Theory & Practice in Changing the Unequal Society

Nidhin Sasi September 4, 2011

Image credits: glorycycles@Flickr


There is a perception being circulated widely today that Theory and Practice are two different entities and they need not necessarily have any interconnection.

Theory is good for listening, but may not be applicable in practice. These thoughts are promoted especially when it comes to the Social & Political arena of society, certainly less when compared to the Scientific & Technological fields.

Let us try to see the relation between Theory & Practice here. This is because proper understanding and conclusions about the various socio-political-economic situations in the country is very important, to enable us come out with proper solutions to change this exploitative society to a better one, with less or no exploitation of man by man.

Theory

Theory is the generalization of a single or multiple processes or phenomenon happening on an object. Processes or phenomenon can be anything like for example a turbulent political situation, a revolution happening, a famine, biological, physical or chemical process etc. It can be anything related to society, science & technology, politics etc. Object can be a living being, a particular societal or political situation with respect to space and time etc. Theory can be broadly classified into 2 types. One is the theory that arises from the imaginations and creative ideas of an individual which may not have any relation to the reality or facts surrounding that particular theorization. But even imagination cannot come completely divorced from the realities of the world. If so, such theories will be doomed to fail or evoke less enthusiasm from people in today’s society where Science & Technology has progressed to a much advanced level. Hence such theories also have to accommodate partial aspects of the real facts in big or small amount so as to shape that theory to attract supporters.

The second category of Theory is that which is formulated from observation or practical experience or enhancement of prior knowledge of the material facts and realities of the world. What then is meant by reality? Or how can reality be measured? Reality can be defined as something which exists and whose existence can be proved or felt or seen. Reality can be any object or phenomenon that exists in nature or the processes that exist in nature – Social, Economic, Political, Scientific etc. The experience an individual gains in his life is a reality, the changes that occur around our environment are a reality, a scientific experiment or a new technology is also a reality, the list goes on.

Reality also points to the chance of occurrence of an event based on existing facts. For eg: if we throw a dice, there are 6 chances of occurrence of a particular number. Similarly in our daily life also, there are n number of random chances of occurrences of a particular event or a result. While materialists attribute a rare occurrence of an event as a normal one part of the many possible chances of occurrence, spiritualists would attribute that to some divine force or miracle. Here the correctness of the conclusion is based on whether you are analyzing the particular event based on the reality or material facts about the possible chances of occurrence, or whether you are attributing it simply to a non-existing force without taking into cognition of the facts.

A debate can be carried on whether predictions based on astrology or similar concepts are different from proper Scientific or Mathematical predictions based on facts. The difference can be attributed to the starting point which would be a real instance or point for Scientific or Mathematical predictions whereas other streams of concepts would imagine or assume a starting point. Such assumption of starting point can be done only for experiments or testing the validity of a possible outcome and not for making an absolute prediction on the outcome of an event.

In this essay, we would lead with the theory that is related to the realities or facts since this is an essay connected with real life. A creative theory can be used for fiction or books or movies for entertainment but cannot to be useful in real life.

Validity of a Theory

The validity of a particular theory which is formulated based on reality or facts can be tested only through the application of that theory in real environment or what we call “Practice”. But how is that verified? If a theory is put into practice and it fails to produce the expected results, does it mean that the theory has failed?

Here is where, many observers get their conclusions wrong about various theories. The theory has in it embedded not only a generalization of a concept and its result, but also 2 main aspects which are always ignored conveniently by many, who don’t have the patience to spend time to analyze that particular theory.

Firstly, the various factors that is essential for the result to be achieved. Secondly, the dynamic nature of the situations around us cause infinite number of changes and produce newer scenarios which the theory when initially formulated would not have taken into consideration.

Let us first take the aspect of the Factors. For any natural processes or phenomenon (Social, Economic, Political) or even those related to Science & Technology, there would be various external and internal factors acting upon it which is critical in directing the results of those process. Similarly when the theory is put into practical application, one should also have knowledge of what are those various external and internal factors and what should be their criterion for the theory to reach its logically expected conclusion. Let us consider a simple scientific experiment which theoretically derives an ideal condition based on the assumption of certain factors being satisfied. But in real time, these factors might not always be meeting the exact conditions as expected leading to a deviation from the ideal condition in a small or a large manner. But does that tell that the ideal condition can never be met? If we have to say that, we have to first prove that the so called factors would never be met. If there is any random chance for those factors to satisfy even though remote and under rare scenarios, we can't say that the particular theory is wrong or invalid. In such case, the effort should be to work towards making those internal and external factors (whichever are under your control) favorable for the theory to reach the expected result. Just like for Science & technology such factors are simulated, in real social and political life also, with knowledge of the process and the various factors, one could work towards satisfying those factors in order for the particular social or political process favorable to the mass of the population to succeed.

We can see a couple of examples of how factors play essential role. When a tumbler full of water is heated, after some time, when the boiling point is reached (external factor), the entire water molecules start changing to vapour and escape from the liquid (internal factor). Here, if the criterion of boiling point is not reached, then this particular process of entire liquid being converted into vapour doesn’t take place. Another example can be that of the mental development of a child. The mental development of a child depends on the various positive and negative factors (external factors) surrounding him/her and the effect it has on him/her and his/her outlook or reaction (internal factor). A child is exposed not only to his/her immediate environment, but to his/her school, neighbourhood etc. There could be different experiences from these different environments which might have influence on him/her and which might develop his/her mental personality. One would not understand the mental development of the child without knowing these factors or influences acting on him/her.

Let us now take the second aspect of the dynamic change in the environment around us. This will also have a direct or indirect effect on the internal or external factors affecting that process or phenomenon. These dynamic changes are external factors which may not be predictable always as newer situations or scenarios might throw in, the experience of which would enhance the particular theory. Here again because of such unexpected newer situations causing the theory to deviate from its intended results, that doesn’t lead to the conclusion that such theory is wrong, unless the various aspects of the theory not at all fits into the new situation. Hence, just like science & technology gets advanced with newer changes in the system, one should try to enhance continuously the social or political theory taking into cognition the newer changes or scenarios and not just debunking the theory as invalid.

An example is of a person who might be generally calm. But when he undergoes different personal and professional issues due to some sudden changes in life, tends to undergo change in his behavior from his usual calmness. This will again be based on his weak or strong character to withstand those (internal factor). Hence, one might not understand the deviation in his character without understanding the new issues. Another example is that of environmental warming. Years ago, environment was taken up for proper study, and not understanding the various factors acting upon it (eg; effect of industrial pollution on climate), one would not have understood tthe gravity of global warming.

Decline of Discussion & Analysis based on facts

Inequality Image Credit: [Shreyans Bhansali @Flickr](http://www.flickr.com/photos/thebigdurian/)

Hence any political or social process should be analyzed and deeply studied just like in a scientific research. Unfortunately, today such discussions and root cause analysis of problems around us are curtailed and which paves way for wrong conclusions and analysis taking partial facts. A big facilitator of this is today’s corporate media. Their primary task is to advance the corporate ideology of Privatization and trickle down theory showing examples of some NGOs funded by the corporates and the benefits of certain sections of middle class and other sections. But they consciously hide or suppress the facts that show these benefits of a fewer sections of the people happened at the expense of worsening conditions of huge majority of the people. Such a distortion of reality has been misleading the youth (especially the educated youth) in a very large way leading them consciously or unconsciously to the Politics of “Apolitics” (that all politics are bad) and what the Corporate culture advances is good for them and for entire society. Apolitics is basically the opposite of what we are dealing here – no discussions, direct actions based on the partial facts thrown to us by the corporate media and their bosses.

Hence the educated youth in support for their ideology of Privatization and lack of their participation in any sort of movement that is directed towards fundamental change in the society is what the Corporates want and what they have been successful in achieving through their media. This is precisely the favourable position they enjoy today and it largely attributes to the lack of proper scientific analysis of the environment and situation around us.

Practice

What is required is for the youth to understand the reality surrounding them, know the full facts through working at ground levels and then come to proper conclusions rather than blindly believing the Corporate media with vested interests. For that, a responsible citizen should dedicate time equally to studying facts and reality around him through reading, being in touch with the reality at ground levels and discussing with experienced people. Many people today under the guidance of Corporate NGOs and media enter into various Social works which is a big irony. After causing enough damages consciously, pretending as if to repair it!

The lack of proper knowledge or analysis of the existing situation will lead the youth to fall into such agendas and instead of doing proper social or political work, entering into a wrong or manipulated direction of the very sections that caused exploitations and injustices to this society. Here it is imperative for us to pursue the process of scientific analysis of the situations, which the Corporates and their media, and NGOs are purposefully trying and deviating ending up piling up gibberish.

Again proper application of the knowledge they have acquired in the process of scientific analysis should further enhance their understanding to the social and political processes. There are certain sections of people who spend their time on endless reading or self-theorization of the ideas they have accumulated from literature without putting efforts to know the practical implications of the theory. Hence all the theory they have read remains untested and abstract until they explore the various aspects of the theory by applying them in practice. Without applying them, they may not come to know the various factors in real environment that are essential for that particular theory and they may also not come to know about the dynamic nature of environment that keeps changing and produces newer scenarios before us. Hence without application of the theory at any level, there are huge chances that person could well start considering the theory as a religion with no further enhancements or keep on developing his/her creative thoughts without any relationship to the reality surrounding him.

We can take any scientific discovery, where the theories are first formed from the scientific observations and this theory is again put into experiments. When it is put into test, the unknown factors or conditions or the redundancies in the theory can be understood and the scientific theory can be improved accordingly. Without experiments or trials, which theory can be trusted foolproof? Even in Information Technology, once software development is done, it needs to be tested in stimulated environments and based on the results, the various defects and unseen problems while developing it can be found, corrected, again retested and then finally approved for delivery. Similarly practice on the social theories formed from observations and previous facts only can further improve the theory or correct its fallacies.

Practice without proper theory or knowledge might lead the practice in wrong direction. Similarly a theory without proper practical experience will remain untested or without any enhancements with respect to newer situations and not anticipated practical experiences. Theory & Practice hence compliment each other such as one would improve the efficacy of the other, without one the other one would be ineffective.

Conclusion

Any socially committed individual who wants to work towards bringing change in this exploited society, (where actual poverty is increasing with huge number of malnourished children and women; 77% of Indians spend less than Rs. 20 a day with hunger levels of the population worse than many poor sub-saharan African countries ; all sorts of formal employment is coming down drastically; rights of workers are getting more and more curtailed each day; deep crisis in agrarian sector with lakhs of farmer suicides is continuing unabated, the list goes on), has to combine the theoretical formulations of his observations & knowledge of the facts and test them in practice and based on his experience correct or nurture the theory further.

An example is the concept of Democracy. Democracy which proclaims so much rights to people have first come in a primitive form in the thoughts of Greek Philosophers which later developed into its present forms after various experiences in various situations and their enhancements to present levels. Who would have imagined in India in 18th century about a dalit or woman having the right to choose a representative to the ruling establishment? Still Democracy will go to higher forms based on several experiences. Various countries such as Latin American countries have referendum (right of people to accept or reject) on a policy itself which is still not there in India and several other countries. Various Socialist countries have a structure of democracy which ensured more power for the toiling sections of people over the landlords and business sections.

Hence for bringing change to this system, one needs to have the proper combination of the scientific theory and practice. One needs to take note of the historical experiences of the different revolutions and reforms in the world and its own country, understand the present situation and experiences around them to understand or enhance existing theories. Only then one would understand the vested interests and strategy of the very exploiters in the society today trying to subvert the possibility of such a change to the society through different means. Only when more number of such individuals with such right combination of theory & practice come forward to help organize the exploited against the exploiters and achieve success, the exploitation of man by man can be ended and the society will move to a more egalitarian one.

Essay, Science & Society, Ideology, Scientific Temper Share this Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported

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