Lecture #9 - Modernity and Culture Change
Modernity – relatively recent cultural difference
Key component: Post-agricultural. Machinery and technology are constantly evolving. We are
living in a post-industrial world. Intellectual labor has become more prominent.
Second feature: The rise of urban civilization. Societies (more than half) live in cities or big
towns rather than dispersed in rural areas.
Main feature: The rise of bureaucracy E.g. Office workers. It requires a lot of paperwork. It is
instituted by corporations or the state (the government). They become political entities. Their
interest clash with the population at large.
1. Cultural persistence – what is the conservative aspects of culture?
2. Mechanisms of Change -
Cultural persistence 1
“... Most individuals, most of the time, are deeply committed to their customs.”
Richard Barrett,Culture and Conduct, 1991
Modernity and Culture Change
– It is a norm to be ethnocentric
– Become don’t readily want to change their culture
Cultural persistence 2
1. Culture as impediment – Culture can be seen as an impeding development. People prefer
routine, they become accustom to their routine.
2. Limitations of prior accomplishment – What you develop and profit from very often turns
into something that contributes to your detriment. Example: Germany improved on British
technology (The British railways). They doubled the width of the rails they copied and
improved on the British model. This developed and accelerated their economy.
3. Integration as impediment to change – When you examine any cultural element Example:
Japanese writing system. The Japanese wanted to alter their writing system. You have to
learn the symbols with phonetics. The integration of their script. Example #2: The
Ottoman Empire changed the Turkish script that was based on the Arabic script. They
changed it to a Latin script.Example #3: The U.S do not use the metric system. The
British imperial system is integrated into their society.
Cultural persistence 3
1. Adaptation is never perfect – It is an ongoing process. Cultural adaptation is best viewed
as a temporary compromise/arrangement. Things change in two way: Slow accumulated
change and sudden revolutionary change.
2. Sudden, revolutionary change is rare – revolutions are usually failed in attempts to change