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3. Technological self-reliance and cultural freedom




The main concern of this paper is with the infrastructure and social role of science and technology, with a focus on developing countries in their current efforts toward modernization and industrialization. For all the difference in emphasis and despite the distinctive traits attached to each, science and technology are closely connected on both methodological and epistemological grounds. Together they are related to social and cultural problems.1 The nature of this interrelationship and its social implications should become increasingly clear in the course of further discussion. For analytical purposes, the two are to be treated as a single and integrated whole. Their dual functions must be examined and mutually assessed.

First, with respect to the physical world, advancement in science and technology can help bring about development in terms of increasing productive capability and greater freedom vis-à-vis the constraints of nature. Secondly, such advancement is also instrumental in producing societal change and transformation, with significant impacts on problems of human and social relations. Hence the specific human and social dimensions of science and technology need to be objectively perceived, quite apart from their technical and seemingly universal character.

It is this specific social context which, by and large, determines the course and pattern of technological development as well as its consequences. Thus the impact of science and technology has to be evaluated on account of both its cause and effect. This is all the more pertinent to the developing countries as latecomers in the field. Most, if not all of them, are somehow bent on following in the footsteps of the West in advancing from the agricultural phase into the industrial and post-industrial phases. The objective and model of development seems clear-cut, at least in the eyes of the third world's modernizing elite; that is, to accelerate economic growth through industrialization. This is their foremost priority, and it is to be achieved by riding on the waves of technological change which the West has already survived and established within its socio-cultural context.

In a significant historical sense, this development trend is a reflection of the enigmatic impact of Western development. 2 This fact adds an international dimension to the problem of the relationship between exogenous and endogenous sources of technological capability and creativity. More often than not, the virtues of modern science and technology are simply taken for granted. They are looked upon as something of absolute value and have thus become, willy-nilly, an end in themselves, politically and ethically neutral and free from any damaging influences. This is the crux of the whole problem. It is by no means a mere question of the use or misuse of science and technology from a purely technical standpoint, but involves the whole spectrum of socio-cultural factors underlying technological growth and development.

In this continuing "dialectic of specificity and universality,"3 to use a phrase of the noted physicist R. S. Cohen, scientific technology both offers opportunities to some and is fraught with dangers for others. This has been historically demonstrated for Western societies, and is about to take place in societies tied to the same growth model. In view of the human and social costs involved, one can no longer remain complacent about the adequacy of the overall objective of economic growth, as has hitherto been the case. This would represent only a partial appreciation of reality, one that could turn the very virtues of science and technology into a weapon against humanity.

Indeed, to guard against the adverse impact of science and technology, there is an urgent need to set the whole problématique in proper historical perspective and to deal with the specific problem of human and social relations accordingly. As R.S. Cohen again reminds us:

In the attempt to understand the social impact of scientific technology, we must proceed simultaneously in two ways: first in a far less sweeping and generalizing manner (is technology good or is technology evil?), and second, in a far more self-critical and sceptical dialectical analysis (science gives life and death). We also should recognize the historical character of our attitude towards the social and human impact of science and technology within our own century; attitudes towards technology will differ depending on whose technology it is, or which specific technological advance we evaluate, or which portion of humankind is speaking or is represented, which class, which race, which tribe, which generation, which sex, at which cultural place the evaluator stands. . .4

Thus, along with technological growth and development, there also emerges the problématique of rights and obligations. It is in the light of its social and historical paradigm that the status of modern science and technology needs first to be reexamined and evaluated. In the process, the concept of human rights itself, as defined under the philosophy of liberalism, needs to be clarified in its historical context. From such analyses, objective principles could hopefully be drawn, especially for developing countries, which are at the receiving end of scientific technology. The entire issue is not confined to any particular countries or groups of countries, but is fundamentally global in character. It thus involves all countries concerned in the process of giving or receiving technology, no matter at what stage of scientific and technological development they may be.


For the purpose of scientific advancement, there is an obvious rationale, and indeed a great advantage, to learning or even borrowing from the Western precursor. It certainly should not be a question of whether or not Western science and technology ought to be made use of, but of how, on what conditions, and for what objective. The answer to all these primary questions involves consideration of the moral and spiritual values that are involved in the concept of progress. If scientific technology is to be used to aid progress, and progress involves moral and spiritual values, the linkage between technology and moral and spiritual values is dear. Hence the functional relationship between technology and human rights needs to be recognized.

While technological advance serves to liberate humankind from the forces and constraints of nature, it is precisely the same scientific knowledge and technical skills that can bring about domination of man over man. Which result ensues depends on the status given to science and technology and its structural relationship within a given society. For example, they could be preserved as a privilege of the few, or widely shared among the many. The process and objectives of technological advance are determined, nationally and internationally, by such factors. If we are to believe in the evolutionary concept of progress toward a better society and a better quality of life with freedom and justice, then the social and human aspects of development must be regarded as prerequisites. According to what W.F. Wertheim terms the emancipation principle, "emancipation from the forces of nature and emancipation from domination by privileged individuals or groups, therefore, go hand in hand to mark human progress."5 Freedom and progress indeed constitute one and the same set of moral and spiritual values of development: human, social, and economic as well as scientific and technological.

In terms of scientific and technological advancement, all this means that the process and objective of change and development must be shifted from the all-too-familiar quantitative notion of growth to the qualitative one of freedom and justice. The world has indeed come a very long way from eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe, where an extremely high sense of optimism prevailed in the Age of Enlightenment. It was followed by the biological and social theories of evolution. That age was full of high and rising expectations of unlimited material growth on the one hand and social, cultural, and moral progress for mankind on the other. All this was to be achieved by means of science, technology, and industry.6

Obviously Europe's scientific and technological achievements also served as the moving force for its growing self-confidence the conviction that soon developed into the hegemonic notion of the White Man's Burden. Hence all the expansionism and colonialism that followed and, along with it, all the hardships and alienation of both the displaced people within industrialized European society itself and the subjugated non-Western peoples the world over.

Thus the social and moral consequences of technological achievement were quite in contrast to what was optimistically expected before. At any rate, all the adverse phenomena serve to reveal the true nature, function, and results of science and technology. These still need to be objectively assessed and understood. As has been recognized, technology does not simply mean applied science culminating in an object, invention or even a mode of production - that is to say, something autonomous and neutral. As Johan Galtung describes it:

[Technology] carries with it a code of structures - economic, social, cultural and also cognitive. The economic code that inheres in Western Technology demands that industries be capital-intensive, research-intensive, organization-intensive and labour-extensive. On the social plane, the code creates a "centre" and a "periphery," thus perpetuating a structure of inequality In the cultural arena, it sees the West as entrusted by destiny with the mission of casting the rest of the world in its own mould In the cognitive field, it sees man as the master of nature, the vertical and individualistic relations between human beings as the normal and natural, and history as a linear movement of progress . . . 7

In simple terms, it is subject to human and political decision with a view to authoritative allocation of values determining who gets what, when and how. And this structural relationship gives its own peculiar connotation to science and technology as a system of knowledge and its application. In principle, of course, science may be universally defined as a search for knowledge for its own sake. In reality, however, it is also part and parcel, and is in the service, of a particular socio-economic system. The interlocking between science and technology on the one hand and the socio-cultural context on the other gives rise to the need for what Susantha Goonatilake calls the "cognitive" mapping of physical and social reality.8

The truth is that even scientific knowledge continuously changes and develops over time. In its search for valid explanations of physical reality it not only operates under a specific world-view that constantly changes within the scientific community, but also interacts with the external socio-economic environment which also undergoes constant change. Scientific knowledge and theory therefore constitute a development process that is multidimensional and is bound up with, again in S. Goonatilake's words, "the internal social context within science, the external social context and the mode of production."9 It is even more obviously so with regard to technology functioning as the applied side of science. As a matter of fact, it goes far beyond science to the stage of actual production and social relations. Science and technology have therefore to be conceived of objectively as a social phenomenon in themselves. And indeed, historically and empirically, emergence and development of scientific technology have been recognized as an outgrowth of the interplay of extraneous economic, social, and political forces.10 As a body of technical and practical knowledge it is, in the final analysis, subject to human volition, decision, and implementation.

The point to be made here is that all the adverse social and moral effects referred to above are not just a matter of self-interest or incidental abuse and misuse of technical knowledge. They are fundamentally a question of cultural and epistemological orientation that determines the state of mind and perception of "reality" as expressed in the current state of science and technology, both physical and social. Historically bound up with the rise of capitalism, modern science and technology have thus developed into an acquisitive and hegemonic scientific culture that sees itself as the absolute master not only of things but also over fellow human beings. Inherent in this cultural value system, needless to say, there is also a keen sense of historical mission to bring "progress" to the world at large with all its scientific and technological might, by force if necessary. This explains why the Industrial Revolution took place with so much ruthlessness and destructiveness, especially to rural and traditional community life. And out of these cultural centres the very same scientific world-view has also been brought to the non-Western world, where modernization and industrialization have been and still are forced upon it, with very much the same zealousness both from within and without.


Recognition of the human and social dimensions of technology can indeed be said to constitute a major step forward from the so-called classical model of human rights development.11 The past three centuries have already witnessed the broadening of the human rights spectrum from the conventional set of civil and political rights and liberties to the newly claimed economic, social and cultural rights. Underlying all these combined negative and positive rights, it is to be noted, is the historical and empirical process of defining the status of man and his relationship to the state. At the beginning was the eighteenth-century notion of civil liberties, whereby the status of the individual was asserted as that of a self-sufficient and self-directing agent who needed little, if any, interference from the government. Government was then at best a necessary evil.

This view was to be followed and somewhat modified in the following century by way of a more positive concept of civil and political rights. Hence legal guarantees and inforcement on the part of the government came to be required for the attainment of equal rights of civic and political participation. Then finally came the demand for economic and social rights, involving the government's positive programmes of action to provide social welfare and to meet basic human needs, especially for disadvantaged groups of people in industrial society.12

Both the negative and positive aspects of human rights are obviously inter related, representing libertarian streams of thought. However, as defined specifically within the framework of industrial capitalism, the libertarian aspect naturally and conventionally takes precedence over the egalitarian side. And this, more often than not, gives rise to socio-economic imbalances within the so-called liberal democracy itself. As John Strachey once observed, there is in capitalism - which is the historical moving force of modern liberalism - an "innate tendency to extreme and ever-growing inequality."13

To a large extent, the Western concept and practice of human rights is very far from being comprehensive and universal. As already noted eIsewhere,14 this conceptual partiality is inherent in the historical notion of natural law itself, which serves as the inspirational source of today's ideal and practice of human rights. According to John Locke, the father of liberalism, freedom simply meant being free to do what one liked. Indeed, as ideology, the natural law concept had its great historical achievement in opposing political absolutism and arbitrary rule and replacing divine right with the common man as the basis of political authority. But for all its broadening world-view, the then liberal idea was preoccupied first and foremost with the security and protection of property rights,15 in the context of the rise of the middle classes in its time. In short, it was historically, and still remains, the liberalism of the haves, and this has grown into a force against the have-nots.

Within this conceptual framework of liberalism, at least two basic human rights still remain unsatisfied. First, externally, it is far from effective with regard to the third-world countries' most pertinent issues and problems of inequality. These are inherent in their agrarian socio-economic structure, and have been worsening in the course of modernization and industrialization. We shall revert to this topic later. Secondly, it is far from comprehensive with respect to the West's own pattern and process of industrialization, where the issues and problems of transition from the agricultural phase were simply taken for granted or ignored. Here the impact of modern scientific technology, among other things, loomed very large in bringing about rural dislocation and disruption.16 But what was a loss in terms of rural human and social costs came to be viewed as a gain in terms of so-called economic growth and the proletarianizing of the rural sector, with the resulting benefit of cheap labour for the urban and industrial sector. Such was the price paid in the cause of so-called scientific, technological, and economic progress. Unfortunately, such is also the predominant trend of thinking and belief among the modernizing élites of most developing countries today.

For this very reason, so far as the issues and problems of human rights development are concerned, it is essential to look into the whole process of social change and transformation. It is in this sense that the social impact of technological growth and development needs to be re-examined and assessed. What happened in the Industrial Revolution of the West should be taken as a lesson to be Iearned and critically evaluated, instead of a model to be literally followed in the process of modernization of today's developing countries. This is the crux of the whole problématique of economic development in the third world. And this is precisely where the issues of human rights development and technological growth come to be interwoven.

In the eyes of third-world leaders, the logic of modernization requires accelerated economic development to be associated with industrialization and hence the adoption of modern Western technology, as if it were a ready-made solution. On the face of it, this sounds reasonable enough. But on account of the structural nature of Western technology, as well as the social and economic conditions of the third world, there are still quite a few questions to be clarified. In particular, how can industrialization be brought about in an overwhelmingly agrarian setting? And how can modern scientific technology be made use of with a minimum of human and social costs? Above all, how can technological development proceed while avoiding the pitfalls of dependence and subordination? All this involves a technological and structural change with direct implications for human rights, which had been historically bypassed in the Western experience but which today's developing countries must face.


At this point, the true nature of technological and industrial advance has to be set in a proper perspective of rights and obligations. In the name of civil and political rights and liberties, as historically derived from the concept of natural law, capitalism has made its way to the pinnacles of status and power. Yet in the course of its development, the economic and social rights of the majority of people have been trampled upon, thereby jeopardizing civil and political rights themselves. There thus comes about a powerful economic and technological force working towards domination and inequality. It was first set to work against its own rural people and labour, and then went on to overseas expansion, thus making itself economically as well as politically powerful and domineering. All this has been seen, incidentally, by capitalism and Marxism alike, as part of historical necessity and inevitability, at least in so far as the Industrial Revolution is concerned. At any rate, it is the empirical basis upon which the classical theory of economic growth has been established. The same can obviously be said of modern science and technology as generally conceived and practiced up to the present time.

Of even more importance to the conception of human rights, which is particularly at issue here, is the people's potential and prospects for self-development, which have been suppressed and disrupted under hegemonic and exploitative regimes. The current capitalistic system and, for that matter, modern science and technology not only breed flagrant inequality within and among nations: they also see progress as a unilinear historical movement, that is, proceeding by stages as determined by capital and technology.

The alternative approach involves the far more fundamental question of cultural values and dynamism, through which science and technology can be made to contribute truly to human and social progress, together with technological advancement.17 In contrast to the hegemonic and imposed industrial civilization currently perceived as uniform and universal, this approach gives full recognition to the diversity of cultures and values which, in P. C. de Lauwe's words, "guarantees constant renewal, dialogue and freedom of expression and is therefore the prerequisite for a truly democratic concept of community life.''18 It is mainly through respect for cultural pluralism and dynamism that the principle of equality and freedom can be secured and promoted along with economic and technological growth and development.

This point is most pertinent to and should be understood by today's developing nations, as latecomers in the field of modern science and technology. Within advanced industrial countries, hegemonic and exploitative relationships have been qualified and somewhat restrained within a democratic framework of civic and political participation. Many of the third world's developing countries, by contrast, are under authoritarian regimes and traditions and practically all the public decisions are left to the tiny groups of so-called modernizing élites.

In the past, colonial and semi-colonial countries and peoples were conquered and exploited as sources of raw materials and markets for manufactured goods. In the process, their traditional values and knowledge systems were transformed into a colonial culture that could not be much more than dependent and imitative.19 With the passing of colonialism, there comes a new prototype of colonial culture, especially among the national elites, which looks to foreign capital and its accompanying science and technology as the agent of change and modernization. This type of modernization syndrome in turn serves as the dominant culture of the new ruling classes within the developing countries, thereby transforming these countries into dependent economies. History thus again comes full circle to the very same logic of industrialization and technological growth and development as some three centuries before, though in a new political-economic context. The difference is that in place of direct or indirect colonial rule, industrial capitalism has now transformed itself and developed into transnational corporations, with the third world's national elites serving as the point of contact in a context of dependent economic and cultural relationships. The hegemonic and exploitative structure of relationships remains basically the same, but is given an appearance of national identity and legitimate national aspirations and interests.

Notwithstanding all the nationalistic claims, however, the fact remains that these national élites' aspirations and goals are closely associated with and strongly inclined toward the Western master culture.20 Here the cultural impact and influence of Western-style education and professional training has to be noted. This has been going on ever since colonial days, and it even intensified after the Second World War, with the coming of national independence. Nor is that all. The same kind of learning process and knowledge system has also been built into the so-called national education imposed upon the population at large. In short, as S. Goonatilake again has observed, what emerged and developed as hegemonic scientific culture has been carried over from the Western centres and then assumed to be legitimate for non-Western societies.21

It is through such socio-cultural processes and conditioning that modernization and modern scientific technology become the transmitter of hegemonic social relations, within and among nations. Hence, modernization and industrialization have come to be associated exclusively with the capitalistic process of growth. Thus emerge the enclaves of modernity initially set up for the purpose of import substitution and manufacturing self-sufficiency, but currently heavily geared to export processing for the so-called free-world market. Capital-intensive technology and attendant technical know-how have been and still need to be imported, thereby bringing about production relations that are under external capital and technological as well as market control. All this is hardly, if at all, in consonance with the rest of the domestic economy. And all of this is in the name of growth, with the hope that the material benefits thus derived will somehow trickle down to the underprivileged sectors of the population. Meanwhile, for at least three decades now, this unbalanced growth strategy with its "innate tendency to extreme and ever-growing inequality" has increasingly expressed itself in the extreme form of glaring and growing poverty and unemployment as well as chronic indebtedness among developing nations. And all this has been going on, ironically, in the midst of manifest affluence not only among the industrially advanced nations but also in the modern sectors within developing countries themselves.

Needless to say, the incidence of all these ill effects is bound to bear heavily on the rural and traditional sector. Underlying the phenomenon of social and economic ills is the state of their economic and technological backwardness vis-à-vis the modern urban sector. In the process, a dualistic and unequal structure has been created within society. It is in this light that the existing state and the future prospects for human rights in developing countries should be understood and assessed. The implications obviously go far beyond the issues between North and South. They certainly involve more than the conventional set of human rights, as developed from the standpoint of the rising mercantile and industrial capitalist classes within the cultural context of the industrial West.

If the Western historical experience is to be any guide at all the issues have to be traced back to the plight of those in the rural sectors who were forcibly dislocated and alienated in the process of technological advancement and industrialization. So also must they be attributed to the plight of the overwhelming majority in the rural and traditional sectors of today's developing countries. Moreover, in addition to the adverse impact on economic and social rights and civil and political rights, their traditional cultures and productive capability as a means of self-expression and creativity are being suppressed and disrupted. Not only are they deprived of the benefits of modern scientific technology, but their own cultural potential for self-development also comes to a standstill and eventually falls into abeyance. Under such structural constraints' modern science and technology per se can be no compensation for the cultural deprivation thus caused to the common people. It only serves, and is preserved, as the exclusive domain of the élite for the maintenance of their privileged status and domination over the rest of society.


The observations made concerning the structural nature of modern science and technology by no means suggest an anti-Western philosophy or a policy which opposes modern scientific knowledge and its application. Neither do they imply a need or a desirability to fall back on the traditional past and to keep away from the realities of the contemporary world. That would be tantamount to compromising one's own cultural and creative potential for contributing to progress - a prerequisite for the quality of life and, even more, for freedom and creativity. Besides, life in today's world involves ever-increasing interdependence, and interrelationships in society, both national and international, are becoming ever more frequent, more intensive and more penetrating. On their part, modern science and technology have definitely come to stay, whether one likes it or not, and they will stay as world science and world technology. Significantly, too, they are both accessible and available for creative and positive use. All this is a fact of life that one can ignore only to one's own detriment.

The solution sought by the developing countries ought therefore to be a more positive and constructive one. The answer certainly does not lie in either escapism or aversion to scientific knowledge and technology as such. It is fundamentally a question of how non-colonial science and creativity can be promoted and developed, in order that real human and social progress can be achieved. This only means that ways and means have to be found for modern scientific technology to be made use of, not for purposes of domination, but as a liberating tool, and thus for transforming all the productive forces available to society into a balanced and self-sustaining process of growth and development.

In development literature, this line of approach has generally been referred to as self-reliance. This is obviously the most logical alternative to the current situation of technological hegemony and dependency. As a matter of principle, it sounds readily acceptable. However, when it comes to actual practice, whether in the realm of public policy or in research conceptualization and methodology, the purely technical aspects assume such importance that the concept of self-reliance is whittled down to merely serving so-called national and professional aspirations and supporting whatever reinforces power and prestige. Amidst such élitist attitudes, exclusive concern will be directed to such subjects as high technologies, advanced R&D and manpower, and advanced technical training, all of which are treated as ends in themselves. It should not be difficult to see that this line of approach also spells forms of domination/subordination relationships that one is trying to avoid in the first place.

Of more relevance to the human rights issue under discussion, the elitist tendency also serves as the cultural basis of complementary attitudes on the part of the dominating and the dominated, on the basis of which the process of technological domination operates. As P.C. de Lauwe observes of the existing state of affairs: "On the side of the (dominating), the temptation to use scientific and technological superiority is all the greater inasmuch as it enables them to beat trade competitors and extend their political influence, while at the same time ensuring their national defence. As for the dominated, the loss of initiative, freedom and creation that goes together with over-rapid changes imposed from abroad is made acceptable by the material benefits that modernization brings."22 In this fashion, technological, economic, cultural, and military domination have come to be intertwined.

It is therefore important to be aware of another level of hegemonic scientific culture which comes in disguise and in the name of nation-building and national progress. Indeed, the world has gone through the stage of national self-determination, only to end up with a new breed of domination and oppression within nations. If there is to be any hope at all for progress with respect to human rights, this is the time to give due recognition to the needs and aspirations of men and women at the grass roots.

Mention has earlier been made of the issues and problems of deepening inequality and poverty in the third world. Again, the solution is not simply a question of providing material well-being. Nor is it a question of improving the distribution of income or material benefits by the powers that be, however well-intentioned or benevolent. It is the fundamental problem of a lack of appropriate productive capability whereby one can fully develop oneself in society. This lack of productive capability, and therefore of self-reliant development, is, it must be strongly emphasized, to be seen not simply as an individual or incidental phenomenon but essentially as collective and systematic in character. There can be no denying the fact that, because of the unbalanced process of economic growth imposed by the national elites in co-operation with the global powers, industrialization has been forced and accelerated to the detriment and disintegration of the rural and agricultural sectors. In consequence, the peasantry of the third world has become deprived of the productive and innovative capability which would enable it to hold its own. In short, it is reduced to becoming technologically backward as well as economically and politically subject to domination and manipulation.

Fundamentally, the question of self-reliance in science and technology is concerned with the cultural freedom and creativity that have been lost in the process of forced industrialization. Ironically enough, both capitalism and communism, though ideologically poles apart, pose quite a comparable problématique here. In his critique of the spiritual loss during the era of collectivization in the Soviet Union, Andrei Sakharov expresses the hope that the earlier spirit that gave life its inner meaning "will be regenerated if suitable conditions arise."23 The same problématique could also be said to arise in connection with spiritual and cultural values under the current form of capitalism. In fact, by the very same logic of technological domination, the two, as agents of industrialism under the Second Wave civilization, are not much different.24 Each could be said to represent the consequences of its respective historical factors and conditions. The point is that neither of them can provide the answer to the question of cultural freedom if carried to extremes, as has so far been the case.

In terms of the right to development, specific attention has to be given to the rural and agricultural sector that has been neglected, even oppressed, for so long. This line of approach is most pertinent to today's developing countries, which have an agrarian background. The fact is that no agrarian societies have ever been without technical knowledge and inventiveness. They have their own traditional means of learning and skills in technological adaptation and innovation. Moreover, these traditional values and technologies do not exist in a vacuum. Underlying them is local and endogenous wisdom and a creative Iearning process that has been accumulated over generations. For all their seemingly non-scientific attributes, they are directly related to people's real and relevant needs and organizational and environmental conditions.25 And, most important of all, they are expressed through free will and with a rationale of their own. Besides, for all their tradition-bound nature, the peasants themselves are actually quite receptive to new and modern technologies introduced from outside whenever they are relevant and feasible and demonstrated to be so in practice.26 This clearly points to the value and dynamism of traditional knowledge and creativity. However, under the existing dualistic structure, they are being left behind and allowed no chance of gaining the benefits of modern science and technology.

All this, of course, is not to be taken as a purely romantic vision. On the contrary, the intellectual limitations and constraints of rural environments have also to be recognized for what they are, especially in the face of a changing world. There is, however, a real need to ensure that receptivity and adaptability to modern scientific knowledge and technology do not result in social disruption. Again, from the standpoint of human and social progress, the modern and the traditional have to be looked at and acted upon as complementary to each other, not as being poles apart as has been the case up to now. This criterion of complementarily would naturally raise the question of rights and obligations between the haves and the have-nots in such problem areas as, for instance, the right of technological choice and the right of access to technological information both within and among nations. It would also raise the question of the feasibility and desirability of a new international technological order, which has been so much talked about lately. More crucial to the issue of technological self-reliance, however, is the matter of socio-cultural adjustments within the developing countries themselves.

First of all, the state of endogenous technological knowledge and experience needs to be carefully reviewed and evaluated. Furthermore, to set each country's comparative advantages in a proper perspective, an extensive investigation has to be made of the basic human and natural resources and endowments within the country and the socio-cultural and organizational characteristics of both the agricultural and industrial sectors. There may be, for example, countries with an abundance of labour, or those with abundant natural resources. Or, again, some may have mixed physical advantages and some may have more or less advanced industrial bases. All such potential or comparative advantages would constitute an empirical basis upon which to review and set out the overall direction and pattern of technological growth and development.

In any case, the most decisive factor rests, in the final analysis, with human resource development itself. For all the material and physical nature of technology, technological change and development means in essence modifying and transforming the productive forces in society. In contrast with the existing partial view of growth, the objective and principle of self-reliance takes a holistic view of human and technological development. In terms of human resource development for the purpose of technological self-reliance, this means in effect that rural human resources must be looked upon not merely as a production input, as many an expert has made them out to be, but essentially as consisting of creative beings capable of self-reliance and self-development. This is precisely what was implicit in the concept and principle of the natural and equal rights of man, but which, as mentioned earlier, has been negated under the impact of hegemonic scientific and industrial culture.


Now that self-reliance in science and technology has been identified with cultural freedom and progress, and thus presents itself as an alternative to the existing state of domination, dependence and underdevelopment, the further question arises as to how it could be brought about. As earlier emphasized, science and technology are not in themselves at issue here. But as part and parcel of the social system and of a social process, they are bound to socio-cultural factors and conditions as they exist. The repeated call for a change in attitudes on the part of both the dominating and the dominated27 will most likely come to naught without infrastructural change, or what Sakharov looks forward to as "suitable conditions." It would be beyond this paper's scope to suggest how those conditions could be brought about, and by whom and by what forces. This has to be left to the actual and specific socio-political actors and forces involved. However, a combination of factors and conditions could possibly be identified here as guidelines for action and implementation.

For this purpose, specific reference should be made to a recent study under the aegis of the United Nations University, on "Self-reliance in Science and Technology for National Development'' (to be referred to as the Self-reliance Study), involving six selected Asian countries: Philippines, Thailand, India, China, the Republic of Korea, and Japan.28 Here the focus on infrastructural aspects also serves as the common line of approach. The relationship and interaction between technology and society are first examined, and then the concept of technological self-reliance is broadly defined. The study's main objective is to make empirical inquiries into the socio-cultural factors and conditions that may have a bearing on the possibility of promoting a self-sustained process of technological growth and development in various specific social contexts. In addition to the specificity to be expected of each country study, a broader regional perspective of self-reliance is also implicit in the range of variations expressed in terms of stages of development: i.e. from the highly advanced industrial Japan to the newly industrialized Republic of Korea and India, and through to the other developing countries with a largely agrarian background.

Obviously, the six selected countries cannot be regarded as representative of the whole Asian region. Besides, those characterized as agrarian and traditional Asian societies have been undergoing varying degrees of modernization, not to speak of the vast differences in their geographical, economic, cultural, environmental, and historical backgrounds. Nevertheless, out of all these specificities and diversities, the whole issue of self-reliance and human rights could be perceived from the common standpoint of agrarian and traditional societies. In the light of its agrarian and traditional past, indeed, Japan can be said to share a certain Asian perspective. In fact, in an earlier study on the Japanese experience, specific attention was clearly given to the infrastructural aspects of technology, "in the context of self-reliant efforts toward development of developing countries."29

On the basis of this shared development perspective, the concept of self-reliance is not to be understood in the negative and simplistic sense of aiming at autarchy. Its objective is not for each country or nation to seek self-sufficiency exclusive of one another. On the contrary, ways and means should be found for international exchange and co-operation to take place in a creative and constructive manner on the basis of egalitarian relationships. Self-reliance in science and technology is thus to be perceived positively, in the collective sense of cultural creativity and interdependence.30 It also follows that within each country itself, self-reliance needs to be conceived of in holistic and dynamic terms as social capacity to innovate and adapt existing and new technologies. And this must be understood in a socially integrated sense, and not confined to any particular technology or sectors of the economy.31 Finally, in concrete terms, this criterion of "social capacity" has to be related to at least the following three basic requirements:

  • 1. Optimal use of local resources and the meeting of basic needs.
    2. Development of related indigenous manpower and human resources.
    3. Development of grass-roots institutions and participation along the path of national development.32
  • All these requirements of technological self-reliance are of course interrelated. But the last component has a most pertinent bearing on the issue of human rights. Mention has earlier been made of the unbalanced growth strategy and consequent rural underdevelopment and poverty within the developing countries of Asia. During the past decade, increasing attention has been given to rural needs and problems. Within the existing framework of so-called rural development policy, however, it still remains fundamentally top-down in approach. Hence current government concern and attempts to deal with the critical problems of income distribution and social welfare. This is all very well. But it remains benevolent at best, which is very far from the real objective of promoting self-reliance. Industrial and agricultural disparity continues to be taken for granted. Industry remains the topmost priority and any hope of improving rural socio-economic conditions is made to hinge on further industrial expansion. In short, the industrial sector remains the sole answer as the source of employment and the non-farm source of rural income.33

    In truth, the real solution lies in the technological and productive capability within rural communities themselves. As it happens, the rural sector has been suffering not merely from maldistribution of the benefits of growth. That is just the inevitable consequence of the adverse impact of modern science and technology under hegemonic industrial culture, whereby rural manpower and traditional technology as the basis of cultural creativity have been alienated and disrupted. All this is of course man-made and concerned largely with the question of political economy to be touched upon shortly. What needs to be stressed at this point is the question of reviving and regenerating this potential creativity, not for its own sake, but to serve as the basis on which modern scientific technology could be adapted and made use of. And here rural participation in technological growth and development is essential, so that the choice and assessment of technology, instead of being imposed or forced upon them, can effectively be made within and by the rural communities themselves. Grass-roots participation is obviously a most meaningful way of mobilizing endogenous resources in the process of long-term growth and development, and should in the last analysis have significant implications for developing technological and productive capability, and, indeed, for income redistribution.34

    This is not all. Mention has already been made of the peasantry's receptivity to modern innovations. It is obvious that this receptivity by itself, no matter how many development services arc provided, cannot really be effective unless the peasants are appropriately educated and trained.35 This is indeed essential for a self-sustained process of technological growth and development. Here the conventional concept of the social and cultural right to education, in particular, needs to be briefly reexamined to get a clear perspective of the whole problem.

    Under the existing so-called national education system in developing countries, the rural population could be said to have been deprived of their natural and equal rights. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the right to education is broadly defined as full development of human personality and a sense of dignity. But the actual learning process and the objectives of education are by and large imposed in conformity with "national" requirements that are in effect elitist-oriented in spirit and drawn heavily, in not entirely, from exogenous and hegemonic sources. It is not only irrelevant to basic needs in rural environments, but it also deprives the whole rural community of its own human resources and therefore its potential for self-sustained technological growth.36 The right to education is not just the right to any kind of education. It is fundamentally a question of an appropriate education that would form the basis for developing appropriate technological capability. The adverse impact of mis education on both individuals and rural communities indeed points to a serious shortcoming in the current scheme of thought concerning human rights as a whole. It also has significant implications for the problématique of self-reliance in a collective sense.

    The point made here is that the educational system, among other things, needs to be reformed as the infrastructure for advancement toward technological self-reliance and cultural freedom and creativity. This, as emphasized earlier, is a question of giving due recognition and respect to cultural pluralism and dynamism. The rural sector too is in need of its own educated and scientifically innovative manpower, no less than the urban and industrial sector. The need is even greater in that the rural sector has been subordinated and exploited in the long process of deliberate, unbalanced economic growth. The urban-rural dichotomy, repeatedly referred to, does not mean that each should go its own way, or that the rural sector has to remain agricultural forever. Technological self-reliance should in the long run enable the rural sector itself to be industrialized and even cope with the higher technologies available. But all this should be on the basis of concrete comparative advantages, material, human, and cultural. In particular, it has to be a process of growth, technological or otherwise, wherein people at the grass roots are able and willing to participate fully and meaningfully.

    The basic socio-cultural factors required for technological self-reliance would be next to impossible to achieve without favourable politico-economic conditions. After centuries of dependence and underdevelopment, these conditions also need to be revitalized. The first condition is concerned with the lack of autonomy in the decision-making process.37 This is typical of socio-economic change and transformation being externally forced upon the traditional societies of Asia. The importance of restoring full national sovereignty ever since the Meiji era is alluded to in the Japanese Experience. In the Self-reliance Study referred to above, this particular requirement has been expressed in a variety of ways. The India Report, for instance, points to domestic capital formation as a necessary condition for economic and technological self-reliance. The China Report looks to the historical perspective of "basic completion of socialist transformation" as a prerequisite for the launching of meaningful self-reliant development. The Philippines Report presents a classic case of modernizing élitism and authoritarianism in traditional societies in Asia. Immediately after the end of colonial rule, its political economy came under the domination and control of transnational corporations, backed up by the nation's élites and by corruption. This state of affairs has had a negative effect on the nation's capacity for decision-making and choice of strategy and technology for national development. In other words, along with transnationalization of economic relations, the national leadership has in the process also become transnationalized in its values and outlook, and even in its loyalty.

    Closely related to the need for autonomy in decision-making are what Dieter Ernst terms "key developmental objectives," in which, among other things, agriculture plays an essential part.38 This is logical enough in view of the agriculture-based nature of Asian economies. As mentioned earlier, the policy focus on agricultural development should not bar rural economies from becoming industrialized. But there is a vast difference between industrialization and the progress or stagnation of agriculture. Here is the crucial policy choice between balanced as against unbalanced growth, which also involves the direction and pattern of technological development. This is implicit in the Thailand Report, which provides an exclusive focus on the technological problétmatique of agricultural production, as well as the feasibility of a bottom-up strategy of rural development. Indeed, in terms of the socio-economic realities of the developing countries, the modernization of agriculture has its own value in enhancing the main source of food supply and employment, and, significantly for long-term industrialization, in creating an effective domestic demand for industrial goods.39

    Finally, at regional and global levels, the objective of human and social progress requires that the existing hegemonic scientific culture should give way to collaborative relationships. On the part of the advanced nations, there is yet to be a change of heart, notwithstanding all the talk about a New International Order. From the developing countries' standpoint, the need for interdependence should be self-evident. In default they are likely to be doomed to stagnation in the midst of a changing world. Even so, there is also good reason for caution in the matter. Interestingly enough, the possibility has been raised in the Japan Report of creating a linkage between industrial and agricultural technologies. In the light of the need for a collaborative relationship between advanced industrial Japan and developing Asian countries, agro-related technologies have been suggested for consideration. But on account of the long-standing unequal international division of labour, and thus the existence of dependent relationships, strong negative reservations have been voiced.40 To a great extent, this represents a very realistic reaction, in view of the existing state of political economy and science and technology within the developing countries themselves.

    With the feasibility of international interdependence in mind, a good starting-point would be in promoting a process of collaboration and exchange of information about scientific and technological research and educational and training facilities.41 This is easier said than done. In the first place, the developing countries themselves must be sufficiently prepared for the task involved. Again, the importance of strengthening the endogenous base of technological growth and development cannot be overemphasized. In the second place, there is the longstanding problem of intellectual property rights that all too often has been allowed to stand in the way of effective co-operation. There is of course a legitimate concern that these rights be preserved and protected. However, a pertinent question can also be raised as to the distinction to be made between science and technology as a body of knowledge for social benefit as opposed to that used for commercial purposes. Should intellectual property rights be treated as absolute? If so, that simply means going back to square one. It would result in continuing movement along the path of old-time mercantilism and industrialism, at great cost to humanity. It is likely to become even more threatening now that the world at large is moving into the information age. And this poses a critical question for all to answer, and a critical choice that must be made. A breakthrough would open up new horizons that would go a long way along the path of enlightened self-interest and, therefore, of creativity and progress.


    So far as developing countries are concerned, the foregoing discussion comes down to one most fundamental question - whether, and if so how, self-reliance is to be recognized as a right associated with cultural freedom and the capacity to grow and develop. Again, implicit in this is equal respect for cultural pluralism and dynamism. This goes far beyond the conventional libertarian or egalitarian approach to the problem of human and social relations. It is of course pointless to get stuck in the historical past. But development efforts toward self-reliance also involve restoring and regenerating the endogenous creativity that has been lost under the impact of industrial scientific culture.

    This adds a cultural and thus a collective dimension to the problem of technological self-reliance - one that goes, again, beyond the mere question of the individual's right to "enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its application."42 It is basically concerned with the problématique of the cultural identity of whole rural and traditional communities that have been undergoing adverse social change and transformation. This is by no means a defence of traditionalism; however, there is no valid reason for allowing the current trend for hegemonic industrial culture to go on oppressing people for its own sake. There is no such thing as historical necessity or inevitability, as assumed by both capitalism and Marxism. The real and most obvious course is to let endogenous sources of knowledge and creativity be revitalized and developed as the basis upon which modern scientific technology could be effectively adapted and assimilated.

    All this means that there should be no inherent incompatibility between modern and traditional technology. The contradiction has only been man-made, historically speaking, and the path of future development can be changed for the better by human intervention. In developmental terms, traditional technology needs to be upgraded to modernized intermediate technology. And in this perspective, it should be in a symbiotic relationship with exogenous sources of scientific knowledge and technology. Modern scientific technology therefore has always a great role to play, not to supplant, but to supplement indigenous technology. In short, the modernization and industrializiation of developing countries could and should take their own respective routes.

    For all its feasibility, technological self-reliance and cultural freedom is in the final analysis a question of political relationships, both within and among nations. Like all the other human rights problématiques, it requires structural change and transformation. In this sense, it is likely to remain an open question for quite some time to come; that is, in the absence, in Fouad Ajami's words, of "the politics of love and compassion" as against the current "realism,"43 according to which the sole objective of power is to rule.

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