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Modernization Theory, Strengths And Weaknesses Essay

2188 words - 9 pages

Development is an elusive concept to define. It is not simply an increase in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is rather multidimensional and there are no universally accepted approaches which can work as a utility and panacea for development. Development encompasses the advancement of agriculture, village and cottage industries, the socio-economic infrastructure, human resources, community services, human rights and the political environment.

Phenomenally, development is the end result of the interactions between various physical, technological, economic, social, cultural and political institutional factors (Singh, 1999). The thrust of this paper is however, ...view middle of the document...

Smith (1973, 61) pointed out that modernization is about exchanging of older agriculture practices with something more recent. It therefore, suffice that modernization theory is a unilinear process by which a society has to go through in order to develop. In this vein, the modernization theory assumes that any society goes through various stages of development. These are the period of primitive society, preparation for take-off, take-off, drive to maturity and the period of mass consumption. With the above scheme, it is possible to plot African nations on the linear development path.

The above view is rather too theoretical. Most economies in Africa invest in agriculture, manufacturing and tourism. It is therefore not easy to classify economies into neat categories as suggested by the Rostowian linear development theory. The linear development paradigm is also shared by Gabriel (1991) who argues that the basic argument of the movement to modernity is related to the increase in the so called modern values of production such as automation, the use of computers, specialization, and application of science in production of economic goods and services. Modernity theorists believe that nations advance to modernity at different paces depending on their adaptability and versatility. There is an element of truth in the above idea. However, it must also be appreciated that wars, conflict, natural disasters and pandemics may force poor countries to move back and forth on their way to development. The recent devastating political conflict in Zimbabwe and the current conflict in Libya and Sudan have robbed the

nations of their development gains. The above idea demonstrates that the road to development is not always smooth; it has ups and downs (Matunhu, 2011).

Modernization theory has shown a lot of backdrops both in theory and practice. One, it assumes a top down approach to development or it emphasizes the concentration of development in metropolitan centres and the peripheral cities will benefit through a “trickle-down effect”. In addition, the modernists also pointed out that the developed nations should be the lighthouse by which all developing countries should look up to in developing their nations. Modernists erroneously present the development theory as a dichotomous movement from an original terminal situation to an achieved situation with the help of the developed countries as Sachs (1992:1 in Matunhu 2011) writes: “Like a towering lighthouse guiding sailors towards the coast, development stood as the idea which oriented emerging nations in their journey through post war history. . . the countries of the south proclaimed modernization as their primary aspiration after they had been freed from colonial domination”. This therefore created a dependency syndrome since third world countries depended on aid from outside.

The modernization theory was a “one-size-fit all” which did not take into consideration the conditions which existed in...

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