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Political Development A Critical Perspective

Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1979.

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Preface: (...) A word about the book. The issues that it discusses are of wider interest and larger relevance than the simple one of political development with which it is ostensibly concerned. It is the relevance of the idea of development or progress for the understanding of human reality in its deepest dimensions with which this work is centrally concerned. Every student of art, religion, philosophy, culture or civilizations finds himself seriously troubled about the question at one time or another. The realm of science which appeared immune from such questioning has ceased to be so after Kuhn's work in particular and work on the history of science in general. The dilemma may not appear to those who suffer from what may only be called the 'present-centric consciousness' in these fields or to those who have decided about the finality of some past revelation or achievement. To everybody else, however, it is obvious that in many of these fields the past achievements not only stand alongside those of the present but in many cases are even superior to them. Yet, notwithstanding this fact, there is also the inescapable awareness that even the greatest achievements of the past did not contain everything in them, that it has not been merely a sorry spectacle of stale repetition of what was once achieved in the creative glory of the past, but that each succeeding generation has added a richness and variety to the creative contribution of man and given it a flavour and a nuance which never was before.

The last chapter tries to explore these issues in some depth and explicates the need for the formulation of some concept different from those of progress and development which may do justice to the facts as found in these domains. The work, therefore, strikes a larger theme and raises the question as to how man is to understand his own creations, including those which not only enmesh him all around but make him what he is. Yet, the question of understanding man's creations inevitably leads to the question of understanding man himself, a question to which this book leads but which it does not discuss in any great detail. But is there only one way of understanding man and his creations? And if not, what shall we do with the situation? Perhaps there is no answer to the question. But can there by any doubt that an awareness of the question leads to the making of a different man - a man more humble, more appreciative of difference, more aware of the limited, circumscribed nature of his own achievement as also that of his culture, his times and his nation? Perhaps such an awareness will mitigate the arrogance of power, of wealth and of knowledge that lurks beneath the surface of so much intellectual life in the West today.

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