The Arabs between scientific advancement & social change (1-2) [Archives:2006/956/Opinion]

June 19 2006

By: Prof. Abdulaziz Al-Tarb
This topic does not seem far from the political developments in the Arab homeland. It is in fact part and parcel of the essence of developments and one of its fundamental dimensions because our Arab nation is still marking time and swinging between the lack of scientific progress on the one hand and to go in the social change on the other.

We think that the Arab countries would not be able to provide advanced technology while ignoring the characteristics of the expected changes in the Arab societies especially that we are presently observing the 600th anniversary of the founder of sociology Ibn Khaldun, the greatest Arab historian who born in Tunis and died in Egypt. It is not because he is the author of the Muqaddima 'Introduction 'but rather because he was the one who defined features of societies and the transfer from countryside to urban areas and wrote in the philosophy of civilization and appearance of cities and uniquely contributed to discovery of civilized construction, but also because he seems as if he is now living among us after 600 years of his departure. In order to clarify the message we want to convey we have to touch on the following points.

Firstly: the Arabs are in a state of feud with scientific research and technological advancement and consequently they cannot change to the western social change that is connected with the various styles of life. This is in fact a core point because the social backwardness that most Arab societies suffer from seems at this time more dangerous than the economic backwardness and maybe rather the political. We have to admit that most of the Arab societies advance slowly and do not achieve the progress expected for them. It is enough to remember in this regard that the volume of social liberalism in the Arab countries for many decades was more than what it is now and this means that the relative progress towards democracy was related to a noticeable retreat in the forward movement of the society, which is a matter difficult to explain.

Secondly: it seems that the relationship between the scientific progress and the social change needs not new evidence to proof. It is because the great changes in human societies have been connected with scientific revolutions. The industrial revolution in modern Europe for instance had produced social changes similar to what the agricultural revolution had done with its impact especially in putting an end to feudalism .regime and in paving the way for capitalism in the concept that the western countries has experienced in various degrees. It may be convenient to stress here the need to change the present social structure in different Arab countries. The middle class had disappeared or it has almost and the Arab societies have become in need of promoting for new values and various traditions.

Thirdly: The Arab countries would not achieve the required degree of integration or incorporation in the life of this age unless they adopt modern methods and means connected with heading towards the scientific research and technological advancement at a balanced degree allowing them to strengthen the power of the state and cohesion of the society. We also have to observe in this regards that the image of the arabs in the eyes of others is not a positive one showing that the many gaps for criticizing them are the product of social backwardness, to the extent that the example of the arab has become associated with squandering the wealth and rushing towards delectations and life of comfort without any effort or work. This is a wrong picture and an unjust idea that almost makes him as a burden on the civilization of the age.

Fourthly: Periodic statistics reveal that the volume if Arab spending on the scientific research is less than the amount of expenditure on one consumer product the Arab countries import. This is a horrific picture especially if it is associated with the apparent degraded level of the movement of publication. The quick comparison between the numbers of Arab book titles with their counterparts in other cultures discloses clearly the flagrant variation between what he Arab mentality contributes to and that of others to our contemporary world.

Fifthly: the connection of modern technology and the social progress represents an essential direct relationship in the orientation towards scientific research seriously and with conviction having direct results on modernization of societies and prosperity of the states. It is enough to contemplate the supposed opposite connection between expansion in the use of mobile telephones and the crisis of transport and communication as we know. Intellectual developments are the actual umbrella for conformity between scientific advancement and social development.

Sixthly: It has settled in the Arab mentality that the reform is a modernization process connected with adoption of means of technology and to head for scientific research with firmness of other elements. The major of those elements is the political, economic and constitutional reforms that represent the locomotive of genuine progress, in addition to changing the mentality and exploration of visions allowing the process of reform to be continuous and durable that would not lose its momentum as a result of intellectual events or national setbacks and political frustrations.

Prof. Abdulaziz Al-Tarb is an economist and a professor of Political Science. He is the head of a number of professional associations, such as the Arab Group for Investment and Development.