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ProtoSociology

Volume 30, 2013

Concepts - Contemporary and Historical Perspectives

Robert Kowalski
Pages 281-307
DOI: 10.5840/protosociology20133016

The Epigenic Paradox within Social Development

The paper explores the Epigenic Paradox wherein agents of development are inextricable tangled up in the social systems that they both inhabit and co-create. Furthermore, Paulo Freire had maintained that the oppressed should be self-emancipated, which generates a most perplexing paradox of development; the primacy of the individual agent or the social structure? Thus an individual or agent is momentarily able to act in ways that maintain the social structures or indeed that call their existence into question, but then has been and is subject to the influence of those very social structures. This paradox finds further expression in the concepts of identity, labeling and stigma. The latter two become substantial issues in regard to the impact that the protagonists of development can have on the marginalized. This management of stigma is further complicated by the imposed requirement on the labeled to respond to their situation and to interact with the agents of ‘benevolence’ and yet strive to avoid giving endorsement thereby to the labeling bestowed by those significant others. The link between self-emancipation and the definition of development as the promotion of autonomy and self-determination is discussed. The concept of a ‘developed’ country is becoming synonymous with a ‘democratic’ country, and ‘development’ has been supplanted by ‘democratization’. However, the true paradox of democracy is that a democracy can only be sustained in the face of alternative social configurations by the willingness of individuals to forego their individual interest in favour of the group interest.

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