1. Patterns of Development in Modernity
Reflection on the character of modern society suggests that there are two starting points that are not especially viable. The first is Weber's description of Occidental rationalism (Weber 1920); the second is Parson's "relatively optimistic" description of modern society ( 1972, 179) in which he forecast that this society would flourish for another century or two. The modern societies of Northwest Europe, the United States, Canada, and Japan are not characterized by maturing processes alone; they also give evidence of counterdevelopments (foreseen by Marx) and developmental excesses that cloud the picture of continuing upward progress.
These observations are not new. Antinomies and instances of hypertrophy have always occupied a central place among sociology's major topics. Yet insistence on the particular structural features of "advanced industrial societies"—features that include the upward march of capitalism, democracy, the market economy, and prosperity—tends to live on (see Zapf 1983, 294). One example of this tendency is Dieter Senghaas (1982), who does not discuss the autumn of modernity or the beginnings of postmodernity; rather his analysis is characteristic of the optimism of the European grande bourgeoisie around the turn of the century, the United States since midcentury, and contemporary Japan.
Why has this affirmative view of modern social change persisted? As modern theory has moved away from philosophy and become more empirical in character, theorists tend to stick to positive "givens," concluding that a comparison of data from past and present indicates continuing progress. This type of analysis underscores the optimistic diagnosis. But this approach is in one sense odd because a comparison of past and
present should also reveal instances of hypertrophy and counterdevelopments worthy of note. In fact, establishing the counterdevelopments and developmental excesses has been left to social scientists with a philosophical bent (from Marx and Engels  1964), to novelists like Baudelaire (1925), and, occasionally, to sociologists like Weber, who sang the praises of rational capitalism but also saw counterdevelopments. Today some theorists, specifically representatives of the Frankfurt school and social thinkers like Arnold Gehlen, see decline and fall everywhere and emphasize the decay of civilization in modern societies. Yet these negative characterizations also have a way of losing any sense of proportion.
Bendix (1971) has brought out the problems of Western European rationalism from a realistic stance. He identifies the loss of the feeling of Western superiority, which had lasted for decades. He also notes that "the harnessing of nuclear power marks the beginning of a scientific and technical development calling into question the 350-year-old equation of knowledge with progress for the first time in the consciousness of many people" (179, 13). Following Bendix's approach, we find development, excess development, and counterdevelopment unfolding as follows:
1. The development of various resources used to secure survival and a better life has a counterdevelopmental side that is especially evident in the widespread environmental damage that accompanies it. In addition, counterdevelopments are making themselves felt with the underutilization of potential resources (for example, the labor of youths, women, older people, and foreigners). One of the questions that arises in connection with the deployment of resources is the pattern of social distribution of resources and rewards. The evidence in modern societies indicates that these resources and rewards then to be evening out. For example, educational resources are being concentrated to a greater extent in the lower social strata.
2. All modern societies show a rising level of production measured in terms of goods and services. At the same time, however, counterdevelopments are evident. The continuing application of technology gives rise to new hazards to health and new forms of oppression. These kinds of developments have raised questions about the meaning and purpose of societal development.
3. Modern societies also show growth in power and authority relationships. Both increasing numbers of decision makers and increased political participation are evident (Baudelaire 1925). The involvement of the lower and middle strata in Western European societies ranges from strong interest in politics and high polling rates in
elections to civil protest. These kinds of movements often result in the abandonment of government proposals, and there has been a kind of diffusion of power in the realm of decisions about the deployment of atomic energy and destructive weapons.
4. Remuneration has increased, as suggested by the terms "superabundance" and "the affluent society." Rewards are distributed so as to provide a high level of welfare for almost all actors, and there are minimum standards of economic provision for all phases of the life cycle. Although welfare measures also tend to distribute wealth downward, there remains a residual of poverty in all modern societies (Lockwood 1985).
5. Knowledge of one's own society has been enhanced, often at the expense of traditional religious interpretations. However, it is often impossible to apply this knowledge to the planning process because national planning efforts are subverted by international developments over which planners have little or no control.
6. A further hallmark of modern societies is the high degree of individualism and the desire for self-realization on the part of their citizens. The citizens resent control from above or from any other part of the political spectrum. Increased individualism may, however, spill over into the legitimization of deviance and crime, result in an increasing suicide rate, and give rise to anxieties about future prospects for life. Individualism is accompanied by a loss of community commitment and a loneliness on the part of the masses.
Some of the developments, developmental excesses, and counter-developments mentioned here come about very rapidly, others very slowly. Modernity is synonymous with the continual entry, at different rates, of new elements that are in conflict with established arrangements.
Significant distinctions can be drawn between modern and other societies on the basis of six dimensions: (1) increasing mobilization of resources, (2) increasing levels of positive effort, (3) power relationships, (4) increasing levels of consumer welfare, (5) increasing dissemination of self-reflection, and (6) increasing levels of individualism. Also, the increasing downward distribution of each of these dimensions distinguishes modern societies from others. And of course it is also possible to see differences among modern societies with respect to these six dimensions. But let us confine our comparison to the United States and the German Federal Republic. We can make the following observations:
1. The mobilization of resources is well advanced in both societies. However, important resources lie fallow, both in the potential pool of labor and in the field of education and training. Although West Germany exhibits high levels of achievement and educational
standing, the proportion of willing actors unable to produce effort is higher than in the United States, as is evident in statistics on unemployment and rejected students. Also, lower-class social groups in West Germany are still underrepresented at universities and other institutions of higher education compared with the United States.
2. The level of positive effort is high in both societies but its downward distribution is more pronounced in West Germany—as typified by the image of the "hard-working German"—than it is the United States. A phenomenon that is particularly advanced in West Germany is that achievement problems are identified at the highest level. An increasing number of West German actors now reject the old equation, "level of achievement equals level of welfare" (see Ronge 1975; Kitschelt 1985).
3. Power is becoming increasingly diffuse in both societies. However, the downward distribution of power is more pronounced in West Germany. A higher degree of political participation has been achieved there, and changes in power have occurred whenever the workers' party has attained a mandate to govern. In the United States the existing ruling authority has more effectively defended itself against influences from below.
4. In West Germany remuneration is more evenly spread, and the distribution of goods is less skewed than in the United States.
5. The ability to indulge in self-reflection and to self-steer relationships is downwardly distributed to a more marked extent in the United States than in West Germany.
6. Likewise, individualization is stronger in the United States and the trend is accelerating. North American permissiveness is not yet evident in West Germany.
This mixed picture shows that it is impossible to identify either one of these nations as clearly the more modernized.