Essays Modernization Theory

Modernization theory is a theory that explains the process of improvement from an older culture to the newest one as well as explains the changing ways of communication and media use in traditional and postmodern societies. The theory takes into consideration factors from a certain place with the assumption that traditional places can be developed to the most recent manners. Modernization theory does not only stress there to be a change but also response to that change. It also looks at internal dynamic while referring to social and cultural structures and the adaptation of new technologies. So essentially, what is modernization and what does this theory consist of? To put it simply, modernization is the economic growth within societies. And the modernization theory believes that there are steps to success for every country. Modernization theory evolved in three different time periods. The first wave appeared between the 1950s and 1960s. Western cultures and styles of living were the main goals to reach along with culture, motivations and achievements. Three variants that this first wave brought with them were one; economic developments in which mass media promote the global diffusion of many technical and social innovations that are essential to modernization, two; literacy and cultural developments allow for mas media to teach literacy and other essential skills and techniques and three; national identity development permits mass media to support national identities in new nations and attention to democratic policies.

The second wave of modernization theory is a part of the critical theory that was popular in the 1970s and 1980s. This did not support but instead it criticized the influence of Western modernization. Within this criticism exists another theory called media dependency theory where developing countries are assumed to be dependent on mass media in the core of the Western world. The third wave of modernization theory began to rise in the 1990s. It is here that the modernization begins to be more neutral, neither in favor nor against Western modernization. Instead, it tries to expose the contradictions in the modernization process and simply help explain the consequences of modern living in contemporary society. The theory of modernization has its roots in the ideas of some scholars they produced different theories about the origins, characters, and future path of modern industrial society. Modernization theory is only optimistic and full of contradictions. It is important to understand the history of a situation so a more realist approach can be taken to solve it. Now that the history is understood, it is possible to work with it and correct its faults so that the world will not be stuck anymore. The contemporary debate over modernization theory has in many respects circled back to researchers agendas.

Alongside endless empirical studies of the correlation between wealth and democracy, scholars have tried to untangle precisely how and why economic and political developments are related. During the Cold War era, there were three successful theories of global evolution at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The Marxist school that compared modernization improvements with promotion of imperialism and social class exploitation has transformed into a larger liberal program, appealing to conflict against the United States and its limited allies as an instrument for more just economic distribution and more checks in global political expansion.

The target of globalization more clearly identifies the problem of an enforced overseas model reducing cultural diversity and self-government; raising the profile of nationalism over the old subject of class struggle. It is not hard to understand why the hegemonic globalization school may be less outspoken, considering the fact that the meaning of its warnings of threats that can only be addressed in a world prepared under clear leadership and newly accommodated to containing political development that allows security dangers to progress and grow. Its neoconservative message calls for imposing a single model, more than comparing alternative approaches of nations and regions while accepting the benefits of diversity.

Qualified studies done by multilateral globalization school show that modernization theory accepts that the merge is a long-term progression that must remain incomplete as civilizations find consolation in what distinguishes them. The fast pace of technological changes help accelerate integration, and there will be risk of increased interdependence and exposure that will only require more security collaboration. Yet the driving forces of the global system will remain states competing to gain an advantage in boosting their economies and national power. In the context of growing world integration, states will still be in competition to capitalize on modernization and shape the global system.

Modernization theory predicts that strong economic growth raises homicide rate as it disrupts traditional modes of social organization and control. The same applies to higher levels of income, at least up to a certain point. It is only after a country has successfully developed and has reached a new more of socio-economic organization and non-traditional social reforms of control that crime rates can be expected to decline again – if not with the respect to property crime, then at least as concerns violent crime. This is compatible with modernization theory based on Durkheim n that moral individualism need not lead to higher rates of violence crimes as so-called organic solidarity will eventually substitute for traditional social control and constraints on individual behavior.

Modernization theory is good for the greater of all but because it is a general theory its actions can be biased. Even with its contemporary works, it continues being a work in progress to make it better than what it is. Living in the twenty-first century only means more and faster technology, programs, data and many other things that are out there that certain places, countries and nations have possibly yet to discover or be aware of. Possibly, by giving that extra hand and helping one another as a civilization, this good for the greater of all can simply be greatness for all.

Modernization theory

Modernization theory represents the mixture of sociology theories within societies. It mainly reflects the traditional views of society and highlight the internal factors of a country and development (Bernstein, 1971). From the 18th century, it englight the individual ideas of modernism the civilians living in the society. Whereas, the social changes were brought in revolution to change the view and standards of living with the concept of functionalism, which focuses on interdependence (Tétreault & Abel, 1986). It is stated by the French philosopher Marquies de Condorcet, who bought a new division of technology development and changes in the society.

Individuals need to bring changes in moral and cultural views and adopt social lives. Modernization theory was further focused in late 19th century, to make individuals open-minded about the change and modernity (Bernstein, 1971). This study represents, modernization as an internal conflict among societies till now due to different races and religion (Tétreault & Abel, 1986). The basic evidence of the modernization theory was converted into the democracy to have freedom of speech. Individuals were adopting the change of the society, but with the context of freedom and independence.

Currently, modernization theory is dominant with the incorporation of dependency theory which further followed to explore the relation of borderline of poverty and underdeveloped areas to improve themselves and accept the change (Tétreault & Abel, 1986). Dependency theory was arose in the response of modernization that where wealthy states are growing quickly, on the other hand underdeveloped states still need some progress in the society (Seers, 1981).  Therefore, dependency theory brought a new concept to provide basic needs of poor nations such as labor, markets, natural resources, etc.

Researcher highlighted, modernization has been the most dominant theory in societies and political sector (Mihalache, 2007). Modernization theory faces criticism in the shape of dependency theory because of the underdeveloped states were suffering and modernization theorist was focusing on the development literature by neglecting the poor nations (Seers, 1981). The primary function of  modernization theory is to ensure an optimal framework for the proper governance of globalization.

In this way, it is focused that all economies benefit through various mechanisms of productivity. In addition, this theory facilitates the integration of national economies in terms of goods and services (Mihalache, 2007). Undoubtedly, a world of global capital markets associates with more opportunities for success for the nation, states and for the international system as a whole. Globalization is an extensive, ongoing process, providing new opportunities for development to all economies (Bernstein, 1971). Whereas, dependency theory in particular the underdeveloped nations, present the importance of surveillance and crisis prevention mechanisms that further motivate nation states to pursue strong and adequate policies.  

The study shows that, lucidity in the government operations is extensively regarded as an important precondition for macroeconomic fiscal sustainability, fine government, and largely fiscal integrity due to modernization theory (Stouten, 2010). Booth theories dealt with the government, but their influence reflects on the society. The modernization and dependency theory showed internationally recognized standards and codes, it takes the guide in the development and monitoring of financial standards in two different societies (Seers, 1981).  Dependency theory sharply critique modernization theory by highlighting the difference in the societies as a persistent global poverty cannot be eliminated without the focus of international economic system.

The facts of the modernization theory were further adopted by U.S, Germany, China, Japan, India, etc., such as the procedure of borrowing science and technology to explore the developments and bring change in the society (Stouten, 2010). These countries attempt modernism in different ways, whether it is a social, environmental, political or technological changes. Therefore, modernization theory bought a total change in social process linked with economic developments (Bernstein, 1971).  It transforms the living standards of individuals, personality, culture and human ecology. Modernization theory is further explored with the concept of sociology to be more specific about the changes. Modernization denotes a social change within a modern context, sociology and industrialization era. However, Modernization incorporates dependency theory, the activities and confrontation against the developments of society is amazing and did not cease (Seers, 1981). Modernization theory further argues that all countries pass through, such as evidence shows that, changes in early modern Europe played an important role in the making of representative government in England. Moreover, the structural changes were dominant in China by shifting the economic power away from traditional farming elites.

Few Empirical evidence of this theory shows the survival of democracy in society such as, increase wages, changes in economic growth from 1990's till now and industrialization revolution all over the world (Herrmann, 1999). It can be proof the modernization theory is adopted because if not, then how countries all around the world is established to increase their income and economic growth?

It is concluded that, modernization theory is one of the important theories of sociology to understand the facts about the changes of society and the established modernism society represent a global system of imposed dependency on nation states (Herrmann, 1999). Modernization theory played an essential role in determining and enforcing reliable strategies to help nation states rebuild Europe after the devastating war.


Bernstein, H. (1971). Modernization theory and the sociological study of development*. The Journal Of Development Studies, 7 (2), pp. 141--160.

Herrmann, P. (1999). European integration between institution building and social process. Commack, N.Y.: Nova Science Publishers.

Mihalache, A. (2007). Modernization vs. dependency. Journal Of Development Studies, 19 (1), pp. 99-117. [Accessed: 27 Feb 2014].

Seers, D. (1981). Dependency theory: a critical reassessment. Pinter London.

Stouten, P. L. M. (2010). Changing contexts in urban regeneration. Amsterdam: Techne Press.

Te´treault, M. A. & Abel, C. F. (1986). Dependency theory and the return of high politics. New York: Greenwood Press.

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