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Transition to Modern Society


Several factors must converge before a community of persons moves to a higher level of sophistication referred to as civilization. A civilization which in most cases is used to mean culture (what people believe, their customs, behavior, and the general activities in their way of life); can specifically describe a complex culture dependent on agriculture and high urbanization. It means a culture full of social organizations with different ways of earning a living while the source of food is agriculture. Encyclopedia Britannica (956) defines civilization as the sum of developments made by humans in every one of their actions and that these developments assist the perfection of the overall societal progress. This means that every member of society helps to bring about civilization. For civilization to be realized, several features must be enhanced so that society is not detracted from its course. For example, there must be enough food so that the community can focus on doing something else instead of engaging in the search for food. Once this is realized, individuals can engage in the division of their work such that artists can create artistic decorations, farmers can improve their production, and masons or engineers can enhance building sophistication while leaders can enhance their skill in government (Encyclopedia Britannica 956). Specialization becomes interdependent. For instance, a basket weaver will sell the basket to a fruit seller who may use the basket to carry the fruits. Once they are sold, the person can buy a home from an ironsmith to cultivate the fruit farm.

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A society begins from a small set of settlements before it grows to a more advanced and superior society. Such societies become more organized, stay together, acquire property and become more engaged in activities that will further develop the society. Their political systems become more structured, with a set of social classes within them. The succession of leadership becomes more outlined and hierarchical. In this paper, the factors that contribute to these transitions shall be discussed, and why they are so crucial. Equally, the ways in which socialism can be seen as a response to these transitions shall also be examined.

Factors that contribute to transitioning from traditional to modern society

Modernity can be explained as cultural and intellectual advancements that began in the 17th century. Although modernity is often regarded in times of period, it is a continuous and repetitive process that cannot be documented based on period. The transition to modernity is often related to industrial progress. It may be related to the way people see the world as free to be changed in ways that fit them, a set of institutions that aid in advancing society as well as good administration. Transitions are about the uncertain future, probably a way of dodging previous mistakes that man could have done. Every society has its own dynamics to modernity.

Several factors have contributed to these transitions. They may be political, economic, or social. Over the years, societies have been changing from one way of life to the other. For instance, they moved from the Stone Age period to early civilization to the industrial era. These and other ways of life have been experienced in human history. According to Raskin and colleagues (31), some of the recurrent factors include:


Human societies have changed from primitive groupings to highly organized people. Some of the reasons why people realized the need to be organized could be the need to have a sustainable environment of peace such that they would concentrate on their economic activities. Individuals have had governments before. Initially, most societies had hereditary leadership where rulers came from the same family. Laws were made to protect society so that individuals would be safe. In fact, most societies had armies to defend their community from external aggression. However, as the societies continued to grow, there was a need to advance the setup of political organization (Wilkinson 655).

The great human determinants to gain a global society were the love for peace and freedom as well as human health about which would be found through transitions (Raskin et al 43). The peace enjoyed today by most western countries came after the end of two major world wars between 1890 and 1944. People began to realize the need for freedom slightly after the abolition of the slave trade and the subsequent release of them to Western Africa from America. This trend became paramount after the Second World War when most colonies around the world gained nationalism to fight for independence. As soon as new governments took over, there emerged trends of autocratic leadership with despots ruling over the newly independent states. This provoked people to resent by performing revolutions and even political coups.

With individual concern for better governance, people began to take part in the selection of leaders. Amongst the democracies in Europe, regular electoral activities continued to stabilize the government. As governments grew, they advanced their relations with other societies which later created blocs like the US and USSR (Wilkinson 655). When the USSR bloc finally broke down, countries aligned with it had to reform their structures to accommodate every one of their subjects. USSR provinces for instance became states; countries like Serbia, the Czech Republic as well as Montenegro were formed after the collapse of the USSR. Each has its own set of laws that govern its people. In Raskin et al (45-47), we note that with time, people again realize that peace and freedom can never be granted forever, so they keep fighting to obtain them. This may explain why some states have been formed as recently as the early 1990s while some societies keep fighting for their own autonomy. In Africa, states like Eritrea were formed while Ireland had to split into north and south to grant autonomy and peace. Canadian Quebec region has had a conflict with English-speaking Canada in search of independence until 1995.

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Industrial revolutions sparked economic development in the west. The reformation of societies was influenced by economic reasons (Raskin et al 47). Individuals have tried to improve their societies through innovations. Some inventions like that of fire for example aided societies to begin the art of iron smelting. With time advancements in technology, meant that communities would specialize their activities and trade with others. Encyclopedia Britannica (956) notes that right from the period before the industrial revolution; people would often divide their roles such that fishermen would keep their trade and sell their catch to farmers in exchange for farm products. As the invention of currency came in, people would often involve the use of money to buy this stuff hence barter trade was gradually eliminated. Although some societies still practice barter trade, most incorporate the use of money as well. The mixture of this is proof that every society has its own pace of transition.

When the US relayed its first photographs of the space, most people began to think about the future of their life (Raskin et al 30). It was seen as a driving force that would set trends for change. Russia also took part by sending its first man to the moon. Many other countries like Japan have also explored space. In this case, the transition in technology was influenced by what the other societies were doing. In readiness to counter the possible impact of their advancement, every society had to perform its changes.

Social awareness

As societies grew, there was the realization of role-playing. In traditional societies, for example, Men served to protect the society while women served to keep homes. Those roles would change when education came into society. Those who obtained an education would go to seek work and so some of their roles were either not played or were played by others. Still, the interaction of societies aided by improved technology brought about issues of gender balance, human rights, and respect for all races. Raskin et al (38) write that the fight for these rights since they were agreed upon by the UN in 1948 has been the precedent for most of the changes in societal makeup. For instance, the change from polygamy to monogamy in many cultures is a result of campaigns for women’s rights.

Societies changed as Christianity and other major religions spread across the world. Individual beliefs were altered from their traditional religions. The Mayas of Northern America for instance used to make a human sacrifice to please their gods. Such an act would have changed through the influence of modern religions which go against it. In fact, the fight for human rights is fully against it. Such individuals would hence adopt new beliefs to survive. Some individuals accommodate both traditional as well as modern cultures. In the case of the Mayas, people would get new names from the new religion but still retain their traditional names. In this case, they try to sustain some parts of their culture which are not opposed by the new religion and which they think they can save from the threat of extinction (Encyclopedia Britannica 956).

The desire to sustain the environment has encouraged societies to transform. People realize the need to re-nourish the environment from which they feed. They realize that if the resources become extinct then the livelihood would be deprived. Despite the benefits brought about by technological advancements, the challenge of sustaining the environment is making people identify new ways of life that would reduce further damages. The World Bank suggests the adoption of the use of renewable energy instead of using fossil fuels which emit greenhouse gases into the air (Raskin et al 45). The threat of extinction, therefore, makes people keep seeking ways to dodge it. Some of the ways include changes in lifestyle.

Socialism as a response to the transition

The 1997 edition of Webster’s Encyclopedic Dictionary defines socialism as a form of societal organization that supports public possession and control of the facilities that aid humans to create new products for their living. They include equipment and resources necessary for the creation of the products. The accessibility of people to these resources is usually equal. Socialism tries to de-concentrate power and affluence by protecting its people from exploitation while employing maximum utility. The adoption of socialism in most societies would help people to maximize the use of technology as opposed to capitalism which encouraged confusion and lack of order in production. Karl Marx in his book Das Kapital encouraged people to shun capitalism because there was no reward according to the amount of work done by each person. In this case, socialism determined maximum production to sustain the society.

Socialism can be a response to transition. Having adopted advanced skills and technology to cater for themselves people concentrated in societies where governance was better and food was sufficient. In turn, the population grew and newer laws had to be made to ascertain each person’s role. The change to newer ways of life would often be chaotic but necessary, note Raskin et al (4) because the driving force behind such changes was sustainability. The emergency of classicism was meant to reward each individual according to his contribution. With time, each individual acknowledged the role played by the other. In this case, societies had to watch each other’s activities just in case one would affect the other’s ways.

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The reaction for transitions was collectively taken up by society. For instance, most communities had leaders who represented them in decisions like those of migration, joining the war, or even the choice of trading partners. This template applies to societies in the modern world; for example, despite most countries being capitalistic, the decisions made by their governments bind all people. This may be through force but because of the legitimacy of leaders, everyone adapts to the new way of life collectively.

Socialism could lead to another transition. Civilization is ever-occurring. Because societies are recreating themselves in ways that can make them survive, the decisions held by the community are likely to be kept even when it is in a different perspective. For example, most societies have shunned the practice of human sacrifice and female circumcision but they still practice religion.

Economically, people used to societies with socialism may find it difficult to adapt to the life of free-market economies. Such people may have lived without any knowledge of market economies. In one study, Local and Sanguinetty found that Cuban immigrants in the US would not venture into entrepreneurship because they had adopted “market attitudes and led to a great ignorance of how markets function” (Para.2). This was seen as an obstacle to making market reforms in Cuba, a state used to socialism. Individuals living in socialist societies do not have the skills to initiate their own projects and the economy of such countries can stagnate. As with the case of Cuban immigrants living in the US, they would have to adopt a new attitude towards self-employment to survive in an economy where most means of production are owned privately and trade is performed on individual volition.

In conclusion, transition and socialism cause each other. Several factors make people change their way of life. They include political factors like the need to be free, to have peace and govern oneself, or economic factors like the need to have free trade. Social factors like changes in beliefs can make people change their lifestyles. Societies usually adopt lifestyle as a block based on the set of laws that govern them; they may also shun the new way of life to safeguard their culture. Sometimes people from socialistic societies have to change their view on the free market to survive in capitalistic societies.


Encyclopedia Britannica. “Civilization.” Encyclopedia Britannica. 15th ed. 2 (1974): 956.

Locay, Luis and Jorge Sanguinetty. “The effect of socialism on the entrepreneurial Abilities of Cuban-Americans.” Latin American Information Center. 2000. Web.

Raskin, Paul, Banuri T, Gilberto G, Pablo G, Al H, Robert K, and Rob S. “Great Transition: The promise and Lure of the Times Ahead. “ A report of the Global Scenario Group. Stockholm Environmental Institute-Boston.10 (2002):4-47.

Wilkinson, David. “The power Configuration Sequence of the Central World System, 1500-700 BC.” Department of political science: University of California: Los Angeles. Journal of World-systems research 3 (2004): 655-720.

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