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The Problem of the Convergence of Industrial Societies: A Critical Look at the State of a Theory

  • Ian Weinberg (a1)

Are industrial societies becoming alike? This crucial question, unfortunately sometimes treated as an assumption, has been of central theoretical interest since the appearance of the social sciences. The philosophes, with their optimistic belief in progress, were theorists of convergence because they believed in the perfectibility not of particular groups in society, but of all ‘mankind’. It was a radical, anti-relativistic notion to believe that Man not Men was the basic unit of study, the premise for speculation. For if Man acted the same everywhere, then forms of social organization must share essential analytic properties and be proceeding toward an equivalence of structural arrangements. Morally, good was to be found everywhere. Samuel Johnson remarked that ‘the King of Siam sent ambassadors to Louis XIV, but Louis XIV did not send ambassadors to the King of Siam’. But Johnson sent his literary imagination on a diplomatic mission to Abyssinia in Rasselas, presumably to clear his mind of such ethnocentric cant. The cult of the Noble Savage was not only an aspect of eighteenth-century Romanticism, but an indication that Europeans, even Frenchmen, had something to learn from the simple lives of their primitive contemporaries. Like the philosophes many thought that the state, in the form of the benevolent despot, assured continual improvement, and often saw middling groups of intellectuals as allied with or advisory to the king in this great enterprise. It did not seem improbable that societies would converge to a similar political structure—with a strong state, an intellectual elite, and a mature opinion publique, a phrase that originated in pre-revolutionary eighteenth-century France.

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page 1 note * This paper is a revised version of one delivered at the 1967 meetings of the American Sociological Association in San Francisco. I am indebted to Marion J. Levy Jr., Charles Tilly and Gerald Rosenblum for comments, though naturally my criticisms and conclusions are my own responsibility. I am grateful to the Humanities and Social Science Research Fund of the University of Toronto for support, and to my research assistant, Samrendrah Singh.

page 1 note 1 Bury, John B., The Idea of Progress (New York: Dover, 1955);Becker, Carl, The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth Century Philosophers (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1935);Martin, Kingsley, French Liberal Thought In the Eighteenth Century (New York: Harper & Row, 1963).

page 2 note 1 Bramson, Leon, The Political Context of Sociology (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1961).

page 2 note 2 See deMaistre, Joseph, On God and Society (Chicago, Illinois: Henry Regnery, 1959). This work was written in 1808-1809.

page 2 note 3 Masur, Gerhard, ‘Distinctive Traits of Western Civilization: Through the Eyes of Western Historians’, American Historical Review, 67, No. 3 (04 1962), 608.

page 3 note 1 Hoselitz, Bert F., ‘Karl Marx on Secular Economic and Social Development’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 6 (1964), 162.

page 3 note 2 Spiegel, Henry William, ‘Theories of Economic Development: History and Classification’, Journal of the History of Ideas, 16, No. 4 (09 1955), 520.

page 3 note 3 Fay, Sidney B., ‘The Idea of Progress’, American Historical Review, 52, No. 2 (01 1947), 232.

page 3 note 4 Criticizing current ‘agro-fugal’ models of economic development, Postan pointed out that ‘most of the reasons which people advance in favor of the overwhelming emphasis on industry are economic, and most of the economic reasons are historical’. Postan, M. M., ‘Agricultural Problems of Under-Developed Countries in the Light of European Agrarian History’, Second International Conference of Economic History, II (Aix-en-Provence, 1962), 11.

page 4 note 1 Inkeles, Alex and Rossi, Peter, ‘National Comparisons of Occupational Prestige’, American Journal of Sociology, 61 (01 1956), 329–39;Lipset, Seymour Martin and Bendix, Reinhard, Social Mobility in Industrial Society (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1959);Davis, Kingsley, ‘The Demographic Transition’, in Amitai and Eva Etzioni, eds, Social Change (New York: Basic Books, 1964), pp. 187–94;Nimkoff, M. K., ‘Is the Joint Family an Obstacle to Industrialization?’, International Journal of Comparative Sociology, I (1960), 109–18;Moore, Wilbert E. and Feldman, Arnold, Labor Commitment and Social Change in Developing Areas (New York: Social Science Research Council, 1960);Levy, Marion J. Jr., ‘Some Structural Problems of Modernization and “High Modernization”: China and Japan’, in Szczepanik, E. F., ed., Proceedings of the Symposium on the Economic and Social Problems of the Far East (Hong Kong: University of Hong Kong Press, 1962), p. 10;Lipset, Seymour Martin, ‘Economic Development and Democracy’, in Political Man (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday Anchor, 1959), chapter 2, pp. 2763.

page 4 note 2 See Eisenstadt, S. N., ‘Modernization, Growth and Diversity’, India Quarterly, 20 (0103 1964), 1742; for an attempt to retain some of these criteria against contrary evidence see his Breakdowns of Modernization’, Economic Development and Cultural Change, 12, No. 4, (07 1964), 345–67;Black, Cyril E., The Dynamics of Modernization (New York: Harper & Row, 1966);Smelser, Neil J., ‘Mechanisms of Change and Adjustment to Change’, in Hoselitz, Bert F. and Moore, Wilbert E. eds, Industrialization and Society (The Hague: Mouton, 1966), chapter 2, pp. 3254;Deutsch, Karl W., ‘Social Mobilization and Political Development’, American Political Science Review, 55, No. 3 (08 1961), 493515.

page 4 note 3 For arguments in favor of limited comparative studies, see Bendix, Reinhard, ‘Concepts and Generalizations in Comparative Sociological Studies’, American Sociological Review, 28 (1963), 533, in which he warns that ‘many concepts are generalizations in disguise’.

page 5 note 1 Sorokin, Pitirim A., ‘Mutual Convergence of the United States and the U.S.S.R. to the Mixed Sociocultural Type’, InternationalJournal of Comparative Sociology, I (1960), 143–76;Horowitz, Irving Louis, ‘Sociological and Ideological Conceptions of Industrial Development’, American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 23, No. 4 (10 1964), 363;Dimock, Marshall E., ‘Management in the U.S.S.R.—Comparisons to the United States’, Public Admini stration Review, 20, No. 3 (Summer 1960), 139–47.

page 5 note 2 For an attempt to use existing data, but specifically focusing on the convergence of advanced industrial societies, see Weinberg, Ian, ‘Modernization, Elites and Class’, in Weinberg, Ian, ed., English Society (New York: Atherton, in press).

page 5 note 3 Feldman, Arnold S., ‘The Nature of Industrial Societies’, World Politics, 12 (07 1960), 618.

page 5 note 4 Hodge, Robert W., Siegel, Paul M. and Rossi, Peter H., ‘Occupational Prestige in the United States, 1925-1963’, American Journal of Sociology, 70, No. 3 (11 1964), 286303;Hodge, Robert W., Treiman, Donald J. and Rossi, Peter H., ‘A Comparative Study of Occupational Prestige’, in Bendix, Reinhard and Lipset, Seymour Martin, eds, Class, Status and Power (New York: Free Press, 1966), pp. 309–21.

page 5 note 5 Goode, William J., ‘Industrialization and Family Change’, in Hoselitz, Bert F. and Moore, Wilbert E., eds, Industrialization and Society (The Hague: Mouton, 1966), chapter 12, pp. 237–59;Laslett, Peter, ‘The History of Population and Social Structure’, International Social Science Journal, 17, No. 4 (1965), 582–94;The World We Have Lost (London: Methuen, 1965).

page 5 note 6 Blumer, Herbert, ‘Early Industrialization and the Laboring Class’, Sociological Quarterly, 1, No. 1 (01 1960), 514.

page 5 note 7 Goldthorpe, John H., ‘Social Stratification in Industrial Society’, in Halmos, Paul, ed., The Development of Industrial Societies (Keele: 10 1964), pp. 97123.

page 5 note 8 deSchweinitz, Karl Jr., Industrialization and Democracy (New York: Free Press, 1964).

page 6 note 1 Crozier, Michel, The Bureaucratic Phenomenon (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964);Haire, Mason, Ghiselli, Edwin E. and Porter, Lyman W., ‘Cultural Patterns in the Role of the Manager’, Industrial Relations, 2, No. 2 (02 1963), 95117.

page 6 note 2 In their typology, the elites are the middle class, dynastic elites, revolutionary intellectuals, colonial administrators and nationalist leaders. Kerr, Clark, Dunlop, John T., Harbison, Frederick and Myers, Charles A., Industrialism and Industrial Man (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964).

page 6 note 3 Feldman, Arnold S. and Moore, Wilbert E., ‘Industrialization and Industrialism, Con vergence and Differentiation’, Transactions Fifth World Congress of Sociology (Washington, D.C., 1962), p. 146.

page 6 note 4 Moore, Wilbert E., ‘Creation of a Common Culture’, Confluence, 4 (07 1955), 238.

page 6 note 5 See his Social Change (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1963).

page 6 note 6 Inkeles, Alex, ‘Industrial Man: The Relation of Status to Experience, Perception, and Value’, American Journal of Sociology, 66, No. 1 (07 1960), 131; see also his‘The Moderni zation of Man’, in Weiner, Myron, ed., Modernization (New York: Basic Books, 1966), chapter 10, pp. 138–50; andWeisskopf, W. A., ‘Industrial Institutions and Personality Struc ture’, Journal of Social Issues, 7, No. 4 (1951), 16; for an attempt to ‘psychologize’ Weber and to find the psychic source of modernization in late sixteenth-century English Puritanism, seeBarbu, Zvedei, ‘The Origins of English Character’, in Problems of Historical Psychology (New York: Grove Press, 1960), pp. 145–218.

page 7 note 1 See e.g., McClelland, David C., The Achieving Society (Princeton, N.J.: Van Nostrand, 1961);LeVine, Robert A., Dreams and Deeds (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966);Rosen, Bernard, ‘The Achievement Syndrome and Economic Growth in Brazil’, Social Forces, 42, No. 3 (03 1964), 341–51;Bradburn, Norman N. and Berlew, David E., ‘Need for Achievement and English Industrial Growth’, Economic Development and Cultural Change, 10, No. 1 (10 1961), 821.

page 7 note 2 Levy, Marion J. Jr., Modernization and the Structure of Societies (Princeton, N.J.: Prince ton University Press, 1966), vol. 2, p. 709.

page 7 note 3 Ibid., p. 710.

page 7 note 4 Theodorson, George A., ‘Acceptance of Industrialization and Its Attendant Consequences for the Social Patterns of Non-Western Societies’, American Sociological Review, 18, No. 5 (10 1953), 477–84.

page 7 note 5 See Gerschenkron, Alexander, ‘Typology of Industrial Development as a Tool of Analysis’, Second International Conference of Economic History, 2 (Aix-en-Provence, 1962) 487505. Gerschenkron does not deny the processual similarity of industrialization in Western Europe, but disagrees with the validity of the model for Eastern Europe, and, by implication, with con temporary underdeveloped areas where the level of D is obviously high. See his‘Economic Backwardness in Historical Perspective’, in Hoselitz, Bert F., ed., The Progress of Under developed Areas (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951), pp. 329.

page 8 note 1 Apter, David E., The Politics of Modernization (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965), p. 460.

page 8 note 2 Ibid., p. 447.

page 8 note 3 Ibid., p. 459.

page 8 note 4 Saint-Simon wanted to create a ‘Council of Newton’ to run a world dislocated by the French Revolution. See his ‘Letter from an Inhabitant of Geneva to His Contemporaries’ (1803), in Markham, Felix M. H., tr. and ed., Saint-Simon, Selected Writings (Oxford: Blackwell, 1952), pp. 111. That such theories are influenced by economic cycles is argued byFeuer, Lewis S., ‘What is Alienation ? The Career of a Concept’, New Politics, 1 (Spring 1962), 116–34.

page 8 note 5 Wilbert E. Moore says that the functional equilibrium model ‘is the actual mainstay for the impressive body of generalizations concerning the consequences of modernization’, in Social Change and Comparative Studies’, International Social Science Journal, 15, No. 4 (1963), 524; see alsoParsons, Talcott, Societies-Evolutionary and Comparative Perspectives (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1966);Smelser, Neil J., ‘The Modernization of Social Relations’, in Weiner, Myron, ed., Modernization (New York: Basic Books, 1966), chapter 8, pp. 110–21;Levy, Marion J. Jr., op. cit.; Eisenstadt, S. N., Essays on Sociological Aspects of Political and Economic Development (The Hague: Mouton, 1961);Social Change, Differenti ation’, American Sociological Review, 29, No. 3, (06 1964) 375–86; Modernization, Protest and Change (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1966); and the references to some of his other work in note 2 on p. 4;Feldman, Arnold S., ‘Evolutionary Theory and Social Change’, in Barringer, Herbert R., Blanksten, George I. and Mack, Raymond W., Social Change in Developing Areas (Boston: Schenkman, 1965), chapter 11, pp. 273–84;Bock, Kenneth E., ‘Evolution, Function and Change’, American Sociological Review, 28, No. 2 (04 1963), 229–37;Marsh, Robert M., Comparative Sociology (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1967), p. 29.

page 8 note 6 Levy says, ‘A society will be considered more or less modernized to the extent that its members use inanimate sources of power and/or use tools to multiply the effects of their efforts’, op. cit., vol. 1, p. 11.

page 9 note 1 Moore, Wilbert E., The Impact of Industry (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1965), p. 12.

page 9 note 2 See note 2 on p. 6.

page 9 note 3 See Shils, Edward, ‘The Intellectuals in the Political Development of the New States’, World Politics, 12 (04 1960), 329–68.

page 9 note 4 Seligman, Lester G., ‘Elite Recruitment and Political Development’, Journal of Politics, 26 (1964), 612–26.

page 9 note 5 See Keller, Suzanne, Beyond the Ruling Class: Strategic Elites in Modern Society (New York: Random House, 1963);Gould, Jay M., The Technical Elite (New York: Augustus M. Kelley, 1966); for a dissenting view seeDahl, Robert A., ‘A Critique of the Ruling Elite Model’, American Political Science Review, 52, No. 2 (06, 1958), 463–70.

page 10 note 1 Deyrup, Felicia J., ‘Limits of Government Activity in Underdeveloped Countries’, Social Research, 24, No. 2 (Summer, 1957), 197.

page 10 note 2 Arnold S. Feldman and Wilbert E. Moore, op. cit., p. 166.

page 10 note 3 Hoselitz, Bert F., Sociological Aspects of Economic Growth (Gleoe, Illinois: Free Press, 1960). Sociological theory has often been attracted by such easy dichotomies—particularly Tonnies‘ Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft and Durkheim’s mechanical and organic solidarity.

page 11 note 1 Polanyi, Karl, The Great Transformation (New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1944);Rostow, W. W., The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1960).

page 11 note 2 Zebot, Cyril A., The Economics of Competitive Coexistence: Convergence Through Growth (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1964), p. 146.

page 11 note 3 Levy says, op. cit., p. 31, that ‘modernization is a general process; it touches us all’.

page 11 note 4 Hodgen, Margaret T., Early Anthropology in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1964); it has been argued that the urban revolution rigidified and led to the stagnation of Egyptian civilization at its highest point,Hawkes, Christopher, ‘The Prehistoric Roots of European Culture and History’, in Hawkes, Jacquetta, ed., The World of the Past (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1963), p. 491.

page 11 note 5 For the adverse effects of urbanization in new nations, see Hauser, Philip M., ‘Urbaniza tion: An Overview’, in Hauser, Philip M. and Schnore, Leo F., eds., The Study of Urbanization (New York: John Wiley, 1965), chapter 1, pp. 147.

page 12 note 1 Lerner, Daniel, ‘The Transformation of Institutions’, in Hamilton, William B., ed., The Transfer of Institutions (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1964), chapter 1, p. 14.

page 12 note 2 Nash, Manning, Primitive and Peasant Economic Systems (San Francisco: Chandler, 1966), pp. 110–19. Although Cantel approximated to as perfect an experimental situation as could be found outside of a laboratory, even Nash seems surprised at his findings.

page 12 note 3 Gooch, George P., History and Historians in the Nineteenth Century (New York: Longmans, Green, 1928), p. 93.

page 12 note 4 See Levy, Marion J. Jr., ‘Structural-Functional Analysis’, in International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences (New York: Macmillan, 1968).

page 13 note 1 For a somewhat similar critique, see Pullman, Donald R., ‘Social Change in Economic Development Theory’, Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, 3, No. 1 (02 1966).

page 13 note 2 Stanley R. Barrett, ‘The Achievement Factor in Igbo Receptivity to Industrialization’ Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology (forthcoming).

page 14 note 1 Belshaw, Cyril S., ‘Social Structures and Cultural Values as Related to Economic Growth,’ International Social Science Journal, 16, No. 2 (1964), 223.

page 15 note 1 Goldenweiser, A. A., ‘The Principle of Limited Possibilities in the Development of Culture’, Journal of American Folklore, 26 (1913), 259–90.

page 15 note 2 Ibid., p. 269.

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