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By David Harrison

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65) had not affected the Third World. In fact, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the process Parsons puts forward owes more to his evaluation of the United States and its social institutions than to an historical understanding of development. Indeed, it is quite remarkable how little Parsons had to say on the ‘modernization’ of existing societies. In the article and the two books to which I have referred, he allocates a total of two paragraphs to the subject (1971, p. 137). First, he suggests that ‘the trend toward modernization has now become worldwide.

His unilinear approach to development, and the idea that traditional societies not only had to change their economies but also their values and social structures, can be found elsewhere. Indeed, it was but a short step 28 THE SOCIOLOGY OF MODERNIZATION AND DEVELOPMENT from here to suggest, or to imply, that alterations in values could automatically lead to changes in economic structures. In other words: remove cultural blockages and somehow economic development would take care of itself, perhaps with the help of a modernizing elite and a little diffusion from outside.

By this, he means any organizational development sufficiently important to further evolution that, rather than emerging only once, it is likely to be ‘hit upon’ by various systems operating under different conditions (1964, p. 339). Elsewhere, he defines an evolutionary universal as ‘any complex of structures and processes which so increases the long-run adaptive capacity of living systems’ (1964, p. 340–1). According to Parsons, for a human society to exist at all, certain ‘prerequisites’ must be met, that is, religion, communication with language, social organization through kinship and technology.

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