What is Modernization? Causes, Importance, Pros and Cons

Change is the only constant in the society and ‘Modernization’ is a continuous process that depicts social change. This process deals with the modern ways of life by adoption of modern values so that people could adapt to the changing society. Modernization could be equated with the development of science and technology that has remarkably changed the structure of society as well as social relationships  and replaced traditional ideologies with new ones. Modernization has not just influenced one or a few spheres of the society but the entire society which is why the changes brought by the process is tremendous.  This article will deal with the meaning of modernization along with its causes, importance, pros and cons.

 Definition of Modernization

“Modernization is a process by which modern scientific knowledge is introduced in the society with the ultimate purpose of achieving a better and a more satisfactory life in the broadest sense of the term as accepted by the society concerned”.  – S.H. Alatas.

“Modernization is a revolutionary change leading to the transformation of traditional society into technological and civilized society. “ – Wilbert E Moore

These definitions clearly explains the essence of modernization which is a process of change or adoption to the new or modern values and ways of life. Change is inevitable and with the passage of time, the society undergoes several changes in response to the developmental activities. The society has witnessed the massive transition from ‘agrarian’ to ‘industrial’ over centuries which brought with it a transformation of lifestyle, values, norms, culture etc. This is nothing but the process of modernization.

Causes of Modernization

Modernization isn’t caused in a day but it has been a long process and many factors led to it which could be discussed as follows –

  • Science and technological development

Societies all over the world experienced modernization after the development of science and technology. It brought a revolution to the society after traditional mode of living saw a transition to modern mode of living in every aspects. Science and technology has been the chief ingredient of modernization as it invoked scientific thinking among people and instilled in them the drive to promote scientific innovations.

  • Rapid industrialization

Modern society is linked with the idea of an industrial society and industrialization is one of the key drivers of modernization. The Industrial Revolution of 18th century accelerated the  growth of industries and factories through the use of science and technology bringing drastic change in the society. Industrialization replaced traditional patterns of economic activities and ways of life and made people acquainted with modern ways of living and earning.  

  • Education

Education is an important agent of modernization that provides knowledge to people and  inculcate in them attitude, values and skill that will guide them in adapting to the dynamics of the changing society. Education encourage people to develop a rational and  broader perspective of the world rescuing them from the clutches of traditional outlooks  and speculative ideas.

  • Emergence of mass media

Mass media expedite modernization. Mass media emerged with the prevalence of print media like newspaper, books  and has slowly evolved into electronic media like radio, television, mobile phones with the help of technology to reach a large mass of people to provide them with information, thoughts, ideas about the world. Mass media connects people and has helped in overcoming the barriers of time and space to make development and bring changes in the society.

 Importance of Modernization

The importance of modernization could be discussed as follows –

  • Rise in economic growth

Modernization has led to industrialization which is an important factor of economic growth  opening the door for engaging in various economic activities by making use of tools and technologies. Economic development and equitable distribution of wealth in the society indicates the health of economy which is reflected in the rise of Gross National Product (GNP).

  • Leads to globalization

Globalization is a process of integrating the world into one through the movement of goods, services, people, ideas across borders making the people all over the world come together via technology. This is nothing but a stimulation of modernization where the world economy, polity, culture has integrated as one and this phenomenon is further strengthened through science and technology, education, public services etc.

  • Rise in literacy

Modernization helps in elimination of illiteracy from the society by making provisions for people to attend schools and colleges. People are given knowledge in every field be it trade, commerce, science, health, public services etc. so that awareness is created among the people regarding how the society functions and educated people will have the means to eradicate the challenges of society.

  • Democratization

Modernization has greatly transformed the political sphere and encouraged a shift from traditional and authoritarian government to democratic government where participation of the people is required to run a country. Democratization is possible only after developing a rational outlook with the realization of equality, justice and brotherhood which are the gifts of modernization.

  • Nationalism

Modernization broadens mindsets and perspectives due to which people comes out of the shell of ‘local’ and identify themselves with the nation they inhabit and harbour patriotism. Along with local or regional identity, modernization has led people to take their national identity and develop national ideologies.


Here are two examples that will explain how the process of modernization has transformed the society.

  • Universal Adult Franchise

Based on the principle of equality, Universal Adult Franchise refers to  the right to vote to all adult citizens without any discrimination on the basis of caste, class, colour, religion or gender.  It is considered to be the core of democracy and not providing the right to vote is considered to be a violation of human rights. India adopted Universal Adult Franchise in 1949 when the Indian Constitution was passed and successfully implemented on January 26, 1950 and ever since then every Indian citizen enjoy this right.

  • The Green Revolution

The green revolution in India is an apt example of modernization that transformed the agrarian sector by the use of technology and modern methods like the use of tractors, fertilizers, pesticides, HYV seeds, irrigation facilities etc. to increase food production in the country.  Although this revolution faced severe backlash from all over the country for the side effects and inequitable distribution of wealth in the country, yet it cannot be denied that it is a result of modernization.

Pros and  Cons of Modernization

Having discussed about modernization and its importance in the society, it is however to be mentioned that this process has its both pros and cons which are as follows –


  • Encourage social mobility

Modernization challenge the hierarchical social structures of the society, for instance, caste in India and allows people to explore the opportunities that modernization brought to the society. People are free to choose their occupation no matter to which caste or religion they belong to and with rigorous hard work people can even upgrade their class as well.

  • Promote rational values and scientific development

With modernization comes rationality that encourage people to shun illogical practices and values and replace it with rational thoughts and scientific ideas.  

  • Participation of people in governance

Modernization leads to democracy where people are required to participate in political processes to elect the leaders of the government, express consent or dissent on political decisions so that the government policies runs in favour of the majority.

  • Nurture secular ideology

Secular ideology is a transition from rigid religious values to rational, non – religious values where people does not attach much priority to their own religion but accept all the religions and with the development of secular ideology, people freely participate in those activities which were earlier restricted by their religion.


  • Interfere with traditional values

Although modernization encouraged ‘modern’ to coexist with tradition yet many of the traditional values are diminishing. In India, for instance, family was given prime importance but with modernization, the importance of family has decreased and got replaced with individual. Cultures which were unique to a particular region are seen to blend with cultures of other regions due to close contact among people all over due to which the traditional values are threatened because of modernization.

  • Social and economic inequality

Although modernization mobilize people yet many people cannot access it. Inequality in both economic and social terms emerges among people as one section of the society enjoy the benefits of modernization and the other section remains untouched by it. For example, people who receive education will land into good jobs and they will earn a good amount of money and a respectable position in the society but people who are not facilitated with education opportunities or are unaware of the benefits of education will not have the same social and economic status. This inaccessibility will lead to inequality in the society.

  • Environmental crisis

Modernization popularizes  science and technology through which various developmental activities are done in the society. These activities require raw materials which are the natural resources that gets depleted from continuous extraction and the outcome of those activities often lead to pollution. However, the outcome of developmental activities through technology brings change in society but at the cost of environment.

  • Degradation of morality

Because of the prevalence of scientific temperament and rational outlook that modernization brought, people have become quite individualistic and materialist. In the thirst of progress and fulfilling self interest, people do not hesitate to indulge in immoral and unethical activities.

Therefore it cannot be denied that although Modernization is  a blessing to the society yet it has a set of disadvantages that could be detrimental to the growth of society.


Modernization transforms the society and brings progress, development by eliminating the regressive elements of the society that were the barriers to bring change in the society. The scientific and technological inventions brought tremendous change in every sphere of the society and installed new and scientific ideologies in the minds of people.  It is however to be mentioned that modernization is not an antithesis to tradition but it instigate the society to develop a rational mindset and a scientific outlook to deal with the challenges of society.

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I am Monsoon Rupam. I did my post graduation in Sociology from Dibrugarh University. I have a curious mind and it always excites me to find 'sociology' in everything around me. I am a keen observer and take interest in research work and analysis. Gender Studies, Social Stratification, Health are a few areas that holds my attention to work upon. Besides, I find solace in music, moon gazing, sunsets, rain and flowers.