Do You Agree With Modernization Theory?

The concept of the modernization theory has evolved overtime. Modernization can be regarded as the progress of change that stems from economic development and industrialization. Economic development will eventually lead to democratization, which then results in changes in culture, society, and politics. According to Inglehart and Welzel’s “How Development Leads to Democracy,” “modernization brings social and cultural changes that lead to the emergence and flourishing of democratic institutions” (6). The modernization theory highlights the process of change, and the cultural, political, societal responses to those changes. Inglehart and Welzel also suggested that modernization is where “economic and technological developments bring a coherent set of social and political changes” (6). These economic and technological developments are important factors in improving and developing a sustainable democratic system. I agree with the modernization theory in the sense that development in society can influence the stability of an economy. In the long run, modernization would develop to democracy due to significant social and cultural changes.

An example of how economic development influences a democratic institution is China’s new regulation on greenhouse gas emissions. China announced their cap-to-trade program to reduce emissions. China is one of the world’s largest polluter and is making efforts to reduce its use of fossil fuels. The Chinese government has placed a limit on the amount of carbon pollution in order to decrease the amount of industrial emissions. The cap-to-trade system will hopefully reduce China’s greenhouse gas emission, which can have an important impact on efficient production in the long run. New regulations towards cleaner energy will restrict Chinese citizens’ freedom to use certain resources, but will also motivate them to act more environmentally friendly. These cultural and societal responses will benefit China’s economy in the long run because by reducing carbon emission, the country can better use its resources. This can also affect other economies because the amount of resources available is finite. In order to maintain production, emissions therefore need to be reduced, which will benefit the environment as a whole.

Davis, Julie, and Coral Davenport. “China to Announce Cap-and-Trade Program to Limit Emissions.” The New York Times. Sept 24. 2015.

Inglehart, Ronald and Welzel, Christian. “How Development Leads to Democracy.” Foreign Affairs 88 (2).


4 thoughts on “Do You Agree With Modernization Theory?

  1. I agree that economic development may lead to democratic institutions, but i believe China is a counter-argument. China has a booming economy, yet it is not a democratic institution. While it can be proven that economic development has given rise to democratic institutions in some nations, China remains undemocratic. This has led to democratic institutions to fear the result of China’s form of government being an example of stability instead of democracy.

  2. I agree with the Modernization Theory in the sense that economic development leads to changes in culture, society, and politics. I also believe that it can lead to a flourishing and emerging democracy. However, I don’t necessarily agree with the Modernization Theory stating that economic development will only lead to a flourishing democracy. As we have seen in the 2014 Freedom House Report, more and more countries have been succeeding without being a democracy. I believe the Modernization Theory carries a western bias by only stating democracies rather than stating regimes in general. From what we have learned in this class so far, I have come to believe that, although economic development is not the only factor in a successful regime, it is a key factor and can alone cause a country to either fail or prosper, regardless of having a democratic or non-democratic regime.

  3. I also agree with modernization theory in regards to the development of a consolidated democracy. Lipset has shown us through study and observation that the greater the economic development in a country, the easier it is to transition and the more enduring a democracy will be.

  4. I have to disagree with the implementation of greenhouse emission regulations exemplifying a democratization of China. I think that international pressures (USA), as opposed to internal protests, are a major cause of the decision. Honestly, I skeptically believe that China will do what is must to sustain it’s coal-fired electricity which so heavily supports its economy, cap and trade program or not. China serves as a shining example of an authoritarian-capitalist regime that has no need to turn to democracy, as mentioned in the first comment. While I understand the hope in Inglehart and Welzel’s belief that China’s economic resurgence could bring about a democratic political institution, I do not see it happening in the near future-simply because of this ability to have an authoritarian regime while having huge growth. Chinese history must also be taken into consideration, for as I&W say, “socio-cultural change is path dependent: history matters” (5). The economic prowess that Deng brought to China by his modernization tactics (farming, industry, science, defense) all while maintaining a non-democratic regime with Confucian principles is remarkable and created a legacy not to be forgotten.

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