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Modernization Theory and the Comparative Study of National Societies: A Critical Perspective

  • Dean C. Tipps (a1)

Extract

Use of the term ‘modernization’ in its present connotations is of relatively recent origin, becoming an accepted part of the vocabulary of American, if not international, social science only in the decade of the 1960s. Despite its relatively rapid rise to currency, the popularity of the term does not appear to be matched by any widespread consensus concerning its precise meaning. The proliferation of alternative definitions has been such, in fact, that the ratio of those using the term to alternative definitions would appear to approach unity. The popularity of the notion of modernization must be sought not in its clarity and precision as a vehicle of scholarly communication, but rather in its ability to evoke vague and generalized images which serve to summarize all the various transformations of social life attendant upon the rise of industrialization and the nation-state in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These images have proven so powerful, indeed, that the existence of some phenomenon usefully termed ‘modernization’ has gone virtually unchallenged. While individuals may differ on how precisely this phenomenon should be conceptualized and a number of critics have addressed themselves to the relative merits of alternative conceptualizations, both critics and advocates alike tend to assume the basic utility of the idea of modernization itself, treating only the manner of its conceptualization as problematic.

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Modernization Theory and the Comparative Study of National Societies: A Critical Perspective

  • Dean C. Tipps (a1)

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