How Daniel Lerner's seminal work contributed to the overall professionalization of communication theory and sociology
The Production of Modernization
Daniel Lerner, Mass Media, and "The Passing of Traditional Society"
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Daniel Lerner's 1958 book The Passing of Traditional Society was central in shaping Cold War–era ideas about the use of mass media and culture to promote social and economic progress in postcolonial nations. Based on a study of the effectiveness of propaganda in the Middle East, Lerner’s book claimed that exposure to American media messages could motivate “traditional” people in the postcolonial nations to become “modern” by cultivating empathy for American ideas, goods, and ways of life.
The Production of Modernization examines Lerner’s writings to construct the intellectual trajectory of his thinking about mass media and modernization up to and beyond the publication of his famous book. Shah has written not just an intellectual biography of Lerner but also a history of the discipline he shaped.
"Impressive in its insights, perceptive in making connections to lives, works, and intellectual traditions, The Production of Modernization takes us through an unusual journey of the development of the field. The scope of Shah’s book is considerable, based as it is on the biography of one, albeit highly influential, individual in national and international development circles. Skillful handling of data from diverse sources and cogent narration help the reader understand the political and social contexts from within which the notion of modernization, and subsequently development communication, emerged. Shah’s writing is lucid and accessible, and this book is a pleasure to read."
"Shah probes the origins and underpinnings of modernization, which he argues has defined US international policy for the past seven decades... Tying the concept of modernization to social scientist Daniel Lerner's book The Passing of Traditional Society: Modernizing the Middle East (1958), the author provides abundant evidence that [Daniel] Lerner's ideas are at the core of US Middle Eastern policy and infuse two generations of scholarship about the cultural influence of mass media.... [T]his look at the impact of Lerner's modernization theories on US global policies makes for engaging reading.... Well written and well annotated, this insightful volume... will serve those interested in mass communication, diplomacy, and international relations. Summing Up: Recommended."
"The book is well written and clearly organized.... The book’s central contribution is its deep and nuanced telling of 'how Passing of Traditional Society came together—historically, intellectually, geopolitically, culturally."
Hemant Shah is Professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is coauthor (with Michael C. Thornton) of Newspaper Coverage of Interethnic Conflict: Competing Visions of America, and co-editor (with Michael Curtin) of Re-Orienting Global Communication: Indian and Chinese Media Beyond Borders.