Modernization and Indigenous Cultures

Topics: Culture, Family, Sociology Pages: 7 (1814 words) Published: June 20, 2008
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Modernization and Indigenous Cultures

William Ward

Axia College of University of Phoenix

SOC120 Intro to Sociology

Yvonne Moore

March 23, 2008


Modernization is the process of moving from farming and agricultural society to an industrial society and it mainly deals with societies after the Industrial Revolution of the mid-18th century. Some key features of modernization would be large, formal organizations and division of labor based on specialization of skills and abilities. There is more control over environmental resources such as oil, water, land, and animals. There is also a distinct improvement in the quality of life during this time. Because of a higher per capita income individuals are able to buy more goods and services, have more recreational time, and have better housing and health care. Modernization can have both positive and negative effects on society and can often bring about controversy. In this paper I will look at examples of how modernization has affected cultures and traditions around the world.


Before we look at the effects of modernization on different cultures we will look at a few specific theories concerning how modernization affects society and community. The German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies (1855-1937) formed two theories concerning modernization which he called _Gemeinschaft_ and _Gesellschaft_. Ferdinand Tönnies viewed modernization as the progressive loss of human community - _Gemeinschaft_. He also believed the Industrial Revolution weakened the social bond of families and communities by emphasizing the impersonal business attributes like money, efficiency, and self-interest - _Gesellschaft_. Tönnies belief was that modernization turns societies inside out so that individuals are essentially separated in spite of uniting factors (Macionis, 2006, page 457).

Peter Berger, whose work was greatly influenced by Ferdinand Tönnies, identified four major characteristics of modernization: the decline of small, traditional communities, the expansion of personal choice, increased social diversity, future oriented and higher focus on time. As we look at societies and cultures around the world we will see how these four characteristics play a large part in explaining the effects of modernization on each. There are other aspects of modernization that are not quite as appropriate for explaining the affects on indigenous cultures but should still be discussed.

Other theorists such as Emile Durkeim, whose view of modernity differed from Tönnies's in a more optimistic manner. He viewed modernization as a change from community based bonds to a community based on economic priorities - division of labor. There was Max Weber, who thought that modern societies valued efficiency over tradition; therefore, modern people will adjust to anything that will allow them to attain their objective. Weber felt that for modern people, truth is the result of rational calculation. Then we have Karl Marx, who analyzed modernization as the ascendancy of industrial capitalism. He anticipated a socialist revolution that would lead to an egalitarian society. The problem with Marx's theories is that he had an idealistic view of how the world would work, and underestimated the dominance of bureaucracy in shaping modern societies (Macionis, 2006).

Cultures and traditions

Traditional culture, in a broad sense, is human activity such as religion, philosophy, moral standards, laws, society, history, and art that have been learned and passed on in a community or group over a long period of time. Whether a society can survive modernization without losing its identity is the question that is debated by many people. In Asian countries such as Japan, Modernization has often been confused with Westernization. This is partly due to the fact that the concept originated during the Industrial Revolution in England. It...

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