Human and Social Progress: Projects and Perspectives

The Aspen Institute Romania, in collaboration with the Academy of Economic Studies in Bucharest, Faculty of International Economic Relations had the pleasure of presenting the book "Human and Social Progress: Projects and Perspectives", by Dr. Cristina Neesham. The event took place on December 9th 2008 at the Academy of Economic Studies and had as main debate social values. The discussions were moderated by Dr. Mariana Nicolae, Pro Dean of the REI Faculty, and besides Ms. Neesham, Prof. Valentin Cojanu, Chief Editor of Journal of Philosophical Economics discussed about how the book will be welcomed in international literature and social research.

The book launches the hypothesis that the relation between social and human progress is marked by a fundamental dilemma. The solution that the author of the book proposes replaces the traditional idea - that all the criteria of social progress rely on an unique criteria - and argues that the relation between these criteria is dynamic and contextual. Social progress has been defined in modern times in terms of three dominant social projects: the scientific-technological, the economic and the political. Each of these projects is founded on a classical humanist doctrine, such as Condorcet's theory of the historical progress of the sciences and the arts, Adam Smith's conception of the progressive increase of national wealth, and Karl Marx's view of social progress through improving political institutions. Although originally humanist, these projects have received technocratic interpretations, which have distorted their direction and content. This has been possible because all three doctrines adopt a static-universalist perspective, in which the order of priority among the desirable dimensions of humanness is considered absolute, universal, immutable and empirically determined. Instead, a dynamic-relational perspective is proposed, in which all dimensions of humanness are conceived as inter-limiting and inter-supportive. This model may not lead to designing large-scale social systems, but does provide an effective critical instrument for safeguarding ideals of human fulfilment against technocratic and reductionist distortions.

About the author:
Cristina Neesham, PhD: Studied social philosophy at the University of Melbourne. Former workplace inspector in the Australian Public Service.Has worked as an organisational consultant in Eastern Europe. Teaches applied philosophy and public policy in the Faculty of Business and Economics at Monash University, Melbourne. Member of the Aspen Institute Romania.

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