This article provides information about the concept of modernisation:
Modernisation theory evolved from two ideas about social change: the conception of traditional vs. modern societies, and positivism that viewed development as societal evolution in progressive stages of growth. Concern with development emerged in the 1940s as a fallout of the process of decolonisation and reconstruction after the Second World War against the backdrop of the Cold War.
Developing countries could evolve the traditional society by rationalising them through a linear process in the course of which they could “evolve” into becoming a country in a modern and developed society.
The evolutionary theory of development identified the different stages, variables and processes through which a society develops. Positivist evolution implied that all societies would pass through the same set of stages from traditional to modern society that the western society had passed. These stages were: (i) the traditional society; (ii) preconditions for takeoff; (iii) take-off; (iv) the drive to maturity; and-(v) the age of high mass consumption. The progression of society through these stages of modernisation is better known as Rostow’s stage theory.
Modernisation theory took development into a more interdisciplinary realm. It advocated social and institutional change to facilitate economic transformation. It was through theorisation on modernity that sociologists made their first foray into development studies. Discussion on modernity in the present day centres on “multiple modernities.” The notion of multiple modernity expounded by Eisenstadt explains that modernity in the West has brought up consequences that have a wide bearing across the world. These consequences, however, have not resulted from the global transplanting of the western mode of modernity, but are modern situations of various types and characteristics in various non- western countries. Eisenstadt, one of the major advocates of this idea, said, The actual developments in modernising societies have refuted the homogenising and hegemonic assumptions of this western programme of modernity.
While a general trend towards structural differentiation developed across a wide range of institutions in most of these societies in family life, economic and political structures, urbanisation, modern education, mass communication and individualistic orientation — the ways in which these arenas were defined and organised varied greatly, in different periods of their development, giving rise to multiple institutional and ideological patterns”. He thought that the best way of explaining modern society and the history of modernity is to regard it as “a story of continual constitution and reconstitution of a multiplicity of cultural programmes”.
Through the notion of multiple modernities Eisenstadt, however, does not mean only to propose a new description or narrative of the history of modernity. He argues that modernity and westernisation are not identical. His notion of multiple modernity is not only descriptive but also normative, though in a negative sense. Diffused benefits which leave a large section of humankind untouched, homogenisation in the face of rising ethnicity and pluralities of culture consciousness, the social cost and cultural erosion implicit in the process pose serious concerns.
Following Parsons well-known “pattern variables”, modernisation assumes that status is determined by achievement rather than ascriptive criteria; patterns of interaction are governed by universalistic rather than particularistic norms; expectations and obligations in the system of role relationship acquire greater specificity and replace the diffuse system that characterised the traditional order. Units of society tend to be more specialised and self-sufficient.
There is increasing evidence of role differentiation, solidarity and integration. Eisenstadt suggested that modern society emerges as a consensual mass society and crystallises as a nation-state. Modernised societies operate through institutional structures that are capable of continuously absorbing the changes that are inherent in the process of modernisation. A series of organisations that are complex and differentiated, relatively self-sufficient and functionally specific seek to discharge functions in diverse and disparate fields.
Simultaneously, the roles of family and kinship based organisations get more narrowly defined. Government and associated units – the bureaucracy, economic and financial institutions, armed forces and organisations dealing with specific functional areas such as education, health, housing, public transport and recreation assume increasingly important roles. By and large, the government is vested with an important role in modernising the country and planning the economy.
As per Wilber and Jameson “The government must intervene in the economy to offset the anti- development impact of the two types of obstacles to development. On the side of non-rational behaviour, the government can attempt to convince its citizens of the need for ‘modernisation’ while, at the same time, substituting its own entrepreneurial ability and knowledge to fill that vacuum. On the side of markets, the government can again offset the difficulties through economic planning. By developing a coherent overview of the economy through the various means at itsdisposal, the orthodox result of growth in income can be attained”.