Social determinants of economic development and impact of economic consequences remain subject of discussion among the sociologists.
In the beginning development was defined solely in terms of economic perspectives. It is looked at as a process whereby there is a steady increase in the level of real income per head in a country.
In the broadest sense, economic development might be viewed as ‘any growth in real income per capita from whatever source, say Robert Faris. Bach has described it as “growth in the total a output of goods and services in the economy.
According to Novack, it is continuous substantial increase in per capita consumption of goods and services”. The substantial consumption of economic goods is possible only when there is substantial production of economic goods and substantial production these days depends upon greater use of technologies.
According to scholars, economic development refers to the process, whereby people of a country utilize the resources available to bring about a sustained growth in per capita production of goods and services. Sustained growth of per capita income is a feature of economic development.
However, non-economic or social dimension has been’ added to the concept of economic development by UNO. According to UNO, “Development concerns not only man’s material needs, but also improvement of social conditions of his life. Development is, therefore, not only economic growth but growth plus change – social, cultural and institutional as well as economic”.
As the process of economic development is a continuous process, it needs to create chain of reactions of such forces which may set in motion the process of income generating in the economy. The process of economic development requires suitable climate for its initiation, maintenance and acceleration.
The gigantic task of economic development can be influenced by group of factors such as economic, political, administrative and social. Gunar Myrdal has pointed out six important factors affecting development: output and income, conditions of production, levels of living, attitude towards life and work, institutions and politics. The first three refer to economic factors, the next two to non-economic factors, and the last one to a mixed category.
Social factors play important roles in economic development. This has been of late realisation on the part of social scientist. The social determinants of economic development include various social institutions such as the family, class structure, caste, religion, traditions, attitudes, beliefs and culture etc.
In fact, it is difficult to compartmentalize human factors into economic and non-economic, since development is the result of inter-play of these factors. Although economic factors are significant, social factors are more dynamic and powerful which determines economic development to a great extent. Let us discuss some of the important social determinants of economic development.
The rate and nature of economic development are profoundly influenced by factors such as the adaptability of society, its attitudes to innovation and change. The rate of economic development is also influenced by the attitudes of the traditional elite to social and political changes.
The cultural context surrounding the production systems, the relations between various groups participating into the economic processes and a favourable cultural context in society determine the structure of the economy decisively. An open and progressive society with healthy environment makes a positive contribution to development.
A rigid, retrograde social system hinders economic development in many ways. A mobile, receptive outward looking social system is conducive for economic development.
Democratic norms and its full application are important factors for development. The type of Government and its relationship with the masses in the domain of policy making for development a assumes importance for all round development.
Advancement in technology is hindered in developing countries due to lack of education of people. Education motivates and inspires individuals to actively participate in the process of economic development. In fact, education brings revolutions in ideas of economic progress.
Traditional values are not conducive to economic development. Social mobilisation is an essential prerequisite of economic development. Social mobilisation implies the process in which major clusters of Old social, economic and psychological commitments are eroded and broken. In addition, cultural flexibility is necessary for the introduction of any new norms and values.
Economic development not only requires institutional changes but also changes at personal level….sustenance of economic development depends upon certain personal traits. Instead of being fatalistic, religious and immobile, individuals should be mobile, activists and innovational in nature.
Better health conditions and availability of medical facilities, reduction in mortality rates and birth rates can have positive contribution to economic development. Rapid population growth impede economic growth in underdeveloped areas.
Until not long ago, the term development was used to refer economic growth. But the importance of non-economic dimensions of development – political, social, cultural and human, is being increasingly realised now. Although economists themselves were the first to recognise the importance of human factors in economic development, it was sociologists who brought into focus the social dimensions of development.
To begin with sociologists devoted their attention to the social determinants and consequences of economic development. For works on a sociological approach to economic development, one may refer to B.F. Hoselitz, Sociological Aspects of Economic growth; S.N. Eisenstadt, Essays on Sociological Aspects of Political and Economic Development; Neil J. Smelser, The sociology of Economic life etc. Only from their sustained interest in the sociological bearings of economic development did they derive the notion of social development.
The meaning of economic development has broadened over the years, as is evident from the following conceptions, which have emerged in that order: economic development as economic growth, economic development as change in the social and political structures accompanying economic growth, and economic self-reliance. Until recently, Western economists tended to identify economic development with economic growth, as measured by the rate of increase of per capita income or product.
The trickledown effect of overall per capital GNP growth was expected to provide more jobs and economic opportunities, ensuring wider diffusion of the benefits of growth. But in the Third World countries things did not work out in this way, the economists had predicted. The benefits of growth remained confined to small sections of the population. It became increasingly clear that the concept of economic development cannot solve the major problems of poverty, hunger and malnutrition.
Hence, the concept of economic development has been enlarged to refer to economic equality and self- reliance along with economic growth. Several non-economic issues, e.g. education, housing, employment, social welfare have been incorporated to the major objectives in the development strategies.
Now development is no longer identified with mere increase in gross national product or per capita national income. It has acquired a broader concept. According to J.N. Khosal “it needs to be conceived as a dynamic process directed towards transforming an entire society (not merely some segments of it) enmeshing together its economic, social, political and administrative aspects for an all round, balanced, upward change”.