Home Opinion Op-Ed Social Sciences in the 21st century: What are Pakistani academics up to?

Social Sciences in the 21st century: What are Pakistani academics up to?

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Farah Adeed |

The role of the 17th century in the history of humankind is remarkable. It was the time when society, politics, and states underwent some drastic changes which continued to impact the lives of the people even after three hundred years. Industrial revolution coupled with increased and unprecedented urbanization along with the well-known intellectual revolution in Europe led to the creation of a new world. Fundamentals of social, economic, and political spheres got completely changed and a new order was placed to frame and regulate the uncertainties being faced by the masses.

As a matter of historical fact, the 17th-century socio-political upheavals laid down the foundation of three structures; capitalism, democracy, and positivism. Later on, these three developments remained as dominant idioms in all spheres of human life. Interestingly, the United States of America emerged as the beacon and ultimate defender of these structures.

Social science was created to explore the social world for a better understanding so that the existing and emerging challenges could be dealt with in a smooth manner.

Following the leadership of America rest of the world started growing under the banners of the free market, democracy, and objective knowledge. However, some European countries objected on the last American assertion and decided to enter into the post-positivism era.

The question which needs to be asked at the moment is very simple; has American society and state made progress under these structures? Before any attempt to answer the question, it is imperative to deliberate on the idea of progress. There is no agreed upon definition of the term which has created more confusion. But this definitional dilemma proved helpful for capitalists who define it in a way which best serves their class interests.

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For example, progress is generally associated with increased individual freedoms, material development, and high-profile security. Even if this is the criterion, the American society struggling with the issues of security and privacy, homelessness, marriage-breakdown, high suicide rate, and countless cases of domestic violence is convincingly not making progress. Moreover, the rise of minimalism in America further questions the fundamentals of the American definition of progress.

Recently, I attended an International Conference on Democracy and Security at PU (University of the Punjab, Lahore), where a renowned professor of Political Science Mr. Sajjad Naseer argued that the contemporary theories in Social Science being offered to us have no utility.

This will ultimately lead to more imagination and creativity in Pakistan where generally borrowed theories from the west are being used to fit our Masters or Ph.D. dissertations and research papers without original thinking.

He explicitly questioned the utility of the modern-day social sciences; why are we producing it? Interestingly, Professor Naseer maintained that the USA, the originator of modern knowledge, has borrowed money from China which reveals the failure of the system itself. “Economic dependence does not offer you any freedom,” he said.

Now, this point is linked with what I have mentioned above further raises questions about the American system. Social science was created to explore the social world for a better understanding so that the existing and emerging challenges could be dealt with in a smooth manner. Hence, social science was meant to upgrade society and politics across the world.

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Now many people are questioning the utility of social science which indicates a major change in the filed later or sooner. The basic objective is to understand the complex processes where economics, politics, and society are smartly controlled in a so-called free world. Secondly, it is the intention of the critics to make social science more humane since excessive individualism and unnecessary bureaucratization of the society caused a breakdown of moral order in the modern world which damaged human relationships.

Hamza Alavi, the worldwide famous sociologist, is treated as a Marxist scholar. Once he told renowned historian, Dr. Mubarak Ali, that Marxism works best as a tool to analyze history, economics, and politics, but does not hold quite so well as a political ideology. Similarly, positivism helps to explore and understanding the social world but it adversely affects the social fabric when it starts offering a mechanical philosophy of life under the covers of modernity, civility, or progress.

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We must welcome all such debates in Pakistan where the fundamentals of modern social science are being questioned for its inability to help us understand the complex world, perennial challenges, and a way forward. This will ultimately lead to more imagination and creativity in Pakistan where generally borrowed theories from the west are being used to fit our Masters or Ph.D. dissertations and research papers without original thinking.

Farah Adeed is a Senior Research Analyst in GVS. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s Editorial Policy.


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1 COMMENT

  1. Well articulated piece,. It is the high time to think about not only the utility of social sciences in Pakistan but its future as well.

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