What are the causes and effects of modernization? Please give a somewhat detailed answer and examples.

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In order to answer this, we must first understand what modernization is.  Modernization, in social sciences terminology, is the process by which a country moves from having a traditional, agrarian, rural society to having a more secular, urbanized, industrialized (or even post-industrial) society.  When this happens, the country changes in many ways.  It changes in terms of its values and beliefs, moving from traditional beliefs to more scientific and secular beliefs.  It changes in its geography, with its population become more and more urban.  It changes economically, moving from subsistence farming or something close to it to an economy in which hardly anyone farms and the country makes its money producing goods and services.

There are at least two major and related causes of modernization.  One is the growth in science that came along (in Europe) with the Enlightenment.  The other is the growth in available technology.  When a country is pre-modern, its people generally do not believe in science.  They hold traditional beliefs that typically hold that life is affected by supernatural forces.  They do not believe that life can change in any major ways.  In the Enlightenment, people came to challenge this idea.  They came to believe that life is affected by forces that are understandable via science.  For example, they came to believe that disease is caused by microorganisms, not by demons.  Once they had this outlook, they came to believe that life could be improved.  Science could change the way we live, making us (for example) less afraid of disease or of other natural calamities.

Science, of course, helps people to develop technology.  Technology pushes modernization along.  Technology allows farmers to grow more food, freeing people to go live in cities.  Technology allows factories to arise, thus giving the new city dwellers jobs.  Technology also improves life, giving us things to do for entertainment, things that can improve our health, and many other beneficial innovations.  These things lead our society to become more modernized.

Modernization has its good and bad points.  On the good side, modernization improves our lives in many tangible ways.  It is certainly safer to live in a world in which we have doctors who can cure infections and in which women are not very likely to die in childbirth.  It is more convenient to live in a world where we have access to many material goods to make our lives more comfortable and more fun.  Modernization also helps people who are oppressed in traditional society.  Modernization allows women to have more opportunities.  It helps to liberate oppressed minority groups.  In these ways, modernization seems like a very positive thing.

On the other hand, it is possible to argue that modernization has negative effects.  One negative effect is on our environment.  Modernization brings technology that consumes energy and leads to such things as air pollution and climate change.  Another negative effect is (arguably) on our society.  Modernization breaks up the social ties that bound people together in traditional societies.  It makes it so that people no longer feel as connected to one another.  This can lead to such problems as crime and the break-up of family groups.

Thus, modernization has clear causes and it has effects that can be positive and negative.  

yamuna | Student

Adding to the answer given by pohnpei397

(My answer would be in points - these may please be elaborated)


Navigation had grown to a great extent and international trade was becoming more and more lucrative. Goods had to be manufactured to meet the trade demands.

Increased international movement also meant more spread of knowledge and information creating a powerful scientific temperament amongst the educated people.

Science and its benefits were sensed to be a powerful tool in empowering people in many ways.

The growth of science meant antagonising the existing beliefs of the church. This led to revolutions in parts of the world that are now seen as the foundation of the modern era.

The overthrown of the hegemony of the church meant that the people now had to look for another source of authority - Science. This meant that the demarcation of the pre-modern and the modern periods is clear.


As mentioned above, the overthrow of the hegemony of the church was the foremost social outcome.

The social fabric, now torn apart from the moralistic tones of the church had to look for rational answers in science. This caused social disarray in the form of 'Science v. Church' dichotomy.

As the church was not adaptable enough to embrace science as an added route to betterment of mankind, more and more people turned to science as an alternative meaning for life and values. Materialism was the natural outcome.

Materialism unleashed an army of negative outcomes including colonialism, capitalism and consumerism (social) and pollution and destruction of environment (ecological).

Modernisation led to the disintegration of the close-knit agrarian society. Nuclear families became the norm. This happened due to the 'push' factor of the villages that were seen as less lucrative due to the availability of machinery that took over manual labour.  Further, family and relationships have taken a set-back as individualism is strongly emphasised in the modern world.

On the other hand, modernisation led to greater benefits of science and technology to more and more people. This included in fields as diverse as medicine, agriculture, communication, automotive and electricity for general household purposed.

Spread of education is yet another positive outcome.

International communication increased in width both at the political level and at the individual level. Cultural exchange increased.