On the Theory of Social Change: How Economic Growth Begins

On the Theory of Social Change: How Economic Growth Begins

On the Theory of Social Change: How Economic Growth Begins

On the Theory of Social Change: How Economic Growth Begins

Excerpt

THE STUDY ON WHICH THIS BOOK IS BASED AROSE OUT OF the attempt to answer a question which puzzled me during two years as economic advisor to the government of the Union of Burma. The officials of Burma avowed their intense desire for economic development, and there was no reason to doubt the sincerity of their statements. Why then did they not use the resources at their disposal more effectively toward that end?

On my return to the United States late in 1953 to join the staff of the Center for International Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, I let that question lie fallow in my mind for two years or so. However, since 1956 my energies have been devoted primarily to evolving an answer to the general question implicit in that specific one: Why have the people of some societies entered upon technological progress sooner or more effectively than others? Since it seemed clear to me that the differences were due only in very minor degree to economic obstacles, lack of information, or lack of training, I turned my attention to other possible causes of differences in human behavior to differences in personality, and hence personality formation and the social conditions affecting it.

This study led, in turn, to a general theory of social change.

A fuller account of the origins of my interest in personality formation would have to go back to various pleasures and traumas in childhood and as I grew up. The total narrative would indicate a process much less logical and systematic than is suggested by the summary account above. But that brief statement may provide an introduction sufficient to orient a reader.

A study such as this requires the knowledge and insights of those most practical students of personality formation, the psychoanalysts, of anthropologists, and of sociologists. My own formal training in economics could contribute little but a conception of the requirements for the analysis of theoretical models or systems and a sense of the inadequacy of economic theory to answer the question at hand. The theory, it would seem, should have been worked out through interaction among the members of an interdisciplinary team. However, while I owe a great deal to three social scientists who were my associates in the research, I attempted to organize in my own mind the principles of personality formation and societal . . .

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