Rostow explains ‘How the modernization of a society is related to its economic growth.’ For him, the economic growth is directly related to understanding, access and use of science and technology. He shows five stages of this growth; traditional society, preconditions of take-off, the take-off, drive to maturity and age of high mass consumption. In each stage, we see an innovation or development in the economical actions –basically in the production and enterprises– affected the social values and political system of a society. For instance, in traditional societies the economical action was based on agriculture therefore the political rule was feudalism, as the society goes through the stages we see the political rule changes, in stage two it turns into centralized nation-state, in stage three the political parties appeared etc. He says, the process of modernization is has to happen and every society has to transform in to high mass-consumption society. Yet, there are some societies which are at the beginning of those stages and there are some which have already completed those stages. Passing through those stages gives a kind of power to the society.
The Rostovian model of modernization, in detail, favors and serves capitalism and free market. He gives us a model which is similar to Marxian infra-structure& super-structure relation: a market regulating itself forms the state. However, Karl Polanyi argues that a free-market is a utopia, since the values of land, labor and money is fictionally determined by the state. Moreover, the practice of Laissez-faire will result to a protectionism and further fascism, rather than democratic state as Rostow mentions.
There are many problems with Rostow’s model; in fact the disadvantages of such model are more than the advantages. The model that he is offering is actually “the western history of development”, it may be not applicable for the eastern countries, particularly the countries in which the religion and the state plays fundamental role on shaping country’s economy. Secondly, a society might become modern without following some of these stages, in my opinion Turkey is modernized country but we are not in age of high mass consumption yet. Also, Weber considered the ultimate consequence of modernization as “iron-cage”, which is apparently catastrophic, Rostow’s model is pushing the society rapidly into an iron-cage. (I believe he wants to state fear in people’s mind easily by driving them into consumerism, as George Bush did it –War on Terror–)