Human Development With Dignity

A Book Review of Ataul Huq Pramanik by Anisah Musa

Development in particular, economics development was one of the crucial goals sought by  most of the countries in the world. This kind of development was considered feasible merely by following the footsteps of the developed countries in terms of their values, culture, technology and aspirations. However, the negative concomitant effects of this narrow development perspectives such as environmental destruction, high illiteracy rates, arising crime rates and extreme poverty entailed the discussion on the urgency for human development. The development of the people and the society is prioritized under this reformed paradigm.

The objectives of the book is to explain how human development with dignity is achieved and what is the direction of this alternative paradigm. The book contains ten chapters including notes and references.

In the introduction (pp.1-7), the author begins to explain framework for his analysis in this book. He mentioned that the reason for this latest emphasis on human-centered development is due to the material development failure. This type of development is based on exploitative and non-humanistic system. He then critically discuss on two types of framework of analysis; one by Todaro on conventional paradigm whilst his framework includes the value laden elements which is based on Islamic worldview. The former framework targeted solely on materialism which entails deprivation, moral degradation and violence as the ultimate outcome. On the other hand,  the latter framework which recognized both material and moral dimensions with the humanistic development target managed to ultimately attain human fulfillments,social peace and moral upliftments.

Moving to second chapter (pp 9-44), the author discussed on the role of material, moral and ethical values in achieving human dignity and development. He explains via three themes; firstly, how development from Islamic world view conforms or differ from secular view of development. He emphasized the need for Islamic world view of development (IWD) which involve not merely growth but also the elements of purification (Tazkiyah). The concept of Tazkiyah takes into account multifarious responsibilities of human beings; man’s responsibility to the creator, to the creation that is fellow beings, to the universal brotherhood  (Ummah), to the state, to the society and to the environment. These responsibilities led man to have good and noble values such as portray good manners due to God-consciousness, to be accountable to society more than his own self, and concern on ecological ethics. These values developed under Islamic world view are consistent with universal values which will  lead  to humanistic development and entails justice and fairness. The  author then moves to the second theme; the negative effects arises from Occidental world view development (OWD). He elaborated some major elements in OWD; Trickle Down Theory (TDT) , Redistribution with Growth Theory (RWGT)  and Basic Human Needs Theory (BHNT). Interestingly, under TDT, they focus of GNP-led growth regardless of who benefits from it and the way that particular growth takes place. The proponents of this theory do realize that it will no doubt may lead to worsening income and wealth inequality. The worst thing is that this phenomena transpired vast community of ill-fed and ill-housed. These serious problems lead the author to delineate the solutions under IWD which is the third theme. He highlights the emphasis on needs rather than wants, emphasis on reducing poverty rather than pursuing ambitious growth rates, emphasis on moderation rather than catch-up idea of growth and few more solutions.

The author then proceeds to chapter three (pp 45-51) where he assesses the misconceptions on occidental view of value free human freedom. He argues that considering the freedom to homosexuality criterion, the UNDP Report of 1991 has mistaken the concept of personal freedom for human freedom.It is important to note that a human being’s actions are guided by those emerging from society not by the rules of the jungle. He also opines that freedom differs due to few factors such as circumstances, social attitudes, stage of development and time. It will be misleading at times if we generalize the whole world should  have the same definition of freedom or freedom benchmark. The author also expresses his confusion in regard to case of Malaysia, a country with good record of human development and at the same time maintaining social harmony and political stability despite the huge contrasts of culture, was ranked lower than Israel. This lower rank depicts that Malaysia fulfill lower human freedom criteria. He then suggested three simple criteria for a more meaningful Human Development Index (HDI); one , the proportion of people having decent house as an indicator for economic freedom, two, the multi-party democratic system existence which indicates level of political freedom and three, the right to protest for any wrongdoings by anybody as an indicator for personal freedom. The human freedom is indeed very vital because of  our concern for human welfare promotion.

Chapter 4 (pp 53-61) of the book focuses on human rights conflicts and its implications for material, moral and ethical values. The author opines that human rights’ contents and perceptions changes due to changes in cultural, political and socio-economic within the society. Ethically, it is vital to address that we have to perceive human rights and responsibilities in perspectives of collective rather than individual welfare. The author proceeds by delineating four perspectives of human rights; the right to live a decent life, the rights related to social justice, recognition of the cultural rights of different individual and groups and civil liberties basis. Under the social justice basis, it is important to note that despite achieving the rights to development , the Western countries not necessarily uphold the social justice rights as much of the class biased development actually favour the elites whilst bypasses the masses. He then explains the differences between  human rights perspectives from the developed North countries and developing South countries. The developed North opt for more civil and political rights rather than economic rights as they have achieved the developed status relatively early. On the other hand, the developing South prioritized more about  the latter rather than former. This is due to their position as the late starters for the development. It is apparent that the human rights perspectives might differ to historical background of the countries and it is not appropriate to generalize the human rights needed for the development of the countries. Value-laden human rights will lead to sustainable human development in the country compared to its value-free counterparts.

In Chapter 5 (pp 63-89) , the author examines the significance of participatory development. Basically he was justifying the need for human capital more than financial capital in the development. He started with the occidental development strategy which is dominated by capital accumulation which fails to consider other factors of production such as labour, entrepreneurship and land.This type of development leads to discouraged participation of other resource endowments despite their  abundance. In contrast, under IWD, human capital is prioritized for human development with dignity. Ethically, for any kind of development strategies, human being should be at the forefront. This will curb the chances of bypassing each and every human being, willing and capable to participate in the material development process. The author includes the success story of the Grameen Bank microfinance system which focus on human capital. This system eventually entails creating additional employment, income and capital formation.

The author then discussed on the role of human vs non human resources in chapter 6 (pp 93-121). He mentioned that based on the experiences of the past development, it is conspicuous that the country will fail to maintain the quantitatively measured economic growth in terms of GNP if they merely focus on non-human or natural resources. For instance, Pakistan failed to generate externality effects as a result of poor human capital formation due to their initial higher priorities in physical capital. He also justifies that in achieving quantitative growth with accompanying qualitative changes, the human resources are more significant as compared to the non-human resources. This is evident in regard to countries like Malaysia and South Korea, which put initial higher priority on education are successful in ensuring long term sustainable growth. It is vital to address that among the preconditions of human beings development includes the existing social institutions need to be directed by the spiritual values and the presence of conducive processes, methods as well as contents of education in building human beings which able to portray the true meaning of man’s existence in the earth.  Based on the findings,  human development may in the long run contribute to material development while the reverse maybe not true. This is justified by the positive relationship between human capital and development in regards to the level of primary level employment. Lastly, the author looks at the impacts of education on human beings development. It is worth to note that highly developed Western society has turned into a morally bankrupt society as they just depend on the acquired knowledge with the absence of spiritual knowledge despite their good governance.

In Chapter 7, the author convincingly argues for the role of family institutions in materializing the ethico-economic aspects of human fulfillments. Although there are other various institutions, for instance community, educators, state and non-government organizations which can play their roles in instilling that aspects, it is justified as an ineffective move as these institutions are able to facilitate in promoting the human well beings in the merely material sense. In contrast, in Islam, family ethical values are formed from the free will which is based on Iman and Taqwa which entails influencing family needs encompassing both moral and material aspects. Uniquely, it has been divinely ordained in the Quran that parents should take full responsibilities towards their children and they are expected to nurture and give proper education , spiritual as well as acquired knowledge.  Human beings linked by birth and blood ties can serve this purpose better as compared to external institutions. Hence, he strongly suggests that the family institutions should be given primacy over other various institutions in boosting ethical aspects of the human development.

Prof Ataul then proceed  to delineate the development strategies in chapter 8 (153-176) which discusses the role of moral values, institution and political regimes in the case of Malaysia. The author criticizes that the policymaker often focus on short term gains in palnning development strategies and bypassing the moral and ethical values which will eventually entail the sacrifices and burdens for current collective society and the future generations. He opines that it is likely to worsen relative inequality in long run if we opt to pursue rapid economic growth although  in short term, we  might able to reduce absolute poverty. This is justified by the case in Malaysia, the relative inequality widening during the New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1980s despite achieving remarkable success in view of absolute poverty reduction. The relative inequality then results in arising crime rates and social issues due to the widening discrepancy between realization and expectation. The author also highlights that during Mahathir regime, the heavy industrialization as well as urbanization had cost Malaysia to suffer from environmental hazards. Therefore, the solutions suggested for ideal development strategies are to ensure that the concern on moral and ethical values should be prioritized and institutions for instance International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), International Institute of Islamic Understanding (IKIM) and others can pursue consistently in uplifting moral and spiritual values within the individuals in the wider part of the community. Individuals equipped with the right understanding of Islam might become the agent of change if they were put in the government, higher education or even in the community.

Chapter 9 emphasizes on the role of developmental objectives interlink with the human rights and responsibilities. He argues that the concept of primarily human-centered development includes issues that play pivotal role in human rights. Human rights are closely linked with human happiness but it is important to acknowledge that societal happiness is not likely to be achieved if attainment of personal human happiness in the absence of moral and ethical values. The author also opines that there are important lesson that other countries can learn from Malaysia as Malaysia successfully ensuring growth as well as collective happiness.Among the lessons are the guided democracy, committed  and far-sighted prime minister and socially responsible media and press.

The last chapters discusses on the role of institutions for promoting social, economic, moral and spiritual development based on altruism rather than egoism. He suggests that under development based on altruistism, the development should consider the whole society not just on the self alone without any cost incurred towards other part of the community.

From my point of view, this book is surely a great masterpiece and I would deem this book as a gem for Islamic world. The author manages to bring an eye-opener IWD model that expand the horizon of merely materialistic development to human development with dignity. Muslim countries which mostly follow the footsteps of the Western world which in their view always better off than them in many aspects, have failed to value the ideal IWD and perhaps it is due to their lack of knowledge of this comprehensive models and roads to achieve it as well as their pursuance of more short term gains without realizing the more future sacrifices. However, in order to realize this human development with dignity, we need commitments from all parts of the society as this IWD is an interdisciplinary approach and the Muslim should be the one who striving their best with more immediate sacrifices in order to uphold Islam as the complete code of life in particular human development.


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