Response to 1900’s Modernization Efforts

Countries in Latin America saw the potential economic gain they could receive from the modernization of Western Europe and wanted to capitalize on it. They enjoyed the benefits brought by European nations and tried to be liked by these European nations and create a partnership. Latin American countries  were “efficient exporters of raw materials”(The Export Boom as Modernity) to the developing Western Europe that needed these raw materials for their industries. For countries like Brazil it was seen that their economy was based heavily on raw products like coffee beans and rubber. Though countries like Brazil began stripping their environments, they also started to develop. In Rio de Janeiro, the population increased from 275,000 in 1872 to 1,1560,000 in 1920 while great public works developed large cities with more European design. As many of them were new countries, for example Brazil’s independence was in 1822, they needed economic boosts to ensure their survival. This change in Latin American economies shows  their acceptance of European expansion.

Japan’s developing nationalistic mindset and lack of willingness to be used by Western Europe prompted them to create their own empire. Japan saw the expansion and development of Western Europe as “an epidemic that carries with it only harm; much less against civilization, which is always accompanied by both harm and good, but by more good than harm.” (Fukuzawa Yukichi). Japan also did not want to be used like Latin America, China, or Korea but instead be a great empire. hey saw themselves as an ancient culture compared to the developing Latin America as their nationalistic tendencies grew.  The Western European powers would appear to be a great aspiration for them to strive towards. By separating themselves from these other nations, Japan hoped to be seen as an equal to the powers of Western Europe. After events in China like the Opium Wars and Boxer Revolutions lead to Japan and European forces having control of port cities and Beijing. The allowance of Japan to join the European forces proves their desire and inevitable success at separating themselves from the rest of the world and Eastern Asia.



Response to 1900’s Modernization Efforts

With the rise of modernization in both latin america and japan, it was interesting to see from both articles (Latin America pg 86, De-Asianization pg 131) that back then people thought those not taking part in moderization were backwards and foolish. Any idea or way of life that was deemed irrational was disposed of for rational and scientific ways. It was thought that “barbarians” should be taught to be patriotic, modern and conform to the then standard social norms. Their Governments outward appearances were taken lightly instead for order and progress. For example, in the Latin American article (pg 85) force of arms had been used to maintain the stability of order and progress. Pertaining to my knowledge, suicide rates in japan significantly increased for the sake of progress as workers were being worked to death at their jobs. Employers stepped in by adding suicide nets to the side of high building to deter casuality rates. In addition the lecture about Brazil talked about how the elites decided that european immigrants were aloud in to purely whiten the city and promote economic growth. Another noticeable trend was that the elites got richer and the poor got poorer. In Latin America with the increase of tranportation and production of raw material came money flow for the elite. This power was used to enforce the law and take advantage of landowners such as farmers. Similar cases may have been seen in Japan and Brazil. Without a doubt, the elites of each society had something to gain from modernizing transportation, weapons and technology. The elites were the main driving force for moderization and with it came the ground works for their success and the ever declining fortune for the common folk.


As most historians seem to believe that modernization can happen in a blink of an eye, but as we read we now understand that modernization came at different times and had different outcomes.  No country was simply able to rebuild itself and become technologically advanced in one night, countries struggled with money to produce goods, being able to bring money in, and most of making living conditions better for all.

During the early 1900’s in the Country of Brazil a city named Rio de Jenario, was being reborn.  The end of formal control as well as growing globalization across not only the world but throughout the country.  This is largely do the advances in visual technologies, the peaking of migration, and the new scientific ideas.  The growing of Rio came up due the production of rubber and coffee grinds.  The money that was brought in was able to help the city grow and was able to pay for a port that allowed for more shipments and traders to come in.  This would be the complete opposite for Beijing, China. Beijing was being flooded by drug dealers from the west looking to sell opioids to the Chinese.  Although the Chinese refuse they still fell into a trap which is known as the Opium War.  China during this time periods is one of the biggest counties in terms of population size but numbers will soon decrease in the 1880 when the famine occurs along with the migration movement.  In Japan during the mid 1880’s Japan falls into an epidemic like China which was measles.  “Civilization is like  an epidemic of measles” (129).  I like this statement because it shows how fast it can spread and also shows the consequences it can bring.

While the spread of globalization and civilization is good is some cases it can also be bad.  As we learned about this we soon understood that no matter what the countries struggled to put it all together at first but in the end were successful in bringing jobs, money, people.

Response to 1900’s Modernization Efforts

It seems the biggest fault that historians of this time period run into is assuming that there is one unifying effort of modernization across the globe. Almost as if there was a tide wave reminiscent of the 2012 disaster movie that swept over the world but instead of Maya calendar nonsense its guns, cotton, and the creation of huge gaps in wealth distribution. The reality here is that modernization happens on a mostly case by case  basis there just happen to be some common themes involved. For this its easy to look a where many theories come from and then how some places play out in terms of modernization.

Overall there’s two major theories of modernization. There the westernization equal modernization and the Geyer and Bright model of modernization is a result of exploited states adapting to survive. For starters an example of westernization based modernization can be seen in Japan as described in Fukuzawa Yukichi’s article where he states that in order for japan to survive in the now approaching modern era they would need to, ” adopted the modern Western civilization for everything within our borders.” Effects of this can be seen in Japan today where they now lead the world in many fields of technology and have become one of the most modernized nations in the east. A nation following the exploitation model can be seen in that of Brazil where wealthy nations exploited the land and its people for cheap products of coffee and rubber to be used elsewhere. Brazil’s entire economy was based on exporting their goods and the near slave labor that brought many from Europe over and kept them there. Brazil’s modernization occurred in the cities where the wealth plantation owners built a small part of Europe in the heart of South America and then left it in search of cheaper products in Africa.

The outcomes here are completely different. The exploited nation never learned to improve, only to survive while the adopting nation prospered and is now a technological zenith in the East. This could call into question the morality of modernization at the hands of exploitation but its far to late for this moral issue to actually solve anything. Africa is a mess and Brazil and the rest of South America unfortunately aren’t too far behind. The effectiveness of Modernization seems to be directly correlated to how it is done.

Response to ~1900 Modernization Efforts

An important motif of modernizing or potentially modernizing countries at the turn of the 20th century is the sense of nationalist duty that certain writers and intellectuals seem to impart in their descriptions of the processes of visibly modernizing their respective nations. This is not done identically across the board, however. Yukichi seems initially hesitant to embrace the spread of Westernization, remarking that “[Eastern nations] may be all right if they are resolved to defend themselves to the end in resistance to the force of the eastward advance of their civilization” (129). However, he concedes that doing so is not a prudent survival strategy, and then pivots to a nearly apologist position of the Western spread. Notable is his rhetoric that describes the great advanced mentality and innovation of the Japanese as a whole, and how they would inevitably be dragged down by perceptions of backwardness if they did not seize this opportunity to become productive world players with modern technology and thinking. China and Korea are preemptively scapegoated for contrast in this regard. All of this is rooted in a newly modern sense of national identity, of Japan as an island nation with great history and a responsibility to preserve their own greatness.

Similarly, “The Export Boom as Modernity” and its accompanying interview with former Mexican president Porfirio Diaz discusses the duality of progress in Latin America, with many native or supposedly undesirable populations becoming victims of progress as modernization took root, but both the author and interviewer James Creelman seem to take the a stance of utilitarianism, deciding that such progress is beneficial to the nation at large, even if it means cracking a few bones in the process. The author discusses how Mexico leapt out of a state of chaos for the benefit of Mexico as a nation in the modern sense of a nation. New infrastructure and visible signs of progress were good for the welfare and dignity of Mexicans. Creelman, on the other hand, seems to flatter the cult of personality, hero-nationalist status of Porfirio, complementing the beauty of Mexico (as well as the handsome former general himself) while seeming able to overlook the iron fist of his military-inspired rule to achieve progress. This was yet another product of nationalism and national pride, regalling Mexico as a whole rather than just a city or a subset of the population.

The case of the lecture on Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, may have been somewhat different when compared with the previous two sources. There was no evidence that Brazilian greatness was used as a driver of progress. However, inspiration from European cities and mannerisms, combined with an enthusiasm for mass European immigration to “whiten” their population, are evident of some sort of efforts to mold their nation into a model that they see fit.


Bright and Geyer and the Escape from Linear History

As per the brief discussion on this material at the beginning of class, there exists a strong and fascinating result of Bright and Geyer’s alternate historical model; the authors suggest that the  exploited states adapt to western exploitation through what are essentially survival mechanisms. This stands in opposition to the near-ubiquitous assumption that the supposed spread of western culture throughout the globe is a sign of an increasingly modernized (and therefore western) world.

The intent behind this interpretation of history can be presumed rather easily: the authors are seeking to provide an alternate explanation for why the influence of the West has reached to every corner of the Earth. More specifically, and more importantly, Bright and Geyer seem to hope that in retooling the current information we have of the past two centuries they can render the implications of the current model obsolete.

The present version of historical segmentation, and the conclusions that many have drawn from it, suggest that the ideal of the ‘modern world’ is embodied in western civilizations, and that the only way the rest of the world can attain modernity–that is, a truly civilized society–is by conforming itself to the mold set by Europe and the United States. This mode of historical interpretation reduces time to a mere racetrack, heading towards an a fully-realized civilization. Western powers are simply farther along in the race than the rest of the planet, and their every innovation pushes them ever closer to the goal, where those behind them struggle to keep pace. If westernization is the path along which societies improve, then ‘modernization’ must be synonymous with ‘progress,’ and therefore ‘progress’ must be a linear progression to a singular goal.

In addition to being reductive, elitist, and tinged with racism, this model is entirely ridiculous in its premise. History is not a straight line, and any serious academic can’t possibly make such a massive assumption to its end with so little evidence. Many historians recognize the absurdity in the notion that western culture is in any way a goalpost or a front-runner, but have struggled to bring forth any widely-accepted alternatives to the table. Among this group stand Bright and Geyer, who present instead a narrative that more realistically paints the trajectory of the world; that is to say, messy, multi-directional, and immensely difficult to predict accurately.

The effort made in this piece is beyond laudable, and the resulting portrayal of the globe is clearly a step in the right direction. Is this theory of history the most accurate interpretation? That remains to be seen, and the brevity of Bright and Geyer’s work suggests that this idea is still within its infancy. However, in casting aside the existing assumption that westernization is synonymous with progress, the authors have created a history that frees our vision of the present and the future, and allows us to see our world for the intricate and interconnected construct that it is.