By Suleiman Lawan Kolomi
Asia was surrounded by abject poverty and corruption, which was rescued via international development assistance and the widespread adoption of the modernization ideals and attitudes of the West. Going by this account ‘modern man’ is defined by a set of attitudes including rationality, efficiency, and orderliness, preparedness for change, energetic enterprise, integrity and self-reliance. These attitudes are believed to be the Western model of civilization.
Culture is that complex whole that consists of knowledge, beliefs, norms, values, customs, religion, traditions and any other capabilities that make up a given society. Many development scholars argued that attitudes, cultural values, opinions and orientations of a society are key variables in determining economic, political and social progress of a given society.
Culture is a key determinant of development progress in the West through which Western scholars argued that developing countries must follow the same model of Western civilization and modernity in order to develop. According to this view, the developmental success of Western countries is based on the distinctive cultural institutions of Western civilization, and for other countries to develop and progress, they must emulate these cultural values of the West.
In the 1960s, Asia was surrounded by abject poverty and corruption, which was rescued via international development assistance and the widespread adoption of the modernization ideals and attitudes of the West. Going by this account ‘modern man’ is defined by a set of attitudes including rationality, efficiency, and orderliness, preparedness for change, energetic enterprise, integrity and self-reliance. These attitudes are believed to be the Western model of civilization.
Modernization scholars argued that, culture is what other societies have, and in most cases of developing countries, it is an obstacle to development. Traditional and modern culture is understood by a hierarchical relationship where traditional cultural traits are destined to die out, or be ‘fade away’ by the influence of the growth in modern cultural traits. Culture, in this view, is static, like a tool passed from one generation to another that must be kept aside if it hinders the way to progress. Therefore, traditional societies exist outside history, and any society that resists modernization and holds on to tradition will remain underdeveloped. Only societies willing to give up their traditional institutions, traditional values and cultural practices, or which possess cultural traits that are favorable to modernization, will succeed and progress in their quest for development.
From the dependency theorists, scholars refuted the claim by the Western scholars that developing countries must emulate the West and abandon their cultural traits and traditions in order to develop. They see culture as resource and their traditions are the root of national culture and values, which inspired an independent development path. The cultures of the developing countries and the global South as a whole are neither fixed nor internally homogeneous, and it makes no sense to regard them as an obstacle to change and development. Modernization is ideological, it can only be properly understood from the perspective of cultural heritage. The Asian Tigers have done well and the rise of China, India and other countries of the global South as global economic powers challenges the monopoly of development of the West on what it means to be modern and developed. It also raises questions about the ways in which countries mobilize cultural power that equates with their growing economic might on the global stage, and how cultural traits are employed in rebranding themselves as prosperous nations.
Suleiman Lawan Kolomi, B.Sc., PGDCMPC, (M.Sc. in-view) is of the Department of Sociology, Bayero University, Kano and can be reached at [email protected]