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Choosing our own pathways to progress

from Asad Zaman

Pride resulting from global dominance and spectacular scientific and technological developments led Europeans to believe that the West was the most advanced and developed of all societies. Other societies were primitive and under-developed. As these other societies matured and grew, they would follow the same stages that were followed by the West, and eventually become like modern Western societies. Early thinkers like Comte described the stages in growth from primitive society to modern ones in a ‘logical’ sequence. The enterprise of colonizing the non-European world was painted in bright terms as being part of the “White Man’s burden” of bringing enlightenment, good government, science, technology and other benefits of Western civilization to the rest of the world. Until the 60’s modernization theorists, like Parsons and Rostow echoed these sentiments, regarding Westernization as a desirable and inevitable process for the rest of the world. The goal of this article is to discuss some of the difficulties which led to substantial reconsideration of these naïve views. Current views (for example, Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen) are much more complex and diverse, and generally more respectful of other ancient civilizations in the world.  read more

  1. January 21, 2018 at 6:35 pm

    I wouldn’t throw away the child with the bath water. Yes, the West has committed many horrors, yes, neo-classical economics has wrought havoc in poor (and in rich) countries, and no, development theory has not held. But in institutional terms the non-West could do worse than to pick up on the separation of powers, civil liberties, a more-or-less independent press, social services, and more or less impartial civil services. With all that is still wrong in the western countries, other nations would do well to analyze and take over what has worked well. Too often, the call of non-western leaders for their countries to follow their own development path has been an excuse for suppressing human rights and political freedom. In terms of development and providing in the needs of the population the only place where a dictatorship has been successful is Singapore – the exception to the rule that too much power corrupts. And to some extent, in the past, South Korea and Taiwan, which interestingly, in the later stages of development evolved into democracies.
    As for development paths: current recommendations for economic development will not work as long as society depends on private, profit-driven banks for our money supply. Only monetary reform towards a system based on debt-free public money creation can set in motion genuine economic, social and ecologically sustainable development. Unfortunately, economic dogma and economists form the biggest obstacle to the needed reform. See http://www.new-economics.info.

  2. Rob
    January 21, 2018 at 10:47 pm

    Thank you Frans, I checked your site out, bookmarked, and saved a couple of your books to my wish list as I have blown my book budget for the month ;-) I like your golden mean approach and pragmatism, being from a business and start up background.

    What role do you see enlightened religion playing in this economic renewal Frans?

    Asad, have you read Beyond the Secular West (Religion, Culture, and Public Life)
    by Akeel Bilgrami (http://a.co/gZVg7fa). I was at the bookstore today reading it and it made me think of you. I especially liked the section on Akbar and his religious tolerance. It seems religion does have a role in the economic renewal (see Nelson, Sedlacek, Leonard, and Zaman), as the motivating roots in the US extend back into early nineteenth century social gospel movement.

    Economics of Good and Evil: The Quest for Economic Meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street
    by Tomas Sedlacek et al.
    Link: http://a.co/bvY1BxD

    Economics as Religion: From Samuelson to Chicago and Beyond
    by Robert H. Nelson
    Link: http://a.co/5IN5Dww

    Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics, and American Economics in the Progressive Era
    by Thomas C. Leonard
    Link: http://a.co/i1TrnJX

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