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Invitation to an International Conference

Dialogue of National Cultures in Global Processes of Contemporary World



Kazak Academy of Social Sciences

Almaty, Kazakhstan

June 24-25, 2004


 This is to invite you to take part in an international conference devoted to the cultural foundations of the urgent efforts of the peoples of Central Asia to define their national identities and achieve social renewal.

The region is undergoing a massive social and civilizational upheaval. The old coordinates of the 20th century which defined Central Asia as the supplier of raw materials for a strictly controlled empire have been surpassed. A springtime of new life for the 21st century now begins to break forth.

On the material level there is confidence in an abundance not only of rich natural resources, but of the human capabilities to develop the technological capabilities to extract these riches and build the infrastracture of social life. Yet it is difficult to learn how appropriately to employ these new riches. Too much, it would seem, is employed in ostentatious homes and casinos or merely accumulated in bank accounts. Not enough is put towards enabling social participation by all parts of the population, towards education and the development of human resources, and towards raising the prestige of professional excellence and the promotion of the arts.

Truly to benefit from material resources depends upon the ability to employ them in terms of the more fundamental values of human dignity, family unity, national progress, global cooperation and inter cultural and religious dialogue. This conference will seek out ways of  transcending selfishness, egoism and consumerism, and how the peoples of the region might perceive and value the broader realities and deeper riches needed to inspire and orient their personal, social and national life? This is the challenge to unfold and apply in new ways and for new times the cultures of the many ethnicities and peoples of the vast steppes of Central Asia.

Unfortunately, modern rationalisms of left and right have tried to force these into the artificial and restrictive ideal constructs or ideologies. Unable to take account of the transcending richness of human life, these tend to degenerate into perverted, illusionary systems of ideas which in turn distort reality to justify and legalize the particular interests of specific social strata or cliques. Shaping perceptions according to totalitarian systems that do not allow other patterns of thought or action, in revenge the traps even the institutions which promote or impose them.

 Present challenges and opportunities call for special attention to greater openness to cultural diversity, while consolidating the life of society cooperatively around cohesive programs, strategies and paradigms as expressions of these cultures. Society is neither a simple empirical reality, nor a purely ideal entity; from the beginning the empirical forces of natural-human existence are pervaded by a sense of what is right and due. Nor is society a mere sum or aggregate of individuals or ethnic groups, but a primary reality whose sense of what is good has been developed by the experience of centuries and passed on as its cultural and religious tradition. This evokes creative social action, for a person finds dignity not in a vacuum, but as a significant member of society who contributes to the welfare of all and therefore is appreciated by others. Whether these aspirations are actually are achieved or not, without them human life becomes unidimensional, flat in space and time, empty and meaningless.

 As cultures set the terms of meaning, express the hopes and shape the mode of social transformation, hence their consideration must be central to any project of social renewal and reconstruction for the peoples of Central Asia.

While inherited from the past, these cultural elements now are inevitably engaged and shaped by the forces which unify the way of life in the framework of the broader economic and civic structures of the global system. Yet globalization can follow different paths. One is marked by westernization (or more precisely Americanization) in which one super-power occupies all positions, becomes increasingly rich and tries to impose on all its mode of living, its world view and a mass culture. This is a world without persons or memory, which are reduced to one commodity among others and subordinated to the criteria of market exploitation. This has rightly been the object of protest.o:p>

 But there is another path along which globalization can and must be oriented. It recognizes that the scientific and technical achievements must serve the good of all and facilitate the terrestrial burden of each people and every individual. This does not homogenize or suppress national uniqueness, but on the contrary encourages the distinctiveness of the multiple cultures, recognizing them to be the condition for the indispensable contribution of each to the whole.

 It is not sufficient, however, to recognize the vital importance of this second path; great effort is required to make it happen. It is incumbent then upon scientists, entrepreneurs, politicians, cultural and religions leaders, and especially philosophers to come together in search of social progress in this more adequate sense. For this it is necessary to work out ways to integrate and implement the deeply humanizing cultural resources and commitments which the peoples of Central Asia have inherited from their traditions with contemporary technical and social forms in order to shape the new global possibilities in a manner that is truly humane and humanizing. The genius for this task is not to be found the mind of one person or in one meeting, but must be the cumulative result of a broad cooperative effort able to draw together, nurture and apply the cultural resources of the entire region.

 The present conference strives to unite representative scholars of Central Asia, especially philosophers, to bring their multiple traditions to the table, to open a discussion of present hopes and challenges, and to develop a structure for continued work thereupon. The goal is to help to unite the competencies of the region in an effort to find effective paths for the progress of this region in the 21st century.

 The conference will be held in Almaty, Kazakhstan, June 24-25, 2004. It is cosponsored by The Institute of Philosophy and Political Science of The Kazakh Academy of Science, Almaty and The Council for Research in Values and Philosophy (RVP). For further information see www.crvp.org or write to adm@phil.south-capital.kz and mclean@cua.edu.







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