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Dismal State of Social Sciences in Pakistan,S. Akbar Zaidi

Dismal State of Social Sciences in Pakistan,S. Akbar Zaidi

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Published by Ashrafkakkarr
This paper attempts to explain and understand the disnal condition of the social sciences and
social science research in Pakistan. It establishes some encompassing parameters which help
explain why things are the way they are. These include attempts to place the role of Pakistan's
state and its bureaucracy in a certain context, and also delineates on the collapse of
institutions in Pakistan leading the way for.individuals, rather than institutions, to undertake
and produce research.
This paper attempts to explain and understand the disnal condition of the social sciences and
social science research in Pakistan. It establishes some encompassing parameters which help
explain why things are the way they are. These include attempts to place the role of Pakistan's
state and its bureaucracy in a certain context, and also delineates on the collapse of
institutions in Pakistan leading the way for.individuals, rather than institutions, to undertake
and produce research.

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Published by: Ashrafkakkarr on Nov 22, 2010
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Dismal State of Social Sciences in PakistanAuthor(s): S. Akbar ZaidiSource:
Economic and Political Weekly,
Vol. 37, No. 35 (Aug. 31 - Sep. 6, 2002), pp. 3644-3661Published by: Economic and Political WeeklyStable URL:
Accessed: 30/05/2010 17:51
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Dismal
State
of
Social
Sciences
in
Pakistan
Thispaper attemptstoexplainandunderstandhedisnalconditionofthe socialsciencesandsocialscienceresearch in Pakistan. Itestablishessomeencompassing parameterswhichhelpexplain why thingsaretheway theyare.These includeattemptstoplacethe roleofPakistan'sstateanditsbureaucracyina certaincontext,and alsodelineatesonthecollapseofinstitutionsinPakistanleadingtheway for.individuals,ratherthaninstitutions,toundertakeandproduceresearch.Thedominanceandpresence ofinternationaldonorsand theirroleswithregardto social scienceresearch arealsodiscussed atlength.There isno'communityofscholars' inPakistan,noranysocial scienceprofessionalassociation tospeakofThepaperarguesthat withcurrent trends in theacademiccommunity,hefutureforsocialscience andsocialscienceresearch inPakistanlooks evenmorebleak.
SAKBARZAIDI
Introduction
Ifone were toposethefollowing
questiono avarietyf Pakistani ocialscientists:"HasanyPakistani ocialscientist,nanyof theirfields in thelastthreedecades,developed,reconstructed,reformulated,xpandedupon,disputedrrejected,ny theoryortheoretical ormu-lation,qua theory,oreven in thespecificcontextof Pakistan?"he answerwouldprobablyeasimpleno'.Orperhaps,ne,ortwo,or at bestthree,nameswould bementionedbysomeofthem,almost al-wayswithmany qualifications,fromamongstthemanythousandsofsocialscientistsproduced yPakistan cross hediversedisciplines.What would becon-testedthoughs whetherndeed,anyofthesehandfulhaveactuallycontributedanything riginalnorder o beconsidereddifferent rom theother socialscientists,orwhetherheytoohavemerelyrestatedaproblem.Whethert isin thedisciplineofhistory,politics,sociology,anthropology,reveneconomics,byfarthemost dominantofthe socialsciences inPakistan,twouldbedifficultto find socialscientists whohavemade amarkedimpressionevenregionally,eave aloneglobally,on theexpansionnideas,heoryandknowledgerelated otheirdisciplines.Atbest,a fewmayhavemade omempressivempiricalcontributions,utittlelse.Pakistaniocialscientistsontinue oapplyheoreticalr-gumentsandconstructs oPakistani on-ditions,withoutquestioning,debatingorcommentingponhetheorytself.Ifthereisany agreementndconsensusamongstPakistani ocialscientists,itisthat thesocial sciences nPakistanren adismalstateand,hathings,ftheypossiblycan,aregettingarworse.Whats itabout hePakistan ocialscience'condition'whichaccounts for thissituation?Thisquestion,erhapsostartwith,needsto be answeredwithrecourse to somestrandsromwhatone'canalla'politicaleconomy'approach,r fromwhatwouldbroadlydescribea'sociologyofknow-ledge'construct. norder oaddresshisquestion,wewouldneedoidentifyomecharacteristicsfPakistan'society,stateandeconomy,whichwould have an im-pactontheproductionndnaturef socialscience.Basedon ourreadingfPakistanisocietyand ondiscussions with alargenumberof ocialcientistsvermany earsand alsospecificallyfor thispaper,}weidentifysuchcharacteristicsfPakistanisocietywhich,inorder okeepthe scaleandscopeof thispaperwithinmanageablelimits,renotexplainednsufficientdegreeand henceare liabletoquestion,debateandcontestation.Nevertheless,wefeelthattheseassumptionsrclaimsemergefromomeortofconsensusmongstocialscientists inPakistan,andarelargelylegitimatendvalid.Beforewelayoutthegeneral premiseswhichformthemainthemeanddirectionofthispaper,somegeneralcommentsaboutthesocial sci-ences need tobemade.Forthepurposesofthispaper,nthecontextofPakistan,hebroadenericerm'the socialsciences'specificallyncludethedisciplinesfPoliticalcience,History,Sociology,Economics,Anthropology,InternationalRelations,Demography,PakistanStudies,andwhat areknownas(thedifferent)AreaStudies. Intermsofnumber,prominence,power,privilege,influenceandvisibility,economicsdomi-natesallthe socialsciencescollectively.byalargemultiple.2orthisreason,hereis fargreaterpublishedresearchonthestateofeconomics inPakistan,on theteachingofeconomics,oninstitutionswhereresearch neconomicsakesplace,andoneconomists.nthispaperoo,thisdominanceofeconomics isreflected nmanyplaces.3EstablishingBroadParameters4As afirstpremisenecanprobablytatethatgiventhenature f thePakistanitate,.whereinstitutionshave beensubvertedandside-stepped,andwherethere isastrongendencyorauthoritarianism,hegroupswho holdpoweroverthe statethriveon thestate'spoweroofferpatron-ageandlargesse.Statepatronage,whichignoresandoverridesnstitutions,normsandevenlegality,and is in apositiontodistributeprivileges,willprobablygiverise to asycophanticulture,where ndi-vidualsandgroups,venthosebelongingtosomesectionoftheintelligentsia,willappeaseherepresentativesfthestate norder tobenefitfromttslargesse.It isimprobablehatdissentingindividuals,creativeorotherwise,andthosewho donot'toe theline',willbenefitfromthe-structuresndnstitutions f thestate.Thissituation salsolikelyto breedonformityandconservatism,withintellectualsandtheirpursuitsompromisedntheirquest3644Economicand PoliticalWeeklyAugust31,2002
 
forpower,recognitionandacceptance.Perhapshepoor qualityofoutputof socialscientists,particularlyinterms ofintel-lectualpursuit(asopposedtoproblem-solving)can beexplained bythis needforsocialscientists tofindacceptancebytheinstitutionsandrepresentaties of the state.Ifthestatedominates,andif thebureau-cracyplaysakeyrole ininfluencingandrunningsocietyand,importantly,wherealternativeorganicinstitutions(suchasmassbasedpoliticalparties)do notexist,the roadtopowerand nfluence musttravelthroughthebureaucratic/stateroute.Thisseemstobespecificallyso foreconomistswho arerequiredn thePlanningCommis-sion,ministryoffinance and othergov-ernmentdepartmentstoprovideadviceandformulatepolicy.Over theyears, theyhavebecome influential'andpowerfulmembers of thestate,and still areable toremaineconomists,unlikesay,anthropolo-gistsorhistorians,who ifthey joinedthecivilservice,would ceaseto remainrootedintheiracademicdisciplinessincetheirparticularexpertisewouldnolongerberequiredfor thepurposesof'problemsolving'.Notso for economists.Iftheacquisitionofpower,and influ-ence,andperhapsevenprestige,is animportantgoalforaneconomist,then thecareerpathforsucheconomists willhaveto bethrough government.No academiceconomist wieldspoweror much influ-ence inPakistan.As Naseem demonstratesin hishistorical evaluation of the econo-micsprofessionin Pakistan:"for avarietyofreasons,the economicsprofessionhasbeen dominatedbypractitioners,initiallybureaucrats,ather hanbythosewho haveacademicand researchinterests",5andthat"governmenteconomistsand bureau-cratshavegenerally enjoyeda muchhigherpecking-orderthantheiracademic or re-searchcounterpartsnthePakistaniecono-mists'establishment".6One must also addthat,giventheacknowledgementthattheinstitutionsofthe stateinPakistan arehighlycorrupt,governmentsectorjobs,whileproviding powerandprestige,alsoprovideopportunitiesor untoldwealth. Inasocietywhichvalues wealthfor itself andasa meanstoother goals,thisgivesaddedimpetus.Whilethe routethroughthe structuresof thestate has been the traditionalroutetopowerforeconomists,overthe lastdecadeorso,the routehasshiftedto theinternational financialinstitutions,inparticularo theWorldBank and the IMF.7Numeroushighprofilecasesinthe lastdecadesuggestthatastint in either of thesetwo international nstitutionscan,beforeoraftercompletionofservice,leadtoaprominent-ministerial-positioningovernmentinPakistan.The status ofevenjuniorstaffmembersof thelendingagen-ciesstandsfarhigherthan that of the'generalistcivilservants,andparticularlywithregardto thatofthe domesticexpert.For those economistsseekingeitherpowerorrecognition,thesignalsandroute arewell defined. Forthesereasons,perhaps,therehas been"verylittlespaceforthecontributionto thecountry'seconomicdevelopment byeconomistsoutsideofgovernmentandheIFIs],especially'thosenthe universitiesandresearch institutes".8Iftheacquisitionofpower, privilegeandwealththroughthe added structureofstatepatronageis thefirst-premisewhichmayhelpexplainthestate ofsocialscienceandparticularlyofeconomicsinPakistan,thenextpremiseisfelt to be socialvalues,incentivesandclear alternatives whichdissuadebuddingacademicsandsocialscientiststoseriouslytakeupsocialscienceas aprofession.Teachingisnolongerconsideredtobea 'noble' professionasitwasin thepast,insectionsofsocietywhicharerapidlyupwardlymobi:;andwhere economicgainandtheacquisitionof wealthnowdetermine the newsetofpersonaland social values.9 Membersfromtheelite and from theupwardlymobileclasses whocouldplayanimportantrolein the establishment ofsocial science asaprofession,are notlikelytoturn toacademicsas thereare few socialandmaterial returnsfrominvestinginsuchprofessions,especially givenanenviron-ment where business administrationandcomputerandtechnologyrelatedfieldsoffer far more lucrativeopportunities.Perhapshisiswhythereisonlyoneprivatesectoruniversitywhich hasonly recentlybegunto offerundergraduatedegreesinthe socialsciences,while there areliterallyhundreds ofcolleges,universities andinstitutes in theprivatesector whichofferdegreesinmanagement,informationtech-nology,and medicine.Addedto the above observationaboutincentives,opportunitiesandpriorities,andwithcommentsmade about statepatron-ageand thebureaucracy,there isanotheraspectwhichhas beenexpressed bysocialscientistsinwriting-andaspartofthisstudy.There seems to beanobsessionwith'policyrelevant' researchinPakistan.Particularlyforeconomists,andnotthemalone,there is theneedtodeterminewhatroletheycanplayinthe'developmentofthecountry'andhowtheycancontributetothe'country's development'.10Oneexplanationbyothersocialscientistsfor
thedominance feconomists spreciselythis,thateconomicsandeconomistsplaypolicyrelevantoles,unlikepoliticalci-entists,nthropologistshistorians,tc,andthatswhyeconomicsdominates hesocialsciences in Pakistan.Inthecontext ofPakistanhereseemsto benoresearchnthesocialscienceswhichexpandsthespectrumofknowledgeandideas,andPakistani ocialscientistsareprimarilynthe'businessofgivingadvice'.1lUnfor-tunately,here s no suchthingaspolicyirrelevant esearch n thesocial sciencesinPakistan.12Onegeneral xplanationiven bysomesocialscientistsor hepoortatusfsocialscience inPakistan sthelackof a culturepromotingfreefloatingdiscussionanddebate.13Manysocialscientists wouldarguehatPakistansanintolerantocietymadeupof individualswhoarenot willingtobecriticised,andhence,there is notradition f anexchangeofideas. Somelink histo theabsencefdemocracy,venin itssymbolic,electioneeringorm.Thelackofdemocracys afavouritewhippinghorseormanyocialscientists,ndwhilethiscould be a cause formanyof theproblemsacedbyPakistan,ncludinghelackofa vibrantocialscienceculture,tisannsufficientxplanationsit does notexplainhowinnumerousthercountries,authoritarianismndalack ofdemocracyproduceathrivingoppositionogovern-mentupportedyan activeocialsciencecommunity.Significantly,Pakistan acksboth.Aconvincingargument,n whichmostacademicsconcur,whichexplainsthedismalstateofthesocialsciencesinPakistan,s relatedothemarked ndhighlyvisible declineofallsortsofinstitutions,particularlyhosenthepublicector.This'crisis ofgovernance'inWorld Bankparlance,smanifestn thevisibledemiseofpublicsectoreducational nd researchinstitutionsnPakistan.This themere-appearsonmanyoccasionsnthispaperwithregardtospecificinstitutionsanddisciplines.Amajoronclusion romdis-cussionsheld withsocialscientists s thatmostofthesocial scienceresearchnthepublicsector nPakistans donebyindi-vidualswhohappeno bebasedhere,andnotbytheinstitution,ssuch.14 Ifthesehandfulofindividualswhoareactiveinresearchreplacedsomewherelse,theywouldcontinuedoingresearchegardlessofwheretheyhappenobe;theirormerinstitution,ntheotherhand,wouldprob-ablyhave noresearchutputospeakof.Institutionsn thepublicsectornolongerprovideabase for socialscientists toEconomicandPoliticalWeekly August31,20023645

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