Research and study of ideologies of social and national emancipation and their application to conditions within imperialist society

Why ‘independence studies’? 

Our approach to the understanding of ideologies of emancipation

The term ‘independence studies’ was adopted by our Institute to denote the study of the wide variety of ideologies of social and national emancipation existing in the world today, a field of enquiry which has hitherto been generally assumed not to be a valid object of academic study and research in this country.

This shortcoming in this country’s intellectual life reflects a wider lack of understanding of the intellectual, social, cultural, and political orientation of precisely those peoples, nations and countries who are coming to the fore in the world today, the majority of mankind in fact. And this is a majority whose increasing levels of independence and achievements in building new forms of society are re-drawing the map of the world, dictating the direction of history, and are ultimately the decisive force in shaping mankind’s destiny.

In the course of achieving their hard-won advances, people have creatively developed a great variety of visions of human progress and emancipation, each with distinctive characteristics suited to the wide variety of social and national conditions they have faced, and drawing on a wide variety of intellectual and social traditions. Our Institute upholds the principle that appropriate way to assess and appreciate these ideologies, in all their diversity, is not to start by placing them in direct analogy with tenets that have been more widely accepted or well-known internationally. Rather, progressive ideas are to be approached with a degree of respect in accordance with the extent to which they have demonstrated in practice their capacity to mobilise their people to contribute towards the global trend for national and social emancipation and the building of new societies.

The need for an open-minded and imaginative approach.

Taking this standpoint requires an imaginative and open-minded approach to the discussion of ideas formulated within unfamiliar intellectual and cultural contexts. This can be difficult for those who assume that the conceptual and terminological apparatus developed within Western intellectual traditions, notably scientific socialism and its offshoots, is unquestioningly to be accepted as for all time the necessary and sole lingua franca for the discussion of progressive ideology. From such a viewpoint, the intrusion of the influence of other intellectual traditions is somehow an unwelcome interpolation rather than a further enrichment and creative development of the global storehouse of progressive ideas.

Our Institute therefore aims to counter tendencies to react negatively or sceptically to intellectual and cultural influences within international progressive thought which do not derive from the western intellectual life within which the conceptual and terminological apparatus of the progressive thought familiar in the West today was initially formulated.

The consequences of a failure to take this step into less familiar intellectual and cultural worlds are serious. It is of course true that the rise of capitalism in Europe in the 19th century led to developments which resulted in the reshaping of the world, and that new ideological systems, notably scientific socialism, successfully confronted the task of formulating a progressive response. But the world of today is once again being reshaped before our eyes, and this time by more recently rising forces. And while these are indeed headed by those who are as loyal as ever to scientific socialism, the intellectual and cultural context within which they are applying this and other ideological systems are by no means restricted to those intellectual traditions within which western intellectual life remains largely confined.

More receptive audiences

More receptive audiences for these new ideologies has been found within the west among national minorities, for example communities of African origin who have turned for inspiration to the achievements of African nationalism and African socialism. This is a prime example of how those who have achieved advances in social and national emancipation around the world have not done so in some mechanical or unthinking way, but, on the contrary, have made vitally significant contributions to progressive ideology from which we in the West can learn, whatever their degree of consonance or otherwise with progressive ideas more generally familiar.

Practical steps for greater understanding

Those founding our Institute have never made any secret of the fact that they are supportive and indeed advocates of much of the content of these new ideological systems; this was indeed the primary motivation for the Institute’s establishment. However, its activities are not directed exclusively towards those sharing such a standpoint. On the contrary, much of its research is carried out jointly with those who are not so oriented, for example, outside the academic sphere, it provides consultancy services to anyone who wishes to engage in business, cultural or other activities with countries with ideologies unfamiliar within western intellectual traditions. The Institute’s aim is simply to take real organisational steps towards promoting understanding of the wide variety of ideologies of social and national emancipation in the world to day, and to demonstrate that this is a necessary and timely field of study and research.

See further the Institute’s Statement of Principles