Thursday, May 17, 2012

A sworn radical perspective to research, what a plausible defense, neutrality is not an option

CODESRIA iS committed to a critical perspective ....[T]his means a perspective which looks at social scIence methodologies and theories in a critical manner and tries to find, in the light of tHis critique, a manner of proceeding that will be most appropriate for our historical specificity in Africa... We are inclined to think that a search for a neutral position will be meaningless and futile and will tend to defeat the mission of CODESRIA (1985).

Claude Ake the then president of CODESRIA puts it even more succinctly,

What is needed is a Social Science which meets the real needs of the Third World, the need to get the basic amenities of life, the need for self-determination, the need to create conditions which allow the people of the third world to realise their potentials, the need to end their exploitative dependence on Imperialist powers... If social science is to move in the directions in which it is involved with the critical problems of of the whole society, then it has to be associated with mass-oriented development... Understood (as) development which seeks to revolutionise the conditions of production such that people are not alienated from their labour and their product, and to ensure that the most good of most people, that the exploitative dependence of the (African) economy on imperialist capital is ended. A social science which tried to promote the realisation of this ideal of development will be radical different from the received social prevailing today.
(qtd. in de Vylder, S. and Arnas, A.H., 'Social Sciences in Africa: the Role of CODESRIAin Pan-African Co-operation', in SAREC Documentation: Evaluation, 1991.

I am in a institution that was founded on Marxist, leftist ideals. I could not be happier, feel very vindicated and honoured. My pleasure Prof Ake, to stand on the shoulders of people who hate alienation and talk of mass oriented development. Cornell West would agree with this and say, brains and brilliance should be linked to frameworks that put people at the center.
I am very imprsssed by the reflections of the founding Executive Secretary of CODESRIA: The major worry (of African scholars) was over academic freedom and prospect of a legitimising rather than influencing role of social scientists. The second reason was to counter the influence of former colonial powers in universities and rsearch institutes, and the third reason was the strong belief of AFrican scholars at the time that (a) the government has rightly the rsponsbility for developing their countries and (b) that the scholars had the responsibility of informing and influencng the government to carry out relelvant and approapriate development politicies. The scholars at the time sincerely believed that the government would listen to them or that they would be able to infusence critical personalities and forces in the government - espcially if the scholar's voice came from a Pan-African body of scholars. Bujra, A., 'Whither Social Science Institutions in Africa: A Prognosis,' in Africa Development XIX:1: 138-142. Dakar: CODESRIA, 1994, p.143.