Modernization is an objective phenomenon since about eighteenth century in the world, the modernization science is a newly emerging interdisciplinary one which deals with the modernization phenomenon, and the modernization study is an interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary one. The word modernization first appeared in the eighteenth century (1748–1770). It was commonly used between the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries and gradually became an academic term in the twentieth century. The modernization science came into being in the twenty-first century.
There is no unified definition for modernization, which can be interpreted in mainly three ways.
First, the word modernization has two basic meanings: For one thing, it is an action—an action and process to be modern and adapt to the modern needs (the action and process of realizing modernization); for another, it is a state—a state which has modern features and meets the modern needs (the modernization state). Modern features refer to the new features and changes (normally progressive changes) since about ad 1500
We have the verb “modernize,” the noun “modernization,” and the adjective “modernized.” To put it in a popular way, the modernized refers to the newest, the best, and the most advanced.
Second, the theoretical meaning of modernization. It refers to the definition of modernization in different modernization theories. And different theories have different explanations, as well as sociologists and historians have different thoughts.
Third, the policy meaning of modernization. It refers to the practical application of the modernization theory, and different theories have different policy implication in different nations and stages. From the perspective of national level in policy sphere, modernization refers to the world’s advance level at present and the process of reaching or maintaining this advanced level.
Generally, modernization consists of about six layers of theoretical meaning according to the second modernization theory.
First, modernization is a change of civilization, a frontier change of human civilization since the Industrial Revolution in the eighteenth century, including the formation, development, transformation and international interaction of modern civilization, and the innovation, selection, dissemination and withdrawal of civilization elements.
Second, modernization is the international competition to catch up with, reach, and maintain the world’s advanced level since the eighteenth century; those countries which reach and maintain the world’s advanced level are advanced countries while the rest are developing countries. The two kinds of countries can change their status, and the division is not fixed.
Third, modernization is the world frontier of human civilization since the eighteenth century.
Fourth, modernization is the action to reach or keep the world frontier of human civilization since the eighteenth century.
Fifth, modernization is the historical process to reach or keep the world frontier of human civilization since the eighteenth century. From the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries, the process of modernization can be divided into two stages: the first modernization and the second modernization, with the former characterized by industrialization, urbanization, and democratization and the latter by knowledge-based, information intensive, and greening. The process of modernization can also be divided into two categories: the frontier process and that of catch up.
Sixth, modernization is a transformation of civilization. The first modernization realized the transformation from agricultural to industrial civilization while the second modernization means the transformation from industrial to knowledge civilization and from material to ecological civilization.
The connotation of modernization: Modernization is the civilization change and international competition since the Industrial Revolution in the eighteenth century, and includes the frontier process of the formation, development, transformation, and international interaction of modern civilization; the compound process of the alternative occurring of innovation, selection, dissemination, and withdrawal of civilization elements; and the international competition and international differentiation to catch up with, reach, and maintain the world’s advanced level The countries that reached and kept the world’s advanced level are advanced ones while others are not; two kinds of countries can change the status of each other in some possibility.
The denotation of modernization: Modernization happens in different periods, at different levels, in different fields, sectors, and aspects, covering the modern changes of behavior, content, structure, organization, institution, and ideas of the civilization.
The duality of modernization: For one thing, seen from the perspective of civilization change, every country will progress and has the chance to succeed one after another; for another, seen from the perspective of international competition, only a few countries are able to reach and maintain the world’s advanced level. In the past 300 years, the number of advanced countries accounted for less than 20% of the total of all the countries in the world while that of developing countries exceeded 80%. In the past 50 years, about 5% of the developing countries have been upgraded to advanced countries while about 10% of the advanced countries have been downgraded to developing countries.
What’s Modernization Science?
Modernization science is about the modernization phenomenon, with roughly three meanings:
First, the modernization science is the knowledge system concerning the facts, features, and principles of the modernization phenomenon.
Second, the modernization science is the scientific research activity studying the modernization phenomenon.
Third, the modernization science is the rational thought and method applied to the modernization research.
Generally, the modernization science is a knowledge system and scientific activity concerning the modernization phenomenon.
Figuratively, the modernization science or modernizations is an interdisciplinary science that deals with modernization phenomenon including the world frontier and national advancement since the eighteenth century, which involves the frontier change of modern civilization and international competition, the principles and methods of national advance.
Structure of Modernization Science
The modernization science includes the modernization knowledge and modernization studies. The modernization knowledge includes all kinds of theories and experience concerning modernization, and the modernization studies involve the research activities and methods of modernization science. The knowledge acquired from modernization research does not belong to the modernization science before it is tested and systematized. The modernization studies can be classified into the basic, applied, and development research (policy research). The modernization theories include the basic, applied, and other relevant theories.
Normally, the modernization science consists of seven parts: the general theory (the core theory), the history of modernization, stage-specific modernization, level-specific modernization, field-specific modernization, sector-specific modernization, and modernization policies.
Characteristics of Modernization Science
The modernization science is a new member of the big family of sciences.
The modernization science is not only a cross-disciplinary, applied science but also an integrated science.
The modernization science does not only cross with other sciences but also involves the integrated application of them.
So far, there have been 16 key features of modernization science, such as being cross-disciplinary, highly integrated, large-scaled, and strategically grand.
If the development study is a science about developing countries, then the modernization science is a science about national advancement. Modernization science focuses on how the advanced countries stay advanced, and how the developing countries become advanced, and explains the world frontier of human civilization, the process to reach it, and the principles and methods of national advance.
Paradigm of the Modernization Study
Purpose: to reveal the law of change in the frontiers of modern civilization and the law of national advance, explain and provide approaches to reach the world frontier and realize national prosperity, and satisfy people’s curiosity for modernization.
Object: the phenomenon of modernization. The science of modernization focuses on and mainly studies the world frontiers of human civilization and the process and behavior needed to reach the frontier since the eighteenth century and the phenomena of national advance and international differentiation.
Content: the meaning, characteristics, and law of modernization, the principles and approaches for national advance; and so on. It normally covers the process, result, driving force and mode of modernization and the variation of behaviors, structures, institutions and ideas at the frontier of civilization.
Steps: There are seven steps: posing questions, conceptualizing, operationalization, collecting materials, analyzing objectively, presenting results, and offering recommendations, which can be followed in an orderly, cyclic, cross-cutting, or selective way.
Requirements: specifying the purpose, defining the object and the content, adopting scientific approaches, being objective and unbiased, and making complete citations.
General Approaches of the Modernization Study
The methodology of the modernization research: positivism, interpretivism, and realism. Generally, positive studies focus on the facts and principles of the modernization phenomenon, the interpretive studies focus on the meaning of and relationship between phenomena of modernization, while the realist studies provide the choice and suggestions of the modernization phenomenon. Criticism and futurism have great influence upon the studies.
Research approaches of natural and social sciences can be selectively adopted, such as observation, survey, simulation, assumption, psychological analysis, statistical analysis, quantitative analysis, qualitative analysis, model approach, theoretical analysis, comparative analysis, historical analysis, literature analysis, process analysis, scenario analysis, and case studies.
Frontier analysis includes the identification, comparison, and variation analysis of the world frontiers.
Process analysis includes the analysis on the stages, characteristics, contents, principles, and results of the modernization process.
The Coordinate Analysis of the Modernization Study
The second modernization theory forms an approach to study and mark the development of modernization by using the “modernization coordinates,” which is called the “the coordinate analysis approach of modernization research” for short.
The coordinate system of modernization includes the timetable, the periodic table, the coordinates, and the road map of civilization and modernization. The coordinate system of civilization and modernization consists of horizontal and vertical coordinates. The former may refer to the historical time or the time of civilization, while the latter may refer to the level of civilization, modernization, or the indicators of modernization.
The “civilization time” is a timescale marked according to the “frontier track” of human civilization.
The variable analysis in the coordinate analysis: paradigm analysis, quantitative analysis, time-series analysis, and cross-sectional analysis.
The result statement of the coordinate analysis: marking the quantitative measure, the time-series analysis, the cross-sectional analysis, the paradigm analysis, and the result of general process analysis in the coordinates of modernization, so as to form the coordinate map and road map of modernization.
The selection of variables: Three factors should be taken into consideration: the variable should be of academic or policy significance, it should be easy to be compared and analyzed internationally, and the data and materials are available and continuous.
Variable types: qualitative and quantitative indicators, the increasing variable, the decreasing variable, the transitional variable, the long-term fluctuating variable, the random variable, the regional variable, the stable variable, and the saturation variable.