World polity theory as a new theory of modernization
Department of Social Research University of Tampere Lempäälä, Finland
The paper discusses whether world polity theory (Meyer 2000; Meyer et al. 1997) can be considered as a new modernization theory. According to it, world models shape nation-state identities, structures, and behaviour via worldwide cultural and associational processes. Consequently, nation-states are more isomorphic than most theories would predict and change more uniformly than is commonly recognized. As a theory, it is neoinstitutionalist rather than functionalist; it does not assume that the direction of change is somehow predetermined or that the social system of advanced market economies are the natural end result of social change. Related to that, it does not argue that the institutions created necessarily serve primary functions of human societies. Yet it is an interpretation of the same development that Parsons? modernization theory (Parsons 1964; 1966) talked about. Furthermore, one of its representatives, John Meyer, makes a distinction between instrumental and expressive culture, and argues that world models spread in the area of instrumental culture appealing to rationality. In that sense he comes close to the rationalization thesis. However, it can be concluded that world polity theory is a critical explanation for the isomorphic development of regional states, often referred to as modernization or globalization, not a theory that seeks to justify it by presenting the direction of change as functional and thus predictable.