Modernisation theories – an introduction Part - 2


  1. Introduction
  2. Walt Rostow – Stages of Growth
  3. David McClelland – Achievement Motivation Theory
  4. Summary


In modernisation theories – an introduction part - 1 we discussed some topics like introduction of modernisation theories, the process of modernisation and daniel lerner – mass media as proponent of modernisation. In this post we will discuss about  Walt Rostow – stages of growth and David Mcclelland – achievement motivation theory

Walt Rostow – Stages of Growth

American economist and political theorist Walt Whitman Rostow provided one of the most crucial ideas in the modernization theory. A society goes through different stages of development, and it is these stages that ultimately result in the modernization of the society, according to the author of the 1960 book "The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto.". The Rostovian take off model of economic growth is another name for this. He suggests that before reaching modernization, human society goes through five distinct stages of economic development. The following stages are included:
  • 1. Traditional Society
  • 2. Preconditions for take off
  • 3. Take off
  • 4. Drive to maturity
  • 5. High mass consumption
Economic production in the "traditional society's" initial phase is constrained to the bare minimum. Agriculture is at best subsistence-level, and technological and innovative advancements happen slowly and erratically. Technological advances may also be lost as a result of poor communication methods. The instability of political systems directly affects the output of the economy. Trade is a high-risk economic activity because it is expensive, time-consuming, and difficult to transport goods and raw materials. The society itself adheres rigidly to tradition, and all of its members are expected to submit to the current social structure. Those who possess economic sway—in this case, the landlords—control political power. The feudal system, which is supported by other social institutions like family and marriage and given legitimacy by religious practices, maintains the status quo in society and prevents social mobility.

In the second stage, "Pre-conditions to "take-off,"" changes start to appear as agricultural methods advance and produce more, and trade starts to grow, creating the conditions for growth and takeoff. In the sociopolitical systems of the society, a fundamental change occurs. It is possible to have agricultural production that goes beyond simple subsistence thanks to technological advancements like better agricultural practices and irrigation systems. Due to the advancement of technology, agriculture has now taken on a commercial character, and the resulting surplus stimulates economic growth by generating commercial activity. This leads to the first instance of individual social mobility. National identity is created as a result of emerging shared economic interests. Markets are established both domestically and abroad as trade and commercial activity gradually take over. The excess produced by commercial and agricultural activities is not used. As an alternative, it is used to fund the creation of societal infrastructure and industries, enabling self-sustaining economic growth. During this time, business and agricultural entrepreneurship flourish, and increased investment in the industrial sector is made possible. A shift in perspective toward calculated risk-taking and acceptance of sociopolitical change is the final prerequisite for takeoff.

Urbanization and industrialization both increase during "Take Off's" third stage. In this stage, the self-sustaining growth that started in the stage before really starts to take off. Due to its higher rate of return and increased investment, the secondary sector grows faster than the primary sector. During this time, technological advancements are made that improve the yield of the secondary production sector of the economy. Industrialization starts to alter the fundamental social structures as further economic growth becomes routine, preparing society for the shift from a traditional to a modern society. A new class of businesspeople emerges that focuses on "delayed gratification," capital accumulation, and willingness to take significant risks in order to achieve their financial objectives. The desire for social prestige that this class cannot obtain through traditional means, such as marriage, established social groups, or political or military power, motivates them.

The self-sustained growth that was in full swing in the previous stage has permeated all of society's resources in the fourth stage, "Drive to maturity," which is known as the "growth process.". According to Rostow, it is "the period when a society has successfully applied the range of modern technology to the bulk of its resources. The economy has advanced to the point where it can compete on the global market" (Rostow 1960: 38). New industries are being created as the industrial sector continues to grow and diversify. The dominant sector is determined by the economic resources available. The workers are more professional and have improved skills, allowing them to earn more money. Since the industrial sector offers a higher rate of return, it now employs the majority of the labor force. Commercial activity's impact on the environment and public health is starting to get attention, and laws and policies are being made to address it.

The last stage is known as the "age of mass consumption," during which the economy becomes even more industry-based, the secondary and tertiary sectors take over as the primary sources of production, and the primary sector is significantly diminished in terms of its economic and social value as well as the human resources invested in it. Increased disposable income enables product diversification, which expands the market and enables mass and normative consumption. On a larger scale, since subsistence is no longer a concern, society is free to choose between security concerns, welfare concerns, or an increase in luxuries for everyone. Which of the three aforementioned areas receives more attention depends on a society's political and cultural values. 

Rostow's stages of growth are subject to some criticism, as with all theories. Since the theory only categorizes existing events and developments, it is historically significant. It is challenging to determine and pinpoint which stage a society may be in because the stages themselves are not as clearly defined as the theory would have us believe and because the stages have overlapping characteristics. His theory is regarded as being West-centric because it ignores socioeconomic developments in other parts of the world, such as Asia and Africa, and bases its stages solely on those that have occurred in America and Europe. Regression and "false starts" in economic development are not taken into account by Rostow. Numerous factors, including a lack of resources, political unrest, and society's resistance to change, can obstruct progress and even send society backward. Rostow uses the phrase "self-sustaining growth" throughout his theory, but economic activity cannot occur without some kind of human agency. The stages of growth proposed by Rostow offer an alternative to the Marxist theory of economic growth. He bases his theory on the idea that societies want to advance and become modern, and that they will eventually accept the standards of economic growth. Regarding modernization itself, he asserts that any society can do so, regardless of the economic model it employs.

David McClelland – Achievement Motivation Theory

The importance of the human personality in the process of bringing about modernization has been mentioned by Lauer in the Modernisation theories – an introduction Part - 1. He questions whether the modern man creates the modern society or if the modern society creates the modern man. daniel c. American psychologist McClelland concentrated his research on the motivational aspect of human personality as the driver of change, particularly economic development. He discusses the acquired needs theory, which holds that people gradually develop particular needs as a result of their prior experiences, in his book "The Achieving Society.". McClelland created the Thematic Appreciation Test (TAT) to ascertain which of the three needs a person most strongly identifies with. They are as follows:
  • The need for influence and effectiveness is what defines authority/power motivation (nPow), as the name implies. The goal of the person is to gain more power in both the social and personal spheres. The need for socialized power, which is demonstrated on the TAT by plans, self-doubts, mixed results, and concern for others, and the need for personal power, which is demonstrated by tales in which one person seeks power and must contend with another to obtain it, are the two distinct types of power motivation that McClelland added to his theory. By exercising leadership, aiming for positions that give one control over others, and realizing one's ideas, one tries to elevate their status and reputation.
  • Individuals who are driven by the need for affiliation seek approval from others, including peers, superiors, and subordinates. Affiliation motivation is also known as nAffiliation motivation (nAffil). They cultivate friendly interpersonal bonds with those they interact with frequently because feeling connected to someone or something makes them feel important and has a significant impact.
  • Achievement motivation (nAch), which is influenced by both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, is characterized by a person's ongoing and consistent concern with setting and achieving high standards of achievement. In other words, the person sets achievable goals while keeping in mind both the expectations of others and the expectations of themselves. This encourages someone to seek out competition, win at it, and excel at things that are important to them.
Out of the three motivational needs mentioned above, the need for power motivates people to seek out positions of authority that further their own objectives; they are more likely to argue, to be assertive in group settings, and to become frustrated if they lose control of events. An individual puts more emphasis on building and maintaining interpersonal relationships when they feel the need for affiliation. As a result, they are dependable group members who avoid provoking conflict by acting riskily or expressing views that are opposed to those of the group. Given this, they make poor leaders but excellent followers. The need for achievement motivation is most closely associated with the entrepreneurial spirit, which calls for a delicate balancing act between taking calculated risks, exhibiting leadership qualities that inspire and motivate others to achieve predetermined goals, and meeting one's own aspirations for success. On a larger scale, the entrepreneurial spirit that emerges as a result of this achievement motivation propels growth that, taken as a whole, creates the modern society. The spirit is best exemplified by businessmen who are motivated by "a strong desire for achievement for doing a good job," rather than by any particular profit motive. Profit is not always the goal; it is merely one of many indicators of how well the work has been done. ("McClelland 1961:107"). According to McClelland, one of the fundamental needs is the need for achievement, which is represented by the symbol n-achievement or nAch. Early childhood experiences are typically the cause of this need. Social factors have an impact on child-rearing practices, which in turn either support or undermine children's need for achievement. If this desire for success is strongly cultivated through upbringing and the reading material exposed to the child, it manifests as the entrepreneurial spirit, which leads to economic development as an adult. By conducting three different types of research, McClelland and his colleagues aimed to determine the degree to which people are predisposed to achievement-oriented ideas. They are as follows:
  • 1. They sought to get group measures of n-Achievement and to relate these to indicators of economic development 
  • 2. They obtained “individual measures of motives, interests, values and performance of both mothers and their sons in various countries. (McClelland 1961:57) 
  • 3. They investigated the behavior, including motives of business entrepreneurs. (McClelland 1961:108)

Group measures of n-Achievement 

This measurement was based on the test subjects' ability to distinguish between fantasy in the literature and the folklore they had been exposed to. The level of achievement motivation was reflected in the content analysis of the literature under the presumption that the literature has an impact on society's members and reveals the "natural mode of thinking in society.". The literature gives more weight to the outcomes achieved in a society that values achievement. In contrast, the focus may be on group cooperation and shared enjoyment in a society that places a strong emphasis on affiliation. In order to achieve desired outcomes, a society that values power may place a strong emphasis on group dynamics and organizational structure. .

Sources of n-Achievement and its effect on adolescents

The purpose of this measure was to determine why some people showed higher levels of n-achievement than others and whether this difference had an impact on the future vocational decisions they made and the performance they displayed in their chosen fields. In order to gather information from boys and their mothers, a cross-national study was carried out in Japan, Germany, Brazil, and India. The parameters of this study included ideas like independence, mastery training, and views on one's own values.

Sources of n-Achievement and its effect on adolescents

- the goal of this study was to assess the degree of entrepreneurial activity among businessmen and their corresponding accomplishments in comparison to other men their age. The scope of this international study included both the U. S. A. Poland, Italy, and Turkey. The objective was to find a factor or set of factors that were universal to all cultures and societies rather than being specific to any one culture. The finding of this study in particular was that while there were cultural differences in what was considered an accomplishment, there were also a number of fundamental similarities. When their motivation for achievement is high, people from all cultures and societies try to perform well in accordance with some standard because it is acknowledged in their society.

The conclusion was reached that there was a positive correlation between n-Achievement and economic growth by comparing and relating the findings of the three studies mentioned above, as well as by comparing the growth rate of various countries based on electrical production with level of n-Achievement. e. Economic growth increased with higher n-Achievement. After establishing the connection between an individual's need for achievement and the society they live in at the time, McClelland went on to pinpoint the causes of this n-Achievement. His research identifies three sources of n-Achievement. They are as follows:
  • 1. the need for achievement that is driven by parental concern rather than authoritarianism and rejection. The focus of the parents' worry is "early mastery training.". This includes promoting independence, self-assurance in one's skills and abilities, intrapersonal strength, and the desire to pursue the goals set for achievement.
  • 2. Instilling a motivation for achievement, the quality of parent-child interactions is also crucial. When a child succeeds, it is important for the mother to show her appreciation, and the father should refrain from domineering. Praise and appreciation are given as a result of success, which leads to the connection between happy emotions and accomplishment. In other words, high achievement is attained when "reasonably high standards of excellence are imposed at a time when the individuals can achieve them, a willingness to let them achieve them without interference, and real emotional pleasure in their achievements short of overprotection and indulgence.". "" (McClelland 1961: 356).
  • 3. The motivation for achievement is influenced by one's social background as well. social class, family structure, occupational structure, etc., are examples of such factors. affect a person's capacity for setting goals, their capacity to assess their viability, and their desire for challenge and efficiency in their actions. Social institutions that support traits compatible with the entrepreneurial spirit, such as. g. Religion and other institutions that emphasize following rituals leave little room for self-reliance, which in turn affects a person's capacity to take calculated risks without constantly seeking approval and acceptance from others.
In conclusion, McClelland's Achievement Motivation Theory emphasizes the individual and the elements that foster an entrepreneurial spirit in him or her. The entrepreneurial spirit can be characterized as the drive to consistently achieve to one's potential in order to have an overall positive impact on society. In this sense, the individual, nurtured with a high need for achievement, along with the other factors that support the need for achievement, grows up to create a social and business environment that ushers in modernity in the society through technological and subsequently socio-economic development.


The modernization theory was created to examine how traditional societies were changing and gradually eschewing antiquated beliefs and customs that impeded growth and development. This process of change can be carried out either naturally, as in Western societies, where the advancement of capitalism and technological advancements eventually result in the modernization of the entire society. Or, in traditional societies, it can be sparked by elements like the media and cultural products. Some modernization theories, like those of Lerner and Rostow, look at the process of change from a larger, societal perspective. Their theories center on the overall evolution of society and the various stages it experiences en route to modernization, which is the ultimate goal. Since McClelland believes that entrepreneurial individuals are the primary factor in sparking modernization in any society, his theory attempts to understand the modernization process at the individual level. However, to fully comprehend the impact that one country's developmental process has on other countries, a society's development cannot be studied in isolation and must be viewed in terms of international relations. The modernization theory is replaced by the dependency theory, which specifically examines the economic and, by extension, the socio-cultural relationships between the countries that have economic advantages and technological innovations and the countries that borrow these economic models and technological advancements. This emphasis on the study of the development of societies at the global scale displaces modernization theory. The unequal and harmful relationship between the two groups is given particular attention, which the modernization theory completely ignores.


Thank You

Find your topic