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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

Report on session IV

Vladimir Stambuk

1. In his introductory speech, Professor Osama el-Kholy talked about four basic topics. They were: In what way can we look for bridges to new solutions for solving the problems of science and technology in developing countries? How can developing countries use the knowledge and solutions which exist in developed countries? How should developing countries maintain their cultures and develop them? What are the roles of science and technology? Elaborating these topics, Professor el-Kholy suggested that one should relate oneself to the dominant values in a given society but underline that dominant values are not always those expressed by the government and the top political echelon. Much more often, the dominant values are discrepant to those expressed by the power structure and can be really found among the common people. We can look at the values related to development and make three basic assumptions:

- that this development pattern is desirable in itself and is suitable for our society, now and in the future;

- that its realization is possible to achieve nowadays just as it was possible to achieve in the past;

- that our own experience, so far, in following this path is encouraging.

Elaborating the second subject of his introduction, Professor el-Kholy stated: "Rather than swallow contemporary S&T as practiced outside our societies to dictate our socio-political systems alienating us from cultural roots, rather than let progress be an outside force beyond our control, we seek an order within which alienation disappears, or - at least - decreases, and within which man becomes master of S&T in our societies directing them rationally towards the goals of harmony and equilibrium with environment and resources; satisfaction of essential needs; justice and liberation of man's faculties on the basis of the positive elements in our cultural heritage; and not the dictates of profit maximization that currently prevail in international relations. This is the essence of self-reliance, reliance on liberated creativity and sound traditions." Freedom and democracy cannot be developed if we look upon science as a deterministic approach to knowledge with strict unchangeable laws. This kind of approach reduces human endeavours to oppression. If the term "scientific" is used to determinate people who are not laymen, then science is unable to promote free and englobing research.

Professor el-Kholy expressed his concern at the polarization of science and technology due to the emergence of big science and the R&D multi-disciplinary establishment. He talked also of the use of TNCs as the most efficient form of integrated techno-economic activities and the greatest promoter and investor in innovation.

Professor el-Kholy especially emphasized the importance of taking note of the deterioration of international relations.

The threats of armed interventions which are on the horizon bring the possibility that the 1980s will see a further deterioration in international relations in the world. That will have among other effects a negative impact on the further development of science and technology in developing countries. The fact that developing countries have not enough information about themselves does not help in the process of communication and collaboration among developing countries. This fact is becoming more negative through a situation where we do not have, in developing countries, an articulated theory of change and development,

2. In his presentation Professor J. Agustin Silva Michelena asked for what change is taking place. He stated he believes that man is producing his own history, but also that history influences what kind of men we shall have in the future. He presumed that the future is going to be some kind of socialism, but, in his opinion, the character of the modes of production will influence that future. Some elements of the future mode of production already exist today.

Professor Silva Michelena stressed that he believes we are nearly at the end of an era. The period which is ending now started after the big crisis in 1930, reached its peak in 1960 and now is ending, giving way to a new transnational organization of capital. This new way is characterized by two facts: the first is represented by the further expansion of a new social division of labour and the second in the concentration of means of production in the transnational. Up to now, about five to six countries have been included in the process of transnationalization. But, in the view of Professor Silva Michelena, more of them will be included in the future which will lead to a new proletarianization of the working masses. This will be achieved mainly by further development of the technology of management.

The multinationals are more and more collaborating with the local elite, composed of the new bourgeoisie, army elements, politicians, and so on. This co-operation brings a further deterioration in the fulfillment of the basic needs of the working masses. Professor Silva Michelena elaborated some of his geopolitical views stressing that the geopolitical situation of today has basically changed since the 1950s. At that time clashes between the USSR and the USA might have happened over Europe. The balance of nuclear power changed that dynamic. Political and economic differentiation, the over-exploitation of underdeveloped countries, and the fact that the USSR can increasingly give logistic help to revolutionary movements around the world produce a constant imbalance in international relations. In his opinion, Latin America might become, in the 1980s or 1990s, the Africa of today.

To further their domination, the developed countries' elites are developing a new ideology which is a revitalization of the "modernization" theory of the mid-1950s. The main core of this ideology rests on technology and science, on concepts like appropriate technology, which serve to increase control over the developing countries and not to promote better life conditions. What is really happening is that developing countries are treated as clients and not as partners.

3. Professor Luiz Pinguelli Rosa, in his introductory speech, elaborated the role of nuclear energy in developing countries using the example of Brazil. The starting point was that energy policies must be related to the overall economic policy of the country. in developing nuclear energy, ecological considerations must also be present. Decisions related to nuclear energy are political decisions. They have always to be understood as such. To demonstrate this point Professor Rosa used a number of data concerning existing and future reactor-building in Latin America, especially in Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico.

In his view, Brazil should promote its nuclear energy for the sake of its future energy needs. But it is also obvious that Brazil is building today nuclear reactors for prestige. Hydro-energy has not been sufficiently used in Brazil. It seems that Brazil is using about 12 per cent of its hydro-energy. Professor Rosa emphasized that nuclear energy can be a part of the energy policy of developing countries, especially those which are poor in other energy resources.

In the lively discussion which followed, ten speakers took part. Three main topics related to the position papers were discussed. The first was what are the characteristics of existing societies and how can they shape technical and scientific transformation.

The second topic was related to power, its different aspects, and its role in the development of science and technology.

The third topic was geopolitical considerations related to existing international relations.

Part of the discussion related to the characteristics of existing societies was concentrated on the analysis of modern capitalism. Following the idea expressed by Professor Silva Michelena, a number of speakers underlined the fact that the role of the multinational companies was increasing in the cultural, scientific, and technological aspects of life. This points up the need to define what kind of technology and science will be developed by the multinational companies and in which way the developing countries should meet that challenge. One of the ideas expressed was that developing countries possessing a large number of scientifically and technologically trained people have not yet been able to translate these potentials into a force of transformation. The scientific community is not able to transmit new ideas related to development to the population. The existing knowledge today is less understandable to the Indian population, for example, than it was in 1947. There is therefore a constant need of integration between scientific knowledge and mass support, oriented to transformation, in the developing countries.

The largest part of the discussion was concentrated on the question of power and its role in the transformation of society, including technology and science. Five elements were suggested at the beginning as the sources of power: control of international markets; control of international finance; control of non-renewable resources; control of cheap manpower, and control of technology. It was stressed that developing countries can control the four first factors and are yet unable to control the fifth. To these elements, during the discussion, some more were added. Control of knowledge and information was stressed as the most important aspect through which influence is being realized over the developing countries.

Another element was added: political power; and a criticism was expressed concerning the control which the developing countries have over the four elements. Expressed opinion was judged as over-optimistic.

The role of politicians was also discussed and the ambiguity of their position between the pressure of the masses for solving every-day needs and the impossibility of leading political structures in developing countries to solve them accordingly. That is why politicians make deals with multinational companies and develop industrialized societies, in order to maintain their power. The multinationals, using the principle of divide and rule, augment their domination over developing countries by a process in which political structures have often been included. There is a feeling that politicians should be educated too. This education should be concentrated on political strategies, open to developing countries. Scientists and university people are not always welcome as advisers to politicians, because they usually put forward views which are not in accordance with the choices open at the pragmatic political level. In that context, the role of the United Nations University, as an objective international institution, was stressed and a hope was expressed that the activity of the University will be more intensive in that direction.

It seems that there are three possible relations in the promotion of science and technology between highly developed countries and multinationals, on one side, and the developing countries, on the other side. They are:

(a) developing countries becoming client states under the political hegemony of an industrial state, which facilitates the operations of transnational corporations;

(b) such countries becoming dependent on the transnational corporations, under the influence of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund; and

(c) such countries developing regional co-operation as emphasized in the document on non-aligned countries, and discussed at the seminar as collective self-reliance.

The third relation is the more acceptable one, but has not produced the expected results. Countries which have opted for the first relation register economic growth without effecting much-needed social-cultural transformation.

In the dichotomy of the hegemony of economism, and the hegemony of ethical normativism, we have to look for a solution which will be related to the parameters of power. The problem is: How to undergo transformation but remain sovereign and creative?

In this aspect, the role of the state is very important. The topic of the seminar was not related to problems of the state, but its role must be emphasized in further discussions. Thinking about "science and technology," and the transformation of societies, we must insist on reality and the possibilities which reality is offering us.

The discussions in the workshop on theme 4 may be summarized as follows.

The disarray of the present world situation seems to offer - in spite of its being fraught with obvious dangers - a wider variety of options for the developing countries to establish better control over their future development. While admitting the existence of possibilities for transformations in social, economic, and political structures, it should also be noted that ensuing conflicts will be more complex and sharp and that the capabilities of the adversaries are much greater, qualitatively and quantitatively.

On one level, we see that in the long run it is the developing countries which have expanding markets, financial resources, non-renewable resources, and manpower reserves. They do not, as yet, command technology as a resource which might make up for deficiency in any of the other resources, and technology has become the main source of power - a fact that highlights the role of science and technology in world transformation.

On a more profound level, it is recognized that no one set of variables can be operationalized without addressing the specificities of each particular situation, of which there is considerable variety in the world today. The potentials amenable to mobilization in a situation where a nation has a long history of consolidated existence are quite different from those where even the concept of nationhood is new or inapplicable.

The specificities should, furthermore, be coupled with other factors in the international situation. There are emerging nowadays in the developed world allies of the developing world, particularly in the area of the production and dissemination of knowledge. The UN University can play an important role here, one that may create a conscience that triggers, later on, significant results. Public opinion in the North is gradually mobilizing against intervention through direct action in Third World affairs.

Attempts at regaining social control of techno-economic activities are thwarted in the name of economic rationality and efficiency and the adoption of consumption patterns that favour the expansion of the activities of TNCs in alliance with local capital and even state enterprises.

The importance of specificity can be seen also in the isolation of scientific technological potentials of nations and states and the fact that political constraints prevent the fusion into critical masses that would render D&T effective in transformation.

Rejecting the options of isolation or becoming a vassal or client state or dependent on TNCs, the option of regional joint action needs exploration within this framework, and complementarities, leading to greater national control and power, within the existing constraints. These aspects have been examined in considerable detail in the many documents proposed by the UNCTAD Conferences, reflecting the genuine concerns and requirements of the newly liberated, socio-economically backward countries of the developing world. The only way out is to generate simultaneously social mobilization for cohesive socio-economic transformation in each specific country, together with linking efforts for joint concerted action based on collective self-reliance - the strategy spelt out in the political and economic documents of the summit conferences of the non-aligned nations from Algeria to Colombo and Havana.

It has been stressed also that a new source of power is assuming an increasing importance: the control of information and knowledge. The international mass media are diffusing a world culture based on the ideology and system of values of the industrialized countries. Now, 65 per cent of information messages are produced in and diffused from the United States. The press, radio, TV are such powerful instruments that they are able not only to manipulate public opinion but also, as has occurred, to destabilize governments. The world information system is now an ideological apparatus which contributes to the continuance of the existing international order.

Special emphasis was given to scientific knowledge and technical information as important tools for the control of power in the world. Such a kind of control has been often used by the rich countries with the goal of maintaining their domination of the underdeveloped countries. In this sense, the role of multinational corporations is just that of control of the productive activities in the underdeveloped countries which have no autonomy to decide on their own future.

The optimistic point of view that multinational corporations play some positive role in broadening modern technology is largely negated by the effect of domination of underdeveloped countries in all aspects: economic, cultural, etc.

Science and technology related to the concept of development are emerging as a new ideology of modernization. It is a part of an ideological attempt to control the development of developing countries and is obscuring the real relations between developed and developing countries. The causal relations between development and underdevelopment are lost, and causes of underdevelopment are hidden to view. It is an attempt to eliminate the values of socialist revolution by the ideological concepts of modernization.