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"Social development" redirects here. For the aspect of human biological development , see psychosocial development . Social change refers to an alteration in the social order of a society . It may refer to the notion of social progress or sociocultural evolution , the philosophical idea that society moves forward by dialectical or evolutionary means. It may refer to a paradigmatic change in the socio-economic structure, for instance a shift away from feudalism and towards capitalism . Accordingly it may also refer to social revolution , such as the Socialist revolution presented in Marxism , or to other social movements , such as Women's suffrage or the Civil rights movement . Social change may be driven by cultural, religious, economic, scientific or technological forces. More generally, social change may include changes in nature , social institutions , social behaviours or social relations . Sociology Outline Theory · History Positivism · Antipositivism Functionalism · Conflict theory Middle-range · Mathematical Critical theory · Socialization Structure and agency Research methods Quantitative · Qualitative Historical · Computational Ethnographic · Network analytic Topics · Subfields Cities · Class · Crime · Culture Deviance · Demography · Education Economy · Environment · Family Gender · Health · Industry · Internet Knowledge · Law · Medicine Politics · Mobility · Race and ethnicity Rationalization · Religion · Science Secularization · Social networks Social psychology · Stratification Browse Portal Category tree · Lists Journals · Sociologists Article index V T E

Social Development

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"Social development" redirects here. For the aspect of human biological development, see psychosocial development.

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Social change refers to an alteration in the social order of a society. It may refer to the notion of social progress or sociocultural evolution, the philosophical idea that society moves forward by dialectical or evolutionary means. It may refer to a paradigmatic change in the socio-economic structure, for instance a shift away from feudalism and towards capitalism. Accordingly it may also refer to social revolution, such as the Socialistrevolution presented in Marxism, or to other social movements, such as Women's suffrage or the Civil rights movement. Social change may be driven by cultural, religious, economic, scientific or technological forces.

More generally, social change may include changes in nature, social institutions, social behaviours or social relations.



1 Prominent theories of social change

2 Some major current social changes

3 See also

4 Notes

5 References

6 External links

[edit]Prominent theories of social change

Basically, change comes from two sources. One source is random or unique factors such as climate, weather, or the presence of specific groups of people. Another source is systematic factors. For example, successful development has the same general requirements, such as a stable and flexible government, enough free and available resources, a diverse social organization of society, and a stable and flexible governmental system. So, on the whole, social change is usually a combination of systematic factors along with some random or unique factors.[1]

Hegelian: The classic Hegelian dialectic model of change is based on the interaction of opposing forces. Starting from a point of momentary stasis, Thesis countered by Antithesis first yields conflict, then it subsequently results in a new Synthesis.

Marxist: Marxism presents a dialectical and materialist concept of history; Humankind's history is a fundamental struggle between social classes.

Kuhnian: The philosopher of science, Thomas Kuhn argues in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions with respect to the Copernican Revolution that people are unlikely to jettison an unworkable paradigm, despite many indications that the paradigm is not functioning properly, until a better paradigm can be presented.

Heraclitan: The Greek philosopher Heraclitus used the metaphor of a river to speak of change thus, "On those stepping into rivers staying the same other and other waters flow" (DK22B12). What Heraclitus seems to be suggesting here, later interpretations notwithstanding, is that, in order for the river to remain the river, change must constantly be taking place. Thus one may think of the Heraclitan model as parallel to that of a living organism, which, in order to remain alive, must constantly be changing.

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Daoist: The Chinese philosophical work Dao De Jing, I.8 and II.78 uses the metaphor of water as the ideal agent of change. Water, although soft and yielding, will eventually wear away stone. Change in this model is to be natural, harmonious and steady, albeit imperceptible.

Resource-based economy: Jacque Fresco's concept of a resource-based economy that replaces the need for the current monetary economy, which is "scarcity-oriented" or "scarcity-based". Fresco argues that the world is rich in natural resources and energy and that — with modern technology and judicious efficiency — the needs of the global population can be met with abundance, while at the same time removing the current limitations of what is deemed possible due to notions of economic viability.

[edit]Some major current social changes

One of the most obvious changes currently occurring is the change in population distribution. In the recent decades, developing countries became a larger proportion of world population, increasing from 68% in 1950 to 82% in 2010, while population of the developed countries has declined from 32% of total world population in 1950 to 18% in 2010. China and India continue to be the largest countries, followed by the US as a distant third. However, population growth throughout the world is slowing. Population growth among developed countries has been slowing since the 1950s, and is now at 0.3% annual growth. Population growth among the less developed countries excluding the least developed has also been slowing, since 1960, and is now at 1.3% annual growth. Population growth among the least developed countries has not really slowed, and is the highest at 2.7% annual growth.[2]

[edit]See also

Social progress is the idea that societies can or do improve in terms of their social, political, and economic structures. This may happen as a result of direct human action, as in social enterprise or through social activism, or as a natural part of sociocultural evolution. The concept of social progress was introduced in the early 19th century social theories, especially those of social evolutionists like Auguste Comte and Herbert Spencer. It was present in the Enlightenment's philosophies of history. As a goal, social progress has been advocated by varying realms of political ideologies with different theories on how it is to be achieved, ranging from socialists on the left to fascists on the right.

John Gast, American Progress, circa 1872.


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1   Enlightenment

o 1.1   The notion of freedom

2   Marxism

3   Modernism

4   Postmodernism

5   Contemporary trends

6   Notes

7   Further reading

8   See also

9   External links


The big breakthrough to a new idea in Europe Enlightenment, when social commentators and philosophers began to realize that people themselvescould change society and change their way of life. Instead of being made completely by gods, there was increasing room for the idea that people themselves made their own society - and not only that, as Giambattista Vico argued, because people practically made their own society, they could also fully comprehend it. This gave rise to new sciences, or proto-sciences, which claimed to provide new scientific knowledge about what society was like, and how one may change it for the better.[1] In turn, this gave rise to progressive opinion, in contrast with conservational opinion. The social conservationists were skeptical about panaceas for social ills. According to conservatives, attempts to radically remake society normally make things worse. Edmund Burke was the leading exponent of this, although later-day liberals like Hayek have espoused similar views. They argue that society changes organically and naturally, and that grand plans for the remaking of society, like the French Revolution, National Socialism and Communism hurt society by removing the traditional constraints on the exercise of power.

[edit]The notion of freedomThis new idea implied a new concept of human freedom, i.e. people independently making their own lives using their own judgment. Initially, this concept appeared rather paradoxical; thus, Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote, "People are born free, but are everywhere in chains". A big breakthrough was the French Revolution of 1789, which inspired a lot of new philosophical thought. In the philosophy of the German thinker Hegel, history radically recasts itself as the continual development of humanity towards ever-greater freedom, continually extending the limits of freedom. This philosophy is still religious and mystical however, insofar as Hegel sees history as culminating in the unity of God with the world, but at the same time, Hegel also affirmed and imputed a Logos or teleology to human history, and fully recognized that both evolutionary and revolutionary transformations took place in history. This was a hopeful philosophy, which in a rational way sees real progress occurring in history.

It was possible to detect human advances, as well as human regressions to an earlier state. In Hegel’s view, if something existed, it was rational. If it passed out of existence, that was because it had become

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irrational. This contained a very important idea, however poorly expressed, namely that history was not a fluke of fate (a kismet) but that it could be rationally understood, at least in principle.


Marx developed a theory of historical materialism. He describes the mid-19th century condition in the Communist Manifesto as follows:

"The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and

thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old

modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier

industrial classes. Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social

conditions, everlasting uncertainty, and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All

fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept

away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all

which is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real condition of life

and his relations with his kind."[citation needed]

Furthermore Marx described the process of social progress which is in his opinion based on the interaction between the productive forces and the relations of production:

"No social order is ever destroyed before all the productive forces for which it is sufficient have been

developed, and new superior relations of production never replace older ones before the material

conditions for their existence have matured within the framework of the old society." [2]

The capitalism is thought by Marx as a process of continual change, in which the growth of markets dissolve all fixities in human life, and Marx admits that capitalism is progressive and non-reactionary. This is an almost absolute rejection of the conservative ethos, according to which nothing really changes in human life. Marxism further states that capitalism, in its quest for higher profits and new markets, will inevitably sow the seeds of its own destruction. Marxists believe that, in the future, capitalism will be replaced by socialism and eventuallycommunism.


“ The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man. ”

—George Bernard Shaw

Many advocates of capitalism such as Schumpeter agreed with Marx's analysis of capitalism as a process of continual change through creative destruction, but, unlike Marx, believed and hoped that capitalism could essentially go on forever.

Thus, by the beginning of the 20th century, two opposing schools of thought - Marxism and liberalism - believed in the possibility and the desirability of continual change and improvement. Marxists strongly

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opposed capitalism and the liberals strongly supported it, but the one concept they could both agree on was modernism.

Modernism is a trend of thought which affirms the power of human beings to make, improve and reshape their society, with the aid of scientific knowledge, technology and practical experimentation. It reaches its extreme limits with the Russian Revolution and the third Chinese revolution, inspired by Marxist ideology. Here, people claimed such confidence in the ability to change their world for the better, which they thought that, in a relatively short time, largely illiterate peasants could begin to build a just, egalitarian and socialist order in a conscious way, armed with science and technology.


“ "As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man.

There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.

That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire." ”—Rudyard Kipling

In the postmodernist thought steadily gaining ground from the 1980s, the grandiose claims of the modernizers are steadily eroded, and the very concept of social progress is again questioned and scrutinized. In the new vision, radical modernizers like Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong appear as totalitarian despots, whose vision of social progress is held to be totally deformed.

Postmodernists question the validity of 19th century and 20th century notions of progress - both on the capitalist and the Marxist side of the spectrum. They argue that both capitalism and Marxism over-emphasize technological achievements and material prosperity while ignoring the value of inner happiness and peace of mind.

Postmodernism posits that both dystopia and utopia are one and the same, over arching grand narratives with impossible conclusions. The romanticism of our past due to present discontent has set western society into a state of nostalgia where modernism is feared. Here the past is re-presented as solution to our current problems.

[edit]Contemporary trends

In the present time, this trend of thought about social progress leads to five main kinds of responses:

Neo-conservatism, which returns to the old idea that nothing ever truly changes in the human condition, and the eternal values of religion. The ability of people to change anything other than themselves is vastly overrated. Here, the emphasis is on honoring a traditional way of life which proved itself as superior in the past, to which we should adhere.

Neo-liberalism, which affirms the power and potential of change, but only on a personal, individual level. The idea that the state should be an instrument of social betterment in society as a whole is totally rejected; only free choices made in markets can hold any promise of social progress.

Socialism, which argues that state direction of social progress could have very important positive results; at the simplest level, would be able to help the poor by taking from the rich. This leads to the defense of public services and assets, and the case for heavy regulation of market activity.

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Resource-based economy, A resource-based economy would replace the need for the current monetary economy, which is "scarcity-oriented" or "scarcity-based". The concept creator Jacque Fresco argues that the world is rich in natural resources and energy and that — with modern technology and judicious efficiency — the needs of the global population can be met with abundance, while at the same time removing the current limitations of what is deemed possible due to notions of economic viability.

Various strands of new radicalism, which begin to question again the objective criteria by which we could measure human social progress. For example, labor productivity might be a criterion of social progress, but how about infant mortality? This kind of thinking rejects the political traditions of the past, and argues that a variety of criteria must be applied to assess social progress. In some cases, this leads to new charters for the moral criteria to which a society should aspire; in other cases, authentic lived experience in society with all its complexities is emphasized.


1. ^ The following annotated reference list appears in J. B. Bury's definitive study: The Idea of

Progress, published in 1920 and available in full on the web:

The history of the idea of Progress has been treated briefly and partially by various French writers; e.g.

Comte, Cours de philosophie positive, vi. 321 sqq.; Buchez, Introduction a la science de l'histoire, i. 99 sqq.

(ed. 2, 1842); Javary, De l'idee de progres (1850); Rigault, Histoire de la querelle des Anciens et des

Modernes (1856); Bouillier, Histoire de la philosophie cartesienne (1854); Caro, Problemes de la morale

sociale (1876); Brunetiere, "La Formation de l'idee de progres", in Etudes critiques, 5e serie. More recently

M. Jules Delvaille has attempted to trace its history fully, down to the end of the eighteenth century.

His Histoire de l'idee de progres (1910) is planned on a large scale; he is erudite and has read extensively.

But his treatment is lacking in the power of discrimination. He strikes one as anxious to bring within his net,

as theoriciens du progres, as many distinguished thinkers as possible; and so, along with a great deal that

is useful and relevant, we also find in his book much that is irrelevant. He has not clearly seen that the

distinctive idea of Progress was not conceived in antiquity or in the Middle Ages, or even in the

Renaissance period; and when he comes to modern times he fails to bring out clearly the decisive steps of

its growth. And he does not seem to realize that a man might be "progressive" without believing in, or even

thinking about, the doctrine of Progress. Leonardo da Vinci and Berkeley are examples. In my Ancient

Greek Historians (1909) I dwelt on the modern origin of the idea (p. 253 sqq.). Recently Mr. R. H. Murray, in

a learned appendix to his Erasmus and Luther, has developed the thesis that Progress was not grasped in

antiquity (though he makes an exception of Seneca), -- a welcome confirmation.

2. ^ Marx, Karl. "Preface". Critique of political economy.

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This article is about the theory that scientific and social progress improves the human condition. For the concept of Progress in the abstract, see Progress (history).

In historiography, the Idea of Progress is the theory that advances in technology, science, and social organization inevitably produce an improvement in the human condition. That is, people can become happier in terms of quality of life (social progress) through economic development (modernization), and the application of science and technology (scientific progress). The assumption is that the process will happen once people apply their reason and skills, for it is not divinely foreordained. The role of the expert is to identify hindrances that slow or neutralize progress.

Historian J. B. Bury wrote in 1920:[1]

“ "To the minds of most people the desirable outcome of human development would be a condition of society in which all the inhabitants of the planet would enjoy a perfectly happy existence....It cannot be proved that the unknown destination towards which man is advancing is desirable. The movement may be Progress, or it may be in an undesirable direction and therefore not Progress..... The Progress of humanity belongs to the same order of ideas as Providence or personal immortality. It is true or it is false, and like them it cannot be proved either true or false. Belief in it is an act of faith. ”

Sociologist Robert Nisbet finds that "No single idea has been more important than...the Idea of Progress in Western civilization for three thousand years.",[2] and defines five "crucial premises" of Idea of Progress:

1. value of the past2. nobility of Western civilization3. worth of economic/technological growth4. faith in reason and scientific/scholarly knowledge obtained through reason5. intrinsic importance and worth of life on earth.

The Idea of Progress emerged primarily in the Enlightenment in the 18th century. Significant movements in this period were Diderot's Encyclopedia, which carried on the campaign against authority and superstition, and the French Revolution.

Some scholars consider the idea of progress that was affirmed with the Enlightenment, as a secularization of ideas from early Christianity, and a rework of ideas from ancient Greece.[3][4][5] The theory of evolution in the nineteenth century made progress a necessary law of nature and gave the doctrine its first conscious scientific form. The idea was challenged by the 20th century realization that destruction, as in the two world wars, could grow out of technical progress.



1   History

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o 1.1   Antiquity

o 1.2   Enlightenment

1.2.1   American Revolution

o 1.3   Modernization

1.3.1   Italy

1.3.2   Russia

1.3.3   Latin America

1.3.4   China

2   Economic development

3   Status of women

4   Criticism

o 4.1   Myth of Progress

o 4.2   Environmentalism

5   See also

6   References

7   Bibliography


Main article: Progress (history)

[edit]AntiquityHistorian J. B. Bury argued that thought in ancient Greece was dominated by the theory of world-cycles or the doctrine of eternal return, and was steeped in a belief parallel to the Judaic "fall of man," but rather from a preceding "Golden Age" of innocence and simplicity. Time was generally regarded as the enemy of humanity which depreciates the value of the world. He credits the Epicureans with having had a potential for leading to the foundation of a theory of Progress through their materialistic acceptance of the atomism of Democritus as the explanation for a world without an intervening Deity. "For them, the earliest condition of men resembled that of the beasts, and from this primitive and miserable condition they laboriously reached the existing state of civilisation, not by external guidance or as a consequence of some initial design, but simply by the exercise of human intelligence throughout a long period."

Robert Nisbet and Gertrude Himmelfarb have attributed a notion of progress to other Greeks. Xenophanes said "The gods did not reveal to men all things in the beginning, but men through their own search find in the course of time that which is better." Plato's Book III of The Laws depicts humanity's progress from a state of nature to the higher levels of culture, economy, and polity. Plato's The Statesman also outlines a historical account of the progress of mankind. The Roman philosopher Seneca[disambiguation needed  ] recognized the progress of knowledge, but he did not expect from it any improvement in the world, because any advance in the arts and inventions promotes deterioration by ministering to luxury and vice.[6] Nisbet notes that the Christian idea of progress is a fusing of Greek and

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Jewish concepts and that "nothing in the entire history of the idea of progress is more important" than the Christian incorporation of Jewish millenarianism, resulting in an understanding of time which is optimistic and progressive.,[7]

[edit]EnlightenmentThe scientific advances of the 16th and 17th centuries provided a basis for the optimistic outlook of Bacon's 'New Atlantis.'[Need quotation to verify] In the 17th century Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle argued in favor of progress with respect to arts and the sciences, saying that each age has the advantage of not having to rediscover what was accomplished in preceding ages. The epistemology of John Locke provided further support and was popularized by the Encyclopedists Diderot, Holbach, and Condorcet. Locke had a powerful influence on the American Founding Fathers.[8]

In the Enlightenment, French historian and philosopher Voltaire (1694–1778) was a major proponent. At first Voltaire's thought was informed by the Idea of Progress coupled with rationalism. His subsequent notion of the historical Idea of Progress saw science and reason as the driving forces behind societal advancement. The first complete statement of progress is that of Turgot, in his "A Philosophical Review of the Successive Advances of the Human Mind" (1750). For Turgot progress covers not simply the arts and sciences but, on their base, the whole of culture—manner, mores, institutions, legal codes, economy, and society. Condorcet predicted the disappearance of slavery, the rise of literacy, the lessening of in-equalities between the sexes, reforms of harsh prisons and the decline of poverty. [9]

Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) argued that progress is neither automatic nor continuous and does not measure knowledge or wealth, but is a painful and largely inadvertent passage from barbarism through civilization toward enlightened culture and the abolition of war. Kant called for education, with the education of humankind seen as a slow process whereby world history propels mankind toward peace through war, international commerce, and enlightened self-interest.[10]

Scottish theorist Adam Ferguson (1723–1816) defined human progress as the working out of a divine plan, though he rejected predestination. The difficulties and dangers of life provided the necessary stimuli for human development, while the uniquely human ability to evaluate led to ambition and the conscious striving for excellence. But he never adequately analyzed the competitive and aggressive consequences stemming from his emphasis on ambition even though he envisioned man's lot as a perpetual striving with no earthly culmination. Man found his happiness only in effort.[11]

[edit]American RevolutionThe intellectual leaders of the American Revolution—such as Benjamin Franklin, Tom Paine, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, were immersed in Enlightenment thought and believed the Idea of Progress meant that they could reorganize the political system to the benefit of the human condition—for Americans and also, as Jefferson put it, for an "Empire of Liberty" that would benefit all mankind. Thus was born the idea of inevitable American future progress. What gave the American Revolution its widespread appeal and linked it to all subsequent political revolutions was its association with the Idea of Progress. [citation needed]

The most original 'New World' contribution to historical thought was the idea that history is not exhausted but that man may begin again in a new world. Besides rejecting the lessons of the past, the Jeffersonians Americanized the Idea of Progress by democratizing and vulgarizing it to include the welfare of the common man as a form of republicanism. As Romantics deeply concerned with the past, collecting source materials and founding historical societies, the Founding Fathers were animated by clear

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principles. They saw man in control of his destiny, saw virtue as a distinguishing characteristic of a republic, and were concerned with happiness, progress, and prosperity. Thomas Paine, combining the spirit of rationalism and romanticism, pictured a time when America's innocence would sound like a romance, and concluded that the fall of America could mark the end of 'the noblest work of human wisdom.'[12]

That human liberty was put on the agenda of fundamental concerns of the modern world was recognized by the revolutionaries as well as by many British commentators. Yet, within two years after the adoption of the Constitution, the American Revolution had to share the spotlight with the French Revolution. The American Revolution was eclipsed, and, in the 20th century, lost its appeal even for subject peoples involved in similar movements for self-determination. Thus, its life as a model for political revolutions was relatively short. The reason for this development lies in the fact that its concerns and preoccupations were overwhelmingly political; economic demands and social unrest remained largely peripheral. After the middle of the 19th century, all political revolutions would ultimately have to involve themselves with social questions and become revolutions of modernization. But the American Colonies in the 1770s, in contrast to all other colonies, had been modern from the beginning. The American patriots were protecting the modernity and liberty they had already achieved, while later revolutions were fighting to obtain liberty for the first time. However, since so few modern revolutions have evinced much concern for the preservation and extension of human freedom, the American model may still come to provide a lesson for the future. [13]

The notion that America is a highly favorable place for people seeking progress in their own lives comprises the American Dream.[14]

[edit]Modernization"Modernity" or "modernization" was a key form of the Idea of progress as promoted by classical liberals in the 19th and 20th centuries, who called for the rapid modernization of the economy and society to remove the traditional hindrances to free markets and free movements of people.[15]

John Stuart Mill's (1806–73) ethical and political thought assumed a great faith in the power of ideas and of intellectual education for improving human nature or behavior. For those who do not share this faith the very Idea of Progress becomes questionable.[16]

The influential English philosopher Herbert Spencer (1820–1903) in The Principles of Sociology (1876) and The Principles of Ethics (1879) proclaimed a universal law of socio-political development: societies moved from a military organization to a base in industrial production. As society evolved, he argued, there would be greater individualism, greater altruism, greater co-operation, and a more equal freedom for everyone. The laws of human society would produce the changes, and he said the only role for government was military police, and enforcement of civil contracts in courts. Many libertarians adopted his perspective.[17]

Iggers (1965) argues there was general agreement in the late 19th century that the steady accumulation of knowledge and the progressive replacement of conjectural, that is, theological or metaphysical, notions by scientific ones was what created progress. Most scholars concluded this growth of scientific knowledge and methods led to the growth of industry and the transformation of warlike societies into an industrial and pacific one. They agreed as well that there had been a systematic decline of coercion in government and the increasing role liberty and of rule by consent. There was more emphasis on impersonal social and historical forces; progress was increasingly seen as the result of an inner logic of society. [18]

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[edit]ItalyIn Italy the idea that progress in science and technology would lead to solutions for human ills was connected to the nationalism that united the country in 1860. The new Kingdom of Italy, formed in 1861, worked to speed up the processes of modernization and industrialization that had begun in northern, but were slow to arrive in the Papal States in and central Italy, and were nowhere in sight in the "Mezzogiorno" (that is, Southern Italy, Sicily and Sardinia). The government sought to combat the backwardness of the poorer regions in the south and towards augmenting the size and quality of the newly created Italian army so that it could compete on an equal footing with the powerful nations of Europe. In the same period, the government was legislating in favour of public education to fight the great problem of illiteracy, upgrade the teaching classes, improve existing schools and procure the funds needed for social hygiene and care of the body as factors in the physical and moral regeneration of the race.[19]

[edit]RussiaIn Russia the notion of progress was first imported from the West by Peter the Great (1672–1725). An absolute ruler, he used the concept to transform backward Russia and to legitimize his monarchy (quite unlike its usage in Western Europe, where it was primarily associated with political opposition). By the early 19th century the notion of progress was being taken up by intellectuals in Russia and was no longer accepted as legitimate by the tsars. Four schools of thought on progress emerged in 19th-century Russia: conservative (reactionary), religious, liberal, and socialist - the latter winning out in the form of Bolshevist materialism.[20]

[edit]Latin AmericaJuan Bautista Alberdi (1810–1884) was one of the most influential political theorists in Argentina. Economic liberalism which was the key to his Idea of Progress. He promoted faith in progress, while chiding fellow Latin Americans for blind copying of American and European models. He hoped for progress through promotion of immigration, education, and a moderate type of federalism and republicanism that might serve as transition in Argentina to true democracy. [21] In Mexico, Jose Mora (1795–1856) was a leader of classical liberalism in the first generation after independence, leading the battle against the conservative trinity, the army, the church, and the 'hacendados.' He envisioned progress as both a process of human development by the search for philosophical truth and as the introduction of an era of material prosperity by technological advancement. His plan for Mexican reform demanded a republican government bolstered by widespread popular education free of clerical control, confiscation and sale of ecclesiastical lands as a means of redistributing income and clearing government debts, and effective control of a reduced military force by the government. Mora also demanded the establishment of legal equality between native Mexicans and foreign residents. His program, untried in his lifetime, became the key element in the Constitution of 1857 and remains the basic aim of the Mexican government to this day.[22]

[edit]ChinaUnlike Confucianism and to a certain extent Daoism, that both search for an ideal past, the Judeo-Christian tradition believes in the fulfillment of history, which was translated into the Idea of Progress in the modern age. Therefore Chinese proponents of modernization have looked to western models. In the 20th century the KMT or Nationalist party, which ruled from the 1920s to the 1940s, advocated progress. The Communists under Mao Zedong rejected western models and their ruinous projects caused mass

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famines. After Mao's death, however, the new regime led by Deng Xiaoping (1904–97) and his successors aggressively promoted modernization of the economy using capitalist models and imported western technology.[23]

[edit]Economic development

Alfred Marshall (1842–1924) was the most influential British economist of the early 20th century, and a proponent of classical liberalism. In his highly influential Principles of Economics(1890), he was deeply interested in human progress and in what is now called sustainable development. For Marshall, the importance of wealth lay in its ability to promote the physical, mental, and moral health of the general population.[24] After World War II, the modernization and development programs undertaken in the Third World were typically based on the Idea of Progress.[25]

[edit]Status of women

How progress improved the degraded status of women in traditional society was a major theme of historians starting in the Enlightenment and continuing to today.[26] British theoristsWilliam Robertson (1721–93) and Edmund Burke (1729–97), along with many of their contemporaries, remained committed to Christian- and republican-based conceptions of virtue, while working within a new Enlightenment paradigm. The political agenda related beauty, taste, and morality to the imperatives and needs of modern societies of a high level of sophistication and differentiation. Two themes in the work of Robertson and Burke - the nature of women in 'savage' and 'civilized' societies and 'beauty in distress' - reveals how long-held convictions about the character of women, especially with regard to their capacity and right to appear in the public domain, were modified and adjusted to the Idea of Progress and became central to an enlightened affirmation of modern European civilization.[27]

Classics experts have examined the status of women in the ancient world, concluding that in the Roman Empire, with its superior social organization, internal peace, and rule of law, allowed women to enjoy a somewhat better standing than in ancient Greece, where women were distinctly inferior.[28] The inferior status of women in traditional China has raised the issue of whether the Idea of Progress requires a thoroughgoing reject of traditionalism—a belief held by many Chinese reformers in the early 20th century.[29]

Historians Leo Marx and Bruce Mazlish asking, "Should we in fact abandon the idea of progress as a view of the past," answer that there is no doubt "that the status of women has improved markedly" in cultures that have adopted the Enlightenment idea of progress.[30]


In the 19th century Romantic critics charged that progress did not automatically better the human condition, and indeed in some ways it may make it worse.[31]

Thomas Malthus (1766–1834) reacted against the concept of progress as set forth by William Godwin and Condorcet because he believed that inequality of conditions is 'the best calculated to develop the energies and faculties of man.' He said, 'Had population and food increased in the same ratio, it is probable that man might never have emerged from the savage state.' He argued that man's capacity for improvement has been demonstrated by the growth of his intellect, a form of progress which offsets the distresses engendered by the law of population.[32]

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A fierce opponent of the Idea of Progress was German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), who became the prophet of decadence, scorning the 'weakling's doctrines of optimism,' and in his diagnoses of the times undermining the pillars of modernism, including faith in progress, to allow the strong individual to stand with his radical value system above the plebeian masses. An important part of his radically critical thinking consists of the attempt to use the classical model of 'eternal recurrence of the same' to dislodge the Idea of Progress.[33]

A cyclical theory of history was adopted by Oswald Spengler (1880–1936), a German historian who wrote a very influential pessimistic study of the end of progress called The Decline of the West (1920). The horrors of World War I challenged the unblinking optimism of the modernizers. Clearly progress would not be automatic, and the rise of totalitarianism in the 20th century undercut the idea that technological improvement guaranteed democracy and moral advancement. Spengler was challenged by the optimism of British historian Arnold J. Toynbee (1889–1975), who felt that Christianity would help modern civilization overcome its challenges.[34]

The strongest critics of the Idea of Progress complain that it remains a dominant idea in the 21st century, and shows no sign of diminished influence. As one fierce critic, British historian John Gray, concludes: [35]

"Faith in the liberating power of knowledge is encrypted into modern life. Drawing on some of

Europe's most ancient traditions, and daily reinforced by the quickening advance of science, it

cannot be given up by an act of will. The interaction of quickening scientific advance with

unchanging human needs is a fate that we may perhaps temper, but cannot overcome....Those

who hold to the possibility of progress need not fear. The illusion that through science humans

can remake the world is an integral part of the modern condition. Renewing the eschatological

hopes of the past, progress is an illusion with a future."[edit]Myth of ProgressSome 20th century authors refer to the "Myth of Progress" to challenge the Idea of Progress, especially the assumption that the human condition will inevitably improve. In 1932 English physician Montague David Eder wrote: "The myth of progress states that civilization has moved, is moving, and will move in a desirable direction. Progress is inevitable..... Philosophers, men of science and politicians have accepted the idea of the inevitability of progress."[36] Eder argues that the advancement of civilization is leading to greater unhappiness and loss of control in the environment.

Sociologist P. A. Sorokin argued, "The ancient Chinese, Babylonian, Hindu, Greek, Roman and most of the medieval thinkers supporting theories of rhythmical, cyclical or trendless movements of social processes were much nearer to reality than the present proponents of the linear view." [37]

Philosopher Karl Popper emphasized the inadequacies of the Idea of Progress as a scientific explanation of social phenomena.[38] More recently, Kirkpatrick Sale, a self-proclaimed neo-luddite author, wrote exclusively about progress as a myth, in an essay entitled "Five Facets of a Myth".[39]

Iggers (1965) says the great failing of the prophets of progress was that they underestimated the extent of man's destructiveness and irrationality. The failing of the critics of the Idea of Progress, he adds, came in misunderstanding the role of rationality and morality in human behavior.[40]

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[edit]EnvironmentalismAmong environmentalists, there is a continuum between two opposing poles. The one pole is optimistic, progressive, and business-oriented, and endorses the classic Idea of Progress. For example Bright Green environmentalism endorses the idea that new designs, social innovations and green technologies can solve critical environmental challenges. The other is pessimistic in respect of technological solutions, warning of impending global crisis (through climate change or peak oil, for example) and tends to reject the very idea of modernity and the myth of progress that is so central to modernization thinking.[41] Similarly, Kirkpatrick Sale, wrote about progress as a myth benefiting the few and pending environmental doomsday for everyone.[42]. An example is the philosophy of Deep Ecology.

"Cultural evolution" redirects here. For gene-culture coevolution, see Dual inheritance theory.



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Sociocultural evolution(ism) is an umbrella term for theories of cultural evolution and social evolution, describing how cultures and societieshave changed over time. Note that "sociocultural evolution" is not an equivalent of "sociocultural development" (unified processes of differentiation and integration involving increases in sociocultural complexity), as sociocultural evolution also encompasses sociocultural transformations accompanied by decreases of complexity (degeneration) as well as ones not accompanied by any significant changes of sociocultural complexity (cladogenesis).[1] Thus, sociocultural evolution can be defined as "the process by which structural reorganization is affected through time, eventually producing a form or structure which is qualitatively different from the ancestral form."

Most 19th century and some 20th century approaches aimed to provide models for the evolution of humankind as a whole, arguing that different societies are at different stages of social development. The most comprehensive attempt to develop a general theory of social evolution centering on the development of socio-cultural systems was done by Talcott Parsons on a scale which included a theory of world-history. Another attempt both on a less systematic scale was attempted by World System approach.

Many of the more recent 20th-century approaches focus on changes specific to individual societies and reject the idea of directional change, orsocial progress. Most archaeologists and cultural anthropologists work within the framework of modern theories of sociocultural evolution. Modern

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approaches to sociocultural evolution include neoevolutionism, sociobiology, the theory of modernization and the theory of postindustrial society.



1   Introduction

2   Classical social evolutionism

o 2.1   Development

3   Organic society

4   Stadial theory

o 4.1   Sociocultural evolutionism and the idea of progress

o 4.2   Critique and impact on modern theories

o 4.3   Max Weber, disenchantment, and critical theory

5   Modern theories

o 5.1   Neoevolutionism

o 5.2   Sociobiology

o 5.3   Theory of modernization

o 5.4   Prediction for a stable cultural and social future

o 5.5   Theory of postindustrial society

6   Contemporary discourse about sociocultural evolution

7   See also

8   Notes

9   References

10   Further reading

o 10.1   Readings from an evolutionary anthropological perspective

11   External links


Anthropologists and sociologists often assume that human beings have natural social tendencies and that particular human social behaviours have non-genetic causes and dynamics (i.e. they are learned in a social environment and through social interaction). Societies exist in complex social environments (i.e. with natural resources and constraints), and adaptthemselves to these environments. It is thus inevitable that all societies change.

Specific theories of social or cultural evolution are usually meant to explain differences between coeval societies, by positing that different societies are at different stages of development. Although such theories typically provide models for understanding the relationship

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between technologies, social structure, or values of a society, they vary as to the extent to which they describe specific mechanisms of variation and change.

Early sociocultural evolution theories—the theories of Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer and Lewis Henry Morgan—developed simultaneously with, but independently of, Charles Darwin's works and were popular from the late 19th century to the end of World War I. These 19th-century unilineal evolution theories claimed that societies start out in a primitive state and gradually become more civilized over time, and equated the culture and technology of Western civilization with progress. Some forms of early sociocultural evolution theories (mainly unilineal ones) have led to much criticised theories like social Darwinism, and scientific racism, used in the past to justify existing policies of colonialism and slavery, and to justify new policies such as eugenics.

Most 19th-century and some 20th-century approaches aimed to provide models for the evolution of humankind as a single entity. However, most 20th-century approaches, such asmultilineal evolution, focused on changes specific to individual societies. Moreover, they rejected directional change (i.e. orthogenetic, teleological or progressive change). Mostarchaeologists work within the framework of multilineal evolution. Other contemporary approaches to social change include neoevolutionism, sociobiology, dual inheritance theory, theory of modernisation and theory of postindustrial society.

Richard Dawkins wrote in The Selfish Gene in 1976 that "there are some examples of cultural evolution in birds and monkeys, but ... it is our own species that really shows what cultural evolution can do". [2]

[edit]Classical social evolutionism


In the unilineal evolution model at left, all cultures progress through set stages, while in the multilineal evolution model at

right, distinctive culture histories are emphasized.

[edit]Organic society

Several centuries before Western civilisation developed the science of sociology, the 14th century Islamic scholar Ibn Khaldunconcluded that societies are living organisms that, due to universal

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causes, experience cyclic birth, growth, maturity, decline, and ultimately death. Theories of social and cultural evolution were common in modern European thought. Prior to the 18th century, Europeans predominantly believed that societies on Earth were in a state of decline.[citation needed] European society held up the world of antiquity as a standard to aspire to, and Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome produced levels of technical accomplishment which Europeans of the Middle Ages sought to emulate. At the same time, Christianity taught that people lived in a debased world fundamentally inferior to the Garden of Eden and Heaven.[citation needed] During The Age of Enlightenment, however, European self-confidence grew and the notion of progress became increasingly popular. It was during this period that what would later become known as "sociological and cultural evolution" would have its roots.

[edit]Stadial theory

The Enlightenment thinkers often speculated that societies progressed through stages of increasing development and looked for the logic, order and the set of scientific truths that determined the course of human history. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, for example, argued that social development was an inevitable and determined process, similar to an acorn which has no choice but to become an oak tree.[citation needed] Likewise, it was assumed that societies start out primitive, perhaps in a Hobbesian state of nature, and naturally progress toward something resembling industrial Europe.

While earlier authors such as Michel de Montaigne discussed how societies change through time, it was truly the Scottish Enlightenment which proved key in the development of sociocultural evolution.[citation

needed] After Scotland's union with England in 1707, several Scottish thinkers pondered the relationship between progress and the 'decadence' brought about by increased trade with England and the affluence it produced. The result was a series of "conjectural histories". Authors such as Adam Ferguson, John Millar, and Adam Smithargued that all societies pass through a series of four stages: hunting and gathering, pastoralism and nomadism, agriculture, and finally a stage of commerce. These thinkers thus understood the changes Scotland was undergoing as a transition from an agricultural to a mercantile society.

Auguste Comte

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Philosophical concepts of progress (such as those expounded by the German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel) developed as well during this period. InFrance authors such as Claude Adrien Helvétius and other philosophes were influenced by this Scottish tradition. Later thinkers such as Comte de Saint-Simon developed these ideas.[citation needed] Auguste Comte in particular presented a coherent view of social progress and a new discipline to study it—sociology.

These developments took place in a wider context. The first process was colonialism. Although imperial powers settled most differences of opinion with their colonial subjects through force, increased awareness of non-Western peoples raised new questions for European scholars about the nature of society and culture. Similarly, effective administration required some degree of understanding of other cultures. Emerging theories of sociocultural evolution allowed Europeans to organise their new knowledge in a way that reflected and justified their increasing political and economic domination of others: colonised people were less evolved, colonising people were more evolved. When the 17th-century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes described indigenous people as having "no arts, no letters, no society" and their life as "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short", he was defining the stereotype of a "savage," one that would last for many years. Modern civilization, understood as the Western civilization, was the result of steady progress from such a state, and such a notion was common to many thinkers of the Enlightenment, includingVoltaire.

The second process was the Industrial Revolution and the rise of capitalism which allowed and promoted continual revolutions in the means of production. Emerging theories of sociocultural evolution reflected a belief that the changes in Europe wrought by the Industrial Revolution and capitalism were improvements. Industrialisation, combined with the intense political change brought about by the French Revolution and the U.S. Constitution, which were paving the way for the dominance of democracy, forced European thinkers to reconsider some of their assumptions about how society was organised.

Eventually, in the 19th century three great classical theories of social and historical change were created: sociocultural evolutionism, the social cycle theory, and Marxist historical materialism.[3] Those theories had one common factor: they all agreed that the history of humanity is pursuing a certain fixed path, most likely that of social progress.[3] Thus, each past event is not only chronologically, but causally tied to the present and future events.[3] Those theories postulated that by recreating the sequence of those events, sociology could discover the laws of history.[3]

[edit]Sociocultural evolutionism and the idea of progressMain article: Unilineal evolution

While sociocultural evolutionists agree that an evolution-like process leads to social progress, classical social evolutionists have developed many different theories, known as theories ofunilineal evolution. Sociocultural evolutionism was the prevailing theory of early sociocultural anthropology and social commentary, and is associated with scholars like Auguste Comte,Edward Burnett Tylor, Lewis Henry Morgan, Benjamin Kidd, L.T. Hobhouse and Herbert Spencer. Sociocultural evolutionism attempted to formalise social thinking along scientific lines, with the added influence from the biological theory of evolution. If organisms could develop over time according to discernible, deterministic laws, then it seemed reasonable that societies could as well. Human society was compared to a biological organism, and social science equivalents of concepts like variation, natural selection, and inheritance were introduced as factors resulting in the progress of societies. Idea of progress led to that of a fixed "stages" through which human societies progress, usually numbering three—savagery, barbarism, and civilization

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—but sometimes many more. As early as the late 18th century Marquis de Condorcet listed 10 stages, or "epochs", each advancing the rights of man and perfecting the human race. At that time, anthropology was rising as a new scientific discipline, separating from the traditional views of "primitive" cultures that was usually based on religious views.

Herbert Spencer

Classical social evolutionism is most closely associated with the 19th-century writings of Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer (coiner of the phrase "survival of the fittest").[4] In many ways Spencer's theory of "cosmic evolution" has much more in common with the works of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and Auguste Comte than with contemporary works of Charles Darwin. Spencer also developed and published his theories several years earlier than Darwin. In regard to social institutions, however, there is a good case that Spencer's writings might be classified as 'Social Evolutionism'. Although he wrote that societies over time progressed, and that progress was accomplished through competition, he stressed that the individual (rather than the collectivity) is the unit of analysis that evolves, that evolution takes place through natural selection and that it affects social as well as biological phenomenon. Nonetheless, the publication of Darwin's works proved a boon to the proponents of sociocultural evolution. The ideas of biological evolution was seen as an attractive explanation for many questions about the development of society.

Both Spencer and Comte view the society as a kind of organism subject to the process of growth—from simplicity to complexity, from chaos to order, from generalisation to specialisation, from flexibility to organisation.[4] They agreed that the process of societies growth can be divided into certain stages, have their beginning and eventual end, and that this growth is in fact social progress—each newer, more evolved society is better.[4] Thus progressivism became one of the basic ideas underlying the theory of sociocultural evolutionism.[4]

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Auguste Comte, known as father of sociology, formulated the law of three stages: human development progresses from the theological stage, in which nature was mythically conceived and man sought the explanation of natural phenomena from supernatural beings, through metaphysical stage in which nature was conceived of as a result of obscure forces and man sought the explanation of natural phenomena from them until the final positive stage in which all abstract and obscure forces are discarded, and natural phenomena are explained by their constant relationship.[5]This progress is forced through the development of human mind, and increasing application of thought, reasoning and logic to the understanding of the world.[6] For Comte, it was the science-valuing society that was the highest, most developed type of human organization.[5]

Herbert Spencer, who argued against government intervention, believing that society evolution should be toward increasing individual freedom,[7]differentiated between two phases of development, focusing on the type of internal regulation within societies.[5] Thus he differentiated between military and industrial societies.[5] The earlier, more primitive military society has a goal of conquest and defense, is centralised, economically self-sufficient, collectivistic, puts the good of a group over the good of an individual, uses compulsion, force and repression, rewards loyalty, obedience and discipline.[5] The industrial society has a goal of production and trade, is decentralised, interconnected with other societies via economic relations, achieves its goals through voluntary cooperation and individual self-restraint, treats the good of individual as the highest value, regulates the social life via voluntary relations, values initiative, independence and innovation.[5][8] The transition process from the military to industrial society is the outcome of steady evolutionary processes within the society.[5]

Regardless of how scholars of Spencer interpret his relation to Darwin, Spencer proved to be an incredibly popular figure in the 1870s, particularly in the United States. Authors such asEdward L. Youmans, William Graham Sumner, John Fiske, John W. Burgess, Lester Frank Ward, Lewis H. Morgan and other thinkers of the gilded age all developed theories of social evolutionism as a result of their exposure to Spencer as well as Darwin.

Lewis H. Morgan

Lewis H. Morgan, an anthropologist whose ideas have had much impact on sociology, in his 1877 classic Ancient Societies differentiated between three eras: savagery, barbarism and civilization, which are divided by technological inventions, like fire, bow, pottery in the savage era, domestication of animals,agriculture, metalworking in the barbarian era and alphabet and writing in the civilization era.[9] Thus Morgan introduced a link between social progress andtechnological progress. Morgan viewed technological progress as a force behind social progress, and any social change—in social institutions, organizations or ideologies—has its beginnings in technological change.[9][10] Morgan's theories were

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popularized by Friedrich Engels, who based his famous work The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State on it.[9] For Engels and other Marxists, this theory was important as it supported their conviction that materialistic factors—economic and technological—are decisive in shaping the fate of humanity.[9]

Edward Burnett Tylor, pioneer of anthropology, focused on the evolution of culture worldwide, noting that culture is an important part of every society and that it is also subject to the process of evolution. He believed that societies were at different stages of cultural development and that the purpose of anthropology was to reconstruct the evolution of culture, from primitive beginnings to the modern state.

Edward Burnett Tylor

Anthropologists Sir E.B. Tylor in England and Lewis Henry Morgan in the United States worked with data fromindigenous people, who they claimed represented earlier stages of cultural evolution that gave insight into the process and progression of evolution of culture. Morgan would later have a significant influence on Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who developed a theory of sociocultural evolution in which the internal contradictions in society created a series of escalating stages that ended in a socialist society (seeMarxism). Tylor and Morgan elaborated the theory of unilinear evolution, specifying criteria for categorising cultures according to their standing within a fixed system of growth of humanity as a whole and examining the modes and mechanisms of this growth. Theirs was often a concern with culture in general, not with individual cultures.

Their analysis of cross-cultural data was based on three assumptions:

1. contemporary societies may be classified and ranked as more "primitive" or more "civilized";2. There are a determinate number of stages between "primitive" and "civilized"

(e.g. band, tribe, chiefdom, and state),3. All societies progress through these stages in the same sequence, but at different rates.

Theorists usually measured progression (that is, the difference between one stage and the next) in terms of increasing social complexity (including class differentiation and a complex division of labour), or an

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increase in intellectual, theological, and aesthetic sophistication. These 19th-centuryethnologists used these principles primarily to explain differences in religious beliefs and kinship terminologies among various societies.

Lester Frank Ward

Lester Frank Ward, sometimes referred to as the "father" of American sociology, rejected many of Spencer's theories regarding the evolution of societies. Ward, who was also a botanist and a paleontologist, believed that the law of evolution functioned much differently in human societies than it did in the plant and animal kingdoms, and theorized that the "law of nature" had been superseded by the "law of the mind".[1] He stressed that humans, driven by emotions, create goals for themselves and strive to realize them (most effectively with the modern scientific method) whereas there is no such intelligence and awareness guiding the non-human world.[11] Plants and animals adapt to nature; man shapes nature. While Spencer believed that competition and 'survival of the fittest" benefited human society and socio-cultural evolution, Ward considered competition to be a destructive force, pointing out that all human institutions, traditions and laws were tools invented by the mind of man and, like all tools, were designed to "meet and checkmate" the unrestrained competition of natural forces.[2] Ward agreed with Spencer that authoritarian governments repress the talents of the individual, but he believed that modern democratic societies, in which role of religion was minimized and that of science was maximized, could effectively support the individual in his or her attempt to fully utilize their talents and achieve happiness. He believed that there were four stages to the evolutionary processes. First, there is cosmogenesis, creation and evolution of the world. Then, when life arises, there is biogenesis.[11] Development of humanity leads to anthropogenesis, which is influenced by the human mind.[11] Finally, there is sociogenesis, which is the science of shaping the evolutionary process itself to optimize progress, human happiness and individual self-actualization.[11] While Ward believed that modern societies were superior to "primitive" societies (one need only look to the impact of medical science on health and lifespan) he rejected theories of white supremacy; he supported the Out-of-Africatheory of human evolution and believed that all races and social classes were equal in talent.[3] However, Ward did not think that evolutionary progress was inevitable and he feared the degeneration of societies and cultures, which was very evident in the historical record.[4] Ward also did not favor the radical reshaping of society as proposed by the supporters of theeugenics movement and by the followers of Karl Marx; like Comte,

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Ward believed that sociology was the most complex of the sciences and that true sociogenesis was impossible without considerable research and experimentation.[5]

Émile Durkheim

Émile Durkheim, another of the "fathers" of sociology, developed a dichotomal view of social progress.[12] His key concept was social solidarity, as he defined social evolution in terms of progressing from mechanical solidarity to organic solidarity.[12] In mechanical solidarity, people are self-sufficient, there is little integration and thus there is the need for use of force and repression to keep society together. [12] In organic solidarity, people are much more integrated and interdependent and specialisation and cooperation are extensive.[12] Progress from mechanical to organic solidarity is based first on population growth and increasing population density, second on increasing "morality density" (development of more complex social interactions) and thirdly, on the increasing specialisation in the workplace.[12] To Durkheim, the most important factor in social progress is the division of labour.[12] This was later used in the mid-1900s by the economist Ester Boserup to attempt to discount some aspects of Malthusian theory.

Ferdinand Tönnies describes evolution as the development from informal society, where people have many liberties and there are few laws and obligations, to modern, formal rational society, dominated by traditions and laws, where people are restricted from acting as they wish.[13] He also notes that there is a tendency of standardisation and unification, when all smaller societies are absorbed into a single, large, modern society.[13]Thus Tönnies can be said to describe part of the process known today as globalization. Tönnies was also one of the first sociologists to claim that the evolution of society is not necessarily going in the right direction, that social progress is not perfect, and it can even be called a regression as the newer, more evolved societies are obtained only after paying a high cost, resulting in decreasing satisfaction of individuals making up that society.[13] Tönnies' work became the foundation of neoevolutionism.[13]

Although not usually counted as a sociocultural evolutionist, Max Weber's theory of tripartite classification of authority can be viewed as an evolutionary theory as well. Weber distinguishes three ideal types of

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political leadership, domination and authority: charismatic domination (familial and religious), traditional domination (patriarchs, patrimonalism, feudalism) and legal (rational) domination (modern law and state, bureaucracy). He also notes that legal domination is the most advanced, and that societies evolve from having mostly traditional and charismatic authorities to mostly rational and legal ones.

[edit]Critique and impact on modern theoriesThe early 20th century inaugurated a period of systematic critical examination, and rejection of the sweeping generalisations of the unilineal theories of sociocultural evolution. Cultural anthropologists such as Franz Boas, along with his students, including Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead, are regarded as the leaders of anthropology's rejection of classical social evolutionism.

They used sophisticated ethnography and more rigorous empirical methods to argue that Spencer, Tylor, and Morgan's theories were speculative and systematically misrepresented ethnographic data. Theories regarding "stages" of evolution were especially criticised as illusions. Additionally, they rejected the distinction between "primitive" and "civilized" (or "modern"), pointing out that so-called primitive contemporary societies have just as much history, and were just as evolved, as so-called civilized societies. They therefore argued that any attempt to use this theory to reconstruct the histories of non-literate (i.e. leaving no historical documents) peoples is entirely speculative and unscientific.

They observed that the postulated progression, which typically ended with a stage of civilization identical to that of modern Europe, is ethnocentric. They also pointed out that the theory assumes that societies are clearly bounded and distinct, when in fact cultural traits and forms often cross social boundaries and diffuse among many different societies (and are thus an important mechanism of change). Boas in his culture history approach focused on anthropological fieldwork in an attempt to identify factual processes instead of what he criticized as speculative stages of growth. His approach was a major influence on the American anthropology in the first half of the 20th century, and marked a retreat from high-level generalization and "systems building" .

Later critics observed that this assumption of firmly bounded societies was proposed precisely at the time when European powers were colonising non-Western societies, and was thus self-serving. Many anthropologists and social theorists now consider unilineal cultural and social evolution a Western myth seldom based on solid empirical grounds. Critical theorists argue that notions of social evolution are simply justifications for power by the elites of society. Finally, the devastating World Wars that occurred between 1914 and 1945 crippled Europe's self-confidence. After millions of deaths, genocide, and the destruction of Europe's industrial infrastructure, the idea of progress seemed dubious at best.

Thus modern sociocultural evolutionism rejects most of classical social evolutionism due to various theoretical problems:

1. The theory was deeply ethnocentric—it makes heavy value judgments about different societies, with Western civilization seen as the most valuable.

2. It assumed all cultures follow the same path or progression and have the same goals.3. It equated civilization with material culture (technology, cities, etc.)

Because social evolution was posited as a scientific theory, it was often used to support unjust and often racist social practices—--particularly colonialism, slavery, and the unequal economic conditions present within industrialized Europe. Social Darwinism is especially criticised, as it led to some philosophies used by the Nazis.

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[edit]Max Weber, disenchantment, and critical theory

Max Weber in 1917

Main articles: Max Weber and Critical Theory

Weber's major works in economic sociology and the sociology of religion dealt with the rationalization, secularisation, and so called "disenchantment" which he associated with the rise of capitalism and modernity.[14] In sociology, rationalization is the process whereby an increasing number of social actions become based on considerations of teleological efficiency or calculation rather than on motivations derived from morality, emotion, custom, or tradition. Rather than referring to what is genuinely "rational" or "logical", rationalization refers to a relentless quest for goals that might actually function to the detriment of a society. Rationalization is an ambivalent aspect of modernity, manifested especially in Western society; as a behaviour of the capitalist market; of rational administration in the state and bureaucracy; of the extension of modern science; and of the expansion of modern technology.

Weber's thought regarding the rationalizing and secularizing tendencies of modern Western society (sometimes described as the "Weber Thesis") would blend with Marxism to facilitate critical theory, particularly in the work of thinkers such as Jürgen Habermas. Critical theorists, as antipositivists, are critical of the idea of a hierarchy of sciences or societies, particularly with respect to the sociological positivism originally set forth by Comte. Jürgen Habermas has critiqued the concept of pure instrumental rationality as meaning that scientific-thinking becomes something akin to ideology itself. For theorists such as Zygmunt Bauman, rationalization as a manifestation of modernity may be most closely and regrettably associated with the events of the Holocaust.

[edit]Modern theories

Main article: multilineal evolution

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Composite image of the Earth at night, created by NASAand NOAA. The brightest areas of the Earth are the most

urbanized, but not necessarily the most populated. Even more than 100 years after the invention of the electric light, most

regions remain thinly populated or unlit.

When the critique of classical social evolutionism became widely accepted, modern anthropological and sociological approaches changed respectively . Modern theories are careful to avoid unsourced, ethnocentric speculation, comparisons, or value judgments; more or less regarding individual societies as existing within their own historical contexts. These conditions provided the context for new theories such as cultural relativism and multilineal evolution.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Gordon Childe revolutionized the study of cultural evolutionism. He conducted a comprehensive pre-history account that provided scholars with evidence for African and Asian cultural transmission into Europe. He combatedscientific racism by finding the tools and artifacts of the indigenous people from Africa and Asia and showed how they influenced the technology of European culture. Evidence from his excavations countered the idea of Aryan supremacy and superiority. Childe explained cultural evolution by his theory of divergence with modifications of convergence. He postulated that different cultures form separate methods that meet different needs, but when two cultures were in contact they developed similar adaptations, solving similar problems. Rejecting Spencer's theory of parallel cultural evolution, Childe found that interactions between cultures contributed to the convergence of similar aspects most often attributed to one culture. Childe placed emphasis on human culture as a social construct rather than products of environmental or technological contexts. Childe coined the terms "Neolithic Revolution", and "Urban Revolution" which are still used today in the branch of pre-historic anthropology.

In 1941 anthropologist Robert Redfield wrote about a shift from 'folk society' to 'urban society'. By the 1940s cultural anthropologists such as Leslie White and Julian Steward sought to revive an evolutionary model on a more scientific basis, and succeeded in establishing an approach known as neoevolutionism. White rejected the opposition between "primitive" and "modern" societies but did argue that societies could be distinguished based on the amount of energy they harnessed, and that increased energy allowed for greater social differentiation (White's law). Steward on the other hand rejected the 19th-century notion of progress, and instead called attention to the Darwinian notion of "adaptation", arguing that all societies had to adapt to their environment in some way.

The anthropologists Marshall Sahlins and Elman Service prepared an edited volume, Evolution and Culture, in which they attempted to synthesise White's and Steward's approaches.[15]Other anthropologists, building on or responding to work by White and Steward, developed theories of cultural ecology and ecological anthropology. The most prominent examples arePeter Vayda and Roy Rappaport. By the late 1950s, students of Steward such as Eric Wolf and Sidney Mintz turned away from cultural ecology to Marxism, World Systems Theory,Dependency theory and Marvin Harris's Cultural materialism.

Today most anthropologists reject 19th-century notions of progress and the three assumptions of unilineal evolution. Following Steward, they take seriously the relationship between a culture and its environment to explain different aspects of a culture. But most modern cultural anthropologists have adopted a general systems approach, examining cultures as emergent systems and arguing that one must consider the whole social environment, which includes political and economic relations among cultures. As a result of simplistic notions of "progressive evolution", more modern, complex cultural evolution theories (such as Dual Inheritance Theory, discussed below) receive little attention in the social sciences, having given

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way in some cases to a series of more humanist approaches. Some reject the entirety of evolutionary thinking and look instead at historical contingencies, contacts with other cultures, and the operation of cultural symbol systems. In the area of development studies, authors such as Amartya Sen have developed an understanding of "development" and 'human flourishing' that also question more simplistic notions of progress, while retaining much of their original inspiration.

[edit]NeoevolutionismMain article: Neoevolutionism

Neoevolutionism was the first in a series of modern multilineal evolution theories. It emerged in the 1930s and extensively developed in the period following the Second World War and was incorporated into both anthropology and sociology in the 1960s. It bases its theories on empirical evidence from areas of archaeology, palaeontology and historiography and tries to eliminate any references to systems of values, be it moral or cultural, instead trying to remain objective and simply descriptive.[16]

While 19th-century evolutionism explained how culture develops by giving general principles of its evolutionary process, it was dismissed by the Historical Particularists as unscientific in the early 20th century. It was the neo-evolutionary thinkers who brought back evolutionary thought and developed it to be acceptable to contemporary anthropology.

Neo-evolutionism discards many ideas of classical social evolutionism, namely that of social progress, so dominant in previous sociology evolution-related theories.[16] Then neo-evolutionism discards the determinism argument and introduces probability, arguing that accidents and free will greatly affect the process of social evolution.[16] It also supportscounterfactual history—asking "what if" and considering different possible paths that social evolution may take or might have taken, and thus allows for the fact that various cultures may develop in different ways, some skipping entire stages others have passed through.[16] Neo-evolutionism stresses the importance of empirical evidence. While 19th-century evolutionism used value judgments and assumptions for interpreting data, neo-evolutionism relies on measurable information for analysing the process of sociocultural evolution.

Leslie White, author of The Evolution of Culture: The Development of Civilization to the Fall of Rome (1959), attempted to create a theory explaining the entire history of humanity.[16] The most important factor in his theory is technology.[16] Social systems are determined by technological systems, wrote White in his book,[17] echoing the earlier theory of Lewis Henry Morgan. He proposes a society's energy consumption as a measure of its advancement.[16] He differentiates between five stages of human development.[16] In the first, people use the energy of their own muscles.[16] In the second, they use the energy of domesticated animals.[16] In the third, they use the energy of plants (so White refers to agricultural revolutionhere).[16] In the fourth, they learn to use the energy of natural resources: coal, oil, gas.[16] In the fifth, they harness nuclear energy.[16] White introduced a formula, P=E*T, where E is a measure of energy consumed, and T is the measure of efficiency of technical factors utilising the energy.[16] This theory is similar to Russian astronomer Nikolai Kardashev's later theory of the Kardashev scale.

Julian Steward, author of Theory of Culture Change: The Methodology of Multilinear Evolution (1955, reprinted 1979), created the theory of "multilinear" evolution which examined the way in which societies adapted to their environment. This approach was more nuanced than White's theory of "unilinear evolution." Steward rejected the 19th-century notion of progress, and instead called attention to the Darwinian notion of "adaptation", arguing that all societies had to adapt to their environment in some way. He argued that different adaptations could be studied through the examination of the specific resources a

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society exploited, the technology the society relied on to exploit these resources, and the organization of human labour. He further argued that different environments and technologies would require different kinds of adaptations, and that as the resource base or technology changed, so too would a culture. In other words, cultures do not change according to some inner logic, but rather in terms of a changing relationship with a changing environment. Cultures therefore would not pass through the same stages in the same order as they changed—rather, they would change in varying ways and directions. He called his theory "multilineal evolution". He questioned the possibility of creating a social theory encompassing the entire evolution of humanity; however, he argued that anthropologists are not limited to describing specific existing cultures. He believed that it is possible to create theories analysing typical common culture, representative of specific eras or regions. As the decisive factors determining the development of given culture he pointed to technology and economics, but noted that there are secondary factors, like political system, ideologies and religion. All those factors push the evolution of a given society in several directions at the same time; hence the application of the term "multilinear" to his theory of evolution.

Marshall Sahlins, co-editor with Elman Service of Evolution and Culture (1960), divided the evolution of societies into 'general' and 'specific'.[18] General evolution is the tendency of cultural and social systems to increase in complexity, organization and adaptiveness to environment.[18] However, as the various cultures are not isolated, there is interaction and adiffusion of their qualities (like technological inventions).[18] This leads cultures to develop in different ways (specific evolution), as various elements are introduced to them in different combinations and at different stages of evolution.[18]

In his Power and Prestige (1966) and Human Societies: An Introduction to Macrosociology (1974), Gerhard Lenski expands on the works of Leslie White and Lewis Henry Morgan.[18] He views technological progress as the most basic factor in the evolution of societies and cultures.[18] Unlike White, who defined technology as the ability to create and utilise energy, Lenski focuses on information—its amount and uses.[18] The more information and knowledge (especially allowing the shaping of natural environment) a given society has, the more advanced it is.[18] He distinguishes four stages of human development, based on advances in the history of communication.[18] In the first stage, information is passed by genes.[18] In the second, when humans gain sentience, they can learn and pass information through by experience.[18] In the third, humans start using signs and develop logic.[18] In the fourth, they can create symbols and develop language and writing.[18] Advancements in the technology of communication translate into advancements in the economic system and political system, distribution of goods, social inequality and other spheres of social life. He also differentiates societies based on their level of technology, communication and economy: (1) hunters and gatherers, (2) agricultural, (3) industrial, and (4) special (like fishing societies).[18]

Talcott Parsons, author of Societies: Evolutionary and Comparative Perspectives (1966) and The System of Modern Societies (1971) divided evolution into four subprocesses: (1) division, which creates functional subsystems from the main system; (2) adaptation, where those systems evolve into more efficient versions; (3) inclusion of elements previously excluded from the given systems; and (4) generalization of values, increasing the legitimization of the ever more complex system.[19] He shows those processes on 4 stages of evolution: (I) primitive or foraging, (II) archaic agricultural, (III) classical or "historic" in his terminology, using formalized and universalizing theories about reality and (IV) modern empirical cultures. However, these divisions in Parsons' theory are the more formal ways in which the evolutionary process is conceptualized, and should not be mistaken for Parsons' actual theory. Parsons develops a theory where he tries to reveal the complexity of the processes which take form between two points of necessity, the first being the cultural "necessity," which is given through the values-system of each evolving

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community; the other is the environmental necessities, which most directly is reflected in the material realities of the basic production system and in the relative capacity of each industrial-economical level at each window of time. Generally, Parsons highlights that the dynamics and directions of these processes is shaped by the cultural imperative embodied in the cultural heritage, and more secondarily, an outcome of sheer "economic" conditions.

[edit]SociobiologyMain article: Sociobiology

Sociobiology departs perhaps the furthest from classical social evolutionism.[20] It was introduced by Edward Wilson in his 1975 book Sociobiology: The New Synthesis and followed his adaptation of evolutionary theory to the field of social sciences. Wilson pioneered the attempt to explain the evolutionary mechanics behind social behaviours such as altruism,aggression, and nurturance.[20] In doing so, Wilson sparked one of the greatest scientific controversies of the 20th century.[20]

The current theory of evolution, the modern evolutionary synthesis (or neo-darwinism), explains that evolution of species occurs through a combination of Darwin's mechanism of natural selection and Gregor Mendel's theory of genetics as the basis for biological inheritance and mathematical population genetics.[20] Essentially, the modern synthesis introduced the connection between two important discoveries; the units of evolution (genes) with the main mechanism of evolution (selection).[20]

Due to its close reliance on biology, sociobiology is often considered a branch of the biology and sociology disciplines, although it uses techniques from a plethora of sciences, includingethology, evolution, zoology, archaeology, population genetics, and many others. Within the study of human societies, sociobiology is closely related to the fields of human behavioral ecology and evolutionary psychology.

Sociobiology has remained highly controversial as it contends genes explain specific human behaviours, although sociobiologists describe this role as a very complex and often unpredictable interaction between nature and nurture. The most notable critics of the view that genes play a direct role in human behaviour have been biologists Richard Lewontin andStephen Jay Gould.

Since the rise of evolutionary psychology, another school of thought, Dual Inheritance Theory, has emerged in the past 25 years that applies the mathematical standards of Population genetics to modeling the adaptive and selective principles of culture. This school of thought was pioneered by Robert Boyd at UCLA and Peter Richerson at UC Davis and expanded byWilliam Wimsatt[disambiguation needed  ], among others. Boyd and Richerson's book, Culture and the Evolutionary Process (1985),[6] was a highly mathematical description of cultural change, later published in a more accessible form in Not by Genes Alone (2004). [7] In Boyd and Richerson's view, cultural evolution, operating on socially learned information, exists on a separate but co-evolutionary track from genetic evolution, and while the two are related, cultural evolution is more dynamic, rapid, and influential on human society than genetic evolution. Dual Inheritance Theory has the benefit of providing unifying territory for a "nature and nurture" paradigm and accounts for more accurate phenomenon in evolutionary theory applied to culture, such as randomness effects (drift), concentration dependency, "fidelity" of evolving information systems, and lateral transmission through communication.[21]

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[edit]Theory of modernizationMain article: Modernization theory

Theories of modernization have been developed and popularized in 1950s and 1960s and are closely related to the dependency theory and development theory.[22] They combine the previous theories of sociocultural evolution with practical experiences and empirical research, especially those from the era of decolonization. The theory states that:

Western countries are the most developed, and the rest of the world (mostly former colonies) is in the earlier stages of development, and will eventually reach the same level as the Western world.[22]

Development stages go from the traditional societies to developed ones.[22]

Third World  countries have fallen behind with their social progress and need to be directed on their way to becoming more advanced.[22]

Developing from classical social evolutionism theories, the theory of modernization stresses the modernization factor: many societies are simply trying (or need) to emulate the most successful societies and cultures.[22] It also states that it is possible to do so, thus supporting the concepts of social engineering and that the developed countries can and should help those less developed, directly or indirectly.[22]

Among the scientists who contributed much to this theory are Walt Rostow, who in his The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto (1960) concentrates on theeconomic system side of the modernization, trying to show factors needed for a country to reach the path to modernization in his Rostovian take-off model.[22] David Apter concentrated on the political system and history of democracy, researching the connection between democracy, good governance and efficiency and modernization.[22] David McClelland (The Achieving Society, 1967) approached this subject from the psychological perspective, with his motivations theory, arguing that modernization cannot happen until given society values innovation, success and free enterprise.[22] Alex Inkeles (Becoming Modern, 1974) similarly creates a model of modern personality, which needs to be independent, active, interested in public policies and cultural matters, open to new experiences, rational and able to create long-term plans for the future.[22] Some works of Jürgen Habermas are also connected with this subfield.

The theory of modernization has been subject to some criticism similar to that levied against classical social evolutionism, especially for being too ethnocentric, one-sided and focused on the Western world and its culture.

[edit]Prediction for a stable cultural and social futureCultural evolution follows punctuated equilibrium which Gould and Eldredge developed for biological evolution. Bloomfield[23][24] has written that human societies follow punctuated equilibrium which would mean first, a stable society, and then a transition resulting in a subsequent stable society with greater complexity. This model would claim mankind has had a stable animal society, a transition to a stable tribal society, another transition to a stable peasant society and is currently in a transitional industrial society.

The status of a human society rests on the productivity of food production. Deevey [25]  reported on the growth of the number of humans. Deevey also reported on the productivity of food production, noting that productivity changes very little for stable societies, but increases during transitions. When productivity and especially food productivity can no longer be increased, Bloomfield has proposed that man will have achieved a stable automated society.[26] Space is also assumed to allow for the continued growth of the

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human population, as well as providing a solution to the current pollution problem by providing limitless energy from solar satellite power stations.

[edit]Theory of postindustrial society

This unreferenced section

requires citations to


Main article: Theory of postindustrial society

Scientists have used the theory of evolution to analyze various trends and to predict the future development of societies. These scientists have created the theories of postindustrial societies, arguing that the current era of industrial society is coming to an end, and services and information are becoming more important than industry and goods.[27]

In 1974, sociologist Daniel Bell, author of The Coming of Post-Industrial Society, introduced the concept of postindustrial society.[27] He divided the history of humanity into three eras: pre-industrial, industrial and postindustrial.[27] He predicted that by the end of the 20th century, the U.S., Japan and Western Europe would reach the postindustrial stage.[27] This "post-industrial" stage would be demonstrated by:

domination of the service sector (administration, banking, trade, transport, healthcare, education, science, mass media, culture) over the traditional industry sector (manufacturing industries, which have surpassed the more traditional, agriculture and mining sector after the 19th-century Industrial Revolution)[27]

growing importance of information technologies [27] increased role of long-term planning, modelling future trends[27]

domination of technocracy and pragmatism over traditional ethics and ideologies [27] increasing importance and use of technology and intellect[27]

changes in the traditional hierarchy of social classes, with highly educated specialists and scientists overtaking the traditional bourgeois [27]

From the 1970s many other sociologists and anthropologists, like Alvin Toffler (Future Shock, 1970), and John Naisbitt (Megatrends 2000: The New Directions for the 1990s, 1982) have followed in Bell's footsteps and created similar theories. John Naisbitt introduced the concept of megatrends: powerful, global trends that are changing societies on a worldwide scale.[27]Among the megatrends he mentions is the process of globalization.[27] Another important megatrend was the increase in performance of computers and the development of the World Wide Web.[27] Marshall McLuhan introduced the concept of the global village (The Gutenberg Galaxy, 1962), and this term was soon adapted by the researchers of globalization and theInternet.[27] Naisbitt and many other proponents of the theory of postindustrial societies argue that those megatrends lead to decentralization, weakening of the central government, increasing importance of local initiatives and direct democracy, changes in the hierarchy of the traditional social classes, development of new social movements and an increase in the power of consumers and the number of choices available to them (Toffler even used the term "overchoice").[27]

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Logarithmic plot, according to Ray Kurzweil showing an exponentialshortening trend in evolution of humanity, basis for

the technological singularity theory.

Some of the more extreme visions of the postindustrial society are those related to the theory of the technological singularity. This theory refers to a predicted point or period in the development of a civilization at which due to the acceleration of technological progress, the societal, scientific and economic change is so rapid that nothing beyond that time can be reliably comprehended, understood or predicted by the pre-Singularity humans. Such a singularity was first discussed in the 1950s, and vastly popularized in the 1980s by Vernor Vinge.

Critics of the postindustrial society theory point out that it is very vague[27] and as with any prediction, there is no guarantee that any of the trends visible today will in fact exist in the future or develop in the directions predicted by contemporary researchers. However, no serious sociologist would argue it is possible to predict the future, but only that such theories allow us to gain a better understanding of the changes taking place in the modernised world.

[edit]Contemporary discourse about sociocultural evolution

The Cold War period was marked by rivalry between two superpowers, both of which considered themselves to be the most highly evolved cultures on the planet. The USSR painted itself as a socialist society which emerged out of class struggle, destined to reach the state of communism, while sociologists in the United States (such as Talcott Parsons) argued that the freedom and prosperity of the United States were a proof of a higher level of sociocultural evolution of its culture and society. At the same time, decolonization created newly independent countries who sought to become more developed—-a model of progress and industrialization which was itself a form of sociocultural evolution.

There is, however, a tradition in European social theory from Rousseau to Max Weber arguing that this progression coincides with a loss of human freedom and dignity. At the height of the Cold War, this tradition merged with an interest in ecology to influence an activist culture in the 1960s. This movement

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produced a variety of political and philosophical programs which emphasized the importance of bringing society and the environment into harmony.

Current political theories of the new tribalists consciously mimic ecology and the life-ways of indigenous peoples, augmenting them with modern sciences. Ecoregional Democracyattempts to confine the "shifting groups", or tribes, within "more or less clear boundaries" that a society inherits from the surrounding ecology, to the borders of a naturally occurringecoregion.

Progress can proceed by competition between but not within tribes, and it is limited by ecological borders or by Natural Capitalism incentives which attempt to mimic the pressure ofnatural selection on a human society by forcing it to adapt consciously to scarce energy or materials. Gaians argue that societies evolve deterministically to play a role in the ecology of their biosphere, or else die off as failures due to competition from more efficient societies exploiting nature's leverage.

Thus, some have appealed to theories of sociocultural evolution to assert that optimizing the ecology and the social harmony of closely knit groups is more desirable or necessary than the progression to "civilization." A 2002 poll of experts on Neoarctic and Neotropic indigenous peoples (reported in Harper's magazine) revealed that all of them would have preferred to be a typical New World person in the year 1491, prior to any European contact, rather than a typical European of that time.

This approach has been criticised by pointing out that there are a number of historical examples of indigenous peoples doing severe environmental damage (such as the deforestation ofEaster Island and the extinction of mammoths in North America) and that proponents of the goal have been trapped by the European stereotype of the noble savage.

Today, postmodernists question whether the notions of evolution or society have inherent meaning and whether they reveal more about the person doing the description than the thing being described. Observing and observed cultures may lack sufficient cultural similarities (such as a common foundation ontology) to be able to communicate their respective priorities easily. Or, one may impose such a system of belief and judgment upon another, via conquest or colonization. For instance, observation of very different ideas of mathematics andphysics in indigenous peoples led indirectly to ideas such as George Lakoff's "cognitive science of mathematics", which asks if measurement systems themselves can be objective.

In the social sciences, modernization or modernisation refers to a model of an evolutionary transition from a 'pre-modern' or 'traditional' to a 'modern' society. The teleology of modernization is described in social evolutionism theories, existing as a template that has been generally followed by societies that have achieved modernity.[1][2] While it may theoretically be possible for some societies to make the transition in entirely different ways, there have been no counterexamples provided by reliable sources.

Historians link modernization 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.[3] 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. [4]

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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.".[5]

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.[4]



1   Theory

2   Practice

o 2.1   United States

o 2.2   Germany's "Sonderweg"

o 2.3   19th century France

o 2.4   Asia

2.4.1   China

2.4.2   Korea

o 2.5   Eurasia

2.5.1   Turkey

o 2.6   Latin America

3   Greece

4   Africa

5   Democracy

6   Development

7   Criticism

8   See also

9   Notes

10   Bibliography

11   External links


According to theories of modernization, each society can develop from traditionalism to modernity, and that those that make this transition follow similar paths. More modern states are wealthier and more powerful, and their citizens freer, with a higher standard of living. According to the Social theorist Peter Wagner, modernization can be seen as processes, and as offensives. The former view is commonly

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projected by politicians and the media, and suggests that it is developments, such as new data technology or need to update traditional methods, which make modernization necessary or preferable.[6] This view makes critique of modernization difficult, since it implies these developments control the limits of human interaction, and not vice versa.

The view of modernization as offensives argues that both the developments and the altered opportunities made available by these developments are shaped and controlled by human agents. The view of modernization as offensives therefore sees it as a product of human planning and action, an active process capable of being both changed and criticized.[6]

Modernization emerged in the late 19th century and was especially popular among scholars in the mid-20th century. One foremost advocate was Harvard sociologist Talcott Parsons.[7]The theory stressed the importance of societies being open to change and saw reactionary forces as restricting development. Maintaining tradition for tradition's sake was thought to be harmful to progress and development.[6] Proponents of modernization lie in two camps, optimists and pessimist. The former view holds that what a modernizer sees as a setback to the theory (events such as the Iranian Revolution or the troubles in Lebanon) are invariably temporary setbacks,[8] with the ability to attain "modernism" still existing. Pessimists argue that such non-modern areas are incapable of becoming modern.[9]


[edit]United States

This painting (circa 1872) by John Gast called American Progress, is an allegorical representation of the modernization of

the new west. Here Columbia, a personification of the United States, leads civilization westward with American settlers,

stringing telegraph wire as she sweeps west; she holds a school book. The different stages of economic activity of the

pioneers are highlighted and, especially, the changing forms of transportation. The Native Americans and wild animals flee.

The Progressives in the United States in the early 20th century were avid modernizers. They believed in science, technology, expertise—and especially education—as the grand solution to society's weaknesses. Characteristics of progressivism included a favorable attitude toward urban-industrial society, belief in mankind's ability to improve the environment and conditions of life, belief in obligation to

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intervene in economic and social affairs, and a belief in the ability of experts and in efficiency of government intervention.[10]

Paul Monroe, a professor of history at Columbia University, was a member of The Inquiry--a team of American experts at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. He drew on his experience in the Philippines to assess the educational needs of developing areas such as Albania, Turkey and central Africa. Presenting educational development as instrumental to nation-building and socioeconomic development, Monroe recommended the implementation of a progressive curriculum - with an emphasis on practical, adult, and teacher training - in a national system of education, as a basis for self-development, except in Africa. His approach shaped American cooperation with developing countries in the 1920s and modernization efforts during the 1920s-1930s.[11]

[edit]Germany's "Sonderweg"Main article: Sonderweg

Many historians have emphasized the central importance of a German Sonderweg or "special path" (or "exceptionalism") as the root of Nazism and the German catastrophe in the 20th century.[12] According to the historiography by Kocka (1988), the process of nation-building from above especially during the period of the German Empire (1871–1918), in the following Weimar era, had very grievous long-term implications, historians have argued. In terms of parliamentary democracy, Parliament was kept weak, the parties were fragmented, and there was a row file level of mutual distrust. The Nazis built on the illiberal, anti-pluralist elements of Weimar's political culture. The Junker elites (the large landowners in the east) and senior civil servants, used their great power and influence well into the twentieth century to frustrate any movement toward democracy. They played an especially negative role in the crisis of 1930-1933. The emphasis by Otto von Bismarck on military force amplified the voice of the officer corps, which combined advanced modernization of military technology with reactionary politics. The rising upper-middle-class elites, in the business, financial, and professional worlds, tended to accept the values of the old traditional elites. The German Empire was for Hans-Ulrich Wehler a strange mixture of highly successful capitalist industrialization and socio-economic modernization on the one hand, and of surviving pre-industrial institutions, power relations and traditional cultures on the other. Wehler argues that it produced a high degree of internal tension, which led on the one hand to the suppression of socialists, Catholics, and reformers, and on the other hand to a highly aggressive foreign policy. For these reasons Fritz Fischer and his students emphasized Germany’s primary guilt for causing World War I.[13]

Hans-Ulrich Wehler, a leader of the Bielefeld School of social history, places the origins of Germany's path to disaster in the 1860s-1870s, when economic modernization took place, but political modernization did not happen and the old Prussian rural elite remained in firm control of the army, diplomacy and the civil service. Traditional, aristocratic, premodern society battled an emerging capitalist, bourgeois, modernizing society. Recognizing the importance of modernizing forces in industry and the economy and in the cultural realm, Wehler argues that reactionary traditionalism dominated the political hierarchy of power in Germany, as well as social mentalities and in class relations (Klassenhabitus). The catastrophic German politics between 1914 and 1945 are interpreted in terms of a delayed modernization of its political structures. At the core of Wehler's interpretation is his treatment of "the middle class" and "revolution," each of which was instrumental in shaping the 20th century. Wehler's examination of Nazi rule is shaped by his concept of "charismatic domination," which focuses heavily on Adolf Hitler. [14]

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The historiographical concept of a German Sonderweg has had a turbulent history. Nineteenth century scholars who emphasized a separate German path to modernity saw it as a positive factor that differentiated Germany from the "western path" typified by Great Britain. The stressed the strong bureaucratic state, reforms initiated by Bismarck and other strong leaders, the Prussian service ethos, the high culture of philosophy and music, and Germany's pioneering of a social welfare state. In the 1950s, historians in West Germany argued that the Sonderweg led Germany to the disaster of 1933-1945. The special circumstances of German historical structures and experiences, were interpreted as preconditions that, while not directly causing National Socialism, did hamper the development of a liberal democracy and facilitate the rise of fascism. The Sonderweg paradigm has provided the impetus for at least three strands of research in German historiography: the "long nineteenth century", the history of the bourgeoisie, and comparisons with the West. After 1990, increased attention to cultural dimensions and to comparative and relational history moved German historiography to different topics, with much less attention paid to the Sonderweg. While some historians have abandoned the Sonderweg thesis, they have not provided a generally accepted alternative interpretation.[15]

[edit]19th century FranceIn his seminal book Peasants Into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France, 1880–1914 (1976), historian Eugen Weber traced the modernization of French villages and argued that rural France went from backward and isolated to modern and possessing a sense of French nationhood during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.[16] He emphasized the roles of railroads, republican schools, and universal military conscription. He based his findings on school records, migration patterns, military service documents and economic trends. Weber argued that until 1900 or so a sense of French nationhood was weak in the provinces. Weber then looked at how the policies of the Third Republic created a sense of French nationality in rural areas.[17] The book was widely praised, but was criticized by some[18] who argued that a sense of Frenchness existed in the provinces before 1870.

[edit]AsiaMany studies of modernization have focused on the history of Japan in the late 19th century,[19] and China and India in the late 20th century.[20] For example, the process of borrowing science and technology from the West has been explored.

[edit]ChinaChina has been attempting to modernize ever since the Revolution of 1911 and the end on the Qing Dynasty, the last dynasty of China. Before the Qing Dynasty was overthrown, it attempted to reform from 1902 to 1908 to save itself and instigated reforms in infrastructure, transportation, and government. These reforms were based on Western models and even included aspects of democracy, which are often associated with the process of modernization. However, these reforms were largely unsuccessful and resulted in the Revolution of 1911. Following the Revolution of 1911, other movements such as the May 4th Movement of 1919 advocated for modernization, iconoclasm, and a rejection of foreign influence and imperialism. From the beginning of the 20th century until the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, China has been delayed in efforts to modernize due to an era of warlordism, theSecond Sino-Japanese War, and civil war between the CCP and KMT.[21][22]

When the communist party came to power in 1949, Mao Zedong used the Soviet Union as China’s example for modernization. The Great Leap Forward from 1958-1961 was Mao’s version of the Soviet Union’s Five year Plan, and its goals were to create a modern communist society through industrialization

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and collectivization. Mao Zedong aimed to become a world power without foreign, mainly western, involvement, ideas, or capitalism and preached the idea of self-reliance. Mao did contribute to the modernization of China, however The Great Leap Forward is regarded as a failure and the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976 further prohibited much progress.[21]

The Modern Chinese City of Shanghai

The economic reforms of Chinese Supreme Leader Deng Xiaoping are attributed to China’s economic success in the 21st century. Deng focused on four modernizations: agriculture, industry, national defense, and science and technology. The West was used as an example for several of these modernizations, however their management was completely Chinese. Deng began de-collectivization and allowed Township and Village Enterprises (TVE), Special Economic Zones (SEZ), foreign investment, profit incentive, and even privatization. While Mao advocated self-reliance, Deng generated foreign exchange to finance modernization. His famous quote is, “It doesn’t matter whether a cat is white or black, as long as it catches mice.” Post Deng Reforms continued on this path which is acknowledged as a shift from the iron rice bowlto the porcelain rice bowl, or government owned to privatized. Although China’s economy has shifted towards privatization and capitalism, the PRC remains an authoritative regime, which is contradictory in comparison to other examples of countries that have modernized. Democracy is the political characteristic that has defined modernized nations in the past and the modernization theory suggests democracy follows with the development of a modernized state.[22] China was late in modernization and has thus had many other countries as examples to base its model of modernization off of.[21]

The One-Child Policy has also been a technique to contribute or even force the modernization of China. Instigated in 1978, the one-child policy has created a generation known as “singletons” or “little emperors” (xiao huangdi).[23] "The Chinese state enforced a rapid fertility transition designed to cultivate a generation of “high-quality” people with resources and ambition to join the global elite.” [24] These little emperors are expected to compete with the first-world countries having no siblings to compete with for parental investment. Normally with modernization and urbanization smaller or nuclear families evolve as the result. China has switched this logic, hoping that creating the culture of the nuclear family with the one-child policy it will produce modernization.[24]

At the beginning of the 21st century, China is still in the process of modernization. In 2010 it had the third greatest GDP and GDP (PPP) in the world with the world’s largest labor force, and is acknowledged as

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the world’s second largest economy.[22][25] In 2010 its economy was still increasing in growth at 10.3%.[25] China has also successfully joined the largely Western international arena with its membership of the UN in 1971, the WTO in 2001, and hosted the Olympics in 2008. China’s goal is to continue modernizing until it joins the first-world and becomes the core instead of the semi-periphery or periphery, from the core-periphery model.[21][24]

The modernization of China through urbanization, industrialization, and economic policy has benefited the country economically as it rises as a world power in the 21st century. However it now is experiencing the problems associated the other modern countries and capitalism. These problems include the growing disparity between the rich and poor, urban vs. rural and migration, and ecological issues.[26]

[edit]KoreaModernizers in Korea in the late 19th century were torn between the American and the Japanese models. Most of the Koreans involved were educated Christians who saw America as their ideal model of civilization. However, most used Japan as a practical model - as an example of how a fellow East Asian country, which 30 years before was also backward, could succeed in civilizing itself. At the same time, reformists' nationalist reaction against the domineering, colonial behavior of the Japanese in Korea often took the form of an appeal to international (Western) standards of civilization. The Western-oriented worldview of the early Christian nationalist reformers was complex, multilayered, and often self-contradictory - with 'oppressive' features not easily distinguishable from 'liberational' ones. Their idealized image of the West as the only true, ideal civilization relegated much of Korea's traditional culture to a position of 'barbarism'.[27]

The self-image of Koreans was formed through complex relationships with modernity, colonialism, Christianity, and nationalism. This formation was initiated by a change in the notion of 'civilization' due to the transformation of 'international society' and thereafter was affected by the trauma of Japanese colonization. Through the process of transition from a traditional Confucian notion of civilization to a Western notion of acceptance and resistance, Koreans shaped their civilization as well as their notions of the racial, cultural, and individual modern self. Western Orientalism, in particular, accompanied the introduction of the Western notion of civilization, which served as the background for forming the self-identity of Koreans. The fact that the Japanese version of Orientalism emerged from the domination of Korea by Japan played a critical role in shaping the self-identity of Koreans. Consequently, Korea still maintains an inferiority complex toward Western culture, ambivalent feelings toward Japanese culture, and biased - positive or negative - views of their own cultural traditions. Thus both modernization and colonization have shaped the formation or distortion of self-consciousness of non-Western peoples. [28]

The US launched a decades-long intensive development starting in 1945 to modernize South Korea, with the goal of helping it become a model nation-state and an economic success. Agents of modernization at work in Korea included the US Army, the Economic Cooperation Administration, the UN Korean Reconstruction Agency, and a number of nongovernmental organizations, among them the Presbyterian Church, the YMCA, Boy Scouts and the Ford Foundation. Many Koreans migrated to California and Hawaii, and brought back firsthand accounts of modern business and governmental practices that they sought to adapt to Korean conditions.[29]

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[edit]Eurasia[edit]TurkeyTurkey, under Kemal Atatürk in the 1920s and 1930s, engaged in a systematic modernization program called "Kemalism". Hundreds of European scholars came to help. Together with Turkish intellectuals they developed a successful model of development.[30][31][32][33]

[edit]Latin AmericaSince independence, modernization has been a driving force for Chile's political elites. Ree (2007) analyzes projects of modernization that have been implemented from above since 1964. Despite their ideological differences and very different understandings of what modernity is, these projects shared key characteristics in their construction and implementation, such as the use of developmental theories, their state-orientation, the prominent role of technocrats and state-planning, and the capacity of adaptation in sight of civil unrest. These projects have produced patterns of modernity that have proven to be particularly stable.[34]


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The 60's is a time of liberation and vitality, with doubts and against conformism, the youth was activated in many activities by creating various groups which support new ideologies.And this picture is reflected to the music,art and cinema,the urban landscape was being tansformed and the technology was being developed very quickly. In the Greek reality of 1960 the arts were dominating and many artists influenced by the American culture. Also in the literature the developments were many and more specific. But developments in the literature was rich and multifarious adding colorful touches to the striking range of the decade. The first years of valuation of Greek modernism begins with the award of Elytis' “Axion Esti” (1960).The industrial revolution and the radicalization of society played a key role in the development of a new rationality in relation to the dominant. The zenith of Modernism was in all forms of art as in painting, poetry, literature, architecture, politics and religion, after the second World War.


Modernization has been attributed with creating positive development around the world, but in Modern times its ability to promote development, specifically in Africa, has been less than so. Modernization that has taken place in Africa can be described as something that has yet to benefit most of the African countries.

Modernization through development has led to problems in Nigeria by bringing in private, foreign owned oil companies that have been exploiting the natural resource wealth of the country. Because the oil companies are generally owned by a different nation, the profits are mostly being exported from Nigeria with only one fifteenth of the wealth produced in the region returning to it. Shell, the oil company operating in Ogoniland, Nigeria has helped the country develop and industrialize on a small scale, but it has primarily challenged the sovereignty and autonomy of Nigeria.[35]

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Modernization can be seen as a sort of westernization where western institutions such as national parks and industries are brought into existing cultures where their use does not make as much sense. Along with modernization comes a loss of culture and society, and the individual is strengthened. An African tribe known as the Ik was forced to change their habits due to modernization and the creation of individual countries caused by colonialism. Nationalization, as a tool of modernization, was imparted on Africa by colonialists who wanted to westernize and modernize tribal Africa. The creation of individual countries made life for the tribal Ik more difficult because they were forced out of their nomadic lifestyle into a settlement based around a newly founded national park that practically destroyed their livelihood by restricting their hunting grounds to specific non-park areas. The creation of national parks have had the effect of increasing cultivation which can be seen as good development because the people are no longer solely dependent on livestock. This creation of a new sort of livelihood has mixed improvements, because the tribal setting is not removed, rather it is put into a single place.[36]


Scholars have long argued that democracy follows modernization, perhaps with a time lag. As Seymour Martin Lipset put it, "All the various aspects of economic development--industrialization, urbanization, wealth, and education--are so closely interrelated as to form one major factor which has the political correlate of democracy.[37] In the 1960s some critics said the link each was too much based on European history, neglecting the Third World.[38] Recent demonstrations of the emergence of democracy in South Korea, Taiwan and South Africa have tended to bolster the thesis.

The historical problem case has always been Germany, in which economic modernization in the 19th century came long before the move to democracy after 1918. Berman, however, concludes that a process of democratization was underway in Imperial Germany, for "during these years Germans developed many of the habits and mores that are now thought by political scientists to augur healthy political development.".[39]

Inglehart, and Welzel (2009) contend that the realization of democracy is not based solely on an expressed desire for that form of government, but that democracies are born as a result of the admixture of certain social and cultural factors. They argue the ideal social and cultural conditions for the foundation of a democracy are born of significant modernization and economic development that result in mass political participation.[40]

Peerenboom (2008) explores the relationships among democracy, the rule of law and their relationship to wealth by pointing to examples of Asian countries, such as Taiwan and South Korea, that have successfully democratized only after economic growth reached relatively high levels and to examples of countries such as the Philippines, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia and India that sought to democratize at lower levels of wealth but have not done as well.[41]

Adam Przeworski and others have challenged Lipset argument. They say political regimes do not transition to democracy as per capita incomes rise. Rather, democratic transitions occur randomly, but once there, countries with higher levels of gross domestic product per capita remain democratic. Epstein et al. (2006) retest the modernization hypothesis using new data, new techniques, and a three-way, rather than dichotomous, classification of regimes. Contrary to Przeworski, this study finds that the modernization hypothesis stands up well. Partial democracies emerge as among the most important and least understood regime types.[42]

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Highly contentious is the idea that modernization implies more human rights, with China in the 21st century being a major test case.


Development, like modernization, has become the orienting principle of our time. Countries that are seen as modern are also seen as developed, and that means that they are generally more respected by institutions such as the United Nations and even as possible trade partners for other countries. The extent to which a country has modernized or developed dictates its power and importance on the international level.


Modernization theory has been criticized, mainly because it conflated modernization with Westernization.[1] In this model, the modernization of a society required the destruction of the indigenous culture and its replacement by a more Westernized one. Technically modernity simply refers to the present, and any society still in existence is therefore modern. Proponents of modernization typically view only Western society as being truly modern arguing that others are primitive or unevolved by comparison. This view sees unmodernized societies as inferior even if they have the same standard of living as western societies. Opponents of this view argue that modernity is independent of culture and can be adapted to any society. Japan is cited as an example by both sides. Some see it as proof that a thoroughly modern way of life can exist in a non-western society. Others argue that Japan has become distinctly more western as a result of its modernization. In addition, this view is accused of being Eurocentric,[1][2] as modernization began in Europe with the industrial revolution, the French Revolutionand the Revolutions of 1848,[2][9] and has long been regarded as reaching its most advanced stage in Europe (by Europeans), and in Europe overseas (USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand etc.).[2] Anthropologists typically make their criticism one step further generalized and say that this view is ethnocentric, not being specific to Europe, but Western culture in general.[1]

There is a strong criticism of Modernization in Africa due to a major problem with governmental corruption that has ultimately slowed the development of African countries through wars and illegitimate financial activities that keep money out of the hands of the people. Modernization in theory, should lead to wealthier more economically productive countries, however, the corruption that runs rampant through Africa’s nations has not allowed for much of this prosperity and growth to take place. The destruction of the tribal identities of Africans into national identities has also helped lead to problems with development bubbles. These development bubbles occur when cities rise into the position of industrialization, but the areas outside of the city do not develop and therefore a big inequality of wealth distribution becomes apparent. Therefore many of the people who once worked the agricultural areas in Africa, move to cities where they are expecting to find jobs that will sustain them.[43]