Special Articles / Shankar Pathak / Social Policy, Social Welfare and Social Development
The concept of social development has a long history. It has been part of western social thought for more than 2500 years. Even in India, the ideas of social change and development have been present in rudimentary form at least from the Buddhist period. The work of Manu and Kautilya have a definite bearing on this theme
Social Change, Growth and Development
Social change, growth and development are inter-related concepts, and frequently they have been treated in social science literature as interchangeable terms. While there is a basically common element in the ideas of growth and development, it is necessary to make a conceptual distinction between social change and social development. While the former is capable of being a value-free, objective description of certain societal processes, the latter is a value-laden term, which refers to a subjective statement of the desired direction of social change and also the constituent elements of the end product.
The concepts of growth and development have their origin in biology. Nisbet states: “When we say that a culture or institution or nation ‘grows’ or ‘develops’, we have reference to change in time, but change of a rather special and distinctive type. We are not referring to random and adventitious changes, to changes induced by some external deity or other being. We are referring to change that is intrinsic to the entity, to change that is held to be as much a part of the entity’s nature as any purely structural element, such as may require activation and nourishment from external agencies, just as does the growth in a plant or organisation. But what is fundamental and guiding is nonetheless drawn from within the institution or culture”.1
Some recent writers on the subject have pointed out that there is a semantic difficulty in conveying in English the various meanings implicit in the term development. According to van Nieuwenhuijze, “Development is either achieved or consummated, a state of affairs resulting from the process of development; or it is this process itself, including the action constituting it....Development may be an act, or a process, or an achieved condition”.2 We may add that it may also be a goal i.e. a condition to be achieved. In the literature on planning, development is frequently viewed as an end and national planning is considered as an act or an instrument to achieve it.
Though the idea of development is very old indeed, the recent resurgence of interest in it is mainly the result of several factors. An important factor is the gradual process of decolonization which began after the end of the Second World War and independence of India. A second factor was the growing interest of the two world powers in the newly independent countries of Asia, Africa and the economically backward countries of Latin America. The third factor was the desire of the people and the governments of the newly independent countries to catch up with the economically advanced countries through a process of planned development with economic as well as cultural aid from the developed countries. Fourthly, the role of international organisations, particularly the United Nations and its affiliates in popularising the idea of development during the last two decades which were declared as the First and the Second Development Decade respectively. The interest of various groups and organisations in aid-giving and aid-receiving countries has also reinforced this trend.
The idea of development as a process of comprehensive and deliberate change is a culmination of the process which began with the dominant ideology of economic growth. The latter drew strength from the belief that what mattered most for the welfare of the people in economically backward countries (most of whom had attained independence but recently) was increase in production as reflected in GNP and per capita income. Once there was a fast rate of macro-level growth for which inequality was often thought to be a necessary condition, it would be relatively easy to tackle the problem of distribution. The experience over a long period of planning based on this model has shown that levels of living remained stagnant or even deteriorated while benefits of growth were appropriated largely by the top ten or twenty per cent of the population. This had a chastening effect on many people and rethinking on the problem at several levels led first to the idea of a balanced approach, next to an integrated approach, and later to the unified approach to development.
Unified Approach to Development
The U.N. General Assembly endorsed the views of the experts regarding the need for an unified approach to development analysis and planning which would fully integrate the economic and social components. This unified approach was to include as components: “(a) To leave no section of the population outside the scope of change and development, (b) to effect structural change which favours national development and activates all sectors of the population to participate in the development process, (c) to aim at social equity, including the achievement of an equitable distribution of income and wealth in the nation, and (d) to give high priority to the development of the human potentials, including vocational and technical training and the provision of employment opportunities and meeting the needs of children. The above criteria to be borne in mind in development analysis and planning processes, as well as in their implications, according to the particular developmental needs of each country”.3
Basic Needs Approach
Recently, another approach to social development has been formulated which is described as the basic needs approach. It is gaining considerable popularity in national as well as international discussions on development. It has also been incorporated to some extent in the Fifth and Sixth Plan documents in India under the label of minimum needs programme. The background for this approach seems to be the realization that it is almost impossible to substantially reduce unemployment and poverty within the next two decades even if the country adopts a radically different model of development, emphasising redistribution as a major goal. Griffin, one of the early advocates of this approach, states: “In the case of China, the share of the poorest quintile already is well over 10 per cent and no further redistribution is necessary. In the case of the other medium and low income countries in Asia, however, the basic needs of the population could be met only if a 6 per cent growth were combined with a radical redistribution of income such that the share of the poorest quintile rose from 5.3 per cent at present to 14.3 percent. That is, the share of the poor would have to increase nearly three times and the degree of equality would have to exceed that of China. Evidently such a strategy is not feasible.4’’
According to Streeten, there are two ways of defining a basic needs approach to development. The first definition “embraces the components of previous strategies and approaches such as rural development, urban poverty alleviation, employment creation through small-scale industries, redistribution with growth and other poverty, employment and equity oriented approaches ... If there is anything new in this, it is a shift of emphasis towards social services and transfer payments, designed to help the poor, and an extension of ‘new style’ projects in nutrition, health and education”.5 He argues for the second way of defining basic needs approach as one supplementing or complementing existing development strategies. This approach according to him, “focusses on the end or channelling” particular resources to particular groups, identified as deficient in these resources (e.g. caloric adequacy by age. sex and activity). It concentrates on the nature of what is provided rather than income”. It does not replace the existing growth-related concepts, “but derives from the end of meeting basic human needs the need for changing composition of output, the rates of growth of its different components and the distribution of purchasing power”.6
Holistic Approach to Development
It has been effectively argued that development and underdevelopment are two sides of the same coin.7 In order to properly understand this complex phenomenon, it is necessary to study it both in a historical and global context. Also, It is necessary to adopt an inter- disciplinary or a trans-disciplinary approach to capture the totality of the subject as an integrated whole with its multiple parts. It is also recognised that there are practical problems in the implementation of this approach. The global context has to be taken into account not only because we are living at a time when there is hardly a nation society which is insulated from the impact of transnational process such as international market, multinational organisations and international political relationships, but also because self-reliant development for the countries of the third world is not possible without significant change in the international power relationship and trade. If use of force is ruled out for achieving a new international arrangement on moral and practical grounds, then some form of international cooperation becomes a necessary condition. The historical perspective helps us to recognise that underdevelopment of some countries is a consequence of the development of some other countries which were the earliest nations to undergo the process of industrialization, preceded or accompanied by other changes nationally, such as renaissance, and internationally by colonization followed by disruption of the economies of the colonies to suit the needs of the imperial powers.
A holistic approach alone can reveal the totality of the process of development which in the past has been viewed fragmentarily and compartmentally based on the primary concern of the particular social science discipline such as economics, sociology, political science, etc. It is now realized that development as a concept is broader than economic growth or economic development; and non-economic aspects of development do not follow as an inevitable byproduct of economic growth. A meeting of experts on social policy and social planning under U.N. auspices stressed that economic phenomena are, in fact, social phenomena: they are social in nature, are socially conditioned and have social consequences; and any development planning limited to economic interrelationships and neglecting social conditions and social implications is bound to be misleading. It is most necessary to view the “development process as a, complex whole, comprising economic elements sensu stricto, but also other social as well as political and administrative elements”8
Development or Social Development
This realization, however, is not widespread among social scientists even today. So, we still read about ‘development’ in the writing of many economists and ‘social development’ in the writings of sociologists, while both the groups in fact refer to the same idea. The distinction is made even now by some economists between the economic and the social aspects of development, the latter being treated as the residual of development minus economic development. On the other side, the literature on the sociology of development frequently ignores the economic aspect even when it is mentioned perhaps nominally in the definition of social development. It appears that the developmentally-oriented economists view development as economic development plus social or institutional change, and the sociologists view it as social development of which economic development is a constituent part.
Dudley Seers who, along with Myrdal, is considered as a pioneer among the economists for his efforts which gradually led to a developmental perspective in place of the then prevalent narrow view of economic growth, in a famous article identified elimination of mass poverty, large-scale unemployment and extreme inequality as the three crucial elements of development.9 He also mentioned political freedom, including freedom of speech, as essential elements of development. Redefining the meaning of development recently, in addition to the three elements mentioned above, he added economic, self-reliance i.e. “reducing dependence on imported necessities including expertise which would involve changing consumption patterns and increasing national ownership and control of economic assets. It also implied, reducing cultural dependence on one or more of the great powers”.10 Gore, who is professionally both a sociologist and a social worker, defines and elaborates the concept of social development as follows: “The concept of social development is inclusive of economic development but differs from it in the sense that it emphasises the development of the totality of society in its economic, political, social and cultural aspects. In this sense social development planning is not concerned with planning exclusively for social services, any more than it is with the exclusive planning of economic growth. There are many areas, apart from social or welfare services, wherein the ‘social’ perspective has a relevance “.11 Social development has been invested with a variety of meanings. In its broadest sense, it “signified all aspects of development that were of a collective nature, that is to say, pertaining to the society as a whole. In a narrower sense, it could be used with reference to the human welfare aspects of development (i.e. the rising levels of living, and more equitable distribution of material and cultural goods); or it may be used in connection with structural transformations in society (e.g. changes in systems of stratification and in degrees of mobility)”.12
After a comprehensive survey of the literature on development, Paiva states that “social development has two interrelated dimensions: the first is the development of the capacity of people to work continuously for their own and society’s welfare; the second is the alteration of institutions so that human needs are met at all levels, especially the lowest, through a process of improving the relationship between the expression of needs and the means to attain them.”13 According to him, the political will i.e. the government of a country committed to the concept of development, the existence of an ideology which serves as a driving force toward the accomplishment of the goal of social development (which requires leadership, a national policy and plan) and the involvement of the people and cooperation of all segments of the population despite their diversity of background and interest, are the pre-requirements for social development. He identifies four major concepts as crucial: structural change, socio-economic integration, institutional development and institutional renewal. Two types of structural changes are mentioned-those which are the prerequisites for social development e.g. land reforms, and change’s which are the consequences of social development.14 Paiva fails to note that the two varieties of structural changes may be closely interrelated and they may reinforce each other. Some of these structural consequences may be unintended and unforeseen. They might dilute the essence of social development to the point that the real objective of social development may be undermined. The experience of planning in many developing countries, including India, bears testimony to this fact. To guard against the obsolescence of existing social institutions, it is essential to provide for a social mechanism to engage in a regular process of evaluation of social institutions and to encourage the introduction of innovations which might result in institutional renewal.
What is Social Development?
What then is social development? Social development is a comprehensive concept which implies major structural changes-political, economic and cultural, which are introduced as part of deliberate action to transform society. At a general abstract level, the goal is to create a new society in place of the present, where living conditions of the people are improved so that they do not suffer from hunger and they are not denied the basic necessities of life. Social development aims at removal of the rural-urban and regional imbalance. It aims at meeting the basic needs of the people at all levels, especially those who constitute the poorest and deprived segments of society. In order to achieve these goals, economic development is essential, which means increase in production leading to a high rate of growth as measured by GNP and which also provides for substantial increase in opportunities for employment.
Rural development is a prominent and an integral part of social development. It implies redistribution of excess cultivable land to the landless and the small farmer and other measures to remove rural inequality. It will not be of the type, as in an earlier notion of the ‘Green Revolution’, that led to increase in food production without alleviating the hunger of the masses. Rural development for the welfare of the masses should prevent proletarianization.
Social development includes programmes for universal literacy or primary education; comprehensive preventive health measures as well as facilities for control and treatment of diseases affecting the mass of the population like malaria, tuberculosis, leprosy, poliomyelitis etc; facilities for housing, where necessary, through subsidized special programmes for the rural and the urban poor. It also includes population policy and family planning, without which a faster rate of economic development is not possible. Social development implies a substantial investment in social services. More importantly, it means ensuring easy access to these services so that the target population derives benefits of the programmes.
Preservation of ecological balance in the physical environment is also part of social development. Indiscriminate felling of trees in the forests (which are essential for rainfall as well as for the prevention of landslides) for commercial and industrial purposes as part of the process of industrialization in a narrow perspective of economic growth which will create serious problems for the people in the immediate future as well as in the long run. Eco-development is thus an integral part of a comprehensive concept of social development. The concept of eco-development “stresses the need to look for concrete development strategies capable of making a good and ecologically sound use of the specific resources of a given ecosystem in order to satisfy the basic needs of the local population”,15
Social development, as described above, is only possible through the active participation of the people in the process of making political and economic decisions involving their welfare. This requires action for preparing a planned programme of development which can be implemented effectively by the available instruments of administration. It needs to be supported and watched by an organized voluntary movement of the people, passionately committed to the goals of social development. It also requires decentralization of power and decision-making to the extent possible so that the process of planning at the grass-root level is made possible. But, there are some serious problems in translating this idea into practice which have not received much attention. “The important questions relate to the precise combination of central leadership, central coordination and central resources contribution, with decentralized decision-making and mobilisation of local resources which would be most effective”.16
Failure of Western Models
Most of the evolutionary theories of social development during the last century were based on the assumption of unilinear process of change from one type of society to another type. The path was to be traversed in certain specified stages. The modernization theory which was developed in the U.S.A. during the 50’s and 60s of twentieth century by sociologists belonging to the structural-functional school and the Marxist theory are also based on these assumptions. The modernization theory which was highly popular among academic and official circles of many countries of the third world is being increasingly subjected to severe criticism for its theoretical defects as well as for its implicit ideological bias, despite the claim to value-neutrality by its proponents. The failure of the development model based on democratic-capitalist planning has added to the intellectual appeal of the Marxist theory, which is similar to the evolutionary theories in some respects.
The failure of planning models based on the western capitalistic path to development (tradition to modernity/stages of economic growth) led to disenchantment with the western models and to a search for alternative models of development. In this connection, the experiments of some of the newly independent socialist countries of the third world, especially China, are being studied seriously by academicians, planners, policy makers and administrators of many developing countries. The search for and the existence of alternative models combined with the failure of the dominant western model have enabled many theorists and administrators to recognize that the path to development may be multilinear and that each country has to select its own goals, strategies and instruments of development. This in turn has led to a reassessment of the contribution of great national leaders like Gandhi and Nehru in India and to attempt a linkage with the best of the national heritage. For this reason, in the present context it is relevant to consider the contribution of Gandhi and Nehru to the evolution of a national goal for social development and also a design for achieving it.
Gandhian View of Development
Gandhi rejected the imitative western model of economic progress which stressed acquisition of wealth, material prosperity, large-scale mechanization and industrialization leading to urbanization and extreme inequality. Joshi states: “Indian development. according to Gandhi, has to be envisaged, therefore., not on western lines which had led to enormous problems and complications even in the west: it should instead be based on the principle of a balance between agriculture and small industry excluding the use of labour-saving modem technology and the maximum utilization of the labour resources of the community. The latter pattern of development would be more effective in eliminating pauperism and in ameliorating the condition of the masses: it would also save India from the dehumanizing influence of an acquisitive and competitive capitalism”.17 The other two basic concepts of Gandhi which formed part of his philosophy of social development are the concepts of Swaraj and Swadeshi. The latter concept, in our opinion, was not merely an economic concept which advocated the purchasing of goods made in India and boycott of foreign-manufactured products. In a broader sense, Swadeshi implied freedom of the mind from its colonial heritage of admiration for everything that came from across the seas as superior to the native product. And Swaraj meant not only political independence but economic self-reliance as well and decentralization to primary units at the village level.
Ganguli says that for a reformer like Gandhi, “Social development could not be an instrumental value, but something desirable in itself as a consummation or an end by itself .... He could not, therefore, conceive of social development apart from the development of the individual, the individual being considered neither in the mass, nor as abstraction, but in terms of the lowest individual in an unequal society, whose development was the measure of development from the social point of view”.18 He further states that Gandhi did not see social development as “something distinct from, or as a byproduct of, either economic development or political freedom”.19 For Gandhi social development meant welfare of all - Sarvodaya. He knew this to be unattainable unless there was a radical structural transformation which would end exploitation of man by man, and other types of exploitation such as cities fattening on the produce of villages. He also saw that social development for India basically meant rural development in an integrated scheme of peasant agriculture, rural industries, basic education, cooperatives and panchayats.
Gandhi was not totally against mechanization and industrialization. What he was opposed to was the parasitic relationship of an industrial-urban system exploiting the fruits of labour of the village peasant and artisan. He was also opposed to machines which displaced labour and threw people out of employment. The technology was to be labour-absorbing rather than labour-saving; or, to put it in the current terminology, he was for appropriate technology. Again, to use a currently fashionable phrase, he was for integrated and balanced development in which rural development occupied a central place. This was to be accomplished by the voluntary and cooperative efforts of the people and also through participatory democracy of village self-government. Gandhi believed in people’s power.20 He was aware of the severe limitations to bringing about radical social changes through state power and by relying on the instrument of legislation.
Nehru’s View of Development
Nehru’s social philosophy was a blend of Fabian socialism and democratic liberalism. His model of development was greatly influenced by Gandhi’s views. Like Gandhi, he advocated an ‘anti-capitalist, mass welfare-based and equity-oriented course of economic and social development’.21 Unlike Gandhi, Nehru’s conception of India was not based on a predominantly peasant orientation. It is true that he advocated land reforms, promoted community development schemes for the rural areas and tried to encourage cooperative farming etc. His conception of development was a variant of western capitalistic model of economic development which included also some features of the Soviet socialist model. Nehru laid great emphasis on large-scale, heavy industry based on modern science and technology through a form of state capitalism which left scope for private capitalism to join in the process of democratic planning for economic development. This approach was based on the conviction “that both equity and growth demand that the capitalist path be abandoned in favour of a non-capitalist path. At the same time growth required that genuine capitalist forces in the economy should be capitalised and exploited, though not as the dominant forces, in the interests of national development”.22
Like Gandhi, Nehru had an abiding faith in the capacity of the people to shape their destiny. In practice, however, he tended to rely on the power and instruments of state, whereas Gandhi emphasized people’s power and proposed voluntary movement of the people for social transformation. Tarlok Singh observes: “Nehru’s basic premises and values led him to a certain social approach for the fulfilment of which planning was a necessary means. In turn, planning led him to define his priorities and his concepts of economic policy and structure. Behind his thinking on economic problems lay a pervasive belief in the possibilities of science and technology”.23 He further states: “Basically, Nehru’s socialism consisted of human and social values. In terms of institutions and structures, it left perhaps too large an area fluid and flexible.... It can be said that his ideas on economic and social development did not amount to a complete and fully worked out system and, given the correct direction, he was willing to leave a great deal to evolve out of future experience”.24
Analysing the results of the five year plans based on Nehru’s conception of Indian development, Joshi concludes: “The basic contradiction of the Nehru model lay in the fact that at the ideological level it was committed to a conception of development in the interests of small and propertyless masses of Indian society; at the Operational level, however, it provided largely for the participation of the big and medium property-owners in the process of economic development.”25 Comparing Nehru’s and Gandhi’s conception of development, he says: “In our view, it was Gandhi’s merit that he had a rare and unerring perception of some of the basic inadequacies and weaknesses of Nehru’s thinking in relation to the specifics of the Indian social situation and the essential requirements of Indian development. Gandhi had a better perception of the basic characteristic of the Indian situation, viz., the predominance of self-employed producers -the small peasants and the artisans-in the Indian economic structure. His basic insight that the participation of this vast force in economic development calls for a new approach and exploration outside the bounds of western or Soviet models has been fully borne out by recent Indian experience”.26
Both Gandhi and Nehru were fundamentally humanists in their value-orientation. Both of them abhorred the consequences of the classical western model of capitalist development and they wanted to steer the course of social development away from this model. They wanted to achieve social development involving major structural changes through a process of class reconciliation and not through class-conflict. They believed this to be possible as they thought that the wealthy sections of society could be persuaded to accept voluntary restrictions to the concentration of wealth and economic power. Gandhi and Nehru, while drawing upon the intellectual tradition of their distinguished predecessors like Rammohun Roy, M.G. Ranade, G.K. Gokhale and others, who had a vision of independent and modern India, provided the main ideological framework and developmental perspective which are reflected in the Preamble and the Directive Principles of State Policy of the Constitution of India. It was the culmination of a process of evolving a national consensus on the goals of social development for independent India, which were to be achieved by deliberate actions of the people. i.e., development as action in which all people participated.
The founding fathers of our Constitution envisaged as its goal the establishment of an egalitarian society in these words: “to promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting as effectively as it may a social order in which justice, social, economic and political, shall inform all the institutions of the national life”. This goal was subsequently reiterated and emphasized when Parliament passed a resolution stating that the goal was to establish a socialistic pattern of society. The nature and content of the ‘socialistic pattern’ were not spelled out either then or later. But the approach to planned development that was adopted after independence, certainly did not follow the Gandhian model. The achievements of planned development, such as they are, have not been in the direction of the goal enunciated by national leaders like Gandhi and Nehru and as stated in the Constitution. This has been characterized as goal transfer by Dube.27 In our view, it is really goal displacement, arising out of the prevailing inequality in the social structure, where political and economic power are concentrated in the hands of the ruling elites.
A careful study of the recurring themes in the recent international literature on development will reveal that most of them are part of the Gandhian model of social development. As Ganguli tellingly remarks in another context: “Some of the basic methods and ideas seem to have travelled back to us from western countries in the garb of western phrases. We have been raving about them, without realizing that Gandhi had said as much and more....”28 Sections of opinion among Indian elites tended at first to dismiss Gandhian ideas as utopian or obscurantist. They have now started reexamining Gandhian ideas and in the process some of them are discovering that “Gandhism” is quite relevant to planning for social development.29
Notes and References
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