Modernization can be defined as the transition of a society from pre-modern (traditional) state to a modern one. Scholars are in agreement that some societies have achieved modernity. However, there are strong arguments to the effect that modernity is not a stationary state but a process. It follows that there is no society that can claim to be totally modern, as new inventions are constantly made rendering the earlier inventions to pre-modern.
Many sociologists have often developed a close link between modernization and the processes of industrialization, urbanization, and increase in the number of educated people in a society as well as improved quality of the same (Kendall, 2007). Modernization is also characterized by increased individualization and upsetting of the traditional high value placed on the family and the community. A modern society is marked by increased levels of capitalism, secularization, industrialization, and rationalization (Barker, 2007). However there are some scholars opposed to this view of modernity, as they observe that it equates modernity with Westernization. They suggest that for societies to be classified as modern under this definition, it means that the given society has lost its indigenous values and replaced the same with Western ones.
Global Modernization Trends
While modernization became relatively quicker and more profound in the West, many societies are striving to move from the traditional setting to a modern state, and have achieved the same to different extents. In these attempts, the societies have continuously borrowed science and technology from more developed and modern areas. Though many societies in Africa, Asia and Latin America intend yet to reach levels that can be categorized as modern; they are in the process. This is eased by the improved communication that has made exchange of ideas simpler. Increased self-awareness in these areas as well as educational level have further increased the rate of modernization.
Modernization in the United States
The United States has definitely many scholars ant is one of the most modern states that has successfully moved from agrarianism to unrivalled levels of industrialization. Considering the whole country, some areas are yet to reach the threshold of modernity while others can only be classified as post-modern. One of the reasons that can be attributed to this is the nature and culture of the American people. Many Americans are by their nature obsessed with modernity and constantly search more modern electronics, clothes, cars, and other items they use in their daily life. This has great pressure on the manufacturers in the county to constantly upgrade their products in order to suit the market.
At the same time, the American society is quite advanced in terms of social modernization. The American society has witnessed an increase in the number of personal choices, self-awareness and widening of the societal diversity. Increased equality is another indicator of the high levels of modernity in the country with the election of President Barrack Obama, an African American.
Karl Marx was of the opinion that modernization and capitalism were inseparable. According to him, the industrial revolution was ideally a capitalist revolution. He saw industrialization by extension of modernization as a system where the capitalists continue to entrench their dominance in the society according to their economic might. The American society is purely capitalistic and therefore modern from Marx’s perspective.
Has America reached the peak of modernization? Certainly not. There are explicit reasons to show that though the country is doing well, it can do better. While the country leads communication technology, it still lags behind in terms of robotics. Many people are employed to execute manually the work that can otherwise be done by robots, thus easing the work of human beings, as is the case in Japan.
While equality levels are quite high, it is obvious that racial and gender differences still influence many decisions that they should not. Even to date, the American electorate vote along racial lines with the Black Americans, the Latinos, American Asians, and the whites voting as different blocks. This shows that homogeneous societies based on race still exist, and the ideal of issue-based political affiliation has not fully been realized (Strauss & Cropsey, 1987).
The level of modernity should ideally reflect quality of life, and the higher the modernity is, the better is the quality of life. There are many countries where citizens have higher quality of life with more efficient transport systems, better medical care than the United States. The United States has to achieve their status to be modern. This means that there is still room for growth in modernity.
The competitive nature of Americans as well as the ingenuity and innovativeness of American scholars and researchers, which is reflected in American firms’ improvement of their products, will ensure that the country continues making great strides toward greater levels of modernization. At the same time emerging issues will require newer inventions. It can, therefore, be concluded that the perfect modernity will be never achieved, and attempts to have greater levels of modernity will forever continue.
Consequences of Modernization
One of the biggest effects of modernization is that life is now much easier than it was in the traditional society in terms of transport, communication, health care, housing, and enjoying human rights. Today one can communicate in real time, face-to-face with another half of the population, which was unimaginable in the traditional society.
Another effect of modernization is the loss of societal order due to the loss of traditional ideals, which in many societies dictated socialism, care of one’s neighbor, respect for the elders, etc. Modern trends, such as urbanization, secularization, and individualization, have resulted to the loss of these values and left many societies in chaos (Richard, 2004).
Effects and agents of modernization, mainly industrialization, have also greatly increased pollution. Smoke from industries and automobiles have adverse effects on the air, while use of pesticides and other chemicals in extensive amounts today has polluted water bodies leading to the loss of marine life. On the other hand, use of plastics, glass and other non-biodegradables has polluted land to the extent that some areas have become completely inhabitable and can neither support plant nor animal life.
Marx Weber’s view best put modernization into perspective. He first appreciates the nature of humanity, the high value they place on efficiency how little they respect the past as well as how they strive to achieve their goals. The desire to dominate is another characteristic of human beings that is profound and common for all. It is the human nature that encourages them to achieve more modern systems and inventions than they have at the present.