Globalization of Modernization Theory: Clashes of Modernities and Moralities
University of Michigan Symposium, June 8-10, 2010

muslim-western clothing Modernization theory has dominated the scholarly study of social change for centuries and has been spread globally to policy makers and ordinary people. Its model of social change begins with a hierarchy of countries along a trajectory of development, with high development believed to be in northwest Europe and its diasporas. The model provides guidance for people's decisionmaking and behavior by stating that political, economic, familial, religious, and social aspects defined as modern are good. It also gives guidance about means to achieve development and about what development will bring. As modernization theory has been globalized to policy makers and people in everyday life, it has come into tension with indigenous cultures and their ideas of the good life, often producing clashes of modernities and moralities.

This symposium will present new data and research concerning how modernization is seen in various societies today. We examine how ordinary people perceive hierarchies of societal development and the connections between development, inequality, and morality. A related focus is how people conceptualize modern and traditional families and the interconnections between family change and development. Research concerning many countries will be covered, including: Albania; Argentina; Bulgaria; China; Egypt; Iran; Iraq; Lebanon; Malawi; Nepal; Saudi Arabia; Taiwan; Turkey; and the United States.

Program Schedule

The Symposium is open to the public. We expect it to be of interest to people from a wide variety of disciplines. The first full day (June 9) of the symposium will be devoted to presentations from and discussions with several prominent national and international scholars. During the second day (June 10) we will discuss new projects, manuscripts, and proposals. The agenda for the symposium is below, with a more detailed schedule linked to the right.

JUNE 8 (Tuesday): Welcome Reception
6:00 - 9:00 p.m. Michigan League Garden (in case of rain, Vandenberg Room, 2nd floor)

JUNE 9 (Wednesday): Formal Presentations
Michigan League, Vandenberg Room, 2nd floor

JUNE 10 (Thursday): Informal discussions of new projects, manuscripts, and proposals Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies, 1080 South University Avenue, Suite 2607, Room 1636

We would like to thank the sponsors of the Symposium:

African Studies Center
Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies
Center for Chinese Studies
Center for International and Comparative Studies
Population Studies Center
Sociology Department
Survey Research Center

Recent Pub

Allendorf, "Conflict and Compatibility? Developmental Idealism and Gendered Differences in Marital Choice." Journal of Marriage and Family

Recent Pub

Thornton, Dorius, Swindle, Young-Demarco, Moaddel. "Middle Eastern Beliefs about the Causal Linkages of Development to Freedom, Democracy, and Human Rights." Sociology of Development.

Recent Pub

Yount, Thornton, Young-Demarco, Patel. Lay Accounts of "Modern" and "Traditional" Family in Greater Cairo: A Test of Developmental Models of Family Life. Oxford University Press.

Reading History Sideways

The method of reading history sideways is described and critiqued by Arland Thornton

Video Lecture

Arland Thornton speaks on "Developmental Idealism: The Cultural Foundations of Worldwide Development Programs"

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Developmental Idealism
Population Studies Center
University of Michigan