David C. Engerman, Nils Gilman, Mark Haefele, Michael E. Latham. Staging Growth: Modernization, Development, and the Global Cold War. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2003. x + 283 pp. $22.95 (paper), ISBN 978-1-55849-370-4.
Reviewed by Daniel Weimer (Department of History, Northwest Vista College)
Published on H-Diplo (July, 2006)
Like the gunshot snare drum that starts "Like a Rolling Stone" on Bob Dylan's landmark album Highway 61 Revisited, the sounding shots in the examination of modernization theory by U.S. foreign relations historians began in earnest in 2000 with Nick Cullather's and Michael E. Latham's interrogative works on modernization. Cullather and Latham, for sure, drew upon prior work by historians and social scientists, just as Dylan built upon existing rock, folk, and blues music traditions, but Cullather and Latham inaugurated an outpouring of scholarship that took the historicizing of modernization theory as its purpose. Modernization theory (with its neat division of societies into traditional and modern camps) was no longer a way to understand historical processes. The theory itself--its sources, proponents, dissemination, influence on policy formulation and implementation, and its effects on those being modernized--was now the subject of historical scrutiny. If Cullather and Latham helped initiate the quest by foreign relations scholars to understand the vast role modernization played in U.S. policy and the Cold War, then Staging Growth assesses where we have been and the directions scholarship is headed.
The volume's ten essays, many by authors who now have published manuscripts on modernization theory, are divided into three sections which take into account such topics as the roots of modernization theory, the theory's articulators, academic-governmental relationships, policy formulation, cultural relations, popular culture, national identity, and the theory's reception, contestation, and transformation overseas. Employing an array of U.S. and foreign sources--official, public, private, and non-governmental, as well as interviews--the essays emphasize that even as social scientists expounded on the objective and universal character of modernization, the theory's foundations were culturally bound, that the attempt to export modernization was no simple endeavor, and that modernization and economic development are transnational phenomena deserving of close historical analysis if we are to more fully understand the global Cold War.
After a brief foreword by Akira Iriye, Michael Latham, in his introductory essay, tells us that modernization acted as an ideology for U.S. officials and intellectuals who were confronting a rapidly decolonizing world after World War II. Facing emerging postcolonial nations, American policymakers used the theory as it "promised both a framework for objective social analysis and powerful vehicle for social engineering" in the Third World (p. 2). To offset the appeal of Communism in the developing world, modernization presented an integrated understanding of economic, political, and social transformation to the United States so that it could "channel a 'revolution of rising expectations'" into America's Cold War sphere (p. 2).
Following the introduction, part 1 centers on modernization's roots. Focusing on the role technological achievement and engineering played in dividing peoples into "civilized" and "savage" categories, Michael Adas traces modernization back to the Enlightenment, through Western and U.S. imperialism, and up through the Cold War. Though modernization theory has roots in imperialism, Adas reminds us that the theory differs significantly from colonialism in that modernizers envisioned a world in which the traditional were transformed into the modern--something "unthinkable in the colonial era" (p. 37). Modernizers advanced this idea of convergence--that with U.S. assistance, the development process (economic, political, and social) could be accelerated and in the near future all societies would become modern capitalist, liberal democracies that would resemble each other. What made this change in thinking occur was the Cold War--specifically the requirement of the United States to sway the peoples of the developing world to ally themselves with the United States. The other two essays in part 1 clearly indicate how the Cold War shaped modernization theory. Nils Gilman provides a sweeping intellectual history overview of modernization's rise, fall, and persistence in contemporary thought. Highlighting the culture-bound foundations of modernization, Gilman shows us how contemporary thought in the 1950s, like the "end of ideology" debate and consensus history, influenced modernizers such as Walt W. Rostow. Mark H. Haefele's piece spotlights Rostow's contribution to U.S. economic diplomacy in the Kennedy era. But both Gilman and Haefele illustrate that modernization was specifically fashioned by the Cold War--particularly the United States's need to counter the Communist model of development (a mutant form of modernity, thus the Soviet Union as the "Second World"). Gilman terms Rostow's modernization screed, The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto, a "capitalist mirror image" of Lenin's theory of history. Haefele tells us that in the early 1950s Rostow "paid close attention to policy discussions in Washington" and was keenly aware of the United States's "need to create an alternative to Marx's view that all nations would eventually become Communist" (p. 84). In the end, Rostow and other modernization theorists concocted "a good story" about capitalist development, one that would help the United States prevent the Communist "story" from derailing "true" modernization, and American interests, in the Third World (pp. 84-85).
The two essays in part 2 examine the relationship between cultural relations, popular culture, modernization, and U.S. national identity. In particular, the essays demonstrate that modernization theory was not only an ideology or discourse through which U.S. officials defined those in the Third World but, perhaps more importantly, modernization helped construct the United States's own national identity. In pointing out the relationship between modernization and identity, Laura Belmonte and Christina Klein explore the binary oppositions inherent in modernization theory--capitalist modernity versus Communist modernity, the traditional versus the modern. Belmonte analyzes U.S. propaganda programs in the 1950s that produced information packets, radio programs, short films, and international trade fairs--all of which distinctly contrasted the lives of American workers, who enjoyed free labor, "harmonious labor and management relations," and generous material gain with their typical "Soviet counterpart"--"drones," who toiled in "oppressive labor conditions" (pp. 110-114). Like the modernization theorists, who touted capitalism's benefits abroad, U.S. propaganda aimed at "selling capitalism" to the underdeveloped world. Outside of official cultural diplomacy, Christina Klein scrutinizes how modernization theory "extended beyond the realms of the political elite and suffused contemporary popular culture as well" (p.127). Through an interesting and thorough cultural analysis of Rogers and Hammerstein's 1956 musical The King and I, Klein finds a popular culture variation on modernization theory's concept of convergence. Klein argues that The King and I "views modernization through the sentimental lens of the musical" in which Anna (the modern) transforms a "traditional" Siam "through love and friendship and the premodern is swept away in a spectacular episode of song and dance" (p. 130). The musical foresees a world of integration, where "differences could be transcended rather than policed, and Others could be transformed through an intimate embrace rather than exterminated through violence" (p. 132).
The four essays in part 3 study the important issue of modernization's exportation around the globe and cultural transfer, particularly the theory's reception, rejection, and adaptation in Mozambique, South Korea, India, and Japan. In the cases of India, South Korea, and Japan during the 1950s and early 1960s, David C. Engerman, Victor Koschmann, and Greg Brazinsky explain how Indian, Japanese, and South Korean intellectuals and officials differed with their American counterparts over the definition of modernity and the process of modernization. India sought to adapt the Soviet model of economic development without adopting Soviet politics or alliance with the Communist bloc. Likewise, Japanese intellectuals contested American indicators of modernity, whether Japan was truly modern, and pointed to Japan's unique history and traditions as a way of advancing multiple paths to modernity--not the one universal model purported by U.S. social scientists. In South Korea, native scholars took a similar view, questioning whether modernization necessitated Westernization and whether the traditional and the modern were so precisely divided in the developed and undeveloped worlds. In all three cases we see the recipients of modernization defying U.S. expectations. The most compelling essay in part 3 is Michael Mahoney's piece on modernization and decolonization in Mozambique from the 1930s to the 1970s. Mahoney fully decenters the United States from the modernization story as he demonstrates how the Portuguese and the African revolutionaries (FRELIMO) advocating independence in Mozambique adopted thought from both the Western and Communist models of modernization. Throughout the struggle for independence, FRELIMO and the Portuguese government advanced competing and continually changing versions of modernization as they sought to claim "who was more modern" (p. 167). Mahoney, as with the other essays in part 3, again demonstrates that we need to view modernization as a transnational phenomena operating within specific circumstances since FRELIMO settled on a version of modernization that altered both American and Soviet thought. The importance of viewing modernization through cultural transfer and as a complex experience is highlighted by Mahoney, and his essay is a model for future scholars.
Taken as a whole, Staging Growth offers readers quite useful portraits of the many directions scholars have taken the study of modernization theory. Viewed from the standpoints of intellectual, cultural, political, economic, and comparative history the essays provide a glimpse at how modernization helps us understand the Cold War from an international perspective. The explication of public-private networks in the modernization story by Gilman, Haefele, Engerman, Koschmann, and Brazinsky are another the book's strengths. These essays have accomplished much but one of the major values of the book is the directions that it points to--if modernization is a transnational phenomena then there is still much work to do in such areas as decolonization and insurgency, the endurance of modernization thought, and the Cold War during the 1970s and 1980s (Mahoney's essay is the only case study that extends past the mid-1960s). Also, though Adas, Klein, Brazinsky, and Mahoney talk about race, gender, and religion these topics deserve further examination. In all, the essays mesh together well and prove to be persuasive. However, Belmonte's essay on U.S. propaganda selling the merits of capitalism could provide stronger links between modernization theory's thought and the propaganda distributed throughout U.S. embassies. She acknowledges that 1950s propaganda did not use the language of modernization even though modernizers, such as Rostow, worked on these propaganda programs, but establishing firmer connections between modernization theory's internal logic and U.S. propaganda would make the material a more distinct part of modernization's history. Similarly, in Gilman's otherwise valuable analysis of modernization's critics--right, left, and "postmodern"--this latter category of detractors receives undeveloped, if unsubstantiated, treatment. Specifically, Gilman sets up a binary division between modernization theory, which "styled itself as the ultimate realization of the Enlightenment," and postmodern critics ("feminist, racialist, and environmentalist"), whom he characterizes as harboring "anti-Enlightenment sensibilities" (pp. 68-69). In painting "postmodernist" theory with such a broad brush without further explanation he seems to reject any criticisms of modernization by environmentalist or feminists and defends modernization's original vision despite all of its inherent flaws. For Gilman, aligning himself with Jurgen Habermas, modernity's promise has yet to be realized and since modernization is still clamored for in the Third World, then the Cold War modernizer's vision is the best we have. There seems to be no middle ground or possibility of multiple modernities. If anything, though, this brief criticism illustrates that the examinations of modernization, modernity, and postmodernity are far from over. Nonetheless, Staging Growth is praiseworthy scholarship and should find a wide audience among foreign relations scholars and is suitable for upper-division undergraduate and graduate courses on international history, foreign relations, and cultural history.
. Nick Cullather, "Development? It's History," Diplomatic History 24 (Fall 2000): pp. 641-53; Michael E. Latham, Modernization as Ideology: American Social Science and "Nation Building" in the Kennedy Era (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000). A quick scan of the panels at SHAFR for the past few years reveals that modernization is a popular topic among foreign relations scholars.
. For a recent and useful examination of the scholarship analyzing modernization and the U.S. war in Vietnam see Christopher T. Fisher, "Nation Building and the Vietnam War: A Historiography," Pacific Historical Review 74 (August 2005): pp. 441-456.
. Jurgen Habermas, "Modernity versus Postmodernity," New German Critique 22 (Winter 1981): pp. 3-14; S.N. Eisenstadt, "Multiple Modernities," Daedalus 129 (Winter 2000): pp. 1-29.
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