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See also: Modernization

Westernization is a set of political and cultural practices that are often used as a synonym for modernization, but the terms are not equivalent. Modernization is restricted to technology and perhaps management processes. Not all analysts, such as Francis Fukuyama, agree they are distinct. [1] Both affect international relations.

Westernization involves the transfer of western values. Democracy is high among these, including female suffrage, but, in many cases, there is an implication of religious conversion, usually to Christianity. This indeed is not unique, because modernizing traders and conquerors in Africa not infrequently had a policy of conversion to Islam. They modernized without westernizing, although British, French and other colonial empires did both.


In the specific case of Africa, [2] various regional, non-Western societies introduced agrarian, commercial and military modernization:

  • Arabs, who, after their settlement in North Africa, introduced Islam into West Africa and thus set in motion a profound transformation of societies and cultures in the region
  • Coastal peoples of East Africa were in touch with external civilizations long before the arrival of Europeans; the influence of the Arabs in this area has been as deep and durable as in West Africa.
  • Zulu leader Chaka's (1786–1828) conquests of and his creation of the Zulu nation out of diverse ethnicities over an extensive area in South Africa entailed a restructuring of their societies; the same can be said of Ashanti hegemony exercised over neighboring societies and peoples drawn into its sphere of imperial authority and cultural influence

In today's Sudan, one of the major North-South conflicts has involved forced conversion to Islam and use of the Arabic language, impressed upon primarily African southerners by non-Western "modernizers".


Samuel Huntington offered a taxonomy, in The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order as to how some on-western societies have responded to the Western impact by adopting or rejecting, selectively or jointly, modernization and westernization.

  1. Rejectionism: accept neither Westernization nor modernization, such as Japan in the Edo Period before the Meiji restoration. He cites Daniel Pipes as saying that "only the very most extreme [Muslim] fundamentalists rejected modernization as well as Wesyernization"[3] — yet that is a core of Salafism, clearly driving the Taliban among others. Rejectionists reject both modernization and Westernization.
  2. Kemalism: Embrace both in the context of local culture. Obviously, Harrington uses the model of Kemal Ataturk forcing a new society onto Turkey, but there are other analogies, such as Peter the Great of Russia. Kemalists regard both Westernization and modernization as desirable.
  3. Reformism: isolating the society but adapting the desirable parts, such as the Ching Dynasty motto of "Chinese learning for the fundamental principles, Western learning for practical use." Reformism regards modernization as desirable but Westernization as not.


  1. Francis Fukuyama (29 December 2008), "Samuel Huntington, 1927-2008", American Interest
  2. Westernization - Africa - Bibliography, Science Encyclopedia
  3. Daniel Pipes, Path of God, pp. 197-197, quoted on p. 74 of Huntington's Clash of Civilizations