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Modernization Theory

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Definition: Modernization theory emerged in the 1950s as an explanation of how the industrial societies of North America and Western Europe developed. The theory argues that societies develop in fairly predictable stages though which they become increasingly complex. Development depends primarily on the importation of technology as well as a number of other political and social changes believed to come about as a result. For example, modernization involves increased levels of schooling and the development of mass media, both of which foster democratic political institutions. Transportation and communication become increasingly sophisticated and accessible, populations become more urban and mobile, and the extended family declines in importance as a result. Organizations become bureaucratic as the division of labor grows more complex and religion declines in public influence. Lastly, cash-driven markets take over as the primary mechanism through which goods and services are exchanged.

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