Diversity and Historical Processes in Human Development: The Decline of Rationality - Economic Research Forum (ERF)

Diversity and Historical Processes in Human Development: The Decline of Rationality

Ismail Sirageldin

February, 2002


19 pages

I. Health, Education, and Welfare

The paper is divided into two parts: conceptual and factual. A conceptual review of the historical processes that led to the present state of human diversities and differentiations has not been optimistic. Technological changes, especially those associated with the industrial revolution that started three centuries ago, promote new knowledge and technological achievements that enhanced material progress and human development for large segments of the world populations. It also introduced severe socioeconomic inequalities and poverty to major population groups and regions. Scientific and technological developments also introduced new views of nature that, in many cases deepened inequalities and diversities. For the majority of humanity, the central challenge remains unanswered: namely, how to reach a sustainable level of development? For more than three decades, the development establishment has been occupied in efforts and programs around the world to enhance human capabilities, opportunities and the overall quality of life. Yet, views and paradigms about development processes and strategies have changed little, if any, even while the world system and its political and technological bases have changed dramatically.  Without a global value system, the fate of the majority of humanity will be relegated to persistent poverty and lack of freedoms, the essay concludes.

Senior Associates

Ismail Sirageldin

Professor, Johns Hopkins University



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