Paper submitted to the Expert Meeting on
"Tasks and Challenges of the Social Sciences in the Eighties"
organized by the CENTRO DE ESTUDIOS ECONOMICOS Y SOCIALES DEL
TERCER MUNDO in collaboration with UNESCO (Mexico, 7-11 September
ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF lNTERNATIONAL SOCIAL SCIENCE
C O N T E N T
A. The Old Structure of Relationships
world distribution of financial expenditures for social science
research / distribution of trained social scientists / training
in the social sciences / social science publishing / reward and
incentive system / pattern of relationships / number and intensity
of international. contacts / foreign researchers / benefits to
B. Effects of the Old Structure on the Development of the
overall effect / effect on values and attitudes of the social
scientists / effect on the selection of aspects of social realities
to be studied / effect on the statement of the problem / effect
on methods and techniques employed
C. The Reaction to the Old Structure
sensitivity towards research carried out by foreigners / rhetoric
of counter attack / 'reactive phase' / process of institutional
regionalization / search for alternatives in development and
for indigenization in the social sciences / limited efforts to
create theoretical bases
D. Towards a New Structure and Pattern of Relationships
social science capacities in Third World countries growing
in absolute and in relative terms / influence of generation change
in training / a parallel prestige and reward system developing
/ need for "critical masses" / institutional approaches
to reaching critical masses / creation of institutions vs. building
networks / from (unbalanced) international via regional towards
E. From the Claim of Universality via Active Promotion
of Specificity towards Universality in the Social Sciences
"general theories" are "theories of the special
case" / claim that present body of knowledge is universal
is scientifically unfounded and counterproductive / truth and
validity / relative importance of social science knowledge /
time specificity / disaggregation of analytical frameworks /
culture, value systems and aspirations of the people / active
promotion of research on specificities all over the world is
called for / towards universality through incorporation of knowledge
on specificities and correction of existing paradigms and theories
in its wake
ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF INTERNATIONAL SOCIAL SCIENCE
In analysing the present state, the trends and the potential
development of international social science one has to look on
the one hand at the institutional set-up, its economic basis
and at other influences on its functioning, and on the other
hand at the main paradigms, theories, and methods being applied
and at the issues being treated as well as at the historical
development in all parts of the world along all these dimensions.
The following sketch must, due to the dearth of data, be largely
based on personal impressions and can, of course, only be a very
rough approximation of the situation.
A. THE 'OLD STRUCTURE'
In carrying out such an analysis one cannot escape recognizing
the existence of a whole series of imbalances in the world structure
of the social sciences.
The present world distribution of financial expenditures
for social science research is highly uneven with the bulk
of it spent in North America and Western Europe.
According to the limited information available it seems that
the present international distribution of trained social scientists
is not very different from that found in the research carried
out in preparation of the UN Conference on Science and Technology
for Development (largely concentrating on scientists involved
in technical R be D) which come to a share of hardly 13 percent
for all developing countries (China excluded). (J. Annersted,
Training in the social sciences is very often received
either directly from foreigners, when students go abroad with
scholarships offered to them, or at the postgraduate level for
teaching assistantships or research fellowships, or from academic
teachers, who themselves have been trained abroad. The textbooks
are often of foreign origin or derived from foreign textbooks
without much adaptation to the prevailing situation in the country
where they are being used. (Y. Atal, 1980, pp. 10 - 16)
Social science publishing is still largely concentrated
in the industrialized countries, albeit with some notable exceptions
such as India or Mexico. This still holds for scientific journals,
for monographs, readers, and also for publications used as reference
works in academic training.
The reward and incentive system in the social sciences
- by fact and by perception - is still dominated by the industrialized
world. Foreign degrees and publication abroad still have higher
academic respectability than national degrees or publication
in the home country. Participation in international scientific
conferences and other sustained forms of contact heighten academic
status and may lead to participation in internationally funded
The pattern of relationships of the different social
science communities in the world are very uneven. (S. Amin et
If one looks at the number and intensity of international
contacts among social science institutions and researchers
and would draw a map of such communications one would find a
rather limited number of areas which have a very high density
of contacts going in all directions and many which have a rather
limited number of contacts which are geographically not very
The areas of high density very often coincide with the former
colonial centers which have their contacts with the other industrialized
countries, their former colonies and a number of other countries
in the African, Arab, Asian and Latin American regions. A lower
level of density appears between the other industrialized countries.
Inter-Third-World contacts between social science institutions
within the same region are only few and limited. Cooperation
between institutions located on different Third World continents
is on such a small scale that it can be regarded as almost non-existent.
A relatively large number of foreign researchers from
industrialized countries carry out research in developing countries
while there are hardly any researchers from the developing countries
studying the problems of the industrialized countries.
The researched country derives little academic or practical
benefit. The publications concerned are often in languages that
are not understood in the developing country. The detailed data
are often taken back to the researcher's country with him and
are therefore not available to the developing country.
EFFECTS OF THE OLD STRUCTURE ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE
Development strategy did not produce the results hoped for.
This led to a growing awareness that the problem-solving models
- contained in the accepted development strategies had largely
been developed in the North;
were, therefore, based on scientific knowledge developed on
the basis of social realities that were quite different from
those obtaining in the developing countries;
and must, by their very nature, produce different results
than the ones claimed.
Effect on values and attitudes of the social scientists
The geographical concentration in the North of the earlier
phases of the development of the social sciences, the sheer volume
of production of Northern social science, and its (in certain
respects) sophisticated techniques on the one hand and their
introduction in African, Arab, and Asian countries during the
colonial period, the continuation of economic dependence after
political independence, the deployment of social science in the
preparation of development plans and projects, the dominance
of Northern content in the training of social scientists of Third
World origin, as well as the system of recognition, incentives
and more generally of rewards to which the latter were exposed
on the other hand, led to a high degree of internalization of
Northern values - a state which has been termed "borrowed
consciousness". (Y. Atal, 1.80, p. 8-11)
Effect on the selection of aspects of social realities
to be studied
This dominant orientation on the North led to wide acceptance
of the concerns which the North considered most important for
Since Northerners necessarily see the social and cultural
realities of Southern countries through the spectacles of their
theoretical and practical experience largely gained in the North,
their understanding and interpretations will always differ from
those of people having been brought up in these countries.
Both, Northern concerns and Northern interpretations do not
necessarily focus on the issues most important in the context
of the developing country concerned.
In addition, the much more down to earth aspects of funding
- be it in the form of the participation of social scientists
in the preparation of development projects for submission to
Northern sources of financing, which have to follow Northern
ways of reasoning and contain the kind of analyses expected;
of financial support for the creation and functioning of social
science institutions; or of financial support for participation
in international research projects - lead to the use of a relatively
large proportion of social science capacity for work along those
The result of the working of these mechanisms created distortions
in the determination of research priorities.
Effect on the statement of the problem
The external orientation produces an overall influence on
the way research is planned and problems are stated, the results
of which can be likened to the effects of modern advertising.
It results in the constant use of approaches to problems and
interpretation models originating in foreign societies with different
structures and value systems without seriously asking whether
they are pertinent.
As a consequence, analytical frameworks and concepts containing
unstated assumptions about the relations between factors which
have an influence on the subject matter studied and which may
be alien to the society in question may be used to try and gain
new insights into the existing social reality.
The advertisement effect often prevents efforts at disaggregation
of the analytical framework which would allow the identification
of assumed relationships and, if needed, their adaptation and/or
the introduction of additional relationships, or, in the same
vein, to pose the very research-worthy question of their applicability.
This effect makes it difficult for social scientists in the
Third World to acquire a real understanding of their own social
structures characterized as they are by other conditions and
partly different values.
Effect on methods and techniques employed
The implication of the 'Old Structure' for choice of methods
and techniques to be employed follow rather closely the pattern
The structure of the models used, the approaches to the choice
and treatment of variables as well as to the strategies for empirical
work, methods of estimation, levels of aggregation, the kind
of data and their eventual substitution in case of non-availability,
the methods of data gathering, etc. will tend to follow those
considered as being the accepted and most sophisticated ones
described in the foreign literature. While adaptation has often
been necessary it has usually occurred for technical reasons
rather than for reasons of applicability of the conceptual apparatus.
THE REACTION TO THE 'OLD STRUCTURE'
As a reaction first to colonialism and later to economic dependence
despite political independence as well as to the limited results
development strategies achieved in relation to the expectations
raised, a movement for independence and later for self-reliance
emerged and grew stronger and wider over the years.
Awareness of the lack of fit between Northern discourse and
action in relation to development, between development recipes
and actual economic and social development, as well as between
the orientations of Northern social science and the intellectual
traditions of Southern cultures started to grow.
As a result political decision-makers in a number of developing
countries developed a very sensitive attitude towards research
carried out by foreigners in their countries which led in many
instances to subjecting such research projects to authorization
or even to a total ban.
With the growing strength of self-consciousness and the spread
of a critical attitude towards foreign intellectual domination
(and in some cases toward almost everything foreign) social scientists
also started to react against the 'Old Structure' of the international
social science system and its implications.
A rhetoric of counter attack (T. N. Madan, 1980, p. 22) spread
much wider than the actual and pursued search for alternatives
in development and/or for indigenization in the social sciences.
However, this rhetoric and its wide acceptance seems to constitute
an essential phase ('the reactive phase' (Y. Atal, 1980, p. 5,
citing R. Kothari)) in the efforts aiming at emancipation from
the value biases of Northern concepts and postulates of reasoning.
In parallel efforts at institutional emancipation developed
and took the form of a process of institutional regionalization
in the course of which regional institutions and networks were
established and started to function. (OECD Development Centre,
Liaison Bulletin, various volumes and issues)
With a time lag of some years some - more or less systematic
- efforts appeared in a limited number of African, Arab, Asian
and Latin American countries aiming at creating the theoretical
bases for a development of a social science relevant to their
socio-cultural settings as well as to the historic experience
and aspirations of their people.
TOWARDS A NEW STRUCTURE AND PATTERNS OF RELATIONSHIPS
The distribution of financial expenditures for social
science research on a world level does not seem to be changing
While remaining an important dimension the financial aspects
should not be taken as giving the full picture since financial
expenditure is a measure which distorts the picture rather importantly.
If one looks at the development of social science capacities
in Third World countries it seems beyond doubt that they have
been growing in absolute terms as regards the numbers both of
trained social scientists and of social science research institutions.
If the parallel with training of natural scientists and engineers
is applicable, these capacities are also growing in relative
terms as a share of the world potential.
As concerns the content of training in the social sciences
it seems clear that in many Third World countries the external
orientation is still much stronger than one can consider healthy.
(UNESCO, 1977, pp. 7-1r/
On the other hand, the generations that have almost exclusively
been trained abroad who are holding major positions in academic
training are gradually being replaced by generations of teachers
a much larger part of which has been trained within the country
or its region.
The prestige and reward system of the old structure
seems to be largely intact. However, it seems as if a parallel
system is slowly getting established partly on the national and
partly at the regional level which holds promise for the future.
The need for a "critical mass"
One aspect which seems essential for reducing external orientation
to an amount of interaction with abroad which can be considered
useful or even necessary is the build-up of a critical mass of
social scientists. (M. Madrazo Garamendi, forthcoming)
In this context it is necessary to qualify what has been said
earlier about the growth of social science research capacity.
In order to reach critical masses it is not enough that the total
number of social scientists increases. Critical masses have to
be reached in all disciplines considered important and not only
in these disciplines but also as regards the research on particular
problem areas and even on particular problems.
Institutional approaches to reaching critical masses
Basically there are two ways of creating critical masses.
The first consists of creating an institution (or enlarging
an existing one) in which a large enough number of specialists
are assembled to constitute a critical mass. This can be done
at the national, subregional or regional levels. This approach
has been followed in a number of fields and has taken the form
of the creation of regional institutions.
While this approach has the advantage of making a high degree
of interaction possible, it has the disadvantages that
- it is not likely to be carried out for most of the problem
areas, for which it would be necessary to create critical masses,
due to the high cost involved;
- it excludes many of the researchers who are specializing
in this problem area, but who cannot - for lack of funds or any
other reason - join the new institution;
- lastly, but most importantly, it looses the contact with
social realities in the countries of the region which is absolutely
essential in social sciences (an example for this last phenomenon
from the field of agricultural research are the institutes and
centers sponsored by the Consultative Group on International
Agricultural Research - CGIAR - which despite of a lot of funds
and high quality of the knowledge produced have not brought wide
changes in agricultural practice due to the lack of regular contacts
with national institutions whose participation would be essential
for that purpose (B. Bengtsson, 1980).
The second approach consists of building networks of
social scientists who work on the same or similar problems. In
this approach the researchers stay within their (often relatively
small) institutes which are usually geographically widely dispersed
but are given the possibility to meet at intervals and part of
the research funds needed. The institutes, in which the participating
social scientists work carry a larger or smaller part of the
costs involved (e.g. administrative overheads, documentation,
part of the researchers' salaries, etc.).
With the exception of the frequency of interaction this approach
gains on all criteria over the first approach:
- it is cheaper;
- there is no need to exclude specialists in the field concerned;
- there is no loss of contact with the social reality of the
- it prevents duplication (which in the case of regional centers
is likely to occur since not all countries will be willing to
stop work in the field concerned).
From (unbalanced) international via regional towards inter-regional
The efforts to institutionalize multilateral cooperation of
social science (development-oriented) research institutes at
the international level first took the form of regular meetings
of directors of such institutes on a world-wide basis. Due to
the state of institutional development of that kind of research
these meetings were numerically dominated by Western institutes.
With the growing awareness of the effects of Northern domination
in the social sciences, regional associations working along the
network approach started to be created first in Latin America
(CLACSO 1967) followed by Asia (ADIPA 1971) and Africa (CODESRIA
1973), Europe (EADI 1975) and the Arab region (AICARDES 1977).
These regional social science networks greatly increased cooperation
within their respective areas by creating sub-networks and research
groups to study particular problem areas as well as by bringing
together representatives of their member institutes at the occasion
of their general assemblies or general conferences. CLACSO especially
created a number of additional mechanisms or programmes to further
the development of the social sciences as well as cooperation
in the social sciences within the region.
Once four of the now five associations were functioning, multilateral
cooperation on the world level could be re-institutionalized
- this time on the basis of equal representation of the regions
in 'Inter-regional Meetings on Development Research, Education
and Communication'. Out of the first such meeting sprang the
idea which was effectuated a few months later by setting-up the
'Inter-regional Coordinating Committee of Development Associations'
(ICCDA) which is a coordinating instrument in which each of the
regional association keeps its full autonomy. (OECD Development
Centre, Liaison Bulletin, various volumes and issues)
The ICCDA network now serves as the major actor of technical
cooperation among developing countries in the social sciences
as well as being the broadest based multi-disciplinary network
of social science institutes in the world. (United Nations, 1981a,
and United Nations, 1981b)
FROM THE CLAIM OF UNIVERSALITY
VIA ACTIVE PROMOTION OF SPECIFICITY
TOWARDS UNVERSALITY IN THE SOCIAL SCIENCES
As long as most of the body of social science knowledge derives
from observation of Northern realities and has passed through
Northern interpretation and classification filters, any claim
to universality of that body of knowledge remains unfounded.
So-called "general theories" in the social sciences
thus established are, therefore, only "theories of the special
case - the Northern one. (ICCDA, 1978)
The acceptance of that body of knowledge as being universal
is not only scientifically unfounded, but it is - from a science
policy point of view - also counterproductive. It is counterproductive
because it supports (or even creates) the assumption that particular
parts of the knowledge are also valid and relevant in other parts
of the world.
On Truth and Validity of social science knowledge in different
If the relationship between two objects (factors) in socio-historic
setting A is scientifically established beyond doubt, it follows
that the knowledge thus established is both true and valid in
that particular socio-historic setting.
In socio-historic setting B the same relationship may exist,
but it may also differ.
Assuming it differs, the knowledge about the relationship
in socio-historic setting A remains true, but nevertheless it
will not be valid in socio-historic setting B. If in this case
(explicit or - more likely - implicit) use of knowledge derived
from setting A is made in setting B it must necessarily lead
to wrong results.
On the Relative Importance of Social Science Knowledge
Another issue relates to the relative importance of knowledge.
Even assuming - continuing the above example - that the same
relationship exists in both socio-historic settings, i.e. the
knowledge derived from setting A is also valid in setting B,
the relative importance of that knowledge vis-à-vis the
relationships between other objects (factors) or vis-à-vis
the relationships of the same objects (factors) with other objects
(factors) may differ greatly.
If one assumes that the explanatory value of the relationship
between the two objects (factors) in setting A is higher than
that of any other relationship in that same socio-historic setting
and if the knowledge of its explanatory value is used in setting
B, where its explanatory value may be of less relative importance,
it may lead to the neglect of research into other relationships
which may be of greater relative importance in the latter setting.
On 'Time Specificity' of Social Science Knowledge
It may be useful to discuss one aspect separately, which has
already been implicitly included in the above argument, namely,
that scientific knowledge in the social sciences is also time-specific.
In other words, what may be true / valid / important today may
no longer be true / valid / important in relation to a situation
in the future.
In living contexts, which are the object of the social sciences,
some of the components which together constitute its texture
may cease to exist while new ones may appear. Similarly the relationships
among the components and their relative importance change over
time. Knowledge that is scientifically true at a given moment
in time will remain true for that historic context but may no
longer be valid or important in a later time period.
(To take an example from economics: it seems difficult to
assert that the explanatory value of knowledge about the functioning
of a perfect market has the same relative importance today that
it had 100 years ago.)
Intensification of Research into Socio-Historic Specificity
The first dimension, along which intensification of research
into socio-historic specificity is needed, is of a general character.
If one accepts the above it follows that it is important to
try and identify the differences between the structure of relationships
of objects (factors) implicitly assumed in an analytical framework
of foreign origin on the one hand and the scientific knowledge
and/or pre-scientific perception of the structure of such relationships
in the society in which its use is intended on the other.
It seems to me that a disaggregation of the analytical framework,
the adaptation and/or exchange of certain assumptions, and a
recomposition of the analytical framework should become a routine
operation prior to the use of such frameworks originating abroad.
Depending on the results of such endeavours the development of
new analytical frameworks will be needed in quite a number of
The second major dimension of specificity needing active promotion
relates to the whole field of culture, of value systems and the
aspirations of the people of the societies in question. (Northern
societies have a rather specific idea of progress, for example.)
This second dimension is, however, an area which I feel should
be further developed first and foremost by social scientists
from the societies in question, since Northern analysis, as to
how this dimension can best be developed, might all too easily
distort the issues.
Given the strong influences favouring the use of analytical
frameworks and asking questions which originate abroad, a conscious
effort of actively promoting research on specificities all over
the world is called for.
Towards Universality in the Social Sciences
It is through the incorporation of social science knowledge
derived from different socio-historic settings that the development
of international social science is likely to get its most important
In this process many of the hitherto cherished paradigms and
concepts will have to give way to new insights and theoretic
This process will bring the body of social science knowledge
closer to its claimed universality.
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