Chairman : A. Briggs, University of Sussex

Rapporteur: N. Elias, University of Ghana, Legon



The Working Group was an object lesson of the strong as well as the weak points of present-day sociology with regard to the problems of social development. As for the strong points: the working group produced a number of quite excellent case studies. They were centered around two main problem areas - the problems that arise in villages if the traditional order is broken up and the problems that arise again and again in industry with the change in traditional techniques. A wealth of studies from a great variety of countries showed the progress as well as the urgency of sociological studies of the break-up of the traditional order in the village level.  Contributions referred among others to the changes of this type in Colombia, Egypt, Russia, Burma, Pakistan, Turkey, Greenland and Finland. They dealt with different aspects of this transformation, such as the effects of religion on attitudes towards modernisation and in turn of modernisation on religion, on values in general and on democratic values in particular on the ranking of occupations, and on the methods of modernisation in highly centralised societies, to mention only a few.

    Contributions to «the break with traditionalism» with reference to industry came, among others, from Japan with a striking criticism by K. Odaka of two conflicting views on the role of tradition in the process of modernisation, the one dismissing it, the other praising it; from  Russia when, among others, A. A. Zworikin and Academician N. I. Grastchenkow reported on enquiries into workers' attitudes towards the introduction of automation, discussing not only the sociological, but also the psychological and neuro-physiological aspects of the problem, and from the U.S.A. with the stimulating report by W. H. Friedland on the formation and role of elites in a process of modernisation with special reference to African problems.

      The discussion brought out more fully the need for systematic comparative studies of such transformations on both levels.  A number of those who spoke were impressed by similarities in the devolpmental problems that arise in countries which appear to be very different, such as Iceland and Turkey.  Why is it that in some states, such as Colombia, violence becomes endemic without resulting in any basic change in the traditional structure and outlook of governments ? Why, in some cases, does it take a long time before basic changes in the structure and outlook of governments affect the traditional order on the village level ? Why do attempts to change radically the traditional order in the villages often result in a decline in agricultural production ? Those were some of the points raised in the discussion.

     A wealth of stimulating and instructive sociological case studies in limited empirical problems of social developments, produced in our group, provided an object lesson of the strength of present-day trends towards a developmental sociology.  Seen in perspective, the problems raised by these studies were a strikig reminder of the fact that apart from the narrower economic problems a wide range of specifically sociological problems of social development invite closer study if the practical problems of countries in a state of transition from their «traditional» order are to be brought nearer solution.

     But the proceedings of the working group also indicated some of the shortcomings of contemporary sociology with regard to the problems of social development.  Many of the present standard concepts of sociology, including concepts like structure and function, are wholly static and provide little help and guidance for developmental sociological studies.  No sociological theory of social development, suitable as a unifying framework for empirical stdies of developmental problems, exists. Hence, although similarities between developmental poblems of different countries were often very noticeable in the papers presented in our working group, although, as H. A. Rhee remarked in the discussion, the work of the group provided a striking example of the need for closer collaboration between administrators and thereticians, the need for a sociological theory of social development appropriate to such tasks has perhaps not found quite the attention it deserves.  It was very noticeable throughout the work of our group that the conceptal framework used for discussions on social developments was borrowed from the work of an economic historian, and was, therefore, in many respects not wholly suitable as framework for sociological studies.  The Chairman repeatedly drew the attention of the group to the lack of precision in the use of such terms as «break with traditionalism». The evidence provided by several papers, particularly that of U. A. Thein, showed very clearly that the change of a «traditional» into a more «modern» order of society does not necessarily have the form of one single «break»; it may have the form of a of major and minor «breaks» or sometimes that of a non-violent and more gradual transition. «Traditionalism» as a label for a specific type of social order may be quite sufficient if one thinks in purely economic terms.  As a conceptual guide for the whole range of changes with which sociologists are concerned it is, as the work of of group showed, rather ambiguous and inadequate. My own paper in The 'Break with Traditionalism' and the Origins of Sociology tried to show some of the main features of this wider transformation, particularly specific changes in the distribution of power which are probably characteristic of «breaks with traditionalism» everywhere and the corresponding changes in the mode of thinking. Other contributions confirmed the fact that a transition to a more scientific mode of thinking was a general feature of the wider «break».

     Several members of our group felt that its work pointed to a task which has yet to be accomplished - towards an undogmatic sociological theory of social development which could serve as a theoretical framework for the empirical studies and for the practical task with which sociologists will be increasingly concerned in the many developing countries all over the earth."




Transactions of the 5th World Congress of Sociology, Volume III, Louvain/BEL: International Sociological Association, S. 51-53