Using material from item A and elsewhere assess the usefulness of modernization theory as an explanation for differences in the levels of development of different societies. Modernization theory first arose after world war two, when western countries like the US, Britain and France all believed that capitalism was the only way to modernize countries in Eastern Europe. The different communist and capitalist governments didn’t agree on theories of modernization and so the cold war started. The first aim of modernization theory is to explain why poor countries have failed to develop and the second aim is to provide a non-communist solution to poverty by suggesting particular cultural values, such as capitalism, which can bring modernization. Durkheim believed that society will evolve until it reaches modernity but thinks that sharing traditional values and beliefs won’t lead to a modern state. Along with Tonnies and Huntington, Durkheim believes that in order to evolve, poorer and developing counties have to replace community with individualism.
They believe in cultural imperialism and that the only way to modernize these countries is through democracy and capitalism. Rostow, an American sociologist, created the five stages of the development ladder. The first stage of development is, ‘traditional societies’, which is when the country identifies that values such as patriarchy, ascription, particularism, affective-relationship and collectivism all limit their prospect of change and modernity. The second stage, ‘pre-conditions for takeoff’, is when western values and expertise are introduced into the country and the industrialisation process begins. After this ‘Takeoff’ occurs, where economic growth begins, western practices become the norm, entrepreneurial classes begin to emerge and exporting increases. Fourth is the ‘drive to modernity’, where reinvestment guarantees a meritocratic society where living standards, trade power and education all increases.
And the final step is when the developing country has achieved the same economic production as western countries with high life expectancy, a welfare state and free education and healthcare. Examples of developing countries believed to be using modernization theory are tiger economies such as Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. These nations are notable for maintaining very high growth rates and rapid industrialisation between the early 1960s and 1990s. All four have become highly developed into advanced and high-income economies. They’re examples of modernization because they experienced decades of supercharged growth based largely on the industrial policies supporting exports to the rich western countries. The tiger economies have managed to defy Parsons belief that ‘maintaining tradition for traditions sake was thought to be harmful to progress and development’, because they have largely kept their values and beliefs while becoming more economically powerful countries.
In order to achieve modernization, the western countries use interventionist ‘motors’. Hoselitz believes in the long run system of modernizing, where the countries are introduced to a meritocratic schooling system to increase universalism, competition and individualism. And Rostow believes that western companies should be paid by aid programmes to train local labourers and entrepreneurs so that money could ‘trickle down’ the system. Although this system may work for a number of countries, some sociologists believe that modernization is actually westernisation and that the western countries are using these cheap resources while creating social, ecological and political damage. A clear criticism of modernization theory is ethnocentrism because it imposes western values and beliefs while destroying the indigenous culture, creating cultural imperialism. The theory sees western society as a superior one but fails to identify the problems with it, like inequality, crime and drugs. Social damage is being caused by advertising false needs and creating child labour.
The west have advertised products and services that are used by them but are not needed in the east, such as cigarettes, nestle milk and instant coffee. Child labour is being created by western companies such as Nike and Apple pay such a small amount to the manufacturers of their products. Political damage could be caused by Learner’s idea that the children of political and economic elites should be educated in the west. If these elites monopolise top positions then it’s likely to lead to kleptocratic governments that would only look after themselves. Marxist and post development sociologists think of modernisation theory as underdevelopment to maintain exploitation and cheap labour but don’t suggest any alternatives. All in all, the theory is very useful to western countries that benefit from trade and exploitation and the developing countries that benefit from higher living standards and GDP growth, but that’s only when it does work, because most countries only take modernization to stage one of Rostow’s ladder.