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Modernization: Some Real Quick Remarks

Modernization: Some Real Quick Remarks


This is Professor Charlie Evans and I’m gonna
talk a little bit today about the idea of Modernization. After all the title of the
unit we’re in now in the course is Worldwide Modernization covering the period of time
from 1945 to the present. And implying that significant change has occurred in much of
the world in this last fifty or sixty years. And bringing much of the world into the modern
world. By making these countries and societies modern. And so, what exactly does that mean?
One standard definition of modernization that you’ll find in a lot of places is modernization:
the transformation from the traditional, rural, agrarian society to a secular, urban, industrial
society. So let me just repeat that, the transformation from a traditional, rural, agrarian society
to a secular, urban, industrial society. Now, some points about that, usually historians
consider modernization to have taken place in a period of time from the 17th Century
to the 20s, the start of the 20th Century in Western Europe and America. Um-there’s
slight, there some slight deviations there in the exact timeline of individual countries
or societies. There’s just roughly that 300 year period of time we saw the transformation of Western
society uh- from this traditional agrarian society to a modern industrial society in Western Europe
and America. Now, it happened much later elsewhere in the world. Uh- particularly the countries
of Asia and Africa will usually push that really from really most of the 20th Century
from 1900s to the present and everyting. A lot faster transformation in this much smaller period of time. So what- so let me just say- let
me mention some of the components of what I see as modernization, as typically envisioned
by historians. Uh- one of them is changing the class structure of a society to include
the appearance of a middle class. Uh- whatever the original traditional society’s class structure.
Um- the appearance of the middle class signals that that class structure has changed and
it has become more modern. And one of the ways that middle class manifests itself is in a political
modernization of society. And the creation of some form of representative democratic
government. Uh- the actual practice of democracy varies tremendously from society to society.
But the fact that there is created some sort of idea of representative government in the
societies. Usually associated with the middle class is an indication of a society or country
has become modern. Um- of course the economic shift from an agricultural rural based economy
to an urban and industrial based economy is considered a classic sign of modernization. Uh-the decreasing influence of religion in a society is usually taken as part of the modernization process. And
that usually goes along with a society as it goes more and more urban. The importance of religion-religious
practices in that society tends to decrease over time. Um- you have as we already mentioned
an ur- the creation of an urban society. The increased movement of a population to urban centers. Um- along with that comes increased
educational opportunities for society. And a general refocusing of the values of the
society from a group from –uh– god I hate to use the word tribe- from an extended family basis
to where the individual becomes the most important part of society. And so, what you have is
this shift from a rural agrarian farming economy to a modern industrial society which is what
most of the world exists at today. Now, uh the problem with the idea of modernization is,
well there’s two problems. One is that it tends to be valuated process. And what do
I mean by that? Well, usually when you think of modernization you think of progress.
You think of, that somehow uh- a society or culture is modernizing, it is progressing from some
sort of old backward uh-superstitious, uh-farmers to something more modern, and something more energetic,
something more suitable, something more educated, um and that the modern is inherently better than
what the pre-modern was. Um- and so, I’m not sure that’s really necessarily the case that
modernization brings a better society and everything. But there is a connection with
modernization and progress. Um- and for thinkers in the west that was a particularly thorny
problem for them to confront after World War I and World War II and the Holocaust really
called into question of whether modern society was really improving and getting better with
time even though that the fruits of modern society and the industrial production and
all every all everything that went with that. Maybe there was still something missing. That
there was still something lacking about modern society that had not been improved by modernization.
Well- so that’s one aspect of a critique of modernization is this kind of connection of modernization
with progress, with the betterment of society. Um- the other problem with modernization is
really closely associated with the historical processes of the western world and so what
that means is that as societies and states in Africa, um- East Asia, South East Asia,
South Asia and everything. As they’ve gone through this modernization process. Historians
and social scientist have tended to judge their movement along the timeline of modernization
according to like how closely they’ve come to resemble Western European and American society.
Um- in other words, modernization has become tied up with the idea of westernization. That a-a-a- a culture becomes more modern as it becomes more western. And that of course also gets back
to the valuated aspect of modernization. Um- but you see there that there’s only just a
really few examples where you can look at a society and see a- a transformation going on
of modernization. If we want to use that term, within kind of the cultural confines of that society.
In some respects, Japan is the best example of that. But there are still some things that
don’t fit with the model of it. Uh so uh- getting back to modernization; the period of time
that we’re talking about in History 1-1-2, History 1-1-12, 112 the last sixty years as many of
the much of Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, Central Africa, uh- even parts of Latin America, South
East Asia, have undergone a kind of modernizing process as they’ve-as their societies and cultures
have changed in the last sixty years. Um-they’ve really kind of confronted this conundrum of
like, “what is really the modern world? How do they fit into the modern world? How should
they fit into the modern world? What aspects of their societies should be changed? And what
shouldn’t be changed?” Um- a lot of that they will- societies really have no control over and everything but it’s something to consider as we think about this process of modernization.

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