History Paper on Effects of Cultural Modernization to Europeans


Developments in the 20th century in Europeans nations are inherently characterized by socioeconomic and political changes (Wurm, 2009). By the end of the 19th century, a number science and cultural trends run through the entire continent. However, some European nations were deeply locked in cultural and diplomatic interactions that limited their acceptance of cultural modernization concept (Wurm, 2009). At the same time, this was a century of growing and developing nationalism in which various states protected their socioeconomic, political as well as cultural identities and in deed established more rigorous boundary patrols. Hence, the European continents was divided between two zones of differential development, where to some nations, the 20 century was a time of optimism and confidence whereas to others, was a time of discontent and anxiety (Wurm, 2009). As such, this document seeks to discuss social, political and economic changes in the 20th century that contributed to this divide, referencing the concept of cultural modernization and its implication to Europeans.

Cultural Modernization

Socioeconomic and Political Transformations

The first two decades of the 20th century were characterized by notable industrialization, economic, sociopolitical and cultural changes (Wurm, 2009). International trade brought increased growth and development as well as significant poverty and rise in slums in Europe (Wurm, 2009). Urbanization, increased technology and communication were as well experienced. Competitions amongst states were practiced in attempts to showcase technological advancements and scientific breakthroughs (Wurm, 2009). During this period, the continent was divided into two very distinct regions with people exhibiting different ideas of modernization. Such are western Europeans states, with their advanced economies and massive militaries, and the Eastern Europe which appeared less privileged.

The 1900s began with a rapidly changing world of newly forming nation-states but there was a clear separation between the advanced countries of Western Europe and the rest of the world (Wurm, 2009). Prior to the 1900s, western European states had conquered most of the African continent and consolidated their possessions in Asia. Politically, the dominant states treated the conquering of nations as symbols of imperialist power fueled by increased nationalism at home (Wurm, 2009). Hence, such conquering brought massive wealth as well as sociopolitical impact to the content Europe. As such, many Europeans were filled with optimism and confidence of the general progress that the period brought with it. However, the social implications and economic growth brought by conquest are perceived to be the fueling factors behind the Second World War (Wurm, 2009). This made many Europeans recognize it as an era of anxiety and discontent. Additionally, a lot of pride and prestige tied to the ownership of colonies and it allowed European governments to take attention away from domestic crises.

Economically, colonies and other overseas territories were an important source of raw materials and labor. To a lesser extent, colonies were also markets of European-made finished goods. Belgium’s control of the Congo was largely because of rubber while the British were interested in the gold and diamonds of southern Africa. Overseas territories also had strategic military and economic importance (Wurm, 2009). They brought massive opportunities for economic growth as the Europeans had more opportunities to take place in foreign exchanges, therefore, portraying a future full of progressions.

The outbreak of two wars in Europe combined with the economic and political crises of that period drastically changed the relationships between the conquering and the conquered. The First and Second World Wars devastated European infrastructure, economies and societies. Prior to 1914, London was the financial capital of the world where states like the Ottoman Empire, for instance, would borrow money for use at home. By 1919, European states became debtors to the United States and even Japan after borrowing funds to pay for the war. Additionally, the war themselves challenged European views of their own supremacy. They could no longer maintain a status of dominant powers which greatly divided the continent’s notion on the idea of modernism further (Wurm, 2009).

Politically, European nations began to allow colonies to enjoy limited autonomy in their own affairs. In 1941, for instance, the United States and Britain agreed to cease conquering territories, even self-determination for the conquered in the Atlantic Charter (Wurm, 2009). Nationalist movements and decolonization would eventually lead to the creation of present-day nation states. This agreement economically, attempts at a fairer trade relationship were also developed out of the Atlantic Charter and out of necessity. The Allies all agreed to reduce trade restrictions and engage in global co-operation for better social and economic conditions for all. Freedom of the seas, for example, ended British naval supremacy, which was responsible for the massive English empire at the beginning of the 20th century. Thus, the period between 1900 and 1950 saw a decline in European dominance of the world. This inevitably led to a change in the relationships between Europe and its colonies, laying the foundations of the present day Europe.

Implications of Cultural Modernization

Despite the persistent strong and enormous cultural diversity across Europe, a certain convergence between region and lifestyle activities were experienced amid the 20th century, especially the period beginning 1945. This is founded on a spread of common consumer goods, outdoor activities, as well as rising similarities and adoption of various living standards and cultures (Wurm, 2009). However, the general living expenditure on basic commodities such as housing, foods and clothing gradually decreased since 1945. By 1990s, the living expenditure had significantly declined to an average of one quarter compared to 1945, in most countries in Western Europe. The most visible trend threatening the European traditions and beliefs was the American culture (Wurm, 2009).  The American style of fast foods diffused in the European culture around 1960s, threatening the European food traditions. In the Northern Europe, a spread in oriental foods was prompted by immigrants who were willing to work in minor brasseries for minimal wages, consequently threatening the job market.  Popular lifestyle in Europe considerably approached the American standards and Europeanization was more or less Americanization (Wurm, 2009).

Seemingly, since the last decade of the 20th century, cultural activities and social and political changes have significantly influenced the 21st century (Wurm, 2009).  People can now change their citizenship and domicile easily. They have a constant entree to information and have enormous power of consumption (Wurm, 2009). The main reason for this increase is the enormous exposure to modern education, cultural modernization, and to a large extent, globalization. However, this negatively influence the European culture in that non material system of beliefs such as religion and folk custom practices lost importance and are considered insignificant (Wurm, 2009). Yet, despite the notable spread of mass modernized culture, clear resistance of local, regional and national culture exist in Europe. The Welsh discover Welsh, Bretons Breton, and Pakistani girls dress conventionally. Seemingly, cultural modernization cultivated diversity and cultural differences as a point of rivalry reference in Europe. The notion that in future days English will become a nation language in Europe and all other Europeans languages will extinct further draws lines between such utopians and individuals who perceive cultural globalization  in the 20th century as an optimism and confidence in progress (Wurm, 2009).


The 20th century brought with it massive cultural modernization, not only to Europe, to other contents as well. Such modernization influenced the European socioeconomic and political culture, hence, threating the traditions and beliefs of the Europeans. As such, many Europeans and non-Europeans perceived it as an age of discontent and anxiety, whereas others as an era of optimisms and general progress. Notably, changes exhibited in the 20th century have greatly influenced the 21st century, including globalization and the modern concept of cultural modernization. However, the aspect of globalization which is a clearly widespread phenomena, is significantly different from cultural modernization and cosmopolitism.





Wurm, S (2009). The Economic Versus The Social & Cultural Aspects Of The European Union. Reflections On The State Of The Union And The Roots Of The Present Discontent Among EU Citizens. Retrieved from https://soziales-kapital.at/index.php/sozialeskapital/article/view/112/146