Modernization theory is a theory used to explain the process of modernization within societies. Modernization refers to a model of a progressive transition from a ‘pre-modern’ or ‘traditional’ to a ‘modern’ society. The theory looks at the internal factors of a country while assuming that, with assistance, “traditional” countries can be brought to development in the same manner more developed countries have. Modernisation theory attempts to identify the social variables that contribute to social progress and development of societies, and seeks to explain the process of social evolution. Modernization theory is subject to criticism originating among socialist and free-market ideologies, world-systems theorists, globalization theorists and dependency theorists among others. Modernization theory not only stresses the process of change, but also the responses to that change. It also looks at internal dynamics while referring to social and cultural structures and the adaptation of new technologies. Some nations, including China, see modernization as a guide to rapid development. As a nation that developed later than others, some believe that “China’s modernization has to be based on the experiences and lessons of other countries.” Modernization theory maintains that traditional societies will develop as they adopt more modern practices. Proponents of modernisation theory claim that modern states are wealthier and more powerful, and that their citizens are freer to enjoy a higher standard of living. Developments such as new data technology and the need to update traditional methods in transport, communication and production, it is argued, make modernisation necessary or at least preferable to the status quo. This view makes critique of modernisation difficult, since it implies that such developments control the limits of human interaction, and not vice versa. It also implies that human agency controls the speed and severity of modernisation. Supposedly, instead of being dominated by tradition, societies undergoing the process of modernisation typically arrive at forms of governance dictated by abstract principles. Traditional religious beliefs and cultural traits, according to the theory, usually become less important as modernisation takes hold. Historians link modernisation to the processes of urbanization and industrialization, as well as to the spread of education. As Kendall (2007) notes, “Urbanization accompanied modernization and the rapid process of industrialization.” In sociological critical theory, modernization is linked to an overarching process of rationalisation. When modernization increases within a society, the individual becomes increasingly important, eventually replacing the family or community as the fundamental unit of society.

Leave a Reply