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Essay on Modernisation

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It indicates a change in people’s food habits, dress habits, speaking styles, tastes, choices, preferences, ideas, values, recreational facilities and so on. It is also described as “social change involving the elements of science and technology”.

The scientific and technological inventions have brought about remarkable changes in the whole system of social relationship and installed new ideologies in the place of traditional ones.

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M.N. Srinivas, however, criticises the concept of Modernisation, according to him, it is a value- loaded term. He says that ”Modernisation is normally used in the sense that it is good. He, therefore, prefer to use the term “Westernisation” which characterises the changes brought about in Indian society and culture as a result of over 150 years of British rule”.

Yogendra Singh, on the other hand, defends the concept of modernisation. According to him, it is broader than the two processes of Sanskritisation and Westernisation. It is, indeed a ‘cultural universal’ and not necessarily confined to any single society. Like science, modernity is not an exclusive possession of any one ethnic or cultural group. It belongs to the humanity as a whole.

This does not mean that everywhere it should reveal the same pattern. It need not always take place on the model of England, Germany, France or America. It can take place on the model of Russia, India, Japan, Australia, or any other country for that matter. What is essential to modernisation is this — a commitment to “scientific world view” and a belief in the humanistic and philosophical viewpoint of science on contemporary problems.

Definition of “Modernisation”:

1. Daniel Lerner:

Daniel Learner who introduced the term “Modernisation” for the first time in his study of the middle-Eastern societies—uses it to refer to the changes brought about in a non- Western country by contract, direct or indirect with a Western country. To quote his own words : “Modernisation is the current term for an old process of social change whereby less developed societies acquire the characteristics common to more developed societies “.

2. Smelser:

Modernisation refers to “a complex set of changes that take place almost in every part of society as it attempts to be industrialised. Modernisation involves ongoing change in a society’s economy, politics, education, traditions, and religion”.

3. Alatas:

“Modernisation is a process by which modern scientific knowledge is introduced in the society with the ultimate purpose of achieving a better and a more satisfactory life in the broadest sense of the term as accepted by the society concerned”.

4. Rutow and Ward (1964) have said that the basic process in Modernisation is the application of modern science to human affairs.

5. Eisenstadt says that Modernisation refers to both {a) structural aspects of social organisation, and (b) socio-demographic aspects of societies.

The Process of Modernisation:

The key to understanding Modernisation lies in thinking of it as a set of change that affect the whole society. These changes are many and complex. Each is linked to the others. Moreover, the process is different in each country, depending on its history.

Modernisation involves a transformation of social, political and economic organisations. “This includes the transformation indicated by Durkeim, from “mechanical solidarity” to “organic solidarity”; that indicated by Becker, the transformation from the “change-resistant sacred outlook” to the “change-ready secular-outlook”; the transformation indicated by Weber, from “personal bonds” to “impersonal relation” with bureaucracy; and the transformation from ‘status-based’ relations to ‘contract-based’ relation as indicated by Maine, long ago.

It applies to the individualist forms of organisation of the Western model, the Communist form of organisation of the Russian or Chinese model as well as to the socialistic pattern of the Indian model”.

Students of Modernisation have identified many dimensions of this process. The process has its economic, political, educational, technological, military, administrative, cultural and other faces. The concept has been used in a very diffused manner. Still, some of the patterns that are common to most modern countries have been identified. Smelser makes a reference to them in the Tollowing way.

1. It involves a change from simple, traditional techniques such as hand-weaving toward the use of scientific knowledge and technology, for example, power-looms.

2. Agricultural shifts from subsistence farming to commercial farming on a larger scale. This means growing cash crops, buying non-agricultural products in the markets on a large quantity and often hiring people to do farm work.

3. “In industry there is a movement away from the use of human and animal power and towards the use of machinery driven by non-human power”. For example, ploughs pulled by oxen are replaced by tractors driven by hired hands.

4. The society changes from the farm and the village centred one to that of the industry and city centred one

In addition to the four major patterns, other patterns of change have been observed in modernising social structure. Traditional religious systems tend to lose influence. Powerful non- religious ideologies such as patriotism, nationalism, democracy, secularism, etc. arise.

The family changes in many ways, both in terms of its structure and functions. It’s economic, educational, recreational and other functions tend to diminish. Its size gets smaller and smaller. Extended families and kingroups break up into smaller units. Personal choice becomes the basis of marriage rather than parental arrangements.

In education, the literacy rate increases greatly and formal educational institutions become widespread. Mass media also serves the purpose of educational resource and information channel. New form of administrative organisation such as bureaucracies develops in the political, economic, educational and other fields.

In addition to these changes in the social structure, some psychological changes do take place in the society’s members. Studies of Alex Inkeles and David H. Smith (1974) have revealed that the modern man has become an informed participant citizen.

He is highly independent and takes independent decisions relating to his personal affairs such as education, marriage, occupation, etc. He is not much carried away by the traditional influence. He is ready for new experiences and ideas. He is relatively open-minded and cognitively flexible.

Thus, the process of modernisation includes in itself the gradual development of a vast new system of social structures and psychological traits. “As a society becomes more productive and prosperous, it also becomes more complex in social and cultural terms.”

Characteristics of Modernisation:

As it has already been mentioned, the process of modernisation has different dimensions. The spirit of modernisation is expressed in different areas such as — social organisation, culture, political field, economy, education, etc., in different ways. Broadly speaking, the process of modernisation reveals the following important characteristics:

Modernisation includes— “a temple of science, reason and rationalism, secularism, high aspiration and achievement orientation, overall transformation of attitudes norms and values, creation of new functional institutions, investment in human resources, a growth oriented economy, a national interest rather than kin, caste, religion, region or language oriented interests, an open society, and a mobile person” — (Ram Ahuja in his “Indian Social System”).

According to B. Kuppuswamy, “the main feature of Modernisation is the building up of an “open society” in which individuals of talent, enterprise and training can find places in the society appropriate to their achievement.

The process of Modernisation involves an increase in social unrest till the social system is responsive to the new aspirations built up by the Modernisation process”. It should, however, be noted that the same process of modernisation institutes appropriate change in the social system to meet the rising expectations of the people. Criteria of Modernity or Measures of Modernisation

Modernisation has been referred to as a process whereby less developed societies acquire characteristics common to more developed societies. Now our task is to identify the characteristics that are common to more developed societies.,— that is, to identify the criteria of modernity.

Sociologists have not yet found out an efficient method of measuring modernisation. Because, there is no consensus among them regarding the criteria of modernity. Still, there has been some broad agreement among scholars on certain key points concerning Modernisation.

Rustow and Ward (1964) have mentioned of some measures of modernisation. They include such specific aspects of changes as:

1. Industrialisation of economy and adopting a scientific technology in industry, agriculture, dairy farming, etc., to make them highly productive;

2. Secularisation of ideas — that is, a diffusion of secular — rational norms in culture;

3. A remarkable increase in geographic and social mobility which includes occupational mobility also;

4. A spread of scientific and technical education;

5. A transition from ascribed to achieved status;

6. An increase in material standard of living;

7. high proportion of working force employed in secondary and tertiary rather than primary production, that is, manufacturing and services as opposed to agriculture and fishing;

8. An increment of mobility in the society, understood in terms of urbanisation, spread of literacy and media participation;

9. High expectancy of life at birth;

10. Relatively greater measure of public participation in the polity — or at least democratic representation in defining and choosing policy alternatives.

While discussing the criteria of modernity Daniel Lerner observes: “According to this typology the modern person is an urban literate who participates fully in the public forum, market place, political arena”.

Causes of Modernisation:

What factors condition modernisation? What conditions lead to modernisation? What conditions hinder it? In exploring suitable answers to these questions sociologists look within the society to discover the various factors, groups, people and agencies and instruments that contribute to modernisation.

Modernisation is not caused by any single factor. It is the net result of a number of factors. Myron Weiner speaks of five main instruments which make modernisation possible: education, mass communication, ideology based on nationalism, charismatic leadership and coercive governmental authority.

1. Social Inequality:

Education, that too higher education, pertaining to the fields of science and technology, provides the basis of modernisation. Education involves a sense of national loyalty and creates skills and attitudes essential for technological innovation. Edward Shils has also emphasised the role of education in the process of modernisation. Still people like Arnold Anderson feel that formal education is not sufficient for teaching skills.

University education may increase the number of students with degrees without an increase in the number of people with modern skills and attitudes. By this we cannot underscore the importance of education in national development which is believed to be associated with modernisation.

“National development depends upon a change in knowledge — what people know, skills — what people can do, and attitudes – what people can aspire and hope to get”. This is the reason why in the recent decade’s education including mass communication is given utmost importance.

2. Mass Communication:

The process of modernisation hinges on the phenomenon of mass communication. The development of mass communication (including newspapers, periodicals and magazines, T.V., radio telephone, movies, etc.) is an important means of spreading modem ideas at a faster rate.

The function of mass media is to open up to the large masses in society, new information, new thought, new attitude and new aspirations which lead them to new achievement. “The mass media is the device that can spread the requisite knowledge and attitudes quickly and widely”.

The only danger with the mass media is that if these are controlled by the government, they will spread only one-sided view that suits their political ideology. But in democracies, however, the press is often given sufficient independence to express its views.

3. Ideology Based on Nationalism:

Nationalism and democracy are very much linked with modernisation. Nationalism is connected with national awareness and political consensus. As far as the West is concerned, the democratic system came to be strengthened along with the development of nationalism. The nationalistic ideologies serve as unifying influence in bridging social cleavages within plural societies.

They also help the political elite in changing the behaviour of masses of people. Mass media plays a vital role in democratic societies to spread modern views, ideas, values, etc., by persuading the masses. But it is argued out that even though the political elite have modern ideology. Their mere possession of it does not guarantee development from the modern perspective.

4. Charismatic Leadership:

A Charismatic leader is in a better position to impress upon the people to adopt modern beliefs, values, practices and behaviour patterns. But the danger involved here is that this popular leader may take the undue advantage of his position and use modern values, ideas etc., for his personal glorification rather than for the national development.

5. Coercive Governmental Authority:

A strong and stable government may adopt coercive measures to compel people to accept the modern values and ways of life. It may also bring pressures on other governments and people to follow the same. The Government of America under the presidentship of George Bush (The previous President of U.S. A.) made use of various tactics and strategies to bring pressure on the underdeveloped and developing countries to follow the modern ways and practices.

6. Other Factors:

To the list of factors explained above, we may add two other factors: (a) urbanisation and industrialisation; and (b) universal legal system.

(a) Urbanisation and Industrialisation:

Urbanisation and industrialisation are the two interrelated processes that are assumed to be variably linked up with modernisation. These two processes can also be understood as two factors that accelerate the tempo of modernisation. ‘Urbanisation’ refers to the process of growth and expansion of cities.

Most of the modernised countries are either dominated by the cities or under the grip of the process of urbanisation. “Industrialisation” refers to the unprecedented growth and expansion of industries. It has become virtually the sine quo non of economic and technological development.

(b) Universal Legal System:

In a traditional society bound by traditional values and customs the rate of change is relatively slow. But a society that functions on the basis of the universally accepted legal system is bound to be more ‘open’. The “rule of law” is indeed, one of the prerequisites of Modernisation.

The present legal system places premium on the individual protecting his rights and assuring his freedom. This role of the legal system supports the cause of “Individualism”. The modern legal system has contributed a great deal to the scientific management of the industries.


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