Modernization

Modernization can be interpreted as growth of a nation in all areas (i.e. social, economic,
political), for example, the aim is ‘development of national forms of polity,
the objects of which are to increase the social product with fair shares for
all. Successful models now include Japan and the Soviet Union’ (Apter 1965,

Preface). Although this definition is outdated, as the inclusion of the Soviet

Union (no longer in existence and with serious economic and social problems
persisting in Russia) and Japan (also currently in a recession along with most
of Asia) illustrates, the ideal of modernization is clear. Another approach to
the term modernization is not to take it as an ideal but as a simple increase in
social (literacy, numeracy), economic and political (rationalizing beaurocracy)
standards within a given region (Marglin and Marglin 1990). Whether this ideal
or set of standards is a natural state to which all countries will gravitate is
the question that this essay will attempt to answer. Is the Darwinian theory of
evolution something that can be applied to the great animal that people know as civilization
(or the nation-state)? Is modernization the evolution of the species on a
different level? Britain was the first ‘modern’ nation by these standards,
in the sense that industrialization of the country resulted in a final shift
from an agrarian society (limited trade) to an industrial society (highly
commercial) thereby creating a new social, economic and political state. This is
to say that the ‘instrument’ (Weiner (ed.) 1966, 7) for modernizing Britain
was industrialization, and not that industrialization equals modernization. The

British Empire, already being established, grew rapidly due to the technological
innovations derived from industrialization, colonies were established in
countries without the modern system which Britain had evolved. Thus, it can be
derived that, British colonists who sought to establish political, social and
economic systems to benefit the modernization of the colony exported the ideal
of the modern nation-state to those countries within the empire. The majority of
these colonial nations as well as those of the other industrialized nations
gained their independence following the end of the Second World War, and were
faced with the problem of attempting to modernize (if that was the objective). Modernization
often requires ‘personalities’ (Apter 1965, Hunter 1969, Pye 1966), the

Elite members of Shils’ ‘new states’ (in Geertz (ed.) 1963) sought to
create an acceptable political system whether that took the form of one-party or
multiple-parties by following the colonial political structures that had been
established. These largely peasant societies were traditionally
agricultural/agrarian based, much like those found in 15th Century Europe
(Hunter 1969, 4), thereby making the application of established political
practices from far more developed countries a great challenge. As a result of
this; ‘Difficulties arise for comparative study because we have enshrined
moral principles in models that have served well in a western political
context’ (Apter 1965, 15). After all, the global economic and political
climate found in 15th Century Britain & Europe was markedly different to
that which surrounded these developing nations. Therefore the impetus for
modernisation comes as much from external forces exerted by modernised nations
as from within the nation itself. So although, as Pye puts it, ‘Economic
achievement is, for example, directly tied to the spirit of industry and
entrepreneurship of a people..’ ( in Weiner (ed.) 1966, 364), nations such as

Britain and the United States exerted pressure on the economies of developing
countries for purposes of trade and international relations. Indeed a ‘major
goal of United States foreign policy’ was ‘the political development’ of

Third World countries (Wiarda 1989). Whether this political development has
actually occurred, particularly in Africa, is a matter of great debate (Shaw

1991, Nyang’oro 1989). The images of Ethiopia in the 1980s where famine was
decimating the population, Rwandan civil war and ethnic cleansing, and the

Central African Republic/Congo political leadership struggle have all outlined
the great political, social and economic problems on the continent. In Ethiopia
the feudal, with a few moderations, system has been the dominant political
situation since 1941 (Gilkes 1975). The people of many countries in Africa, even
those with strong ties to colonial powers and well-established infrastructure
(e.g. Tanzania), may have the trappings of modern society (e.g. Television and

Coca-Cola) without having a stable political system. As a result of war, famine,
lack of diversification and their exploitation by foreign powers, these nations
are in massive debt and cannot modernise their society (hence the Cancel Third

World Debt appeal). This can surely not be considered modernisation by the
westernised standards that are imposed upon the term. However, it is important
to note that these same standards