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close this bookScience and Technology in the Transformation of the World (UNU, 1982, 496 p.)
close this folderSession V: From intellectual dependence to creativity
close this folderReport on session V
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Ahmad Your Harlan

1. Dr. Guillermo Bonfil Batalla presented his paper on "The Recuperation and Appropriation of Social Sciences in the Context of Endogeneous Cultural Projects." The paper discusses the relationship between traditional social knowledge and formal social sciences in the case of the native peasant Indian peoples of Latin America.

In the first and second parts, four main points are made:

(a) All societies need scientific social knowledge in order to invent and build their own futures.

(b) Western social sciences have no universal validity and they cannot cope adequately with problems faced by other peoples with different civilizations.

(c) The knowledge about society, e.g., in the case of Latin American Indian peoples about their own societies, is not institutionalized nor systematically organized.

(d) The social science which is needed to help these peoples in their liberation effort must include the systematic knowledge both of their own societies and of the dominant hegemonic societies.

Next, the paper discusses the problem of a new, emerging Indian intelligentsia, as a product of different factors: expansion of school system, migration, etc.

A new intelligentsia is needed in order to concentrate, develop, and formalize traditional knowledge about society and, at the same time, to introduce in this knowledge adequate information and methodological tools of the formal social sciences. The intelligentsia is a first step in the process of institutionalization of traditional knowledge. Without an institutional knowledge, it is very difficult to have an equalitarian dialogue between western and Indian social thought.

Finally the political perspectives of the new Indian intelligentsia are discussed. All the forces and interests of the established political and economic system play against the independence and progressive role of the Indian intelligentsia. The only chance is to become an organic intelligentsia, deeply rooted in the true interest of their own people.

2. Dr. Miroslav Pecuilic presented his paper entitled "On the Edge of a Razor Blade: The New Historical Blocs and Socio-cultural Alternatives in Europe." The paper dealt with the greatest challenge of all: the creation of knowledge suited to our epoch, its fascinating possibilities, and its cruel dangers. The first part of the paper dealt with the two faces of science and technology. In one face social progress was equated with technological growth. The other face came with the slogan "technology inevitably dehumanizes and enslaves man." Part two of the paper spoke about the pathology of power and science, and part three of the new protagonists - social movements and organic intelligentsia. In part four he spoke about the alternatives striving for a new quality of human existence. At the end of the paper he spoke about self-reliance and solidarity or autonomy and new universality.

In speaking about the other face of science and technology, it is stated that it is of decisive importance to realize that science and technology are not negative factors in themselves; they turn into that when becoming part of an antagonistic social arrangement. What we are seeking is a new type of society, of civilization, which is to be a more favourable framework for the development of the authentic potentials of man.

The new culture or civilization cannot be built without international solidarity. Without mutuality, there is no autonomy.

The coming era has opened a glorious but also a critical period of overall interdependence. We are living in a planetary world society. A pluralism of cultures is necessary in order to have the world become a society which is not uniform and indistinguishable. Only autonomy, independence, and equality can be a path leading towards universal richness. Differences will remain. But the decisive question is whether they will turn into hostility and antagonism. (The full text of the paper is included as section V of this report.)

3. Tetsuro Nakaoka spoke about "Science and Technology in the History of Modern Japan - Imitation or Endogenous Creativity?". He exposed the relation between exogenous and endogenous influences in scientific and technical development exemplified by the particular case of Japan in the mid-nineteenth century. Citing the example of the Kamaishi Iron Works it is concluded that science and technology must have their roots in the culture of society. It is impossible for developing countries to make any progress without any imitation or borrowing of technology. Europe learned from the highly advanced Arabic, Indian, and Chinese cultural areas. Examples are cited from the Japanese experience. New technology is acquired and assimilated in "leaps." Japan's technological development can be understood as passing through a series of leaps. The paper spoke about the dynamics of interaction between exogenous and endogenous forces. It also spoke about the gap between the advanced areas and the backward areas of the economy in Japan. The paper concludes that technological leaps can be regarded as elements of dynamic progress in society. They can work as excellent incitements to endogenous creativity; in other conditions they can become the starting point for serious conflicts.

4. Dr. Zvonimir Damjanovic spoke in his paper about "Science and Technology as Organic Parts of Contemporary Culture." The paper elaborates certain theses: (1) That science cannot be developed primarily through needs of local, divided, practical activities in detail. A broad population should be cultivated in science. (2) Technology has grown out of and over its old frame, which was mere application of basic knowledge. Competence in technology is not a matter of choice, of some local priorities. It appears as a part of basic culture of a broad enough population. (3) Science and technology are not a set of recipes. They are rather a way of thinking. The spirit of science cannot be bottled.(4) As collective intellect science and technology are deeply rooted in the human race. No national culture will survive unless it makes space within itself for the all-human complement of scientific-technological culture. (5) Far from creating unemployment, science and technology liberate man from dull work, from over-work. They render the majority of people competent, not only for technical but also for social and political matters. (6) Developing countries are in great need of the development of science and technology. But the problems are not specific to them. All countries are equally faced with the problems of adaptation to the new developments.

5. Mr. Gregory Blue presented his position paper entitled "Joseph Needham's Contribution to the History of Science and Technology in China," and he dealt with three points concerning the development of the national sciences. First of all, he pointed out that medieval China, like other non-European civilizations, had a relatively high level of medieval science and technology, in relation to Europe. Transmission of technology and knowledge of natural phenomena from China to Europe was large and attests to the international and cumulative nature of techno-scientific advance. Traditional China, like other civilizations, formulated problems and generated techniques which represented key factors both in transforming medieval Europe and in the eventual development of distinctively modern science.

The second point concerned the relation between traditional and modern science. It was noted that traditional science, e.g., in China, did have sophisticated bodies of theory, controlled experimentation, etc.; but it remained fixed in untestable, ethnicbound categories. Modern science, on the other hand, uses universalized, mathematical experimentation in order to test its fundamental categories; it thus tends to become oecumenical. Discussion was given to the temporal lag between development of modern science and the realization of its oecumenical character.

The third point concerned the fact that the written material recording the achievements of traditional Chinese science and technology is only one source of knowledge of the tradition, for much valuable traditional knowledge remains alive among the people. A government policy can facilitate tapping of this knowledge by creating conditions in which both traditional science and modern science are geared to the basic interests of the people.