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close this bookScience and Technology in the Transformation of the World (UNU, 1982, 496 p.)
close this folderSession IV: The control of space and power
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View the documentIntroduction
View the documentReport on session IV
Open this folder and view contentsToward a clearer definition of the role of science and technology in transformation
Open this folder and view contentsScience, technology, and politics in a changing world
Open this folder and view contentsThe technology of repression and repressive technology: The social bearers and cultural consequences
Open this folder and view contentsNuclear energy in Latin America: The Brazilian case


Gregory Blue

The key theme which underlay this session, placing it at the heart of the entire conference, was that of hegemony - the predominant control exercised by one or more foreign powers over the principle forms of the social life of a nation. The struggle against hegemonism is the struggle of a people to determine its own future within its own boundaries; and, as stated by Dr. Abdel-Malek in the last intervention here, the major problem facing the nations of the Third World today is precisely that of maintaining their political and cultural sovereignty. As noted by Dr. El-Kholy in his opening paper, solutions to this problem hinge on the ability of these nations to generate social and political systems that will ensure the efficient utilization of their human and natural resources. Dr. Pandeya pointed out that success in the fields of science and technology requires the formation of a broad popular scientific culture.

The problem of the roles of science and technology in the contemporary world is far from peripheral to the general problem of hegemonism, and many of the participants in this session stressed what Dr. Vidakovic termed the mystification of their objective social functions. Dr. El-Kholy, for example, noted that innovations imposed by the authority of an external power are more likely to serve as means of increased subjugation and alienation than as tokens of some transhistorical progress. Dr. SiIva Michelena in turn observed that technological optimism is an essential part of the developmentalist advertising being pushed by transnational corporations to assure "developing" countries of their bright prospects within the capitalist system. Examining the significance of nuclear energy for countries of the Third World, Dr. Pinguelli Rosa illustrated some of the typical complications that arise when a heavy technology is treated as an object of prestige rather than as an instrument for meeting popular needs, but he also noted that these countries can ignore such technologies only at the price of perpetuating foreign domination, and he stressed the importance of building up national independence in an all-round way. Dr. Vidakovic himself considered how, despite various forms of scientific-technological optimism, the militarization of the contemporary world economy is dominating the development of science and technology, harnessing them more and more to the purposes of repression and destruction and thus obstructing the realization of their great potential for improving the lot of the peoples of the world.

In the search for alternatives, Dr. El-Kholy spoke of the practical rather than the theoretical importance of the Third World's following complementary paths of national and collective self-reliance. Dr. Silva Michelena called for collective bargaining by Third World countries in regard to technology transfer, but he considered the logistic support by the Soviet Union as the most significant element in transforming global politics today. Dr. Vidakovic, on the other hand, emphasized the importance of uniting people around the world to fight against the repressive and militaristic perversions of contemporary science and technology.

During the discussion an important exchange took place concerning the evaluation of various forms of power. Dr. Furtado stressed that since the end of World War 11 the economic potentials of the Third World have been significantly strengthened when compared with world levels; he thus thought that they are objectively more capable of building up their technological infrastructures. Drs. Issa and Rasheeduddin Khan, among others, emphasized on the other hand that those Third World countries which have not undergone a fundamental political transformation freeing them from foreign domination have typically less power to dispose of their own natural resources as time goes on.

Anouar Abdel-Malek, Celso Furtado, Hossam Issa, Rasheeduddin Khan, Le Thanh Khoi, James A. Maraj, Kinhide Mushakoji, A. N. Pandeya, and Vladimir Stambuk took part in the discussion.