The concept of ‘modernisation’ is ambiguous, and needs to be explained again and again. It is transformation of societies from the old to the modern. C.E. Welch views it as ‘a process which involves rational utilisation of resources, which seek to establish a modern society.’ He identifies it as ‘any societal culture that allows individuals to develop a critical view of man in his relation to nature and society, which enables him to see life as involving different kinds of choices – personal, social or structural and moral.’
According to Benjamin, it means ‘systematic, sustained and purposeful application of human energies to the rational control of man’s physical and social environment for various human purposes.’ William H. Friedland explains it as ‘a society’s capacity and ability to accommodate the need for change’.
Halpern sees it as ‘the transformation of all systems: political, social, economic, intellectual, religious, psychological and so on’. Karl Deutsch conceptualises it as ‘social mobilisation: the process in which major clusters of old social, economic and psychological commitments are eroded and broken and people become available for new patterns of socialisation and behaviour.’
In the Indian context, Myron Weiner, explains it:
(2) Programmes to change the Hindu social structure, and
(3) A unified national state.
In this sense, we do not want to be ‘modern’ but ‘modernised’, and like to have modernisation, and not modernity. ‘Modernisation does not’, says C.H. Dodd, ‘necessarily result in modernity.’ It is the effect of the new on the old, not the eradication of the old and its substitution by the new.
Modernisation, sometimes called as social and political development, refers to all those social and political changes that accompany industrialisation. Among these are urbanisation, changes in occupational structure, social mobility, development of education as well as political changes from absolutist institutions to representative and responsible governments, and from a laissez faire to modern welfare state. The above explanations indicate the ‘classical’ view of modernisation. They are ethnocentric and oriented toward the West.
Some of the features of classical modernisation can be enumerated as:
(i) Increasing control over nature and environment;
(ii) As a result of this control, maximum exploitation of natural and physical resources, or use of machine and technology;
(v) Widespread literacy;
(vi) Increase in national and individual income;
(vii) Increasing participation in the activities of government;
(viii) Development and extension of means of mass communication;
(ix) Social mobility;
(x) Commitment to national unity; and
(xi) Faith in equality.
The other is the ‘contemporary’ view of modernisation. S.N. Eisenstadt finds, historically, modernisation as the process of change towards those types of social, economic, and political systems that have developed in Western Europe and North America from the seventeenth century to the nineteenth. Willbert E. More, Chandler Morse, Lucian Pye, etc., also think in similar terms.
Therefore, V.R. Mehta has criticised it ‘as a teleological concept which proceeds along a fixed route as a result of certain demographic changes. ‘It is considered as a process of ‘catching up’ with the advanced nations in terms of the latter’s framework. Unlike the ‘classical’ paradigms of modernisation, Eisenstadt does not assume that ‘development’ or ‘modernisation’ constitutes a ‘unilinear demographic, social, economic, or political process which extends to some plateau, whose basic contours will be everywhere the same.
Processes common to modernisation are growing differentiation, social mobilisation, weakening of traditionality and cultural parameters. A problem attendant on it is the ability to develop and maintain an institutional structure capable of absorbing changes beyond its own initial premises and dealing with continuously new and changing problems, while also developing qualities of participation, liberty, and some degree or type of rationality.
In the Indian context, Wilfred C. Smith explains it as a process by which a country becomes ‘conscious of itself and of its processes and of the kind of country that it is possible for it to become, and by which it finds or constructs technical means for executing such choices as it consciously or unconsciously makes.
”Mehta finds it as ‘a process whereby a society becomes increasingly aware of itself, its identity and aspirations, and seeks to concretise its awareness into practice by seeking equivalence with other nations.'” According to him, all new ideas and processes must meaningfully relate to the needs, resources and aspirations of the society in question.
The process is to be grasped not in terms of the process that has taken place elsewhere, but in terms of a particular society’s own achievements, its history, customs and social relations; the tools and material with which people have lived and worked. Thus, according to him, to modernise is, first, to know one’s own society in terms of its historical experience, and second, to act in such a manner that its potential as revealed by the historical process and contemporary aspirations is fully realised.
Modernisation is an all-pervading phenomena which can be studied at many levels.
Some of them are:
(v) Intellectual; and
(vi) Political levels.