Political Sociology: A Reader

By S. N. Eisenstadt | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION TO CHAPTERS 9-12

I

We come now to the last stage in our exploration —the analysis of modern political systems. As we have seen in our introductory chapter, modern sociology in general and political sociology in particular have developed in the context of the emergence of the modern socio-political order in western and central Europe, and it was these developments that have had the greatest impact on the initial Problemstellung of political sociology. And yet the problems of political sociology in general and of modern political systems in particular range far beyond these initial Problemstellung. The spread of modernity beyond western Europe has greatly varied the extent and scope of these problems, as did later (twentieth-century) developments in Europe and North America. In order to be able to explore them it might be worth while to point out some of the background of the spread of modernity as well as its basic characteristics. 1

Modernization is probably the most overwhelming and most permeating feature of the contemporary scene. Most nations are now caught in its web, either becoming modernized or continuing their own traditions of modernity. As it spreads throughout the world, both its common features and its different characteristics in various countries stand out. Historically, modernization is the process of change toward those kinds of social, economic, and political systems that developed in western Europe from the seventeenth century to the nineteenth and then spread to other European countries, to North America, and in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to the South American, Asian, and African countries.

Modern or modernizing societies have evolved from a great variety of different traditional pre‐ modern societies. In western Europe they developed from feudal or absolutist states with strong urban centers and in eastern Europe from more autocratic states and less urbanized societies. In the United States and the English-speaking Dominions they developed through colonization and immigration; some of the colonies were rooted in strong religious motivations and organized in groups of religious settlers, while others were based mostly on large-scale immigration oriented mostly to economic opportunity and greater equality of status.

In Latin America more fragmentary modern structures developed from oligarchic conquest‐ colonial societies in which there existed strong division between the white conquering oligarchy and the indigenous subject population. In Japan it developed from a centralized feudal state of unique characteristics, and in China from the breakdown of the most continuous imperial system in the history of mankind, a system based on special types of "literati-bureaucratic" institutions.

In most Asian and African societies the process of modernization began in colonial frameworks, some (especially in Asia) based on preceding more centralized monarchical societies and elaborate literary‐ religious traditions, others (especially in Africa) mostly on tribal structures and traditions. These different starting points greatly influenced the specific contours of development and the problems encountered in its course. And yet beyond these variations there also developed many common characteristics that constitute perhaps the major core of modernization of a modern society, and it would be well to start our analysis with a review of those characteristics.


II

The most salient aspects of modernization have often been summarized under two broad categories: sociodemographic and structural. The broad demographic and structural corollaries of modernization as they develop in the major institutional spheres are now well known.

Perhaps the best over-all summary of the sociodemographic indices of modernization has been coined by Karl Deutsch in the term "social mobilization." He has defined modernization as "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 socialization and behaviour," and he has indicated that some of its main indices are exposure to aspects of modern life through demonstrations of machinery, buildings, consumers' goods, response to mass media,

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