Modernization, Democracy, and Islam

By Shireen T. Hunter; Huma Malik | Go to book overview

2
Culture and Development

Heather Deegan


THEORIES OF CULTURE AND DEVELOPMENT

The interconnection between Islam and culture in Muslim countries has been held as detrimental to their economic, social, and political development. To assess the validity of this thesis requires an understanding of how cultural forces operate within a society and the extent to which religion informs traditional patterns of life. For more than a century eminent analysts have striven to explain and understand the relationship between development and cultural change. They have asked whether some cultures are more conducive to development than others. Can economic progress take place without a massive shift in societal values and behavioral patterns? Does development inevitably erode primordial loyalties and encourage a new cultural enlightenment based on communication and interests? The thrust of their argument suggested that there was, indeed, a strong link between culture and development. Using a comparative approach, often closely patterned on Western models of development, these analysts identified a process of modernization against which a country's progression could be charted. The model assumed many guises but tended to coalesce around certain characteristics, namely, rationalization, national integration, social stratification, economic change, and political autonomy.1 As defined by Samuel Huntington, political autonomy implied the development of organizations and procedures that transcend interests of particular social groups.2

It was assumed that as countries developed, their populations would shift toward the adoption of scientific knowledge and evolve from subsistence farming to commercial agricultural production and industrialization. Such changes involved great social and cultural alteration, thus marking a break in established norms of social and economic life, including the erosion of familial, kinship, re

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