9.9: Continuity and Change in a Globalized World
Although many new ideas and technologies spread around the world, many aspects of society stayed the same. Religions like Judiasm, Islam, Christianity, and many more remained present in society. After WWII some borders changed, but for the most part countries remained the same.
Traditional culture aspects remained the same, especially in cultures that honor tradition as a part of their identity. For example, although transportation technology accelerated during the time period, some Jewish people continued to observe the Sabbath and abstained from transportation on Saturdays. This is an example of a continuity that transcended the immense changes in the 20th century.
Social structures remained the same within respective cultures. In the West, the middle class continues to consist of white-collar workers, or those whose status was dependent on education, skills, and earned wealth. Countries like Russia, Brazil, China, and India have modernized rapidly but continue to not yet match the West.
A great example of a continuity in social structure is seen in modern-day India. Religion has caused the caste system in India to continue.
The Rig Veda caste system is structured like this:
Brahmins—Priests who are at the top of the social hierarchy
Kshatriyas—Warriors and rulers
Vaisyas—Skilled traders, merchants, and minor officials
Untouchables—The outcasts of society and the lowest of the caste system.
This caste system is seen most prominently in the rural areas of India, and subtly in the suburban areas as well. The untouchables are still oppressed by society and mobs and sexual harassment are common.
In the 20th century, technology rapidly advanced at a rate that the world had never experienced before. These advances in science and technology altered the way humans viewed the cosmos. Advances in communication, transportation, medicine, agriculture, and industry improved the quality of life for many humans on Earth. These advancements changed the way people approached politics, culture, and the environment. Many positive changes came from these advancements; however, some were also negative.
Advancements in energy resources like petroleum and nuclear power helped to increase productivity in factories and transportation. This led to an uptake in the scheme of the global economy. More nations proceeded to exploit under-developed nations for raw materials and resources. However, the United States’ status as the global superpower was beginning to be challenged by nations who were growing economically like China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. Asian countries, in particular, relied on cheap labor and good quality manufacturing to compete against the Western economy. China became the 2nd largest economy in the world and a major export-based economy. During the 1900s—present, nations became more involved in the regulation of their country’s economy. This changed the economic system from the previous laissez-faire (hands off) policy to a more controlled economy.
Changes in the environment came from contributants like pollution, human activity, politics, and transportation technology. The uptake in air travel shortened the time it took to get places. In fact, by 2006 there were over 20,000 airports just in the United States. What previously took days or weeks, now took just a few hours! The space race in 1959 also pushed the boundaries of human exploration with the first man landing on the moon.
This rise in transportation meant that the global demand for fuel also rose. This demand changed the way humans interacted with the environment because petroleum extraction became more prominent. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Norway, and other oil-rich countries rely on their oil reserves to support their economies. The burning of oil and other fossil fuels led to more greenhouse gases being emitted. Pollution from factories, automobiles, and human waste also contributed to climate change and negatively impacted the environments on Earth.
Change in politics was largely credited to activism and protests which spread through social media platforms. Pressure from civilians, online spectators, and other countries helped to push for political change and reform. One example is the nonviolent protests led by Gandhi in India. Protesters hoped to gain independence from Great Britain. Activists in North America and South Africa protested against systems of inequality within their respective countries. This led to the Civil Rights Act being passed in the United States, and the abolishment of Apartheid in South Africa. These types of changes in policy did not come easily and some governments were slow to accommodate the modern world. Some governments killed, harassed, or imprisoned protesters.
Technology is one of the prominent changes in this time period. Technology and science rapidly advanced with the rise of the internet.
Major Advancements can be split into 5 categories:
Medicine—The developments of vaccines, improvements in sanitation, and the development of new medical technology all helped to decrease the global mortality rate. Diseases like polio, tuberculosis, and tetanus were cured or eradicated by vaccines. Antibiotics like penicillin saved countless soldiers and civilians in WWII.
Energy—Nuclear power became a new source of energy. The environmental issues caused by nonrenewable resources pushed the world to find new ways to extract energy. This led to the development of renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and thermal energy.
Communication—Developments like digital phones, computers, and social media revolutionized the way humans communicated. Instead of having to wait days or weeks for a letter to arrive in the mail, loved ones could be seen with video call applications or through videos. Global transferring of information increased exponentially.
Transportation—Cars, planes, boats, and public transportation all increased in efficiency and quantity. The rise of online commerce companies like Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba led to better shipping transportation. Ships became larger and faster to haul big loads of goods. This resulted in the expansion of the trade network on a global scale.
Agriculture—Crops became more resistant to drought and bugs because of genetically modified crops entering farms. These crops were mutated to withstand dry seasons and diseases. This led to what is known as the Green Revolution, which is a period where agricultural productivity increased and led to higher population growth, especially in less developed countries.