Traditional vs. Modern Societies

Traditional vs. Modern Societies

For the longest time, society has evolved to achieve success depending on the obstacles presented and the demands of the time. Indeed, society continues in its path of progression and is predicted to be different in the near future. Today, society presents a myriad of rights and freedoms that did not exist in the past to the people. The process of change is therefore important in the fostering of new opportunities and the adaptation of humans to the current situations. The understanding of society in today’s world cannot be similar to the understanding of people that lived in the world centuries ago. As such, there is a distinct line between traditional and modern societies in terms of the social, economic and political livelihoods of the people. That notwithstanding, there are communities that have preserved the values of traditional societies and continue to practice these ideals to date. In similar fashion, other societies have, either in part or in whole, shifted to a modern form of society. Suffice to say, a majority of the communities are now inclined towards the modern society (Cox, 1997). The differences between the two societies have occasioned a vast array of opinions as well as controversy. This paper is an assessment of the different viewpoints on the elements of each of the societies. It will also address the differences and the main principles of traditional and modern societies.

The traditional society is the older of the two having been practiced years before the advent of the industrial revolution. This form of society was characterized by family honor, the selection of marriage partners by their parents as well as an inclination towards division of labor. Consequently, the roles of men and those of women were different ad specific and none could perform the role of the other. Similarly, the old people had different roles to those of the young and each set of people was respected for their contribution to society. While women were confined in homes to pursue domestic chores, men assigned the roles of breadwinners and protection of the family. In traditional societies, the family was the basic unit of administration and is the equivalent of today’s welfare state. In addition, this type of society valued prestige and assumed the same to be a sign of good status. In this regard, therefore, all members of the family worked towards the sustenance of the family’s prestige (Petkovic, 2007). Normally, families strived to attain approval, respect as well as honor through individual and family levels.

The traditional setting of society was anchored around the sustenance of the family as the basic unit. In this undertaking, each person within a family was supposed to marry people of similar or higher status. Parents were of the view that their offspring should not propagate children with people that were of a lower status in the society. The inclination towards people of equal or higher status is based on the assumption that marriages should work towards strengthening of the family’s positions in society. This belief resulted in the practice of marriages being planned carefully with a huge focus on the family’s well being. The society was structured in a way that dictated people to differ to other people of higher status. For instance, a young person would differ to an older person while women would differ to men. Ultimately, everyone would differ to God who was the Supreme Being (Petkovic, 2007). A closed belief system characterized the traditional society and was based on superstitions in which anything considered foreign or new was rejected. The society did not allow for the disruption of its existence and ambition was considered a vice because of its potential to upset the normal way of doing things.

The traditional society was succeeded by a modern society in which freedom is highly appreciated and oppression abhorred. In this societal setting, forces that attempt to confine the people to a single set of ideals are opposed vehemently. Moreover, the modern society tends to value upward mobility unlike the traditional society that described one’s individual status at birth. The attainment of status in modern society is achieved through success and efficacy as opposed to the traditional society where one’s status would suffice in their entire life. While the traditional society had a total disregard for the enjoyment of life, the modern society stresses a belief in happiness and entitlement. In extension, the modern society is quite unique in the way that it values self achievement and individuality. The older work ethic and frugality envisioned in the traditional society is replaced in modern society through an inclination towards self indulgence. As such, the attainment and definition of prestige is very different in the two varied societies. For instance, the modern society connects the concept of prestige to an individual’s possession and personal earnings (Jaquette, 1982). This modern viewpoint is a shift from the traditional society’s attribute of prestige based on one’s occupation. In the end, the traditional society differs with the modern society with regard to the attainment of prestige and status.

In understanding the differences between the two societies, it is important to dissect the role of religion in each. In the traditional society setting, people were more religious as they considered God to be the head of every other thing. Consequently, almost all the values in the society were based on religious teachings. The ideas and principles in practice were also based on the religion practiced. A good example of this description is evidenced in the sinful treatment of debt whereby everyone avoided the label of being in debt. In the modern society, however, the most valued items are independence, freedom and success. It is assumed that everyone has the ability to make their own decisions independent of the judgment of society. Moreover, the society believes that respect is earned and that the concepts of class and hierarchy are only alien.

Still, the modern society is in approval of the concept of romantic love whereby people are free to explore the feelings of love. The modern society deviates from the traditional ideals of family as a unit by allowing people to choose their own partners without the interference of the family.  The role of decision making is upheld at the individual level thereby encouraging people to make decisions that suit their needs and requirements. On the other hand, the traditional society has contrasting views regarding the concept of marriage (Jacobsen, 1998). Indeed, the society considers marriage as having an important role of creating a family and ensuring continuity of the ancestral clan. As such, the concept of romantic love holds no water in traditional society and is not considered in the process of marriage. It is not surprising, therefore, that parents would chose partners for their children regardless of there not being love between the two partners in marriage. Further, the concept of religion was highly valued in traditional societies and it played an active part in the process of marriage. Every person was supposed to get married and those who shunned marriage were considered as having rebelled against God. In similar respect, divorce was not envisioned in traditional society’s understanding of marriage. In fact, any attempts to divorce one’s partner were considered as sinful and displeasing to God. This is in contrast to modern society’s views on marriage in which a large proportion of marriages have ended up in divorce.

While traditional society is largely anchored around the ideals of collectivism, modern society has firm inclinations towards individualism. In extension, change is highly anticipated in modern technology owing to the viewpoint that technology and innovation are a way of improving livelihoods. This is in contrast to the traditional setting where anything new or foreign was considered harmful to the ideals of the society (Thompson, 2013). In essence, modernity has been built around the concepts of mass production, development of credit as well as marketing. In this regard, modern society was started through the implementation of an economic system that was self regulating. The change in economic systems deviated from the traditional system of communism where everything belonged to the community and ownership was collective. Some scholars have actually alluded to the absence of any form of economy in traditional society as all means of production belonged to the community as a whole. The arrival of capitalism heralded the onset of modernity as it shifted the general way of doing things. With the onset of capitalism, most of the morals and values of traditional society were devalued as individuals competed in accumulation of wealth and enrichment. Today, the capitalist modern society dictates that everyone is free to accumulate both capital and wealth thus leading to high competition among individuals. In contrast, the traditional society setting was less competitive.

The entry of the modern capitalist society has brought about several changes in almost all the spheres of life. For instance, the onset of capitalism has resulted in economic advancements as people thrive to add more value to resources. Although some of these changes have contributed to the detriment of societal norms and values, modernity is largely positive as it improves the society (Thompson, 2013). Across the different eras in history, the general conduct of people including their way of doing things has been dictated by societal and cultural values. However, the embracement of capitalism sparked fears that the concept would result in deterioration of the fabric of traditionalism and morality in the society. That notwithstanding, the modern society has not performed dismally with regard to the issues of concern. In fact, it is in order to state that the living standards of modern society are much better than those of traditional society. Essentially, therefore, modernity has had more goods than evils in terms of societal advancement. One of the main pointers of this advancement is the level of freedom that the modern society guarantees the people. In the end, the people stand to benefit more under a modern society as compared to a traditional society.

The role of women is also an important aspect in the two forms of society. While traditional society confined their roles to children rearing and housekeeping, modern society presents numerous avenues for women to work. In the past, women had limited opportunities for their personal growth with zero chances of joining the workforce. The role of women were dictated by their gender at birth and confined to child bearing and other domestic roles. The men were considered the sole breadwinners and were encouraged to seek careers; a practice that was not allowed in women. The failure by the traditional society to appreciate the ambition and drive in women can only mean that the modern society is better. The backward values of traditionalism served as impediments to the success of women and the society in general. Today, the choice of one’s career is solely based on their personal interest as well as the environment in which they live in. The traditional society setting was biased against women as it limited their chances of personal growth in favor of men (Jacobsen, 1998). Consequently, the modern society is more beneficial to women and the world as women contribute to the growth and development of the economy.

The introduction of globalization in modern society is also a source of contrast with the traditional society. Although certain aspects of globalization were evident prior to the advent of the modern society, the dynamics of the concept have shifted significantly. In the past, communities lived in solitary with little communication or contact with other communities. In fact, it was hard for a person deep in Africa to even know that other communities existed in the continent of Europe. With the entry of modern society, however, globalization has played the role of bringing development to areas that were less developed through the sharing of information and technology. Still, the modern society is different from the traditional society in its definition of welfare states. The emergence of a social welfare state in modern society can be equated to the existence of family as the basic unit in traditional society. The traditional setting of society prescribed one’s position during their birth with the people having no control of their positions in society (Petkovic, 2007). The assumption was that one’s status in society was a result of fate and God’s will. Today, the modern society allows for attainment of wealth regardless of the conditions that one faces at birth.

Both modern and traditional societies have been effective in their applications at different times in history. While the traditional society was effective during earlier times, the modern society is most suitable in today’s capitalist world. It is therefore difficult to ascertain the best system without being biased in the process. However, the dynamics of the modern system makes it better compared to the traditional society. The modern society has opened doors that were shut in traditional societies at both local and international levels. Today, countries continue to record increased growth owing in part to the existence of globalization. Marginalized groups also have a fair chance of excelling in life regardless of their situations at birth. The notion that women belonged to the kitchen has been quashed opening up more opportunities for women to grow. In essence, therefore, change is the main difference between traditional and modern societies.



Thompson, E. P. (2013). The making of the English working class.

Thompson, E. P. (1971). The moral economy of the English crowd in the eighteenth century. Past & present, (50), 76-136.

Petković, J. (2007). Traditional values and modernization challenges in forming urban and rural culture. FACTA UNIVERSITATIS-Series Philosophy, Sociology, Psychology and History, (01), 23-39.

Jaquette, J. S. (1982). Women and modernization theory: A decade of feminist criticism. World politics, 34(02), 267-284.

Jacobsen, J. P. (1998). The economics of gender (Vol. 631207279). Malden, MA: Blackwell.



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