200 pages
  • Marshall, T.H., and Seymour Martin Lipset, eds. Class, Citizenship, and Social Development (1965)
  • Mazlish, Bruce. Conceptualizing Global History. Westview Press, 1993.
  • Mergel, Thomas: Modernization, Mainz: Institute of European History, 2011, retrieved: July 11, 2012.
  • Misa, Thomas J., Philip Brey, and Andrew Feenberg, eds. Modernity and Technology (MIT 2004) excerpt and text search interdisciplary approaches
  • Rodgers, Daniel T. "Tradition, Modernity, and the American Industrial Worker: Reflections and Critique," Journal of Interdisciplinary History 1977 Spring 7:655-81 in JSTOR
  • So, Alvin Y. Social Change and Development: Modernization, Dependency and World-System Theories (1990) 288pp textbook excerpt and text search
  • Tipps, Dean C. "Modernization Theory and the Comparative Study of Societies: A Critical Perspective" Comparative Studies in Society and History (1973) 15:199-226 influential criticism in JSTOR
  • Gavrov, Sergey. (2004). Modernization of the Empire. Social and cultural aspects of modernization processes in Russia. ISBN 978-5-354-00915-2
  • Gilman, Nils. (2004) Mandarins of the Future: Modernization Theory in Cold War America. Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Jaquette, Jane S. (1982). "Women and Modernization Theory," World Politics 34 (2): 267-273.
  • Linden, Ian. (2003). A New Map of the World. Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd. London, UK. ISBN 0-232-52442-4

External links[edit]