Modernization Theory

Modernization theory is a theory that is often used to explain the process of modernization that occurs within societies. It originated from German sociologist Max Weber, who provided the basis for the paradigm that was developed by Harvard sociologist Talcott Parsons. It looks at the internal factors of a country while keeping in mind that with assistance, traditional countries can be brought to development in the same way more developed countries have been. Modernization theory was a more dominant paradigm in the social sciences back in the 50s and 60s but then went into a deep eclipse. It did make a comeback after the crash of the Soviet Union in 1991 but still remains a controversial model.

Modernization theory tries to identify the social variables that contribute to societal progress and development and seeks to explain the process behind society’s evolution. It is subject to criticism originating among:

  • Socialist and free-market ideologies
  • World-systems theorists
  • Globalization theorists
  • Dependency theorists, and so on. 

Modernization theory not only stresses the process of change but also the responses that change brings. It also looks at the internal dynamics that refer to social and cultural structures as well as the adaptation of new technologies.

 Proponents of this theory claim that modern states are wealthier and hence more powerful, as a result of which their citizens are freer to enjoy a higher standard of living. Developments such as the need to update traditional methods in transport, communication, and production, and new data technology make modernization necessary or at least preferable to the status quo. 

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