In what ways did ideas of racial superiority, civilization, and technology contribute to the birth of the so-called modern world that emerge in the aftermath of the World War One?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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First, I would say that this sounds like a question out of a textbook.  If it is, you might want to look at the relevant parts of the text to get the answer that is expected of you.  This sort of question can be interpreted in different ways by different people and your book might emphasize different things than will be emphasized in this answer.

Each of these factors that you mention contributed in different ways to the rise of the “modern” world.  Let us look at each in turn.

Racial superiority ensured that the modern world that emerged from WWI would still be dominated by Europeans and their descendants.  For example, President Woodrow Wilson’s “Fourteen Points” stipulated that all people should enjoy “self-determination.”  In other words, they should be able to rule themselves.  In the modern world, though, this privilege was only accorded to Europeans.  We can see this in the fact that the South Slavs got their own country (Yugoslavia) but Vietnam remained a colony of France.

The idea of “civilization” is one that can be interpreted in many ways.  I would say that its impact on the modern world was similar to the impact of racial superiority.  This is true because the imperial/colonial powers of the post-WWI era typically believed that they were civilizing the people they dominated.  This helped to justify and maintain the European-dominated world that arose after WWI.

Finally, we can look at technology. This had tremendous influences on the modern world.  First, technology started to bind the world more closely together.  Steamships and telegraph and movies and radio allowed for much closer connections between various parts of the world.  Second, technology made for a world in which leisure was, for many people, more prevalent.  In Europe and its offshoots, many more people came to have leisure time that they could spend doing things they enjoyed.  This created a modern world that was much more centered on pleasure than ever before.  Finally, we can say that technology contributed to anxiety in the modern world.  The horrors brought about by technology in WWI made people worried about the prospects for their societies.  It led to worries about human beings destroying themselves through technology.  It also led to things like a decline in religious faith in the richer countries. 

In all of these ways, we can say that racial superiority, civilization, and technology helped bring about the modern world after WWI. 

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