Modernization Modernization can be interpreted as growth of a nation in all areas (i.e. social, economic, political), for example, the aim is development of national forms of polity, the objects of which are to increase the social product with fair shares for all. Successful models now include Japan and the Soviet Union (Apter 1965, Preface). Although this definition is outdated, as the inclusion of the Soviet Union (no longer in existence and with serious economic and social problems persisting in Russia) and Japan (also currently in a recession along with most of Asia) illustrates, the ideal of modernization is clear. Another approach to the term modernization is not to take it as an ideal but as a simple increase in social (literacy, numeracy), economic and political (rationalizing beaurocracy) standards within a given region (Marglin and Marglin 1990).
Whether this ideal or set of standards is a natural state to which all countries will gravitate is the question that this essay will attempt to answer. Is the Darwinian theory of evolution something that can be applied to the great animal that people know as civilization (or the nation-state)? Is modernization the evolution of the species on a different level? Britain was the first modern nation by these standards, in the sense that industrialization of the country resulted in a final shift from an agrarian society (limited trade) to an industrial society (highly commercial) thereby creating a new social, economic and political state. This is to say that the instrument (Weiner (ed.) 1966, 7) for modernizing Britain was industrialization, and not that industrialization equals modernization. The British Empire, already being established, grew rapidly due to the technological innovations derived from industrialization, colonies were established in countries without the modern system which Britain had evolved. Thus, it can be derived that, British colonists who sought to establish political, social and economic systems to benefit the modernization of the colony exported the ideal of the modern nation-state to those countries within the empire.
The majority of these colonial nations as well as those of the other industrialized nations gained their independence following the end of the Second World War, and were faced with the problem of attempting to modernize (if that was the objective). Modernization often requires personalities (Apter 1965, Hunter 1969, Pye 1966), the Elite members of Shils new states (in Geertz (ed.) 1963) sought to create an acceptable political system whether that took the form of one-party or multiple-parties by following the colonial political structures that had been established. These largely peasant societies were traditionally agricultural/agrarian based, much like those found in 15th Century Europe (Hunter 1969, 4), thereby making the application of established political practices from far more developed countries a great challenge. As a result of this; Difficulties arise for comparative study because we have enshrined moral principles in models that have served well in a western political context (Apter 1965, 15). After all, the global economic and political climate found in 15th Century Britain & Europe was markedly different to that which surrounded these developing nations. Therefore the impetus for modernisation comes as much from external forces exerted by modernised nations as from within the nation itself. So although, as Pye puts it, Economic achievement is, for example, directly tied to the spirit of industry and entrepreneurship of a people.
( in Weiner (ed.) 1966, 364), nations such as Britain and the United States exerted pressure on the economies of developing countries for purposes of trade and international relations. Indeed a major goal of United States foreign policy was the political development of Third World countries (Wiarda 1989). Whether this political development has actually occurred, particularly in Africa, is a matter of great debate (Shaw 1991, Nyangoro 1989). The images of Ethiopia in the 1980s where famine was decimating the population, Rwandan civil war and ethnic cleansing, and the Central African Republic/Congo political leadership struggle have all outlined the great political, social and economic problems on the continent. In Ethiopia the feudal, with a few moderations, system has been the dominant political situation since 1941 (Gilkes 1975). The people of many countries in Africa, even those with strong ties to colonial powers and well-established infrastructure (e.g. Tanzania), may have the trappings of modern society (e.g.
Television and Coca-Cola) without having a stable political system. As a result of war, famine, lack of diversification and their exploitation by foreign powers, these nations are in massive debt and cannot modernise their society (hence the Cancel Third World Debt appeal). This can surely not be considered modernisation by the westernised standards that are imposed upon the term. However, it is important to note that these same standards would have classified the former Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia as modernised political societies. With the return to year zero in Russia (in terms of standard of living of the vast majority, and growth) through the introduction of capitalist values coinciding with the collapse of the communist regime, this ideal of a modernised society is shattered. Perhaps the inevitable is mortal in that even modernity comes to an end.
Surely the bloody warfare that continues in Yugoslavia, sanctioned by the government, cannot be considered an authoritative allocation of values 1 for society that Easton (1965) envisaged as the central function of a political system. Perhaps these discrepancies can be explained by the fact that it is difficult to separate the strands of traditionalism in the case in study from strands of modernity (Apter 1985, 98). Although another argument is perhaps more to the point, the concept of modernity does not necessarily apply to those countries around whose political frameworks it was based (i.e. The United States and to a lesser extent the United Kingdom). To elaborate, it becomes necessary to adapt ones view of the modernisation process to a more generalised principle whereby differing political approaches can also lead to a more modern nation state. Lucian Pye (1966, 117) suggested think of the countries as possessing not a single and integrating political process but many only loosely related political processes, the topic was specifically south-east Asia but the principle is to deal with each locality as affected by its environment and history.
Taking this as read, then all nations will exhibit different processes of modernisation, depending on the internal and external forces that create their particular political structure. So to answering the question, is modernisation inevitable? Obviously the question is wholly unanswerable without first glimpsing the future, although a few predictions may be made. The modern society, as aforementioned theorists saw it in the 1960s and 70s, may well be an unattainable goal for todays less developed nations. With their independence from imperial powers these nations have found their ability to shape their future, whether it will be the same future which the Europeans and Americans reached is altogether a different matter. The cultural, environmental and historical differences between these nations and the models for modernity may be too great.
Also the increased influence of external powers on the developing nations through tourism, communications, trade and ideology means that the conditions in which the modernisation of countries like Britain occurred are not being reproduced. Less developed countries are not being given sufficient time to grow in all three aspects of modernisation. The help which these countries have received toward the goal of modernity has resulted, albeit through the best of intentions, in national debt and their peripheralisation in a capitalist world. Thereby rendering many nations dependent on the developed world. However, if the model of modernisation is not strictly adhered to, it can be seen that countries such as Thailand (where the Baht went through a recent crises) and Egypt are finding their own form of modernity.
In essence, modernity is what the populace of a country and its political commentators make of it. The likelihood of all countries eventually reaching the ultimate stage of modernity is slim, because the evolution of the species depends on its adaptation to its environment. The earth does not present a homogenous environment, nor have the pioneering colonists created one, and so the chances of a homogenous polity are also slim. The modernity which less-developed countries reach will more than likely differ greatly from the idealogical viewpoint which theorists have suggested, but it will be modernity none the less. In summation, all nations will change whether of their own accord or through external pressures, and all will become more modern in terms of advancing their own economic, political and social structures. So, yes, modernisation is inevitable but modernisation is not. Bibliography Apter, David E.
(1965) The Politics of Modernization (University of Chicago Press). Apter, David E. (1987) Rethinking Development: Modernization, Dependency and Postmodern Politics (Sage Publications). Easton, David (1965) A Systems Analysis of Political Life (Wiley) Geertz, Clifford (ed.) (1963) Old Societies and New States: the Quest for Modernity in Asia and Africa (Free Press). Gilkes, Patrick (1975) The Dying Lion: Feudalism and Modernization in Ethiopia (Julian Friedmann) Hunter, Guy (1969) Modernizing Peasant Societies: A Comparative Study in Asia and Africa (Oxford University Press). Marglin, Frederique A.
and Stephen A. (eds.) (1990) Dominating Knowledge: Development, Culture, and Resistance (Claredon). Nyangoro, Julius (1989) The State and Capitalist Development in Africa: Declining Political Economies (Praeger). Parsons, Talcott (1991) The Social System (The Free Press). Pye, Lucian (1966) Aspects of Political Development (Little) Randall, Vicky and Robin Theobald (1985) Political Change and Underdevelopment: A Critical Introduction to Third World Politics (MacMillan). Scott, Catherine V. (1995) Gender and Development: Rethinking Modernization and Dependency Theory (Lynne Rienner).
Shaw, Timothy (1991) “Reformism, Revisionism, and Radicalism in African Political Economy During the 1990s.” Journal of Modern African Studies 29: 191-212 Weiner, Myron (ed.) (1966) Modernization: The Dynamics of Growth (Basic Books). Wiarda, Howard (1989) “Rethinking Political Development: A Look Backward Over Thirty Years, and a Look Ahead,” Studies in Comparative International Development 24 (Winter): 65-82.