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The Production of Modernization: Daniel Lerner, Mass Media, and The Passing of Traditional Society

Hemant Shah

Publication Year: 2011

Daniel Lerner's 1958 book The Passing of Traditional Society was central in shaping Cold War–era ideas about the use of mass media and culture to promote social and economic progress in postcolonial nations. Based on a study of the effectiveness of propaganda in the Middle East, Lerner’s book claimed that exposure to American media messages could motivate “traditional” people in the postcolonial nations to become “modern” by cultivating empathy for American ideas, goods, and ways of life.

The Production of Modernization examines Lerner’s writings to construct the intellectual trajectory of his thinking about mass media and modernization up to and beyond the publication of his famous book. Shah has written not just an intellectual biography of Lerner but also a history of the discipline he shaped.

Published by: Temple University Press


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pp. v

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pp. vii-viii

THIS BOOK would have been impossible to write without the input and support of many colleagues and friends. I am fortunate to work at the intellectually vibrant University of Wisconsin–Madison and in a department full of accomplished colleagues with diverse scholarly interests in the social, cultural, political, and historical role of mass communication ...

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1. Introduction: The Rise of Modernization Theory

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pp. 1-30

THESE EPIGRAPHS highlight the persistence of an idea in the American imagination. The idea is that the Middle East—and, by extension, much of the postcolonial world after the end of the Second World War—was and remains a relatively backward place populated by people mired in “traditional” practices and values. Their only hope is to be modernized by an injection of Western values and expertise. Postwar modernization ...

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2. Lerner at the Psychological Warfare Division: Propaganda and the Effectiveness of Mass Media

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pp. 31-54

A SIGNIFICANT PORTION of Daniel Lerner’s military career was devoted to the analysis of propaganda. Lerner served with the U.S. Army’s Psychological Warfare Division (PWD) in Paris from September 1944 until the end of the war on May 8, 1945. Lerner was the chief editor for the Intelligence Branch of PWD and charged with writing the Weekly Summary of Intelligence, which was distributed to PWD offices in ...

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3. Lerner at Stanford: Tools of the Social Science Trade

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pp. 55-78

STANFORD UNIVERSITY, established by Leland and Jane Stanford as a memorial to their son, Leland, Jr., opened in 1891 among fields and farms in Palo Alto, California. The university’s first president, David Starr Jordan, was determined to make the school a leading research institution on par with Harvard, Columbia, or the University of Chicago. Almost immediately, however, Jordan’s plans were dashed. Problems with ...

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4. Lerner at Columbia: The Voice of America’s Turkey Studies

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pp. 79-100

THE GRANT for the Revolution and the Development of International Relations (RADIR) study at Stanford expired in mid-1950. Daniel Lerner was named acting professor of Sociology and taught classes that fall. After classes ended in late 1950, Lerner flew to New York and visited Paul Lazarsfeld at Columbia University. No record of the meeting exists, but Lerner apparently negotiated a position as visiting professor of ...

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5. Lerner at MIT: The Key Elements of Passing of Traditional Society

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pp. 101-128

AT MIT, Daniel Lerner’s appointment was with the Center for International Studies (CENIS). The creation of CENIS can be traced, interestingly enough, to the State Department’s concerns about Soviet jamming of Voice of America (VOA) radio signals, a concern that also led to the Bureau of Applied Social Research (BASR) Middle East radio-listening studies. In the summer of 1950, Undersecretary of State James Webb asked ...

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6. After Passing of Traditional Society: The Persistence and Meaning of “Lerner”

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pp. 129-156

IN LATE 1957 or early 1958, when the manuscript for The Passing of Traditional Society: Modernizing the Middle East was in the hands of the publisher, the American University in Cairo invited Daniel Lerner to lecture in Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon. When he returned to Cambridge, the galley proofs for Passing of Traditional Society were waiting, and he ...


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pp. 157-190


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pp. 191-206


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pp. 207-218

E-ISBN-13: 9781439906262

Publication Year: 2011