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Sundararajan on Economic and Technological Progress

In this article Louise Sundararajan, one of the series editors of the Palgrave Studies in Indigenous Psychology series, explores how social science can contribute to a more equitable global community.

Global warming is one of the consequences of the economic and technological progress that the 21st century has to reckon with. Besides wreaking havoc on the ecosystem, the unprecedented development in science and technology in the modern era poses the possibility of replacing the law of natural selection with the responsibility of re-designing our own evolution. With the knowhow to extract seemingly boundless energy from nature, humans now possess the god-like power to create heaven and hell on earth. Which group gets what—heaven or hell—is a moral question, which renders informed decision making a moral imperative for the global village. Without informed and intelligent decision making, the natural course of events can be brutal.

The slow churning of evolution simply cannot keep up with the rapid pace of economic and technological growth. The result is the progressive extinction of languages and cultures around the globe. Even the fear of being slated for the trash heap of evolution has contributed to the frenzy of modernization in many cultures and groups today. Many traditional cultures today are caught in what Bourdieu (2000) refers to as “a kind of historical acceleration which caused two forms of economic organization, normally separated by a gap of several centuries and making contradictory demands on their participants, to co-exist…” (p. 18, emphasis in original). Furthermore, as evidenced by the widening disparity between the haves and have-nots in global economy, the cost and benefit of economic and technological growth seem to be asymmetrically distributed—the dominant groups tend to reap the benefits, while the fringe groups pay for the costs. There seems to be no escape from the hegemonic impact of global economy. For instance, our research team (Ting & Sundararajan, 2018) found that an ethnic minority group secluded in the deep mountains of Southwest China may not reap the benefits of modernity in terms of electricity and education, but nevertheless bears more than their share the costs of modernity—mental illness, drug addiction, AIDS, and poverty.

Having outstripped the pace of nature, modern science and technology have put the future of mankind in our own hands. How are we going to prevent the abuse of our powers to send other species (and other cultures) to the trash heap of evolution, to alter the biosphere forever, and more? As the Chinese saying goes, ‘when water rises, so does the boat’. The more we break new frontiers in natural sciences, the more it will be necessary for us to consult social sciences for the information we need to make enlightened and morally responsible decisions toward an equitable global community. It is for this reason that the book series Palgrave Studies in Indigenous Psychology is launched.


  • Bourdieu, P. (2000). Making the economic habitus: Algerian workers revisited. Ethnography, 1, 17-41.
  • Ting, R. S-K., & Sundararajan, L. (2018). Culture, cognition, and emotion in China's religious ethnic minorities: Voices of suffering among the Yi. Palgrave Studies in Indigenous Psychology Series. New York, NY: Springer Nature.

Louise Sundararajan is Fellow of the American Psychological Association, and recipient of the Abraham Maslow Award from Division 32 of APA. She publishes extensively on culture and emotions. She is a co-editor of the Palgrave Studies in Indigenous Psychology series.  Authors interested in submitting a proposal for the series should contact the Editor-in-Chief directly (Louise Sundararajan: louiselu@frontiernet.net) or our Senior Editor at Palgrave (Rachel Daniel: Rachel.daniel@palgrave-usa.com).