Rethinking Modernization: Embracing Integration for a Sustainable Future

By Prof. Oweyegha-Afunaduula

During the 1960s and early 1970s, the terms “modern,” “modernity,” and “modernization” were commonly used but faded in the late 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s in Uganda.

However, they resurfaced in the late 1990s when President Yoweri Kaguta Tibuhaburwa Museveni made modernization a focal point in his Presidential campaigns.

According to Dictionary.com, modern is the characteristic of being in the present and recent time; contemporary. It is associated with things that exist in the present age, especially in the context of a former age or an age long past. It has the implication of being up-to-date with contemporary changes.   

Modernization is the process of updating something to function effectively in contemporary times. Examples include advancements in technology like computers, high-speed internet, artificial intelligence, and mobile phones.

Modernization, when implemented as a political and economic strategy, should be guided by science and logic, considering it a process of social change. This means that if one makes it a political and economic strategy, one must be committed to science and logic in whatever one does to bring about social change.

The “No change” preferred by the government for a long time, is not a friend of modernization. The door must always be open for change guided by science (as researchable and provable facts) and logic (as correct thinking and reasoning). Modernization implies change, the opposite of no change.

It implies a change in all dimensions of human welfare -technology, politics, economics, sociality, education, health, architecture, et cetera.

Theoretically, modernization is taken as having started with European Enlightenment. According to Eisenstadt, modernization is historically a process of change that is oriented towards social, economic, and political systems, usually for the better.

Therefore, the social, economic, and political changes should be integrated and in concert with each other. One cannot say one is modernizing in one dimension (say economic) when there is no modernizing experience in the political and social dimensions. 

If modernization involves liberalization, democracy, and freedom, then these should be detectable in all the dimensions (social, economic, and political), but also in others such as the ecological, environmental, and cultural.  

It should, however, be echoed and re-echoed that long ago modernization theory failed in Africa because it was promoted on the flawed assumption that it was a Eurocentric or Western idea. The post-colonial leaders, under their Pan-African political philosophy, detested it.

They particularly detested Modernization’s assumption that Western civilization was technically and morally superior to the civilization of traditional societies and implied that traditional values were of little value, and should, therefore, be erased in favor of Eurocentric values.   

However, the assumption above seems to be guiding President Museveni’s newfound love for modernization. Frequently, traditional peoples are urged to abandon their values for the so-called modern values engendered by modernization.

The question is: Has humanity ever been modern anywhere on the face of the Earth? In his book “We have never been Modern”, published by Harvard University Press in 1993, French philosopher, anthropologist, and sociologist, Brun Latour wrote that we have never been modern. His book is an anthropology of science and tells us that much of what we call modernity is no more than a matter of faith. We just believe that we are modern, and this belief pushes us to crave more for being modern. This is like our belief that we shall go to heaven. Every day we struggle to go to heaven while others give up the struggle. 

And all faith of any kind is for the heart, not the brain. According to Latour, the difference between nature-mediated society (we wrongly call primitive, yet it is ecologically advanced) and science-mediated society (we wrongly call advanced when it is ecologically poor) lies in our careful distinction between nature and society, human and thing; distinctions that our benighted ancestors, in their world of alchemy, astrology, and phrenology, never made.

Latour’s book, which anyone who takes both modernization and modernity seriously, should read to become more ecologically literate, offered us a new and different explanation of science that finally recognizes the connections and unity between nature and human cultures, and by extension between our culture and the and other cultures, present and past As one writer put it, the value of Latour’s book lies in reworking of our mental landscape, blurring the boundaries among the humanities (arts), social science and natural science to enhance our knowledge, wisdom, understanding and insights on all sides.

Therefore, Latour should be taken as one of the early advocates of interconnectedness, interdependence, and integration of knowledge and practices. Let me state in this article that modernization is anti-humanity and some people may overstretch it to harm humanity and societies, especially the weak societies.

Indeed, some people have used it to try and destroy the black human race. Let me add that integration thinking helps to rediscover the truism that we are interconnected in the lie-death-cycle, which modernization has been trying to disconnect by burying humans in concretized graves, plastic coffins and going as far as separating bacteria that clear away dead organic matter from the dead bodies by applying chemicals that kill the bacteria.

Let me conclude by writing that integration (science), which modernization has been trying to erase altogether since modern science arose in Europe in the 17th Century, in favor of the disintegration of knowledge into small knowledge, thereby creating academic tribes, territories, and empires, gives better meaning, broader knowledge and a finer sense of being and possibility than has been the case with the science of disintegration of knowledge. 

We need a science and politics of integration and nature-loving to replace the science and politics of disintegration and artificiality.   Only then shall we become truly modern. True modernization is integrative, not disintegrative. If modernization is based on disintegration we should view it with suspicion and both resist and reject it because it will create artificialities that do not benefit nature, the people, and their traditional communities. Artificialities are aliens in our bio-cultural landscape. They serve foreign interests eager to displace the traditional communities from their lands in the name of modernization.  

For God and My Country.

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