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Eisenstadt, Shmuel N.: The Basic Characteristics of Modernization (1966) [1]


Modernization and aspirations to modernity are probably the most overwhelming and the most permeating features of the contemporary scene. Most nations are nowadays caught in its web – becoming modernized or continuing their own traditions of modernity. As it spreads throughout the world, its common features as well as the differences between its characteristics in various countries stand out – and it is the purpose of this book to explore and analyze these common features and differences alike.

Historically, modernization is the process of change towards those types of social, economic and political systems that have developed in western Europe and North America from the seventeenth century to the nineteenth and have then spread to other European countries and in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to the South American, Asian, and African continents. Modern or modernizing societies have developed from a great variety of different traditional, premodern societies. In western Europe they developed from feudal or absolutist states with strong urban centers, in eastern Europe from more autocratic states and less urbanized societies. In the United States and the first Dominions (Canada, Australia, etc.) they have developed through processes of colonization and immigration, some of which were rooted in strong religious motivations and organized in groups of religious settlers, while others were based mostly on large-scale immigration oriented mostly to economic opportunity and greater equality of status.

In Latin America more fragmentarily modern structures developed from oligarchic conquest-colonial societies, in which there existed strong division between the white conquering oligarchy and the indigenous subject population. In Japan the modernization process developed from a centralized feudal state of somewhat unique characteristics and in China from the breakdown of the most continuous Imperial system in the history of mankind, a system based on special types of “literati-bureaucratic” institutions.

In most Asian and African societies the process of modernization has begun from within colonial frameworks, some (especially in Asia) based on preceding more centralized monarchical societies and elaborate literary-religious traditions, others (especially in Africa) mostly on tribal structures and traditions.

As we shall see, the different starting points of the processes of modernization of these societies have greatly influenced the specific contours of their development and the problems encountered in the course of it. And yet beyond these variations there are also developed many common characteristics which constitute perhaps the major core of “modernization“ of a modern society, and it would be worth while to analyze these characteristics.


The common characteristics of modernization refer both to what may be called socio-demographic aspects of societies and to structural aspects of social organization.

Karl Deutsch has coined the term “social mobilization” to denote most of the socio-demographic aspects of modernization. [2]  He has defined social mobilization as “the process in which major clusters of old social, economic and psychological commitments are eroded and broken and people become available for new patterns of socialization and behavior,” and has indicated that some of its main indices are exposure to aspects of modern life through demonstrations of machinery, buildings, consumers' goods, etc.; response to mass media; change of residence; urbanization; change from agricultural occupations; literacy; growth of per capita income, etc. (These in themselves do not indicate, of course, whether the resources made available in this way will indeed be mobilized. )

Modern societies are also highly differentiated and specialized with respect to individual activities and institutional structures. Recruitment to these is not determined in characteristically modem societies in any fixed, ascriptive kinship, territorial caste, or estate framework. The specialized roles are “free-floating” (i.e., admission to them is not de­ termined by ascribed properties of the individual); similarly wealth and power are not ascriptively allocated – at least not as much as in nonmodern societies. This is associated with institutions like markets in economic life, voting and party activities in politics, and instrumentally recruited bureaucratic organizations and mechanisms in most institutional spheres. [3]

Perhaps the most important aspects of this differentiation and specialization of roles in all the major institutional spheres is the separation between the different roles held by an individual – especially among the occupational and political roles, and between them and the family and kinship roles. This separation has taken place first, and perhaps most dramatically, between family and economic occupational roles during the industrial revolution, as has been so fully described by Marx in his studies of the Industrial Revolution and the emergence of the industrial system, by Tönnies in his classical studies of “Community and Society,” and by Simmel in his studies of urban life. [4]

Such separation of roles meant, first, that the occupation of any given role within one institutional sphere – e.g., the occupational sphere – does not automatically entail the incumbency of a particular role in the political or cultural spheres. Second, within each institutional sphere (in the economy, polity, in the sphere of social organization, etc.) there developed distinctive units that were organized around the goals specific to each such sphere and that were not fused, as in more traditional societies, with other groups in a network based on family, kinship, and territorial bases.

In the economic sphere proper these developments have been characterized by the development of a very high level of technology (based on and combined with Newtonian science), fostered by the systematic application of knowledge, the pursuit of which became the province of specialized scientific institutions, and by the secondary (industrial, commercial) and tertiary (service) occupations, as against the primary extractive ones. In other words, by the development of industrial systems based on high level of technology, on growing specialization of economic roles and of units of economic activity – production, consumption, and marketing – and on the growth of the scope and complexity of the major markets, the markets for goods, labor, and money. [5]

In the political sphere modernization has been characterized, first, by growing extension of the territorial scope and especially by the intensification of the power of the central, legal, administrative, and political agencies of the society. Second, it has been characterized by the continual spread of potential power to wider groups in the society – ultimately to all adult citizens, and their incorporation into a con­sensual moral order.

Third, modern societies are in some sense democratic or at least populistic societies. They are characterized by the decline of traditional legitimation of the rulers with reference to powers outside their own society (God, reason) and by the establishment of some sort of ideological accountability, usually also institutional, of the rulers to the ruled, who are alleged to be the holders of the potential political power.

All these characteristics are, of course, connected with the greater fluidity of political support, with the large degree of “interest-oriented,” nonideological political allegiance and with considerable weakening, sometimes almost total disappearance, of ascriptive political commitment to any given ruler or group. Thus the rulers, in order to maintain themselves effectively in power and receive support for the specific goals they propagate and the policies they want to implement, believe they must seek continually the political support of the ruled, or at least of large or vocal parts thereof, through elections, plebiscites, and acclamatory surrogates. [6]

Unlike the rulers of traditional autocratic regimes, the rulers of the totalitarian regimes accept the relevance of their subjects as the objects and beneficiaries, legitimators of policy. The difference between modern democratic or semi-democratic and totalitarian political systems lies not necessarily in the genuineness of these beliefs, but in the extent to which they are given institutional expression in pluralistic political organizations, in public liberties, and in welfare and cultural policies. [7]

In the cultural sphere, a modern society is characterized by a growing differentiation of the major elements of the major cultural and value systems, i.e., religion, philosophy, and science; the spread of literacy and secular education; a more complex intellectual institutional system for the cultivation and advancement of specialized roles based on intellectual disciplines. [8]

These developments have been very closely related to the expansion of media of communication, the growing permeation of such central media of communication into the major groups of the society, and the wider participation of these groups in the cultural activities and organizations created by the centrally placed cultural elites. [9]

The culmination of these developments has been the development of a new cultural outlook - perhaps the most pervasive aspect of modernization – even though its spread and permeation has been, in these societies, intermittent and very uneven. This outlook has been characterized by an emphasis on progress and improvement, on happiness and the spontaneous expression of abilities and feeling, on individuality as a moral value, and concomitant stress on the dignity of the individual and, last, on efficiency.[10]This has been manifest in the development of some new personality orientations, traits, and characteristics – greater ability to adjust to the broadening societal horizons; some ego-flexibility; widening spheres of interest; growing potential empathy with other people and situations; a growing evaluation of self-advancement and mobility; and a growing emphasis on the present as the meaningful temporal dimension of human existence. [11]


In the societies that have made the journey, the movement to mo­dernity has passed through a certain sequence of stages. Thus, to take the political field at different stages of the development of modern political systems, different problems became politically important and different types of political organization tended to develop. At certain stages of modernization, the problem of suffrage, of the definition of the new political community, of attainment of its independence, assumed cen­tral importance. In other societies or at other stages, problems of re­ligious toleration or of so-called secularization of culture were most prominent. In still other stages of modernization the economic and social problems were most pertinent. The development of each of these problems was necessarily connected with the entrance of different new groups and strata into the political arena.

Similarly, new types of political organization have been developing. From small and parliamentary cliques, from varied, relatively restricted but fully articulated interest groups on the one hand, and from different types of social movements on the other, there developed more fully or­ganized political parties – the mass parties. Later, especially in Europe and the United States from the late twenties on, the relative importance of such parties and of the legislatures in which they were prominent became to some extent smaller, giving rise to more extensive and fully organized interest groups, on the one hand, and to the growing impor­tance of the executive and administrative branches of the government, and especially to large-scale bureaucratic administration, on the other. [12]

In the economic sphere we witness the transition from relatively small-scale units of production, such as family firms, small factories, and com­mercial and banking enterprises operating for relatively restricted, local markets, to the more centralized, bureaucratized, and larger units of production such as the big corporations, trusts, cartels operating in more encompassing, large-scale new markets. Similarly, new techniques of production that greatly affected the structure of the economic process have been continually developing, giving rise to a growing and more complicated division of labor within each unit on the one hand and to growing complexity of the general market structure on the other. [13]

In the occupational system we witness, first, the continual develop­ment of new categories and groups. In the first stages of modernization the occupational structure might have been relatively uncomplicated and composed mostly of different manual occupations, unskilled and skilled, a small number of “middle-class” occupations, such as trade and manufacture, and of some of the more traditional professions such as the ecclesiastical (religious), military, legal, and medical ones, in­cluding a much smaller proportion of population. Later, with continued economic development, each of these categories became divided into many subcategories. In addition, many new groups and categories – welfare service, scientific, technological, managerial – emerged and in­creased. [14]

The very development of new, more complex units of production, within each of which there increased the number of different categories of occupational manpower (i.e., technical, professional, administrative), has also given a push to the rise of new types of professional occupations and associations. These were no longer limited to the traditional pro­fessions – law, medicine, etc. – but spread out also to other occupational categories, such as scientific and technological research, nursing, social work, and business and managerial positions. In most of these one can discern a growing trend to professionalization, i.e., to the demand for higher educational qualifications as a prerequisite for engaging in them, on the one hand, and to some autonomous self-regulatory organ­ization on the other. These developments tended to obliterate or weaken many of the older distinctions between different occupations. [15]They also give rise to continual new types of trade union organization and to different patterns of labor-workers' relations. From the relatively simple union limited mostly to one factory, locality, or industrial branch, there developed the country-wide unions organized in different types of fed­erations. These have spread into white- and blue-collar occupations, creating within each new problems and demands. Hence the relations between the different units of production or consumption became en­meshed in a growing number of crosscutting allegiances and contacts between new organizations composed of different subgroups within each of these units.

In the demographic-ecological sphere we witness a continuous trend to the weakening of small, local rural and urban units in which any given population could take care of most of its needs within relatively narrow ecological confines.

The performance of such different functions – housing, work, school­ing, entertainment, etc. – becomes more and more dispersed between different and far-apart ecological areas. At the same time there devel­oped growing metropolitan areas within which new ecological subunits tended to develop. [16]


The characteristic features of the associational structure of modem society are, first, the large number of functionally specific organizations; second, the division of labor between functionally specific and more solidary or culturally oriented associations; and third, the weakening of the importance of the kinship and narrow territorial bases of specialized associations on the one hand, and of various “specialized” associations and broad ascriptive-solidary groups on the other. [17]

This structural differentiation had several repercussions in the area of social stratification, the most important of which is the development of an ambiguous status system. [18]The tendency found in many pre-modern societies for most property, power, and status relations either to coalesce or to be segregated in a rather rigid hierarchical order, tends to break down with the process of modernization. This could be seen first in the high importance of criteria of universalism and achievement in all major institutional spheres. The social position held by anyone in different social spheres were no longer necessarily identical and there was no necessary coalescence between them. One's place in the political or “social” sphere was not as assured as in many premodern societies by virtue of one's economic or occupational standing; or vice versa. While strong tendencies to some such coalescence exist in all modern societies, they are usually counteracted as a result of the relative inde­pendence of the different distribution of people in these different spheres.

This mobility in modern societies is not only that of individuals and families moving between relatively given and fixed structural positions. There is also a creation of new structural positions, as a result of new types of business enterprise, labor organization, or political or adminis­trative organization, and of new criteria of evaluation of such positions.

Closely related to the preceding characteristics has been the develop­ment of new types of mechanisms of regulation and allocation of social roles and activities.[19]These mechanisms may be analyzed first in terms of the scope of their operation, i.e., distinguishing between relatively small-scale and large-scale fields of regulation. Second, they can be analyzed according to the nature of the criteria of allocation which de­velop in them; first, “who” allocates or integrates different roles and facilities; and second, how the process of allocation, regulation, and consequent integration is organized or structured.

As for the first, one can distinguish between ascriptive and non-ascriptive allocation or regulation. Ascriptive allocators or regulators are those who perform such roles by virtue of their “given,” usually hereditary, position in some groups, such as kinship, territorial, or estate groups. The nonascriptive regulators are characterized by the fact that they occupy their positions by virtue of some achieved position – either by being chosen to represent other people or groups, or by virtue of their ownership of special capital, or of some specific knowledge expertise.

Second, we may distinguish between direct and indirect allocation – according to the extent of the directness of the interaction between the allocator and his “clients.”

The most general characteristic of organizational developments in modern society has been the continual weakening of ascriptive and direct allocation and regulation, and the development of various mechanisms of nonascriptive and indirect allocation.

There are three such major types of mechanisms. One is the represen­ tative or public type, in which the principles of allocation are established by the public deliberation of “representatives” of various types of con­ stituencies. Political representatives, voluntary associations, and profes­ sional organizations are the most important examples of this type of mechanism. Second are the various impersonal market systems such as the labor market or the markets for money and commodities. The third major type is the bureaucratic type, characterized by regulation by “experts” or by people whose major qualification is some specific knowledge, either general administrative or more specific professional or technical knowledge. These experts are in turn supervised to some extent by holders of political, economic, or communal power, but only to very little extent directly by the clients to whom they provide their services. The “ideal type” of bureaucratic regulation stresses the “ra­ tional,” computative allocation and decision making which is worked out “rationally” according to the exigencies of any given situation and belittles allocation by elected representatives, by organs of self-govern­ment, through processes of political or legislative decision or by exigen­ cies of the “impersonal” mechanisms of the market.

Another very important aspect of the system of stratification that tended to develop with processes of modernization was the growing dissociation between elite and broad status groups (strata, classes), and among the different elites themselves.

In all these spheres there have been developed categories of groups or of people whose members are leaders in various institutional spheres, without at the same time being confined to members of definite strata or classes. This applies to the bureaucrats, the economic entrepreneurs, the military, the intellectuals, and the different political elites alike. [20]

Such distinctive elite groups developed not only in the central levels of political and cultural activity, but also, in a somewhat different way, in what may be called the local levels. Political, cultural, economic, and social (community) leadership in the middle and lower urban strata and in various rural settings was no longer entirely a matter of tradi­ tional hereditary positions.

But if, on the one hand, the different elite groups became continuously dissociated from broader status groups and more autonomous, on the other hand there took place a continuous differentiation among the elites themselves. One such important differentiation was that between elites oriented to more general, collective or cultural, diffuse goals and activities that focused on the promotion of various symbols of solidarity – such as the political and intellectual (especially the literary, journalistic) on the one hand and the more specialized elites, such as various pro­fessional, technical, or managerial ones, on the other. Of no smaller importance was the growing differentiation within each of these broad types of elites.[21]

The relative importance of such different modernizing elites has varied from society to society and within the same society at different stages of its development, and such relative importance may have greatly in­fluenced, as we shall see, the course of the process of modernization in any society. But whatever the differences between different societies, the common characteristics outlined above tended to develop, in varying degrees, in all modern and modernizing societies.

These developments in the field of social organization have also been closely related to a growing dissociation between institutionalized and formal institutions on the one hand, and relatively smaller primary groups on the other. [22]In many premodern societies there existed a relatively high degree of coalescence between the more institutionalized and the more informal and solidary (very often ecological and kinship) units, although, of course, such coalescence was never full. Village councils and medieval guilds are perhaps the best examples of such coalescence. With the onset of modernization such coalescence tended to weaken. In most institutional spheres there continued to develop many formal, large-scale organizations cutting across various ecological, kinship, and castlike groups. Within these large-scale frameworks there tended to develop many different, mostly informal solidary primary groups, such as those of factory workers or of chance neighbors – groups that were not fully institutionalized or very closely interwoven into the broader, more formalized organizations. [23]

The most important single “external” ecological manifestation of these changes has been the process of urbanization, the conglomeration of parts of the population in urban centers in which the more specialized types of economic, professional, and civic activities and enterprises be­came concentrated and expanded.

The process of urbanization has usually been very closely related to the breakdown of at least some of the more traditional ascriptive criteria of status, whether tribal, estate, or regional ones, and to the development of somewhat more flexible and variegated social strata; to the upsurge of social mobility through occupational, educational, and political channels; and to the development of a great variety of forms of social organization, ranging from various functionally specific economic en­ terprises to various civic and voluntary associations and professional groups.

All these processes – the dissociation between functionally specific groups and broader solidarities, between the criteria of status, between social strata and elites, and between formal and informal aspects of social organization – have created a status system of great fluidity and ambiguity. The assurance of a fixed given position which spilled over most of an individual's institutional roles was being continually under­mined. It was undermined not only by personal or family fortunes or misfortunes but by the very nature of the system of social organization, by the continual changes and structural differentiation. Hence, although these developments usually opened up new perspectives of advance­ ment and change of status, status necessarily became also a focus of insecurity, awareness, and political conflict.[24]


The process of modernization has been characterized not only by continuous structural differentiation in the major institutional spheres of the society, however. Side by side with this process there also occurred the breakdown of the self-sufficiency and closeness of different groups and strata, as they were drawn toward a more unified, common institu­tional and societal center, and began to impinge on the central institu­ tional and symbolic sphere of the society.

The various subgroups, be they local units, status groups, or traditional vocational or professional bodies, have been drawn together into com­ mon institutional and organizational frameworks. In the economic sphere it was manifest in the development of encompassing markets and widespread bureaucratic organizations. In the field of social or­ ganization and stratification it was manifest in the various aspects of the associational structure analyzed above, and in the fact that different social groups and strata became more and more aware of each other's standing in terms of power, prestige, and wealth, and began to measure themselves and other groups in terms of relatively similar values and standards.

Whatever the exact details of this process of drawing wide groups into the central institutional spheres of the society, they all epitomize the growth and concretization of the demand for equality. By virtue of the drawing of various groups into the central institutions of the society equality has become not just an abstract ideal but an over­whelming demand for growing concrete participation of all groups in all spheres of life.[25]

Let us illustrate in somewhat greater detail these processes of drawing of the wider social groups into the central institutional spheres in two areas – the political and the educational. As in all other political systems, so in the modern ones, the rulers have to deal both with “objective” problems, such as international relations, economic conditions, mo­bilization of economic resources, and with mobilization of political sup­port. But the connection between these two aspects of the political process became much more close and interwoven in the modern than in other types of political systems. The growing participation of wider strata of population in the political struggle makes these groups much more sensitive and interested in – although not necessarily always better able to understand – these “objective” problems.

Similarly, the process of articulation of political demands and ac­tivities in modern political systems is much more closely related to the provision of resources to the political elite than in other types of political system. The effective political organization of the ruled is here almost a basic prerequisite of the continual provision of resources to the central political institutions. Because of this the availability – at different levels – of elites that are able to mobilize resources and political support and at the same time to articulate political demands is of crucial importance for the working of these systems. This is evident in the fact that the major organ of articulation of political interests and of mobilization of political support for the rulers – the party – also becomes an important organ of a crucial area of policy and decision making. [26]

Among the specific types of organization through which political de­mands are articulated, of special importance are interest groups, social movements, and “public opinion” and political parties. [27]The first three may to some extent be seen as components of the last, i.e., of parties that are the most articulate forms of modern political organization; moreover, there may exist considerable overlapping between them, yet all of them have some autonomous existence and orientations of their own.

The interest or pressure group is usually oriented to the gaining of concrete, specific interests, be they economic, religious, cultural, or po­ litical, and is interested in the wider, broader political machinery of the party or of the state only insofar as it can directly promote this interest, or at least assure its optimal promotion in a given situation. There are, of course, many diverse types of such interest groups – economic, profes­ sional, religious, ethnic, or tribal – and their specific interests may vary greatly from situation to situation.

The second type of organization through which political orientations and demands are articulated in modern political systems is social move­ ments. [28]Several types of such movements can be distinguished. One is the relatively restricted movement oriented to the attainment of some specific general goal that is not directly related to a concrete in­ terest of any articulate group but represents the application of some wider principle of justice – such as movements against capital punish­ ment, for improvement of the lots of deprived groups or of categories of people (unmarried mothers, delinquents, etc.), for abolition of slavery, etc. The second type is the reform movement, which aims at some change in the central political institutions, such as extension of suffrage to some group. These two types of movement often constitute important ingredients of public opinion, to be discussed shortly.

The third and most extreme and specific type of social movement is the ideological, totalistic one, which usually aims at development of some new total society or polity. It attempts to infuse inclusive and diffuse values or goals into a given institutional structure or to trans­ form such a structure according to these aims and values. It usually has a strong “future” orientation and tends to depict the future as greatly different from the present, and to fight for the realization of this change. It very often contains some apocalyptical, semi-Messianic elements, and it tends usually to make demands of total obedience or loyalty on its members and to make extreme distinctions between friends and foes.

The third element through which political demands are articulated in modern political systems is what has been called “general, diffuse, intelligent interest in public issues and in the public good.”[29]By this is meant people or groups who have a rather more flexible attitude to both specific interests and to “total” ideas and claims, who are not firmly attached to any given interest group, movement, or organization, and whose main concern is for the general public good and in the sober evaluation of a political program in terms of both general values and concrete possibilities.

Many elements – including some of the orientations of movements and interest groups – may enter into the formation of public opinion, and yet the diffuse public opinion tends to crystallize in patterns of its own, specified above.

Each of these forms of articulation of interests has existed in various forms in premodern systems also, but with several differences. [30]One such difference is that with the partial exception of petitions or entreaties by interest groups or cliques, the representation of the political activi­ties and orientations of groups was not, in premodern societies, fully legitimized within the central political institutions, while social or social-religious movements were largely a-political or nonlegitimate from the point of view of the existing political institutions.

A second difference is that these groups were mostly concerned with petitioning the rulers for various concrete benefits and not with deter­mining major political goals or selecting of rulers. A third is rooted in the fact that it is only in the modern political system that these different interest groups and movements may become integrated, even if only to a small extent, into the framework of common continuous political activity and organization, such as political parties, or other organizations that perform similar functions of mobilization of support and of integra­tion of different political demands. Such integration is attained by the parties (or other partylike organizations) through the development of specific party organs, leadership, and programs; through the subsump-tion within the party of various concrete interests under some more general rules or aims that may be of some appeal to a wider public; and through the translation, as it were, of the inclusive, diffuse aims of the social movements into more realistic terms of concrete political goals, issues, and dilemmas, articulated through some party or partylike organizations and activities.

The exact ways and combinations between these different types of political demands tend to vary greatly, as we shall see in greater detail later, in different modern regimes.

Similarly, at different stages of the development of modern political systems, there have developed, as mentioned above, different problems that became important, and different types of organizational frameworks through which such problems were dealt with. Thus at certain stages of modernization, the problem of suffrage and of the definition of the new political community, of attainment of its independence, assumed most central importance. In other spheres or at other stages, problems of religious toleration or of so-called secularization of culture were most prominent, while in still other stages of modernization the economic and social problems as well as problems of organization were pertinent The development of each of these problems was necessarily connected with the entrance of different new groups and strata into die political arena.[31]

Perhaps the most important aspect of this process is that within any modern political system new problems and forms of political organiza­tion tend to develop continually and new groups are continually drawn into the central political orbit; and that their problems, interests, and demands tend more and more to impinge on die central political in­stitutions, on the selection of rulers, on die creation and crystallization of central political symbols, and on the choice and implementation of different major policies.

The broader strata of society tend more and more to impinge on its central institutions, not only in making various demands on it but also in the sense of developing the aspirations to participate in the very crystallization of the center, its symbols, and its institutional contours. The major social movements that have developed with the onset of modernization, national, social, or cultural, all manifest in varying de­grees and intensity this tendency to growing participation of broader strata in the central sphere of the society.


The preceding analysis brings out perhaps the most central charac­teristics of modern societies – heir basic mass-consensual orientation.[32]

The consensual or mass aspect of modem society is rooted in the growing impingement of broader strata on the center, in their demands to participate in the sacred symbols of society and their formulation, and in the deplacement of the traditional symbols by new ones that stress tiiese participatory and social dimensions.

This tendency to broad, mass consensuality does not, of course, find its fullest institutionalized expression in all different types of modern societies. In many regimes in the first stages of modernization it may be weak or intermittent, while totalitarian regimes of course tend to suppress its fullest expression. But even totalitarian regimes attempt to legitimize themselves in terms of such values, and it is impossible to understand their policies, their attempts to create symbols of mass consensus, without assuming the existence of such consensual tendency among the major strata within them and its acknowledgement by the rulers.

The culmination of all these developments has been the crystallization of the nation and nation-state as the most important socio-political unit of modern societies, and of the possibility of a civil order as the major type of socio-political order within it.[33]

The nation and the nation-state emerged as the most common new sovereign political unit and focus of collective political and cultural identity. The symbols of common national social and cultural identity were no longer chiefly traditional, defined in terms of restricted tribal, traditional, or status groups. Although the new national symbol usually had a distinct territorial referent, and often a kinship, it was much more abstract and mythical and much less traditional and included many more subgroups of various kinds. Among many strata there developed some measures of differentiated, but not rigidly ascribed, identification with common cultural symbols that were neither entirely limited to any one territorial or kinship unit nor mediated by it. This is very closely related to the tendency to the establishment of the civil order, an order in which all citizens, irrespective of kinship, status, or territorial belong­ing, participate and share the same set of central institutions.

The growing participation of broader strata in the center of the society and in the civil order can be seen as two basic attributes of modern nation-building, of the establishment of new, broader political and social entities, whose symbols of identity are couched in nontraditional terms and whose institutional frameworks cut across narrower parochial units and emphasize more general, universalistic criteria.[34]


Perhaps the best starting point for the analysis of the characteristics in the educational institutions in modern societies is the pattern of de­mands for and the supply of educational services that tended to develop with modernization.[35]These were greatly influenced by the attempts of various groups to attain new goals in various fields of social life, by the demands for manpower made by developing economic structure, and by the attempts made by various elite groups to influence the educational process, either as means of political influence and social control or for the assurance of economic manpower. In the field of demand we can distinguish between the demand for the “products” and the “rewards” of education. Among the most important products of education are, first, various skills, be they general skills, such as literacy, which are assumed to be good preparation for a great variety of occupations, or more specific professional and vocational skills, the number of which has continually increased and become diversified with growing economic, technical, and scientific development.

A second major product of education is identification with various cultural socio-political symbols and values and of relatively active com­mitment to various cultural, social, and political groups and organiza­tions.

The different social groups – economic and administrative entrepre­neurs and organizations, different political, social, and cultural elites, parties, groups, and the more dispersed and diffuse orientations of citizens in general and of parents in particular – exerted different and continually changing demands for the “products” and “rewards” of educa­tion, such as different economic rewards, preparation for different oc­cupations and occupational advancement, and preparation for social mobility or for affirmation of status position, as well as for participation in the wider social, political, and cultural affairs and movements.

The supply side of educational services also became greatly diversi­fied and differentiated. It included on the one hand the supply of the manpower to be educated at different levels of the educational system, and adequate motivation and preparation for education. On the other hand, it included the supply of various schooling facilities – schools at different levels, ranging from kindergartens to universities, of teaching personnel (greatly dependent on fluctuation in the labor market), and of various facilities for the maintenance of such institutions and or­ganizations. These could be supplied by the government and by various elites and entrepreneur groups, in the center of the society and on differ­ent local levels.

Out of the interaction of these varied pressures there developed the basic structural characteristics of educational institutions or systems in modern societies.

Among these characteristics, the most important were the growing specialization of educational roles and organizations, on the one hand, and growing unification and interrelation of the different educational activities within the frameworks of one common system on the other. The educational activities and organizations tended to become more widespread and a continuous differentiation between the different levels of the educational system – between primary, secondary, vocational, adult, and higher education – took place. Each of these “systems,” and even many subsystems of each, has gradually become more autonomous, specialized, and organized in its own framework. On the other hand, however, these different organizations became more closely intercon­nected either through some overall educational planning or through the fact that one became a recognized channel for advancement into the other, as well as through the growing competition between them for the same manpower and resources.[36]

But this bringing together of the various types of educational activi­ties within one common institutional framework did not necessarily assure any harmony or identity between the various aspects of the process of supply and demand for educational activities and products. On the contrary, the possibility of some discrepancy between these dif­ferent aspects was inherent in the very nature of their interaction. But these discrepancies continually brought together various groups of the population into common frameworks, increasing their interdependence on the one hand and their pressures on the central institutional sphere of the society on the other.


Historically, the first processes of modernization, those of western and central Europe, have developed from within a social order that was characterized by the existence of multiplicity of different political units sharing the same cultural heritage. While modernization has in many ways disrupted many aspects of this order, in other ways it only accentuated the identification with this common cultural heritage and intensified the relations between the new emerging political units. [37]

From the very beginning the process of modernization was not con­fined within separate national or “state” communities. The major eco­nomic trends and developments and the major social and cultural movements which developed with the onset of modernization, such as the various social and political movements, cut across national or politi­cal boundaries. The nationalistic movements of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries themselves were, paradoxically perhaps, interna­tional in scope and orientation.

Many of the specifically modern social groups and elites – such as re­ligious and intellectual groups or entrepreneurial firms – developed close relations cutting across existing and emerging political boundaries. More­over, the very spread of modernization from its initial upsurge in western Europe was to no small degree due to the concomitant development of a new type of international system or systems. The development of the first modern national states – England, France, the Netherlands, and the Scandinavian states – created a challenge to the more “traditional” rulers of central, eastern, and southern Europe, and later of the Middle East –to set on a program of limited (mostly technical) modernization that would enable them to stand on their own in the new international framework. On the other hand these very attempts of the rulers, as well as the increasing flow of communication between these societies, has created within these societies many new elite groups, which tend to establish relations with similar groups in other countries, creating in a way an international system of their own within which new im­ petus – often in opposition to those of the rulers – tend to develop. [38]

In the first stages of modernization these various international trends converged mostly around problems of formation and crystallization of national communities and symbols. Later, in contemporary Europe and to some extent in Latin America and Africa, when the process of social and economic differentiation or of political interrelationships began more and more to cut across older units, many new concrete economic and organizational (and not only symbolic) frameworks tend to arise and processes and problems of interstate integration become more im­ portant. Thus the boundaries of the overall political communities that tended to crystallize into the processes of modernization were not fixed or given, but tended to change in different periods or stages of mod­ ernization.

[1]  Eisenstadt, Shmuel N.: The Basic Characteristics of Modernization (1966), in: Eisenstadt, Shmuel N., Modernization, protest and change, Eaglewood Cliffs 1966, pp. 1-19.

[2]   K. W. Deutsch, “Social Mobilization and Political Development”, American Polit­ical Science Review, 55 (September 1961), pp. 494-95.

[3]   On these aspects of modernization, see T. Parsons, Structure and Process in Modern Societies (New York: Free Press of Glencoe, Inc.. 1959), Chaps. 3, 4; D. Lerner, The Passing of traditional Society (New York: Free Press of Glencoe, Inc., 1958); B. F. Hoselitz, “Noneconomic Factors in Economic Development”, American Eco­nomic Review, 47 (May 2, 1957), 28-71; and J. A. Kahl, “Some Social Concomitants of Industrialization and Urbanization”, Human Organization, 18, 2 (Summer 1959), pp. 53-75.

[4]   G. Simmel, “The Metropolis and Mental Life”, in P. Hatt and A. Reiss, eds., Cities and Society (New York: Free Press of Glencoe, Inc., 1957); and F., Community and Association, trans. Charles P. Loomis (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, Ltd., 1955).

[5] W. Moore, “The Social Framework of Economic Development”, in R. Braibanti and J. Spengler, eds., Tradition, Values and Socio-Economic Development (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1961), pp. 57-82.

[6]   S. N. Eisenstadt, “Bureaucracy and Political Development”, in J. La Polambara, ed., Bureaucracy and Political Development (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1963), pp. 96-120.

[7] S. N. Eisenstadt, “Political Modernization: Some Comparative Notes”, Interna­tional Journal of Comparative Sociology, 5, 1 (March 1964), pp. 3-24.

[8]   E. Shils, “Political Development in New States”, Comparative Studies in History and Society (Spring-Summer 1960), pp. 265-92, pp. 379-411; and K. Mannheim, Man and Society in an Age of Reconstruction (London: Routledge & Kegan Pad, Ltd., 1940).

[9]   Mannheim, ibid.; and L. Pye, ed.. Communication and Political Development (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1963).

[10]  Lerner, op. cit.

[11]   Shils, op. cit,; and A. Inkeles, “Industrial Man: The Relation of Status to Experi­ence, Perception and Value”, American Journal of Sociology, 66, 1 (July 1960), pp. 1-31.

[12]   Shils, ibid.; and Eisenstadt, op. cit.

[13]   W. E. Moore, The Impact of Industry (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1965); and C. S. Belshaw, Traditional Exchange and Modern Markets (Engle­wood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1965).

[14]   Parsons, op. cit.

[15]  Moore, The Impact of Industry.

[16]   D. V. Glass, The Town in a Changing Civilization (London; John Lane, 1935); Simmel, op. cit.; and L. Wirth, “Urbanism as a Way of Life”, in Hatt and Reiss, eds., op. cit., pp. 46-63.

[17]   M. Weber, “Class, Status, Party”, in H. Gerth and C. W. Mills, eds., From Max Weber (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, Ltd., 1947), pp. 180-95.

[18]   M. Tumin, “Competing Status Systems”, in W. Moore and A. Feldman, eds., Labor Commitment and Social Change in Developing Areas (New York: Social Science Research Council, I960), pp. 277-86; and L. Fallers, “Equality, Modernity and Democracy in the New States”, in Clifford Geertz, ed., Old Societies and New States (New York: Free Press of Glencoe, Inc., 1963), pp. 158-219.

[19]   Mannheim, op. cit.; and C. Kerr, Industrialism and Industrial Man (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1960).

[20]   See S. N. Eisenstadt, “Bureaucracy, Bureaucratization, Markets and Power Structure”, in Essays in Comparative Institutions (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1965), pp. 175-216.

[21]   Mannheim, op. cit.

[22]  E. Shils, “The Study of the Primary Group”, in D. Lerner and H. Lasswell, eds., The Policy Sciences (Stanford, Calif.; Stanford University Press, 1951), pp. 44-70.

[23]   Fallers, op. cit.

[24]   T. Parsons, Societies in Comparative and Evolutionary Perspectives. Forthcoming.

[25]   E. Shils, “Centre and Periphery”, in The Logic of Personal Knowledge, essays presented to Michael Polanyi (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1961).

[26]   Eisenstadt, “Political Modernization: Some Comparative Notes”; and W. Kornhauser, The Politics of Mass Society (New York: Free Press of Glencoe, Inc., 1959).

[27]   G. Almond, “Introduction: A Functional Approach to Comparative Politics”, in G. Almond and J. S. Coleman, eds., The Politics of Developing Areas (Princeton, N-J.: Princeton University Press, 1960), pp. 3-64.

[28] H. Cantril, The Psychology of Social Movements (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1941); and H. Kohn, “Pan-Movements”, in Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1933), xi, pp. 544-54.

[29]   C. J. Friedrich, Constitutional Government and Democracy (rev. ed.) (New York: Blaisdell Publishing Co., 1950); and Eisenstadt, “Political Modernization: Some Comparative Notes”.

[30]   S. N. Eisenstadt, The Political Systems of Empires (New York: Free Press of Glencoe, Inc., 1963).

[31]   S. M. Lipset, Political Man (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1960).

[32]   E. Shils, “The Theory of Mass Society”, Diogenes, 39 (1963), 45-66.

[33]   E. Shils, “Primordial, Personal, Sacred and Civil Ties”, British Journal of So­ciology, 8 (June 1957), pp. 130-46.

[34]   E. Kedourie, Nationalism (London: Hutchinson & Co. (Publishers), Ltd., 1961).

[35] S. N. Eisenstadt, Education and Political Development, Duke University Com­monwealth Seminar Series (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1962-63).

[36]   J. Floud and A. Halsey, “The Sociology of Education: A Trend Report and Bibliography”, Current Sociology, 7 (1958), pp. 165-235.

[37]   D. Thomson, Europe since Napoleon (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1962).

[38]E. Shils, “The Intellectual and the Powers: Some Perspectives for Comparative Analysis”, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 1, 1 (1958), pp. 5-23.


Die Druckversion des Essays findet sich in Hohls, Rüdiger; Schröder, Iris; Siegrist, Hannes (Hg.), Europa und die Europäer. Quellen und Essays zur modernen europäischen Geschichte, Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag 2005.

Eisenstadt, Shmuel N.: The Basic Characteristics of Modernization . 1966. In: Themenportal Europäische Geschichte (2006),  URL: http://www.europa.clio-online.de/2006/Article=72.

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