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The Rise of Modern, Industrial Society The cognitive-developmental approach as a new key to solve the most fascinating riddle in world history

Georg W. Oesterdiekhoff


Published: 2014/06/01


The question about the emergence of modern, industrial society and the rise of the Western world remains unanswered. It is said to be the most fascinating research question across all social sciences. However, most theories lack the theoretical thoroughness to explain the decisive phenomena. The essay shows that the cognitive-developmental approach, as developed in my structure-genetic sociology, has the tools to explain why the Western World and not Asia developed the modern, industrial society and why the Western culture elaborated in the same period of time industrialism, sciences, enlightenment, democracy, and humanism. Three of these five dimensions of modernity are purely intellectual phenomena, even expressing cognitive-evolutionary trends. Industrialism and democracy appear to be expressions of institutional and intellectual phenomena. The essay demonstrates that the rise of formal operations, the cognitive maturation of people, is the decisive phenomenon, whereas the evolutions of the five elements are only the five fingers of this hand. The new approach can explain all relevant aspects equally. It is in the heritage of the classical theories of Comte, Weber, Elias, Habermas and some others, and breathes their spirit.

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