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close this bookScience and Technology in the Transformation of the World (UNU, 1982, 496 p.)
close this folderSession II: Technology generation and transfer - Transformation alternatives
close this folderPhilosophy (concepts) of scientific and technological development
close this folderVladimir Slambuk
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentI. Development and underdevelopment
View the documentII. Definition of some basic terms
View the documentIII. Existing philosophies of scientific-technological development
View the documentIV. Self-reliance
View the documentBibliography

I. Development and underdevelopment

The terms over which different concepts clash are always laden with different meanings, ideological connotations and value judgments. Where such terms as "development" and "underdevelopment" are concerned, the issue is even more complex, since their meanings are linked to different concepts of social development, to different goals. It is therefore fruitless to attempt to give a comprehensive definition of those terms. This is even more obvious if we bear in mind that most scientific studies and research projects which presently come from highly developed capitalist countries do not even use the term "development." This tendency was particularly apparent in the works published before 1975. Early works by Toffler, the Club of Rome, projections by Kahn and the Hudson Institute all of them linked directly or indirectly with the problems of scientific and technological development - do not mention the question of development. At best they talk of growth.

It is not incidental that development was not mentioned, let alone analysed, in the scientific literature which dominated the world scientific community until the mid-1970s. Changes began only after the grave energy crisis shook the West. It became clear that the goals of social progress have to be linked not only to planning, but also to certain long-term projections, which would express the essence of socio-economic changes. Such long-term strategic orientation cannot be expressed through futurologist projections, which were very popular at a certain period in the 1970s. This has to be done through the suppositions, contradictions and possibilities of development, which are contained in the day-to-day life of existing societies (states).

True enough, it should be stated that the notion of development quickly entered daily scientific, political and even colloquial parlance - naturally with diverse and often very vague connotations. The study of development has swiftly led some theorists in the more developed western capitalist countries to the concept of over development. This was supposed to designate the level of development at which the pace of further development should be checked. This concept is closely connected with the zero growth theories. All those studies have failed to define development. They generally measured development in terms of per capita GNP, or they simply talked of the more developed, modern, productive output of goods. The problem of development is thus reduced to quantitative indicators in most theoretical papers or those coming from the more developed capitalist countries. So, for instance, the Second Report of the Club of Rome gave ten categories of development, while Kahn measured development and underdevelopment by the quantity of dollars per capita (the underdeveloped countries are supposed to be those with less than US$ 400, and which import more than they export).

On the other side, an entirely different approach has developed - mainly among scientists from developing countries. The notion of development is their central category, the pivot around which scientific arguments and critiques of the existing set of international economic relations are organized. Samir Amin and other scholars from Asia, Africa, and Latin America want to prove that developing countries also have the right to a more rapid socio-economic development. In this respect they demand depending on their theoretical orientation - more or less radical changes in the mode of production both in highly developed industrialized countries and in developing countries. They generally see the current production system as an addition to the world system of exploitation. Even those views, however, do not elaborate on development to a sufficient degree, nor is it a part of a coherent theoretical concept; it is rather used as the key term. It seems, however, that the term "development" would be more adequately determined through its linkage with a deep, fundamental critique of the existing mode of production. More specifically, this critique should concern the very aims of industrialization, that is, the critique of the existing civilizational strategic orientation.

This becomes even clearer if we look at what is meant by and described as underdevelopment. There is no general agreement here either, which is probably the consequence of different roads suggested as ways to overcome underdevelopment. Apparently, there are seven basic approaches to the problems of underdevelopment, and subsequently to the definition of this term. We should constantly bear in mind that underdevelopment is mainly derived from the notion of development, as its antipode. The first fairly widespread view among some Marxists is that the problem of underdevelopment does not exist at all. Using some of Marx's writings and ideas, such Marxists claim that the developed countries now are, in fact, what the developing countries of today will look like one day. Therefore, an inevitable historical process should be followed, and the developing countries are bound to reach a high level of development. Whole volumes have been written in favour of and against this view. Marx's ideas on the possible role of co-operatives in Slavic nations and on the possibility of socialism without a prior capitalist stage in Asia also are well known. The second group of theorists advocates the same thesis, in a way, though it is negatively determined. This is to say that, in their view, the existing underdeveloped countries remain underdeveloped because they have not been sufficiently exploited. In other words, if such countries were exploited to a higher degree, they would become an integral part of developed capitalism, and thus reach its present (that is, developed) level. This concept of underdevelopment rests on the theory that it is necessary to go through all stages of historical development completely and thoroughly in order to achieve development, or at least what is meant by that term today.

The third group concentrates on the unequal international position of certain countries, and on the subsequent division of countries into those which are developed, and those which are not. According to advocates of this view, such division is an inevitable consequence of inequality. Samir Amin thus talks of the relationship between the "periphery" and its "metropolis," pointing out that the latter "develops auto-centrically" at the former's expense. A similar view is offered by A. Emmanuel, and A. G. Frank also insists that the role of the integrated world market is decisive. Because of such diversity of dependence theories, we may claim that it represents the fourth theoretical approach to the issue of underdevelopment. The term "dependence" is mainly used to describe a country's dependence on some decisions which are made outside its boundaries. This dependence is related to the specialization of production, to imports and exports, to the form and level of foreign investment, to technological dependence on imported technology and know-how, to foreign policy pressures, to introduction of inappropriate cultural values and Weltanschauungen, and so forth. The fifth group of theorists departs from the view that an underdeveloped society is one which is not able to reach a certain level of GNP per capita (this level varies with increases in the wealth of highly developed countries). It should nevertheless be added that, besides the level of income, other characteristics also are mentioned with increasing frequency, such as a liberal capitalism-type democracy. This approach, therefore, includes all those definitions of underdevelopment as the antipode of the welfare state or as the opposite of the consumer society. All the views mentioned so far essentially see the capitalist mode of production as predominant and underdevelopment as the direct product of this dominance.

The sixth group of authors maintains that underdevelopment is the characteristic of certain productive relations. Some Latin American analysts thus blame feudal relations in Latin America's production system for the low level of development of their countries; capitalism is therefore not seen as the sole culprit. West European literature also indirectly blames the socialist mode of production as one of the causes of underdevelopment. This is best reflected in the classifications which can be found in the works of those theorists who emphasize total historical prevalence of the capitalist mode of production over its socialist counterpart (Bell and others). Since such classification is largely descriptive, and thus conditional, it is difficult to determine whether certain views generally fall into one group or another. Let us also mention the seventh group of authors, who maintain that underdevelopment is the essential characteristic of the highly developed capitalist world. They support their claim by pointing out that social differences keep increasing in capitalist countries (creating so-called "pockets of poverty"). In their view, the consequences of capitalism - destructive as they are - inevitably lead to underdevelopment, though the system is not necessarily underdeveloped at this moment in time.

It is obvious that discussions concerning development and underdevelopment are placed within the framework of existing historical practice, mainly within the framework of the capitalist mode of production. Let us return to an earlier remark. It is doubtful whether the problem of development can be solved solely on the basis of the existing historical situation, with the capitalist mode of production still predominant in the world and therefore the framework for solving contradictions of development still not substantially altered. There should be no doubt that it is possible to start looking for a different form of civilization and thus for a new mode of production. This new mode would have its roots in the theory and practice of socialism, in the experience of the developing world, and in the manifest shortcomings and contradictions of capitalism. The direction of theoretical reasoning and practical action should not, therefore, have its base exclusively in the critique of characteristics of contemporary capitalism. The direction which should be taken does not imply merely overcoming the capitalist mode of production.

The new, socialist - and thus different - civilization has to be based on the authentic, specific characteristics of those societies which are in search of an alternative road to development. The dominating values and goals have to be in many respects not only opposite to but also different from existing ones. They should be based not only on the differences in the actual capacities of individuals, but also on the differences in the capacities, needs, and possibilities of individual societies. At the same time, these capacities should not be taken to mean the mere sum-total of individuals and needs. They have to have their framework and their catalyst in the unity of potentials and interests of the broadest stratum of each society: the working class, the stratum which produces new social values. The experience of socialist countries and some developing countries already provides an outline of such possibilities. The diversity, the lack of coherence and the failures do not mean that there are no positive results. On the basis of this statement I shall proceed with my discussion of the philosophy of scientific and technological development.