II. Development Theory

The financial crisis in East Asia, the threatened collapse of the Russian economy and the extreme difficulties faced in accelerating growth in East Germany after reunification are all expressions of the inadequacy of current development theory to generate effective strategies in the post-Cold War world. Since 1975, the Society has been engaged in a major research project to formulate a comprehensive framework for understanding the process of development as it has occurred in different part of the world over the past few centuries.

Principles and Process of Development

In the mid-1970s, MSS began work on the formulation of an original theory of social development based on principles derived from the writings of Sri Aurobindo. The Society staff have made an extensive study of the development process as it has unfolded in India, USA, Europe and other countries. Since then, MSS has identified 32 basic laws and more than 1000 corollary principles of social development. It has described the various stages of the development process and applied this theoretical framework to analyze contemporary and historical events in different parts of the world.

The Society continued research on the process of social development, examining the historical process of development as expressed in technology, patterns of social organization, human settlements, political and commercial institutions from the advent of agriculture up to the modern age. The Society is in the process of compiling and publishing 1000 principles of social development. The Society has established an on-going collaboration with the World Academy of Art & Science www.worldacademy.org

Theory of Social Development - Full Outline of the Theory in Brief by Ashok Natarajan

Great scientists dream of a final theory but grope about with facts that can only lead them away from any theory. No social scientist is able to dream of such a theory for the social sciences. Though it is a theory of social development as we present it, in truth this theory contains the whole basis of a final theory, not only for science, but for all knowledge. Science is knowledge.

Knowledge compartmentalized as knowledge of science and knowledge of economics is no knowledge. Knowledge knows no bounds. And this theory presents to the world that KNOWLEDGE.

The Society’s original work on Development Theory was endorsed by the International Commission on Peace and Food in its report entitled Uncommon Opportunities: Agenda for Peace and Equitable Development. In that report it acknowledged the need for formulation of a comprehensive theory of social development applicable to all fields of social life in all countries.

In July 1997, the research team conducted a meeting in Chennai with leading development experts including Sri C. Subramaniam, former union minister; Dr. Rajachelliah, Chairman of the Madras School of Economics; and Dr. M. Anantakrishnan, Vice Chancellor of Tamil Nadu State Council for Higher Education.

In January 1998, the Society presented a paper summarizing the theory at an international conference sponsored by the Western Economics Association of USA in Bangkok, Thailand.

In November 1998, the World Academy of Art & Science held a quinquennial General Assembly of its worldwide members in Vancouver, Canada. A special half day session chaired by WAAS President Harlan Cleveland was held at the assembly in which the Society presented an outline of the development theory and conducted an open discussion with more than fifty Fellows of the Academy. During the Assembly, MSS conducted three workshops on global economic development applying the development theory to examine the potentials for global development in the 21st Century.

In March 1999, MSS participated in a special meeting in Mexico organized and personally chaired by the Mexican Minister of Social Development, Mr. Esteban Moctezuma. At that meeting, MSS presented its framework for development theory and discussed various ways that it could be applied to accelerate development in Mexico.

In May 1999, the Society, WAAS and ICPD co-sponsored a three day seminar on Development Theory in Washington DC. Participants included delegates from Canada, Chile, Mexico, Netherlands and USA. Harlan Cleveland, the President of WAAS, chaired the seminar. MSS presented four papers outlining the principles and process of development.

In August 1999, the Society co-authored a paper on Development Theory with Harlan Cleveland. The paper was circulated to a range of international experts and served as the basic discussion paper for the conference in September 1999. In September 1999, a booklet entitled Human Choice: The Genetic Code for Social Development, co-authored by Harlan Cleveland and four staff members of the Society, was published by WAAS. In December 1999, the main article in this booklet was published by Futures Research Quarterly of UK.

Human Choice - The Genetic Code for Social Development, by Harlan Cleveland, Garry Jacobs, Robert Macfarlane, Robert van Harten and Ashok Natarajan

Social development is the product of the application of the powers of mind to organize the physical materials, social activities and mental ideas of humanity to achieve greater material, social, mental and spiritual experience. Whether we look backward or forward, we face the same puzzling questions: What is the essential nature of human development? By what process does it occur? What factors speed it up and slow it down? What conditions are essential or detrimental to it? Through what stages or phases does it pass? What are the sources of its problems and its failures? And, probably most importantly, what is the role of the individual human being in human development?

The  approach   outlined  in  this  book  gives  central  importance  to the role  of organization in development, organization as  defined in the widest sense as the orderly arrangement of human activities to achieve greater productivity, efficiency, innovation and creativity.

In September 1999, MSS, WAAS, ICPD and the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation co-sponsored a four day international conference on Development Theory in Chennai. Harlan Cleveland and Dr. M. S. Swaminathan co-chaired the conference. Participants included the former Vice-President and new President of WAAS, Walter Anderson, as well as delegates from Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Mexico, Netherlands, Romania, and USA. The late Sri C. Subramaniam, former Union Minister, delivered the inaugural address. The Society presented several papers at the conference applying the development theory to India, business and growth of human personality.

In 2001, the Society began research for three books presenting the principles of development and illustrating application of the theory to explain the role of money as an organization in the development process and the development of the Internet as a social organization. At the same time, MSS broadened and intensified its research on development theory by examining the historical process of development as expressed in technology, patterns of social organization, human settlements, political and commercial institutions from the advent of agriculture up to the modern age.

During 2003, the Society reduced its theoretical approach to 500 essential principles of development. Research continued on applications of the theory to understand the origins and future of liberalism and democracy and examine the basis for political decision-making with regard to conflicts and leadership succession. In addition, work continued on examining the process by which money is created in society and the evolution of the Internet as a social organization.

Democracy & Development

The Society is in the midst of a major research project to determine the social origins of democracy in Western society and document the complex interrelationship between political, economic and social factors. The study focuses on the complex interrelationships between agricultural development, feudalism, religious reformation, industrialization, education and the rise of modern democratic institutions. In recognition of the importance of this project, the World Academy of Art and Science in USA awarded a Society researcher the position of Junior Fellow. This historical study is documenting many of the development principles identified in the Society’s theoretical study of the development process, especially the essential preconditions for development, the role of surplus energy and social organizations in the development process, and the growing recognition of the importance of human beings. The central thesis of the study is that the movement toward democracy has been driven by the rising social value attributed to human beings. It confirms a hierarchy of development needs, with physical security from external threats as the essential precondition for the breakdown of feudal social structures and the liberation of economic initiative in society. It further confirms that in the past, political freedom has resulted from the transfer of power from a landed aristocracy to a mercantile class.

In 2004-05, the focus of research traced the origins and rise of democratic principles from ancient Greece and medieval Europe to modern America and examined the impact of democracy on the emergence of individualism in USA and its role in raising America to a position of world leadership. In September 2005, MSS published a study applying development theory to understanding the phenomenal rise of USA to world leadership.


MSS continued its major research project on the role of Individuality in Human Accomplishment and Social Development. MSS organised a two-hour e-seminar on Individuality in collaboration with the World Academy on February 17th, 2012.  Garry Jacobs presented on the theme ‘Individuality and Social Development’ and Janani Harish presented her paper “Individuality and Social Evolution in Literature”. Ashok Natarajan contributed background papers for the conference on the themes of ‘the Evolution of Individuality’ and ‘the role of Individuality in Social Development’. A special session on Individuality was conducted during the major international conference on “Humanities and the contemporary world” in collaboration with the World Academy of Art & Science and the Montenegrin Academy of Sciences and Arts at Podgorica, Montenegro in June 2012. MSS Staff Garry Jacobs, Ashok Natarajan and Janani Harish attended the conference and presented papers on the subject.

A Study of American History

A Study of American History by Ashok Natarajan is a theoretical exposition of American History in which he has endeavoured to express certain principles through various historical events of the USA. It is done in the hope that the abstract is thus made concrete as the event speaks for itself.

The USA has demonstrated on a national scale that the slum dwellers move into middle class in about a year and ALL the millionaires are invariably men who made it in the first generation starting with zero. This clearly illustrates the process of the finite becoming the infinite.

Not only does the USA demonstrate the result but the process also is there laid bare for anyone to see. Hence, we say the USA is the evolutionary vanguard. This book is a preliminary attempt to explain the Theory of Social Evolution as it unfolds in the history of the USA.