Essay: Presumption, Often Promulgated by Scholars and Politicians

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¶ … presumption, often promulgated by scholars and politicians in the developed world, that social, political and cultural development are synonymous with a move towards modernization. In fact, modernization theory is also sometimes referred to as the developmental doctrine, a paradigm spurred on particularly after World War II when the United States formed its Cold War policy and understood that it had obligations to the developing world (e.g. unindustrialized or newly independent post-colonial nations). Modernization can thus be an evolutionary movement of technological progress or a reaction to the past and a new template for the future. However, we must understand that it is both a continuous, and open-ended, process. It is not the type of social change in which there is a clear beginning, middle and end; but rather a movement towards equilibrium on a scale that is constantly changing. Historians, for instance, tend to link modernization to the process of urbanization and industrialization, as well as the spread of compulsory education throughout a population based In this view, humans come together in cities for a variety of reasons: safety, job specialization, etc. And then move technologically forward until much of their society is mechanized and there is then ample opportunity for even more specialization and adaptation through education (Inglehart 1997). In critical sociological theory, modernization is linked more to the more cognitive process of rationalization. This process holds that as modernization (especially technical acuity) increases within a society, the role of the individual begins to take on far more importance, and eventually replaces the family, the extended family, and even the community as the fundamental change agent for society (Roberts & Hite (eds.) 2000).

The idea of development equaling modernization is not new to the 20th century, even though the popularization did not really occur until decolonialization post-World War II. In fact, Aristotle suggested that states follow a natural pattern of growth, much like plants and biological entities. This was based on his views of politics and the evolution from the primitive hunter society into what he saw as the principal of perfection in the evolved City-State; "What is most choiceworthy for each individual is always the highest it is possible for him to attain" (Aristotle VII). The idea of growth and decacy of society was certainly something people saw in the ebb and flow of the natural world, therefore it must also be true in the political genre. John Stuart Mill remarked, "Whoever know the political Economy of England…. Knows that of all nations, actual or possible" (Mill 2008). Ironically, the socio-cultural perspective that "primitive" tribes were not yet developed came from Lewish Morgan, the founder of American anthropology, when in 1877 he speculated that "American Indian Tribes represent, more or less nearly, the history and experience of our own remote ancestors" (Morgan 1877).

In general, though, modernization theory holds that as a process, there are two main phases: challenge growth and response. In the challenge phase, modernization of society integrates the institutions and values of society in a progressive, upward movement with the initial resistance individuals sometimes have for change sharp but doomed to failure. In the response stage, modernization breeds divisiveness and discontent -- primarily due to the rising expectations from the first phase and typically, the inability for the evolving society to meet the demands of the community on society as a whole. Just as one set of solutions occur, more problems arise -- and like the "half-life of technology," modernization perpetuates itself and becomes more dynamic as more of society moves into its psycho-social realm (Ross (ed.) 2009).

Theory into Practice - This idea of development equaling modernization is somewhat xenophobic, albeit with positive intentions for some, self-serving political motives for others, and of course, that all too common human greed motivation. Geopolitically, theory is used in foreign policy both to buttress ideas and to justify actions. After World War II the United States was one of the only developed countries in a position to supply aid and expertise to much of the world. What is now the EU was in shambles, China had just had a revolution, and Japan's infrastructure was in tatters. The Soviet Union had lost millions and had been overrun, and believed it had to solidify its own borders by using Eastern European resources and lands as protection. Thus, there was an idea that all societies must progress through similar stages of development, with the goal being modernization. Most theories of modernization show that societies are able to develop from traditionalism to modernity by adopting a set pattern of technological developments that eventually ensue a number of cultural and socio-political changes. As society changes toward the modern, states are wealthier and more powerful and typically have a stronger, more robust level of democratization with higher standards of living. This theory holds that it is the process that propels society forward -- new technologies, updating traditional methods, and even changes brought on because of the influences of other cultural interactions. Interestingly, this view implies that these developments control the speed and limits of human interaction, not the other way around (Wagner 2008).

Much of this paradigm was echoed by the social theorists, who believed that just as natural selection favors what we might consider to be selfish behaviors (survival) then so do cultural and societal behaviors allow development to take place. The presupposition that developing societies means a certain paradigm of technological and political acumen, though, arose based on ideas of inequality, and some might say racism. Why is it, for instance that certain parts of the world have developed technology capable of space travel while other cultures still use subsistence farming. Too, the seminal question becomes does development in the modernization paradigm imply success and arrival at a quantitative leap? Certainly, we tend not to see cultures without certain technological upgrades as being viable in ways that have little to do with technical acumen -- but more on the philosophical, metaphysical sense.

In fact, within many cultures considered to be underdeveloped balance is key -- and there are jobs for everyone, young or old. This does not allow for advanced technological development, or colonization of other lands. The human species is incredibly complex, and the urbanization of society begat numerous cultural changes that remain apparent today. Giving an even larger, macro view, one can also ask if there are other factors that contributed to the underdeveloped cultures remaining technological inferior. This might suggest that colonization (not just economically, but politically, socially, and especially ecologically) used a certain arrogance of development to control needed resources for their own modernization. These views take a more holistic approach to modernization in that their theoretical locus takes into account biological, ecological and other issues that are interactive with humanity, sometimes exacerbated, but not always completely isolated or caused by human interaction. The final result, though, has been the standard of a modern society -- of the goal of the developing world, and the way many societies define "civilization in the modern world" (Diamond, 370-4; McNeill 1977; Crosby 1973).

Globalization as Modernization - As the 21st century unfolds; we are told that the world is embracing globalism -- a key change in the economic, political and cultural movements that, broadly speaking, move the various countries of the world closer together. This idea refers to a number of theories that see the complexities of modern life such that events and actions are tied together, regardless of the geographic location of a specific country (political unit). The idea of globalism has become popular in economic and cultural terms with the advent of a number of macro-trade agreements combined with the ease of communication brought about with the Internet and cellular communication.

The rapid growth of the global economy profoundly effects modern economic development and stability, labor, and, most especially, the environment. In combination with the Earth's natural geologic functions, the process of human globalization radically transforms local issues into national and international problems, heightening very serious challenges.

In direct relation to the idea of development and modernization, globalization has shrunk the world -- with Internet available in Africa, CNN reports to Pakistan, and investors across the globe to literally every country in the world, it has transformed the direction for culture and economy in the 21st century. The world is richer than ever, communicates more, trades more, and cooperates more than ever. To date, the most robust paradigm of globalization has been the way many countries are integrating themselves with each other, primarily in trade and investment and in the international flows of capital, people, technology and information. Two major forces support and propel the idea of cross-regional and cross-national economic, and ultimately political, issues -- the North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA) and the movement in Europe to regionalize into a European (Free Trade) Union (Trent University 2006; Council on Foreign Relations 2008).

Globalization is actually the way we describe the increasing unification of the world through economic means (reduction of trade barriers, support of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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