Comparative Studies in Society and History

Varieties of Modernization

Modernization Theory and the Formation of Modern Social Theories in England and America

Joyce Applebya1

a1 San Diego State University

‘Modernization theory’, Alexander Gerschenkron remarked recently, ‘obstructs rather than promotes the understanding of processes of econo- mic change’. Far from being a startling judgement, Gerschenkron's comment only signals that another distinguished scholar has joined the theory's detractors. The marked failure of modernization theory to predict how less developed countries would react to incentives for material advance explains the growing chorus of criticism. This indeterminate response from third world peoples has quite properly raised doubts about how well we understand what is involved in the reorientation of a society's habitual practices. The blight of disconfirming evidence, according to E. I. Eisenstadt, has now led to the abandonment of hope that breakdowns in modernization would be followed by resurgences towards modernity.