The origins of the modern field of development can be traced to the set of circumstances associated with the collapse of colonial systems and the emergence of new nation states following World War II. The first development programs and strategies were directly influenced by the model of successful European reconstruction carried out under the Marshall Plan.

 This model propounded a modernization path which almost exclusively focused on industrialization. The basic thrust of this policy was to seek maximum growth in the economies of developing countries, which, it was believed, would generate sufficient wealth and employment to gradually involve the majority of their populations in productive activity. Capital accumulation, the transfer of technology and related know-how, the introduction of modern methods of administration, and the significant injection of foreign aid were the principal elements of an approach designed to bring the benefits of modernity to the world’s masses.

            Although well-intentioned, this modernization paradigm proved in many respects disastrous. In its attempt to unlock the potential of the developing world the industrialization process resulted in large migrations from rural to urban areas and a concomitant breakdown in social cohesion. Such migration was not unintended as it was deemed a necessary and even desirable way to accelerate economic growth. Implicit in this development approach was the view that a majority of the inhabitants of rural regions led unproductive lives that needed to be redirected. Its overall conception revealed the erroneous and paternalistic perceptions of development planners.

            As the inefficacy of the strategies employed to achieve ambitious growth objectives became increasingly evident, the focus of attention turned, during the decade of the sixties, to cultural, demographic, and technological questions. While economic growth continued to be the overarching aim considerable resources were allocated to the exploration of ways to overcome obstacles in its path. Programs concerned with health and education, and concerted efforts to modernize agricultural methods through the Green Revolution, are often cited as the most notable successes of this period. An underlying assumption of these programs was that rural populations were indeed resourceful and lacked only the proper tools. In short, if the technological base of these peoples could be advanced, economic prosperity would surely follow.

            Because social advancement springs from the creation and dissemination of knowledge, a salient feature of development strategy oer the past decades has been education. Initially, a focus on physical infrastructure evolved to include matters related to curriculum, administration, pedagogical training, educational technology, and the relationship between schools and their surrounding communities. Yet despite notable achievements, especially in providing primary education on a universal basis, educational methodologies are, in the main, falling short of releasing in a cumulative educational experience which does not allow students to see the essential relationships between different areas of human inquiry and social reality. This fragmentation is exacerbated by the emphasis placed on the absorption of facts rather than on the understanding of important concepts and processes. Moreover, issues relating to individual purpose and morality are rarely incorporated.
            The existing situation calls for a fresh look at the entire corpus of human knowledge and how it can be studied and extended in a holistic fashion. Education should strive to develop an integrated set of capabilities- technical, artistic, social, moral and spiritual-so that individuals can lead lives with meaning and become agents of positive social change. It is in creating curricula and methodologies that foster such interrelated capabilities that will require a partnership between science and religion.

            Central to the task of reconceptualizing the organization of human affairs is arriving at a proper understanding of the role of economic activity. The economic disequilibrium and inequity now so widespread in the world directly result from the failure to place economic questions into the broader context of humanity’s social and spiritual existence. Economic arrangements should serve people’s needs; societies should not be expected to shape themselves to fit specific economic models- particularly those that embrace habits of unbridled acquisition and consumption.
            Creating ecologically sustainable patterns of economic activity that extend from the local to the global level will require a fundamental reorientation of both the principles and institutional arrangements that govern production and consumption. Approaches for encouraging the creation and distribution of wealth in rural micro regions and policies that prevent the processes of globalization from marginalizing grassroots economic initiatives deserve particular attention from researchers. Ultimately, society must develop new economic models shaped by insights that arise from a sympathetic understanding of shared experience, from viewing human beings in relation one to another, and from a recognition of the central role that family and community play in social and spiritual well-being. Resources must be directed away from those activates and programs that are damaging to the individual, communities and the environment, and directed toward those most germane to creating a social order that cultivates the limitless potentialities within human beings. Both science and religion thus have a key role to play in developing economic systems that are strongly altruistic and cooperative in nature.

            It is generally accepted that the materially poor must participate directly in efforts to improve their own well-being. But the nature of that participation has yet to be fully explored. It becomes more understandable if it is examined in the context of the role of knowledge presented here. Participation must be substantive and creative; it must allow the people themselves access to knowledge and encourage them to apply it. Specifically, it is not sufficient for the world’s inhabitants to be engaged in projects as mere beneficiaries of the products of knowledge, even if they have a voice in certain decisions. They must be engaged in applying knowledge to create well-being, thereby generating new knowledge and contributing in a substantial and meaningful way to human progress. If, in fact, a community controls the means of knowledge, and is guided by spiritual principles, it will be able to develop material resources and technologies that serve and match its real needs.
            The ability of any group to participate fully in its own development process depends on a wide range of interrelated capacities at the personal and group level. Among the most important are the capacities to take initiative in a creative and disciplined manner; to think systematically in understanding problems and searching for solutions; to use methods of decision-making that are non-adversarial and inclusive; to deal efficiently and accurately with information rather than respond unwittingly to political and commercial propaganda; to make appropriate and informed technological choices and to develop the skills and commitment necessary to the effective design and management of community projects; to put place and to participate in educational processes conducive to personal growth and life-long learning; to promote solidarity and unity of purpose, thought, and action among all members of a community; to replace relationships based on dominance and competition with relationship based on reciprocity, collaboration, and service to others; to interact with other cultures in a way that leads to the advancement of one’s own culture and not to its degradation; to encourage recognition of the essential nobility of human beings; to maintain high standards of physical, emotional and mental health; to imbue social interaction with an acute sense of justice; and to manifest rectitude in private and public demonstration.
            Incomplete as it is, this list is suggestive of the constellation of capacities necessary for building up the social, economic, and moral fabric of collective life. The list highlights the vital role of both scientific and religious resources in promoting development. It alerts us to the range of values and attitudes that enhance key capacities, as well as the concepts; information, skills, and methods to be employed in their systematic development. It also underscores the importance of structured learning in generating and sustaining an integrated set of social and economic activities.
            Hence, capacity building as proposed here entails the enabling of the individual to manifest innate powers in a creative and methodical way, the shaping of institutions to exercise authority so that these powers are channeled towards the placement of the members of society, and the development of the community so that it act as an environment conducive to the release of individual potential and the enrichment of culture. The challenge to all three is to learn to use material resources and intellectual and spiritual endowments to advance civilization.

R. N. Bellah, “Religious Evolution,” American Sociological Review 29 (1964): 358-3-74
R. N  Bellah et al., Habits of the Heart (Berkely: University of California Press, 1985)
P. Beyer, Religion and Globalization (London: Sage, 1994)
H. Bloom, The American Religion (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992)
J. Habermas, Communication and the Evolution of Society (Boston: Beacon, 1979)
N. Luhmann, Religious Dogmatics and the Evolution of Societies  (Lewiston, N. Y.: Mellen, 1984)
T. Parsons, The Evolution of Societies (Englewood Cliffs, N. J. Prentice Hall, 1977)
J. Peacock and A. T. Kirsch, The Human Direction (Englewood Cliffs,  N. J.: Prentice Hall, 1973)
M. Weber, The Sociology of Religion (Boston: Beacon, 1993(1920).
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