Modernisation Theory

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  • Created by: Zainab
  • Created on: 01-06-13 22:01

Overview of Modernisation Theory

Modernisation theorists aim to:

  • explain why poorer countries have failed to undergo a process of evolution which would result in a modern society.
  • Prevent the spread of Communism and Communist values.

Modernisation Theory is heavily influenced by Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. They believe that similarly to organisms, societies undergo a process of evolution in order to reach modernity.

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Stages of Development

Walt Rostow (1960) proposed 5 stages of development that he believes every society has, or will, pass through.

1. Traditional Society

  • A subsistence economy based on farming.
  • People live in small communities and are extremely interdependent upon each other.
  • Only enough food is produced to survive.

2. Preconditions for Take-Off

  • Innovations in technology occur.
  • Production becomes more efficient and surplus product can be sold for a profit.
  • External trade develops
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Stages of Development

3. Take Off

  • Emergence of entrepreneurs who reinvest their profits.
  • This period is characterised by rapid innovations, industrialisation and growth.

4. Drive to Maturity

  • New institutions and infrastructure begin to emerge.

5. Age of Mass Consumption

  • Economic activity is at a consistently high level.
  • The population have more choice over their own consumption.
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Barriers to development

Modernisation theorists believe that developing countries are "stuck" at Rostow's stage of traditional society

Barriers to development exist in two forms; economic barriers and cultural barriers.

Economic Barriers

Developing countries are stuck within poverty as they cannot produce a surplus needed to get out of poverty.

Cultural Barriers

Traditional values prevent a country from developing; Parsons describes these values as "backwards looking".


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Economic Catalysts

Economic Catalysts

1. Overseas Development Aid (ODA)

Poor countries need wealth to get themselves out of poverty e.g. loans, aid.

2. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)

Big countries might build a factory in developing countries, producing employment for the locals and building infrastructure.

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Cultural Catalysts

Cultural Catalysts

1. Education-Bert Hoselitz

Education provides a skilled workforce and encourages values of competition and individual achievement.

2. Mass Media

The mass media can spread western values and progressive political outlooks.

3. Urbanisation

Urbanisation breaks the reliance on the extended family and provides a concentrated workforce

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Strengths of Modernisation Theory

  • Modernisation theory offers practical solutions.
  • Modernisation theory highlights how development of a country is more than just economic reform-cultural values must also be addressed in order for a country to reach modernity.
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Limitations of Modernisation Theory

  • Modernisation theory can be criticised for being ethnocentric-assuming western culture is superior and undermining the role of other cultures.
  • Modernisation theory oversimplifies development. They assume underdevelopment is a natural, causeless process and ignores the impact of exploitation and Colonialism.
  • There are not enough resources in the world for all countries to achieve modernity.
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