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close this bookScience and Technology in the Transformation of the World (UNU, 1982, 496 p.)
close this folderSession III: Biology, medicine, and the future of mankind
close this folderRestructuring a framework for assessment of science and technology as a driving power for social development: a biosociological approach
close this folderYuji Mori
View the documentI. Introduction - The darwinian and ned-darwinian systems
View the documentII. Sociobiology or biosociology? how to view humans and their society
View the documentIII. Three levels of production and consumption
View the documentIV. Needs
View the documentV. Science and technology as cultural phenomena
View the documentVI. The turning point of social development: space and time
View the documentNotes

V. Science and technology as cultural phenomena

Production activities in modern society are being carried out through science and technology. To the human members of society, this means labour. Imanishi gives a biosociological definition of labour as follows: "The effect that living things make to support themselves is not labour. Speaking from the position of a self-centred organism, no further requirement exists. When effort is made to support others besides oneself, however, this additional effort is what equals labour. In this sense, therefore, until a situation arose in which originally, non-essential items became essential, labour did not exist." Why did such a situation appear? Imanishi continues: "If we hypothesize a danger on the level of preserving the species, i.e., that if the male did not support the female then she would not be able to raise the young, then we can provide an explanation for the origin of labour at the same time as the origin of the family." Hence, Imanishi regards that "the ape changed to man at the time that the herd changed to the family (even if there appeared no morphological and physical difference to distinguish between the two, there was certainly a revolution in the mode of life)," and that this "brought about a revolution in social structure."7

To Imanishi, therefore, more important than the origin of labour is the fact that it played a revolutionary role in changing the life of man. We may add, moreover, that even though tools have been produced and employed, and even though the development of these tools has led to the construction of the enormous system of science and technology that exists today, no change has occurred regarding the social development of labour.

Serious misgivings and disappointments seem to be spreading concerning the environmental destruction brought about by science and technology and the alienation of man from his labour. The increase in the destructiveness of war through high-powered weapons is the result of science and technology, too. Perhaps science and technology are actually working to oppress society and its people.

The Industrial Revolution in Europe led to the perfection of modern science and technology, for it freed production power and brought about social development. I would like to make two points, however. The first pertains to science and technology as the motivating powers for social development for all of mankind and as universal, general principles. The second pertains to modern science and technology, that is, science and technology formed against a European social and cultural background. This could also be called the cultural element in science and technology. It is quite natural that in the European world both of the above have been a co-existent whole, rooted in society. At the same time, however, it is natural for problems to arise when western science and technology are transplanted to a society with a different culture. In order for the universal and general principles of science and technology to become the power to bring about social development, it is necessary to clarify needs from the analytical perspective previously mentioned. This is essential if science and technology are to root themselves in non-western societies as culture.

Yet here, too, two problems arise. When we speak of needs, for example, no matter what level we are referring to, they are not simply those of which we are fully aware or conscious, but rather exist as objectively definable requirements dependent upon the state of the society's culture. Thus, the needs of someone who is ill are not only those of which the patient is aware; even if the patient is not aware of his needs, the doctor, through application of his medical knowledge of illness and disease, appropriately meets the patient's needs, that is, provides treatment. The same rules apply to accepting science and technology as the force to bring about social development.

The second point pertains to what I mentioned earlier about culture as a species. Living things are able to maintain themselves as a species because cross-breeding does not occur. In the case of culture as a species, however, the reverse is true; culture arises through mutual Influence and receptivity. While this is occurring, moreover, culture as a species is blossoming in areas which are maintaining and developing independence. From this perspective, we are reminded that behind the establishment of modern science and technology lies western societies' receptivity to Arabian science. the reason modern science and technology are not carrying out their ordinal role of providing power for social development and are instead operating dysfunctionally is quite simple: in short, it is the liberation of social productive power to an extent previously unwitnessed in human history. The accumulation of an enormous social surplus has resulted from this liberation of productive power. Even today, this process seems to be continuing unabated. I have already explained how the social surplus created a hierarchical structure in human society. This hierarchical structure has continued to operate oppressively in human society from the time of slavery. In fact, such a system is nothing more than a difference in the nature of the problem surrounding the control and possession of social surplus.

Of course, to say that the reason modern science and technology are not carrying out their original roles is simple is not to say that the solution to the problem is equally simple. In order to satisfy needs on various levels, the social surplus must be utilized. From the perspective of this analysis, I would raise two questions: First, is it too much to expect some kind of contribution to be made in order to free social surplus? Second, is it impossible to approach the solution to this problem from the perspective of science and technology as a cultural phenomenon?