Conference e-mail

The Aleksanteri Institute

Unioninkatu 33 (P.O. Box 42)
00014 University of Helsinki

Past Aleksanteri Conferences

Wolfgang Knöbl (Hamburg Institute for Social Research / Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany)

"Modernization" in Times of "Globalization"

At some time in the 1990s – so an often told story goes – the term "modernization" has been pushed aside by the new buzz-word of "globalization". This was not by accident because classical modernization theory as developed mainly by US-American scholars in the late 1950s has turned out to be more and more problematic so that the theory and the idea of "modernization" lost momentum already at the end of the 1960s. New ways of thinking particular after the breakdown of the USSR and the end of the Cold War were needed – and the term "globalization" was able to fill the void. – This description of theoretical developments within the social sciences is certainly not false but it at least neglects the fact that within area studies (and within the discourse of lay actors) the term "modernization" is still very much en vogue today. The paper asks whether modernization theory is still a powerful tool and which criticisms it has to face if used in analyzing social processes in our contemporary world.