Evolution of mentality, politics, law, and social affairs during the past century
Authors: Georg W. Oesterdiekhoff
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The article compares the development of the First World nations to that of the Third World nations regarding the development of worldview, domestic and international politics, punishment law, and social affairs such as social participation, gender relations, and child care. The article shows that the whole premodern world before 1700 was characterized by an archaic worldview consisting of magic and superstition, by unfree political systems, by high rates of violence within and between nations, by a brutal punishment law, and by oppression of lower classes, women, and children. The era of Enlightenment after 1700 originated for the first time in history a complete modification of this premodern system, leading to democracy, civil society, constitutional state, to a decline of violence within and between nations, to the humane form of punishment law, to the emanzipation of lower classes and women, and to improvements of child care. This process of modernization and civilization was initially confined to Western countries and Japan. However, especially after 1945 the process of globalization caused modernization processes right across the whole world, including all dimensions of culture, law, morals, and politics mentioned. The social, political, and cultural gap, opened after 1700 in favor of Japan and Western nations, has been closing after 1945 and especially after 1975. Globalization therefore implies the worldwide success of the civilization process, as described, for example, by N. Elias or S. Pinker. The article argues that it is necessary and possible to describe the psychological dimension of these processes of modernization and globalization. The usual procedure amongst social scientists to describe these phenomena by ignoring the psychological dimension in favor of institutional and materialistic factors only is insufficient. The article demonstrates that developmental and cross-cultural psychology is capable to describe the psychological modifications of people going from premodern to modern societies. Moreover, these psychological advancements are carrying the modifications of political, social, judicial, and moral culture described. On the whole, the new approach called structural-genetic theory programme intends to replace previous approaches written by N. Elias, E. E. Hagen, A. Inkeles, and others.