The Historical Clash between Modernity and Tradition





The Historical Clash between Modernity and Tradition

Question 1


Cyrus Veeser’s Great Leaps Forward tackles the social and economic campaign introduced by Mao Zedong using the Communist Party of China. It aimed at making the country transition from an agrarian philosophy into a socialist using collectivization as well as industrialization. Greg Grandin’s Fordlandia explores Henry Ford’s attempt to institute a rubber-producing city in the Amazon rainforest by introducing western style culture in a traditional community (Grandin 38). In both instances, there is a clash between tradition and civilization. Fissures between modernity and traditions in the 19th and 20th centuries enhanced the use of radical changes to the lifestyles of the inhabitants causing major rifts to the warring ideologies thereby leading to a failure of the proposed transformations.


Part 1

Ford aimed to make the Fordlandia area similar to a small American town. For example, he invested in the development of schools in order to improve the educational level of the locals. It was in contrast to the rudimentary learning techniques practiced by them since they revered the passing of information from the older to the younger generation. As such, this new method rendered elders irrelevant while promoting teachers, a fact that interrupted the level of respect accorded to such individuals. Whereas he also built modern housing units that required advanced technology, the people were used to living in wooden huts that were hand built. It therefore nullified the communal rituals that accompanied such construction work and replaced it with the individualistic approach attached to the capitalistic western style of building. The wearing of ID badges by the staff was also introduced yet this system collided with their habit of memorizing each other’s names and addressing one another using symbols. It thus felt like a form of colonialism that was in opposition to their way of identification. Ford also insisted on regular working hours that included tilling the land during the day as the tropical sun shone while they were used to doing such work from early dawn and taking a break the rest of the day. In fact, they dedicated such down time to other activities (Grandin 29). It is however noteworthy that the changes interfered with their programs especially the holding of religious rites but the western model attempted to thwart such activities. Introduction of formal religious ceremonies that celebrated Christianity was also in conflict with their belief system since they used unconventional worship techniques. Hospitals were also built to treat the sick and injured although this too clashed with their traditional healing initiatives, which alluded to the use of herbs and other medicinal plants. Ford initiated the growth and consumption of foreign foodstuffs such as tinned peaches and brown rive within the land and this interfered with the cultivation of local staple crops. Whereas such an idea was noble, it clashed with the production of traditional crops which they valued hence raising suspicion about the new products.

Mao Zedong proposed changes introduced urban mechanization in the communal plantations to help hasten crop production but this was in stark contrast to the peoples’ familiarity with using their hands as evidence of hard work. Artificial instruments thus threatened their understanding of farm work. He also laid an emphasis on the replacement of traditional religious rites with reverence for political officials thereby facilitating the confrontation with the community due to the challenge that such secular approaches posed. An arrangement that raised the profile of women in marriages, as was routine in the modern era challenged their traditional social norms since they were averse to females being submissive to men hence threatening the institution of marriage as well. Compulsory communal living practices that were adopted also questioned the role of family and clan prestige within the nation thereby escalating such tensions too. Innovations in science and technology confronted their rudimentary lifestyles while Zhou Enlai’s commitments to an end to collectivism disrupted the communal political system inherent in their hereditary system thus impairing their conflict resolution mechanisms (Veeser 82). Industrialization especially of steel making placed such efforts in conflict with Chinese’s   traditional working environment since it escalated the divergence of career growth within the communes too. In fact, it contributed to the intellectual opposition between the modern thinkers and traditionalists, the latter who considered themselves the bearers of great knowledge. Rural education also placed a wedge between the supporters and opponents since such an approach tested the validity of customary learning techniques against the western academic model.

Part 2

Ford introduced harsh rules such as the forbidding of alcohol, tobacco, and women within the town but allowing such things to flourish in the outskirts. In making such decisions, he was attempting to strike a balance between allowing foreign vices while showing respect to the traditional beliefs in outlawing such mannerisms. In fact, his intention was to allow the inhabitants to enjoy themselves while fulfilling their obligations to the respective communities. By banning women even in the homes, he hoped to appease the male members that had a chauvinistic attitude towards the female gender and his support of the adulterous behavior away from the town was intended to display the unlimited possibilities that western civilization had to offer. His search for moral improvement was also an acknowledgement of the need to be righteous as preached in the Christian as well as traditional realm hence this approach was chosen as a way of reconciling both extremes. The increase of wages for the workers was also another technique to please them. It was tailored to enhance their commitment to the new capitalistic economy he had imported from the West while reinforcing the local’s commitment to a reward system for hard work. As such, these incentives were meant to show solidarity with their prior cultural attachment to recognition of good behavior.

Mao Zedong established “mutual aid teams” dedicated to raising the welfare of the inhabitants as well. This strategy sought to display the benefit of hard work as espoused in their cultural heritage while insinuating that the new organizational system was valuable. Propaganda sessions were also initiated to reconcile the differences between the modern approach to issues and their traditional routines. Coercion was another tactic employed by Zhou Enlai as well to ensure that compromises were struck especially in view of the taxation methods (Veeser 91). The latter was intended to compliment their customary rites that offered ancestors a part of the harvest with the evolving modern economic architecture whose objective was to ensure public participation in revenue generation. Promotion of free speech within the land was also instituted as a way of allowing people to express their opinions in line with their prior arrangements as well as promoting the modern governance structures that sought to suppress dissent albeit using technicalities.

Part 3

The above leaders failed in their bid to introduce radical changes to the communities. In fact, such approaches increased the alienation of the people since the aggressiveness of the policies created resentment amongst them. For example, it deepened suspicions about the nature and pace of the new developments because they threatened the peasants’ existence by challenging their traditions. The harsh treatment that was meted out on the people that did not follow the policy directives ignited debate on the suitability of punishing them for sticking to their cultural values thereby enhancing their resistance to the new way of life (Veeser 79). The social pressure that ensued led to the onset of revolutions aimed at abandoning the integration of western culture into their cultural settings hence heralding a reversal to the norms they were accustomed. As such, the leaders were forced to discard their ambitious projects, although they did so with much indignation.


The 19th and 20th century was marked by a rapid introduction of modernization in China by Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai as well as Ford in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. While the former sought to initiate transformation of the nation into a socialist agrarian economy using mechanization, the latter focused on applying industrialization. Both approaches resulted in the fierce confrontation between modernity and tradition since the inhabitants had distinct cultural values they pursued. Whereas the leaders attempted to reconcile the two extremes using a series of coercive and appeasement techniques, their efforts failed to change the way lifestyles of the locals due to the latter’s reluctance to adopt foreign mannerisms. The emergent revolutions were thus a testament to the failure of such endeavors.


Works Cited

Grandin, Greg. Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2009. Print.

Veeser, Cyrus. Great Leaps Forward: Modernizers in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Boston: Prentice Hall, 2010. Print.

Calculate your order
275 words
Total price: $0.00

Top-quality papers guaranteed


100% original papers

We sell only unique pieces of writing completed according to your demands.


Confidential service

We use security encryption to keep your personal data protected.


Money-back guarantee

We can give your money back if something goes wrong with your order.

Enjoy the free features we offer to everyone

  1. Title page

    Get a free title page formatted according to the specifics of your particular style.

  2. Custom formatting

    Request us to use APA, MLA, Harvard, Chicago, or any other style for your essay.

  3. Bibliography page

    Don’t pay extra for a list of references that perfectly fits your academic needs.

  4. 24/7 support assistance

    Ask us a question anytime you need to—we don’t charge extra for supporting you!

Calculate how much your essay costs

Type of paper
Academic level
550 words

How to place an order

  • Choose the number of pages, your academic level, and deadline
  • Push the orange button
  • Give instructions for your paper
  • Pay with PayPal or a credit card
  • Track the progress of your order
  • Approve and enjoy your custom paper

Ask experts to write you a cheap essay of excellent quality

Place an order