The Rise of Modernization Theory

Development theory itself had its roots in post-World War II redevelopment that began in Europe and was later extended to Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Less a theory than a school of thought, its underlying assumption was that "undeveloped" (i.e., mostly rural) agrarian nations would benefit from being incorporated into the expanding world market. The most marginal citizens in these countries would benefit, at least indirectly, through an improved economy that created demand for products and labor (Rostow, 1956). Born out of post-World War II optimism, the so-called "modernization" perspective provided the basis for many assumptions that persist today. Modernization theory had its roots in neoclassical economic theory and functionalist sociology ascendant in the postwar period (Jacquette, 1982). The modernization perspective presumed that individuals maximize their self-interest in rational ways and that social relations are in essence exchange relations. Modernization explicitly demands the diffusion of Western capitalist institutions and values which will absorb or replace less "efficient" traditional patterns (Kuznets, 1973; E. M. Rogers, 1983). Indigenous institutions, behaviors and practices stand in the way of modernity (Holdcroft, 1984; Schultz, 1964).

The functionalist analysis of society by Parsons (1954) also contributed to a modernist view of the family, seeing it as the classic location of sentiment outside the world of work (Parsons, 1954, p. 79). In a modern society, occupational mobility allows individuals to find the work to which they are best suited, while the family provides the support and nurturance outside of work. Modernity focuses more on the individual achievement typical of the workplace and supersedes the ascribed identity traditional peoples retain as members of a specific ethnic group. Still, Parsons assumes that women will themselves find their greatest satisfaction in the expressive life of the family rather than in the instrumental achievement-oriented world of work (Parsons, 1954, pp. 77-69; see also Parsons & Bales, 1955).

This argument has been adapted and extended by the economist Gary S. Becker, who treated the household as a small firm and argued that rational economic choice sends men into the marketplace and keeps women at home, since it is the logical choice for the better-paid member of a household to work (Becker, 1974, 1981). This perception of the family, so familiar to westerners and reinforced by the social and economic theory of the day, led to a preference on the part of development specialists for households that resembled those in the West.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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