External and Internal Factors in Theories of Social Change
Neil J. Smelser
One of the hallmarks of human history in the late twentieth century is the increasing internationalization of the world: in production, trade finance, technology, threats to security, communications, research, education, and culture. One major consequence of this trend is that the mutual penetration of economic, political, and social forces among the nations of the world is increasingly salient. And it may also be the case that the governments of nation-states are progressively losing degrees of direct control over the global forces that affect them. For social scientists the phenomenon of internationalization poses a conceptual challenge: to rethink the fundamental assumption, long established in our disciplines, that the primary unit of analysis is the nation, the society, or the culture.
In light of these circumstances it might be helpful to take a look at a number of theoretical strands in the study of social change over the past century to see how theorist have addressed the issue of the relative importance of external and internal factors in the genesis, course of development, and consequences of social change. This is what I propose to do in this chapter. I examine these strands in the broadest sense and will not consider theoretical details or empirical studies that have flowed from them. One of my conclusions is that the history of the theory of social change in the past century has been something of an oscillation—perhaps even a dialectic—between theories stressing the endogenous and theories stressing the exogenous. Toward the end of the chapter I turn to the theme of increasing internationalization and give an indication of the major dimensions involved in the study of external and internal forces of change.
Initially, I would like to clarify the use of the terms "external" and "internal"—or "endogenous" and "exogenous." Some theorists use "external"
to refer to nonsocial determinants of social change, determinants such as climate, availability of resources, and biological forces. My usage differs from this. I use the term "external" to refer to influences emanating from the presence of other societies in a given society's environment, and I concentrate on international, intersocietal, and intercultural forces. By "internal" I refer to the mutual interrelations of values, social structure, and classes as they are institutionalized in a given society. In making this external-internal distinction, however, I would like to be clear that it cannot be regarded as a fixed, dichotomous one; some of the most interesting questions to be raised about the two kinds of forces are how they interact with each other and how the distinction sometimes breaks down as the two kinds of forces fuse to generate or block social change.
1. The Starting Point: Classical Evolutionary Theory
The fundamental presumption of evolutionary theory, which has dominated social thought in the last half of the nineteenth century, is the notion that civilization has progressed by a series of stages from a backward to an advanced state. The characteristics of the stages differ from theorist to theorist—Comte, Maine, Bachofen, etc.—but the central idea of progress informs them all. To distill out the essential themes of this approach, I sketch the line of argument taken up in Lewis Henry Morgan's Ancient Society ( 1963).
The subtitle of Ancient Society reveals its essence: Researches in Lines of Human Progress from Savagery through Barbarism to Civilization . Morgan, like other evolutionists, regarded human history as advancing through several stages. These stages constitute "a natural as well as a necessary sequence of progress" ( 1963, 3). The main defining characteristic of each stage is the type of inventions that society used to gain its subsistence. Thus, the lower stage of savagery extends from the beginnings of the human race to the time that people began to rely on fish for subsistence; the middle stage of savagery began with fish subsistence and the use of fire and moved into the upper status of savagery with the invention of the bow and arrow. The analysis continues in a similar fashion through three stages of barbarism to the state of civilization, which began with the use of a written alphabet. In addition to technology, other institutions also developed by stages. In the period of savagery government was organized into gentes, or clans, and "followed down, through the advancing forms of this institution, to the establishment of political society" ( 1963, 5). And a parallel story of progress is to be found in religion, architecture, property, kinship, and other institutions. In
fact, most of Morgan's efforts were devoted to presenting evidence of "human progress … through successive periods, as it is revealed by inventions and discoveries, and by the growth of ideas of government, of the family, and of property" ( 1963, 6).
For the purposes of this chapter the characteristics of this kind of theory are the following:
1. The linearity and regularity of change through distinct stages.
2. The presence of a mechanism (for example, technology) that is internal to society as the impetus to change.
3. The assumption of a functional fit in society such that different institutions cluster consistently at each stage and substage.
4. The absence of assumptions regarding any kind of influence of one society on others. In fact, Morgan was not interested in societies but rather society considered as a whole.
5. The implicit compression of comparative study and the study of social change. Other contemporary societies (for example, aboriginal Australia or tribal North America) are regarded as resting at some earlier stage of evolution when compared with the more advanced societies.
One interpretation of the works of Marx is that his theory shares many of the fundamentals of classical evolutionary thought. His thinking is characterized by a distinctive number of stages (Asiatic, feudal, capitalist, etc.), and there is a distinct internal mechanism for transition from one stage to another. This mechanism, the development of economic and societal contradictions, is of course very different than that stressed by others. In his work on the evolution of the family and the state, Engels ( 1969) relied heavily on Morgan's evolutionary scheme. Elsewhere in Marx, as I note later, we see evidence of his appreciation of the international dimension of economic forces.
2. Reactions to Classical Evolutionary Thought and New Formulations
One does not choose classical evolutionary thought as a starting point because of its theoretical sophistication or its empirical adequacy (indeed, it is one of the few identifiable traditions of thought that can be said to have been definitely discredited); one chooses it because of its intellectual dominance at the time, and because its distinctive features set the agenda—the issues to be addressed—for a great deal of theoretical work in social change that has been created since that time. This latter point is more clearly observed by the range of theories of social change
that appeared in the early part of the twentieth century. Consider the following illustrations:
The implication of an evolutionary theory like Morgan's is that a cultural item or institutional complex appears when a given society is "ready" for it in terms of its evolutionary stage. The diffusionists' challenge to this point of view was to demonstrate that many cultural items did not develop independently in different cultures but were borrowed from abroad, sometimes at a great geographical distance. Very painstaking studies were made, showing how myths, calendars, costume styles, maize cultivation, and other items have traveled in intricate paths around the world. Kroeber (1923, 197–98) summarized the force of the principle of diffusion as follows:
The vast majority of culture elements have been learned by each nation from other peoples, past and present … even savages shift their habitations and acquire new neighbors. At times they capture women and children from one another. Again they intermarry; and they almost invariably maintain some sort of trade relations with at least some of the adjacent peoples…. There is thus every a priori reason why diffusion could be expected to have had a very large part in the formation of primitive and barbarous as well as advanced culture.
Viewed in relation to classical evolutionary thought, diffusionist theory constituted simultaneously a polemic and a revision along three lines: first, consistent with the positive upswelling in the early decades of the twentieth century, it eschewed the speculative heights of evolutionism and insisted on careful, limited, empirical descriptions; second, it constituted a fundamental critique of the linearity of evolutionists' conceptions of change by arguing that stages could be modified or even skipped through the borrowing and adopting process; and third, it explicitly introduced an intercultural dimension, showing that change was a product of importation. That emphasis has survived to the present; it is evident in studies that are preoccupied with the transfer of technology.
Yet the emphasis on the borrowing of things led the diffusionists toward a very limited conception of social change. They seldom asked why certain items diffused and others did not, how items were modified after being incorporated into a new cultural setting, or what new internal changes were stimulated by borrowed items, even though a theorist such as Lowie (1937) was aware of these issues. I short, diffusionists inquired very little into the social-system contexts of either the originating or the borrowing cultures. In particular, other types of intercultural or intersocietal
influences on change, such as economic or political domination, were almost completely absent from diffusionist theory.
2.2. Classical Functionalism
The classical functional anthropologists and sociologists shared with the diffusionists the conviction that evolutionary theory was speculative and ignored actual history, but their chief polemic was of a different sort. They believed that the evolutionists were asking the wrong kinds of questions in their efforts to explain the presence, absence, or clustering of cultural and institutional elements in societies. It is not important, functionalists argued, to know about the historical origin of a particular element; this tells us nothing about how the structure fits into and contributes to the ongoing life of the society. It tells us little about the structure's current functions. Radcliffe-Brown stated the functionalist argument in general terms as follows:
Individual human beings … are connected by a definite set of social relations into an integrated whole. The continuity of the social structure, like that of an organic structure, is not destroyed by changes in the units. Individuals may leave the society, by death or otherwise; others may enter it. The continuity of structure is maintained by the process of social life, which consists of the activities and interactions of the individual human beings and of the organized groups into which they are united. The social life of the community is here defined as the functioning of the social structure. The function of any recurrent activity, such as the punishment of a crime or a funeral ceremony, is the part it plays in the social life as a whole and therefore the contribution it makes to the maintenance of structural continuity (1952, 180, emphases mine).
The criticisms of the position of the functionalists from the standpoint of the study of social change are well known. Because of their stress on stability, integration, and social equilibrium, functionalists were not interested in theories of social change and lacked the conceptual tools to analyze or generate such theories. (Radcliffe-Brown [1953, 395–97] contended that this criticism was not justified because there is no more reason why the functionalist approach precludes the study of the growth of civilizations than there is reason why physiology—the study of functioning organisms—precludes the study of embryology, paleontology, and evolution.) Also because of these preoccupations, functionalists were less likely to study various kinds of conflict in society, especially conflict as a particularly powerful engine for change. The same preoccupations also intensified the functionalists' focus on the internal relations of culture and institutions in the life of a society. External impingements played little or no role in their theory or empirical studies. Be that as it may, it might be instructive to refer to two theorists with functionalist
presuppositions: Ogburn and Malinowski. Both of these theorists were interested in processes of social change and one, Malinowski, incorporated both a dimension of conflict and a dimension of international domination (colonialism) into the picture.
Ogburn was hostile to classical evolutionary theory, asserting that "the inevitable series of stages in the development of social institutions has not only not been proven but has been disproven" (1922, 57). He further argued that the basis for the disproof is found in the hard facts of history and ethnography, which show that the evolutionists' generalizations are faulty (1922, 66). Furthermore, any conclusions about evolution must rest not on impressionistic history and anthropology but on a review of the "actual facts of early evolution" (1922, 66).
In place of grand theories of evolution Ogburn proposed a theory that was simultaneously positivistic and functionalist. It was positivistic because it stressed measurable facts and trends, eschewed speculative theory not based on these, and insisted on theories of limited range. It was functionalist because it stressed the systematic interrelatedness of social institutions. In addition, Ogburn's theory discarded the functionalist theory of short-term equilibration and substituted for it the notion of "cultural lag," summarized as follows:
Not all parts of our organization are changing at the same speed or at the same time. Some are rapidly moving forward while others are lagging. These unequal rates of change in economic life, in government, in education, in science, and religion, make zones of danger and points of tension. (President's Research Committee on Social Trends 1933, xiii)
More particularly, Ogburn argued that changes in "material culture" (technology and economic organization) forever outrun changes in "adaptive culture" (religion, family, art, law, and custom), and the consequences of this chronic lag are a parade of social problems and the danger of social disorganization.
The Ogburn formulation is instructive for the student of social change because it demonstrates how the elimination of one fundamental functionalist premise and the substitution of another permits Ogburn to generate a theory of social tensions or contradictions that is not totally removed from Marx's theory of contradictions, which, although derived from a different set of first premises, also involves the notion of increasing discrepancy and the relationship between material and institutional forces. At the same time Ogburn retained the functionalist view that society is bounded. Although he acknowledged the international diffusion of technology, the dominant thrust of his theory is on the internal consequences of change and social stability in societies.
Malinowski, one of the founders of classical functionalism and not
especially noted for his contributions to the theory of social change, turned his attention to cultural change in his last work (1945), published posthumously. The setting of this work as intersocietal, dealing with the subject of culture contact and change in the African colonial societies. In his analysis Malinowski retained one assumption of the functionalist perspective, namely, that cultural traits cannot be studied as if scattered and unrelated to one another because they cluster in institutions that have interrelated material, legal, and cultural elements. This assumption implies that change occurs in patterns of elements, not single elements alone. At the same time, however, he admonished against treating a colonial society as a "well-integrated whole"; it is a multiplicity of contrasting and conflicting cultural elements. Any conception of a well-integrated community in the contact situation would "ignore such facts as the color bar, the permanent rift which divides the two patterns in change and keeps them apart in church and factory, in matters of mine labor and political influence" (1945, 15).
The first basis for instability in colonial societies is that they are dominated politically, which refers to the "impact of a higher, active culture upon a simpler, more passive one" (1945, 15). But this impact is not a matter of the simple transfer of Western prototypes or the retention of African prototypes. Rather it is a dynamic fusion of the two types into qualitatively new forms:
The concept of the mechanical incorporation of elements from one culture into another does not lead us beyond the initial preparatory stages, and even then on subtler analysis breaks down. What really takes place is an interplay of specific contact forces: race prejudice, political and economic imperialism, the demand for segregation, the safeguarding of a European standard of living, and the African reaction to this. (1945, 23)
Accordingly, Malinowski viewed colonial societies in terms of what he called his "three-column approach," which delineated three kinds of social forces: (1) "the impinging culture with its institutions, intentions, and interests"; (2) "the reservoir of indigenous custom, belief, and living traditions"; (3) "the processes of contact and change, where members of the two cultures cooperate, conflict, or compromise" (1945, vii).
Malinowski viewed the relations among these several forces as unstable for two reasons. First, the intruding European culture and the surviving African cultures are not evenly matched. He described the European culture as "higher" and "active" and the African cultures as "simpler" and "passive." Second, the existence of conflicting institutional patterns makes for cultural contradictions and pressures for change:
The African in transition finds himself in a non-man's land, where his old tribal stability, his security as to economic resources, which was safeguarded
under the old regime by the solidarity of kinship, have disappeared. The new culture, which has prompted him to give up tribalism, has promised to raise him by education to a standard of life worthy of an educated man. But it has not given suitable and satisfactory equivalents. It has been unable to give him rights to citizenship regarded as due an educated Westerner; and it has discriminated against him socially on practically every point of the ordinary routine of life. (1945, 60)
Malinowski predicted that the incessant pressures of European culture and the various forces of culture contact and change would "sooner or later … gradually … engulf and supersede the whole of [the surviving African tradition]" (1945, 81).
Malinowski's theory of culture contact and change constitutes an especially interesting recombination of ingredients of the following sort: (1) the theories of classical evolution were largely irrelevant by now to his enterprise; (2) like the classical functionalists, he adopted the postulate of societal interrelatedness, but, unlike them, he built in a postulate of constant conflict and contradiction, with equilibrium never reached; and (3) like the diffusionists, he acknowledged the salience of intercultural or international contact as a determinant of change, but unlike them, he concentrated on patterns of culture rather than discrete cultural items, stressed the systemic context into which they are incorporated, and emphasized the dimension of political, economic, and cultural domination that colonialism implies.
Earlier I noted some resemblances between classical evolutionary theory and Marxian thought, particularly on the internal genesis of change. That picture is clearly incomplete. Marx forever stressed the international character of capitalism and its bourgeois and proletarian classes. And he provided more specific insights than this. Competition provides the impulse for capitalist expansion, and the most potent strategy in the competitive struggle is to increase productivity through technological advance. Before this strategy reaches its ultimate limit, one final strategy is available. Marx found the limits for any given innovation—or set of innovations—in the size of the market. No market can sustain feverish overproduction and this inhibits a market's capacity to absorb increased production. Industrial expansion creates both the need for more raw materials for itself and the need for larger markets for its own products. The natural consequence is to internationalize capitalism. Capitalists destroy the handicraft industries of backward countries with their cheap products and force them into the production of raw materials. In this way a "new international division of labor, a division suited to the requirements of the chief centers of modern industry springs up, and converts
one part of the globe into a chiefly agricultural field of production, for supplying the other part which remains a chiefly industrial field" (Marx  1949, 451).
In applying this principle to India Marx interpreted the British efforts to unify that country politically and to build a network of railroads as a strategy to convert India into a supplier of cotton and other raw materials for British industries (1853a). Marx also predicted that the introduction of railways should set the stage for a more general growth in India that would, in turn, dissolve the caste system that had posed such obstacles to economic development. With respect to China, Marx (1853b) attributed the political upheaval in mid-nineteenth-century China to the economic penetration of the mainland by capitalism. In addition, Marx commented on the vulnerability of the international dependency that arises from the establishment of trade between the capitalist nations and their economic suppliers of raw materials (1853b).
Lenin ( 1939) carried the theme of internationalization further. The starting point of his analysis was that competition as the driving engine of capitalism was disappearing. The main reason for this was the development of monopolies that controlled raw materials, prices, and production by virtue of the gigantic of firms. (Marx also foresaw this kind of concentration in his later works). Banks had also become monopolized and formed links with industry to create a system of finance capital. Through the export of capital—as contrasted with the earlier pattern of the export of goods—this system had "divided up the world" economically. This development was accompanied by a political division of the world through colonial domination, which completed the seizure of unoccupied territories on our planet" () 1939, 76, emphasis in original). In keeping with the fundamentals of earlier Marxian formulations, however, Lenin described the imperialist developments of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as "the highest stage of capitalism" (invoking the evolutionary logic of Marx), found these developments to be "parasitic" and replete with contradictions peculiar to capitalism (such as the high cost of living and the oppression of the cartels arising from monopolization), and argued that imperialism was a transition "from the capitalist system to a higher social-economic order" (again reminiscent of the evolutionary imagery and ultimate optimism of Marx).
The Marx-Lenin perspective moves further in the international direction, envisioning the world as a single system at least temporarily dominated by a single economic system (capitalism). The viewpoint tends to regard internal economic and class developments—for example, the destruction of the Indian caste system and the "embourgeoisment" of the British working classes in the late nineteenth century—as a more-or-less
direct result of external developments occasioned by the internationalization of capitalism. The internationalism of the Marx-Lenin perspective differs from the internationalism of both the diffussionists and Malinowski with respect to the causal mechanisms involved: it identifies specific economic mechanisms (the export of goods, the export of capital) supplemented by specific political mechanisms (colonialism), whereas the diffusionist perspective rests on the imagery of borrowing or transfer and Malinowski's perspective envisions the operative mechanisms as mainly political domination (colonialism) and the accompanying cultural contact.
Weber, too, was engaged in a certain dialogue with classical evolutionary thought (including its Marxist variant). His particular complaint was that such formulations are too general and abstract (and therefore unrealistic) because they do not take the variations found in historical and comparative study into account:
[Weber's image of "economy and society"] drew the lines against Social Darwinism, Marxism and other isms of the time. Weber rejected the prevalent evolutionary and mono-causal theories, whether idealist or materialist, mechanistic or organicist; he fought both the reductionism of social scientists and the surface approach of historians, both the persistent search for hidden "deeper" causes and the ingrained aversion against historically transcendent concepts. He took it for granted that the economic structure of a group was one of its major if variable determinants and that society was an arena for group conflicts. (Roth 1968, xxix)
This polemical positions, of course, posed a challenge for Weber, namely, to formulate some kind of general statements about society and social processes while at the same time respecting historical and comparative variations. Weber took middle position in relation to this challenge, identifying relatively coherent historical constellations of economic, political, and social arrangements. With respect to process of social change, Weber identified a number of ideal-typical processes, which are best characterized as semiautonomous developments arising from particular group, institutional, or cultural constellations. Among these ideal-typical processes are (1) the tendency for charismatic leadership to become routinized; (2) the aggrandizing and leveling tendencies associated with bureaucracy; (3) the transformational tendencies associate with belief systems such as ascetic Protestantism; and (4) the general tendencies of coherent cultural systems (religious tenets, musical styles) to move in the direction of rationalization. Considerable controversy remains, however, as to how far these processes identified as typical should be interpreted as implying a more general or evolutionary emphasis.
All four for the developmental directions noted in the foregoing paragraph are internal in the same that they involve the unfolding of certain cultural or organizational principles, sometimes in relation to exigencies that are encountered. A broader reading of Weber's comparative-historical studies and economic sociology reveals, however, that he was fully sensitive to intersocietal and international influences and that he gave them a central place in his analyses. His historical analyses make reference to war, population movements, international economic developments, and the diffusion of religion as the directional forces of change. His "general economic history" (Weber  1950) lectures systematically included international factors such as the trade in antiquity and medieval times, changes in the prices of the "international" metals, gold, and silver, colonial exploitation in the eighteenth century and the rise of the great colonial companies. And, to give Weber equal time with Marx, his diagnosis of India in 1916 stressed the British penetration:
Today the Hinduist caste order is profoundly shaken. Especially in the district of Calcutta, old Europe's major gateway, many norms have practically lost their force. The railroads, the taverns, the changing occupational stratification, the concentration of labor through imported industry, colleges, et cetera, have all contributed their part. The 'commuters to London,' that is, those who studied in Europe and who freely maintained social intercourse with Europeans, used to become outcasts up to the last generation; but more and more this pattern is disappearing. And it has been impossible to introduce caste coaches on the railroads in the fashion of the American railroad cars or waiting which segregate 'White' from 'Black' in the Southern States. All caste relations have been shaken, and the stratum of intellectuals bred by the English are here, as elsewhere, bearers of a specific nationalism. They will greatly strengthen this slow and irresistable process. (Weber  1970, 397)
Even down to the peculiar importance of railroads, Weber's diagnosis bears a striking resemblance to Marx's even though there were divergencies in identifying causal mechanisms and the general dynamics of change.
This brief review of the major theories of social change and development, most of which had crystallized by the early decades of the twentieth century, reveals that they contained virtually all the elements of the theories of social change that were to develop in the post-World War II period. Among these elements are the neoevolutionary perspectives embodied in some versions of modernization theory, the consequences of irregular development, international political and economic domination, the crucial role of international finance and capital, and international dependency. The originality of the later period lies not so much in the discovery or invention of new elements of change but rather in novel
recombinations of elements that had been earlier appreciated and stressed.
3. The Interwar Hiatus and the Rise of Development/Modernization Theory
Despite the fact that some of the works referred to in the preceding section were written in the period between World War I and World War II, that period must be regarded as a barren one from the standpoint of social change theory. The two most notable contributions of the period were those of Kroeber (1944) and Sorokin (1937). Both of these theories had to do with the rise and fall of whole civilizations and both were "emanationist" in the sense that social and cultural change was regarded as the unfolding of possibilities contained in fundamental cultural premises or assumptions. The causes for the relative stagnation of interest in development and change are no doubt complex, but certainly among them are the fact that much of American social science was preoccupied with the short-term crises of economic depression and war and much of European social science was brought to a standstill, if not destroyed by the crises by economic depression, fascism, and war.
In the 1950s the social sciences witnessed a great birth of interest in the subjects of growth, development, and modernization, and much of this interest focused on societies that were referred to as "underdeveloped," "developing," or simply "new." Among economists there was a surge of interest in "growth economics." Sociologists theorized about the distinctive institutional characteristics of modernity. Political scientists expanded their comparative sights and included kinship, tribal arrangements, communities, and other "premodern" political arrangements in their scope of interest. Although development/modernization theory has been characterized as a coherent entity by subsequent critics, it was in fact quite diverse with respect to its identification of what is distinctively modern, what mechanisms make for modernization, and what the obstacles to modernization are.
One variant of modernization theory involved a kind of resuscitation of the Gemeinschaft-Gesellschaft distinction (or related distinctions, such as Weber's traditional-modern, Durkheim's mechanical-organic, or Redfield's folk-urban), which was then used to characterize the modernization process. Some (Hoselitz 1960; Levy 1966) made extensive use of Parsons's pattern-variables and regarded the essence of modernization as the displacement of ascriptive standards by achievement standards, particularistic ties by universalistic ones, and diffuse and inclusive personal personal relationships by more functionally specific ones, and so on. Parsons himself (1971) made some use of these distinctions in his writings on development,
but in the end the concept that played the most central role for him was the idea of structural differentiation—between the family and the workplace, between religion and the state, between the polity and the economy—as the hallmark of development (Parsons 1961). Subsequently, Parsons generalized his views of change into a neoevolutionary scheme that regarded evolution as adaptive upgrading through economic growth, structural differentiation, the inclusion of diverse social groups and classes, and the generalization of values (1971).
The modernization literature yielded a kind of composite picture of what is involved in the process: Traditional religious systems tend to lose influence. Often powerful nonreligious ideologies, such as nationalism, arise. Traditional privileges and authority become less important and the basis of the class system shifts to personal achievement and merit. The family ceases to be the main unit of economic production. Extended family and kin groups break into smaller units. Personal choice, not the dictates of parents, becomes the basis for courtship and marriage. In education the literacy rate increases greatly and formal educational institutions develop at all levels. At the same time, the mass media serve as a vast educational resource and information channel. Informal customs and mores decay as new techniques of social control and systems of formal law arise. New forms of political organization (for example, political parties) and more complex systems of administration develop. Some scholars made the theoretical and empirical case that there is such a thing as a "modern man," who is created by institutions such as the factory and the school.
[The modern man] is an informed participant citizen; he has a marked sense of personal efficacy; he is highly independent and autonomous in his relations to traditional sources of influence, especially when he is making basic decisions about how to conduct his personal affairs; he is ready for new experiences and ideas, that is, he is relatively open-minded and cognitively flexible. (Inkeles and Smith 1974, 290)
Modernization theorists also identified obstacles to the process, mainly in the traditional religious, communal, and kinship forms. Moore, for example, argued that the kinship system in nonindustrial societies "perhaps … offers the most important single impediment to individual mobility, not only through the competing claims of kinsmen upon the potential industrial recruit but also through the security offered in established patterns of mutual responsibility" (1951, 24).
One interesting variant of the growth literature of the 1950s was the psychological theory of entrepreneurs. Many observers regarded the entrepreneur as the major driving force of development. McClelland (1961), building on Weber's theory of the Protestant ethic, suggested that
the key motivation of entrepreneurs is a need for achievement, which involves an interest in exercising skill in medium-risk situations and a desire for concrete signs of successful performance. This need, moreover, develops in the period of early socialization, when the child is exposed to self-reliance training and high standards of performance. McClelland also argued that the combination of a loving mother with a nondominant father was important in fostering the need for achievement. Although it also relies on child-rearing patterns and motivation, the theory of Hagen (1962) is more complicated than McClelland's. Hagen argued that stable traditional societies generally employ authoritarian child-rearing practices that develop passive noninnovative personality types. When such societies are shaken by external disturbance (such as colonial domination), the first response is a kind of "retreatism" that manifests itself in the family as a decline of the father's status and an enhancement of the mother's status. This in turn "frees" the son from a repressive father in the subsequent generation and releases creative and innovative energies in the economy.
In the 1960s and the 1970s modernization theory was subjected to a vast array of specific and general criticisms. I list only those that have the most direct relevance for the themes of this chapter:
1. Many observers argued that modernization theory is Western-centric and erroneously regards development as a process whereby developing societies will converge toward a common model. Certainly some of the statements and analyses of functionalist theories can be characterized in this way. Lerner, for example, defined modernization simply as "the process of social change whereby less developed societies acquire characteristics common to more developed societies" (1985, 386). The work of Kerr et al. (1960) on industrial relations systems argued that a number of historically distinct patterns were evolving toward a common one, despite the persistence of ideological and political differences among nations. Goode (1963) argued that, despite vast cultural differences in kinship, the modernization process—mainly industrialization and urbanization—pressed heretofore diverse family structures in the direction of the conjugal type and made for a narrowing of national differences in family-related behavior, such as divorce rates.
Gusfield (1967) was one of the most forceful critics of the modernization perspective. He challenged statements found in the modernization literature that traditional societies are static and unchanging; he pointed to the heterogeneity of different traditional forms. Most important, he argued that the old and the new are not always in conflict. He argued that modern institutions do not simply replace
traditional ones; often the two types reinforce each other. He stressed the blends and compromise that different cultures achieve in processes of development. His critique echoes the "historicist" elements of Weber's earlier polemic against classical evolutionary theory. Bendix, also criticizing the implicit evolutionary conceptualizations of modernization as a uniform process, defined modernization as "a type of social change which originated in the industrial revolution of England, 1760–1830, and in the political revolution of France, 1794" ( 1977). Modernization is a historically specific process that contrasts sharply with the experience of "follower" societies who struggle to narrow the gap between themselves and those nations that have already modernized. And Dore, focusing on factory organization and labor relations in Japan, argued that because more advanced technology was available in the case of Japan—among other resources—it could skip, as it were, many of the historical processes pragmatically worked through by Britain in its development of factory organization (Dore 1973). The notion that the developing countries have a range of technology, educational techniques, types of mass communication, etc., potentially at their disposal—and that the developing West did not—is a position reminiscent of the diffusionist critique of classical evolutionary theory, and, similarly, results in a greater stress on the historical diversity of development processes.
2. Other observers have argued that modernization theory ignores the political dimension, particularly group conflict. In one respect development/modernization theory can be regarded as a kind of dynamic part of the functionalist perspective, namely, it regarded both traditional societies and modern societies as having more-or-less coherent and consistent cultural and institutional. Insofar as the functionalist perspective in general came in for the criticism that it was either incapable or unwilling to deal with domination, dissensus, and conflict (Coser 1956; Dahrendorf, 1959), that criticism spilled over to development/modernization theory. Applied to modernization, such a criticism appear to have only partial merit. The "political system" approach adopted by Almond and Coleman (1960) focuses on "input functions," such as interest articulation and political communication, and "output functions," such as rule-making, rule application and rule adjudication. This focus connotes a lesser place for domination and coercion than in some other types of political theory. But many theorists who might on general grounds be regarded as functionalists stressed the political dimension of modernization. Eisenstadt (1964), for example, traced "breakdowns in modernization" to the specific failure of
elites to consolidate integrative mechanisms and symbols, and in general he gives a central role to political elites in the developmental process. Hoselitz (1960) drew a fundamental distinction between developmental patterns that were "autonomous," that is, relatively free from governmental intervention, and those that were "induced" by government. And Smelser, in a general essay on the process of modernization, characterized it as a conflictual process: "a three-way tug-of-war among the forces of tradition, the forces of differentiation, and the new forces of integration" (1963). One suspects that the real animus in this critique is not the complaint that the political dimension in general is ignored, but rather that a particular type of political situation—the domination of one economic class over others—is understressed, absent, or denied.
3. Yet another group of observers assert that development/modernization theory ignores external factors in social change. Bendix rejected the three evolutionist assumptions that closed systems (1) are either traditional or modern, (2) undergo internal differentiation, and (3) inevitably develop. These assumptions, he argued, are especially inapplicable to newly developing nations:
If we want to explain the historical breakthrough in Europe, our emphasis will be on the continuity of intra-societal changes. If we wish to include in our account the worldwide repercussions of this breakthrough and hence the differential process of modernization, our emphasis will be on the confluence of intrinsic and extrinsic changes of social structures. ( 1977, 433)
Frank asserted that most studies of development and underdevelopment "fail to take account of the economic and other relations between the metropolis and its economic colonies throughout the history of the worldwide expansion and development of the mercantilist and capitalist system" (1969, 3). The same critique underlies the basic premises of world-system theorists as well.
Although possessing some merit, this line of criticism also seems overdrawn, Hoselitz, the "developmentalist" bête noire of Frank's polemic, systematically incorporated two international dimensions into his analysis of economic growth: whether growth takes place in the context of political expansionism or in an intrinsic way, and whether the country is politically and economically dominant or satellitic. And Rostow, another target of Frank's criticisms, made a fundamental distinction between early and late developing countries:
As a matter of historical fact a reactive nationalism—reacting against intrusion from more advanced nations—has been a most important
and powerful motive in the transition from traditional to modern societies, at least as important as the profit motive. Men holding effective authority or influence have been willing to uproot traditional societies not, primarily, to make more money but because the traditional society failed—or threatened to fail—to protect them from humiliation by foreigners. (1960, 26–27)
And Parsons, commenting on the postwar economic situation, observed the following:
World industrialism must affect the problem of political independence for former colonial areas. It is also primary source both of markets for may of their products and of competition for their own attempts at new lines of production. It can also be a source of technical and managerial help and financial support, and the degree and nature of control which may go with such help is always a complicated and touchy problem. (1960, 117)
Again, one suspects that the true complaint is not that development/ modernization theorists were unaware of the international dimension or that they failed to stress it; the true complaint is that they failed to acknowledge what critics regarded as one type of international relationship, namely, the continuing domination of world capitalism over the dependent areas of the world.
4. The Resurgence of the Internationalist Perspective
The positive result of this critique of development/modernization theory was the generation of a number of alternative versions of the process of development and change. One example is Bendix's notions regarding the greater role of states and innovative ruling elites in "follower" societies than in those Western European countries that developed initially ( 1977). Probably the most influential theoretical developments that emerged, however, came from a group of social scientists in Latin America. (A more general observation can be made here: as semi-autonomous academic social-science traditions develop in the Third World countries, one evident result is that international factors will receive heavier stress.) In the 1950s number of economists associated with the Economic Commission on Latin America, notably Prebisch (1950), generated a perspective based on the primary assumption that the underdevelopment of Latin American countries rested not primarily on internal factors but on the fact that these countries were an integral part of the world economy. Prebisch proposed that the world economy could be regarded as having a "center" and a "periphery." Neoclassical
economic analysis suggest that the terms of the trade should be more favorable to the periphery because the increased use of technology in the center lower prices on industrial products in relation to the agricultural products from the developing countries. The reverse has happened, however, and Prebisch thought the reason was that unions in industrialized countries prevented wages from falling and that oligopolies in the center kept prices on industrial products artificially high.
A more general perspective,"dependency theory," grew out of this approach. It is associated with the names of Cardoso, Dos Santos, Frank, and others. Cardoso's definition of dependency is as follows:
Capitalist accumultion in dependent economies does not complete its cycle. Lacking autonomous technology, as vulgar parlance has it, and compelled therefore to utilize imported technology, dependent capitalism is crippled…. It is crippled it lacks a fully developed capital goods sector. The accumulation, expansion, and self-realization of local capital requires and depends on a dynamic complement outside itself. It must insert itself into the circuit of international capitalism. (1973, 163)
Dependency, then, involves a reliance on outside capital, and the more this reliance is concentrated on one or a few others nations, the greater the vulnerability and dependency of the dependent country. Furthermore, this dependency causes the internal fragmentation of the economy's sectors. The most sophisticated dependency theorists, however, argue that only the grossest information can be gathered by focusing on only the international phenomenon of economic penetration:
The expansion of capitalism in Bolivia and Venezuela, in Mexico or Peru, in Brazil and Argentina, in spite of having been submitted to the same global dynamic of international capitalism, did not have the same history or consequences. The differences are rooted not only in the diversity of natural resources, not just in the different periods in which these economies have been incorporated into the international system…. Their explanation must also lie in the different moments at which sectors of local classes allied or clashed with foreign interests, organized in different forms of state, sustained distinct ideologies, or tried to implement various policies or defined alternative strategies to cope with imperialist challenges in diverse moments of history. (Cardoso and Faletto 1969, xvii)
The dependency perspective marks not only clear focus on international factors but also a resuscitation of the perspective of economic and political domination found in the works of Marx, Lenin, and Weber. In these sense it contrast in another way with development/modernization theory, which lays greater stress on institutional and cultural patterning.
Another major international theory of change is "World systems theory," associated with the names of Brunel and Wallerstein. Although
this approach also distinguishes between core and periphery, it identifies a semiperiphery between them as well. These formations set the stage for patterns of economic domination and competition. Wallerstein has divided the history of the capitalist economy into three broad phases, each characterized by different patterns of relations among the core, semiperiphery, and periphery, with these relations largely determining the internal economic fates of the nations in each category.
The influence of these internationalist perspectives, cast mainly in a neo-Marxist framework, has increased greatly in the social sciences in the past two decades. In 1980 the Executive Committee of the Research Committee on Economy and Society of the International Sociological Association circulated a questionnaire to all its members asking about their areas of research and perspectives used. About one hundred responses were received from scholars in a large number of nations.The areas of research most commonly mentioned were (1) the relations of social classes or groups to the economy, (2) institutions, the state, and the economy, and (3) the world system. And topics listed under the first two headings frequently referred to the international dimension. When asked, "What theoretical position do you believe is most often used in the study of economy and society?" 90 percent of the respondents responded "Marxist or neo-Marxist" (Makler, Sales, and Smelser 1982).
Although the foregoing glimpse of the geography of social-change theory reveals a great diversity of strands that defy any simple overall characterization, it is possible to identify two cycles that bear some overall similarity to one another. The first cycle (corresponding to classical evolutionary and development/modernization theory) begins with a view of development and change that, with all the noted qualifications, tends to have the following characteristic:
1. A stress on the internal determinants of societal change.
2. A stress on the regularities and uniformities of change.
3. A stress on the convergence of developing societies toward a common model, that of the developed West.
4. A stress on institutional patterning.
5. At least implicit political conservatism.
These theories are then subjected to polemical attack and give way to a new range of emphases that contrast with the former on each count:
1. A stress on the external determinants of societal change.
2. A stress on the diversity of patterns of change.
3. A stress on the divergence and the many paths of development, with a resulting relativism.
4. A stress on economic and political domination.
5. At least implicit political radicalism.
Not all of these ingredients hang together in every subbranch of theory I have referred to. Nor are they connected to one another by a larger logic. They do, however, constitute recurrent themes. Some of the themes are quite general and occur in debates throughout the behavioral and social sciences—the themes of universalism versus relativism and general laws versus historical specificity are examples—but the dimension of internal versus external appears to be especially salient in the study of societal change.
This chapter is not the place for a sociology-of-knowledge analysis of these apparent trends, but a few speculative reflections might be in order. At one level the parade of perspectives can be seen as a partial reflection of historical trends. The colonial consolidation of the last part of the nineteenth century was, in fact, a great step in the internationalization of the world in that a multiplicity of new connections—economic, political, and cultural—were established between the colonizing and the colonized societies. One of the ideological significances of classical evolutionism was that it served as a kind of apologia, a justification of colonial domination. Theorists such as Hobson, Lenin, and Malinowski took note of this situation of international domination and built it into their analyses. Development/modernization theory grew and flourished in the immediate wake of the great decolonization period following World War II, and in one sense perhaps represented a kind of ideological hope held out to—and in many cases, adopted by—the newly independent nations of the world. Of course the hope proved to be a false one. The realities of international production, trade, finance, and politics since World War II have in fact demonstrated that the developmental fate of most countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia is not entirely in their own hands but is dependent in large part on the strategies of firms, banks, and nations that impinge on their economies and polities. The subsequent surge of internationalist theory reflects these realities and simultaneously represents the disillusionment of those who have in earlier decades embraced the more optimistic development/modernization perspective.
It could well be the case that we will witness similar oscillations of emphasis on the internal and external when it comes to efforts to explain the dynamics of our past. With respect to understanding change in the contemporary world, however, it appears that the international dimension is here to stay and that the proper strategy is to work toward
the development of interactive models that (1) pinpoint the precise kinds of international influences that are most salient: production, markets, finance, migration, the media, the threat of war; (2) identify the precise mechanisms by which international influences impact on nations' economies, institutional structures, political processes, and cultures; and (3) examine how these internal changes shape the strategies of leaders in these countries and how these strategies themselves spill over as influences on other nations of the world. We do not have such models of change readily available, in part because of the tendency of proponents of internally and externally based theories to polarize in polemical opposition to one another. The most appropriate agenda for the future, however, is to work toward the development of these kinds of synthetic or integrative models of change. To this end, I conclude by sketching what I regard as the most important dimensions of internal-external penetration and interaction in the contemporary world.
I focus on four dimensions of internationalization: economic, political, cultural, and what I refer to as the growth of international societal communities. In regarding the contemporary world scene, it seems essential to begin with the economic dimension, largely because it is so conspicuous and so salient. This dimension must be subdivided into several partially separable subdimensions. One subdimension is the increasing internationalization of the world economy through trade: the vicissitudes of national economies that are buffeted by international competition and fluctuating currency rates are the most evident manifestations of the magnitude of this trend. Another facet, closely related but not identical, is the internationalization of production, which refers not only to firms that open up the production of goods and services in many countries in the form of "multinationals" but also to independent firms that manufacture and export parts that are assembled elsewhere into final products. Another subdimension is the increased internationalization of capital—finance and credit—with its own distinctive set of vicissitudes. Finally, much of the migration of persons, both international and within countries, is determined by international economic forces, as opportunities open and close with changing patterns of international employment and unemployment.
The dynamics of change in this economic arena are complex and combine internal and external factors. Some shifts along the subdimensions can—in keeping with the Leninist and contemporary internalist perspectives—be laid at the door of "internal crises" of national systems of capitalism that may result from increasing costs, diminishing opportunities,
and class conflict that induce firms to relocate their activities. At the same time, such crises may partially be determined by international influences, as national economies fall victim to the forces of international competition. Once these international forces are in motion, they penetrate individual economies and influence inflation, unemployment, and the general course of economic growth, stagnation, and decline. No economy is invulnerable to these effects, as both the impact of the oil shocks of the 1970s on the developed industrial economies and the impact of the flattening of the oil market on the producing countries—including the Soviet Union—demonstrate. The contemporary debt situation in the world tells the same story. Generated in part by the flow of petrodollars into Western banks and then their channeling to countries like Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Poland, and Yugoslavia, the great burden of international debt has in one respect brought the debtor countries to their economic knees as they have had to divert much of their national income to debt servicing. At the same time, this debt has generated a precarious situation for the lender banks and countries, who face imminent crisis if defaulting becomes widespread. The result is a kind of mutually dependent standoff, held in place by the uneasy mutual interest that all parties have in avoiding unmanageable financial instability, if not collapse.
If we assume that the contemporary international economy and the various national economies constitute one system, this system is operating according to a semiautonomous logic of its own. Such an observation, however, fails to notice the essential political dimension of that system. In many respects the state is a kind of fragile balance wheel between the international and national economies. Not immediately responsible for fluctuations in import-export ratios and with very limited control over the international fluctuations of currency rates, states—as guarantors of the integrity of the national economy—must meet accumulated obligations either directly or through borrowing. In addition, in the newly industrializing and Third World economies the state is the agency to which falls the task of executing and implementing—or resisting—the strictures imposed by other national governments and international banking agencies, such as the International Monetary Fun. In this role the state has less control over the fate of its economy—and therefore its own political fate—than before.
However, the state has also become a stronger agency. Because it is cognizant of its own vulnerability, the state tends to insert itself into the economic process with greater assertiveness in the interests of its own survival: assertiveness with respect to encouraging the productivity and exporting capacity of its industries, with respect to maintaining monetary stability and low rates of inflation, and with respect to regulating
and working out a symbiosis with foreign firms and banks that are established on its own territory.
The state has another delicate balancing at to perform as well. Although national economies have become increasingly internationalized, national politics remain national in character. The result is that the state finds itself, more and more, the arbiter of economic contradictions and tensions and the political conflicts that are fueled by them. National elections and political infighting are conducted as if the most important political issues were domestic because the national state remains the agency that is defined as being responsible for political problems. This constitutes a peculiar squeeze on national states. They must respond to forces that are neither of their own making nor of their own society's making. These international forces work themselves out in various ways. First, as previously mentioned, external political and financial agencies join the domestic political arena as they attempt to influence economic policy; these agencies also enter domestic politics as they are singled out as politically responsible agents. Second, another source of the internationalization of politics is the presence of international political movements—human rights, peace, environmentalist, and others—which often constitute political pressures on domestic governments. Third, the development of systems of international politics in the United Nations and in various regional federations and coalitions involves an interplay among national political interests and international processes.
The third dimension of internationalization is cultural. The most conspicuous elements of this dimension are technology and science and their diffusion. This diffusion occurs by a number of mechanisms, including the internationalization of science in universities, academies, and international science-based associations. Competitive mechanisms also play a role, as firms, militaries, and governments make deliberate efforts to discover and appropriate technology in the interests of augmenting their economic competitiveness and military positions. The effect of technological and scientific diffusion and acquisition, however, depends above all on how effectively it is applied in the institutional context. A second type of cultural diffusion, often out of the hands of national governments, is cultural diffusion through the mass media. This diffusion influences consumer tastes and expectations, popular attitudes, and political understandings and sentiments. Even those countries whose governments resist the infusion of cultural influences regarded as alien have difficulties in doing so; and once a society has opened the door to international exposure through the mass media, it is difficult to shut it again. S. N. Eisenstadt, in the final chapter in this volume, identifies a peculiarly global kind of international cultural diffusion, evident in earlier eras in the international spread of the great religions and cultures
but today manifesting itself as a kind of "culture of modernity," that envisions economic development, political participation, cultural pluralism, and other values as cultural ideals. The cumulative force of this diffusion has been profound throughout the world. Each of the cultural influences I have mentioned, however, is shaped by domestic traditions, values, and interests, once again illustrating the interplay between external and internal processes.
For lack of a better term, the final dimension of internationalization might be called the growth of multiple international societal communities. Partly cultural in character, this term refers to the development of normative rules and understandings that emerge in the course of increased international interaction. Perhaps the most important—albeit precarious—focus for this kind of growth is in the arena of international security, involving the nuclear superpowers above all but other countries as well. This term involves the evolution of understandings and symbolic meanings of, for example, what international lines may not be crossed without threatening to precipitate international nuclear destruction, what actions are available to back down in confrontations without losing face, how to interpret both threats and friendly gestures, how to understand when bluffs are bluffs and when they are not, and so on. In the atmosphere of almost permanent international tension in the security arena these normative elements are often lost sight of, but they nonetheless have developed. Similar rules, agreements, and understanding emerge in other settings as well—in diplomatic circles, in the international banking community, among economic competitors, in international scientific and scholarly associations, and in educational exchange programs.
In the recent past scholars have made distinctions such as center versus periphery in national cultural traditions, cosmopolitan versus local in cultural orientations, and "big traditions" versus "little traditions" in cultures, stressing the differences in the polar terms and the ways that each term stands in tension with the other. It may be time to draw a similar distinction between "international" and "national" or "local" because the international dimension seems to have evolved to a position of independent significance in the contemporary world.
I hope that this brief discussion of some of the multiple dimensions of international life may contribute to the development of the complex, integrative kinds of models that appear to be called for in order to understand the contemporary world situation. Certainly the discussion about how to understand the contemporary world calls for abandoning the either-or polarization in contemporary scholarship and debate with respect to the relative roles of external and internal factors in the explanation of social change. This kind of polarization is as outdated as many of the older theoretical positions considered in this chapter.
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