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IASSI Quarterly
Year : 2005, Volume : 23, Issue : 3
First page : ( 70) Last page : ( 89)
Print ISSN : 0970-9061.

Essay on human individual, nature and science in the context of steady social development*

Dasgupta A.K., Member Secretary

Indian Association of Social Science institutions

*V.K.R.V. Rao Memorial Lecture, Delivered at 2004 Annual Conference of Indian Social Science Association, held at Agra.

I am grateful to the Indian Social Science Association for inviting me for delivering the V.K.R.V. Rao Memorial Lecture. I do not know if I could be good for the occasion.

Dr. VKRV was one of the great economists which India produced and he will be remembered as an economist for ever. He was educated in Cambridge in the middle of thirties and worked there on India's National Income. It was pioneering work and was undertaken as a time when appropriate data systems did not exist. Thus the work was arduous and his involvement could only be seen as a sign of dedication.

At the time of my entry into the profession, Dr. V.K.R.V. Rao was at the pinnacle. These days many seminars, symposia and conferences are organized and individuals have opportunities of knowing each other. In the past, such occasions were few and thus we rarely knew eminent men personally. We could know them only through their works.

A symposium was organized at Calcutta University on the occasion of an alumni meeting. Dr. Rao, Dr. Amiya K. Dasgupta and Dr. C.N. Vakil were the panelists. Dr. Rao was passionate, very articulate and emotional in his talk on the need for comprehensive economic planning for rapid development of the country. Dr. Vakil was a sharp contrast. In the most unemotional and cold logical terms, and in an equally articulate and forceful manner, he argued for avoiding planning. I was working at that time on technical aspects of planing and found that his talk on planning could provide a moral and social justification for my interest in the planning process.

My first contact with Dr. Rao occurred after some time at a seminar in Delhi. I presented a paper at the seminar. The seminar was attended both by Dr. Amiya Dasgupta and Dr. Rao. My paper was well taken and at some stage Dr. Dasgupta introduced me to Dr. Rao. Dr. Rao suggested that whenever I was in Delhi in could find some time and see him.

Dr. Rao was convinced that only through planning, and steering the economy and the society, along the path determined by the planning process, economic and social development, and particularly, relief from chronic poverty, afflicted on the people, could be obtained. For him, this approach was a part of a belief and he held the belief passionately. As a member of the Planning Commission at one time he contributed enormously to the plan formulation.

Dr. Rao, in all his utterances, expressed his deep concern for the state of poverty and unemployment in India. His attachment to the planning process was also total. I have, therefore, felt that a lecture with a bearing on aspects of planning and development, which were his prime concern, could be appropriate for a memorial lecture.

The sight of the chronic nature of Indian poverty has been, however, in sharp contrast to the sight of steady progress achieved in many societies. The economists have also held out prospects of a golden age under which steady growth could be achieved and retained for all times to come1. In a way, a parallel of the Darwinian theory of evolution in the biological sphere has been developed, without bringing in concepts of survival of the fittest as in the modern theories of biological evolution2.

The theories of evolution, including the theory of golden age, are consistent with the belief structure in Europe during the post-reformation period. Under this belief structure, progress was seen as a natural process. The belief has its basis in Aristotelian and Hegelian metaphysics. The ancient Greek understanding of nature has also entered in the presentation of the process.

My discussion in the present discourse will deal with the above matter and the steady progress achieved in Europe during the post reformation period will form the focus of the discussion. It will be my contention to show that the growth process evidenced in Europe during the post reformation period has been dependent on use of features, falling under physical nature while the metaphysical concept of nature did not have any significance in the process. The process of development in Europe after the reformation has been studied extensively by European historians, economists, and other intellectuals. Developments in the areas of science, philosophy, religion and generally social forces have been highlighted in their writing. The present paper has been prepared keeping those firmly at the back of my mind.

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