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74 - Social science and Development
Knowledge and Power

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Rekindling the imagination
editorial byLaurence Tubiana, director of publication
and Christina von Furstenberg, Chief of the Policy and Cooperation in Social Sciences Section, Division of Social Sciences Research and Policy, UNESCO.

he social sciences, and especially economics, have been the sciences of modernity, and of the social revolutions, planning and development that have characterized the 20th century. This early 21st century - when revolutions cause uncertainty, great importance is given to the economy and networks seem to have supplanted States - is distinctly breaking away from the plan of modernity where progress depended on universal solutions, which have until now dominated thinking.

In these hesitant times, there are some who are beginning to question the contribution made by social science, thus, in our opinion, confusing the tool and its function. The role of social science in understanding and analysing human societies and their processes of organization and change can by no means be limited to the modernist project. Showing caution in the face of linear progress or demanding less universal solutions does not make research into mechanisms in action any less valid: quite the contrary.

If we do not restrict development to the narrow agenda of universalist modernity, broad fields of investigation and analysis open up to us, allowing greater understanding of the processes of social change, collective and cultural preferences and mechanisms for establishing rights, legitimacy, physical and economic security, participation in decision-making, and so on. These fields require not less, but more social science, greater interdisciplinarity and more basic research.

The agendas of scientists and politicians alike are therefore far from empty. The accepted and much-discussed objectives of sustainable development, meeting human needs, eradicating poverty, protecting the environment and regulating production processes cannot be achieved without better understanding of local mechanisms for appropriating these watchwords and shrewd reflection on the way in which the international system works. The questions raised by the instability of States, globalization, indigenous peoples' access to knowledge and resources, and so on, are further areas where politicians have very little hindsight in terms of the projects they undertake.

Once again, meaning is important, and only social science is in a position to deconstruct and develop the imagination needed for political action.

This issue is suported by the Unesco-Most and will be distributed during the International Forum international on Social Science - Policy Nexus, Buenos Aires (September, 5-9, 2005). www.unesco.org/shs/ifsp

Knowledge and Power
Christina
von Furstenberg

Unesco

focus
Kwonledge,
Power and Politics

Jan Nederveen Pieterse
University
of Illinois

theories
What Have We Learned?
Irma Adelman University of California at Berkeley

The Grammar
of Development
Jean Coussy
Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales,
Centre d’études
et de recherches internationales

An Illusion with No Future
Gilbert Rist
Institut universitaire d'études du développement

Beyond Watchwords
Round-table with
Roger Guesnerie
école normale supérieure
Claude Henry
école polytechnique
Laurence Tubiana
Institut du développement durable et des relations
internationales

Adifferent understanding
of the world

Olivier Godard
Ecole polytechnique


fields
The Missing Link
Jean-Pierre Olivier
de Sardan

Institut de recherches pour
le développement

Ambiguous Participation
Maria Inácia D'Avila
Universidade Federal do Rio
de Janeiro

From Ideals
to Tools

Christoph
Eberhard

Facultés universitaires
Saint-Louis, Bruxelles
Laboratoire d'anthropologie juridique de Paris

agendas
The Case for Human Security
Mary Kaldor
Centre for
the Study
of Global Governance

The Culture
of Meaning

Entretien avec
Manuel Castells

Annenberg School
for Communication,
Open University
of Catalonia

Indigenous Outlook

Irène Bellier
Laboratoire d’anthropologie
des institutions
et des organisations sociales

Corporate
Impact

Peter Utting
Institut de recherche
des Nations unies pour le développement social

landmarks
Development: Ideas and Action

Planet Social Science

AIDA - Le Courrier de la planète -Domaine de Lavalette - 1037 rue Jean-François Breton - 34390 Montpellier - France - cdp@courrierdelaplanete.org
Dernière mise à jour Thursday 29 September, 2005