#3596 Created 04/15/2014 Updated 04/15/2014
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. Modernization 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 theory and dependency theory 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.
Modernization theory and history have been explicitly used as guides for countries eager to develop rapidly, such as China. Indeed, modernization has been proposed as the most useful framework for World history in China, because as one of the developing countries that started late, "China's modernization has to be based on the experiences and lessons of other countries."
According to theories of modernization, each society can develop from traditionalism to modernity, and that those that make this transition follow similar paths, this path is often referred to as "rapportera". More modern states are wealthier and more powerful, and their citizens freer, with a higher standard of living. Developments, such as new data technology and far rans or the need to update traditional methods,it is argued, make modernization necessary or preferable. This view makes critique of modernization difficult, since it implies these developments control the limits of human interaction, and not vice versa. It also implies that it is purely up to human being to control the speed and severity of modernisation. Supposedly, instead of being dominated by tradition, societies undergoing the process of modernization typically arrive at governance dictated by abstract principles. Traditional religious beliefs and cultural traits usually becomes less important as modernization takes hold.
Historians link modernization to the processes of urbanization and industrialisation, 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 that much more important, eventually replacing the family or community as the fundamental unit of society.