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Creating Intellectual Capital: 2nd Consultative Meeting

The State Of The Intellectual Capital/Discourse In Pakistan

July 28, 2009

On 3rd July, 2009 was organized 2nd Consultative Meeting of selected social scientists, which was addressed and moderated by Dr. Nadeem-ul-Haque, former Vice Chancellor, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), and currently Advisor IMF Institute, Washington, D.C. Leading experts from the fields of political science, philosophy, sociology, economics, and public policy belonging to various institutes participated.



 

Alternate Solutions Institute

 

Creating Intellectual Capital and Changing the Climate of Opinion

Building Institutional Mechanisms

 

2nd Consultative Meeting

Lahore July 03, 2009

 

The State of the Intellectual Capital/Discourse in Pakistan

 

Brief Report of the Meeting

On 3rd July, 2009 was organized 2nd Consultative Meeting of selected social scientists, which was addressed and moderated by Dr. Nadeem-ul-Haque, former Vice Chancellor, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), and currently Advisor IMF Institute, Washington, D.C. Leading experts from the fields of political science, philosophy, sociology, economics, and public policy belonging to various institutes participated.

 

The meeting deliberated on the linkages between social sciences and public policy, and more broadly, with the public discourse at large. The discussion concluded that a knowledge-based discourse amongst the key thinkers is completely absent in Pakistan and deliberated on the causes and consequences of this absence; while it was identified that the lack of knowledge-led development at large is just one of its effects.

 

Key Questions 

Deliberating on the causes of absence of the discourse, while referring to the rather popular debate on the state failure in Pakistan, the discussants pondered over a deeper question: has the society failed?
 

Consensus on State failure

State failure was a foregone conclusion, discussants agreed. It was most ostensibly demonstrated by the break-down of state as an agent having monopoly over violence. Several non-state actors have now challenged this considered monopoly over violence by gathering momentum and force. Although the state has started using force to assert and restore its right to exclusively use force, there is no clear indication that non-state actors will soon renounce the use of force which means continuation of the bloody conflict.

For some, this resistance put up by extremists all over the world is the “last flicker” of religion fighting against the secular world; however for some this is just a beginning of violent revivalism.
 

Societal failure contested

The question of societal failure was a rather contested one. An obvious issue was a precise definition and objective indicators of societal failure, which are available in the case of the state. Trust was identified as a key factor, and it was argued that if trust is broken down, the social fabric ruptures. A related indicator is that of communication. Rhetorically, are people communicating with each other, or just talking and hearing? Without communication, there can be no trust, and hence no society.
 

Social Capital

In the absence of a coercive force (i.e. state), societies function on their ability to organize collectively, which is only possible through certain values such as trust, honor, merit and sense of achievement. These social values are transformed into social institutions, which then establish incentives and disincentives for certain types of behavior. Social institutions collectively constitute ‘social capital,’ which has been referred universally as a critical precondition of development. Ultimately the quality of governance also hinges upon quality of social capital.

Deliberations on societal failure took new turn after an attempt was made to distinguish between ‘success’ and ‘greatness’ particularly in the case of individuals, who ultimately constitute a society. It was said that while our society had produced innumerable examples of success, there are rare, if any, examples of greatness. This distinction, though subjective in nature, mellowed the consensus on societal failure and created room for discussion on positives of our society. This discussion raised a new question: how can we create our own social capital based on our own history, traditions and thoughts?
 

Defining Discourse

As discourse later defined as “continued and evolving informed dialogue and discussion among key thinkers” was ultimately a function of communication and trust, the absence of discourse in a society ultimately causes social failure. Presence of discourse is further enunciated by classification of knowledge, systematization of theses and a tradition of referrals.
 

Is Discourse absolutely missing?

Discussants were reminded that declaration of an absolute absence of discourse in the society is misleading as at least there was continuous discourse amongst the religious circles. Probably, it would have been safer to argue that discourse is missing in the ‘enlightened’ circles. A clear example was the absence of intellectual debates in the universities across the country, which should ideally act like bedrock of an independent discourse. It was observed that in a belief-driven society, it is difficult for dialogue to continue. It was also pointed out that in such a society clichés act as stumbling blocks.
 

Discourse and Public Policy

In a society, which does not carry out discourse, public policy making becomes a political and administrative tool in the hands of the powerful. A very insightful example was put forward: if heavy rains play havoc with the Lahore city infrastructure, the very next day we hear formation of a committee, which is mandated to fix the problem within a few days. On the other hand, in the midst of a historical financial crisis, the U.S. Administration just takes a basic ‘Keynesian step’ (of injecting $750 billion into the financial sector) and then enters a patient thought process. It does not take decisions on daily basis but subjects the decision making process to a detailed, knowledge-led discourse across key thinkers.
 

Agenda of Research on Public Policy

A healthy and evolving discourse in a society creates its own agenda of research on public policy, and imposing an agenda, particularly from international donors, may not yield desirable results. Basing on the current political debate, it was argued that perhaps, decentralization, formation of a Seraiki province and property rights may be considered as issues worthy of serious deliberations amongst key thinkers.
 

Concluding Thoughts

In the words of Dr. Nadeem-ul-Haque, who later sent a rejoinder reflecting on the meeting, “We should all try to bring out what we have and to bring forth that which we like from other’s writings. The point is to identify paradigms, theses and hypotheses while staying away from clichés and old debates. It is not about rediscovering Marx or Laissez Faire. It is also about discovering fresh approaches to understanding Pakistan... We will need to systematize our knowledge base, identify our thinkers and their theses and polish our conversation.” 

 

Dr. Nadeem ul Haque’s Rejoinder to the 2nd Meeting


To develop the basics of discourse!


I really enjoyed our discussion and learnt a lot. I must complement the dedication and knowledge of the participants. The discussion was focused and disciplined which is rare in Pakistan. It is a great beginning and we must keep it up.
 

A few afterthoughts:

 

 
  1. Situation is bleak, what should we do?  I think that we should be prepared for the long haul.  There are no short cuts. In my view the most important thing is to identify and develop a discourse.
 
  1. What is a discourse? “It is continued and evolving informed dialog and discussion among key thinkers.”
 
  1. If we accept this definition, (we should debate and define it), we should immediately start to identify key ideas and key thinkers and start examining their associated writings. We should systematize and identify knowledge that we have in this manner.
  1. The biggest problem in systematizing knowledge is that here is the lack of credible journals to organize such thinking. Some of the writing may be in newspapers or just purely unpublished. Well we can only begin a slow process.
 
  1. We should all try to bring out what we have and to bring forth that which we like from other’s writings. The point is to identify paradigms, theses and hypotheses while staying away from clichés and old debates. It is not about rediscovering Marx or Laissez Faire. It is also about discovering fresh approaches to understanding Pakistan. Let me take a quick stab at this:
     

 

    1. For example so much has been written on poverty, what have we learnt? Are there any worthwhile theses or hypotheses there? Personally, I am not very fond of the numbers game since I think the margins of error are huge. But people like Akmal and Suhail Malik have written about it. Can we see if there are some interesting findings or even propositions there? Here I would like for the group to examine the stuff on growth strategy below.
 
    1. We have talked a lot about institutions and governance?  What are the interesting theses that have been put forward? Akmal writes a lot about this. What can we learn and can we identify the Husain thesis or theses?  Dr. Samad put forward some ideas that are dated now but may be worth looking at. Here I would like you to look at some of the stuff that I have written I newspapers and am now writing on my blog
http://development20.blogspot.com/
Please see documentary that I made at PIDE.
 
    1. The role of the Army Ayesha Siddiqa and Shuja Nawaz need to be looked at? What are their theses? My contention is that the most pernicious and unnoticed role of the army has been that their rentseeking has impeded the development of our cities. Without rolling back the Cantt and the DHA city development will be inimical to modernity and social capital development.  The army and its rentseeking have developed our cities such as they are.

 

    1. My contention in my vision and writings on PIDE website is that Pakistan’s growth strategy is wrong and contributing to persistent poverty and deepening poor governance. Specifically we are ignoring economic geography (cities and human clustering) and domestic commerce. Without these the poor cannot be included, entrepreneurship cannot be encouraged and modernization cannot be developed. I think this is an area that needs an extraordinary amount of attention.

 

    1. As discussed my contention is that not only is the state failed but more importantly society has failed (social capital is depleted!) I would contend that concomitantly civil society is failed and fragmented. We now live in a an atomized society. What can we collect on this? I have written a few fun pieces on this. Here the role of the elite, the nature of rentseeking and the state and the state of our cities are all tied in.  But this needs a lot of discussion and deepening.

 

    1. The failure and the unenlightened nature of our elite need a lot of attention. I have a few pieces on this and we should discuss those theses. The issue of state subsidies and rentseeking is tied intricately tied into this issue. The issue of land and plot culture is tied in here.

 

    1. What about key institutions such as the civil service, judiciary, the moulvi, we never seem to try to reflect on these. Again I have stuff that can start a dialog. What are we not doing that?

 

    1. Eminent domain and the role of the government. The government from VIP movements has gone of to taking over streets and areas of cities and we have not even begun to debate and understand this.

 

    1. The role of donors is again something that I have written on but with little debate on it. Of course all of us get funded by the, But is this an area that needs understanding. Are the donors helping intellectual development? Are they helping the development of social capital? 
    2. Coss has done a book on social science development to which I contributed a paper. To my mind discourse is hard to do without professional development. At the same time profession development is a part of civil society and social capital and I would contend our “Zombie Universities”. My theses are presented in my paper as are some others in the Coss book. We should examine those.

 

  1. I think if we proceed in this fashion and develop our “professional discourse” over time, we may begin to affect the ongoing “national discourse.” For that we will need to systematize our knowledge base, identify our thinkers and their theses and polish our conversation.  Peer review is our domain collectively and we should not shy away from doing it. But remember peer review does not only mean criticism. In Pakistan it has come to mean that. Peer review while continually seeking to improve knowledge marks milestone developments by citations and identifying named theses, propositions, hypotheses and paradigms.

 

  1. However our inferiority complex and donor demands stop us from citing and identifying theses. This seriously impedes knowledge development.

 

  1. We should also not be scared of well-mannered and serious polemics where necessary. 

 

  1. Above all we must be prepared to read key papers even if they are in newspapers. We should share references. These items should be debated and the ones that pass peer review must be bought into our conversation.

 

  1. At any time, we should have material available for dissemination especially to colleges and universities for student review and discussion.

 

  1. We should proudly cite key theses on the media.

 

I would recommend that these ideas or theses above should be examined by the group and developed further. I would even argue that we should keep these under review for a while and see how we can discuss these more widely. Perhaps with COSS and others!

Report prepared by
Ali Salman

Report reviewed/revised by
Khalil Ahmad

 

List of the Participants

1. Dr. Nadeem-ul-Haque, Advisor, IMF Institute, Washington D.C. 

2. Dr. Saeed Shafqat, Director Center for Public Policy and Governance, F.C. College 

3. Dr. Tahir Kamran, Chairman, Department of History, G.C. University

4. Dr. Sajid Ali, Chairman Department of Philosophy, University of the Punjab 

5. Dr. Khalil Ahmad, Executive Director, Alternate Solutions Institute 

6. Ali Salman, Managing Partner, Development Pool & Consulting Director Alternate Solutions Institute 

7. Raheem ul Haque, Research Fellow, Center for Public Policy and Governance 

8. Bilal Ahmed, Freelance writer 

9. Aqdas Afzal, Faculty Member, Lahore University of Management Sciences 

10. Khalil Ahmed Arbi, Research Fellow, Development Pool 

 


 



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