Does modernization require westernization?

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Does Modernization Require Westernization?
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DEEPAK LAL

or the purposes of this essay, three types of liberty need to be distinguished: political, civil, and economic. Although it has become common, especially in America, to conflate the three, F. A. Hayek, among others, clearly distinguished them. As a development economist I am particularly concerned with the roles of thesedistinct types of liberty in promoting economic development. For economic performance, economic and civil liberty are important because they underwrite the sanctity of private property. Moreover, the rule of law is fundamental in upholding both, as Hayek argued so eloquently in The Constitution of Liberty. But various political forms—including democracy, oligarchy, and autocracy—are compatiblewith maintaining the rule of law, as the example of Hong Kong attests. Indeed, hereditary monarchy, not democracy, delivered the Industrial Revolution. As the triumph of the market over central planning has demonstrated, economic liberty is essential for prosperity; but political liberty as embodied in majoritarian democracy is not—a point on which I concur with David Hume, Alexis de Tocqueville,and Hayek. As defined by Hayek in The Constitution of Liberty, liberty or freedom is “that condition of men in which coercion of some by others is reduced as much as is possible in society” (11). This conception of individual liberty is closely related to the notion of individualism, a distinctly Western concept to which most other civilizations have not subscribed. But growing individualism, alongwith other elements of what the historian of Chinese science Joseph Needham called “a packet of change,” was responsible for the “European miracle” of modern economic growth.
Deepak Lal is the James S. Coleman Professor of International Development Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. The Independent Review, v.V, n.1, Summer 2000, ISSN 1086-1653, Copyright © 2000, pp. 5–24

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DE E PA K LA L

To promote in the rest of the world the material prosperity that this miracle has brought to the West, does the unique Western value system also need to be transferred, and if so, how? As a venerable debate in development studies has framed the question: Does modernization require Westernization? Hayek clearly seemed to think it did. He maintained that themarket economy requires cultural underpinnings in the form of a set of “modern” values based on individualism (see the epilogue of his Law Legislation and Liberty). He even argued that a form of cultural evolution had, in an unplanned way, led from a Stone Age culture with its sense of communal bonds to a modern culture with respect for abstract rules, such as the rule of law, and a “detachment fromcommunal, co-operative ends” (168). For him the process of cultural evolution involved forms of “group selection”—an idea currently scorned by sociobiologists—with the more successful cultural practices “winning out.” In this view it would seem that, even though the culture of liberty arose in the West, because of its success it should naturally spread across the world. A similar implicit beliefunderlies the current Western moral crusade around the world, in which a combination of the market and good governance (a euphemism for democracy) is increasingly offered as a panacea for poverty and war. In my view, matters are not so simple. It was not some process of cultural evolution à la Hayek but contingent events linked to the actions of the medieval Western Christian Church that led to therise of the West. Although individualism was an essential aspect of the West’s subsequent trajectory, it is not essential—or inevitable, as Hayek’s cultural evolutionary view would suggest—for the “Rest” to adopt this particular Western value in order to reproduce the West’s economic success. As I argue in support of the foregoing positions, I will also discuss related issues involved in...
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