Critical development and the Tao of holism

Jan Nederveen Pieterse

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Social science captures only a narrow slice of experience. Critical holism may be a more comprehensive approach. Vincent Tucker arrived at this synthesis through sociology of health. While contrasting modern medicine with holistic healing, he also criticizes holism and adds a critical and sociological approach. Wholeness is evocative and descriptive, whereas to holism there is a programmatic element. Modern medicine is part of modernity and its contradictions. There have been attempts to reconcile these contradictions in ecology, history of science, subatomic physics, an new science. Since development is applied modernity, modernity's contradictions are reproduced within development as unresolved tensions. The antidotes to high modernism tend to suffer from the reproduction of dichotomous thinking; skipping levels; and framing contemporary dilemmas in anachronistic terms. Wholeness in development should not be expected from a shortcut towards an undivided whole in a divided world, but should be sought in a new balance: a combination of wholeness and difference. One way of framing this is the Tao of development, which means acknowledging paradox as part of development realities. Development participates in the perplexities of the human condition and is not outside or beyond them. Critical holism as a balancing act may take such forms as a multidimensional, multifaceted approach, a chiaroscuro social science, a combination of objective and subjective dimension of development, and combining multiple time frames.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationDen Haag
PublisherInternational Institute of Social Studies (ISS)
Number of pages32
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1998
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

SeriesISS working papers. General series


  • ISS Working Paper-General Series


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