Is Modernization Really Unique in the History of Human Development (Or Just Another Approach that Will Self-Destruct)?

Author: Lempert, David
Journal: Journal of Globalization Studies. Volume 10, Number 1 / May 2019


A frequent and largely untested assumption in modern social science and development studies is the uniqueness of contemporary societies (termed ‘modern’ or ‘post-modern’) and processes (‘modernization’, ‘globalization’, or ‘global capitalism’) in a new era (the ‘anthropocene’). The belief in this uniqueness is offered as a justification for avoiding comparative study of contemporary social evolution processes using the tools of social science. This lack of comparative (contemporary and historical) study combines with the transformation of disciplines in ways that have dismantled social science and substituted reliance on what are ‘religious’ assumptions. This article tests the concept of ‘modernization’ as a specific cultural strategy or a part of the ‘deep structure’ of contemporary industrialization and empire and its beliefs. The article challenges the mythologies of the uniqueness of the contemporary historical period and the ability of human societies today to completely reshape culture and the environment without still being subject to rules of predictive and comparative social science. While there may be certain unique aspects of contemporary industrialization, the current period of historical evolution does not appear to be free of rules and patterns of rise and fall (or self-destructiveness) of similar historic imperial cultures.

Keywords: modernization, post-modernism, deep structure, collapse, imperialism, social change, imperialism, neo-imperialism. 

David Lempert  is a social scientist, lawyer, Stanford M.B.A., non-profit executive, and educator more