Chapter Twelve: Ideas and Social Dynamics
In an age marked by the logic of productivity, it is not sufficient to tell the truth in order to be right; just as it is unwise, in our times, to state that two plus two equal four and die of starvation next to someone who states that "they equal only three" and yet guarantees his loaf of bread. The prompter of our age will certainly prove the first one to be wrong and the second to be right. Accordingly, to establish the truth of an idea is not a matter of philosophical argumentation nor is it a question of moral assertion. It is rather of a pragmatic order: an idea is sound and true as long as it brings about success. Mao Tse-tung used to assert that the best proof of the correctness of his ideas was their success in the economic field!
However, there is no question of Muslim society accepting or rejecting this or that type of pragmatism. Instead, it has rather to defend its cultural universe against the prompting spirit of the age. It is not enough to simply proclaim the sacred values of Islam. We should rather provide them with what would enable them to stand up to the spirit of the age. It is, therefore, no question of making any concessions to the profane at the expense of the sacred. What is at stake is to free the latter from certain vanities that may be fatal for it.
For all that, it is simply a question of recovering the spirit of Islam itself. In fact the Prophet never let any occasion pass without warning Muslims against such vanities whose inhibiting effect on the development of the contemporary Muslim society we have well experienced. Upon returning from a military expedition in the middle of the fasting month of Ramadan and though fasting was so hard for those who had performed it, he, however, attributed the merit of the expedition's victory to those who had exempted themselves, as permitted by Islamic law, from fasting that day so as to attend to the needs of the expedition.
Today, more than ever before, we need to remind ourselves of these aspects of such teaching which gives, in a particular situation, priority to the virtue of efficacy over that of genuineness. It is worth highlighting this very aspect of the Islamic tradition precisely at the moment it is being insidiously contradicted with the pragmatic values of the industrialized countries with the aim of demonstrating the irrelevance of Islam to the twentieth century. Muslim society should, therefore, salvage its most cherished traditions together with the sense of efficacy.
To show convincingly the world that its ideas are genuine, Muslim society has only one way to do so: to prove that it can secure for each one of its individuals its daily bread. The question is on the agenda of Muslim countries, at the very least since the Second World War. The time distance is, therefore, quite sufficient to judge the efficiency of both the means used and the paths followed and to bring to light, on the way, the causes of backwardness and stagnation on those paths.
In fact, the present economic panorama of the world provides us with a fairly accurate picture of the situation of Muslim countries as we examine the process of their development in comparison with that of other countries during the last twenty-five years. After the Second World War, some of them, such as Indonesia, were obviously the favorites of the race thanks to their incredibly ample natural resources. Yet, they are today far behind many other countries, such as Japan and Germany, which started their development process under the most unfavorable circumstances. In other words, one should never stop repeating that there is no question of means. Rather, it is a question of methods and, therefore, of ideas.
Luckily, however, this phenomenon is no longer a matter of ignorance in the Muslim world. Some intellectuals have started realizing it with a noticeable sense of observation. On the eve of a meeting held in Algiers in 1967 and attended by a number of intellectuals concerned with the economic situation in the Arab countries, Mr. Mohamed al-Rifi, a young Moroccan economist, was able to present a pertinent overall view about the conditions of economic dynamics. He wrote: "compared to the five-year plan covering the period 1960-64, the so-called three-year plan covering the period 1965-67 marks a manifest decline at the level of its general conception as well as with regard to the conditions anticipated for its implementation". Thus, we are at the very heart of the problem: instead of gaining new positions, planning in a Muslim country may even lose the old ones.
We must generalize this painful conclusion to the entire Muslim world. When an anomaly is repeated in spite of the availability of resources and the exceptionally qualified planners, this should be of utmost concern. Although Indonesia had benefited from the most favorable conditions of economic take-off, namely, the rich resources of its land and the collaboration of the renowned Dr Schacht, it failed to realize its take-off. The notion of planning which proved effective in many other countries, from lost every meaning in Indonesia despite the ideas and qualifications of the planner and the abundance of resources.
In 1955, the Bandung Conference could well have developed an economic strategy suitable to Africa and Asia had it taken into account such relative failures and negative results whose experience the indicative value of which would have at least given us a good lesson. The conference should have been devoted to introducing a certain intellectual order by profiting from past experiences and new ideas in order to provide the Afro-Asian economy with a new and comprehensive orientation, which it was precisely lacking. Far better than any specialist obsessed with his professional blinkers, Tibor Mendes could grasp the fundamental deficiencies which prevented the Afro-Asian countries from promoting genuine social dynamics. Indicating that the problem of these countries is more related to the specialization of the "socio-biologist" than to that of "the social engineer", he has rightly situated it insofar as it is a question of starting from the point-zero.
Evidently, this implies no ready-made solution. However, for a country at its zero-point, this sociologist's reflection is more significant than the plan of an economic specialist losing sight of the human reality whose intrinsic equation enters inevitably into the plan's implementation. Dr Schacht's plan for Indonesia failed because it did not take account of this equation.
Next is the choice of the doctrinal foundations of the plan that has to be perfectly designed. It should not consist of any mixture of capitalist and socialist elements, for any project conceived according to the ideas of one doctrine and implemented according to the means of another will lead nowhere. The purpose of planning is clear: it must create the conditions of social dynamics. Thereupon, the means by which to generate such a dynamic movement must be accurately defined. As a matter of fact, we do not invest what we wish, but what we can. Therefore, we do not invest the means of others. Rather, we should invest the means that are actually at our disposal.
That being so, what are the means that a country at the zero-point of its take-off, may have at its disposal?
In 1948, Germany started its development process with only 45 Deutsch marks per person. It was a very insignificant investment indeed. But, the real investment lay in the stock of ideas (capital-ideas) in the head of every German person and in the determination of the German people and in the German soil which, though poor and under occupation, constituted the necessary support for any activity. In the same period (1949), Popular China took off under yet more adverse conditions and with far deeper effects of war.