Social development theory

Social development theory

Historically, society has developed by a trial and error process of physical experimentation, not unlike the way children learn through a constant process of physical exploration, testing and even tasting. Physically, this process leads to the acquisition of new physical skills that enable individuals to utilize their energies more efficiently and effectively. Socially, it leads to the learning and mastery of organizational skills, vital attitudes, systems and institutions that enable people to manage their interactions with other people and other societies more effectively. Mentally, it leads to the organization of facts as information and the interpretation of information as thought. The conceptual mind is the highest, most conscious human faculty. Conceptual knowledge is the organization of ideas by the power of the mind. That conceptual knowledge becomes most powerful when it is organized into a system. Theory is a systematic organization of knowledge.

A comprehensive theory of social development would provide a conceptual framework for discovering the underlying principles common to the development process in different fields of activity, countries, and periods. It would also provide a framework for understanding the relationships between the accumulated knowledge generated by many different disciplines. If pursued to its logical conclusions, it would lead to not just a theory of social development, but a unifying theory of knowledge—which does not yet exist in any field of science or art. Historically, advances in our understanding of material and biological process have far outstripped advances in our understanding of social processes. As a result, vast social potential has been created, but society has not yet acquired the capacity to fully utilize it for its own development. A theory of development should aim at a knowledge that will enable society more consciously and effectively to utilize its development potentials.

In most discussions, development has been conceived in terms of a set of desirable results — higher incomes, longer life expectancy, lower infant mortality, and more education. Recently, the emphasis has shifted from results to the enabling conditions, strategies and public policies for achieving those results — peace, democracy, social freedoms, equal access, laws, institutions, markets, infrastructure, education, and technology. But, still little attention has been placed on the underlying social process of development that determines how society formulates, adopts, initiates, and organizes, and few attempts have been made to formulate such a framework.

A very large number of factors and conditions influence the process. In addition to all the variables that influence material and biological processes, social processes involve the interaction of political, social, economic cultural, technological and environmental factors as well. The basic principles of development theory must be as applicable to the development of early tribal societies as they are to the emergence of the post modern global village.

Development theory must be a theory of how human society advances through space and time. However, social development theory remains elusive because the very nature of social learning is a subconscious seeking by the collective that leads ultimately to conscious knowledge. We experience first and understand later. Our mental comprehension perpetually lags behind physical experience and struggles to catch up with it. Our view is that the very intensive, concentrated global experience of the past five decades provides fertile soil for the formulation of a more synthetic conceptual framework for social development. Such a framework can vastly accelerate the transfer and replication of developmental achievements around the world and make possible more conscious and rapid progress even for the most advanced societies in the world.

These observations suggest a starting point for formulation of a comprehensive conceptual framework.

• Social Development theory should focus on underlying processes rather than on surface activities and results, since development activities, policies, strategies, programs, and results will always be limited to a specific context and circumstance, whereas social development itself encompasses a potentially infinite field in space and time.

• The theory should recognize the inherent creativity of individuals and of societies in which they fashion instruments and direct their energies to achieve greater results. It should view development as a human creative process, rather than as the product of any combination of external factors, or, objective instruments that are created and utilized as the process unfolds, and whose results are limited to the capacity of the instruments. Society will discover its own creative potentials only when it seeks to know the human  being as the real source of those potentials.

• The implication of this view is that even though it may be influenced, aided or opposed by external factors, society develops by its own motive power and in pursuit of its own goals. No external force and agency can develop a society.

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