Ismail Serageldin


Themes for the Third Millennium: The Challenge for Rural Sociology in an Urbanizing World

 22/07/1996 | The 9th World Congress of Rural Sociology : "Rural Potentials for a Global Tomorrow", Bucharest, Romania

1. Introduction - On the Eve of the Third Millennium:


The start of the new millennium is an important occasion for humanity to reflect. Milestones are occasions to take stock and to peer into the future. They are an occasion for renewal.

How appropriate, therefore that we should be meeting here to discuss "Rural Potentials for a Global Tomorrow", when we stand at the doorstep of the new urban century, where, for the first time a majority of humanity will no longer be classified as rural. It is an occasion to rethink the meaning of these terms as well as to ponder the trends.

This is a World Congress of social science scholars, mainly sociologists. Hence, the pertinent question is what sociologists can, and indeed must, do about these global trends. In the broadest sense, it is about the challenges of development to social science, and the ways in which social science is today compelled - professionally and morally - to respond to vital global problems.

Social science itself - in particular sociology - may need to renew itself, grow, re-equip conceptually, and reconsider its position in both society and academia to fulfill its promise in the next millennium.

It is most interesting to discuss rural sociology and its "vocations" in Romania, and in particular, at the University of Bucharest, which has a long and honorable tradition of rural sociology. The Romanian School of Rural Monographs, created and led by Professor Dimitrie Gusti between the two World Wars and continued by Profesor Henri Stahl, has earned international recognition with its vast body of original rural research, countless monographs, case studies, and methodological innovations - placing Romania on the world’s "sociological map". This created a basis from which many still can learn today, and upon which a great deal more can be built for the future by Romanian sociologists today.

In the spirit of this looking back and looking forward, I would like to take you on a tour d’horizon of some important questions of our time.







Let us first look at the strange world in which we live.


2. The World on the Eve of the Third Millennium:


Consider the paradox of our times. We live in a world of plenty, of dazzling scientific advances and technological breakthroughs. Adventures in cyberspace are at hand. The Cold War is over, and with that we were offered the hope of global stability. Yet, our times are marred by conflict, violence, debilitating economic uncertainties and tragic poverty. A sense of insecurity seems to pervade even the most affluent societies.

Globalization grows, fueled by the integration of the world economies, a revolution in telecommunications and the non-stop activities of capital markets that transact about a trillion dollars a day -- enough to buy and sell the whole GNP of the USA in a week! Indeed, the political boundaries of the nation states have become permeable to the ethereal commerce of ideas and capital as never before.

But globalization is also found in the increasing assertion of the universality of human rights, including women’s rights and children’s rights. It is found in the environmental movement, which reminds all humans that they are stewards of this earth, and the emergence of international NGOs that represent the beginnings of an international civil society.

And yet, the local forces in practically every society assert themselves, seeking greater voice and greater power. This is, on the whole, positive, in that it seeks empowerment and cultural expression, but it does have a negative side as well: the fragmentation of decision -making, and the emergence of hateful petty nationalisms that transform the rightful call for identity and participation into a call for hating your neighbor and ultimately even "ethnic cleansing".

Equally global, are the increasing inequities between societies and within societies. The top 20% of the world population consumes 83% of the world’s income, while the remaining 80% live on 17%, and the bottom 20% live on 1.4%. These gaps have been growing. A generation ago, that top 20% was 30 times as rich as the bottom 20%. Today they are 60 times as rich.

Insecurity fueled by structural unemployment and rising birthrates is the lot of the poor in every society.

Under these circumstances, people tend to regress: if the future cannot be clearly defined as the goal, one lives for the present. If the present is troublesome and disconcerting, one falls back onto the past, meaning one's ethnic or religious or cultural or national roots. A regression back to the concept of tribe and clan.

2.1 Rising to the Challenge:

Against this backdrop, we have an enormous developmental and environmental agenda ahead of us:


- One billion people live on less than a dollar day.

- One billion people do not have access to clean water.

- 1.7 billion people have no access to sanitation.

- 1.3 billion people, mostly in cities in the developing world, are breathing air below the standards considered acceptable by WHO.

- 700 million people, mostly women and children, suffer from indoor air pollution due to biomass burning stoves that is equivalent to smoking three packs of cigarettes a day.

- Hundreds of millions of poor farmers have difficulty maintaining the fertility of the soils from which they eke out a meager living.

To this stock of problems, we're adding a flow of new challenges due to population growth averaging 90 million persons a year. Three persons per second! Most of this growth will be in the poorest countries.

In the 47 "least developed" countries of the world, 10 percent of the world’s population subsists on less than 0.5 percent of the world’s income. Some 40,000 people die from hunger related causes every day. Many of the poor who survive lack access to the fundamental needs of a decent existence. A sixth or more of the human family lives a marginalized existence.

2.2 Between Urban and Rural:

We also face an enormous urban transformation in the developing world fueled by a significant rural-urban migration. Urban population will increase from 1.7 billion (38% of total) today to 4.0 billion urban dwellers (58% of total) in 2025.

This rapid urbanization creates opportunities for better lives, but it also generates daunting challenges: over-crowding, poverty and environmental decay. Worse still, these problems could be compounded if inequality, crime and violence fray the urban social fabric, unraveling the implicit "social contract" that holds societies together.

While urbanization is attracting a lot of attention, the rural world remains fundamental on two counts:



2.3 The Centrality of the Rural:

Cities depend on the rural world, not the other way around, and the bulk of the developing world is still rural and will remain so for the next 20 years. Furthermore, the distinctions between traditional village society and the urbanizing scene of the developing countries is increasingly blurred as complex rurbanization processes work both ways.

Besides, the rural is ubiquitous, and stunning in its diversity, which presents sociologists with unique challenges. In Eastern Europe and the FSU, the transition from a planned to a market economy, a revolution in itself, includes a rural revolution, with land returned to the ownership of producers. In highly urbanized Latin America it is problems of inequality and land reform that impede rural well-being. This is even more true in South Africa.

In Asia and Africa, policy making discriminates against agriculture and the rural world. That world, still comprising the majority of these populations, is rapidly changing and the in-depth understanding of its social structures is essential to assist in the reduction of its grinding poverty. The small holder farming of Africa poses different problems from those of Asia where landless farm labor and share croppers account for a large part of the rural poor. East Asia’s rapid growth rates again pose different problems of inequity.

Even in the industrialized and urbanized countries of Europe, the US, Japan and Australia, the rural and agricultural world is essential to their well-being. The interaction between developed and developing countries in agriculture under the liberalizing global trade regime will pose new and still dimly understood transformations on the rural world, both north and south.

More importantly, in every society, the traditional rhythm of life in the rural villages is disturbed as never before by encroachments from the outside world and increasing links to the cities. The challenge for rural sociology is to define the future of communities and families in this symbiotic world. That is very different from the traditional perspectives of a generation ago.

The complexity of the rural phenomenon in today’s world is thus a profound challenge to the intellectual efforts of the sociologists. Rural sociology must join analytical rigor with sensitivity to the human condition in the rural milieu, to the sense of community that makes a society more than a collection of individuals.

2.4 The New Abolitionists:

Almost all food is produced in the rural areas, by rural people. As we enter the third millennium, the world must work to achieve food security for all, and abolish the scandal of hunger in a world of plenty.

It is inconceivable that some 800 million persons are going hungry in a world that can provide for that most basic of all human needs. In the last century, some people looked at slavery and said that it was monstrous and unconscionable and must be abolished. They were known as the abolitionists. Today the condition of hunger in a world of plenty is equally monstrous and unconscionable and must be abolished. We must become the "new abolitionists".

The stakes ahead are enormous, and agriculture stands at the heart of it. For agriculture is not only the means of producing food for the billions of humans on the planet, it is the key interface between humans and the natural environment. In the developing countries, where 80% of the population live, agriculture accounts for about 70% of the land used, and 80% of the water. If agriculture is not intensified, in an environmentally appropriate fashion, then the sheer expansion of the population and its requirements will lead to the destruction of the forests from slash and burn farming, the hillsides will be further colonized, and the soil further degraded and eroded.

Transforming agriculture, however, must be done in a manner that benefits, even relies on, the small holder farmers of the developing world. That will reduce rural poverty, reduce vulnerability, and improve food security. Cheap food will also be critical as the single most direct and effective program for assisting the urban poor who have to purchase their food.

Beyond the production side is the access side. Special efforts to reduce poverty among the poorest of the poor remains absolutely essential, and access to resources is fundamental to improving their status. This again relates to the rural world, where the bulk of the poor are. Only an in depth understanding of rural society, with all its complexity, can help. again, the challenge to the rural sociologists is clear.

This is where the experience of micro-finance schemes, such as the Grameen Bank, and others promoted by the Consultative Group to Assist the Poorest (CGAP) and similar instruments become essential tools to attack this problem. But the work of such instruments can and should be informed by the insights of the sociologists not governed by the discipline of finance alone.


3. Poverty - The Major Issue


3.1 Global Poverty:

Poverty is universal. There are rich people in poor countries and poor people in rich countries.

Poverty is far more than the absence of income. It has to do with social exclusion and the loss of status. It is about disempowerment and the limited horizons for fulfillment. Absolute poverty, found in the poorest countries of the world, is a condition beneath any definition of human decency.

A concerted attack on the problems of global poverty requires that each nation pursue policies that are pro-growth and anti-poverty. One without the other will not work. This means above all redressing the rural-urban inequities as much as the investing in the poorest segments of the population in terms of education, health and access to assets and credit.

The poverty and vulnerability that emanate from the dislocations that accompany the necessary economic restructuring require the attention of sociologists as well as economists. They require more than the provision of complementary social safety nets. They require special attention to the income and consumption effects of the policies of the transition, and in particular that while redressing one set of inequities (for example in removing the bias towards the urban consumers by improving returns to the rural producers) we do not exacerbate another set of inequalities (for example between rich and poor farmers).

We must also promote structures of solidarity and social reciprocity to ensure the eventual re-inclusion of the displaced into the mainstream social structures and the renewed economic activity.

These phenomena are of course most notable in the so-called transition economies, and are particularly acute in the case of the agricultural sector of these economies. They are the current reality for millions of people in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union (FSU). They are the reality of Romania today.

The world is thus in the throes of a profound transformation that is marked by some key themes: the importance of the poverty issues, even in a relatively advanced country like Romania; the centrality of the rural; the complexity of the phenomena; and the need for a deeper understanding of the rural society in order to remedy the situation.


4. Social Science and the Challenges of Development


4.1 Between Sociology and Economics:

Against this array of challenges, what do the social sciences -- not just sociology -- tell us? For one branch of the social sciences, economics, the answers while not absolute, lie in the application of an established methodology, built upon a credible, internationally accepted theory, and leads to the enunciation of a series of prescriptions to promote economic growth, price stability and the reduction of poverty in terms of either the headcount index or the depth of poverty (the poverty gap) and also in terms of improved income and consumption distributions. These are undoubtedly all desirable outcomes, but they are seldom achieved by economic prescriptions alone, nor do these prescriptions address the issues of anomie, social cohesion, social mobility, cultural identity, and institutional development, which are all so central to a functioning society as we know it. These are the very questions addressed by distinguished non-economic social scientists like yourselves. Your work reflects detailed field knowledge and real data in addition to academic rigor.

Why, then, are sociologists and anthropologists feeling marginalized in many countries? why do their governments exclude them from the investment and policy decisions that govern the development business? Why are they not employed regularly by governments and development organizations?

The answer, I believe, lies in part in the dominant paradigm of development and its evolving nature over time, and partly in the nature of investment decisions. On the question of paradigm, the rise of the economic paradigm in the sixties and seventies -- displacing the engineers -- came about as the assessment of entire programs of investment, rather than individual projects, became the norm, and as the importance of sector and macro policy became widely recognized. The dominance of economic analysis became complete with the combined effects of the debt crisis of the 1980s with its emphasis on rigorous management of the macro-economy, and the collapse of the centrally planned economies in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Markets and the private sector were not only recognized as essential parts of the development equation, they were elevated to almost ideological status in some quarters, at the expense of a proper recognition of social and cultural variables of change.

Development is people-centered and gender conscious. The ruthless efficiency of the market as an allocator of resources must be tempered by a caring and nurturing state. Strong, effective and efficient governments are essential to development, for they alone can create the requisite enabling environment that allows the private sector and the civil society to flourish. And today, more than ever before, we must recognize that sustainability is an essential dimension of development, and that sustainability requires marrying the concerns of the economists to those of the sociologists and the ecologists. Thus, the non-economic social scientists role and their contribution should be embedded in our current -- still evolving -- paradigm.

Why then this marginalization of social science? I would like to advance a hypothesis.

In a world where the primary concern is with making investments, analysis must be coherent, predictive and prescriptive. Rising to the challenge of meeting these three criteria lays out the intellectual agenda for the non-economic social science work concerned with developmental investment decisions in the years ahead.

Such a development is not only desirable in terms of the social disciplines gaining their place at the decision-making table. It is essential to remedy serious lacunae in the current application of economic theory, analysis and practice.

4.2 On Social Sustainability:

Social sustainability stands alongside economic and environmental sustainability as an equal and essential check on the rationality of the policies we espouse.

Do we have the tools to articulate the components of the social development so necessary for social sustainability? Can the sociological disciplines contribute to elucidate the concepts and develop the tools and the prescriptions?

True, we are more comfortable in discussing economic matters, and are becoming increasingly so in tackling the environmental dimensions of sustainability. But not so long ago, environmental aspects tended to be treated as "externalities" by most mainstream economists. Today, few economists would argue against internalizing environmental costs and benefits. Robert Solow, talking of introducing new approaches to economic analysis, gave wise counsel when he argued that small imperfect steps in the right direction were better than demanding perfection in new tools while continuing to ignore elements of importance in the phenomenon being studied. Surely that applies forcefully to the questions of social cohesion and disintegration.

4.3 Defining Social Development:

For me, "Social Development" is about social cohesion, networks of reciprocity, structures of mediation, equity, recognizing the needs and the rights of the ultra poor, promoting cultural identity and institutional development, and promoting the civil society. Investment in human resources is a key contribution to social progress and the provision of social safety nets is a necessary complement to policies of economic transition, but neither is enough to address the broad range of challenges that are implied in the term "social development". By its very nature, the policy that would promote social development is something that must spring from within the societies concerned if it is to have any validity.

What, then is the role of the practitioner, including sociologists, in promoting sound social development?




We should also enrich our treatment of poverty by addressing the special problems of those in extreme poverty, who frequently are not reached by conventional programs of assistance or support. They remain the ones who are always vulnerable. The hungry are in that group. We can and should do something about reaching them. To ignore that dimension is to ignore an essential aspect of the equity problem. We must also look more closely at the skewed pattern of income distribution in many countries, frequently exacerbated during periods of adjustment, which can be an important factor in undermining social cohesion, generating social pathologies and vitiating the idea of equity.

4.4 Towards a Policy for Promoting Social Development:

What could the elements of such a policy be? I can venture a sketch. Much more remains to be done on each of the points I will make. But there are substantial theoretical and empirical foundations to buttress each of them, from Georges Ballandier and Margaret Mead to Alain Touraine and Amartya Sen.

I would see a policy to promote social development as having at least seven elements, four overarching objectives and three essential means. In addition, participation is the glue that holds all this together.

The four overarching objectives would be to:

•Maintain social cohesion

•Foster equity

•Reach the ultra poor

•Strengthen cultural identity

The three essential means are to:

•Promote social mobility

•Support institutional development

•Encourage participatory social policy research

This last is important because by involving local social scientists in participatory action research external financiers are likely to obtain more than insights. Many of the processes that support social development are strengthened by this kind of powerful in-situ feedback mechanism, managed largely by nationals. This point has been forcefully elucidated by James Coleman in his "Foundations of Social Theory".

The relationships of all these points to rural sociology is obvious. Further developments of such concepts and approaches could well be a major step in responding to the international consensus of the Copenhagen Summit and its call for Social Development.


5. Lessons from the World Bank’s Experience:


You could well ask me what we, at the World Bank, are doing about these issues. It may surprise many who think of the Bank as an economic institution that the Bank has been and continues to be a rapidly evolving institution that is at the forefront of efforts to integrate the social and the economic in development practice.

5.1 The Story of the World Bank:

The world Bank is viewed as an economic organization, and it is. But its project-oriented culture has also been shaped by many disciplines. The early days of the Bank and well into the sixties, saw rudimentary economic analysis and an emphasis on the engineering aspects of projects. By the early seventies, the debate within the Bank began to turn towards poverty and income distribution as distinct from just sound growth-promoting projects. The result of this debate was a milestone document, the 1973 Book "Redistribution with Growth" that established poverty reduction and economic growth as mutually compatible. Bank President Robert McNamara then declared these the twin objectives of the institution and established a rural development department with the mission to focus on the needs of the lower 40% of the income distribution.

Subsequently, the scope of the mandate was expanded. Urban Poverty was quick to follow, then Population, Health and Nutrition as new sectors in which the Bank would be active. By the late seventies, the focus of the Bank’s analytical work was on basic needs, and the Bank was the largest financier of rural development projects in the World.

By 1979 and even more in the early 1980s, many countries were running into financial difficulties and debt servicing problems, a result of unsound management and heavy commercial borrowing during the 1970s when all commodity prices were at exceptionally high levels. The Bank was asked by its members to assist in structural adjustment and in overcoming the liquidity crises that they faced.

The Bank initially thought that structural adjustment would be a short-lived problem, but by 1983, it became clear that, at least for Africa, the adjustment process would be long and arduous. 1984 saw the creation of a special program for Africa that reflected this compact between financiers and borrowers to sustain financing at the appropriate levels and terms of borrowing and of disbursement. By 1986 a special program to deal with the social dimensions of adjustment was initiated.

New breakthroughs came in 1987 with the emphasis on gender issues and the environment and a greater focus on the need to promote the private sector. Starting in 1989, Governance and military spending, hitherto taboo subjects, were also openly broached. Governance issues appeared more openly in the policy dialogue with governments.

By 1992, the Bank decided to reorganize around four themes: Economic Management; Human Resources; Private Sector; and Environmentally Sustainable Development (ESD). This last vice-presidency, regrouped the Environment Department with its Social Division; the Agriculture Department; and the Infrastructure Department. The Bank rapidly became the worlds largest financier of environment projects as well as education and health projects. But more importantly, it innovated in emphasizing that the definition of ESD must include social as well as environmental and economic sustainability. It continues with this effort today by tackling the problems of vulnerability, gender, and the definition and measurement of social capital.

The methodological innovations that accompanied this intellectual journey were extremely important. Not only was the Bank breaking new ground, but it was also consolidating a lot of its past work on issues of social concern into an approach and a body of best practices, with an increasing emphasis on enforcing the implementation of the adopted policies and guidelines. Much of the Bank’s work also finds its way into the mainstream of development practice, so that its influence transcends the boundaries of the Bank’s own work.

The Bank also innovated in its far reaching public disclosure policy, its openness to an inspection panel and an increasing involvement with the NGOs and the civil society more generally. By early 1996, it had issued an important and far reaching "Participation Sourcebook" to all its staff and many of its interlocutors.

In this evolving intellectual journey, the pre-eminence of the engineers was supplanted by the economists in the 1970s and the early 1980s. But that does not mean that the Bank’s sociological group, led by Michael Cernea, was inactive. In fact, they pioneered much of what was to become best practice, not just for the Bank but for the development community at large.

Michael Cernea, who is with us today, is a product of the Romanian School of Rural sociology. He was the first sociologist to join the Bank and made seminal contributions to integrate sociology in the practice of development. He has consistently brought clarity of thinking and practical wisdom to the tasks at hand and has been widely recognized for the vision, the intellectual rigor and the consistency with which he has carried his message to the development community, both inside and outside the Bank, over the last two decades. Beyond the practice, his scholarly work received wide recognition, not least by a Kimball Prize in 1988 and the Malinowski Award in 1995.

Perhaps it is telling that the sociological work of the Bank started with Rural sociology. It was from that promontory that the initial and far reaching policies on resettlement were launched and that the identification of target groups was to be more than a statistical exercise.

The Bank which started with one lone rural sociologist in 1974, now has a hundred highly qualified sociologists and anthropologists working in all facets of its operations. Several hundred more are employed every year by the Bank, or at its encouragement, by borrowing governments as expert consultants for projects or studies supported by the Bank. I am very pleased to see some of them present in this Congress.

The Bank’s in-house sociological group are arguably the largest concentration of sociological expertise working on development problems anywhere, and in so doing they are not only enriching the practice of development with their insights, but also the profession itself with their experience and output.

5.2 Milestones in the Growth of Social Science in the Bank’s Development Activities:

The intellectual journey that I have described was accompanied by a deepening and a broadening of the sociological work, punctuated by many important milestones:

1974-78 - advice on sociological aspects of rural development work - irrigation, water users associations, agricultural extension workers, land tenure;

1978 - reforestation - Social Forestry policy;

1980 - Population resettlement. This was one of the most influential policies adopted by a development institution based on sociological premises. It led to the adoption of similar policies in other institutions, and was the cause of a major review to ensure that it is being systematically followed in all Bank-financed operations after it was ignored in a high profile Bank-financed operation. This led to a major strengthening of the sociological work in the Bank.

1982 - policy on indigenous people;

1984 - guidelines for appraising the sociological aspects of projects;

1984 and Ongoing - the Bank’s NGO policy - based on sociological papers;

1985 - Publication of "Putting People First" a clarion call for social analysis and participation;

1986 - Protection of cultural heritage guidelines (1986) followed by a major symposium held in 1992 resulted in a series of efforts to strengthen the involvement of the Bank in projects of cultural significance, such as historic cities.

1992-1996 - Participation - changes in Bank approaches gradually consolidated into a Sourcebook (1996);

1993 - Defining sustainability to include social sustainability as one "corner" of the ESD triangle (a first!)

1995 - Vulnerability, violence and gender studies on coping mechanisms of the poor and the burden of women in these processes, including their role in establishing the networks of reciprocity on which the reduction of vulnerability depends.

1996 - The Social dimensions of transport policy

1996 and ongoing - social capital. A new social concept, not yet fully clarified, is being explored, probed, and is likely to join a number of researchers and development practitioners in a major effort to operationalize the ideas behind it.

Last, but not least, a Bank wide Task Force on Social Development - its report is likely to herald a re-positioning of the Bank, and a further expansion of non-economic social sciences in the tool kit of development.

5.3 Broader Lessons from the World Bank’s Experience:

The lessons of this long intellectual effort and vast field experience is relevant to others outside the Bank as well. It underlines the importance of recognizing the contributions of the sociologists as an indispensable complement to the other technical disciplines in the formulation of development programs. The institutionalization of this work is essential if it is not to become a fringe "add-on" to the mainstream work. This has to be accomplished while maintaining what the French call "la vocation critique de la sociologie". This however cannot take place unless there is a real recognition of the operational relevance of sociology. This requires that sociologists should learn to translate theory into policy, and concepts into practical guidance for action - this is much, much harder than it seems. I appeal to you, leaders in your field, to do so and to teach these skills to your students.

For this added effectiveness to take place, the sociologists must satisfy three requirements. They must be able to be coherent (i.e. use an analytical framework), predictive, and prescriptive. These are tasks that sociology does not do well at present, and which must be enhanced if we are indeed to glean the full import of sociology as a tool for and a part of, promoting social development and creating a genuine civil society. Earlier, I had mentioned the importance of participatory social research as a key tool to promote effective social development. It is essential. It is the responsibility of sociology to develop the participatory tradition, to include the excluded, fight discrimination, reject rabid nationalism, xenophobia, and other manifestations of dysfunctional social behavior.

To achieve the full import of this implicit promise, sociologists must do a lot more than has been done so far.


6. Challenges for the Sociological Profession:


Despite impressive gains in the last decade and the major contribution of the Copenhagen summit to underlining the world’s commitments to social issues in development, it would be a mistake to claim that sociology, whether rural or urban, has achieved anywhere near the level of acceptance in the development paradigm that economics has. It behooves the sociologists to look at their tools and their theories and understand the differences between them and economic tools, not to copy the latter, but to refine their own arsenal to better make the distinctive and special contribution that only they can bring.

I submit that there are at least six differences between the economic and the non-economic approaches to social science. These differences include:







These tasks are essential parts of the practice of social science. The economists have precise answers to each of these questions. They are partial answers, but they remain coherent and rigorous, and they serve us well in dealing with economic policy making. Where are the sociological answers? It is by providing the answers to these questions that Rural sociologists can indeed help materialize the "Rural Potentials for a Global Tomorrow".


7. Appeal to the Sociologists:


The tasks ahead are large and demanding. But this is a uniquely qualified group to address them. Your instruments are:

◦your knowledge

◦your expertise

◦your insight

◦your feeling

◦your dedication

You are doers, not just passive observers.

You are innovators, not just appliers of received knowledge.

You are capable to reach the unreached, to listen to the faint voice of the marginalized, to give voice to the unspoken complaint of the oppressed.

For the essence of your instruments is the reaffirmation of the centrality of the individual, the family, the social inter-personal relations that make societies out of an agglomeration of individuals.

This can be done with as much rigor and discipline as a most exacting science. It can also bring imagination and vision to bear on concrete problems and theoretical constructs. Imagination and vision are at the very heart of the scientific enterprise, and no less at the heart of the enterprise of sociology, starting with rural sociology.

Bronowski put it beautifully when speaking of scientists he said "..we are the visionaries of action; we are inspired with change. We think the past preserves itself in the future of itself.. We are the culture of living change." Are the sociologists ready for this task?

I sincerely hope so. For it is by your efforts that we can realize a truly human centered social and economic development. And I have a vision...

I have a vision that sees development like a tree, which is nurtured by feeding its roots not by pulling on its branches... We must empower people to be all they can be. They must create their own identity, their own institutions.

This is a vision of sustainable development.

A vision that is people-centered and gender conscious, that seeks equity for all and empowerment of the weak and the vulnerable everywhere that they may be the producers of their own welfare and bounty, not the recipients of charity or beneficiaries of aid.

A vision that has no room for complacency in the face of the misery of millions of kindred souls who suffer in the grip of extreme poverty and hunger in a world that has the means and the ability to help them lift themselves out of conditions that are beneath any definition of human decency.

A vision that recognizes that development must have a cultural content, that recognizes that governance and institution building, and enhancing human capacities are all central parts of the development process and may in fact be the keys that undergird economic well being.

A vision that places short-term actions within a long-term framework.

A vision that is environmentally sustainable, that recognizes the interdependence of all living things, and that will lead us to act in ways that will leave the future generations as much if not more than what we found ourselves, that will husband the resources of this fragile planet just as we learn to use its bounty.

This vision is not a denial of the importance of economic management and economic growth, but it is a recognition that economic growth is only one part of development.

Yes! We have the opportunity, indeed, the duty, to change the way development is practiced.. to change the way humanity relates to its rural half, to its environment. To bring about the greater complementarity of the social and the economic. It is a challenge that sociologists must be determined to meet...

We at the World Bank are determined to do so, working collaboratively with our partners who share this objective... We cannot afford to let this opportunity escape us, either by errors of commission or of omission.

We can think of better ways of promoting development, we can convince policy makers and the world at large.It can be done, it must be done, it will be done.

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