Modernity means the adoption ofthose social patterns that have resulted from industrialization. In everydayusage modernity designates the present in relation to the past. Sociologistsinclude in this concept the social patterns set in motion by the IndustrialRevolution beginning in Western Europe in the middle of 18th century.

Modernization isthe process of the adoption of those patterns of behavior which have beenconsidered as modern.

Therise of modernity is a complex process involving many dimensions of change.These dimensions could be: cultural patterns, social structure, socialinstitutions, and social change.

Cultural Patterns

Traditionalsocieties are governed by homogeneity in the cultural values. There issimilarity in the cultural values which are considered as sacred and peoplewould like to preserve them. There is low tolerance of differences in values.Compared with traditional societies, the modern societies demonstrateheterogeneity.

Inthe modern society there is a variety of cultures. Modern society is an urbansociety which consists of people belonging to different religions, variety ofoccupations, variety of ethnicity, and hence different cultural patterns.Within the broad cultures one comes across variety of subcultures and sometimescounter cultures as well.

Thesocial norms are of high moral significance and the traditional society doesnot tolerate the divergence in social norms. In the modern society there isvariation in the norms and the people in the urban/modern society are highlytolerant of the diversity in social norms.

Inthe traditional societies the present is linked with past. For the presentproblems people try to look for solutions in the past i.e. how did theforefathers solve similar problem in the past? For modern societies, thepresent is linked to the future i.e. present problems are to be solved withwhat is going to happen in the future.

Traditionalsocieties use pre-industrial technology and mostly people depend upon human andanimal energy. Compared with that the industrial societies use advanced sourcesof energy.

Social Structure

Inthe traditional societies people have few statuses and most of these statusesare ascribed. Everybody performs multiple roles; in fact there is littlespecialization of roles.

Inthe modern society there is a variety of occupations as well as variety ofstatuses and the corresponding roles to be performed. Most of the statuses aswell as roles are achieved ones. There is variety of specialized roles andpeople perform such roles.

Mostof the relationships in the traditional society are of “primary” type. There islittle anonymity and privacy of the families from each other. In the modernsocieties, people are more concerned about their own affairs. They havesecondary relations and don’t know much about what is happening in theneighborhood

Mostof the communication in the traditional societies is face to face but in themodern societies it is supplemented by mass media. We use telephone, internet,radio, television, and print media for communication with others. People havelittle time to visit somebody and talk personally.

Socialcontrol through gossip or social pressure has been replaced by formal agencieslike police and legal system in the modern societies. Due to the diversities ofculture in the modern society, the cultural norms may conflict with each other.Therefore, the whole system gets formalized and enforced by agencies authorizedby the law of the country.

Traditionalsocieties experience rigid patterns of inequality and there is limited socialmobility. Modern societies exhibit fluid patterns of social inequality. Statusof a person is an achieved one and there are plenty of opportunities to movefrom one occupation to another. In modern industrial societies there is lot ofsocial mobility.

Inthe traditional societies patriarchy is highly pronounced. Women aresubordinate to men and most of their lives are centered in the home. As we movetoward modern societies, patriarchy starts declining.

Societiesmove toward universal education and women start participating in the laborforce. As a result they become financially independent and fight for theirrights. Hence the decision making becomes fluid, moving away from authoritarianpattern to egalitarian pattern. All this change, amounts to women empowerment.

Inthe small scale, pre-industrial societies, governments amounted to little morethan a local noble. A royal family formally reigned over an entire nation, butwithout efficient transportation or communication, the power of even absolutemonarchs fell far short of the power wielded by today’s political leaders. Astechnological innovation allowed government to expand, the centralized stategrew in size and importance.

Governmentshave entered more and more areas of social life: schooling the population,regulating wages and working conditions, establishing standards for products ofall sorts, and offering financial assistance to ill and the unemployed. To paysuch expenses, taxes have soared. In modern society, power resides in largebureaucracies’ leaving people in local communities little control over theirlives.

Inthe traditional societies extended family is the important institution for thesocialization of children. Also family is the primary unit of economicproduction. In modern societies extended families are replaced by nuclearfamilies. It does retain some socialization function but by and large becomes aconsumption unit rather than a production unit.

Religionpermeates the lives of people in the traditional societies. Pluralism is littletolerated. But in the modern societies, religion weakens with the rise ofscience. People look for the solution of their problems in science rather thanin religion. Even in the society the plurality of religions is tolerated

Formalschooling in the traditional societies is limited to the elites. In the modernsociety basic schooling becomes universal, with growing proportion ofpopulation receiving advanced education

Inthe traditional society there is high birth rate and high death rate. Becauseof low standard of living and simple medical technology, generally there is lowlife expectancy.

Comparativelyin the modern societies there is low birth rate and low death rate. Due to highstandard of living and sophisticated technology people usually enjoy longerlife expectancy.

Settlementpatterns in the modern societies are large. Population is typicallyconcentrated in large cities.

Socialchange in the traditional societies is slow and it takes many generations tovisibly notice the actual change that has taken place. In the modern societieschange is very rapid and it is evident within a single generation.


Ifmodernity was the product of the Industrial Revolution, is the InformationRevolution creating a post-modern era? A number of scholars think so and usethe term post-modernity to refer to social patterns characteristic of postindustrial societies.Post-industrial society is based on information, services, and high technology,rather than on raw materials and manufacturing. Post-modern society is anotherterm for post-industrial society; its chief characteristic is the use of toolsthat extend the human abilities to gather and analyze information, tocommunicate, and to travel.

Characteristics of Post-ModernSociety

In1973, Daniel Bell noted the emergence of a postindustrial society. He gave sixcharacteristics:

  1. Extensive travel amongnations;
  2. A vast surplus of goods;
  3. a service sector solarge that it employs the majority of workers;
  4. A wide variety andquantity of goods available to average person;
  5. An ‘informationexplosion’; and
  6. A ‘global village’ i.e.instantaneous, worldwide communications.

Ofthese six items the last two are the most important. We find that the news areinstantaneously transmitted by satellite having worldwide effects. Social spaceis no longer a configuration of territorial places, territorial distances, andterritorial borders; it is fast approaching a global village.

Post-industrial society remains amatter of debate

Five basic themes of this debate:

  1. In importantrespects, modernity has failed: The promise of modernsociety was a life free from want. As postmodernist critics see it, however,the twentieth century was unsuccessful in solving social problems like poverty,since many people still lack financial security.
  2. The bright light of“progress” is fading. Modern people look tothe future, expecting their lives will improve in significant ways. Members ofpost-modern societies, however, are less confident about what the future holds.Optimism has been replaced with pessimism with the assumption that the life isgetting worse.
  3. Science no longerholds the answers. The defining trait ofthe modern era was a scientific outlook and a confident belief that technologywould make life better. But post-modern critics contend that science has notsolved many old problems (like the poor health) and has even created newproblems (such as degrading the environments). Science has been widely used forpolitical purposes, especially by powerful segments of society.
  4. Cultural debatesare intensifying. Modernity was to be anera of enhanced individuality and expanding tolerance. But it has fallen shorthere as well. Feminism points out that patriarchy still continues to limit thelives of women, and multiculturalism seeks to empower minorities who stillremain at the margin of social life. Moreover, now that more people have allthe material things they need, ideas are taking on more importance. Thus,post-modernity is also a post-materialistic era, in which issues like socialjustice, as well as the environment and gay rights, command more and moreattention.
  5. Social institutionsare changing. Just asindustrialization brought a sweeping transformation to social institutions, therise of a post-industrial society is remaking society all over again. Just asthe Industrial Revolution placed material things at the center of productive life, now the Information Revolutionemphasizes ideas. Similarly, the post-modern family no longer conforms to any single pattern;on the contrary, individuals are choosing among many new family forms. Thereare diversities in the marriage and family.

Despitesuch debate, yet few think that modernity has failed completely; after all, wehave seen marked increases in longevity and living standards over the course oflast century. Moreover, even if we accept post-modernist views that science isbankrupt and progress is a sham, what are the alternatives?

Butas part of global stratification, poor societies appear to have little abilityto modernize. Here the barrier does not appear to be the ‘traditionalism’ butglobal domination by the rich capitalist societies. The rich nations onlyperpetuate current patterns of global inequality

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