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Modernization and Dependency Theory

Modernization and Dependency Theory

Author: Paul Hannan

Identify the main ideas that comprise modernization theory and dependency theory.

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Welcome to this episode of Sociology-- Studies of Society. Today's lesson is on Modernization and Dependency Theory. As always, don't be afraid to pause, stop, rewind, or even fast forward to make sure you get the most out of this tutorial.

So today, we're looking at two different theories that really look at the world and why it's so unequal. So both theories are attacking the same general principle, that the world is unequal. People that grew up here in the Midwest versus South America versus Africa versus Europe, there are many different ways that these lives are unequal, and specifically, there's a lot of power differences and quality of life differences between these groups of people.

Well, if we divide that up, we have modernization theory and dependency theory. These are both looking at that same difference, that same idea that the world is really unequal, but they're explaining in totally different ways. So today, we're going to look at modernization theory, and one type of modernization theory, and then introduce dependency theory. I'm not going to talk about a specific type of dependency theory in this lecture, but there are other tutorials that talk about a specific type of dependency theory.

So what is modernization theory? Well, modernization theory really is based from this idea of the structural-functional approach. And so you have all these different parts working together, and good things and bad things all work as part of a machine, and that machine really is trying to keep society going.

Well, within that approach and within the modernization theory, the idea of global stratification is not that it's bad. It's actually caused because of just some differences there, and that technology and cultural differences are what cause stratification. And a key component of that, if it's caused by just technology and cultural differences, well, then anybody, any nation, can be powerful. Let's look at a specific modernization theory, so we can help really explore what it means.

Rostow's Stages of Modernization-- he has five different stages that really help explain this modernization theory. So this theory argues that all societies start in a traditional stage, the traditional stage. And here, society is structured in a way that it's built around a bunch of local communities, there's really strong ties to ancestors and the past and traditions, and there's very limited wealth. With limited material wealth, there's not actually a lot of trade going on. You can think about this traditional stage really being one where they're primarily hunters and gatherers.

Next, they transition to stage two which is transitional society. In stage two, they're really getting ready for a big change in the way that life is structured, and so they're starting to have this cultural shift between what was a traditional society and these new ideas. And those new ideas are individualism, the market economy, and the want for material wealth.

So society hasn't actually changed much. Maybe, they've started to develop more systematic farming, and so there is a little bit more wealth there, but there isn't tons of wealth yet. What's really happening is society is starting to not physically change but intellectually, psychologically change into one that really values more individualism and really is looking towards the market economy, and people really want wealth.

And that proceeds to stage three and this is the takeoff. Here's where those ideas that started as a transitional one really continue and strengthen and become-- the main thing here is they become the norms of society. So before, when there started to be some individualism, well, now, it is the norm in that society, that people are independent.

You can see that image there of the plane taking off, and I've used that imagery before, and I'll continue use it throughout this presentation here. This modernization theory is saying, again, that any type of society can really become modernized and become powerful and wealthy. It just has to follow through these five steps. So this third step is really where they start to actually take off and things actually start to change in the society. That's why the image changed from a paper airplane, which is the idea of flight, to this actual plane here, which can actually fly.

Stage four is technological maturity. What's happening here is that things that started to grow and strengthen, well, now, they've taken off. And the market economy is the norm, and industries have really taken off. Society as a whole has really transitioned now from the traditional.

They've fully transitioned to this new type of society, and with those transitions, now that there's not just the ideas or the start of those ideas being implemented, they've actually taken root. Now, there's weakened community ties. So in the beginning, we had really strong ties to that community. Well, once we're all really individualistic, and this market economy has taking hold, well, the community isn't as important for individuals or society. And people are starting to move to the cities, because that's where factories and the places of industry and work are.

The two last points there on my slide are there's a specialization in the workforce, and there's public education. As a part of this technological maturity, workers become more specialized. So an individual worker finds a niche, and that's where they really work on, and that's what they get training on.

And then there's also now public education. This theory argues that, as we've moved through these stages now, the quality of life has increased enough, the standards of living have increased enough, that society values a public education. They start to give that to their citizens.

Just to note, they're maybe not even just giving it to be nice or to be good, because they have extra money. As actually a part of the market economy, they want to make sure that they have workers that are able to do the tasks that are done. And so you have a public education system which ensures a minimum level of skills and abilities for people of society.

The last stage of this theory is the high mass consumption stage. Now, in this stage, what's really happened is we went through traditional, and then we started to have the ideas take hold. And then the society totally changed how it was, and it took off, and then those things took root. Well, now, the last stage, the high mass consumption, everything is ramped up even more, and especially, I like think about this as things that used to be called luxuries now become necessities.

Well, the quality of living and the standards of living is so much higher that they actually start to see things-- again, those not necessary items-- as necessary and that need to be had. And with that, there's real prosperity happening, where the general income for every citizen rises, and with that rise of income, there's also a similar rise in social welfare. So that's helping make sure that the bottom of society, there's a minimum level of standard of living, of quality of living, for the people at the bottom of society.

And you can think about the idea of this mass consumption and then add onto that maybe mass production. So these two things go together. Society has reached a point where they are producing a lot of goods, and society is demanding a lot of goods.

So if I think that a cell phone is a necessity, even though it's not really a necessity, and in general, society thinks that, well, then we're mass consuming. We want a lot of things. We're demanding a lot of things, and then at the same time, then we can produce a lot of things. And we get to produce a lot of things, and that leads to this high income and rise of social welfare.

Now, on the total other end of the spectrum is this dependency theory. Dependency theory is not based on the structural-function approach. It's based on the social-conflict approach, and again the social-conflict approach sees the world really as a place for struggle over resources.

And dependency theory is saying that global inequality isn't because people just haven't progressed through these five stages. No, no, no, it's actually because there's historical oppression going on by rich nations. Rich nations have used their power, and continue to use their power, to stay in power, and they're actually actively oppressing poor nations. And as a part of this dependency theory, they say that there's no way every nation can become powerful. It's impossible, because you're always going to have some nations that are rich that are trying to stay rich, and the way they stay rich is by keeping other nations poor.

So today's takeaway message-- we learned about two general theories describing global stratification. First, we learned about modernization theory, and this is saying that technology and culture are really what causes global stratification. And we learned about dependency theory which was saying that this inequality actually is due to oppression, and the rich nations actually actively stopping poor nations from becoming rich.

And then, we took time to also explore one specific type of modernization theory, and that's Rostow's Stages of Modernization. And then we went through the five stages of this theory, where society started with the traditional society. Then, they transition to this transitional society. Then, there's a change, and they take off. Then, they reach technological maturity, and then, by the end, they've reached a high mass consumption.

Well, that's it for this lesson. Good work, and hopefully, you'll be seeing me on you screen again soon.


Video Images: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain Earth; Public Domain Paper Airplain; Public Domain Plane; Public Domain Plane; Public Domain Plane; Public Domain

Terms to Know
Dependency Theory

A theory that explains global inequalities with respect to historical oppression.

Modernization Theory

An explanation for global stratification that asserts that technological and cultural differences between nations serves as the basis of global stratification.

Rostow's Stages of Modernization

A theory that holds that affluence can be attained by all nations if they move through the following stages: 1) Traditional Stage; 2) Preconditions for Take-off; 3) Take-Off; 4) Drive to Technological Maturity; 5) High Mass Consumption.