Significance: Co-existence of unrelated human development paradigms
Human Development Project |
1. Biased approaches to human development.
As might be expected with a process so fundamental to human society,
quite different sectors of society have very different understandings of
the significance and place of this process. These different perspectives
may be viewed as "biases", although from a broader view their insights
may be assumed to be compatible. Few texts address themselves to the nature
of the compatibility between these perspectives. It is easy to get locked
into the logic associated with any one of these perspectives and to forget
that there are other important ways of viewing the process.
A useful insight into the confusion concerning "human development" may
be obtained from the notes
on the following pages on some basic sets of biases. Others, especially
favoured by some, to which reference might have been made, include: physical
development, emotional development, moral and ethical development, mental
development, development of creativity, aesthetic development, and political
development. These, briefly reviewed, are:
biases: These reflect the obvious concerns to provide for the basic
needs of individuals and to ensure the survival of economies and the societies
that depend upon them. This pattern of biases is central to "development"
as most commonly understood by the international community, and especially
by development and relief agencies. This understanding is underpinned by
many of the applied social sciences, especially economics and the behavioural
sciences. In addition to the economic variant, there are social
and educational biases and cultural
and educational biases.
bias: Whereas the socio-economic biases reflect a preoccupation
with society as a whole and the contribution of individual human development
to its well-being, the psychological bias primarily governs recognition
of individual patterns of development. This may be understood to be largely
condition by society, but the concern is primarily with the individual
and the manner in which he fulfils his potential within society in psychological
terms. This bias is naturally cultivated by psychologists and the institutions
in which they are employed. These are typically those related to education
and training. Increasingly these institutions include large corporations
who recognize the long-term economic value of investing in effective personnel
relations. There is also some indication of concern by public health authorities
with the psychological well-being of individuals in highly stressful industrial
(c) Modes of awareness
and experiential biases: The above biases reflect perspectives
of institutional and academic establishments in dealing with individuals
in society. Individuals themselves pursue their own understandings of human
development, however deluded these may be considered to be. In their most
common form these involve pursuit of status, cultivation of self-image,
self-esteem and a sense of prowess, as well as the search for exciting
stimuli. This pattern of concerns is reinforced by folk wisdom on the one
hand, and by the media on the other. It is perhaps most striking in the
pursuit of fashion understood as a daily striving for personal development.
In this sense human development may be understood by many as becoming more
fashionable and cultivating a higher order of personal style. Beyond the
pursuit of common stimuli, there is the cultivation of other modes of awareness.
In their more accessible forms, these may be associated with music and
the delights of the flesh. But beyond these are the cultivation of other
modes of awareness. These may be achieved through stimulants, whether alcohol,
nicotine, or drugs (legal or illegal). They may also be cultivated through
group processes or personal disciplines. The latter may range from physical
exercise (jogging, mountaineering, etc) through to disciplines of the mind
(including breathing exercises and the like). It can be argued that most
individuals are primarily concerned with forms of personal human development
governed by these experiential biases.
(d) Mythical, religious
and spiritual biases: This of course is the best developed preoccupation
with human development. It also has the longest history. On the one hand
it reflects archetypal concerns with the place of the individual in the
universe and his need to come into harmony with its rhythms. On the other
it corresponds to the concern with coming into relationship with whatever
are to be understood as the invisible dimensions and integrating forces
of psychic and spiritual life. This preoccupation may also be considered
as quite independent of the others.
2. Confusing range of meanings
In each of the above cases there is a well-developed constituency that
has achieved a certain degree of consensus on the dimensions of human development,
whatever the disagreement concerning the details of the process. There
is however very little effective communication between these constituencies.
Many seemingly unrelated concepts, perspectives and methods are considered
by their advocates to be central to full understanding of the meaning of
human development. But even within the domain of psychology, there are
different, and even mutually antagonistic, schools of thought on the matter.
For psychologists the term is commonly used to describe changes in behaviour
which occur with age. But even then "development can be endowed with
many connotations or it can be given limited meaning within a highly restrictive
context. The precision of definition often depends on whether the writer
is more interested in describing the achievement of broad stages or plateaus
of behaviour or the mechanisms which apparently govern the transitions
between stages. How we define development subsequently limits what we then
observe." (John Eliot, 1971).
The term "human development" is commonly used by psychologists and is
increasingly used in international debate by those concerned with the limitations
in practice of the conventional concern with economic and social development.
One of the first working meetings (Tokyo, 1975) of the United Nations University
was on human and social development. A proposal has even been made to hold
a United Nations Conference on Human Development. Despite the emergence
of this term into favour there is little consensus as to its meaning or
range of meanings.
There is a certain incongruity in attempting any verbal description
of concepts and processes for which the verbal mode of presentation may
be considered inappropriate, insensitive and even totally inadequate. This
is particularly so when the same editorial (information-oriented) approach
is used in handling the descriptions of concepts that may be considered
essentially incompatible by their respective advocates. Nevertheless many
verbal descriptions have been attempted in the past. The resultant multiplicity
of presentations of concepts presumably bear some relationship to one another
since they all concern the individual human being. But this multiplicity
facilitates neither comprehension of their particular emphasis nor empathy
for the seeming excesses of their advocates. The very enthusiasm of available
descriptions of some concepts of human development, let alone the existence
of specialized jargons and neologisms, certainly facilitates the task of
those who would prefer to ignore all but the most simplistic concepts of
The following notes
attempt to highlight the extent of this confusion, the alienating sterility
of the depersonalized interpretations prevailing at the international level,
and the relatively recent emergence of a variety of concepts which merit
greater attention and more widespread recognition.
From Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential