Definitions of Progress and Global Development

Where does the concept progress come from? Who sets its parameters? What do we have to do to know we are achieving something worthwhile? Without thinking about these questions we end up thinking about progress in a way that does not actually reflect the advancement of our species. Without a conscious effort to understand what is a good direction to move in, we become susceptible to manipulation and coercion by the interests of others. A person without a plan becomes a pawn in the plans of others. Lack of reflection on goals, does not make us immune to corrupt powers setting goals for us. Passivity does not lead to relaxation – it leads to devastation.

Justice is the name for an active thought process on deciding what constitutes progress. Justice is the science of defining what is a good path for our world to take, setting milestones that let us measure our advancement, and enriching public recognition of how progress reflects global needs. An active and public discourse on Justice is the name we give to human and collective agency in setting the goals and deciding the path for what direction we see ourselves moving in as a species, wholly interconnected, and united in sharing in each others achievements and prosperity, and experiencing each others suffering, with the spread of poverty, illiteracy, disease, unrest and crime. A dominant discourse on justice, an overt and moderated public discussion on Justice, a forum that enforces its agenda, and a dedicated core of intellectual and political protagonists will ensure that social and economic development is never again co-opted out of the interests of the people and manipulated into the service of personal preferences or self-interested financial actors.

Social and economic development lacked a custodian. In her or his absence the ideological and political vacuum beckoned to manipulators and opportunists who saw in this a chance to press the values and finances of the masses into their own services. An agenda of social and economic development was propagated, ironically couched in philanthropic and charitable terminology, that burned the advantage of the generality of humankind to the gadget and industrial preoccupations of technocratic potentates of the fortune 500. Governments and people alike, in the absence of an active and public thought process on Justice, were co-opted and duped passively into supporting and believing this dialogue. Corporation, common man, and custodians of national governments became unquestioning accomplices in multi-national exploitation of developing rural populations for the technocratic centralization of resources to metropolitan financial centers in the west, under the rationalization and justification of ideas such as industrialization and charity, and a vision of ‘replicating’ the way of life of North America and Europe en mass on the African, Asian, and South American continents.

Complicit in this predicament was the indulgent passivity of the populations involved, the good-intentioned but gullible developers, united nations delegations, discourse, and think tanks. A combination of moral righteousness and imperial industrialism led arrogance and complacency to ingratiate itself into the waning integrity and intellectual rigor of the global development community’s discourse on what it means to “progress”. Concern for justice prevents those who define goals for social and economic development from sacrificing the well-being of the generality of humankind to a vision of technological advance experienced only by the privileged few.