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(1) En fecha reciente tuve un afortunado encuentro con mis co legas Roberto Cardoso de Oliveira (brasileño), Julio Cotler (peruano) y Jean Casimir (haitiano); en animada charla informal discutimos sobre la relación entre ciencia social y conocimiento tradicional indio. Aprovecho libremente aquí algunas de las ideas expresadas por ellos, pero asumo totalmente la responsabilidad del texto.

(2) Jomo Kenyatta, Facing Mount Kenya, Vintege Books, New -York, 1965.

(3) Me refiero a la Alianza Nacional de Profesionales Indígenas Bilingües, ANPIDAC, con sede en la Ciudad de México.

(4) ANPIBAC, Primer seminario nacional de educación bilinagüe-bicultural. Fundamentos, instrumentos de investigación y agenda de trabajo, México, 1979.

(5) Sobre el discurso político de las nuevas organizaciones políticas Indias en América Latina, ver mi ensayo "La nueva presencia política de los indios: un reto a la creatividad latinoamericana., presentado en el Simposio sobre cultura y - creatividad intelectual en América Latina, celebrado en México en abril de 1979 (en prensa).

(6) Desarrollé con mayor amplitud este tema en el articulo -"Las nuevas organizaciones indígenas. Hipótesis para la formulación de un modelo analíticos, Journal de la Société des -Américanistes, tomo LXV, págs. 209-219, París.

(7) Es posible que exista una diferencia entre la intelectualidad formada por maestros y promotores bilingües, que tienen una escolaridad formal de nivel medio, y el grupo de profesionales, científicos e intelectuales de procedencia universitaria. En algunos casos éstos últimos tienden a excluir a los primera y, por su parte, maestros y pro» tares actúan frecuentemente por la vía gremial en la que no pueden participar los demás.

(8) El Dr. Carlos Guzmán Bockler lleva a cabo actualmente una investigación sobre el proceso de consolidación y recuperación del espacio económico regional por los quichés de Guatemala, en la que se analiza con detalle el papel que desempeña la "burguesía Indias. Los resultados serán publicados próxima mente por el Centro de Investigaciones Superiores del INAH, en México.

(9) Aun en los casos en que se niega todo valor a las ciencias sociales occidentales, se hace algún uso de ellas en los textos indios. En ocasiones se recurre a científicos sociales no indios que están marginados o son excluidos del establishment académico, pero que finalmente forman parte (la parte heterodoxa) de la tradición científica occidental.

(10) Menciono una experiencia en curso: el Programa de Formación profesional en Etnolingüística que se inicio recientemente te en Pátzcuaro, Mich., México. Se trata de un proyecto para formar, a nivel profesional universitario pero dentro de un programa especial, a una primera generación de estudiantes de origen indio. El plan de estudios comprende materias de Lingüística, Historia y Antropología Social. La orientación básica del Programa consiste, precisamente, en estimular el diálogo entre el conocimiento tradicional y las ciencias sociales. Cf: "Programa de formación profesional de Etnolingüística., Noticias del CIS-INAH, vol. II, nüm. 1; enero-febrero, 1979, México.

On the edge of a razor blade: the new historical blocs and socio-cultural alternatives in Europe

Miroslav Pecuilic and Zoran Vidakovic

Miroslav Pecuilic and Zoran Vidakovic

I. The new janus - Two faces of science and technology
II. The pathology of power and science
III. The new protagonist - social movements and organic intelligentsia
IV. Dramatic birth of alternatives
V. Self-reliance and solidarity (autonomy and new universality)


There are certain moments in life which are milestones, when we are compelled to regard the past and present with an eagle eye in order to become aware of our true position. Even world history is inclined to looking back this way in order to understand itself. The contemporary world is living in such an age. The end of the twentieth century is a period abounding in sharp and crucial turns of events, in which something gigantic is dying and something new, colossal, is being born. Whether this epoch will represent a step towards the liberation of people and communities or a new technical barbarity, whether it will degenerate into lower, give birth to higher, forms of life depends on our ability to offer a vision of a new world, a new civilizational alternative.

The hegemony of the old world is not being maintained only through repression, but also through cultural hegemony, the enslavement of consciousness - through the dominant patterns of production, technological and industrial development, patterns of consumption, types of urbanization. These patterns appear to be the only possible, eternal forms, with the appearance of fate itself; a different world seems inconceivable. The destruction of intellectual creativity thus becomes equal to the destruction of the future.

The ability to conceive new visions or to prevent their genesis is becoming the decisive battlefield. We are confronted by the greatest challenge of all - the creation of a knowledge that would be suited to our epoch, its fascinating possibilities and cruel dangers.

I. The new janus - Two faces of science and technology

Man has conquered new, gigantic powers of production which bring us to the threshold of a new world. Scientific and technical forces that no epoch of previous history could have envisaged have come into life.

During the past 50,000 years of man's existence there have been about 800 generations with an average life span of about 60 years each. Out of these Boo, 650 generations spent their lives in caves; only the past 70 have been able to have a significant inter-generation communication; only the past four have known of the printed word; the electric motor has been in use only during the past two generations and a vast majority of material goods that we are familiar with nowadays have been developed during the lifetime of the last generation only.

Atomic energy, automation, and the revolution in cybernetics provide the opportunities for a change which could completely transform the traditional basis of life and work. The mighty systems of automatic machines have the wonderful power of shortening human labour and making it more fruitful, liberated, and worthier of man. They enable an attack on the fateful division of labour into mental and physical, management and simple execution. Routine tasks can be performed by machines, and man's activities are transferred to the field of research, designing, control, and management - to the field of creativity. Instead of an attachment to a partial function there is a rotation of functions; a collective performance of tasks by an entire group is introduced as team work which supervises the entire automated process. The complexity of new technology makes the old hierarchical order inadequate to move the new productive forces. It is very unbearable for creative work, which engages all of one's intellectual potentials, to endure coercion; its inner characteristic is personal autonomy. Society has come to a turning point when the laws of the growth of productive forces appear in a new light. The classic industrial revolution has created as its basis of education a type of elementary school which satisfies the need for a plain labour force. Society has been developing through the intellectual potentials of a relatively small number of people. The technical transformations coming into existence now are connected with a cultural revolution of unseen proportions, with an education explosion, and with a change in the subject-object relationship. In the first industrial revolution the progress in production did not start from man, but from machines to which man was only attached as a cog. Nowadays progress is becoming increasingly dependent on the active development of man's capabilities, initiatives, motivation, and creative work. A new human subjectivity is being developed.

If industry develops, the creation of true wealth becomes less and less dependent on working hours and the amount of spent labour, and much more on the general state of science and technological progress.... It is not direct work performed by man himself (and in which he has more of a supervisory and regulating relationship towards production), nor the time he spends working the basic pillar of production and wealth. The understanding of nature, the development of human capabilities becomes the real pillar. The theft of the working time of others on which present-day wealth rests appears as a poor foundation compared with this newly developed one.. The free development of individuality and bringing necessary labour down to a minimum suits this development - not in order to exploit the surplus of labour (for another) but because of the scientific and artistic education of man, which becomes possible due to free time and the resources which have been made. [Karl Marx]

It is the first time that people have been enabled to make an ancient dream come true - to liberate man from the yoke of poverty and to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor. At the time of the first industrial revolution the annual gross world income was about four billion dollars, at the beginning of the twentieth century it was about 380 billion, and nowadays it amounts to over 6,000 billion dollars.

However, as if by some fateful magic spell, the new sources of productive power - as opposed to their great liberational potentials are becoming destructive both for nature and for man. Like the ancient god Janus, the development of civilization is showing its other face. Almost 20 per cent of scientists are working on the discovery and application of means of world destruction. Peace is maintained in the world under the constant threat of war. Hunger, that old tormentor of people, is going around the world again and is taking a toll of 20 million human lives each year. In its war against nature exploitative industrialism has robbed a great part of the earth's resources; it made rivers and lakes die, and air turn into a murderer.

The deepest contradictions have come up on the human side of production as well. The manifold development of civilization endows the producer with new capabilities and aspirations. Human creative powers are flourishing. However, this new human and productive power is turned into an instrument for creating and preserving the wealth and power of others. New mechanisms for attachment to the dehumanized society are being built. An enormous apparatus for manipulating, for industrializing the human soul is being created. The masters of the market are making series of artificial needs, while nihilism, violence, and neuroses are taking a toll in human happiness which is almost as large as is physical deprivation in the Third World.

The gap between the rich and the poor, which is a volcanic contradiction in the contemporary world, has been increased from 1:3 to 1:70. It has become as large as the 400 vertical kilometres separating the peasant on the paddy fields from the astronaut orbiting the planet. The greatest absurdity of our age is coming into existence: the development of underdevelopment. In order to preserve its cruel abundance the developed centre tends to dictate the productive, economic, and social structure of the periphery. But it is done in a new way today: the new phase of dependent development is coming into existence. From an external dependence, maintained by political force, it is transformed into an internal, organic dependence. This subordination within is performed by the international production apparatus, the great mechanical Leviathan - the multinational companies - through technological conquest, management patterns, and consumption, which are imposed upon the periphery. The large profits of the companies and the low standard of living of the masses, abundance and poverty, are going together hand in hand, like a cruel couple. The unity of the world is based on a relationship of fundamental inequality, while underdevelopment is the other pole of development. The "centre" is super-developed exactly to the extent to which the "periphery" is underdeveloped. Great material progress has encompassed only the part of the western world which has found its place under the sun. The vast spaces of Asia, Africa, and Latin America have remained in a deep shadow, in stagnation and misery. The world is being divided into zones represented by a few centres developing intellectual creativity on the one hand, and those at the bottom of the pyramid of victims who have to be engaged only in routine work.

In order to understand the roots of this situation we must get rid of one of the oldest prejudices. It is the false picture according to which the stubborn adherence to the archaic, pre-capitalist structure is the main cause due to which underdevelopment is still present. The true relationship is actually the reverse: the same historical process, i.e., the development of capitalism itself, has given birth to underdevelopment in the past just as it does today.

If we go on in the same manner in which we have been going on so far, we know that our world will come to an end. Seas and rivers will become sterile, the soil will lose its natural fertility, and life will become the privilege only of those individuals who will be selected to represent the new human race - adapted, through chemical processes and genetic programming, to a new ecological environment which engineer biologists will synthesize for them.... Therefore, the crisis is gaining new dimensions which, apart from a few exceptions, the Marxists have not foreseen. What came under the meaning of socialism so far did not include answers to these new dimensions. We are speaking of a crisis in the relationship between individuals and the economy itself, the crisis of labour, the crisis in our relationship to nature, our relationship to our bodies, towards persons of the opposite sex, towards society, towards posterity and our ancestry, towards history. We are speaking of a crisis in urban life, in housing, in medicine, in schools.... There is a decline in faith in life. Physical crops and economic viability are decreasing; the quality of life is declining although the level of consumption is growing. [A. Gorz]

The two faces of science and technology are becoming a realistic ground on which there is a change between two visions of the world. The vision of the apocalypse is taking the place of technological utopia. Social progress was equated, identified with technological growth which automatically, by its very nature, resolves all of man's existential problems. The only and most important thing was to give the decision making powers to the technocratic masters of machines, to the headquarters that is able only to arrange society in a rational way on the basis of the technical rules of optimality. They will peacefully and without upheavals lead people to the "state of abundance," the "welfare state," the "post-industrial society of unlimited growth " The horizon of civilization seemed bright and clear, without any clouds in sight. However, the other face of technological growth came as a shock. An eclipse has covered modern society; its horizon is darkened, and its shadows are more visible than its light. Thought had come to another extreme: to the shock of an uncertain future, to the abstract and illusory criticism of technology, to the vision of the apocalypse. It came with the slogans: "Technology inevitably dehumanizes and enslaves man," "Protect us from technology," "Stop the growth." The fear of the future and nostalgia for the past caused us to repeat what Voltaire said of Rousseau: that he would want mankind to walk on its hands and feet again in order to be happy. The alienation of man was depicted as fate, as an unavoidable destiny which is born out of the very nature of modern technology. It was said that technology in itself inevitably destroys all individuality, turning people into modern technological serfs.

II. The pathology of power and science

However, it is of decisive importance to realize that science and technology are not negative powers in themselves - like a genie released out of a lamp, whom people can no longer handle. They turn into that when becoming part of a "vicious circle," an antagonistic social arrangement. It is of vital significance to recognize the main causes of this process: what the structures of social power and the types of social organization are, on which depends whether science and technology will play a humanistic role or whether they will turn into instruments of exploitation and domination. Also, what are the social forces, the great social agents that can be the protagonists of one tendency or the other? Therefore, the point of departure cannot be the criticism of technology in itself, because "know-how" is nothing by itself - it is a means without an end, a mere potentiality, an "unfinished sentence." "Know-how" is culture no more than a piano is music. What we need most of all is to understand why things are as they are and what we are to do with our lives - how to turn this enormous potentiality into a new reality, to the benefit of people. What we are seeking is not a new type of car, but a new type of society, a civilization which is to be a more favourable framework for the development of the authentic potentials of science and for a different mode of production. The points of departure are: what are we producing and how are we doing it - for what human needs, values, and purposes.

The very appearance of this idea is an intellectual coup. It shows that we are breaking out of the encirclement of technological determinism which strips the world of everything that suggests the capacities and actions of men; endows history with stages and laws independent of human desires and intentions. We are challenging the tradition which is the continuation of the great religious and philosophical systems of thought on the predestination of human life. Man's fate does not depend on his own work and his own practice; it has been pre-destined by heaven, by the absolute spirit (Hegel), or by the independent trends in the forces of production (reduced Marxism). People are only puppets on the strings of an anonymous, superhuman director of history - technology, the new deity that has been brought down to Earth. The very criticism of these views signifies a great humanization and desacralization of science: the world has been made by people and they can change it as well. Theory should express these new epochal possibilities and their preconditions - what we are not as yet but what we can become through knowledge and struggle.

Science and technology do not appear in a vacuum but in a social space. The civilization whose godparents are profit-making and bureau cracyrule permeates them deeply. This social milieu brings the productive and destructive side of technology together into a symbiosis. Its humane, potentially liberating powers remain in captivity, whereas the pathological form of development - for which an ever-growing human and material price is being paid - afflicts the entire social body, like cancerous tissue. The double function of production - one which is expressed in the creation of goods, and the other whose sole aim is the reproduction of capital and bureaucratic power - fundamentally deforms the productive forces and scientific research. Out of a wide selection of possibilities and capital and power choose those technologies and put forth those requirements and orientations that are functional from the point of view of the existing system and its reproduction. Such a deformed technology is no longer neutral - it becomes an active factor which determines the attitude of a producer towards his product, of a worker towards his labour, of an individual towards society, of man towards his environment. It becomes one of the foundations of the relationship of power, of the hierarchical division of society, and a tool of domination over people and entire communities.

These growth patterns reappear in a specific manner in the period of early, difficult socialism, in societies where productive forces were not developed. In their breakthrough into the modern world they take over many patterns which were made in developed bourgeois societies, although it only brings about once again the social division between those who are in commanding positions and those who are there merely to execute.

The spirit of the age, the principles of a civilization based on profit, power, and prestige, and the ruling cultural patterns permeate positivistic science, its canons, paradigms, professional mentality, and the mode of expert training - in a word, the scientific subculture.

First of all, there are also the criteria as to what is considered to be scientific knowledge, and what is not. Then there is also the mode of formation of experts of the most specialized kind ("Fachidioten") as "one-dimensional man" ignoring social values and purposes as something alien to their concern. For example, research workers in modern agronomy institutes do not consider what will happen to the land, whether it will lose its fertility; what will happen to food, whether it will lose essential nutritive, qualities; what people's bodies will be like and what kind of social consequences will be brought about.

The ruling culture has separated practice and theory, manual and intellectual work; has created an insurmountable gap between professional knowledge and popular culture, experience, and wisdom. It is believed that modern science, by its very definition, must be "deaf" and "indifferent" to human concerns, needs, and preoccupation's. The ethics and ideology of the puritan ruling class have tried to form a science as insensitive as a capitalist undertaker or powerful bureaucrat. Due to a secrecy which makes it difficult for a layman to understand, this knowledge is not connected to "general culture" and the language of the people. This fragmentation of scientific and technical "sub-cultures" is a consequence of the class division of labour; but it is also, at the same time, the condition for its perennial life. It reduces the knowledge and power of scientific and technical cadres to a strictly limited field, and prevents them from situating their knowledge into broader prospects of the whole. Those who possess such narrowly specialized qualifications are professionally just as helpless and dependent as the workers are (A. Gorz). Established science has become a church with its dogma, hierarchy, and heresies. It has its popes and cardinals, as well as its power of excommunication. Scientists have felt this power, and when they have dared question the ruling scientific orthodoxy, were lashed to the pillar of shame (Toffler).

The technicistic wave of our time has cut like a knife and created a deep rift between the sciences and the human purposes for which science is engaged. This gap brings about an enormous loss of scientific knowledge, personal dramas, and resignation, whose very incarnations are, as in ancient tragedies, the giants of atomic physics when they disowned their own works in resignation. It brings about an enormous loss of powers and talent, impoverishes ideals and motivations which inspire people and give them the strength to persevere on the steep path of the science.

This picture of science shows the ruling pattern of positivist science, but it is incomplete. Although science bears the stamp of the ruling civilization in which it was born, it is never fully integrated into a system. Scientific work which produces knowledge possesses, like every other work, part of its own inalienable autonomy. Science can serve predetermined goals; it can develop in a certain direction to the detriment of other directions. It can be guided towards answering the questions put by the mainstays of power, even to the detriment of other questions. However, it is impossible to prevent scientists from asking themselves certain questions that are different from the ones they are allowed to resolve. They are always able to tackle and resolve the same problems that the authorities present them, even in a different way. However, they encounter these possibilities as things that have been denied. Thereby they also meet an ideological and cultural arbiter. Thus they become aware of the fact that the direction and contents of scientific work could be different, but that one would need a different technology and society in order to make it come true. They realize that, at the same time, they do and do not belong to the forces of social change.

III. The new protagonist - social movements and organic intelligentsia

Thus a similar feeling is developed on both sides - the side of the labour world and the side of the world of science - that the time has come when one could live in a different and more meaningful way, with more dignity and freedom. And targets that provide for a different quality of personal and social existence are being put forth. Alternative technology, a character of work and management which has not been pressed into a bureaucratic mould, social ownership, more humane cities, a more humane medicine and psychiatry, a pedagogical revolution which opens vistas for the development of creative personalities, engagement in the new world economic order - this multitude of new alternatives is bombing the core of the old civilization. The new day gives rise to all those aspirations, while the night wants to destroy even the plausible ones.

However, the great changing of civilization will come about not only as the creation of "technological prophets," as an automatic result of intellectual construction, which is motivated only by its own mysterious imperatives. It is a great social and cultural process in which the potentials of technology and science are put at the service of new goals, purposes, and values, of a different quality of human life. The new technology and sources of energy, great anticipations, and experiments will be born out of this new collective practice of the mass social movement, and the new horizons of civilization. It is by no means a rejection of the great accomplishments of science and technology nor is it a mere take-over of the existing ready-made parts out of which a new edifice is simply erected. It is a great transformation - from within - of all the products of civilization, technology in particular. The points of departure are what is being produced, how, during what working hours, and for what needs. The new technological foundations of this new civilization will be born out of this great experiment.

We must admit that we have not the recipe answers to many questions, that the exploration of this new continent has only opened up before us. However, it is possible to point out at least a few elements - for discussion - which represent the distinction lines between repressive and humanistic technologies.

(a) The application of science and technology that provides for the effective solution of existential problems of the broad masses of the working people, such as: hunger (nutrition), housing, and employment. A strategy of economic-social and technological development which leads to the narrowing of such essential social differences that endanger the survival and development of large sections of the population, entire social groups, and countries or regions. A technological development which is to the benefit of the working people, and not to the privileged position of narrow strata or certain countries.

(b) A way of modernization which is not destructive, which does not destroy the positive cultural and productive heritage of original civilization, but is simultaneously creating new living and working conditions for the population.

Development which preserves progressive cultural and productive tradition and turns it into a point of departure for the creation of new forms of social organization, for a great mobilization of human energy.

(c) Alternative patterns of urbanization, collective conditions of living, a city which develops according to human needs rather than according to a profiteer-bureaucratic logic that alienates people, turning the city into a modern anthill.

(d) Types of industrialization and technology transfer which provide for independent development and progress, which do not maintain subordination and widen the civilizational, economic gap between societies. A strategy of scientific and technological development which is not limited exclusively to the copying of the patterns of others. Greater reliance on one's own forces and endogenous creativity.

(e) The technological revolution in the agrarian regions which leads to the solution of the existential needs of the population, combining traditional methods, knowledge, and experience, with contemporary productive forces. A way of modernization which does not lead to the ruin of the land, to a decline in the fertility of the soil, to a decrease in the quality of food and an expansion of hunger, to a mass pauperization of the agrarian population, and to a larger dependence on developed world centres.

(f) The medicine and biology which explore the relationship between the mode of work, working hours, urban life, the way of using the labour force, and their influence over the human organism, the span of human life, illnesses.

(g) Forms of sociability and modern science and technology. Some fundamental forms of life and mentality, cultural and civilizational values such as solidarity, a tendency towards egalitarianism, and a collective spirit, represent important components of the humane community. But traditional forms of sociability had great limitations: firstly, traditional collective communities were confined to a narrow framework - to a village, to a local community, while the pyramid of the ruling elites and groups rose above them like a kind of superstructure. Secondly, the local community and its solidarity were kept in life by using the undeveloped productive forces which had not changed for centuries - by their conservation, The key problem is how to attain more human and more solidary forms of social life on a larger scale and on the basis of revolutionary productive forces.

The change of technology now becomes an essential precondition for changing society, for the development of voluntary co-operation, for the development and sovereignty of communities and individuals. Such a technology would generate a larger economic independence of local and regional communities. It would coincide with the power that the associated producers and consumers should have over production and products.

The secret formula of the birth of the new alternatives, their point of departure, lies in collective experience of social movements which aim for a different quality of existence. The emancipation of the working people can be their own accomplishment, The changing of the world cannot be the simple affair of the managers, the technical experts who are the only ones "who know the secret code of history" and who transfer society from one combination to another.

However, the decisive role in the formation of the new historical project is played by the organic intelligentsia of the plebeian classes. It starts from the radicalized needs which are generated within the old society, but which cannot be fulfilled within its framework. It performs a great elaboration of the collective aspirations which are already developing within the plebeian masses. It can "hear" and "see" the new practice which is being created, but it constructs a bridge across which it takes the action of denying the old society to the site for building the new one. Deprived of this ability, the aspirations of the masses will drown in general, utopian slogans, just as the intelligentsia, without the independent and lively social movement of the masses, is condemned to exhaust its energy in fictional conflicts and conspiratorial tactics. This is a "new historical power bloc" the unity of the people of labour and knowledge, the alliance of progressive social movements and radicalized science. It is a social force capable of mastering the foundations of modern technology and enriching it with new democratic meanings.

Allow me to quote Einstein who, in his book Why I Am for Socialism, says:

It is not enough to train a man only in his profession. It will make him become some kind of a usable machine, but not a wholesome personality as well. It is important that he should acquire a feeling for what is worth striving for. He must learn to understand what motivates people, their ideals and illusions; their suffering and struggles.

Organic intelligentsia radically differ from traditional, satellite intelligentsia, which are imitative, and have not got the strength to think in a different way, to develop endogenous creativity. They are not capable of touching the horizon of world science while firmly standing on the foundations of their own national culture and needs. Organic intelligentsia are not an elite, which creates "culture for a few by a few." They are called upon to perform a revolutionary innovation of its professions and new orientations in all fields of social life. The understanding that they have to be agents of intellectual, cultural, and moral transformations within their own professions is of crucial importance. Because it is the stimulation of professional narcissism and competition in the great international vanity fair which become the subtle mechanisms of the use of the intelligentsia for anti-social purposes. The realization that they are not the earthly sons of a technological deity but that they truly belong to mankind, being the authentic representatives of their kin, becomes one of the main ways of preventing all possible Hiroshimas.

On the other hand, organic intelligentsia are not of secondary importance, the traveling companions of the social movement, but its equal and key participants. Offering projections and alternatives is an expression of collective aspirations and practice, but not a mere reflex - it is also one of the forms shaping this practice. The transfer of requirements from the social zone to the zone of scientific solutions can only be performed by scientists themselves, in their autonomous and sovereign practice.

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