Modernisation is synonymous with Westernisation in cases where underdeveloped societies use western models to bring about a social change in their societies. However, according to Prof. M.N. Srinivas, the term Westernisation is ethically neutral, in that, it does not claim to be a process of social change that is good or bad for the society. Most authors, however, regard modernisation as a positive and desirable change in any society.
Westernisation in India can be classified into three prominent phases: pre-British, pre-independence and post-independence westernisation.
Prior to the British reign, India was a highly traditional society that afforded few opportunities for social change. Westernisation initiated India’s transition from an extremely rigid and static society that it was, to a dynamic and flexible society which it is today. Westernisation also facilitated industrialisation, urbanisation and secularisation in India.
In the pre-independence period, the British rule brought with it western influences that triggered fundamental changes in the Indian society. The growth of science and technology, the advancement of transport and communication, the invention of the printing press, the institution of an intricate and orderly bureaucratic structure, the introduction of a new educational and legal system, the establishment of a uniform police service and a new army structure, brought about a gradual ideological change in the Indian society.
Individualism and humanitarianism were encouraged and this lead to social reforms that put an end to many social injustices. Religious customs became subject to law and reason. These factors presented opportunities for an accelerated social mobility in British India.
Post-independence, the western societies of Europe, America and Canada have greatly influenced social change in India. These changes are evident in almost all facets of daily life, be it the mode of dressing, hair styles, music and dancing preferences, use of slang and abuses or the fast-food (Coke and McDonald) culture.