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Since a good part of the world's population is now undergoing the pattern of change which we call modernization, we should raise the question of the adequacy of various theories to account for that pattern. "Many of the perspectives we have examined so far have dealt directly with modernization, or with certain aspects of it, including Smelser's structural-functionalist analysis of England's industrialization and the social psychological approaches of Hagen, McClelland, and the students of individual modernity" (Lauer, 1977, pp 304-310)…
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Evidence of their influence may be found in many features of modernization theory: the frequent use of dichotomous type constructions and concepts such as "social differentiation" and "social system"; an emphasis upon the ability to adapt to gradual, "continual change as the normal condition of stability; the attribution of causal priority to immanent sources of change; and the analysis of social change as a directional" process (Tipps, 1973, p 199-226).
Tipps also notes that modernization has been employed mainly as an inclusive rather than discriminating concept. It is used to summarize a great many phenomena rather than to discriminate what is modern from other conditions. The level of analysis which is of crucial theoretical significance is that of society and culture--the national state is normally the focus of interest.
Finally, Tipps classified modernization theories into two types, the "critical variable" and the "dichotomous" theories. The first type in volves a single kind of change, such as rationalization or industrialization, and the term modernization becomes virtually synonymous with the critical variable. The second type is more common, and involves the process of transformation of traditional societies into modern ones. The process, then, is defined in terms of the end goal, and the end goal is "often a nation very similar to those in the contemporary West" (Lauer, 1977, pp 304-310).
The empirical critique argues that modernization theory contains empirical errors or lacunae. Thus, Tipps points out that the theories tend to ignore the impact of forces external to the changing society; to stereotype the meaning of "traditional"; to ignore the diverse kinds and diverse experiences of so-called traditional societies; and to overemphasize the dichotomous nature of tradition and modernity. Parkin states: "a recent critical shift has been away from explanation to description, while this is a matter of degree, the movement away from functionalism has lessened our preparedness to explain how the 'other' works in favor of describing it." (1982, pg. xiii).
Finally, the metatheoretical critique offered by Tipps involves the choices made by the theorists in building their systems of thought. We have already noted the tendency to make modernization an inclusive rather than a discriminating concept. This choice toward inclusiveness, argues Tipps, has led the theorists to make the concept "unparsimonious and vague." The concept has lost contact with the empirical reality to which it supposedly refers, and at the same time it is used to refer to "an incredible number of changes at virtually all levels of social reality" (Lauer, 1977, pp 304-310).
Thus, Tipps call for a redirection of modernization theory. There are, of course, some efforts in that direction. Frank himself, along with a number of other scholars, is viewing the process of modernization in Marxist terms. There have been other efforts to look at modernization at the individual level in terms of cognitive transformation. No theory has yet been ... Read More
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