CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK OF STUDY
The study consist of important concepts that need to be clarified in order to understand the subject matter of the study. In order to explore the idea of how cultural diversity as reflected in African traditional religion can ensure sustainable development in Ghana, there is the need to clarify these concepts to provide comprehensive explanation to the concepts and how they are used in this research.
2.2 Culture and Cultural Diversity
Culture is apparent in different disciplines and for different scholars, culture is seen from different perspectives. Spencer, indicates that culture is a set of attitudes, beliefs, behavioral norms and basic assumptions and values that are directly shared by a group of people and influences each member’s behavior and his/her understanding of the meaning of other people’s behavior. In somewhat similar perspective to Spencer-Oatey, Giddens appears to sum up these definitions and suggests that culture refers to the ways of life of the members of a society or groups within a society. We can infer from the scholars that culture is a social treasure. In other words it is the people that live in a society who make up the conglomerate of the adherents of that culture. In this regard, Assimeng like Giddens holds the view that culture is therefore the entire way of life of the people in a society. The term ‘society’ as mentioned in the definitions of Tyler, Spencer, and Giddens may however need further clarification. This is because Scott and Marshall Intimate that a society is the composition of groups consisting of people who share a common culture, occupy a particular territorial area. From all the definitions and explanations of the scholars, we gather that culture is portrayed as an adaptation process by human beings. People are necessary for every society and vice versa and this is because as human beings interrelate in the various groups inherent in a society, accepted ways of behaviors are adopted. This may stem from the idea of trying to adapt to the conditions of such groups at given times. Accepted behaviors and norms directly become the focus of a society once it is handed down from generations to generations. The scholars are right when they say culture becomes the totality of life of a people in a society.
Assimeng’s definition of society however captures more on the setting of Africa stating that it is a relatively enduring and morally structured framework for the engagement of people, usually within a specified locality. From these definitions of society, we gather that every society shares a specific kind of behavioral pattern which may be termed as culture. This is because the behaviors are predominant in a specific society more especially within a group. As culture is universal, it also varies whilst familiar basic elements like norms, language, values, and sanctions among others may be pointed. These among other elements are generally called cultural universals. Culture as Wilson depicts appear to be universal but highly diverse or different for different groups in the society. These differences are what is referred to as Cultural diversity. Cultural diversity is the existence of a variety of cultural and ethnic groups within a society.
Nelson Akatey in his article ‘The Relevance of Cultural Diversity and National Development’ defined cultural diversity as the quality of having diverse or different cultures as opposed to a monoculture. That is to say that cultural diversity connotes the idea of an inherent difference in the cultural make up of a particular society in relation to its numerous groups rather than the existence of a culture that is used by the whole society. Ghana is rich when it comes to its culture as a result of its diversified nature. The cultural policy document states that Ghana has over 50 ethnic groups, whose common values and institutions represent our collective national heritage as a nation. In UNESCO’s universal declaration on cultural diversity we observe that cultural diversity is as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature. However most evolutionary accounts counteract as it views this as an unstable hypothesis. Cultural diversity is important because our countries, workplaces, and schools increasingly consist of various cultural, racial and ethnic groups. A lot of learning can be done from one another but first we must understand each other in order to facilitate collaboration and cooperation. It is very important to note that the concept of cultural diversity is peculiar to a country or a society as it increases the country’s strength which makes it more capable to compete with the new global economy. It also allows for a conducive socialization environment for people to live in as new things may be learnt and shared among the composite of diverse people living in the society. Learning about other cultures helps to understand different perspectives within the world in which we live and helps dispel negative stereotypes and personal biases about different groups. For example a Ghanaian who visits the United Kingdoms should make a conscious effort to understand the cultural framework of the people there in order to facilitate understanding. This in the long run would make the individual come to a conclusion that although all human beings live in a society, they relate differently in different groups according to their belief, perspective and worldview.
To further elaborate, the main peculiarity of a human being as a biological specie is its incompleteness. That man is an incomplete, unfinished animal and as a direct result, man creates an adaptation process (culture). According to the computer science metaphor, ‘control mechanism’ is what we need to operate. In different contexts, under different conditions and circumstances, people interact. People interact differently and produce different cultures thus we can face the extraordinary diversity man faces in terms of the existence of cultural diversity. One way to ensure the management of this diversity in question is that tribalism and ethnocentrism should be discouraged. Sumner coined ethnocentrism to mean the tendency to assume that one’s culture represents superiority to all others. The legitimacy of a given culture lies in the presence of people who cherish it therefore all cultures are identical to its adherents. This assertion is based on what Giddens explains as social treasure as he explains that the people in a society make up the conglomerate whole of the adherent of their culture. In a country full of subcultures and ethnic groups socially linked together, there would always be wedlock, preference over the other etc. but instilling the idea of brotherhood (communalism) would help control the situation directly sourced from traditional religion. Culture and cultural diversity are different concepts but relates considerably to facilitate continuity of a society.
2.3 Sustainability and Sustainable Development
Sustainability means the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level. Sustainability applies to different concepts such as resources, and energy. Some scholars have approached the subject of sustainability but from fields like social, economic and environmental. Kokemuller in his article “What is Sustainability” argues that human sustainability is one category which involves specific goals, strategies and implemented to improve and maintain the quality of human life. In his book ‘Sustainability Sutra’, Morrison prompts readers to reflect much deeper on the concept of sustainability as he suggests that existing system of taxing should be based on an assessment on the value of all goods and services based on the level of sustainability saying that the price should not work against us but work for us. Sustainability centers on the development of the human person and this clearly shows in the view of Morrison. There are various types of sustainability.
Western Australia Council of Social Services (WACOSS) views social sustainability as an occurrence when the formal and informal processes, systems, structures and relationships actively supports the capacity of current and future generations to create healthy and livable communities.
Environmental or ecological sustainability is viewed by Gallopin as any system composed of a societal component in the interaction with an ecological system.
Sustainable development implies the fulfilment of several conditions. Preserving the overall balance in the society, the respect for the environment, and preventing the depletion of natural resources are the focus of sustainable development. Reduced production of waste and the rationalization of production and energy consumption are also tackled. Sustainable development is presented as a more or less clean break from other modes of development, which have led and are still leading to worrying social and ecological damage on both a worldwide and a local scale. In order to be sustainable, development must combine three main elements which are;
Fairness, protection of the environment, and a good economic standard. A sustainable development project must be based on a better mode of consultation between the community and the members it comprises. The success of such a policy also depends on consumers accepting certain constraints and citizens observing certain requirements with regard to transparency and participation.
The United Nations explain sustainable development as the development that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs hence proposed 17 Sustainable Development Goals to sustain the world. These goals were proposed by the UN general assembly in the adoption of the universal, integrated and transformative 2030 agenda for sustainable development. The goals are to be implemented and achieved in every country from the year 2016 to 2030.
Sustainable development and Sustainability as a concept over the years have been used interchangeably but both concepts have a mild difference. Sustainability is mainly the ability to be maintained at a certain rate. In sustainable development, what is sustained or made sustainable is the process of improving the human condition or better still of the social system, a process that does not necessarily require indefinite growth in the consumption of energy and materials. Sustainability is the pathway to sustainable development. Gallopin seems to disagree with this basically because of his statement that seems to create a difference between both concepts. His idea of vast difference between sustainability and sustainable development may have come from a place of highly intellectual reasoning but ‘development’ being added is what causes the mild difference as opposed to the vast difference per his opinion. Development attached to sustainability only suggests a directional change in the processes of sustainability (economic, social and environmental) but does not really take away from it categorically. From all the explanations of Sustainability and Sustainable Development, we can assert that development is human centered. The types of sustainability should be realized to ensure true development. The Combination of social sustainability and economic sustainability would only make development equitable. Combination of social and environmental sustainability would make development viable. However, it is only when all three of these are used together that sustainable development becomes apparent. Only by balancing these types of sustainability will true sustainable development be achieved.
Amartya Sen understands development to mean freedom. By freedom he means increasing citizen’s access and opportunities to the things they have adequate reason to value. He seems to challenge the mainstream concept of measuring development by economic growth. He notes that true development is inherent in the attainment of freedom where people in a society may feel free from all oppressions as contrary to Evans who intimates that true development is based on Economic growth. Annan, spoke about freedom and the rights of the poor in his report named “in larger freedom”. He suggests that the safety of the world would be possible if people are spared from war and fear. This would enable them to live in dignity as human persons. He expresses that the rights of the poor matters like that of the rich. This is based on the fact that these people make the composite of members in a particular society. Unless people are treated fairly and are led to freedom in the developing countries, development has not taken effect.
In somewhat similar view, he shares similar ideas on development like Sen equating development to Freedom. Uvin contends that Sen’s ideas on development were not new by a quote “democracy and development are linked in fundamental ways”.
There are various views and perspectives on development. Notable among them are;
Modernization theory which talks about analysis of the processes in which modernization in societies take place. It looks at the aspects that are beneficial and which constitute obstacles for economic development. It can be derived from the ideas of progress. Some Scholars assert that people can develop and change the society themselves. The interdependence of institutions in a society interact with cultural and social unity. This explains how primitive societies moved to advanced societies. Dependency theory states that not all society’s progress goes through similar stages of development. That is development is dependent on the abilities of the country in retrospect. More recent development theories include sustainable development and human development. As already explained, sustainable development meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs (Brundtland Commission).
Human development is a theory which uses ideas from different origins like ecology, feminism, culture etc. to improve human lives. Amartya Sen is a well-known human development theorist in that light. He stresses on what people can be through their own capabilities.
From the stance of Gallopin on sustainable development using the systems approach, it is only when all the types of sustainability are ensured would true sustainable development be achieved. It could be said that social sustainability and economic sustainability put together would only make development equitable, social and environmental sustainability would make development bearable, economic and environment sustainability would make development viable but in an instance where all three types are put together side by side would produce a sustained development.
2.4 African Traditional Religion
African traditional religion may be described as an indigenous religious forum of the African people that offers them some kind of identity. It involves their culture as a people in a society. Awolalu in ‘studies in comparative religion’ for instance observes that religion permeates every aspect of the life of the African and cannot be studied in isolation but hand in hand with the people who practice it. MacGaffey observes that the African traditional religion is used in two contemporary senses. It encompasses all African beliefs and practices that are considered religious. It is also used almost as a technical term for a particular reading such as beliefs and practices, one that shows that they constitute a systematic whole. African traditional religion is an integral foundation requirement for any African, especially in terms of the African root and experience of which the African is an irremovable part. However, the term has been used by some outsiders as derogatory purporting the African traditional religion to be “paganism”. Efforts are made by other Scholars who refuse this claim. Some scholars used the concept as a term that forms the identity of the African. The intention was to directly disagree in scholarly terms, how other Scholars had portrayed the religion. From the above explanation of the concept of African traditional religion, it can be observed that there are diverse religious resources, beliefs and practices all embedded in African indigenous Religion. As Mbiti puts it, the African is notoriously religious. Religion permeates into all the aspects of the African life so fully that it is not easy or possible for one to isolate from it. The general worldview of the African is widely religious in that every occurance in the cosmos is related to a higher being or a deity. Redfield in his description of worldview intimates;
“Of all that is connoted ‘culture’, worldview attends especially to the way a man, in particular society sees himself to all else. It is the properties of existence as distinguished from and related to the self”.
From Redfield’s explanation we can conclude that African worldview is significantly religious. The idea seem to agree with Mbiti’s view when he said “…Africans are notoriously religious”. Since African worldview is a religious one, it therefore means that religion and religious practices are the cornerstones to the African’s inspiration to living life. This is the reason that accounts for the entire culture to be permeated with various religious practices. As culture defines the behavioral traits and identity of people, African traditional religion does same to the African person although the religion is only an aspect of culture. African traditional religion is therefore the legacy and identity determinant for the true African hence its importance in the societal framework of Africa. From a more scholarly point of view, African people are the forebears of the religion and as such have passed it forward through generations to the current generation. This connotes the fact that the religion is directly shared by the African people themselves. Hofstede explains that African religion is the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the member of one group from another which is passed from generations to generations, it is changing all the time because each generation adds something of its own before passing it on. Hofstede makes a good assertion here because although religion or ways of adaptation exist throughout every society, they are manifested in different degrees and intensities however they do not exist in a vacuum because the society makes it reasonable
Having established this fact, culture is highly diversified in Ghana in accordance with the various ethnic groups (social group). It is impossible to separate one from his culture in the African Sense. Language, belief patterns, coronary skills, socialization processes etc. are various grounds on which diversity of culture in Ghana can be evidenced. The work of Awuah-Nyamekye and Mawere highlights the fact that Africa can achieve sustainable development through harnessing its cultural capital. The book “Harnessing Cultural Capital for Sustainable development: a pan-Africanist Perspective”, argues that if Africa would economically or socially grow, it needs to take decisive steps to realizing that the traditional religion is a cultural capital on the continent. What is being said is that Africa as a continent must endeavor to dip into the benefits of its cultural capital through its usage in order to ensure sustainable development. This is no different in relation to Ghana as a country because our indigenous religion is highly diversified with the various beliefs and practices such as festivals, therefore these differences can be used side by side so as to prioritize it to achieve development in general. As Mbiti again expatiates “I am because we are and because we are, therefore I am”, only goes to prove that our indigenous communal way of living can go a long way to help manage diversity in the Ghanaian culture. This way of managing how diversified our culture is would serve as a cultural capital which will auger well with the conscious efforts and ideals to breed sustainable development in Ghana.