Cover Image
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

IV. Self-reliance

a. Definition

Self-reliance is not a concept which attempts to offer alternative solutions; it explores the possibility of finding new, different social solutions, rather than some alternative technological solutions. This is probably the cause of great differences which exist within that approach. The concept of self-reliance should not include those views which actually advocate alternative, intermediate technological solutions under the label of self-reliance (Tinbergen). This concept - although not quite defined comprehensively - embraces attempts to devise certain social solutions which would enable technology and science to become the true agents and participants in different, socialist roads to development.

In this respect, self-reliance should include in its philosophical premises the use of those scientific and technological solutions which already exist. It does not reject the need for scientific and technological development. Nevertheless, it questions social assumptions on which scientific and technological development has been founded until now. This concept also may take advantage of some achievements of intermediate technology. Such achievements may be integrated into the framework of social forces, human needs, and goals of developing countries, taking into account each country's specific features.

This concept also will attempt to develop science and technology on a new basis, making it possible to avoid most negative aspects linked to the developed industrial society's socio-economic relations and its accompanying technology: pollution, irrational production, waste of materials and human resources, and so on.

Briefly, self-reliance implies attempts to enrich human life in all its aspects: moral, material, political, and cultural, but only in accordance with the possibilities, goals, and traditions of the given society, and - even more crucially - in accordance with the needs of the basic social agent: immediate producers, who are the creators of new social values.

Revolutionary changes and aspirations are not the privilege of any single society or region. Such aspirations are manifested and realized under different conditions, forms, and scopes. Revolutionary attitudes are the salient feature of the basic and most numerous social group in each modern society. Wherever the working class can be established in the form of an industrial proletariat, revolutionary efforts will be directed at effecting fundamental socialist changes. Revolutionary changes will have some different features in those developing countries where peasantry is the basic social force - and such countries are far more numerous than others. This can be observed by comparing the experiences of socialist revolutions of self-management with the experiences of pare-state enterprises.

The basic feature is the fact that modes of development different from those in capitalist societies are sought. It is only within the framework of the concept of self-reliance that scientific technological development has a chance to become the real element of social development, rather than a pale, imposed copy of the developed world.

Self-reliance is not tantamount to an attempt at self-isolation within one's own boundaries. Collective self-reliance provides this concept with an element of international validity, turning it into the seed of new cultural patterns. This not only enables but also spurs on the developing countries to devise experiences and solutions which may lead to negating all oppressive, exploitative characteristics of the existing capitalist civilization. Such a tendency should be viewed as an integral part of the general development of socialism.

b. Elements of the Concept

As I have already pointed out, the concept of self-reliance is neither homogeneous nor codified. It is therefore risky to outline its elements as a coherent, organized speculative or theoretical concept. It is nevertheless possible to outline some of its elements.

The basic tasks of scientific-technological parameters within the framework of this concept are as follows: a production increase which would lead to satisfying all basic needs of the people (sufficient food supply, consumer goods production, improved housing, medical services, and a higher level of education and culture in general); constant need to promote the role of the human-producer in the process of decision-making; better provision of information; greater participation of people in the process of determining local and social goals; liberation from the domination and rhythm of machine production; liberation from imposed goals and needs which are alien to a given society and which serve alien interests; abolition of make-believe freedom and creation of conditions where liberty would spring from the creative contribution and work of each individual; and the right to have different views and interests, but also the unification of those interests by those who create the material and spiritual wealth of every society - the producers themselves. There is no doubt that realizing such a concept requires a fundamental change in international relations, too. The struggle to change these relations is an integral element in realizing this concept. It is not easy, but it is not impossible either, to effect such a change. The new economic order and the struggle to establish it are indicative of all the difficulties, traps, and forces resisting change, but they also prove that efforts yield fruit at the end.

At the practical level, this concept requires the following:

1. Technology which is developed should be the result of needs and efforts of those who are using it; technology must be suited to the society which is using it; and technology should be an expression of that society.

2. The dilemma of developed technology versus intermediate technology is an artificial one; the real dilemma is how to create a technology which would be suitable to those who use it, while solving social problems facing the developing world.

3. Science and technology must help solve the contradictions of the developing countries, not those of the developed ones.

4. Technology must rest on the creative abilities of the members of each individual society, while using all existing knowledge; it should not be a spill-over from the developed countries.

5. Science and technology must solve theoretical and practical problems facing people in the developing countries when they manage their material and social resources and their society; they should pay more attention to social and humanitarian sciences, and develop them in accordance with the traditions and needs of each individual society.

6. Technology and science should instigate the development of new forms of labour and promote authentic societal values; if this is possible in music, there is no reason why it should not be so in science and technology.

7. Science and technology should contribute to the creation of a value system which would glorify not profit and material wealth but labour, independence, creativeness, and diversity, as well as unity which is founded on the toil and interests of the producers.

8. Science and technology are today already able to help the development of more democratic relations; they should continue to develop in that direction.

9. Association of society and production are indispensable; science in particular should indicate the possibilities of association which would not lead to centralization or exploitation, slavery, and subjugation.

To put all this in simple terms, if science and technology are to serve the cause of social development of the developing countries, they must not be a mere copy of alien schemes. They must represent a creative effort to overcome social contradictions on the basis of the interests and needs of associated producers. In this way, science and technology stand a chance of becoming true elements capable of helping develop a new, different civilization. This civilization would be free and authentic in so far as its creation is based on authentic national and human needs; on genuine capacities rather than mere transfers; on long-term goals rather than daily objectives; on the feeling of mutuality and international co-operation rather than exploitation and national egoism; on the involvement of all producers and their interests as the dominant factor rather than the interests of minority groups which are concerned with their own welfare only. Such a civilization would secure social progress but also social justice; unity but also diversity; development of science and technology but without any domination over people; international exchange but on the basis of equality. Its social pillar will be the immediate producers; they will be its inspirers and its builders.