This paper is identifies the central principle of development and traces its expression in different fields, levels and stages of expression. Development is a function of society’s capacity to organize human energies and productive resources to respond to opportunities and challenges. Historically, social development has passed through three progressive, but overlapping stages in which three different components of human consciousness served as primary engines for social advancement. The paper draws parallels between the catalytic role of population growth, urbanization, the spread of a money economy, and, most recently, Internet as accelerators of the development process. Looking backward, the development achievements of the world over the past five decades have been unprecedented and remarkable.
Looking forward into the next century, daunting developmental challenges confront humanity. Despite 50 years of intensive effort, the world is still blindly groping for adequate answers to fundamental questions about development and for effective strategies to accelerate the process. A few observations highlight some striking aspects of recent development experience that need to be theoretically understood and some perplexing questions that need to be answered to meet the opportunities and challenges of the coming years. The world has made greater progress in eradicating poverty over the past 50 years than during the previous 500: Over the past five decades, average per capita income in the world more than tripled, in spite of unprecedented population growth.
In developing countries, real per capita consumption rose by 70 percent between 1965 and 1985. What have been the principle reasons for this phenomenal progress? What do these results augur for the coming decades? These observations and the questions they call to mind illustrate that in spite of fifty years of concentrated effort and unprecedented achievements by the international community, fundamental issues pertaining to development remain at best poorly understood.
The world has not yet been able to derive from its experience a comprehensive knowledge of the development process. Questions and doubts about development reflect the fact that the world’s progress until now has been largely an unconscious or subconscious development. Looking back we observe the results of our past actions, but even now are unable to clearly explain the principles that account for these results, both the achievements and the failures. The enunciation of theoretical principles or laws can be a powerful force for the identification, discovery and exploitation of untapped potentials. In the physical sciences, Einstein’s general theory of relativity played a role in advances in physics that led to the nuclear era, an understanding of elementary particles and the discovery of neutron stars, black holes, and gravitational waves. A comparison with the field of medical physiology makes clear just how far we are from possessing a comprehensive knowledge of social development and how much that knowledge would increase the effectiveness and results of our efforts to enhance the health and wealth of nations.