Modernization has major effects on the global system that have taken a different form, especially since the end of World War II and the Cold War. The modernization process was viewed as a positive force in the world because of the development in the economy and society. The changes have caused positive changes in the west, controlled by the superpowers, in Europe and America, but negatively affected the Third World. It was expected that the world would change for the better due to modernization, but the reality of increasing population, uncontrolled urbanization, and the chaotic post-Cold War has affected the positive dream of modernization negatively.
Modernization: The Influence of Human Society
Individuals across the world have witnessed major changes in their lives and societies. One of the revolutions that have affected the world population is the emergence of modernization. Social scientists use the concept of modernization to refer to the extensive and influential changes that have achieved progress in less-developed traditions and societies. The changes have led to the emergence of modern societies from the traditional ones, allowing people to enjoy new aspects of life, such as literacy, urbanization, and industrialization. Consequently, people have to change their ways of lives through living in modern societies. Major changes have been experienced in education, communication, and social relationships. Societies are affected differently and assumed diverse models of adaptation based on the ability to adapt to changes. For instance, some communities have developed economically, while others have become overcrowded because of uncontrolled population growth. The society has experienced clear and hidden impacts of modernization on social lives.
Modernization is an inevitable process following the development of technology, industry, and the resulting economic growth. Modernization affects three aspects of society, including industrialization, urbanization, and civilization. While these elements have a positive effect in society, such as promoting industry and supporting economic progress, they are also associated with major drawbacks such as pollution, social, and religious conflicts. Some of the persistent conflicts include religious differences, inequality in economic standards and living conditions, and the aftermath of the cold war, including the new global order, some of which are ever more complicated. The critical questions in research focus on the effects of civilization, including population changes, cultural and religious changes and related conflicts, economic changes and related issues such as inequality, overcrowded cities, and the chaotic world order following the cold war. The research question in the study states: “what has been the effect of modernization on human beings and society?” Regardless of modernization having an impact on the development of human civilizations, it has been marred by serious chaos and conflicts between different societies and even across religions.
Modernization and Economic Development
Modernization has positively affected society, especially from the perspective of economic development that emerged from the major changes. The modernization theory considers the changes from a positive perspective. The process allowed people to work and improve their living standards. One of the major changes that accompanied modernization is the development of technology that improved work and the quality of life. The changes led to industrialization and economic growth, although the relationship remains controversial. Conventionally, “the rise in the share of manufacturing in output and employment as per capita income increases, and the corresponding decline of agriculture are among the best-documented generalizations about development” (Robinson, Syrquin, & World Bank, 1986, p. 1). However, the changes in the production structures affected the rate of growth, and the way benefits were distributed across society. Besides, the policies designed to support modernization and industrialization did not necessarily benefit society because of other challenges, such as the negative effects of modernization. Although modernization might have improved economic development, the process affected the economic wellbeing of society negatively.
Modernization and Population
Regardless of the economic development, modernization affected the population makeup in society, especially in urban and rural areas. Industrialization transformed the constitution of modern society (figure 1 below shows the rate of population growth globally).
(World Population Growth reprinted by Roser, M., Ritchie, H. & Ortiz-Ospina. E. (2019) Retrieved from https://ourworldindata.org/world-population-growth).
Due to modernization and urbanization, many people sought a living in the urban regions, creating major social problems such as overcrowding. Information is available relating to the full range of population densities in the urban areas that show the major ways through which the society makeup transformed due to the modernizing forces. The structural transformation theory explains how the composition of the society changed from the agricultural inclination to industrial preference and forced people to leave the farms to seek employment in the industrial communities, mostly in the urban areas (Michaels, Rauch, & Redding, 2012). The authors speak about “the reallocation of economic activity from agriculture to non-agriculture, which connects with theories of new economic geography” (Michaels, Rauch, & Redding, 2012, p. 538). Unequal population distribution remains an important effect of urbanization relating to modernization.
Population growth in the urban areas led to a high level of overcrowding in various parts of communities. The Arrow Factory (2019) documentary provides a case study of Hong Kong “Room” to explain the effect of urbanization resulting from modernization. The society experiences a high level of housing problems, housing prices, and the small per capita housing area. Although urbanization was expected to improve the living conditions of people through economic development, it failed to achieve the objective in various societies such as Hong Kong. For example, the average house price in Hong Kong is the equivalent of 20 times the modern average resident income (approximately 30,000 USD per m2). The current population of most urban areas in the country and outside is more than the optimal capacity that such communities can accommodate comfortably. Therefore, many people are living in small spaces, some of which are shared between several residents. In Hong Kong, the median area per capita is about 5.3 square meters, which is less than the per capita living area of Hong Kong, which is 15 m2. The residents share facilities such as the toilet. The increase in the population density of the urban areas affected the quality of housing and other economic outcomes of the people.
Modernization and Inequality
Besides the negative effect of modernity on the quality of life, there have been other effects on the distribution of resources in society. Positive changes are evident, which accompanied modernization and led to economic development. For example, modernization and industrialization allowed people to take an active part in contributing to economic development through work. However, the development was not equally distributed in society. It increased the level of economic inequality and differences in the living standards of some societies. The local government has not supported the equal distribution of resources in society. For instance, in Hong Kong, the government pursues high land prices and increased tax revenue by selling high-priced lands (The Arrow Factory, 2019). Such policies tend to favor people with resources to acquire land, while a large part of the society remains without adequate resources to have a comfortable living. Besides, people with resources controls the factors of production in modern society, largely disadvantaging those without the means to control the production process. Therefore, modernity does not only affect the distribution of resources but also power across society.
Modernity places the power to control the economy in the hands of a few people, while the majority lives in extreme poverty. The process is supposed to improve the standards of living across society. However, the process creates a society in which only a few enjoys the benefits of modernization. For example, in Hong Kong, the majority of the landowners are the rich who control the supply of housing. The market factors do not make it suitable for the government to develop housing to relocate the poor because the industrial world allows the rich to control the policy-making process (The Arrow Factory, 2019). Besides, the population continues to increase, which intensifies the demand for housing while the supply remains insufficient. Thus, modernization creates a situation where the demand continues to increase due to population growth while supporting facilities remain inadequate and fail to keep up with the pace.
Cultural Changes and Religious Conflicts
Besides changes in the economic makeup and population, modernization, especially from the perspective of civilization led to major cultural and religious changes and related conflicts in many societies. Since the rise of modernization, the world has experienced national and international conflicts. Among the nature of the conflict is religion, which is the point of contention in various societies (Muggah, Velshi, Igarape Institute, SecDev Group, & NBC News, n.d.). Although modernization was expected to be viewed from a positive perspective, religious conflicts and violent sectarians based on religious hatred mar the process. The modern society has experienced a high level of religious violence, including terrorism, due to religious beliefs. The changes are motivated by differences in various religious groups, including Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and Sikhs, among others. People affiliated to different religious groups showed animosity and perpetrated violence against others. Besides, religious conflicts have a relationship with the state; for example, the prevalence of state-sponsored religious violence and terrorism. Although modernity is supposed to impact society positively, it has been characterized by cultural and religious conflicts.
While different types of violence have always affected society, their nature and magnitude changed due to the rise of modernization and related civilization. Modernization is characterized by interactions between different local and international societies. The changes in society have also resulted in increased interactions between people from different societies. Whereas the interactions were expected to be positive and support social interactions, they have led to major differences such as “xenophobic social anxiety,” which emanated from outside differences to the inside believer community (Muggah, Velshi, Igarape Institute, SecDev Group, & NBC News, n.d.). Religion is expected to be a unifying force, but it has become highly divisive. Religious groups perpetrate a high level of violence against others in the name of beliefs.
Civil Rights Related to Individualism
Civil rights have been an important part of the modernization process. The practice is closely related to individualism and emerged from the historical process with its roots in the western world and became a global event. The individualist dynamics have major impacts that go beyond the social and political arena. They are the driving forces of cultural identities that emerged out of the modernizing process. Modernization opened up the world to recognize the need to identify and fight for a place in society. The “struggle for recognition” resulted in the modern declaration of cultures across the world (Depaigne, n.d.). Consequently, there has been a contradictory aspect at the core of individualism that led to the appreciation of individuals’ rights as well as the development of cultural identities within the context of modern society. Individualism is defined as a modern anthropological idea as opposed to the conventional, holistic, and hierarchical society.
The struggle for civil rights was initiated after the identification that all people, regardless of their diversity, required an important place in modern society. It related to the modern creation of identity as well as the “crisis in culture” (Depaigne, n.d., p. 1). Individualism emerged as an element of universal historical development. The process was motivated by the need to emancipate people from the constraints in society such as slavery and its effects, including racism and other systems of discrimination. Modernization brought the struggle for recognition within the universal society. Notably, the “struggle for recognition” is closely related to individualism that gave rise to the greatest value to the protection and promotion of every member of the society. It is the desire for equality and independence that create social identification and a specific place in society for every person (Jones & Stedman, 2017). Notably, modernity did not lead to civil rights from a local perspective only, but also from a global perspective. In essence, it was part of the major transformation across the world due to the modernizing process.
The Chaos Following the Cold War
Besides the local issues that emerged because of modernization, such as the civil war, some global events developed, especially in the post-Cold War era. The modern era has been characterized by controversy concerning the reality of the post-Cold War order. In the 1940s, the world order emerged and persisted to-date. In various ways, the effect of the world order has become stronger. The Cold War ended and created a new form of wisdom that was a historical division. Communism ended, but also marked the end of the world order that had emerged following the Second World War. Experts and foreign policy theorists have tried to shape policies customized to the demands of the modern post-Cold War, including new grand strategies (Ikenberry, 1996). However, efforts have remained ineffective because of the chaotic world influenced by the modernizing forces. The common wisdom that positive changes emanated from the end of the war is misplaced. The only thing that changed after the war was the termination of bipolarity, the nuclear deadlock, and years of containment.
The Cold War had ended, but the modernizing forces had greatly affected the world. From the anticipations, the world would be better after the Cold War. However, the expectations were far from being realized. Thanks to modernization, a new world order emerged that was more extensive than the times during the Cold War era (Ikenberry, 1996). The new order has fundamental principles that address the structure and relationships among western liberal states. However, other expectations, such as the commitment to an open global economy as well as its multilateral organization, remain questionable, especially concerning their effect on the developing economies. Besides, the idea of stabilization of socioeconomic welfare in the global arena also remains controversial.
The notion of the new world order was important because of the anticipated economic benefits. Modernization initiated industrial democracies that were committed to domesticating their ideas through a network of intergovernmental relations, multilateral institutions, and Western and world political economies’ joint management. Another important aspect of modernity was the need to increase security and the stabilization of the world, especially the west, due to increased security threats such as terrorism. The global community believed that security and stability was based on a network of institutions, such as the UN and the GATT (Ikenberry, 1996). Such institutions play an important role in the new world order.
The New World Order
Modernity introduced major structural transformations that have affected the whole world and created a new world order. The changes took the form of political and economic aspects, which have resulted in development in the global system. For example, modernity in the form of technology and other industrial processes opened up the world to free trade and major interconnectedness. The discourse on development relates to other aspects, such as multiculturalism and the global New World Order (Lowy, 1998). One of the main characteristics of the new world order is capitalism, which has been propagated by the west across the world. The western economies believed that the most effective way of ensuring economic development was to enhance free trade. Many countries opened up their boundaries to free trade and created policies that would help others to trade. Although the openness anticipated having economic benefits, it has remained controversial due to the unequal distribution of economic gains.
The new world order relates to the Western modernization, which has major effects on the global system. The most affected areas are the Third World nations and the people who had to contend with the “conquest, colonialism, imperialism, neocolonialism, and dependency” (Lowy, 1998, p. 596). On the other hand, the global powers enjoy the status quo and the control they have over the capitalist system and players in the developing world. The argument that the rise of western power is the best interests of humanity is a fallacy. Instead, the world powers have used the modernity advantage to dominate and exploit the Third World nations. Therefore, modernization has resulted in major and troubling global inequality. The massive structural and technological transformations have impacted on the global system as a repercussion of the second world war, the Cold War, and the information revolution. They have speeded up the emergence of globalization as well as the capital trans-nationalization as part of the New World Order. The changes are disguised as effective but have created negative effects on the Third World.
As it is evident from the above discussion, modernization is a reality in the world that has resulted in the New World Order following the interconnectedness of the global system. The world is divided where the western side dominated by the U.S., dominates the policy-making system in global affairs. Although modernity was anticipated to have a positive effect on the economy, the economic gains remain unequally distributed, and the west mainly benefits at the expense of the Third World. The post-Cold War era has especially witnessed the negative side of modernity. It has witnessed a rise of civil wars as people strive to create an identity in modern society. The wars have been fought over principles that undermined the norms and rules that underlie the New World Order. In essence, modernity has created a chaotic global system.
Arrow Factory. (2019, April 24). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Hilq32CuVY
Depaigne, V. (n.d.). Individualism, human rights, and identity. Retrieved from https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/hrlc/documents/publications/hrlcommentary2005/individualismandidentity.pdf
Ikenberry, G.J. (1996). The myth of Post-Cold War chaos, Foreign Affairs.
Jones, B. D., & Stedman, S. J. (2017). Civil wars & the post–Cold War International Order. Daedalus, 146(4), 33-44. doi:10.1162/daed_a_00457
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Muggah, R., Velshi, A., Igarape Institute, SecDev Group, & NBC News. (n.d.). Religious violence is on the rise. What can faith-based communities do about it? World Economic Forum. Retrieved from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/02/how-should-faith-communities-halt-the-rise-in-religious-violence/
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