Decolonization, Cold war and The Construction of Modernization Theory

            The interesting point of this chapter is the Modernization Theory proposed by Walts Rostow.  The theory then called Walt Rostow’s Stages of Economic Growth. The theory of modernization rests an opistimistic version of economic growth models and on theories of stable change. A simple dichotomy is proposed between traditional and modern societies with modernization as the process of moving from one situation to the other. The theory of modernization was very influential in the 1950’s and 1960’s. However, modernization theory has subsequently been criticized for illegitimately generalizing the model of the West and more particularly the model of the USA.

            The theory of Rostow has stages comprise five-element sequence. The initial situation is traditional society which characterized as ‘one whose structure is developed within limited production functions, based on pre-Newtonian science and technology and on pre-Newtonian attitudes towards the physical world’. It is not always that the traditional society was wholly static. The improvements in agriculture indeed could enhance levels of living. Rostow characterize traditional society in terms of its agricultural base, clan-based polity and fatalistic mentality. However, the absence of modern science and technology imposed inevitable limits in the society.

            The second stage of the process has to establish the pre-conditions for take-off into self-sustained growth. The stage is exemplified by medieval society disintegrates, modern secience grows and trade develops. In this period the possibilities for production opened up by modern science find acceptance iwithin society and as a consequence the whole slow business of remaking traditional society begins. In seventeenth-century Britain reactive nationalism was generated by the wars against the Spanish, Dutch and French. Once the economic and social dynamic had been initiated it was quickly extended to other European states.

            The third stage, take off economic growth becomes normal. The typical rate of capital investment rises from five to ten percent of national income and a series of sectors of industry are quickly established. In the fourth stage of the drive to maturity there is a long period of progress with ten to twenty per cent of national income invested in new production capacity. There is a period of fine adjustment to social and institutional arrangements such that eventually a mature economy and society is established which rests on the absorption of home-generated new technologies. In stage five, the leading sectors from heavy industries shift away towards the provision of consumer durables and services in the consumer marketplace, and at the same time social welfare provisions are made. At this point the society in question has accomplished fully the shift from traditional to modern society, in the high mass consumption.

f priva�X rp� �� work rests in part upon their treating human beings as essentially egoistical. Marx use the notion of alienation to analyze the way in which modern industrial capitalism acts to distort this basic human characteristic via the degradation of creative human labour into mere work. In The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts alienation presents itself in four ways. In the first place, the worker is alienated from the product of his labour because in industrial capitalist society work is specialized, routinized and controlled by others. The worker’s products exist apart from him and it confronts him as the wealth of the capitalist, or abstractly as capital. Second, the worker is alienated from the act of production because routinization, specialization and submission to external control effectively destroy the typically human creativity of labour. Labour is not voluntary in capitalist society, rather it is coerced. Third, human beings are alienated from their ‘species being’ as capitalistic social relations degrade the collective human creation of self and society by reducing the social world to a vehicle for the satisfaction of private wants. Fourth, human beings are alienated from their fellows as capitalistic social relations are typically fragmentary. The fundamental contradiction of capitalist society is the private control of social production. In The German IdeologyMarx and Engels look forward to the effective overcoming of the present division of labour so that human beings would not be restricted to a particular sphere of activity.


The strategy of historical materialism

            In Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859), there is the following summary formulation of the ‘materialist conception of history’: production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rise a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. … It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.

Overall, Marx is arguing that human beings make their own patterns of life and themselves in creative and cooperative human labour.


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