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Modernizing States, On The Road To Success


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Modernizing States, On The Road To Success

  1. 1. MODERNIZING STATES: ON THE ROAD TO SUCCESS? By Austen Uwosomah Introduction Third world nations particularly of countries in the quintuple geographical regions of Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa are going through phases of modernity due to the increased acceptance of western socio economic and political ideologies across their territorial borders. Perhaps not all the modernizing states do well when they restructure as a result of the modernity taking place in there. Conversely, perhaps a number of them do well in their economic and political restructure. However, for the purpose of this article, ‘modernizing states’ will be viewed from arguments based on whether they are successful in aspect of economic and political modernization or whether otherwise. Additionally, a selected modernizing state from Asia, viz: China will be used as case study to review the pro and con of the arguments that will be presented. Modernization/Modernizing and Nation States ‘Modernization’ or ‘modernizing’, which also connotes ‘developing’, ‘changing’ or ‘transforming’ means “to make improvement on something or change the appearance, style, or character of something or to update or accept or adopt new ways, ideas or style” (‘Modernizing states’ are described as those nation-states that are ‘in-between the advanced capitalist states’ of the First world and the least developed states’ of the Third world countries which are currently experiencing transformation in their cultural, political and economic structures (Sørensen, 2004:142). When nation states particularly of less developed countries modernize, they gradually start transforming or changing the nature of their socio cultural, political and economic status from aboriginal practices to conventional methods. The glaring reasons why they do so is to improve on ‘basic security, welfare and economic growth’ as well as for participation in the international order. For these reasons, they “undertake a process of transition from one type of statehood to another” (Sørensen, 2004:143). But then not all states that
  2. 2. go through the modernizing process achieve grand success. Certain ‘problems and setbacks’ crop up that cause unpleasantness in the states as they modernize. This is why sceptics hold views that modernizing states are not without perils. However, this is not to say modernizing states have no good attributes. Successes and Perils of Modernizing States The glaring success that states achieve when they embrace modernization is evident in the transformation from national economy to global economy. Through modernizing, states develop and improve on domestically made products for the purposes of trading in the global market. Thus states move from Agricultural sector economy to an industrialized market economy. Additionally, through modernizing, states also adopt political liberalism by changing from authoritarian driven polity to democracy. On the contrary, even though states modernize, they still tug along some problems that were associated with their pre- modernizing phase. Such problems manifest because in trying to modernize, some states try to structure their political and economical development to suit perceived nationalist ideology. As corollary, they continue to experience “elements of weak institutional structures” even when they have attained some “major elements of a modern structure” and “some sprinklings of an advanced capitalist economy”. They still exhibit elements of less developed or ‘weak states characteristics’ which manifests through absence of rule of law in a supposedly democracy and incoherent amalgamation of traditional economic sectors i.e. agriculture and others (Sørensen, 2004:142-143). The example of China as a Modernizing State China is renowned for being a nation with a population monstrosity of over one billion. As an ancient historical empire it faced economic hardship and immense political crises in its yore times. But surprisingly, China sprang from those dark years to becoming a world power in the international order. How did China move from an impoverished economy to an industrialized market economy? Unarguably, it was the speed at which China radically embraced modernization under the headship of Deng Xiaoping that surged it up to its current posture in the global order. China has made landmark success in its economic modernization and is contributing immensely to
  3. 3. economic globalization. It moved away from an agricultural sector economy to an industrialized state and opened leeway to ‘‘free market economy ...and that has led to rapid economic growth’’ of the state (Sørensen, 2004:142-143). Despite this, China still tugs along economic problems that manifest in forms of poverty, unemployment and income inequality. Politically, China modernized its arch type communist and socialist systemic governance to an idealized democracy that still leaves the governed greatly at the mercy of its government. Though “since the late 1970s, economic reforms and decentralization of political decision-making in many areas have led to sustained improvements for the population. But the regime also upholds policies of strict control over its people”. (Sørensen, 2004:146) Consequently, there is zero tolerance for dissidence; limited freedom of movement and of association; and lack of press freedom of citizenry expression. Above all this is the problem of corruption which has remained fused into the fabrics of the nation. In sum, suffice to say that the cause of the antecedent China’s problems is not farfetched. It is due to failure of the Chinese state and its market economy. So even with modernizing, China has still not been able to shake off attributes of economic and political problems that characterize it as a weak state. Word count: 800 words References The Americtage® Dictionary of the English Language (2005), Updated in 2003: Houghton Mifflin Company. Sørensen, G. (2004) ‘The Transformation of the States Beyond the Myth of Globalization’, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.