COMMENTARY 

           In this section I seek to identify recent events or publications where I think my way of thinking leads to significantly different conclusions from those drawn by authors or interpreters of events. I intend to add to this section periodically as issues come to my attention. The latest comments will be listed first after this introduction. I hope very much that readers will respond to the ideas presented. Development issues can’t be encompassed in any single discipline, so cross-fertilization by readers with different perspectives could prove very rewarding. 

 

Famagusta Cyprus 1973

Terrorism from the Perspective of Human Development: A Letter to the Society for Research on Adult Development

 

 

The Nature of the Conflict (September 20, 2001)

I feel the need to say something about the direction in which we are heading, which I think is a very dangerous one. I have not one iota of sympathy for the people behind the atrocities of September 11, 2001. The struggle in Middle Eastern countries is between the traditional and the modern. If the terrorists succeed in turning a conflict between traditional forces and modernization into a war between Islam and the West, they will have achieved their primary objective. See my complete Op-Ed piece.

Michael Barnes' Stages of Thought: The Co-Evolution of Religious Thought and Science (June 2001)

            This is a very important book in terms of my thinking about development.  In my web site I consider three dimensions of development: human, technological, and collective, or organizational.  (Human development here refers to individual development a la Piaget)  Professor Barnes chooses the broader concept of culture, which includes but goes well beyond organization, for his collective dimension of development. 

Lee Kwan Yew's The Singapore Story (November 2000)

            Singapore's rapid evolution, as recounted by its long-time governor Lee Kwan Yew, is a pragmatic account of human development on a society-wide scale. He does not think in terms of human development, but his achievement is worth study. See my letter to the editor of the New York Review of Books.

Globalization, Seattle and Davos  (January 2000)

          In an address to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January 2000, AFL-CIO president John J. Sweeney, proposed that the fundamental test of globalization must be its contribution to human development. “The question is whether globalization is helping to lift the poor from poverty; whether it is empowering the many, not just the few; whether its blessings are shared widely, whether it works for working people.” 

          I think this is an important contribution to the debate and conflict over globalization. But Sweeney’s elaboration of this position leaves much to be desired.  

In my view, we are in the midst of a long-term species crisis of excess fertility and environmental deterioration that can only be dealt with adequately if the average individual and the institutions of his/her society achieve a level of development where they can become responsible for their impact on the earth. (This theme is elaborated upon throughout this web site.) 

It thus seems entirely legitimate to judge the globalization process by how well it contributes to human development around the globe. But here is where Sweeney, and many of the protesters in Seattle, got it wrong. They believe that globalization creates greater inequality around the world, impoverishing the workers in poor countries who are employed in factories owned or financed by international companies. They also believe that democracy is the only acceptable form of government around the world, and that we should not deal with authoritarian regimes. Applying universal standards for working conditions and political systems is to my mind folly, and, in Sweeney’s case, disingenuous.

  I well remember how the labor unions railed against the working conditions in Korea twenty or thirty years ago, when Korean labor was dirt poor and the Korean regime was harshly authoritarian. Those Korean workers have today established superior working conditions and their government has become much more democratic. In fact, the Korean workers are now so well off that Korean companies have fanned out into Indonesia, Bangladesh and the Malay Peninsula in search of cheaper labor.

  Korean workers didn’t advance as a result of union protests in the USA. They advanced by dint of their own efforts to organize and to improve their skills.  Their ability to gain better working conditions was to a significant extent the product of their working in factories in the first place. Their personal characteristics changed as a result of their employment.  

Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations (1997)

            Samuel Huntington’s thesis that we are approaching an era in which nation states and ideologies have less to do with world conflicts than do the major religions that underlie our civilizations. He sees the coming confrontations as Christians against Muslims, Buddhists against both, etc. His ideas have been attacked from many fronts. My critique is based upon the missing element of “progress:”  progress in individual human development, progress in organizational development, and progress in technological development. As a result, I think conflict is more likely between fundamentalists, or literal believers in any faith, and modernists. A discussion of these views may be found in Progress and Global Politics.

A Critique of Giovanni Arrighi’s The Long Twentieth Century  (1996)

          International relationships, particularly those between the West and developing countries, have been my principal interests since shortly after the Second World War. At the 1996 Fielding Summer Session, a panel presented a way to understand the globalization process based upon the structuralist approach expounded by Giovanni Arrighi in The Long Twentieth Century, published in 1994. This structuralist interpretation of globalization seemed to me to leave out too many trends and events that are vital elements of globalization, and failed to explain phenomena that I think are historically important. See my critique at 1996 Arrighi.



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