Modernity may be understood as the common behavioural system that is historically associated with the urban, industrial, and literate and participant societies of Western Europe and North America. It is characterised by a rational and scientific world-view, growth and the ever increasing application of science and technology, which is coupled with the continuous adaptation of the institutions of society to the imperatives of the world-view and the emerging technological ethos.
Modernity involves the rise of modern society (secularised societies with an institutional separation of the state from civil society, a much greater degree of social and technical division of labour, and the formation of nation-states uniting cultural and political borders), a rationalistic epistemology, and an individualistic and objectivistic ontology.
A series of societal changes are implicit in the process of modernisation. Agrarian societies are characterised by the predominance of ascriptive, particularistic and diffused patterns; they have stable local groups and limited spatial mobility. Occupational differentiation is relatively simple and stable; and the stratification system is deferential and has a diffused impact.
The modern industrial society is characterised by the predominance of universalistic, specific and achievement norms; a high degree of mobility; a developed occupational system relatively insulated from other social structures; a class system often based on achievement; and the presence of functionally specific, non-ascriptive structures and associations.
Historically evolved institutions continuously adapt themselves to the changes dictated by the phenomenal increase in the human knowledge that has resulted from the control humanity has over its environment.
Modernisation, as a form of cultural response, involves attributes which are basically universalistic and evolutionary; they are pan-humanistic, trans-ethnic and non-ideological. The essential attribute of modernisation is rationality.