Modernization in the United States and the Global Community

How does modernization manifest itself in U.S. society?

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Truly, modernization in the United States began in earnest with the inception of the Industrial Revolution in the late 19th and early 20th century. Accordingly, it would manifest in direct concordance with the imperatives of a laissez faire economy. The technological and commodity oriented production boom that, nearing the turn to the 20th century, instigated the period known as the Industrial Revolution, would initiate the widespread modernization of America’s urban centers. These would be the basis for a mode of expansion that enabled capitalism to ultimately achieve its intended pale of influence over the world. The growth of the world’s economy came to include formerly imperialist colonial powers, independently thriving former colonies and massive commercial operations, creating a direct association between the capitalist principle of ‘open competition’ and the flourishing of modern infrastructure, consumer intuition, commercial development and technological innovation. As a result, modernization would share a direct relationship with some of the moments of greatest economic growth in America’s history, with the largesse achieved in the 1920s, the 1950s and the 1990s coinciding directly with high points in the nation’s timeline of economic expansion. This pattern is directly consistent with the theories offered by Adam Smith, largely thought of as the father of modern capitalism. Smith contended that a free market economy was the best way to allow a nation with the resource potential and human capital of the United States to ultimately lead a charge toward modernity.

Is modernization likely to continue in the U.S. Explain your answer.

All evidence suggests that even in spite of its current patterns of economic recession and stagnant growth, America’s cyclical tendencies is toward a steady ebb and flow in terms of innovation. Thusly, we may predict that the pendulum will ultimately swing back toward modernization when once again the resources become available to the U.S. economy. Particularly, modernization has often been driven by catalyzing technological innovations, with the automobile, the highway system, the commercial airliner and the internet all have resulted in exponential opportunities for economic growth and technological sophistication. With great certainty, the United States will continue its thrust in this direction, with the only possible impediment today being its continued dependency on a finite fossil fuel as its primary source of energy. Indeed, if modernization is to continue and perhaps even to shed some of its reputation as part and parcel to industrial blight, it is perhaps not too bold to predict that the technological innovations driving are next bubble of innovation will relate to renewable energies.

Is modernization a world-wide trend?

Increasingly across the last several decades, modernization has proven a world-wide trend. Indeed, it would seem that this is the explicit intent of the process called globalization. For many ‘developing’ nations, a heightening trade relationship with developed economic powers is producing a necessary push toward the modernization of transportation systems, business centers, environmental standards and communication technologies. Accordingly, its advocates view globalization as the inherent effect of technological advance, with natural market tendencies serving as the prime impetus for expansion beyond traditional nation-state parameters. The International Monetary Fund, a primary institution in the implementation of globalization efforts, notes that the process “refers to an extension beyond national borders of the same market forces that have operated for centuries at all levels of human economic activity — village markets, urban industries, or financial centers.” (IMF Staff, 1)

What are the consequences of modernization?

Unfortunately, ‘modernization’ does not always carry positive implications. Quite to the contrary, but consistent with the implications of capitalism, there are significant hierarchical implications to the process of modernity. So is this well-evidenced by the concept of ‘urban renewal,’ which employs modernization as its primary raison d’etre. As an article on the infamous 1950s renewal of Boston’s West End neighborhood demonstrates, the consequences of modernity for the deposed individuals is severe and has long-term repercussions, even across generations.

Accordingly, Medoff & Sklar describe the fallout of the displacement of residents from this essentially decent and livable neighborhood to substandard housing at higher rent. Truly, the project in the West End would be designed to alienated, disenfranchise and otherwise obscure the struggles of the working poor. Accordingly, Medoff & Sklar tell of neighborhoods such as Dudley, to which many of those removed from the West End were displaced. Medoff & Sklar report that “in a pattern repeated nationally, a thriving urban community was trashed and burned. It was redlined by banks, government mortgage programs and insurance companies in a self-fulfilling prophecy of White flight, devaluation and decline. While tax money subsidized the building of segregated suburbia and ‘urban renewal,’ inner city neighborhoods like Dudley were stripped of jobs, homes and government services.” (p. 1)

In this instance, we can observe that modernization has only exacerbated the challenges which had long faced the working poor, immigrant and minority populations of the city. The long-term prospects for these groups would decline significantly as the process of urban removal decimated their local economy, dismantled the support gained from an insular community and aggressively lowered the standards of living which were accessible to them in a rigid socioeconomic hierarchy. In this regards, there is clear evidence that modernization would actually lead to the worsening of prospects for many urban dwellers. This is a consideration that should be taken with no small amount of caution by the advocates of globalization, lest such ‘modernization’ render a similarly destructive effect for the populations of ‘developing’ nations.

Works Cited:

IMF Staff. (2000). Globalization: Threat or Opportunity? International

Monetary Fund.

Medoff, P. & Sklar, H. (1994). Streets of Hope: The Rise and Fall of an Urban Neighborhood. South End Press.

Smith, Adam. (1776). An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. London: Methuen and Co., Ltd.