Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What is Socio-Cultural Development

Socio-Cultural Development by Thomas Woodfin

When any development occurs it becomes "socio-cultural." Development is a dynamic process, and is a series of processes that culture influences and vice-versa. The "new international order" is a doctrine like policy to get away from ethnocentric cultural norms and focus on economic development (Ziolkowski, 1979). Developing countries may not be wealthy in GNI, but they are rich in cultural aspects (Ziolkowski, 1979). There is a problem of the definition of wealth as accumulation of material goods. Cultural wealth and cultural poverty are not necessarily consistent with economic development in that culture has an intrinsic value on it which may not be tangible but nevertheless important to the society. For example, artistic cultural values play a capital role in getting global recognition, creating tourism and subsequently increasing the GNI.

As Belal (1979) argues, it is not possible for a developing country to imitate the capitalist western model. In the western societies, Capitalism has become a lifestyle shaping people's consumption and production patterns. In other words, capitalism plays a major role in defining the western cultures. Belal would agree with the latter idea when he claims "this civilization is organically linked to the nature and internal dynamics of the type of socio-economic and cultural development which gave birth to it." Trying to introduce and enforce a capitalist system on cultures that are not socio-economically or culturally structured for it could be very damaging to the development of these developing nations, because it limits their socio-cultural and economic creativity. The only way development would be achieved in the developing world through capitalism is if these societies learn to change their socio-economic pattern of consumption along with their cultural behavior and identity. One of the ways to create such changes could be done through the technocratic-modernist current (Belal, 1979). Followers of this current aim at replicating the capitalist western thought, without paying too much attention to the need to detach themselves from post-colonial dominance of the west. This current relies on the power of technology to bring development, and turn their backs on most political, economic or cultural values of their societies.
On an opposed view around this issue, "technological invasion" and "social isolation" is creating suffering for many people who are witnessing a great level of disconnect with their culture (Ziolkowski, 1979). Ziolkowski predicts in 1979 that if the solution to poverty lies within technological change, then losing cultural values and identities may take place. Technology is building bridges between people from California to China, but it is also building ever stronger walls between neighbors. Some people are surrounding themselves with modern technology while paying little attention to the needs of others. The evolution of the human race inevitably leads to a socio-cultural change.

According to the UNESCO website, their mission is to "Build Peace in the Minds of People." The question that remains is whether the dissemination of information from UNESCO is reaching the politicians and authority leaders to make policy in developing countries that affect the influence of culture. The basic premise is that it not possible for developing countries to create a capitalistic "western-style" culture. As the study of the Peruvian children suggests there are many different cultural views of development within one particular area (Lauritsen, 2003), so there will always be an opposition between culture advocates and those in favor of capitalism.

Belal, A. A. (1979). Culture and development: An approach to underdevelopment. Cultures, 6(1), 30-38.
Francois, P., & Zabojnik, J. (2001). Culture and development: An analytical framework. Available at
Lauritsen, P. & Mathiasen, S.H. (2003). Drawing development: Analysing local understandings of development in three Andean communities. Development in Practice, 13(1), 27-39.

Ziolkowski, J. (1979). Cultural dimension of development. Cultures, 6(1), 17-28.

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Achieving sustainability occurs through the process of sustainable development - discovering, adopting, implementing, establishing, and adjusting appropriate institutions, policies, strategies, and technologies to produce a just transition that moves society toward the envisioned idealized state of existence. Democracy is often viewed in the same way, as a process of working toward the ideal.