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9. Multidisciplinarity, Paradigms and Ideology in Development Work

Setting the focus
An attempt to define the concepts
A development paradigm?
The role of conceptual frameworks
Ethos and norms
Conflicts in the terminology?
Subjectivity of the sciences
The social and the classical sciences in development work
Science and its environment - The real world around us
Does a universality and pluralism of theories exist that makes multidisciplinary work realistic?
Transcending narrow paradigms
Crisis - The battle of the paradigms
The dilemmas in choosing a new paradigm
Who are the real innovators?
Tackling the basic causes of maldevelopment
A critical look at what we do
The limits of traditional development project evaluation
“We should” - Our inherent obligations and the challenges ahead

Scand. J. of Dev. Alternatives,Vol.VII, Nos.2+3, 1988.


Will we have to wait another 10 years to discover that multidisciplinary approaches per se lead us nowhere new or better in development work?

Setting the focus:

As development workers, we are constantly bombarded with a lot of talk about the need for multidisciplinary team approaches to development and for “sharing our paradigms” with other professionals. Many of us, natural scientists by training even feel uncomfortable with or abhor the social sciences’ jargon, especially with concepts such as “paradigm” and “ideology.” But what is really behind all this talk? This is what we will set out to explore. We will first examine the actual terms and concepts used in this context and then look at what the oracle(s) have had to say about them, actively reacting to what they have had to say. This will be achieved by paraphrasing some of the pertinent literature and by reflecting upon the points being made.

An attempt to define the concepts:

1. Webster’s dictionary defines paradigm as: “to show side by side. example, pattern (model): outstandingly clear or typical example or archetype” (1). Of course, this is much too vague for our needs when getting to the heart of the matter of paradigms in science and especially in development work.

2. Thomas Kuhn (the father of paradigms) speaks of paradigms as schools of thought in the natural and social sciences, as different ways of looking at the same phenomenon (2).

3. Paradigm, however, is one of the most imprecise terms used by Kuhn. He himself used it with more than 20 different meanings in the book in which he introduced the term (3,4). This leaves us no choice but to analyze a few of these meanings.

4. For him, a paradigm also provides models that include coherent “traditions,” such as acceptable laws, theories and applications that have attained consensus from peer practitioners of science. Therefore, what most of us in the sciences do is simply articulating the phenomena we observe with the theories already acceptable within a given paradigm (5).

5. The paradigm, this disciplinary matrix, operates like a constellation of group compromises - conceptual, theoretical and methodological compromises, as well as compromises: a) with the generalizations acceptable to the paradigm; b) with the preferred or acceptable models that help determine what will be considered valid explanations and which problems will be considered “relevant”; and, lastly, compromises c) with the values that give us our sense of community; d) with whether our work should or should not serve society first and foremost; and e) with some preconceived solutions to the problems encountered (in our case, in development work) (3). As we will show, all these compromises, of course, have profound ideological implications.

6. The rules that guide the above compromises represent a set of adhesions that are sufficient and necessary to stay within a paradigmatically defined scientific community. These compromises are historical and thus change every time we face a scientific revolution with its struggle for a shift in paradigms (6). One would hope we now are in such a period in development work.

7. Paradigms, thus, make research itself possible, giving it its very rules. Rules of how research is done are questioned only during periods in which paradigms become insecure, when they are in crisis, at the verge of a new period of “normal”, uncontested science (7). The actual study of paradigms in operation is really more in the realm of epistemology.

8. Every new generation of scientists is socialized in the new paradigm’s rules of conducting scientific work, thus reproducing the logic under which scientific work is organized. This “logic” often involves nothing but symbolic generalizations, beliefs, and values modeled around past solutions. Socialization, then, means the acquisition of a knowledge incorporated to prior shared experiences (8). It is this process of socialization, to a great extent, that does not allow us to escape the ideological grip on our work...

9. Therefore, the acceptance of a common paradigm and of a specific area of inquiry is the essence of a scientific community, composed by persons who may be different in all other respects (9). Let’s keep this in mind when we discover, later, that multidisciplinary teams do not even share a common paradigm...

10. Moreover, Jevons defines an accepted paradigm (note here again the ideological connotation in the notion of “accepted”...) as a research tradition, a line of thought carrying a set of assumptions and guidelines, a way of seeing problems. He contends that paradigms guide the terms of thought and the type of analysis of a given set of phenomena; as we said before, paradigms suggest what kind of solutions are acceptable and what kind of problems can be addressed (10).

11. A paradigm also carries a view of the role of any given science, discipline or profession in society. Further, it should prescribe (but does it always...?) that the researcher feel a responsibility for the social impact of the research he/she conducts and for the interpretation of reality coming out of it given the terms of reference set by the same paradigm. Therefore, although it may be flawed, the paradigm presupposes an understanding of the relationships between science an society (11).

12. Paradigms operate by dictating prescriptions, proscriptions, preferences, and permissions thereby modelling our behavior. The paradigm sets us up. Paradigms act as unconscious restrictions we place on the work and research we do. We all have an internal urge to find security that our own work matters, that it conforms to the high standards maintained by the scientific community within the prevailing paradigm (12,113,14).

13. Tight, established scientific communities have, thus, a relatively unanimous group judgement on professional affairs (15). Are we then as free as we thought we were? We, in development work, are as much a product of our paradigm(s) as other scientists are and - as I am trying to prove - of the ideology we espouse... (Yet, we still have the chance to reshape these paradigms, by challenging them!)

14. Group standards (beyond the scientific method), resulting from adherence to a paradigm, inevitably lead to a certain degree of conformity of behavior and attitudes, Working under a paradigm gives us the confidence of being “on the right way,” thus also often pushing us to undertake “work of more precision,” more esoteric and time-consuming (16, 17).

15. As in the case of culture, a paradigm provides us with a sense of belonging, identity, and self-worth, thus filling the need to sense an intimate bond with others in a group by virtue of sharing a distinct outlook (18, 19).

16. Now, turning to another issue and looking at paradigms from a more radical perspective, the rise, persistence, and fall of paradigms is to be seen as a by-product of the class-struggle, because - it is argued - paradigms exist only in mutual, dialectical interaction with socioeconomic structured (20).

17. For yet others, it is not clear whether people need to share paradigms (except at the highest levels of development research) if they share a basic commitment - more ethical and political in nature - to the poorest people in society (13).

A development paradigm?

18. After considering what has been discussed so far, the unresolved question that remains in our case would then be: Is there a dominant or monopolic paradigm in development work as we see it in the Western context? And further, is such a paradigm multidisciplinary or does each contributing discipline have its own paradigm?

19. A dominant development paradigm would imply a shared definition of the field of knowledge that more or less uniformly affects the group that practices in that field. Under such a premise, it must be pointed out that most of us development workers are yet to be “convened” into such an emerging paradigm (17).

A missing paradigm in our analysis?:

20. Many of us in development work already are a mixture of natural and social scientists and, therefore, move inside at least two paradigms. Moreover. those among us who are strongly committed to a bottom-up, community-oriented approach in this work wonder if there is such a thing as a “people’s paradigm” or a “community-to-be-developed paradigm.” (If one looks at some of the definitions of paradigm here presented, i.e. those by Jevons, this should not be an outrageous proposition.) If the answer is yes, would that mean that we scientists need to always search for, define, and integrate this seemingly indispensable people’s paradigm? Would the fact of not having done so for decades be where we have failed most precipitously, explaining why we have so often failed in our efforts to promote and bring about development? Is considering the integration of this people’s paradigm the basis for a truly democratic approach to development...?

21. I contend that the discrepancy between our level of analysis and that of the beneficiaries of development interventions and the discrepancy between those analytical levels and our level of concrete actions or propositions for action in development matters is part of our paradigms’ limitations that lock us in, consciously or not, most probably because of deep-rooted ideological barriers.

22. A case in point in the area of food and nutrition was the 1974 World Food Conference in Rome. It did not really politicize the issues as was probably needed, but it unified some paradigms. Now, everybody accepts - at an analytical level - that hunger is a social science concept and of social science’s concern, especially when one looks at its economic.. and socio-political determinants and consequences (21). At the level of concrete actions to tackle the causes identified, however, little can be shown as concrete achievements 13 years after the Conference, thus illustrating the discrepancy just pointed out.

23. In the same above context, one wonders why have development theories only very secondarily touched on hunger and malnutrition issues? In more recent years, important development documents such as the Brandt Commission Report, the Scheweningen Report and the Lagos Plan of Action explicitly mention hunger and malnutrition, but resolving the latter has not been clearly made into an integral part of the solution, because the basic social injustices at its base have simply not been tackled decisively (22, 23).

24. Another thing to bear in mind following this idea of the solutions falling short of verbal commitments is that, to begin with the modernization paradigm in development work has long assumed that societies characterized by industrial capitalism are universally desired (or desirable). In fact, no people have ever directly voted for capital accumulation and industrialization (24).

Paradigms and the ruling elites:

25. The trouble with us Western scientists and intellectuals is that while we engage in this never-ending discussion, paradigmatic pronouncements, and principles generated by us in the sciences are being taken advantage of on an everyday basis, by the pro-status quo ruling elites who have no real commitments to meaningful change to improve the quality of life of the lot. They, therefore, allocate no or highly insufficient budgets to real development priorities and to nobody’s big surprise nothing much improves.

26. In our lobbying with decision-makers we too often settle for only a threshold consensus, but incremental changes somehow always are taken advantage of by the elites, most often the local bourgeoisie. Attempts at gradual repairs of the system are usually normative, often carried out in a token fashion and are sometimes plainly naive. Unfortunately reality seems to show that ideas born in diplomacy, stressing existing harmony rather than existing conflict (overt or underlying), are flawed and end up leaving things as they are (25).

27. Let’s face it: The ruling class in capitalist-dependent countries is not ignorant, but rather reactionary. Therefore, little is accidental about the problems of under- and maldevelopment. The search for a consensus with decision makers ultimately impinges in what is ideologically licit or illicit. Therefore, improving the dialogue with them is not possible if the price is ducking the contradictions of the system; deep ideological (class) barriers make a breakthrough unlikely. This inevitability means we need to prepare for some kind of conflict and confrontation. Solving long-standing contradictions and injustices takes a protracted time of negotiations and involves an organized struggle. In the last instance, the biggest aggressor and violator of human rights inherently is the capitalist system and that denunciation alone has no big publicity interest anymore and only few are willing to listen to it (25, 26).


28. According to Webster’s Dictionary (1), a discipline relates to a particular field of study or subject: it connotes a pattern of behavior and rules or a system of rules governing conduct. A multidisciplinary approach, by extension, would bring together persons with different backgrounds and from different disciplines.

Multidisciplinarity: A panacea in development work?

29. At the base of multidisciplinarity is the concept that complex problems have many facets that one or two persons with conventional training in one or two fields cannot handle appropriately. The ides is that the different approaches can be bridged by working on the problems together. Multidisciplinarity comes to us “as a natural” in development work when we see that communities have problems of many sorts and we in academia have encircled ourselves in rigid departments.

30. The problem is that the understanding of what a multidisciplinary approach and its potential is and who the members of such a team should be is different for people with different ideological perspectives; it very much depends on how one slices reality into categories and disciplines (e.g., should political scientists be part of multidisciplinary development teams?). Scholars looking at the same problems from different angles often seem to be unable to listen and learn from each other. A good example that comes to mind is the problem of hunger and malnutrition. It is still basically defined from the disciplinary bias of the scientists: for the agronomist it is mainly a food supply problem; for the educator, a problem of ignorance; for the demographer, a problem of population pressures; for the planner, it is the lack of coordination, and so forth. Most of these approaches are not wrong, but utterly incomplete or partial and have eventually led to generalizations that have served to create and spread myths that may in the end have the ring of truth about them, simply because they are repeated often enough (26, 27).

31. When involved in multidisciplinary work, we are forced to make both individual and collective decisions. We have to decide, for instance, which principles - or “unproblematic background knowledge” - we will take by fiat. The surrounding scientific community will always operate as a base for such a validation. The ultimate explanatory principles will thus be heavily ideological in their structure. Therefore, none of our decisions as team member can be made purely on the base of scientific arguments alone since it is our own scientific community that assures that “objectivity” (28, 29).

32. Multidisciplinarity, as seen in Western development work, thus fosters an equilibrium-centered view that often emphasizes constancy in behavior over time. Praxis, more than scientific experiment, has exposed the fundamental paradox of fostering such a status quo through traditional multidisciplinary approaches. Success in achieving constancy inevitably leads to crisis, more difficult and costly later problems and more unexpected future events. If multidisciplinary development work just espouses an evolutionary view, highlighting organizational changes rather than structural changes, understanding will be sought by analyzing parts of the whole rather than the whole. But if we are to understand the part we must understand the whole! Generality is difficult to capture in the face of multidisciplinarity’s great diversity but it can be achieved by separating the causes of a process that are universal from those that are specific only to a subset of situations and then analyzing the combined effects of the latter (30).

33. A detailed explanation is not the same as an understanding and explanations is what multidisciplinary teams are mostly offering. Hence, for a long period, understanding has been sought largely by applying partial facets of knowledge in order to comprehend higher order phenomena. It is a view dominated by immediate cause/effect determinism, by a quantitative emphasis and by a paradigm of stability and order.

34. As a case in point, malaria eradication programs have been brilliant examples of sophisticated understanding combined with a style of implementation that has all the character of a military campaign. Where malaria was neither marginal nor at low endemic levels, however, transient success led to human populations with little immunity and mosquito vectors resistant to DDT endangering not only the health of the population, but also overall socioeconomic development. We can be successful in achieving short-term objectives, but as a consequence of this success, problems sooner or later evolve into qualitatively different ones, pointing to the more structural causes of the original problem. For too many of the last 20 years in development work emphasis has been on developing a qualitative understanding with a departure from quantitative explanations. Non-judicious application of quantitative techniques leads to an oversimplification of reality and to a historical analyses (30, 31).

35. Multidisciplinarity also has a tendency to fall into many of the intellectual traps that characterize complex systems, e.g., treating symptoms in isolation or seeking short-term political solutions. This process often involves a set of ameliorative policies, each of which is “rational” for the particular problem it is designed to solve, but which when aggregated either exacerbate the problems they were designed to solve or create a new set of problems. As development workers, we have the tendency to devise solutions based on a static analysis of a problem whereas it is the dynamic, time-dependent analysis that is by far the most important. As our alienation increases, a downward spiral in bad decisions leading to accumulation of small failures ensues; as system performance declines, the public will look for (and politicians, perhaps even through our advice will be tempted to offer) simple solutions based purely on gut responses. After all, ideology justifies any particular policy decision made. A conservative ideology-or a liberal one for that matter - often takes the complexity out of the problem. Fragmented policy responses, however, often result in action that is largely symbolic and not very effective in the long run (32).

36. Insofar as multidisciplinary teams in development work attend to the public dimension of their ethical responsibilities at all, at present, most tend to see their public duties as obligations to promote the public interest - associated with a vision of society as a rational alliance of primarily self interested persons whose own “good” is made up of a complex of private interests. The aggregation of the latter interests should lead to mutual advantage. To promote the public interest is to maximize the collective realization of individual interests and “to protect the integrity and functioning of those social arrangements, institutions, and values that make orderly social life possible and mutually (...?) advantageous”. But this is simply not enough! Important as they are, activities such as contributing to the analysis and to the making of public policy, as well as providing services to beneficiaries do not, in the aggregate, exhaust the duties that the multidisciplinary development team members ought to have. The public duty of our multidisciplinary teams extends beyond the realm of the service to the public interest into the realm of service to the common good associated with a vision of society as a community whose members are joined in a shared pursuit of values and goals that they hold in common, a community comprising persons whose own good is inextricably bound up with the good of the whole, the well-being of the community, and the preservation of its core values (33).

37. Moreover, the division of labor in multidisciplinary work has its dangers. It can produce people who stay at the level of knowing nothing but their own discipline, missing all sense of belonging to the larger community of humanity. This actually happens throughout our scientific community where the payoffs are for performance in a very narrow field and where there are very few payoffs for larger visions, prophetic dreams and social commitments. How we bring our scientific community to accept responsibility for the consequences of maldevelopment and social inequities is a problem we have not even begun to tackle.

38. Furthermore, there are very few channels of communication between the multidisciplinary development community and the politically powerful. (Perhaps not so terrible, after all, if our peers are a source of bad advice...). Consequently, the whole apparatus and structure of political power is presently mostly a setting for the making of bad decisions on development issues on the part of the powerful. And the greater the power, the more likely are the decisions going to be bad decisions simply because the organizational structure that surrounds the powerful is designed to prevent them from learning anything and accountability is almost nil, as we saw in the cases of Marcos, Somoza, or Batista. The scholarly community is by no means always right, of course. As we hinted above, it is perfectly capable of giving extremely bad advice to the powerful, especially if they share a conservative (or liberal...?) ideology (18). In short, interest groups at the top (within the bourgeoisie) invariably find the status quo superior to any feasible reform. On the other hand, traditional multidisciplinary teams, or their members, advise these groups at the top seldom taking the consequences of what they have proposed as solutions; it is the poor, the working class who do. Multidisciplinary work, just by being collective has little potential for meaningful positive impact.

39. In multidisciplinary development work, we too often arbitrarily make some implicit assumptions about distributional issues, i.e., equal access to or distribution of food, or fixed patterns of inequality, taking them as given. These assumptions, plus neglecting the political questions underlying development work, are not a mere oversight, but rather due to a paradigmatic blind spot, ideological in origin. We inherit these blind spots that become an impediment to our more comprehensive understanding of the development process. Therefore, we will have to take some action to shed some light on these blind spots (34, 35).

40. The problems in the community are there for everyone to see. Yet in our development theorizing we very often appear not to be aware of them or to ignore them. A likely reason for this is that the paradigm(s) of modern development theory have not included the political and distributional factors as relevant to the questions we have asked of reality. The unit of analysis is more often the individual, not the social group or class. Despite so many references to political factors in economic development, most Western development theory is not equipped to integrate such factors as relevant to its purposes. In liberal political theory, the individual is shorn of his various social and political attributes. Marxist political economy represents a break with that liberal political philosophy. For Marxists, it is not so much the individual who counts, but the group. It is the social class that becomes the main political actor, the historical force. The individual is only a representative of his/her class or else is defined in terms of his/her relationship to the fundamental class struggle of our time (34). These factors, obviously, become central to the purpose of Marxists development theory.

41. Conversely, in the Western multidisciplinary setting of development theorizing, we still mostly stay within the general corpus of biological determinist thought tending to blur the structural (class-bound) causes or underdevelopment. What we need is actually to tackle, not dodge these central issues. we rather tend to progressively mask basic development issues with technocratic mystifications. It is even more: In multidisciplinary work the interaction between the various disciplinary paradigms actually too often conceals deep causative forces underlying the process of maldevelopment and the design of corrective measures. This uncritical attitude also tends to conceal of take as given the socioeconomic realities that emerge from the growing contradictions of capitalism (20).

The role of conceptual frameworks:

42. The multidisciplinary debate on development, then must not hide (but so far mostly has...) the political aspects that underlie development and the framework in which it is played out. The very concept of development is understood differently depending on whether we look at it from the point of view of the general application of the Western model of development or from a more egalitarian perspective (36).

43. In an effort to come up with an integrated paradigm for development workers, several colleagues have tried to design conceptual frameworks that will avoid any misunderstandings by their peers starling to share the same paradigm. An example of the product of such an effort is the conceptual framework that analyzes the causes of hunger and malnutrition presented in Fig. 1 (37). As can be seen from the diagram, this novel (but not necessarily new) approach introduces three causal levels underlying hunger and malnutrition. The only thing this (or any) integrated development paradigm is actually offering is a fresh look at old contradictions in society and in overall past and present development work. (Insert Fig. 1 around here).

44. It is worth noting that the acceptance of a framework such as the one in Fig. 1 presupposes not only the sharing of the concept of a new integrated (unified) paradigm, but also some deeper ideological premises.

45. It seems to me that utilizing conceptual frameworks like the one here presented may be an initial step in the right direction - increasing levels of social and political consciousness - especially it they force us to think about the root causes of the problems we see. The risk, though, is that such frameworks may only help create new conceptual categories, with actions flowing from their use not changing commensurately. Moreover, many traditional scientists and organizations already admit they have problems with the issues raised by these conceptual frameworks, e.g., the UN University’s Hunger Program had problems in the early 1980’s accepting a framework very similar to the one in Fig. 1, a fact that should make us wonder what would happen if one added the political and ideological parameters in even stronger wording into these analyses. Since then, the same Program has managed to totally avoid confronting issues of this kind (13).

46. Cynics would probably raise the question whether the conceptual framework presented in Fig. 1 is not - to begin with - one more example of dressing a political approach (perhaps even a Marxist one...) in sheep’s clothes in order to “sell” it to our peers as a new “scientific and apolitical” approach. This again only highlights the blurred border between paradigm and ideology, thus reinforcing my original point.

47. Finally, although I may have led the reader to believe otherwise all the above is not really intended as a blanket denouncement of multidisciplinary work; it just points out that it is not a panacea as a development strategy or an approach to development per-se. Multidisciplinary teams should rather provide the forum for the expression and dialectical interaction of paradigmatic and ideological perspectives and contradictions in development work in an environment that does not intentionally or involuntarily suppress any perspective and that incorporates - de facto - the perspectives of the beneficiaries.


48. Webster’s, again, defines ideology as: Visionary theorizing: manner or content of thinking characteristic of an individual or class; intellectual pattern of any culture or movement; integrated assertions, theories and aims constituting a politico-social program.

49. Ideological values and duties that follow from the above definition are imprinted on us through the family, through education and through the social environment we grow up in. These values are thus not universally shared and are closely bound to our social class extraction. Ideology, as a content of thinking and as an intellectual pattern, reflects the involuntary elements of our behavior that are part of our indelible (class) heritage. On the other hand, ideology as an integrated politico-social program, is the result of a voluntary internalization of the values of a given society, whether real or utopic (38). It is ideology that ultimately channels our social behavior in predictable directions.

50. Ideologies are more deep-rooted than paradigms. You can break a paradigm with a series of new discoveries, but not an ideology. In our case the dominant research “Establishment” assures and promotes its own ideological choices through what it funds, disseminates, and honors (13). Yet people can change their class stand and their ideology. Ideology is not just passive; it is or can be active.

51. Epistemologically then i.e. in terms of the origins of our understanding - and no matter how one looks at it - paradigms are ideologically rooted.

Ideology and legitimacy:

52. As Montessori already understood, societies mold their educational systems to fit the interests and goals of those in control, often with the unfortunate consequence of limiting their people’s development.

53. The process of ideological legitimization is the express attempt to put all relevant issues of an epoch within the boundaries of existing social values. It is used to rationalize and justify people’s personal and professional goals and interests in society. This legitimacy even allows us to uphold dogmatic traditions with candid ingenuity (39, 40, 41).

54. All new scientific development thus necessarily involves a phase of adjustment and conflict that forces its actors to justify (legitimate) their pretensions in ideological terms as determined by the existing array of ideological opportunities to pick from. There actually is something like a market of raw materials to fabricate ideologies. A new field (development included...) always arises in ideological conflict with the milieu that will be more or less hostile to it. The importance of ideological change should, thus, not be minimized because it is affecting us in development work and it is these philosophical and attitudinal changes that will ultimately have to be translated into practical changes to be introduced in our work in social and economic development (42, 43).

55. Where some see only different paradigms in a struggle in development theory there invariably are also ideological barriers or differences at play. The decision to opt for one or another paradigm is not only logical, it is heavily ideological as well. If the needed changes in the optic with which we look al problems eventually occur, it will necessarily lead us to focus on a complete new set of problems, especially when we feel old theoretical models are falling behind the empiric evidence coming in (44).

56. As long as new theories about underdevelopment and about priorities for the Third World address the task of combating underdevelopment’s consequences and not its causes - or combating either causes or consequences within the capitalist-dependent framework of development as we mostly see it today - these theories will remain ideologically biased favoring: status quo. They will thus be subject to growing challenge by the proponents of empowering, indigenous, and self-sustaining development. Any attempt to prove the feasibility of solving the problems of underdevelopment in the Third World within the framework of capitalist alternatives is itself highly ideological because the ideological function of any development work manifests itself primarily through the context in which it is carried out and not through its technical content. Western development, as an instrument of legitimation of the capitalist mode of production, is accountable for perpetuating the system that generates maldevelopment. It is thus the structural and social context of development work that renders it ideological in character. The priorities finally chosen will invariably express class relations and will lead to a certain (foreseeable) distribution of economic and political power. (20).

57. We, therefore, need to keep in mind that we ultimately relate to our peers and work-counterparts in ideological or sub-ideological terms. We link with the like-minded. Only once we agree on some common ideological bases do the more technical issues (on which we now spend so much time) become relevant and important.

Ethos and norms:

58. The ethos has been defined as a complex of internalized norms and professed values. The scientific ethos, then is a set of norms that regulate the activity of men and women of science. Is this ethos thus a sort of “professional ideology” that justifies our enterprise and legitimizes our pretensions? (45).

59. Ethos is often misused as a synonym of ideology. The ethos has ideological roots, but is not ideology. The ethos expresses itself as imperatives legitimized by the institutional values that mold our scientific conscience. There are thus psychological sanctions for certain ways of thinking and of acting. Moral indignation is directed against the violations and the violators of the ethos (45, 46).

60. The ethos of science has not been coded, but it can be inferred by the moral consensus of the scientists as a “climate” of the dominant values and feelings. For most of us scientists, the norms of science have not only become moral issues, but are also behind the technical prescriptions we abide by. Actually, the norms we abide by can be inferred from our everyday work behavior. The fact that these norms are often validated and reinforced by the (mostly bourgeois) milieu outside the scientific community, says nothing about their ultimate validity (45, 46).

61. The ethos of science is based on norms that “protect” the method as a set of accepted techniques. These norms, however, are only general and cannot be used expediently when it is necessary to discern between concrete alternative courses of action, i.e., they are only “the terms of an ideology that cannot give immediate recommendations for action”. One can, therefore, safely say that consensus in the scientific community has both moral and ideological bases (45,46).

62. Where do the actual norms of our modern scientific ethos come from, then? Are they external or internal factors to science itself? To what extent are norms effectively internalized during our training or through our daily work? Our training certainly represents a process of socialization in the prevailing “scientific ideology.” We learn to think in tune with the predominant scientific paradigm. And this has to do with the textbooks and journals used and with the analysis of concrete solutions given to scientific problems by those books and journals. Whether we like it or not, such an internalization of the norms is quite authoritarian and dogmatic (45, 48). Unfortunately, life is rarely as simple outside the covers of a textbook as inside...

63. To make things more complicated, we development scientists often show de facto ambivalence towards the institutionalized norms of the scientific ethos because, for some among us, the scientific ethos not only legitimizes our day-to-day activity, but through the latter it also imposes on society primarily middle class social values and pretensions (45, 49).

Conflicts in the terminology?:

64. As should be clear by now, the definitions of paradigm and ideology tend to somewhat overlap. This overlap inevitably leads to some confusion in determining what is ideological and what is paradigmatic in a given specific context, or where one stops and the other starts (if both are part of the same continuum...). The latter confusion becomes even greater as colleagues of ours are calling for integrating and unifying development paradigms.

65. The question that naturally follows, then, is: Can an integrated natural/social sciences development paradigm be born through multidisciplinary work without bridging the underlying ideological gap (if there is one...) among the practitioners of the contributing disciplines? It would seem that only arriving at a “minimum consensus package” amongst them is not enough; any viable unified approach would seem to require a shared underlying ideology. The dilemma, then, is whether the creation of such a unified paradigm should be a priority goal in development work, as there seems to be a call for. I contend that if this exercise becomes a stepping stone to bridge the ideological gap among the practitioners of development coming from, different paradigms, it becomes a worthwhile exercise. otherwise probably not. Now, how this collective work should be done to arrive at a unified paradigm is not very clear either and, in any case, is not an easy task. Moreover, we can foresee that it will become an almost inevitable source of conflict if the actors are not willing to compromise in order to start sharing some new views on development. (Conflict, under these circumstances, is of course not necessarily bad...).

66. Because paradigms have very selective “blind spots” - often ideological in nature - w frequently see discrepancies between ends and means pursued by the practitioners of the disciplines related to development work. The Western development paradigm follows that rather rigid slicing or analysis of reality into different disciplines that was mentioned earlier. Underdevelopment however, cannot be compartmentalized if it is to be fully grasped: it is a total situation in which every element plays a part. A more political approach to underdevelopment is needed rather than a less political one. And this entails a clear-cut choice of ideology with very few (if any) shades of gray to choose from in between.

67. This leads me to reaffirm my belief that paradigms are submanifestations of ideology. As such, the two do not clearly replace each other: rather, they continue to coexist and overlap. The evolution from a disciplinary paradigm to an integrated one - as the one we seem to seek - is seldom smooth; it rather involves a quantum leap with inescapable ideological connotations; (23).

Some common characteristics of our disciplines of origin:

68. The traditional image of the disciplines we were trained in as being highly successful scientific enterprises is only partially valid. “Normal science” (the practice of “puzzle- solving” in science) is actually a highly directed and regulated activity based on the rigorous previous socialization of its practitioners within the respective disciplinary paradigm(s). We constantly look for the right connection that can relate our problems (in development) with the accepted body of existing scientific knowledge; that is, it is we who are put on trial (can we find the connection?), not the prevailing theory (does that latter apply to what we found?). Thus it is the past that governs our present activity (forcibly leading us to conservative approaches to development...?) Since we use the rules provided by the paradigm within which we operate, normal science is only “achieving the expected in a new way” (50, 51). All this really shows is that if we are wrong, we are wrong in good company...

69. In normal science, the main game is to resolve enigmas (“puzzles”) and not to challenge or confront theories, especially in development work. Some room needs to be made for intra- and inter-theory disputes to allow for an eventual displacement of one conceptual system by another. A nonconflictive and consensual conception of science reinforces the scientific and the social status-quo. (52, 53).

70. There is an academic (university-based) monopoly over the definition and the practice of the sciences, but the question is: Is this academic model of the sciences actually in a phase of decline? Is science only one or are there many science? At present, it is almost impossible to consider science as a compact whole. There is a notorious difference between the “old” and the “new” sciences, the “hard” and the “soft” sciences. There is, therefore, probably not a sole or unique ethos of science either, thus adding further complication. Does this ethos of science change under changing historical configurations (47, 54, 55)? If yes, how fast? Have we been flexible enough to change accordingly? If yes again, how far behind are we?

Subjectivity of the sciences:

71. As in most professions, scientists often approach a given problem with some inherent bias (56). What we call “truth” actually depends on what there is and on the contribution of the thinker. There is thus a conceptual human contribution to what we call “truth” (Einstein).

72. Unfortunately, development organizations and practitioners are sometimes more concerned with how things look rather than with how they really are. And when dealing with images rather than with reality, they eventually get strangled in their own lies or half-truths. On the other hand, organizations can also be looked upon as emanations of a hierarchical power structure serving the interests of a particular ideology so that half-truths may be accepted knowingly if they serve a given purpose...

73. The world, then is constituted by facts outside ourselves and by factors that we introduce in it. The concepts we impose on the world may not be in the best interest of the poor, though, and we had better revise them with the benefit of their input (57). It is ultimately we development workers who contribute to the irrefutability of the track towards maldevelopment Western development is presently following. Development praxis can thus be redirected onto a more effective track, leading to more lasting solutions to poverty and powerlessness.

74. Values are not part of the sciences, but of the ideology of the inquirer. For Gunnar Myrdal, research is always, by logical necessity, based on moral and political values. The inquirer, he prescribes, should get involved in participatory research to show social and political commitment and to achieve what the grassroot groups want, i.e., action that brings about real changes (58).

75. Rationality and objectivity in the sciences are thus relative. They are possible only if there exists a previous agreement on some fundamentals (that can be paradigmatic and/or ideological) (59).

76. To no one’s surprise, then, the sciences can confound factual judgements with value judgements because nothing is learned in abstract: we learn to share a tradition and use value judgements all the time (57).

77. “Choose a group of persons, the most capable and motivated ones: train them in a given science and its specialties; soak them in the predominant value system or ideology in that discipline and finally let them make a choice.” That is the natural history of scientific development as we know it. Whatever the nature of scientific progress, we ought to size it by bringing to the surface and exposing what the group of scientists behind it values, tolerates, despises or feels contempt for (41).

78. It is normal for us to show a continuous interest in searching for “competent responses” in our respective lines of work, but in so doing we are being ideologically biased. Even false or outmoded theories can be defended for a long time with “progressive”, biased jargon. to get at the “why” of facts, we cannot just ask “how” they happen and then merely put these facts in correlation by no-matter-what means (e.g., mathematical or statistical means) to get to the “why”. The imponderables of reality surpass our mere computational capacity (44, 60, 61, 62). Competent responses in development will have to come from altogether new, updated theories.

79. Scientists tend to accept the postulates and results presented by members of their own group of reference easier and without criticism whereas they subject to rigorous criticism the postulates and results coming from an (ideological or otherwise) opposing group. It is typical for the nonradicalized or not-too-critical scientists among us to assimilate the prevailing dogma, not feeling any urge to challenge it. These “routine scientists” in our midst, more than real scientists, have become individuals who know how to apply a technique (59, 63).

The social and the classical sciences in development work:

80. Historically, in the nineteenth century, there first was an ideological gap between the upcoming social sciences and the classical sciences: they related to each other only with great difficulty because of intellectual, institutional and political barriers. Today, in development work., it is as though we are reliving all over that stage of the development of the sciences. A sharing between social and exact scientists is more important today than ever before. (Note here the bias in the word “exact” and, for that purpose, also in the word “classical”...). To many of us exact scientists working in development, the social and political aspects that are closely related to what we do seem pre-paradigmatic, but they actually are strictly paradigmatic to our colleagues the social scientists. (New fields of research are always said to fall under a pre-paradigmatic state). This gap on social and political issues needs to be bridged primarily by the exact scientists among us. In order to choose among these competitive paradigms (or ideologies...) and agree with others we must, at least, first find a common language and not define our differences with the social and political scientists strictly as being due to different “‘logical” frameworks. If we continue to believe that their logic is different, we will have the tendency to reject the language and the contributions being made by sociologists, historians, economists, and political scientists when they should actually help us resolve questions of development that are ultimately dialectical and are impinging on our daily intradisciplinary work (59, 63).

81. Often, field studies in health and nutrition in underdeveloped countries are carried out by either biomedical or social scientists teams, each approaching the problems from its own disciplinary perspective with very little recognition accorded to the biosocial interrelationships or interface. Therefore, to start bridging the gap in development work, the exact scientists more than the social scientists need to come up with new tools of observation in relation to a new and different biosocial attitude towards the problems they pretend to solve (63, 64).

Science and its environment - The real world around us:

82. What are the relationships between science and its social milieu in development work?

83. When we look at our activity as a social group of scientists within a given culture, it becomes clear that we must better adapt our science to the various other aspects of reality, such as existing institutions, the prevailing socioeconomic constraints, and cultural values of the specific society in which we are working. The ethnocentrism in which we so often fall is clearly incompatible with good science. Ethnocentrism can and does breed human suffering, degradation, and destruction. (19, 49, 65).

84. During the first stages of the development of a new paradigm or scientific field, it is the social needs and values surrounding us that will be the principal determinants of the problems on which practitioners will concentrate their effort. And this, of course, carries ideological connotations... If science interacts with society in any way there must also be an interaction between the scientific ethos and, for example, the economy. Accepting this idea clearly carries a new set of responsibilities for us in our daily work in development because our disciplines of origin, at the service of development, must become useful to and representative of the moods and aims of a whole generation of those who need to be brought out of underdevelopment (66, 67, 68).

85. The interests, motivations, and behavior of our own social group make our science and our economic interests highly interdependent. This interdependency has often become a source of friction when scientists and development economists have tried to interact and their incompatible ethos have clashed (69).

86. In development work we even elaborate a full terminology around our aims and intentions that is socially adapted to the requirements and demands of the middle-class social milieu we live in the West (39). This, of course, is part of how we socially legitimate our work in the Third World in a basically conservative manner. Language and jargon set much of the climate.

87. Each profession needs to legitimize its pretensions and claims in terms of a service: To God, to men, to the nation, to the poor. In justifying ourselves in front of men, the key question is: In front of which men and institutions? The answer is clear-cut: In front of those men and institutions that define the moral and ideological climate of our times, that is, the ascendant social groups to which more than a few of us belong ourselves (67, 70).

88. As scientists, we need to define our social role and make it acceptable to the rest of society. To achieve this, we have to legitimize our new approaches in front of the powers-that-be and the providers of research resources (not society as a whole). In that sense our sciences have often become utilitarian and subservient (67).

89. What some of the newer groups of development practitioners have somehow pretended is not only to justify their own activity in socially satisfactory terms acceptable to the powers-that-be, but also to impose the recognition that over that activity (i.e., development), it is they and only they who ought to decide. Therefore, a good part of research on development has been programmed on wrong premises in which scientists have been diverted into research on intervention options without clearly defining or wrongly conceiving end purposes acceptable to the beneficiaries - all for the lack of a broad enough brush in painting the overall picture and a lack of participation of the same beneficiaries in the decision-making process (67, 71).

90. On the other hand, present economic, corporate, and social policies enacted by Third World governments are, by and large, also inconsistent with viable long-term global development end purposes benefiting the poor and are thus being made without a picture of a viable global future in mind (72). One often has to wonder if these governments are genuinely interested in solving the problems of underdevelopment at hand.

Does a universality and pluralism of theories exist that makes multidisciplinary work realistic?:

91. The idea of a universal rationality is a fantasy. We constantly revise the norms and criteria of rationality within our theories when we enter new fields of investigation and development is no exception. Historically, we have witnessed a plurality in the number and type of theories, but not universality as a trend running through them (73).

92. Only by defining universality along the lines of a political view of the world is it possible to deal with it in a relatively more precise manner (and we have too often avoided this...). For universality to exist, a greater shared political view of the world is needed or, in other words, there must be an acceptance of shared values and trust in the institutions capable of guaranteeing them. In this sense, universality (as further characterized below) does not exist in development work in the West: It has never existed and remains a remote ideal! Although universality is a fluid concept, in development work it basically means accepting a set of common values including protection and promotion of civil, political, cultural, social, and economic rights.

93. The existing differences in the views about civil, political, cultural, social, and economic rights that mark world affairs are rooted in such fundamentally differing ideological concepts of life and human organization that trying to find common ground may prove to be extremely difficult or even impossible. (It will certainly not come about through multidisciplinary team work that skips these issues and concentrates on technical solutions). The choice we face in development work is thus a choice between fighting for the rights of all the world’s people or continuing to be at the service of a handful of powerful people and their established privileges as assured by the governments they control (74).

94. Multidisciplinary work in development should, therefore, be able to sum up the epoch we live in and thus bring us closer to genuine development by articulating the conditions surrounding us in a way that allows for the resolution or abolition of the factors perpetuating underdevelopment. To understand, we must collectively search for the root causes. But among the roots, there are stones, parasites, many worms and dung. We must resist the nausea to avoid interrupting this needed search and to be able to continue this in-depth search, we have to shed our fears; we have to break with the compromises we have established with those who never have wanted that history be made (62, 68).

95. Despite these considerations, many multidisciplinary team members continue to rely too much on an oversimplified cause-effect world, mainly because they often do not fully understand or weigh the causes appropriately. Quick judgements and extrapolations often seem to be the essence of wisdom of multidisciplinary teams (75).

96. In too many multidisciplinary teams there is no real debate, only an argument. Those with experience and training are coming up with opposite answers and no patience with those who disagree with their respective positions. The need is clearly for getting into that missing debate to discuss the complex underlying political issues of underdevelopment (76).

97. Solutions to underdevelopment, especially those imposed from loftier heights, lend to create new problems, mostly because multidisciplinary teams get embroiled primarily in the agonies of implementation of those solutions with a rigid “grand design” approach, not questioning the underlying basic structural constraints. Development has been hijacked by the wrong sort of scientists who permit “rational” institutions (multidisciplinary...?) to define the problems to fit the solutions they can (or want to) supply. To every one of these problems, experts can offer convincing - and often contradictory - responses (77).

Transcending narrow paradigms:

98. The question that flows naturally from the discussion so far in our attempt to foster genuine development is: do we need to “escape” from our narrow paradigms, the ones we originally acquired in the bosom of our profession? If the answer is yes, the next question is, naturally, how? By finding a cozy niche in our paradigms, we tend to lose our more adolescent critical approach to the world around us. Our consciences are not always born with a rebellious ethos. Our ideological ingenuity - sometimes equated with a well-intentioned, naive romanticism - is usually the product of a very concrete political and historical moment, one that is rather comfortable for us (78). Leaving that comfort is what it is all about...

99. Many of us are unhappy for not doing what we think needs to be done to overcome underdevelopment. Does this mean we have not pursued our ideals, surrendering to an outside reality we think we cannot change? Is this part of an accommodation we choose? We too often get involved more in what is academically interesting than in what is important for the people we are trying to help, thus losing articulation with local realities.

100. Adopting a new unified paradigm may well be the first step to take in questioning some very basic values underlying the development process. But to members of any professional guild it is a gigantic task to show their paradigm to be wrong or only partially right, as was already argued. It is an even more gigantic task to show that the paradigm is wrong because the ideology behind it is wrong and its values are not providing guidance to successfully solve the problems behind the reality being observed. Herein lies the challenge for us toward our peers, namely helping the group we belong to take such a step and prove the present dominant development paradigm wrong. The risks are foreseeable: Being accused of incompetence when applying new and wider concepts, traditionally outside the accepted paradigm, or of treason or unorthodoxy when integrating with the paradigm(s) of a different discipline. Under these circumstances, “repressive actions are often taken against these young absconders” (79).

101. The defence of a paradigm by guild members usually becomes as important as the defence of their ideology, the former basically being the same ideological defence disguised in professional and scientific justifications.

102. How can we, then, ventilate our frustrations within our profession? The key question is whether the “dominant” paradigm accepts the idea of dialectic change. This not infrequently being the case the task of committed development professionals would be to highlight and pinpoint existing and always upcoming contradictions to then push for their resolution. This needs to be done, among other options, through open criticism of the validity of field research in development and of the often biased interpretation of its results, pointing out how out of context with the reality its conclusions are.

103. The role of “thematic discussions” multidisciplinary in nature, has been highlighted by some as a means to break the isolation of individual paradigms in an effort to come up with new, wider, more valid ones (22). The question remains, though, whether these discussions will be able to bridge the ideological gaps within the group and if not, whether a lot of energy should be devoted to this effort. Several issues come to mind when pursuing this line of thought: What are the potential gains from such thematic discussion and what can be expected from changing our co-workers and peers? Is trying to change them worth our time? Or should we devote all our energies to work directly with the communities to help them bring about real changes and development from below? Can we accelerate the pace of history when changing the global, paradigmatic, ideological, and political checks and balances? If yes, what kind of new responsibilities do we need to lake on and at what level(s)? There certainly is a role for an avant-garde raising a rallying call to transcend narrow paradigms and helping to create awareness by waving an anti-technocratic banner. The preceding does not have to be posed as an either/or issue, though. By articulating an alternate paradigm, with an explicit ideological basis, we can challenge our peers as well as contribute to the conceptual work that moves the struggle along by working with ideas that empower the people when applied in concrete situations.

104. On the structural, political issues we need to move from the normative “should be done” to more effective and pertinent actions actually being taken actions in which we can make a positive contribution. So far, we have been more successful in airing these issues in the literature (as in this very article...) than affecting real policies that point in the right direction of overcoming the major contradictions of underdevelopment. We are slowly coming out of the closet, true. We may even become mainstream, but we run the risk of becoming one more passing fashion if we do not link analysis with action and more immediate demands (21).

105. On this very issue, one often finds questionable advice for our colleagues, as for example in a recent editorial of Development International: “Development professionals nearly always work in a context where policy is set by others usually political figures who do not gain their positions by adhering to professional standards, but through some form of power transfer, be it ballots or bullets. Thus, it is often difficult - and sometimes positively dangerous - for professionals to subscribe to the higher cause that gives them their identity; the policy makers may set a course that frustrates development. How, then, should professionals relate to policy? They can hardly be expected to commit occupational suicide by subverting policy directives. Much of the good advice in this regard is obvious: Find out all the facts; make sure policy makers have access to these facts; clarify all the options and their consequences; serve as the champions of rationality in the decision-making process, not so much by talk as by example. Logic, objectivity, scientific fact - these are the tools of the professional. Development professionals must employ these tools and no others.” (80). Now, this is hardly enough! Nor is it exactly coming out of the closet... Decision-makers arms cannot be twisted by rationality - except their own...

Crisis - The battle of the paradigms:

106. Changes within a paradigm are usually cumulative; changes of paradigm(s) are revolutionary (81).

107. There are four possible responses to a paradigmatic crisis of proportions: a) successfully muddling through thus increasing scientific irrelevance; b) descent into chaos; c) authoritarianism, and d) paradigmatic transformation leading to a better one, one that is more adapted to the new reality (32). Let us explore these possibilities in greater depth.

108. Despite the limitations of normal science, research can “learn” to look at new phenomena in a different way, often against peer resistance. When this happens a scientific revolution may ensue. Insecurity creeps in, generated by the repeated failures of normal science to yield the expected results. Normal techniques to resolve problems (e.g. underdevelopment) fail to show expected results. Usually contributing to this circumstance, we find some “external factors” that can actually determine the timing for the total collapse of the old theory and praxis. External factors can be intellectual or non-intellectual (institutional, technologic, natural disasters, wars, political, economic, etc.). They are at least as important as the internal factors (intradisciplinary) in fostering paradigmatic changes. A new theory will emerge only after repeated failures in problem resolution and the right external factors converge (... and in the social sciences perhaps not even then...). During such times, scientists get used to developing many new speculative and yet inarticulated theories. And when interpretation and theory coincide, the theory becomes paradigm. New facts and the theoretical breakthrough then end up walking hand in hand (82).

109. At what stage of the battle of the paradigms are we, then, in development work? In yet another, deep crisis of development theory? Have internal or external factors (and among them which?) been more important in bringing about the present crisis? How far along are we in postulating a new theory that will replace the current (obsolete) Western development paradigm? Is a call for multidisciplinary approaches a step in the right direction in precipitating and/or consolidating this circumscribed scientific mini-revolution?

110. When facing these issues in our field, most of us often resist change. Even if we begin losing faith and begin considering alternatives, we do not easily renounce the paradigm that has led us to a crisis. We will even invent “modifications” of our theories to eliminate conflict. And our resistance will continue until the new paradigm is almost irrefutably established. (Note that the rejection of a paradigm without replacing it by another is a rejection of science itself) (82).

111. It is particularly in the replacement of the dominant paradigm where ideology plays such an important role in our case of development theory. The decision to reject a paradigm is always simultaneously the decision to accept another one and the judgement that leads to that decision is highly ideological since the issues at stake interact dialectically with major and minor contradictions at play.

112. With others, I think we are in the midst of a crisis in the normal science of development. As a first indicator, we see a proliferation of paradigmatic versions. Outright resistance to change is rather being replaced by a “wait and see” mood. The “anomalies” need now to be recognized by all the members of our multidisciplinary professional team. More and more development professionals - and among them our most eminent - are paying attention (83). Many of us (myself included) consider the resolution of this crisis to be the number one priority in development work and all of us will have to start work within our disciplines to pave the way to make the needed changes possible.

113. To resolve the anomalies we cannot keep and use the rules established by the old paradigm. The proliferation of new, diverging: approaches and adjustments will make those rules progressively confusing. Even though the old paradigm may still be current, few are in agreement with it; some previously accepted solutions are considered unsatisfactory and are doubled (83).

114. What this situation suggests is a transition period between the moment in which the crisis starts and the moment when a new paradigm is finally adopted and the crisis is resolved. An actual battle is involved in this process. The transition is not the result of a cumulative process. One does not arrive at the new paradigm by rearticulating or extending the old paradigm. What actually happens is a reconstruction of the scientific field, starting from new (in our case ideological...?) foundations. When the transition is completed, professionals will have to modify their vision of the field, their methods, and their goals (82, 83). And this is a scientific revolution, one that we are seeking in our field of development mostly under the umbrella of the social, economic, and political sciences...

115. This period has also been called a period of “extraordinary science” that breaks with normal science. During this period we open our dispositions to try out anything; discontent is widespread; debates about the fundamentals of our science(s) become frequent. (Are we in such a period now, I ask again? Have we been in it for a long lime? Or only since recently...?) How do we know if we are experiencing a normal or an extraordinary change? (A good sign of crisis is the interruption of normal communications among scientists of one discipline or between disciplines in a multidisciplinary team (83, 84).

116. A scientific revolution like the one described, has many analogies with political revolutions. In both revolutions we experience a sentiment of discontent with the existing institutions; the latter have ceased functioning adequately, not really resolving the problems they are supposed to deal with. We get involved in attempts to try to change them in ways that the same institutions explicitly prohibit. Therefore, we subsequently abandon these institutions rather than changing them and we organize new ones instead. During the crisis there are no shared rules that could help to resolve the quarrel between the defenders of the old and new orders. This division leads us to an inevitable polarization. The final choice among the competing paradigms ultimately results from a choice between dialectically opposed forms of social life in the community (83). And this is, again, heavily influenced by the ideological stand of those who finally choose.

The dilemmas in choosing a new paradigm:

117. How, then, are paradigms selected in a period of crisis? The choice of a new theory is based on three principles. (Note here the close relationship between the ensuing arguments and dialectic materialism...).

118. a) Logical foundations: Paradigmatic choices cannot be made unequivocably through the use of logic only because the, differences between paradigms are so often irreconcilable. The superiority of one theory over the other can seldom be demonstrated in debate. Reasons are used as values trying to gain persuasion. The challenge is not so much to prove as it is to persuade. (Do we do exactly that in multidisciplinary work...?) The arguments are infrequently resolved using proofs of any kind and there are no supra-paradigmatic norms or “more elevated” norms that can help us out in this dispute (83, 85). (This leaves nothing but ideology, then, as marking and predisposing us in this dispute and standing in our way when facing these difficult choices in multidisciplinary work. Ideology is supra-paradigmatic, irreconcilable through pure logic and cannot be resolved using “proofs.” Traditional, mostly technical multidisciplinarity in Western development work, therefore, carries the seeds of its own futility...

119. When we stick to our own incompatible paradigms in multidisciplinary development work we continue to disagree on what the relevant problems are in the reality we face. Our position towards some of the basic issues at stake remain divergent; we do not communicate anymore; we literally practice our professions in different worlds. Again this, I contend, is an ideological impasse. Therefore, making a choice between different approaches to practicing our sciences by deliberately choosing to look at the more basic causes of underdevelopment becomes imperative for us. We simply cannot continue to use a vague (hypo-critical?) multidisciplinary approach in our attempt to solve the complex problems of development (83, 85). From such a vantage point, all our professions and our professional fields need to be redefined along the lines of a more political view of their role in society.

120. b) Individual psychology: The change from one paradigm to another is actually equivalent to a conversion. It does not happen step by step forced by the logic of some “neutral” experience. Persuasion is guided by comparative arguments and by faith in the new paradigm with knowledge only that the old paradigm has failed in some cases. Here is ideology at play once again... A change of this nature leads us to look at the world in a different way. “The bandage in front of our eyes falls; illumination inundates previous obscurity” (85).

121. c) Community structure: Our community of scientists and development professionals is constantly affecting its members as individuals. At certain times, though, one notices shifts or displacements in the distribution of professional loyalties (as we are experiencing at present...). A final choice will thus inevitably reflect these pressures. To a certain extent the power to choose between paradigms is thus delegated to the “other” members of our community. Can we be bystanders waiting for the “others” to sanction change? For how long...? Our group of reference is mainly our fellow professionals, not a group taken at random from society. In choosing between paradigms it would be unheard of to fall back on extra-scientific authorities to make a decision. (God forbid anyone representing the community of beneficiaries....). It would seem that only our peers possess “the rules of the game that allow passing unequivocal judgments.” Actually, however, we cannot lock out the beneficiaries from involvement in development planning and in the decision-making that goes with it. Precisely in the name of scientific problem solving the beneficiaries should not remain unrepresented (68, 85, 86).

122. Too often, for reasons of time (the main Western disease!), there is a terrible temptation to push the local community into accepting our alien frames of reference and concepts. It is futile to pour in aid, for example, when people are not organized to mobilize their energies and resources. Readiness to mobilize depends on whether the necessary effort has a meaning for the community concerned (And to this we are mostly insensitive...). Local communities need to organize and make headway through their own efforts before receiving financial assistance from outside sources (87).

123. Meaningful participation can only be achieved by promoting social change from the bottom up and by organizing the peasants and other workers into an economic and political force. We should thus not only not be indifferent about participation overall, but reject a passive role for people. Moreover, organization for active participation has an instructional role per-se. Knowledge in itself, however, does not transform reality: it is essential that it be linked to organized activity. The dialectical unity of knowledge and action must be an essential aspect of the method. We thus have to be cognizant of and incorporate the peasants and other beneficiaries viewpoints, their accumulated experience, and their specific economic problems as expressed by their leaders (31, 88).

124. When values are in conflict, as we choose development theories, the norms of persuasive arguing are first and foremost applied within our community of peers and not outside (86) and this can become a circular exercise...

125. There is no neutral algorithm for the choice of development theories; there is no systematic decision-making procedure that when adequately applied should lead each person within (or outside) our multidisciplinary development group to the same decisions. The individual psychology of each of us, as members of the team, and our personal motivation and behavior should be relegated to second place in this choice. Central is how all the proposed new values interact with the individual (or collective) experience(s) of the members of the community of beneficiaries. Only a convergence of this kind will allow us finally to agree on the validity of a new group of arguments over a set of old ones (86).

Who are the real innovators?:

126. Who are the wo/men that start and then carry on a scientific revolution? Almost always new paradigms are started by either very young or very new members of the professional community. These are persons who usually have few or no compromises with the Establishment that dominates mainstream thinking. Changes may then take a whole generation to occur, often until the proponents of the old order have died (89). Will more effective and lasting changes in development work have to wait until some of you readers die...?

127. One can pursue good, genuine development from the bottom up following many different avenues. Some barriers are found in each of those alternative pathways though. Some of these barriers are universal, some almost universal, but they will have to be removed all the same. The truth, then, is that for genuine development to take place, either enough people will have to pass the critical point of breaking with the Establishment individually (to shatter those barriers) or the right people - the natural leaders - will have to (75).

128. Both economic and non-economic issues are at the heart of acquiring this needed new outlook on development that has not yet made it into the mainstream. Personal development (including women!), social justice, and satisfaction of the total range of human needs are at the base of such a new approach. But many mainstream colleagues, calling themselves “development experts,” resist these new ideas and social issues that they claim are not properly the “stuff” of what overall sectorial development (e.g., rural, educational, health development) is all about.

129. Those who ask no substantive questions about why things need to be the way they are often the ones who become deans, chancellors, executive directors, and presidents (of development agencies) and succeed within the system. Society rewards the followers of the system...

130. Critics of the status quo in (Western) development affairs are still lonely voices; there is no major professional constituency yet to carry the burden (68). So each of us must become at least an advocate, an activist, with the special avant-garde mission of catalyzing discussion on these issues.

Tackling the basic causes of maldevelopment:

131. We tend to forget that a scientific approach is not necessarily always a democratic approach. Actually, it often even hides behind quite reactionary premises.

132. The basic causes of widespread ill-health and malnutrition in third world countries, we had said are seldom addressed in sufficient depth by many of our colleagues; this distances their analyses from actual reality. Class issues are traditionally absent in most sets of analyses, as are the overconsumption habits of the bourgeoisie causing at least in part, the imbalances observed in the equation that leads to unequal access to the benefits of development.

133. The basic causes or macro-causes, as depicted in Fig. 1, set the constraints that make more technical interventions hopeless. Real, long-standing solutions, therefore, depend on the identification and subsequent tackling of these basic causes (21, 22).

134. The message between the lines is that the problems will not be resolved by some “technological fix” or by improved management. A much more fundamental system change will be required. The basic premise of an increased faith in reason, guided by deep intuition, does not work anymore (if it ever did....). It is by no means obvious that the Western development paradigm, in its present form, is viable in the long run or that it leads toward a satisfactory resolution to the plight of the poorest. Moreover, the world is changing and those who had for so long accepted the role of privation, inferiority, and servility are less and less willing to do so (and we should primarily be there to help them articulate their grievances....). Therefore, it is understandable that a path to socialism becomes attractive to some underdeveloped countries, but totally unacceptable to the major capitalist donor nations. The present signs of the inadequacy of past (and present...) thinking should not be surprising. There is no reason to expect the old concepts to fit the new situation(s). Development praxis, as we see it today, has evolved pretty much empirically. Theories have come later. So now, we seem to need to promote changes in our value perspectives to bring about a system change of consummate proportions. We need to adopt an entirely different mode of thinking, although rethinking is not always a comfortable exercise (72).

135. Innovations are not, as a rule, socially neutral, though; they benefit mostly those who can take advantage of them. Therefore, specific patterns of thought and behavior in development work need to be seen in the context of the specific institutions and political forces they serve. So, when technical change brings disadvantages for some individuals, political compensation mechanisms need to be used to even out any serious social disadvantages (90) (e.g.. when the stubborn repayment of the foreign debt or IMF conditionalities lead to cutting down government budgets, health and nutrition programs for the poor should be upheld or upgraded rather than cut-off). This is not done, though, and our multidisciplinary teams have kept silent about it...

136. What this means is that commitment is sought from us development workers not only to the end, but to the means of achieving real long-standing development. The fact that nothing much of note is happening or has happened in the past in so many development projects is precisely the problem that should shake us up and force us to reconsider our role in them. We are just too often lured into getting involved in actions with short-lived success and with a grim future...

137. Poverty conditions have to be constantly generated and regenerated for hunger and malnutrition to persist and grow in a society. It is under these circumstances where society’s superstructure - the laws and the institutions that implement its laws - acts as a major constraint (See Figure 1). Hunger may appear to be caused by the inadequate food intake of a sector of the population, but this phenomenon is only the tail end of a process that very importantly has its origins even outside the country. Understanding the basic causes of hunger, thus, requires an understanding of the basic causes of underdevelopment (25).

138. Sneaking up and writing about how important these basic causes are has clearly not been enough. Collectively, as development workers, we simply have not done as much as is needed to correct these underlying causes. We have left unexploited many potentially successful alternative interventions such as working on peasant unionization schemes in some ripe contexts, or on minimum wages (e.g.. indexing one hour of salaried work to the cost of 1 kg of staple food or of some mixed consumer food basket), or working directly on employment generating strategies, or on alternatives to the distorting effects of urban consumer subsidies given at the expense of food producers, thus transferring wealth from the rural to the urban populations.

139. The difficulty in identifying basic causes of underdevelopment with a potential for corrective action has been argued by some as being the bottleneck for starting more meaningful interventions in this domain. This certainly, is a poor excuse for inaction. Arriving at alternative options for action that can tackle basic causes may be more difficult at the national or international level, but not necessarily at the local, village or community level where interventions usually remain more manageable.

140. The challenging questions that come up at this point of the analysis, then, are: Can we at all measure, quantify and rank basic causes? If yes, how most effectively? Is it possible to conceive and put together a cook-book-type checklist of data needed at the village and national levels to evaluate the basic causes and their impact? In a previous paper I tried just such an approach based on my experience in two African countries where I worked on the subject. In short, the list of questions presented in that paper allows the reader to zero in on the major constraints in the economy and in other sectors that are responsible for the state of underdevelopment ill-health and malnutrition in a given society (91).

141. Once the basic causes are identified and even perhaps tentatively quantified and ranked according to their relative weight we must ask ourselves what objectively are the chances of doing something about them. especially about those that seem to offer the more promising chance for successful removal (partial or total). I think it is a fallacy to argue that the alternative is to do nothing - in health, nutrition or any other sector of development - until the major contradictions behind the basic causes are resolved. Rather, we should get involved in actions that will primarily directly affect, say, health and nutrition, but that are also ultimately related to some of the basic causes. In other words, the problems we observe in health and nutrition or any other area of development should all be eye-openers, or act as points of entry, to quickly lake us to the underlying socioeconomic determinants of all these problems. We should start making it part of our paradigmatic consensus that technical interventions that attack only the immediate and underlying causes as depicted in Fig. 1 are worthwhile only if used together with actions addressing the basic causes or if used as vehicles for conscience-raising, mobilization, and consolidation of movements in the population (88). Such an approach obviously makes the objectives of most development projects, as we presently see them by the dozens, obsolete.

142. One final interesting observation that has been made in this context is that catastrophes (either natural or man-made) have often been quantum-leap opportunities to attack basic causes (92). The reasons for this are not always very clear, but sometimes catastrophes are the last drop in the bucket in the patience of people who decide to lake a part of their future into their own hands and thus wipe out some of the long-standing injustices and inequalities at a lime when authorities may still be shaken and in disarray. These situations should thus also be seen as opportunities for us development workers to gain new momentum in our efforts to get more substantial changes under way.

143. So far, we have explored, first, what happens in periods of normal science when scientist are reasonably happy with what they have. Then, we explored what happens when doubts about the validity of the paradigm creep in and subsequently deepen. Next, we described how a crisis comes about and how practitioners are left with no direction for a while having to choose whether to jump forward or stay behind. Assuming they chose to accept the new paradigm, there is then a whole host of things practitioners should begin doing differently. This topic - of whether we are actually beginning to do these “new” things - is what we are going to explore next.

A critical look at what we do:

Development is not roads plus dams, hospitals, schools, irrigation and is first and foremost a people that mobilizes and organizes itself in order to master its own economic and social destiny after having taken charge of its political destiny. Edgar Pisani (93).

144. Most of our colleagues in development work have terms like “community participation”, “social equality”, and “justice” constantly in their mouths, but these concepts are mostly used passively and without a sense of direction that could give them an immediate practical meaning or a clearer political dynamic; in short, these concepts have become abstractions devoid of substance. In Western development jargon, these principles have as much sincere weight as a shopkeeper’s “Have a nice day!”. A few among us, though, have become more vocal and committed to giving substance to these principles. Development apologists somehow believe that these principles will ultimately be applied if only we are all “sincere” about development. Few realize that attaining and sustaining genuine development will not depend on goodwill alone. Neither the public nor students or scholars have been exposed enough to the idea that social justice (with some more democratic redistribution of power and wealth) must precede and set the basis for lasting development. This idea is, of course, often in conflict with the interests of the dominant social class and its idea of maintaining the existing hierarchy. It is not surprising, therefore, that many politically active groups have seen the development lobby as a sometimes irritating constraint rather than as an ally. Too many development lobbyists have had nothing to say about the economy, the international division of labor, the real needs of the Third World, and the rights of women as social justice issues. It is those individuals that can be accused of being sociological apologists for the status quo (94).

145. In our efforts to bring about development, we often act as if the poor were the primary obstacle to development. This at a time when we are witnessing a growing externalization of the national economies of many Third World countries, a fact that by itself is resulting in further pauperization of increasingly larger sectors of the population. These countries are thus, to some extent, (also) importing poverty and hunger. While we look at the consequences of this process of externalization, transnational corporations, in alliance and collusion with local elites, are aggressively acting on and studying the transnationalization of consumer behavior that will allow them to increase their purchases from and sales to the Third World. The cost in local poverty that these strategies will bring about does not enter their decision-making equations. We are, therefore, fighting an unfair and uneven battle that we are doomed to lose. If we do not change our strategy and tactics, the conditions of poverty will be continuously recreated for us to get even more busy at what we do for the promotion of development in the future. We are working toward solving the consequences of a process in which, too often, transnationals and their partners are busily increasing the numbers of our future beneficiaries of social and welfare services. Under these circumstances, bringing technical services to the people is strictly missionary and palliative.

146. In the meantime, in our daily work, we continue to help generate a lot of information about the development process. The question is: For whom does it make a difference to have this new information? To academicians? To the ruling elites and corporations? To the farmers and the urban poor? Experience shows that it is hardly the latter groups that benefit, despite the fact that most research is launched looking for viable solutions to their problems. We somehow lose perspective in the process. Perhaps we should be less interested in collecting hard data of limited transcendence and should be more interested in keeping track of the direction of global changes affecting the poor. Only then would we be prepared to counteract some of the detrimental effects of these macro-changes on the lower income groups.

147. Development does not automatically result from development spending. Neither is the assumption true that all social classes living in the project area will benefit equally from it. Primarily because of the lack of real accountability to any constituency, our multidisciplinary approach to development - which may have become by now more a part of the problem than of its solution - has evolved over the years encouraging a bland, disembodied approach to development problems by ignoring the critical aspects of politics and power relations (93).

148. I wonder, then, if it is an appropriate response to keep calling for more research to understand “the roots of underdevelopment,” as it is too often proposed in scholarly discourse. If the researchers keep missing the forest when they look at the trees because they fail to set aside the preconceptions inherent to their paradigm(s) and ideology, funds are never going to be allocated for tasks directly responding to urgent local development needs, unfortunately not even when we are seeing an objectively worsening global situation for the underdeveloped countries as a whole. When looking at (he local realities together with the people, it should become a challenge for us to help them to make their felt development needs a right to fight for - and that is a (political) task in which we have consistently failed. In short, our technical expertise in development issues must be put at the service of social justice and change.

149. It is difficult, nevertheless to argue that all technical interventions are not good by themselves. A good example is an immunization campaign. What often gets lost in the enthusiasm for the potential benefits of such a campaign is to put its benefits in the proper context. How much is it really contributing to the well being of the population? Are we going to be saving a child from dying from whooping-cough or measles only to make him die somewhere down the line from diarrhea because of his concomitant malnutrition? An immunization campaign has only a limited potential impact on improving the quality of life of the poor if other interventions directly addressing the problems of poverty are not being implemented simultaneously. This is what we constantly need to be reminded of. Otherwise, we are cheating ourselves and, worse, cheating the beneficiaries and the taxpayers (or international donors) who are footing the bill (95).

150. To fight the battle against Westernization and modernization as leading to maldevelopment and exerting an overall negative impact on the condition of the poor, we need to determine (and mostly fail to do so) who our opponents are the ones who put brakes on the most needed structural changes. This is vital to plan our strategy and our moves to maximize bottom-up development goals. There are at least three categories or groups of such opponents. One such group is internal (within the country): the local bourgeoisie. The other two are external, but exert their influence through the local bourgeois, capitalist-dependent governments: transnational corporations or banks (the media lords and advertising agencies included) and traditional foreign aid.

151. With foreign aid, whether bilateral or multilateral, we face the problem that it has become an ideological charade to decide which part of it is good and which is bad (especially at a lime when, after debt repayment, net flows of financial resources are actually toward the so-called donor countries). With perhaps counted exceptions, foreign aid has followed Western models of development, either subtly or overtly. It introduces external resources that either divert existing local resources for new, different, not always appropriate purposes, or it provides goods and services at levels not possible to maintain with local resources after the aid slops flowing. Does this mean that foreign aid should be rejected in most cases or accepted with “conditions” only? Would no aid make internal contradictions more acute and thus prompt earlier structural changes towards more equity in those societies? Is foreign aid temporarily patching-up major class contradictions in Third World societies? I have dealt with these topics elsewhere, but their reiteration here is justified on grounds of being aware of the eventual need to oppose foreign aid in the process of fostering real development (96, 97, 98).

152. Under these circumstances, alternative development strategies need to be identified and followed. In the choice of any of these alternative strategies, elements of at least the following principles will have to be considered:

a) Development praxis will have to be subjected to a process of de-Westernization incorporating more indigenous and endogenous elements and values, i.e., the more incorporation of traditional medicine or traditional agricultural practices. This approach includes an emphasis on adaptation rather than adoption of technologies and practices. (In this context, some people have even called for a concomitant “de-Westernization of the West” itself) (99).

b) Decentralization and democratization of the decision-making process, of the planning and of the execution of development plans will have to be made central issues in the development process. A popular participatory approach should come as a dialectical reaction to consecutive failures to provide meaningful services through top-down approaches (99, 100).

c) Our level of involvement in field work will have to change following and fostering, as far as possible, five consecutive steps: Participation alone has turned out to be harmless for the vested interests and is, therefore, a regular appendage of every government development project.

1) Community organization (or strengthening of existing organization):

2) Community participation (or extension of existing participation) to promote the taking of collective initiatives following self-deliberation and to assure self-management of the tasks being proposed;*

3) Consciousness raising (or politization of issues) to provide appropriate rallying points around how the present situation came about and why it need not continue;

4) Community mobilization for self-help actions, for lobbying and for placing demands (also called practical politics through empowerment); and

5) Consolidation of movements (networking and solidarity work) (88, 101).

* Participation alone, without the ensuing three steps, has aimed out to be harmless for the vested interests and is, therefore, now a regular appendage of every government development project
153. What these levels of involvement highlight is that/calls for community participation or for self-reliance will remain empty deeds without a process of political mobilization in which we become actors as well, even at the risk of quite foreseeable repression against us and the projects in which we work (102).

154. On the other hand, people on their own also find novel and adaptive development alternatives to cope with hardship. For example, in each country, poor, urban populations have developed “survival strategies” to adapt to progressively adverse economic conditions which bring with them shortages of many sons. These strategies range from increasing household crowding conditions by extended families moving-in together, to slopping payment of utilities, to seeking free health care in emergency rooms of hospitals, to increasing the percentage of income spent on food (thus cutting non-food expenditures including public transportation and entertainment), to getting free food from any (or even several) government and/or private food distribution outlets or organizing soup-kitchens. These behaviors wisely maximize benefits from a very limited number of available options - given the harsh constraints - thus proving the innate popular wisdom that we so seldom acknowledge or give credit to. These survival strategies become increasingly keen when the process of socioeconomic and political changes continues to deteriorate, often explaining the lag-lime or period that elapses before a deterioration of health and nutrition indicators, commensurate with the increasing misery of the vulnerable groups, begins to show in the statistics. Therefore, despite an objective deterioration in the standards of living that make the basic causes of hunger even more prominent in such trying times, one can see some temporary improvements or at least a stay in some of the health indicators (infant mortality, for example) that may have been showing slow improvement before the hardship set in (e.g.. Chile under the boot of Pinochet)(103, 104).

The limits of traditional development project evaluation:

155. Under the optic of what has been presented here, the traditional development project evaluation process comes under question. This process has been designed to make sure that future (mostly technical) interventions become more efficient and cost- effective.

156. Testing the (often faulty) hypothetical assumptions of project or program objectives that are not being fulfilled after implementation heavily depends on asking the right questions which, most often, we are not asking. These questions are unavoidably framed by the paradigm and ideology of the inquirer. (Note that, given the right critical attitude, failures can be stepping stones for success and past experiences are good guides for future planning).

157. This subjectivity, then, points to another concrete role development workers need to take up as a good starting point in their daily, hopefully more sceptical work: I am talking about critiquing traditional development evaluation exercises for their severe limitations. We need to do our best to show what is wrong with them in each specific context. Perhaps we need to help develop and/or introduce new such evaluation protocols that look more at the overall distributive effects of projects and at changes (or non-changes) in the basic or macro-determinants that lead in underdevelopment over time Jorgen Lissner, perhaps with some flaws and certainly with a lot of collective guilt, argues that: We (in the North) need to move away from a charity approach to development in which “they (in the South) are the problem, we help the victims, give a little more: generosity is the answer” to a redistribution approach to development in which “we are the problem, we create victims, take a little less: Changes in the (social) structures and in our lifestyles are the answer.”

158. When development planners have traditional evaluation in mind from the outset, projects tend to be designed hypertargeting interventions specifically to accomplish narrowly defined objectives. The role of many health projects, for example, have primarily been to lower the infant mortality rate (deaths under the age of one year). But what happens after that first year of life? I am always amazed about how, because of hypertargeting in health, children would seem to be abandoned by the very agencies and institutions that helped them survive through infancy. Is UNICEF’s “GOBI” strategy at risk of becoming such a narrowly defined packaged intervention...? Can reductionistic approaches to Primary Health Care have any long-term success if they do not tackle the conditions constantly regenerating poverty and its accompanying conditions of ill-health? (95).

159. Other indicators of quality of life that go beyond mere survival after the first year of life and actually beyond health and death altogether (e.g., distribution of wealth and power, land tenure, disposable income, food availability, etc.) need to be monitored as closely as those traditional indicators to pass any judgement on more lasting project success. These (new) indicators that more truthfully reflect real standards of living will have to become part of any new routine evaluation protocol (103). It is thus a challenge for us all to fill this gap.

“We should” - Our inherent obligations and the challenges ahead:

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. (Voltaire).

160. The first order of the day in development work is that we must overcome the old idea (that the world around us is greatly concerned about what one party or another thinks and stands for on the subject of development. It is we who must either speak up (hopefully with one voice) or not be heard at all (105).

161. Each of us should not be impeded, because of passively adopted compromises with an ideology, to change our focus or to reject traditional approaches when our observations so warrant (106).

162. What we need is to keep the freedom to transcend our development paradigm when it obsolesces. Even if we approach new phenomena with a preconceived theory, this fact does not mean that we are necessarily trapped by a rigid, supra-paradigmatic framework (107). At any given time, we can break the cage of our theoretical framework, but - beware - only to fall into the next cage. We are prisoners of these frameworks. But only in the sense that “if we want, we can” act critically and escape and expand our understanding to include the more basic determinants of maldevelopment as was done in Figure 1. So, there is hope....

163. Consequently, paradigmatic compromises and the shattering of some ideological barriers will have to lake place some time soon if multidisciplinary work is to carry us any further....

164. The importance we attribute to certain perceived problems of development can be altered by technological, as well as by social changes; these changes can create new problems for us. Social pressures can, rather quickly, become more apparent thus demanding social change; and we in the development business must be keenly perceptive and receptive to these pressures (107). But we are not. We have too often lost sensitivity to the underlying non-technical problems of development and to real people’s needs as perceived by them. Every once in a while, however, someone among us breaks out of the apathy: Have you? If yes, what do you do next? Promoting a paradigm shift toward a development model with greater participation from within communities seems to be the direction to turn to....

165. Our Western multidisciplinary development teams need to acquire a new tolerance and at the same time an aggressiveness that more decisively lead to recommended actions fostering equality for everyone - an equality that does not have to imply sameness. Our team members will perhaps have to rework their ethics (and/or their politics...?) to be able to change in this direction. It is time for our morality and for our sense of justice to catch up with our present professional capacities (and vice versa), reconciling technical progress with changing moral (and political) obligations. Poverty is the worst form of violence, Gandhi wrote, and politics is the strongest determinant of poverty and hunger. Draw your own conclusion about what this should mean in terms of development priorities... Predictably, those who are impoverished also carry a disparate burden of what has been called “the social costs of production”, i.e. the diseases of occupation and of poverty to which we will have to pay more attention as manifestations of yet another facet of inequity which unfairly distributes certain health risks among the working class. So, in reviewing the health status of a given society the health statistics will actually mirror the economic and class biases of that society. There can be no lasting health for all where governments fuel the fires of economic discrimination - and stamping out those fires will have to become our business as development professionals (19, 108).

166. We thus need to shift to a more political analysis of the (ultimately social) bases of how we interpret and practice our sciences. We further need to exert a more organized collective skepticism about what we think is wrong in Western development praxis, questioning certain bases of the established routine(s) (107, 109).

167. We cannot have split allegiances: our scientific beliefs do fuse with our political and social outlook and as development workers we ought to be the natural attorneys of the poor. For a physician like me, for example, medicine is a social science connecting me with development work and politics is nothing but medicine on a grand scale (R. Virchow) (68).

168. Nobody can demand left-leaning political positions from each of you readers. We nevertheless need to get out of the game of development as leading to maldevelopment (imitating of the West and dependency-creating) and need to focus on efforts toward real grassroots development (empowering, indigenous and self-sustaining). But grassroots development that tackles the real structural problems of society lacks glamour in our environment and also, obviously, lacks funds....

169. Some of us now recognize development itself as a malignant myth - a myth that, at best, offers economic measures that do not empower the poor. We thus face a major challenge to conventional wisdom in development/aid policy. Preconceptions need to be assaulted. Only by directly confronting these preconceptions (mostly ideological...) can we arrive at a framework for meaningful strategic action. Development is just not brought about by stability; it is stability that is achieved through development (77, 110, 111). Moreover, we also need to make an effort to learn more about and understand the cultures of the people we work with rather than nursing their cultures fastened to the fit of the West....

170. Why then do our attempts at being comprehensive not achieve the expected results?.. It is the inherent complex nature of the problems of development that complicates our policy-making. The essence of the problem of underdevelopment transcends its interdisciplinary nature. Comprehensiveness cannot be achieved only by all-inclusiveness of the parts, but rather by creating (or adopting) a (new) philosophy into which all parts mesh. The acquisition of such a philosophy has been mostly avoided so far, precisely because it automatically raises larger issues about the direction in which society should go and challenges the current system. We need new philosophies, methodologies and processes that help us work toward a society inspired by a different world view. We need tactics, but first we need innovative strategies. It is also necessary to pass from a state of critique to more concrete action(s). Tactics must be shifted from a commiserating position to one that offers more positive choices. A positive strategy will be most effective if efforts are made to go beyond the all-too-modest political goal of pursuing a minimum consensus package that mostly serves to alleviate guilt feelings in us (112).

171. We ought not retreat into helpless passivity either, watching a social and biological system deteriorate in front of our eyes. We can alter trends and avert catastrophes in development work if we recognize and exercise our own power to make a difference. We all carry around with us a bag of unexamined credos and this unexamined life is what comes under pressure when we are faced with making decisions on how to revert such negative trends (113).

172. As more specifically pertains us in development work, we still do not have an established new, well-accepted, global and interdisciplinary paradigm for development centered around a meaningful multidisciplinary enterprise. We are in the process of working on one, though. The old Western-biased paradigm of development (imitating and dependency-creating) is obsolete and we have to precipitate and deepen the inevitable crisis that is bringing it down. A lot of regrets can be avoided if this is done fast. Ideological (political) considerations, beyond science, will determine whether the new, emerging development paradigm(s) empowering, indigenous and self-sustaining) will set the rules for real or yet more cosmetic changes to overcome underdevelopment...

173. One of the great dangers of our day it that we development workers become fatalists and allow maldevelopment to continue because we feel powerless. Maldevelopment is a person - made problem that can be solved by people - but only if we think it can be solved. Hopelessness and helplessness on our part will only allow the problem to continue. The same applies to our everyday often undramatic lives. Fatalists are losers and yet fatalism often is an underlying factor in the entire range, of development work. A key difference between the rich and the poor is that the rich feel power, a sense of having at least some control and the knowledge that what they do can influence the future. The poor often feel powerless. If you know you cannot make it, you will not make it (114). Social changes do not happen by chance. They happen because people envision and then implement those changes. It is possible to plan the future, rather than fatalistically live it out. We can make a difference. But not if we is that band of well-intentioned, mostly middle-class development professionals exerting no clout to redress doomed development paths...). Our challenge is thus to plan the future with the victims of underdevelopment giving hope to the hopeless, and being instrumental in the gradual acquisition of power by the powerless through work with them aimed at this specific end.

174. It is time for us to shift the discussion away from dealing with poverty as a given as a problem in distributing the trails of current economic relationships. Rather, the problem is one of redirecting those relationships away from those capitalist values that create inequality and toward those leading to a more egalitarian system (43).

175. Only by exposing the incompatibility between existing development priorities and the pressing real development needs of the poor will we move toward more equality. Is it evasiveness, then, that many of us can be accused of? Or do we not know any better? Do we conveniently ignore the real priorities? We too often lack the necessary “active” attitude toward solving the social, political and economic contradictions at the base of underdevelopment and its consequences, especially those contradictions among them that fall closer to our respective fields of expertise. This inaction has a corroding effect on us. We all have the temptation to turn decision-making on these matters over to others and so absolve ourselves of responsibility (18, 20, 115). Let’s face it: When scholarship and activism come up as alternative courses to follow in development work it is activism that we tend to push aside.


176. I did not set out on the (ad)venture of writing this paper pretending to become an expert on development experts. On that I do not speak with final authority. Nevertheless, some inevitable conclusions flow from all the preceding. The brand of “armchair science applied to consciousness research” displayed in this piece can. I think, help - by having critically analyzed and even theorized - give some perspective on what is happening in our loose guild of development workers while we go through our own via dolorosa (72).

177. Most of the issues brought up in this paper are not necessarily new to you. Yet seldom do (have) they arouse(d) your passion. To a marked degree, we all put these issues out of our minds. My final question is: Why? We do not speak of them, partly because our preoccupation with power is conventional and obsolete. The supreme victory of power is that people do not care to challenge it in open voice. My plea is that we cease evasion. Let us bring the power issue into full, candid, and open discussion. Let us see the dimensions of power and let us see the means for countering it... And none of this will happen until we recognize the full reality of our situation. Therein lies the challenge (John Kenneth Galbraith) (116).

178. In the Western tradition of development work we keep calling for “more comprehensiveness,” “multidisciplinarity,” “unified paradigms,” and “integrated approaches to development,” and more precious time gets lost and squandered because nothing basically changes. It is just a never-ending deception. These “new” approaches are tried for a few years, only to shed their usefulness after some dubiously successful or unsuccessful field trials have been completed or after a new fashion sweeps our professional literature. All this has added little to real solutions, precisely because it is the mode of thinking of traditional multidisciplinary team members (and of the people who hire them) that is itself the key problem. It is not until we succeed generating some kind of new consensus, as scientists, (short of following the alternative of forgetting science and its practitioners altogether to achieve the needed changes...) to attack the root causes of underdevelopment within the structure of the system harboring them that more workable and lasting solutions are going to emerge.

179. Academicians in our field also keep perennially concluding their research calling for - indeed - more research before being definite about the interpretation of their findings. What is actually long overdue is some research on why we so often have this call for more research and why this behavior invariably dampens the strength of the policy implications of the findings, especially when these are grave and call for bitter medicine.

180. We occasionally do reflect on our behavior as human beings (sharing an ethos) and as professionals (sharing (a) paradigm(s)), but seldom do we look at ourselves as political actors - which we all are in one way or another” with the task of applying our knowledge and directing our efforts to resolve flagrant contradictions in society. We thus often end up causing or accepting the evils so many of us have actually undertaken to combat.

181. Much of what I have here critiqued about multidisciplinary teams also applies to the way many non-governmental organizations and private voluntary agencies make decisions and the way they carry out activities in the field. These organizations are also limited in their scope by ideological and political straitjackets with, I would say, few exceptions. Thus, their involvement in the implementation of development projects is no assured panacea, as seems to be the prevailing myth.

182. Having so far expressed my disenchantment with Western multidisciplinary development work and teams, is there anything positive to be said about them? Something that deserves some credit? The answer is YES. Tome, multidisciplinary teams are a site for interaction that can serve as a true forum to air some of the issues here discussed. In development work, multidisciplinary teams have succeeded, to some extent, to raise public consciousness about world problems: they have educated governments and the media (is such a thing possible...?); they have served as a platform for more militant activities by a vast network of persons like myself and by voluntary grassroot associations that have sprung up around the world. Besides having helped identify world problems, multidisciplinary teams have started putting them in the political agenda. But all this cannot be generalized: As a rule, (multidisciplinary teams are neither better nor worse than the individual members who control their operations (117).

183 Sharing, integrating, or unifying paradigms in multidisciplinary work will not necessarily carry us directly or closer to in-depth solutions of the problems of development. It may be a good starling point, but this new dialogue still leaves a big task ahead, one of gaining consensus on some of the major political and ideological constraints causing societies to generate and maintain inequalities. This task requires an ideological rapprochement among development workers and between them and the beneficiaries of development Such rapport is certainly not easy to achieve nor are there any signs that this process is significantly under way now. The tone, frequency and content of our interactions will have in change. We can initiate or help precipitate more radical changes in working with the people if we “come out of the closet” and start moving in the direction of a brand of development that is empowering, indigenous, and self-sustaining. As Oliver Wendell Holmes said: “I think that, as life is action and passion, it is required of us that we share the passions and action of our time at peril of being judged not to have lived.”

184. Multidisciplinary work is at a turning point. It can use either a predominantly systems analysis approach or a distinct dialectical approach. If the former approach is followed in development work, the political power relations and class interests will not be considered at all or they will, but not in an appropriate context; social and political institutions will be taken as given. Therefore, recommendations will end up being rather palliative (conservative). Will that, then, lead to yet more masquerading exercises? Since what we need more is to deal with the real world, with its inescapable power-related constraints and contradictions, the latter (dialectical) approach would seem to be the more appropriate method to adopt since it would tend to help us better operationalize the rights of the different actors in the light of existing power relations in development work and that alone is a step in the right direction. Could a systems and a dialectical approach be combined? Perhaps yes, if the latter predominates. Or, as others would say, what for? A dialectical approach by definition already is a systems approach....

185. In closing, let me say that I clearly do not pretend to have all the answers to the many questions that have here been raised. I hope readers are stimulated to contribute further to this old debate that continues to arouse so many of us.


This paper was inspired by my participation in the UNICEF- sponsored workshop on Hunger and Society held in Soliwayo, Tanzania, on December 1983. Many of the participants were invited, because the convenor thought they had escaped or transcended their narrow paradigms and could help breaking new ground in this field. I want to thank Virginia Howard, Dana Ketchum, Susan George and Nancy Krieger for having given me some valuable feed back on prefinal drafts of the paper. Some of their suggestions have been incorporated into the text.


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Figure 1

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