The terms ‘evolution’, ‘growth’, ‘development’ and ‘progress’ appear to be synonymous. Consequently, they tend to be used interchangeably. But progress is term which encompasses both qualitative and quantitative aspects of social development or growth. While ‘social change’ is a valuefree term, the term ‘progress’ means a definite positive growth. The development of nuclear weapons may or may not be considered progress. But increase in food production. it will not be doubted, is an important aspect of progress Similarly, there are several indicators of progress which are universally accepted as such.
The world has seen a tremendous growth in several spheres. Agricultural production, industrial production, communication, medicine, education, etc., have seen unprecedented growth. We can safely assume that the future is not as bleak once appeared to be. We are not scared by a vision of hungry hordes overwhelming world food resources. It is true that many people. especially in the developing countries, are hungry, illiterate and prone to diseases. But efforts to alter the situation are having a noticeable effect. Growth in these spheres cannot be doubted and the development is unreservedly accepted as indicative of progress.
But the other side of the coin has to be considered too because it is also a part of reality. Tremendous population growth accompanied by a disparity in the distribution of benefits is amply evident. There is an ‘undoubted concentration of medical and educational facilities in cities. The under-privileged have remained so or have even deteriorated in their status. This concentration of wealth is not an aspect of progress.
At a global level, the rapacity and irrational rivalry among men is evident in the arms race. it is stated that the world spends approximately one million dollars every minute on arms. The money spent on a single fighter plane can educate 40,000 people. Exploitation by multinational corporations is obvious in the Third World which receives the rejects of the developed world. Fertilizers and drugs with harmful side-effects, of which the companies are aware, are sold in the Third World. This lack of conscience and depravity is surely not a sign of progress.
Thus, social change has been, in certain facets of life, along a positive direction, and in others, in a definitely negative direction. It is true that the ’quality of life’ has improved materially. We are now talking about colour televisions in the cities of India. No one, however pessimistic, can deny that the last few decades have seen a great progress in industrial and technological spheres. But it is also true that it has been a peripheral progress. The actual core of the problem remains. It is by the impact on poverty that progress should be judged: Altemations in the lives of a minority do not account for progress. Colour T.V. and Asiads cannot help the masses. Arms race and corporate growth help a minute percentage. Thus, the material progress which has been made has been vitiated by the static nature of poverty, illiteracy, disease and suffering.
Man boasts of the progress that has been made in gaining knowledge and widening the mental horizons. True, the man of today knows much more than his ancestors. Science has certainly revealed much and made possible several material comforts. The growing scientific spirit has removed from man’s mind superstition and debilitating fear of many things. Man has landed on the moon: he has devised complex instruments to help him in further investigations into the universe; he has probed mysteries and come up with praiseworthy solutions. But man’s knowledge has not progressed equally on all fronts. Knowledge has been put to use for material good alone; little has been achieved in the sphere of spiritual growth. Human values have degenerated and man’s inventions do not take into account the destruction they are liable to causeto natural surroundings as well as to spirit of man himself.
The question, “Are we progressing”? is thus difficult to answer with a clear ’Yes”, or ”No”. Man has not made unalloyed’ progress. Progress in one direction has been accompanied by retrogression or stunted growth in other spheres. ‘