The process of globalization, the expansion of the economic ties and phenomenon of multiculturalism are the main features of the modern social evolution which can be considered as the aspects of modernity. The notion of modernity is relevant for discussing the processes by which the development of the contemporary United Arab Emirates (UAE) is characterized.
If several decades ago the UAE was discussed as the progressive political unit of the Middle East, nowadays the UAE is directed to take the competitive position among the most developed countries of the world. To understand the features of developing the concept of modernity in the UAE, it is necessary to analyze the peculiarities of the emirates’ social and cultural progress, the impact of globalization and the other worldwide processes on the country’s growth with references to the influential theories on modernity worked out by Emile Durkheim, Karl Marx, Max Weber, and George Simmel. Modernity in the UAE is the complex process which is based on the aspects of the social, cultural, and religious peculiarities of the Islamic world and on the elements of the global practices developed in the economic field. The economic growth of the UAE which influenced the general development of the country and the shift of its position at the global arena is caused by the effective usage of the natural oil resources of the territories. The progress of the oil industry affected the expansion of the country’s relations with the other states. Today the most successful emirates of the country are Abu Dhabi and Dubai. It is possible to say that these emirates are the fringe between the Western and Islamic worlds in relation to the economy, business, social life, and culture.
Abu Dhabi and Dubai are the most luxurious territories in the Islamic world where people can find the examples of using almost all the technological innovations. The progress of these emirates allows thinking about the interdependence of the sociological concept of modernity with the scientific notion of futurism. In spite of the fact the UAE has developed economic interactions with many Asian countries such as Japan, and the UAE is the home for a lot of immigrants who come to the country to work, the closest relations are established within the Islamic world. The people from the UAE are inclined to associate themselves with the other Muslims, compare their country with the other ones of the Islamic world, and emirates also compete with each other.
Nevertheless, the modern tendencies of the world’s development also influenced the visions of the public in the UAE. For instance, the impact resulted in expanding the possibilities for women to get the education and acquire definite work positions (Wagner, 2012). In his works, Emile Durkheim associated the phenomenon of modernity with such processes as the social competition of the people caused by the division of labor in the world and the growth of the individual’s significance as opposed to the notions of the traditional culture and religion (Emirbayer & Cohen, 2003). According to Karl Marx, the division of labor is based on alienation is one of the features of modernity (Antonio & Cohen, 2002). However, the progress of modernity for the UAE only partially addresses these characteristics. The peculiarities of the culture and religion are still the fundament of the Islamic society in the UAE without references to the impact of the Western views. All the modern Western trends are implemented in the UAE according to the social, religious, and cultural peculiarities of the country (“Arab liberalism and democracy”, 2004).
The issue of modernity in relation to the UAE depends on a lot of controversies in the social and cultural life. Thus, the main task of the emirates’ leaders is to provide the competitive economic growth of the country with referring to the process of globalization and preserve the cultural identity of the country. The population of such successful emirates as Abu Dhabi and Dubai can be discussed as multiethnic because of a great number of immigrants (Held & Ulrichsen, 2011).
The representatives of the cultures different from the Arab culture do not follow Islam, and the increase of the number of immigrants and intensification of the interactions can be discussed as dangerous for the UAE, but the real facts support the idea that the cultural and religious identity of Muslims is too strict to be influenced and changed significantly. That freedom associated with modernity which was discussed by George Simmel depends on the laws and rules of the Islamic world (Kim, 2009). Max Weber determined the features of the modernity with accentuating the decrease of the role of religion, emphasizing such notions as rationalization, bureaucratization, and intellectualization (Weber, 2005). In this case, only rationalization and intellectualization can be considered as the influential points for the modern UAE.
In spite of the possible threats of globalization and modernity for the UAE with the increase of the impact of the Western values, the Islamic world preserves its peculiarities and combines the achievements of the economic and technological progress and modernization with diminishing the possible negative effects of modernity as the social phenomenon.
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