19th-20th Century Global Societal Influences

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There are several influential factors that shaped the historical events of the 19th and 20th centuries. During this time, global society was emerging as were a multitude of industries aimed at capitalizing on the global economy. The early industrialization of major economies, such as the United States was influenced by economic theories of capitalism and industrialization in addition to religious ideologies that stemmed from the Enlightenment in Europe. During the period from 1880 to 1920, the United States underwent a series of changes that led to the urban and industrial society that we see today. However, just as the economy and society within the United States evolved, the global society changed as well. 

It can be argued that the global industrial revolution and the development of global economies is a direct result of the ideologies and theories that emerged during the Enlightenment period. During the Enlightenment, there was a significant focus, and financial funding, of learning, art, and technology. Inhabitants of communities such as England, Italy, France, and the United States spent a great deal of time and effort aimed toward societal progress. As a result, those who led and drove the Enlightenment period proposed the ideals that led to a global economy between countries of the world. As time went on, and new technologies and innovations changed the ways in which societies operated and communicated, the issues of capitalism emerged as a result. It can be argued that much of the influence for change to the global society emerged from the foundation that was created during the Enlightenment period. 

During the years 1890-1920, one notable ideology emerged that helped to influence much of the modern global society that we see today. The industrial revolution after the enlightenment period led to a number of challenges for the global community. As a result, Progressivism became a viable solution for these concerns. What started as a social movement, eventually transformed into a political movement and global ideology. The premise of Progressivism is that the problems that are faced by society could be appropriately addressed by providing effective education, safe communities, and opportunities for fair employment. Many Progressive leaders stressed the need for democracy and voting for leaders and fighting against political corruption. On a global scale, this ideology was widely contested, but countries such as England and France began to adopt Progressive ideologies as well. With the election of Theodore Roosevelt into the United States presidency, the US foreign policy changed significantly to allow military and humanitarian action in foreign countries wherein the residents experience oppression. The ‘Big Stick’ theory of the Roosevelt era changed the global societal structure in a lasting way and spread the ideologies associated with Progressivism (Wright 45). 

Additionally, religion played another factor in the development of global society in the years following the Enlightenment. Prior to the Enlightenment, the generally accepted religion in many major global powers was Christianity.  The ideologies associated with Christianity were influential in developing the worldview and global economic structure that we see today, however, there were other religious forces that were equally as influential as more countries emerged onto the global stage. Judaism, Islam and even Buddhism emerged as influential religions within respective countries and changed the dynamic of the emerging global society. During this time, conflicts began to arise as the world was about to experience WWI, which was arguably a result of the lack of global stability and the warring ideologies of Eastern and Western economic powers. At the close of WWI, global authoritative bodies were created to aid in the development of peaceful relations and growth between the nations of the world. The religious influences of this time led many governments to determine that their manner of operating their country was premier, when in reality; this was not the case (Schofer 13).  By looking back on the historical events that took place in global development from 1880-1920, it is easy to see how and why tension s began to rise on a global stage. The influences of the Enlightenment to strive for new technologies, businesses and opportunities gave way to the Progressivism theories, as well as other political theories such as Marxism Leninism. The global environment was greatly changed by the events and political ideologies of the countries in the world, and since there was not a global oversight body to represent peace, conflict was the result. 

The level of influence between Marxism Leninism and the derivation from the Enlightenment period as also been much debated by political scientists. This ideology creates the basis for the communist party, which held a significant amount of control in the Soviet Union and China during this time period. The result of the influence of Communism in this area of the globe meant that nations such as the United Kingdom and the United States actively opposed the treatment of the residents in these countries and disallowed foreign trade with these nations in protest for the political party in power (Barner-Barry 624). The rising tensions leading to WWI and the major differences in government clashed greatly with the Capitalist progressive approach that had been adopted in much of the free world through Democracy and Democratic functioning. The global stage and the dynamics between nations were influenced significantly by the political ideologies that were adopted by various nations. There was a variety of influencing factors to the period following the enlightenment and the industrial revolution. As the global economic market emerged and strengthened, as did many political ideologies that influenced much of the future world conflicts and the development of the global oversight bodies that are familiar today.


Barner- Barry, Carol., Soviet Marxism-Leninism as a Mythology. Political Psychology. Vol 15, No 4, 1994, pp. 609-630. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/3791623?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents

Schofer, Mark., Meyer, J. “The Worldwide Expansion of Higher Education in the Twentieth Century”.  American Sociological Review. Vol 2, No. 4, 2005, pp 1-23. Retrieved https://doi.org/10.1177/000312240507000602

Wright, Mark. “Why is There No International Theory?”.The Journal of International Theory. Vol 4, No. 3, 1966, pp 40-57.1966. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-349-23773-9_2