Development as Discontinuous Societal Learning
Cyclic transformation of the global answer economy
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Prepared for United Nations University: GPID Project (Integrative Working Group B) Colombo, 25 July - 4 August 1982. An alternative version was distributed as Developing through Complexity using Policy Alternation (1982).
Forms of truth
Developing a new "meta-answer"
Decodification of analyses of capital accumulation
"New International Conceptual Order"
Accumulation and development
Development of accumulation
Domains of significance
Constraints on a meta-answer
Containing discontinuity through aesthetics
Third persective "container"
Discontinuity: Comprehension and internalisation
Pattern accumulation in a learning society
Implications for organisation: learning cycles
Implications for forms of presentation
Implications for information processing
Many "answers" have been produced in response to the current crisis. This paper is a response to the mind-set which is focused on answer production but fails to recognise the significance of the continuing emergence of alternative answers.
Integration initiatives at this time are themselves fragmented and usually mutually hostile in practice. There is considerable confusion about the nature of integration and it is difficult to imagine that integrative processes favoured by one group would be considered to be of much significance by another. This phenomenon cannot be disguised by simply opting for "networking" processes (1) or viewing it as a healthy feature of academic debate (2).
In this paper answers are examined with a view to understanding the characteristics of "the" answer required at this time. Answers are seen as products of the accumulation of significance which somehow has to be related more closely to human and social development It is argued that the difficulty lies in current restrictive approaches to development which do not internalise discontinuity and incompatibility such as to "contain" the development process, whether conceptually or organisationally. Reinterpreting development as learning (itself more broadly understood) is advocated as a way of achieving this without creating problems from premature closure. Such learning, it is argued, needs to be conceived as cyclic rather than linear. Current answers are viewed as "frozen" portions of such cycles through which they are effectively integrated. Effective learning is thus related to the accumulation of patterns of interlocking cycles for which facilitative computer software is required, if appropriate organisation is to emerge. Given the need for innovative (shock) learning at this time, use of a sexual metaphor is advocated as a rapid means of allowing people to reinterpret the dynamic complexity of the relationship between answers engendered.
The stimulus for this paper came from participation in passionate discussion amongst members of GPID Integration Working Group B (Athens, 1982) from which it seemed quite apparent that adaptive compromises between conflicting perspectives was not the answer and that other approaches were required.
The many initiatives in response to the global problematique are in most cases stimulated by a need to determine guidelines for action. The question to which an answer is sought at all levels is some variant of "what can be usefully done?"
The answers to this question have taken a range of well-known forms which include the following:
It is possible to take any one of such answers and show why it is inadequate as a response and why in fact it may merely aggravate or displace the problem. This too is increasingly recognised. And yet such answers continue to be formulated in desperation because of the need to respond to constituencies who want to believe that something effective is being done which will alleviate the problem and avert disaster. Protests that such answers have proven to be of limited effectiveness in the past, meet with responses of the tape:
The approach to providing a "GPID answer" must therefore be examined very carefully. Advocating a particular model or course of action is tantamount to advocating a particular type of pill. It raises the question of how this might conflict with treatment advocated by other "health centers" from which the "patient" is seeking advice. On the other hand, presenting a range of conflicting opinions by eminent specialists on possible alternative courses of treatment would be of little value to the patient, as would recommendations for remedies for an aspect of the problem (a "micro-answer"). And pointing to directions for "further research" would be simply abandoning the patient to his own resources for the meantime. In each case, it is not the treatment which is necessarily the main problem, but rather the framework within which the patient's relationship to the possible treatments is defined. The question is therefore whether this situation can be seen in a new light and whether a new kind of response can be made to the question "what can be usefully done?".
The exploration of the nature of an appropriate answer must take into account a most important phenomenon. That is that few groups, projects, or schools of thought have difficulty in discovering and promulgating an answer. The difficulty for society as a whole arises from the conflictual relationship between such answers, or their denial of each other as irrelevant, out-of-date, erroneous, or unworthy of consideration. In the words of Jacques Attali (Special adviser to Francois Mitterrand) concerning remedial ideas about the current crisis:
"Au-dela des problemes que pose toute selection d'idees voici l'essentiel: si tout ce savoir n'est encore aujourd'hui ni synthesise, ni assimile, s'il reste un lieu d'affrontement et d'anathemes, c'est parce qu'il charrie une image du monde d'une intolerable fixite; et que tout groupe social trouve interet a en occulter certain fragments pour tenterPerhaps the most important feature of this phenomenon is that every effort is necessarily made to ignore it, to deny its significance, but especially to avoid exploring non-trivial routes beyond the barrier it constitutes to social development. As Attali continues:
"Face a l'immensite de l'enjeu, faut-il alors cesser ce combat rudimentaire entre un vrai et un faux, mettre un terme a cette denonciation de la parole de l'autre? Et avoir le courage d'admettre que plusieurs discours peuvent etre simultanement vrais, c'est-a-dire peuvent valablement interpreter le monde?" (5, p.ll)Attali notes in passing that the multiplicity of truth is also encountered in physics (for example the wave vs particle theory of light). Clearly, as he proceeds to demonstrate, the problem lies in the way truth is to be understood. This argument requires further development in the light of Nicholas Rescher's work on cognitive systematisation (6) and David Bohm's on the implications of quantum and relativity theories (8) as they both relate to the nature of a coherent answer. He distinguishes three senses (5, pp. 11-14):
As Attali stresses, it is necessary to recognize that the reality of the world, whether in physical or psycho-social terms, is too complex to be encompassed by a single mode of discourse. The real cannot be separated from each necessarily partial view of it. It is in fact the multiplicity of views of the world, with all their differences and ambiguities, which renders the world tolerable to the majority, permitting each to develop his own understanding and to manage the violence done to it by others.
"Aujourdthui cette multiplicite est difficile a preserver. C'est que les deux premiers mondes de la science ont prone, l'un l'universalite, le second la force: ni dans l'un, ni dans l'autre il n'y a place pour la tolerance. Aussi, toute societe qui accepte de se representer le monde selon une seule de ces deux classes de discours s'oblige a l'uniformite. Wile ne peut laisser vivre le troisieme sens du veal, et le voile inevitablement contrainte au mensonge et a la dictature: tout ordre qui elimine l'esthetique comme langue et la seduction comme parole implique inevitablement la dictature." (5, pp.l5-16)Just as in physics the three approaches continue to have their domains of validity, so it should prove to be in the realm of psycho-social organization. The human being has three brains, the third being essential to mediate between the conflicting functions of the other two. The key question is then what kind of organization is implied by this third order of truth such that it could be of any significance for social development? Failure to take account of this question can only result in an answer of essentially limited value.
As pointed out at the beginning, society does not lack for answers to its current difficulties. The problem lies in the limited constituencies to which such answers appeal. It is useful to look at answers as products,or visible manifestations of on accumulation process. Answers tend to emerge from ordered accumulations of information. The amount of information effectively entering any such accumulation process is necessarily limited because of limitations on human processing capacity. This does not mean that the information arises from a limited geographical region. On the contrary it is a characteristic of present day answers that they result from interpretations of information (cf Edgar Morin (7)) selected from a globally distributed pool of information (c.g. data networks) which may well be physically accumulated at a particular spot (e.g. major libraries). It is the selection process which ensures the filtration. Each such answer is formulated in terms of a limited information base. For example, this is usually discipline-oriented in the case of academic answers, but ideological, action-preference, educational-label, "priority" and other filters may also be used, whether together, alone or in various combinations.
Once an answer has been formulated it acquires symbolic significance over and above the rational arguments which support it. It provides a rallying point for those searching for coherence in terms of the information base from which it emerged. Particular jobs may be tied to its promulgation or implementation. As such it reinforces the accumulation of further information in support of that answer. Competing answers, and contradictory information, are ignored, avoided or suppressed whenever possible. In the case of a well-developed answer, all "available" information of any "relevance" is perceived as supporting the position. The answer is then used as a vehicle for vigorous proselytising activity amongst those who subscribe, out of ignorance, to different answers. The aim is to ensure that such "infidels" are convereted to the answer, namely that consensus is achieved so that effective action can be undertaken. Everybody must be "accumulated" by the answer.
Over the past decade this approach has taken on a new aspect, due to some recognition of its obvious limitations. Instead of answers emphasising particular conceptual perspectives or content, many now focus on a particular process (e.g. community dialogue) or mode of action (e.g. networking, struggle) which permits or engenders a variety of local answers in concrete situations. The process advocated thus becomes the answer for which universal support is sought.
There are many parallels in this to the emergence and historical development of religions, each of which makes universal claims for its unique grasp of the answer to the social condition. The current (lack of) relationship between organised religions provides an excellent model for understanding the relationship between groups subscribing to any given answer. The model is enriched by its representation of the formation of schisms and priesthoods as well as by the process of religious disaffection, accompanied by the continual emergence of a plethora of sects, each with a well-developed answer.
If "an answer" is sought for the current global condition, and one is urgently needed, it would seem that great care is required to avoid falling into the trap of formulating answers whose nature forces them to compete in the unending, and essentially inhumane, "gladiatorial combats" of the "answer arena", in an effort to attract the temporary support of fickle "spectators" partly inspired by novelty. This does not mean looking for a semi-secret answer only meaningful to those initiated into a particular elite group (cf. world modellers) with its own limited information base. The answer must be of a different nature, but at the same time widely comprehensible. It should not attempt to accumulate glory by direct combat in the answer arena. It should rather redefine the significance of that arena and the answers which emerge temporarily victorious there.
In effect humanity already possesses a single, universal "meta-answer". That is the one which defines the present nature of the answer arena. It is the mind-set which perceives that arena as the place on which differences should be settled and effectively legitimates the processes which currently occur therein. This legitimation is obviously neither fully conscious nor explicit. It is derived from the instinctually felt "appropriateness" of similar "stamping ground" processes in the time of early man. These were shared with pack animals. This essentially instinctual meta-answer has, for specific and limited purposes, been partially modernised and given respectability. That is in the concept of the global "marketplace" for exchange of goods and services and the various "international assemblies" for exchange of views ("marketplaces for ideas"). But these are but a thin disguise for an arena which remains essentially primitive, in which most other differences are "settled", and as a result of which pack allegiances are redefined. Everybody participates actively or passively in these processes whereby movements of opinion arise and "world opinion" is formed and modified. They appeal to the "fickle instinctual spectator" in each of us. The challenge would seem to be to find a way of placing this current meta-answer in a new light, not so much by combatting it on its own terms, but rather by offering a more "seductive" (in Attali's sense) alternative. The difficulty is to avoid the temptation of defining this meta-answer as an answer and thus ending up in the current trap. But at the same time, if it is to be of any relevance, the meta-answer should do more than simply provide a context for the emergence of better answers.
In attempting to understand better how individuals and social groups accumulate the significance they associate with their particular answers, it is appropriate to look at critical analyses of the well-documented capital accumulation process. This should provide further insights and clues for the pursuit of the enquiry into the characteristics of a desirable meta-answer. The task is therefore to "decodify" such analyses, using them as a model to understand accumulation processes in general rather than as limited to economic processes in the narrow material sense.
Basic elements: It is first necessary to adapt some basic concepts in order to generalise the discussion and relate it specifically to the production of answers:
Such statements are not particularly illuminating. Unfortunately critical analysis of the defects of the accumulation process are seldom accompanied by any clear insight into the kinds of "unified" structure which could be created to counteract the acknowledged defects of "unified organisation". For example. Wallerstein notes:
Wallerstein does however recognize that: "I1 serait d'ailleurs aussi futile que dangereux d'extrapoler les formes politiques de l'ordre socialists mondial a partir de celles que nous connaissons actuellement..." (11, p. 53). Unfortunately, other schools of thought which do venture into explicit discussion of the "world government" structure required tend to generate just such simplistic extrapolations which take no account of the polarising processes noted above, or else do so in a totally impractical manner.(e) Paradox What is refreshing about the world-system perspective is the manner in which it avoids taking present structures for granted. Both Wallerstein and Addo (13, pp. 6-7; 14) criticise the conventional "developmentalist" framework within which current answers have been vainly sought for two decades. Wallerstein contrasts this with the world-system perspective: "What is crippling about a developmentalist perspective is the fact that...large-scale historical processes are not even discussable, if one uses the politico-cultural entity (the 'state') as the unit of analysis" (9, p. 352)
Equally crippling however, in attempting to understand the accumulation of significance, is the restriction of "world-system" type analyses to the limited range of material phenomena significant to a scholastic entity, namely "political economics". Other phenomena are then simply "not even discussable". The difficulty is understandable in that once the scope of the analysis is extended to non-material phenomena it is obliged to become self-reflexive (15) and include the production and distribution of world-system perspectives. Since it is an explicit characteristic of any such perspective to use political action in the "marketplace of ideas" in order to ensure its own dominance, it is difficult to see how its strategy can be distinguished from that of any other aspirant hegemony. The same is naturally true for any answer entering that marketplace or with an established place in it.
It is not solely at the level of material phenomena that an appropriate meta-answer can be usefully sought. Somehow the relationship between answers at all levels must be examined more creatively. It is a "New International Conceptual Order" that is required as a basis for any effective New International Economic Order. All the unsatisfactory material processes for which an NIEO-type response is sought are a rather pale reflection of equivalent conceptual processes which continually reinforce them and undermine remedial action in any context. Adapting Johan Galtung's comment on "structural violence", it could be said that: Amateurs use the organisation of material accumulation to dominate a situation, this can be done professionally by the organisation of non-material forms of accumulation. In fact the very vigour of the processes of radical analysis and conceptual innovation may well reinforce the material accumulation processes deplored in such analyses.
The subtleties of Addo's (13) assessment of the limitations of NIEO could also be generalised to cover those of the "answer economy". What is to be the status of answers formulated or favoured by minority groups or weakly organized large groups? There is an exploited "Third World" to be recognised in non-material terms, and current concern with cultural domination is a step in this direction. In discussing associative approaches to peace Paul Levy focuses on the central problem of claims for an exclusive hold on the truth, which any answer implies:
Edgar Morin (7) touches on similar points, as does Attali (5). But in all such cases the nature of an appropriate meta-answer remains unclear. It is quite insufficient to favour such out-dated, optimistic remedies as "cooperation", which is a vehicle for many forms of exploitation, when it is not essentially cosmetic and ineffective. Levy's religious metaphor is also limiting because the phenomenon is more general. The religious manifestation is merely a well-known form, now and in the past.
Each answer is effectively an attempt by a limited group (with limited sensibilities, and with a limited information base) to give better organized expression to "the good, the true, and the beautiful". The problem is in devising a suitable meta-form to interrelate answers which can only retain their essential quality within forms which are antagonistic to one another. Advocating tolerance in a pluralistic, laissez-faire context is a very superficial, impractical response to the current existential challenge.
There would seem to be a vital connection between human development, social development, need satisfaction, and accumulation. This can be represented by Diagram 1.
These relationships are more clearly seen in three dimensions as expressed by the tetrahedron in Diagram 2a. Note that this may be usefully skewed to indicate distorted relationships between the different processes, or limiting cases where one is identified with another.
The difficulty arising from this representation lies in the ambiguous status of accumulation as: a by-product of the process of need satisfaction, in that any effort to satisfy needs is always accompanied by an additional effort to accumulate the need satisfiers, possibly in anticipation of future needs a symbol or indicator of development achieved in the domain within which the satisfiers accumulated are considered significant a motivating or energising force for the development process due to the pattern of activities to which it gives rise in the effort to achieve need satisfaction a problem due to the distortions in the development process to which the consequences of that pattern of accumulation give rise in this sense accumulation may be viewed as a necessary waste product of the development process.
There is a further difficulty with accumulation in the context indicated by Diagram 1, namely that it "ties" or defines the processes of human development, social development and need satisfaction in terms of that which is being accumulated. As such the accumulation process restricts evolution of these other processes, limiting them to the level of whatever is being accumulated.
The restrictive nature of a particular form of accumulation also affects the kinds of answers sought to the problems arising from that accumulation process. Answers tend to focus on changing the pattern of accumulation or eliminating it altogether. The focus of attention is however limited to the level of accumulation at which the problems are currently most evident. Answers tend not to be sensitive to what is accumulated through promulgation and implementation of the favoured answer. It is also important to understand how a system can slip, or be displaced, into other modes of accumulation at an equivalent level.
It is assumed in the light of the variety of forms of accumulation and its ambiguous functions, that it is highly unlikely that this process can be eliminated. The question is then whether it can be transformed such that the focus of attention is not on a particular level. Whilst it may not be possible to eliminate accumulation (e.g. of X at level 1), it may be possible to give progressively greater emphasis to the accumulation of X2, X3, ... Xn. This would involve changing the significance of X, in relation to its context, especially by classifying the range of X's (at different levels) more creatively. This would allow Diagram 1 to be presented in a more elaborate form as Diagram 3.
From Diagram 3 it becomes apparent that it is useful to define two forms of "development". The first, development-I, characteristic of a Diagram 1 context, is primarily associated with "growth" and "spread", namely "quantitative" development. The second, development-II, is primarily associated with qualitative development or transformation. This is brought about by shifting the centre of gravity of the accumulation process. In this sense the challenge is to find ways to "develop accumulation".
It is convenient to designate as a "domain" that subset of the space of psycho-social communication within which questions of a particular type maintain their credibility for sufficient time to sustain a discourse. If Attali's lead is to be pursued, the nature of such domains needs to be clarified.
Attali argues that three theories open the way to an analysis of the production and circulation of meaning in an organisation (5, pp. 207-208). The theories converge and give the following. An organisation exists:
In order to link the argument more closely to human and social development, it is appropriate to express the organisation of such domains of significance in terms of the learning process (as in Diagram 4).
A domain of this type clearly remains fairly stable provided it can extract or "import" information (products) on which the learning process can feed. Knowledge, in the form of processed information, is then distributed out from the centre of the domain, or "exported" beyond its periphery, as part of the process maintaining the stability of the domain.
Before discussing the nature of this "learning" process in more detail, it is appropriate to note that it involves the accumulation of knowledge in one form or another. Domains based on the accumulation of knowledge, in its narrow sense, are not the only kinds of domain characteristic of society. Similar domains arise from other accumulation processes which each create a coherent environment for communication or exchange. At this stage it is therefore useful to make the argument more concrete by giving an extensive range of examples of accumulation which each tend to give rise to such domains (see Table 1).
The difficulty in taking the argument further lies in the manner in which conventional notions of method are undermined beyond this point. Basically acceptable methods are associated with particular domains or groups of domains. Attempts to apply a given method to "all" domains are only possible if the method is used to pre-define many domains as "irrelevant". Methods as answers, or as aspects of an answer, are thus subject to the limitations noted earlier.
Such a conclusion is particularly unfortunate given the enthusiasm and hopefulness which is associated with advances in general systems and other frontier topics. For example, the kinds of syntheses produced by Erich Jantsch (20, 21) bring together much that appears relevant to comprehension of the breakthrough required into a more adequate approach.
Such initiatives do not however escape from the basic difficulty, namely the fundamentally unsatisfactory nature of such investigations as perceived from other domains. It is easy to understand that the more successful any such synthesis appears or claims to be, the more it will be felt to be an imposition and a constraint on initiatives by others in other domains, existing or emergent. Success is a constraint on the development of others.
Essentially the missing factor which makes such approaches of limited relevance is that they are unable to internalise the nature of their relationship to opposing methods. They are unable to handle disagreement explicitly, except through value judgements of "irrelevance". Nor are the supporters able to give any creative form to the irrational processes which then hold sway if the confrontation continues. It is within this shadowy area or blindspot that many of the most deplorable initiatives of humanity are born. The domains oppose each other governed by the same primitive territorial mind-set as was associated with the Carrying tribes and baronies of the past.
In an earlier paper (22), this situation was explored in the light of Paul Feyerabend's treatise "Against Method" (2), and of the concept of the dialectic method (much favoured by those who criticise the accumulation of capital). To be consistent, Feyerabend cannot of course advocate any new method, other than arguing for none or for a plurality of conflicting methods. He does however make a plea for human-scale methods which are not so abstract and complex as to be beyond the comprehension of most. With regard to the value of dialectics, the paper concluded:
"Despite the relevance of dialectics to the problem of disagreement, as noted above, it does not appear to do more than explain the dynamics of the environment it constitutes. It explains the eventual future evolution beyond the stage of disagreement, but does not clarify the nature of any possible present order whilst the disagreement holds. It does not clarify the nature of the psycho-social forms to which disagreement can give rise in the present, it merely affirms that they are necessarily temporary. The question is whether there is any pattern in the present to the ancillary processes to which a dialectical confrontation give rise." (22, p. 17)
Because of its essentially transformative emphasis, dialectics offers little for an understanding of the relationship between co-present answers, other than to predict that through ongoing struggle an answer will emerge triumphant sometime in the future. "A" struggle is however explicitly and creatively internalised, but not "the" struggle with those in disagreement with the dialectical method itself. Unfortunately it is in the present, with a variety of mutually opposed answers that people have to live. And it is in the present that the future is born. It is there that answers compete for resources and support. It would seem important therefore to look at the "viable" patterns of disagreement between such domains of significance in the present. In particular it is important to move beyond the limitations of dialectics to a set of only two opposing theses. The earlier paper (22) took a step in this direction by producing an ordered series of 210 mutually-incompatible (opposed), transformation-oriented statements (22, Annex 2) adapted from a variety of existing multi-set integrated concept schemes (15). This was an effort to order varieties of incommensurability, which Feyerabend sees as vital to the process of development. This "order" or pattern is presumably an aspect of the "meta-answer" sought.
A related approach could be to produce a comprehensive "bibliography of answers", if only to demonstrate the scope of the challenge. The fact that this has never been done shows how "biased" the individual answers must necessarily be, and how limited their information bases. In introducing their own position, having briefly reviewed others, Samir Amin at al (12, p. 7), state:
"Nous rejetons toutes ces explications de la crise, meme si chacune d'elles n'est pas sans fondements empirique et, a la limite, pourrait constituer un element d'explication de la situation actuelle. Neanmoins, toutes ces appreciations nous paraissent jouer sur des variables aleatoires, qui ne relevent pas d'une explication synthetique et coherente de la crise, de ce qui l'a amenee, ou de ce sur quoi elle debouchera."Needless to say, each of the other positions would generate equivalent statements. A bibliography of answers, if appropriately organized and annotated would at least provide a kind of checklist of what kinds of answers tended to be "invisible" from a particular domain. This should also give further understanding of the nature of the meta-answer.
There seems to be a peculiar kind of inconsistency concerning attitudes towards answers. With the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the equal rights of individuals was affirmed as a fundamental proposition which governs much of the discourse in the world community. (Somehow society also accepts the fact that some people have more rights than others, due to their age, numbers, qualifications or other attribute.) When it comes to the answers individuals may favour, however, very few are perceived by others as having a right to exist. Although "stupid" and "intelligent" people, as well as children, all have equal rights, the answers favoured by such people do not. Every effort is made in intellectual debate to denigrate and suppress the "stupid answers" favoured by "stupid", "misguided" or "uneducated" people. But when the setting of the discussion is that of a community dialogue, or learning environments in general, an entirely different attitude is advocated. No answer is then denigrated. Each answer, however "stupid" by some standard, is recognized as a possible step or stage in a learning process. Such stages often have their historical parallels such that the past is rather effectively encoded into the range of views currently held in society.
This raises the question as to how far the world community is from recognizing that every answer has a function, especially insofar as it imposes constraints on the dominance of other answers, or constitutes a valuable developmental challenge to them. In the search for a meta-answer, it is impossible to avoid recognition of the fact that the number of people who will not be able to comprehend the emerging sophisticated insights into the world's condition is increasing at a very high rate. The "education gap" is increasing faster than any other developmental gap and cannot be treated as non-existent or on the verge of elimination. In this light, the percentage of people subscribing to answers that can be termed "wrong" is likely to be very high (if it is not necessarily already 100~). It is naive to expect that "wrong-thinking" can be eliminated from a developing, multi-generational world community (although such a view has a valid role to play). Somehow the required meta-answer must accord recognition to the psycho-social structures and processes corresponding both to different information bases and to different interpretations of them. The assumption that any view (including this one) is unquestionably "right" is a significant constraint on the development process (although as such it too has a role to play). In fact any exchange of information is part of a ceaseless effort to counteract "wrong thinking". It is difficult to imagine that information exchange would cease in an ideal society.
To avoid creating the impression that this amounts to pluralist relativism, it is necessary to clarify some constraints which counteract such a condition before taking the argument a step further. Ranges of possible constraints have been explored in an earlier paper (22). At this point it is appropriate to list the following:
In effect such sets attempt to clarify the kinds of significance domain perceptible under different conditions of observation whilst at the same time challenging the nature of the formulation and of the observation process. In a sense the ordered sets establish the necessity of the fragmentation of answers into domains.
In moving beyond pluralistic relativism, what is required is some appropriate pattern whereby answer domains can be interrelated. The number-pattern of sets outlined in the previous section is one approach to this.
Another approach is to develop a suitable classification scheme for answer domains which goes beyond the limitation of conventional matrix-type schemes (24, pp. 291-294) and the kinds of criticism to which classification is subject (25, 26). The feasibility of this has been explored in earlier papers (24, 27) and is the basis for an ongoing experiment in the classification of the 15,000 international organisations listed in the Yearbook of International Organizations (28). The intention is to highlight patterns of integrative relationships between international activities and problems in order to provide more coherent overviews of the world community of organisations in all its detailed variety.
In the terms of anthropologist Gregory Bateson (29, pp. 8-11), what is sought is an approach beyond pluralism to the "pattern that connects". Erich Jantsch points out however that: "The cultural pluralism...which is about to replace the era of uniform, committing guiding images, may be interpreted as a suspension of historical time....More surprising to many comes the conceptual pluralism of modern science. The theory of relativity and quantum mechanics "function" inside domains of observations, but all attempts to mould them into a unified paradigm have failed so far." (21, p. 303)
But he then continues:
"The pluralism of more recent concepts, especially in the physics of subnuclear particles, makes some physicists already speak of an "ecology of models" which cannot be fused to a unified model, not because we lack the necessary knowledge, but as a matter of principle." (21, p. 303)The properties of the required meta-answer lie in the nature of such an "ecology" which does have a special form of organisation. Jantsch then makes the point: "Let us remember that the evolution of dissipative structures, too, can be described only by simultaneously employing two complementary models, a macroscopic-deterministic and a microscopic-stochastic one. And the co-evolution of macro- and microcosmos may only be grasped in the synopsis of complementary approaches. As a matter of principle, the autopoietic levels in a multilevel dynamic reality which have become separated by symmetry breaks cannot be united in a super-model, but only by way of describing the web of relations between them." (21, p. 303)
He then cites Ilya Prigogine who investigated such dissipative structures:
"The world is far too rich to be expressed in a single language....Music does not exhaust itself in a sequence of styles. Equally, the essential aspects of our experience can never be condensed into a single description. We have to use many descriptions which are irreducible to each other, but which are connected by precise rules of translation (technically called 'transformation'). Scientific work consists of selective exploration and not of the discovery of a given reality. It consists of the choice of questions which have to be posed." (21, p. 303)The challenge is to discover the pattern of such "transformations" and to avoid the traps of current satisfaction with only providing "micro-answers" to "micro-questions". Such answers are of course essential, but they are not enough at this time. There does seem to be a special existential challenge to the relationship between the "pattern that connects" and acceptance of action in terms of a specific micro-answer. This challenge is associated with the "sacrifice" of generality of perspective in order to achieve concrete relevance and comprehensibility. Ironically the nature of this existential sacrifice has been explored in analyses of Rig Vedic philosophy as partly encoded in music and dance (30, 31). These analyses, which reflect Prigogine's above remarks on music, are explicitly linked to investigations of the significance of quantum theory for new understanding of changing classificatory frameworks (32, 33; see also 7) and the network of links between such frameworks conceived as "languages". The relationship of these concerns to "integration" has been explored in an earlier paper (34).
Another approach which provides valuable insights in delineating a meta-answer is that of Christopher Alexander on design and planning processes. Of special significance is his stress on the democratisation of any design process, especially in a complex institutional setting. He clarifies the process of elaborating an open-ended "pattern language" (35) consisting at the moment of some 250 sub-patterns. These can be combined in different ways by users to form their own unique languages. Clearly a similar approach could be used to elaborate a set of psycho-social patterns with which users could elaborate languages to design alternative institutions, communities and lifestyles.
A major strength of Alexander's pattern language is that it is a deliberate attempt to provide a means of giving form to that core quality which makes life meaningful and a delight to live. He very carefully shows how this must necessarily be "defined" as a "quality without a name" (36). It is only partially expressed through each of the words bandied about in social policy-making discussions. (This recalls the preoccupations of Jantsch and Prigogine noted above.) In his view the quality can only be adequately captured or "contained" by use of a pattern language. There is obviously a case for applying this approach to contain the subtleties of human and social development. By seeking to give form to this core quality through a user-oriented language, Alexander effectively joins Attali (5), whose position was introduced earlier. Attali however introduces a vital additional element through his stress on the management of contradictions and violence. His three forms of truth correspond to three ways of ordering society: "La premiere representation (capitalists) decrit l'economie comme une mecanique. Son objet est l 'etude de la regulation....Une deuxieme representation (marxiste) regroups les discours qui decrivent la societe comme One production du travail des hommes" (5, p. 17)
The second corresponds to the argument here generalising accumulation to non-material features of the "discours". Although Attali argues that Wallerstein's (9, 10, 11) analysis is itself of more general significance than for the marxist paradigm within which he writes: "...il ouvre, au-dela de la regulation et de la production, a ['analyse la plus totale du processus economique, celle de ['organisation ouverte sur le monde nature!. l'ecosYsteme et la biosphere." (5, p. 154)
With respect to his third order, Attali then continues:
"Mais le monde ne se resume ni a l'echange ni a la production, le sens ne se reduit ni au prix ni a la valeur des objets. Le monde engendre ses propres structures ai l leurs que dans la seule production materiel le. I1 faut aussi penser le monde comme organisation du sees. Et la crise comme rupture du sens dans ['organisation, qui nait des divergences dans ltordre, des parasites de la communication, bruits du marche, voleurs de valeur, bruits du monde. L'ordre est alors gestion de la violence, la crise retour de la violence, selon une succession que l'histoire seule nous designe." (5, p. 18)The capitalist and marxist world orders are thus, according to Attali, each incapable of avoiding aspects of the organizational problem:
"Toute politique recommendee par le premier Monde aggrave les problemes que devoile le second, et reciproquement. L'un et l'autre n'en vent pas moins confrontes a une meme double difficulte. D'une part, la circulation du sens (le prix ou le travail) peut etre parasitee (par la monnaie ou la classe capitaliste). D'autre part, ce parasitage a surtout lieu quand il s'agit d'arbitrer entre ce qui doit servir a ameliorer les moyens de produire et ce qui doit servir a ameliorer les moyens de consommer." (5, p. 154)As indicated earlier, Attali's argument converges on the importance of a new understanding of language as a way of containing and managing the violence inherent in the crisis of the development process:
"Telle est la nouvelle metaphore majeure: la crise commence avec les dechirures, avec la remise en cause d'une forme par l'auteur, ou par d'autres. Wile se termine avec l'achevement de la reecriture. Wile est done, dans le temps, l'etat le plus probable, et l'apres-crise la forme passagere, le moment instable ou s'interrompt la remise en cause du monde.His main hypothesis regarding the third order is that language structures order and that people and objects are only valued in terms of their capacity to participate in the circulation of messages which give a meaning to social organizations. But the only meaning for any group lies in its survival, which is only threatened by violence. All its efforts are directed via language to avoid or eliminate such violence. (5, p. 60):
"I1 y a ordre tent qu'une langue, comprise par les membres du groupe, peut conjurer la menace de violence. Le non-sens, ou la crise, commencent quand un parasite vient rompre la communication pacificatrice. Or, une langue n'est reellement efficace contre la violence que par son ambiguite: aussi n'existe-t-il d'ordre que dans la diversite et la multiplicite. Telle est la preuve absolue de la naivete des deux premiers Mondes: la regulation et la production se veulent, en effet, deux facons de donner sens a ce qui est. mais des sens non ambigus, done incomplete. Dans l'un, comme dans l'autre, en effet, l'ordre est communication, et la crise rupture du sees, provoquee par un parasite qui interrompt la conversation, fausse le sens des mots de la langue." (5, p. 160)For Attali, the reality of the languages which effectively structure societies is much more complex than that of the first two orders. The route forward then lies through an "aesthetic" approach to the world: Alors, une nouvelle forme peut agencer ['infinite des creations de l'homme par l'homme, ['infinite des langues encore a inventer. Alors, la derision du temps donne a l'action une nouvelle force: il ne s'agit plus, pour changer le monde, de le dominer, ni de le raisonner, mais de le seduire." (5, p. 259)
Everything produced then enters a process which, by circulation and the meaning given to what is produced, prevents the proliferation of violence, transforming the production of violence into the production of meaning (5, p. 168). This would give rise to a "non-violent polyorder" in which the struggle "ne passe plus ni par la force, ni par la raison, masques de la violence, mais par la seduction des formes, la subversion des objets" (5, p. 297).
This view emerges from Attali's carefully documented study of the significance of the exchange process as the "circulation of the life" of a community (5, p. 179):
"Produire des objets, c'est produire de la vie, qui doit, tout de suite, etre nominee, cataloguee, differenciee. Consommer un objet, c'est en recevoir les forces, c'est en assimiler la violence contenue et, en meme temps, exercer sa propre violence en tuant l'objet en lutte - pour reussir une ascension sociale. Echanger des objets, c'est faire circuler de la violence potentielle et egaliser les hommes, supprimer des differences: ce qui est formidablement dangereux.Objects thus always remain the magical property of the producer, a living incarnation of his force and reality. Exchanging them suppresses this difference recreating violence. The exchange is thus never equal, or else there would be no interest in the exchange. The idea of balance or equivalence in exchange, as it is accepted in the first two worlds, effectively assumes the death of objects (S. p. 179). Any such similarity creates violence which difference averts and directs towards the exterior, polarized onto a suitable scapegoat (5, p. 16).
Although the first two "worlds" with their corresponding "orders" and "networks" (production of offer, production of demand), create the third (based on the exchange process), the difficulty is that such processes are not "containable" within any particular organization which could be designed by either of the first two orders in terms of their forms of "truth":
"...les organisations n'ont ni fonctionnement universe! ni utilise conflictuelle. D'une part, chacune a sa langue specifique, malgre les universaux qu'elle contient. D'autre part, aucun ordre n'est reductible a son utilise pour un groupe." (5, p. 187)Attali therefore advocates the elaboration of a theory (in effect a 'meta-answer"), in terms of his third form of truth, to give a meaning to forms and discontinuities. He sees this as:
"un pari sur l'existence d'une adequation entre la structure d'un esprit humain et celle du monde. Elle n'est, des lors, vrai que si elle lui semble belle, si elle lui procure une jubilation interieure par la perception de la potentialite infinie de toute oeuvre humaine. Elle est vraie comme l'est une oeuvre d'art, dont elle utilise d'ailleurs la metaphore: un Ordre est comme une ecriture et une crise comme une dechirure." (5, pp. 187-188)It is interesting that Attali has a major post in the current French government, because it is not clear how it might be possible to develop this position in practice. The same problem of determing what forms of organization would be appropriate for the future is left unresolved by the tantalizing images of Alvin Toffler's "Third Wave" (37). As reviewed in an earlier paper (22), Feyerabend (2), as a methodological anarchist, also finds it unnecessary to envisage any new organizational form appropriate to the methodological anarchism he considers necessary to scientific advance. But such processes are unlikely to be appropriately engendered unless they are matched by complementary structures to "contain" them.
Revolutionary patterns of alternation Prigogine, Jantsch, Attali and, in effect, Feyerabend conclude that it is necessarily impossible, if not anti-developmental, to define an organized, rational structure to bridge across discontinuity. The only "solution" being to adapt more spontaneously or aesthetically to the processes in relation to discontinuity (The relationship between the argument here and Prigogine's concept of "order through fluctuation" and "dissipative structures" (38, 39) needs to be further developed. The relationship to Jantsch's work (21) is also underdeveloped.). In effect what is being said is that, even in mathematical terms, it is impossible to discover a space whose form (a "meta-answer") validates every argument ("answer"). In Bateson's terms: "The question is onto what surface shall a theory of aesthetics be mapped....a map of the region where angels fear to tread" (29, pp. 210-214). But even if such a form could be discovered, it would presumably be too abstract to be of any value in society.
The difficulty is one of handling essentially incompatible answers which cannot co-exist passively (e.g. "science" and "religion"; "industry" and "environment"). In order to be hospitable to the discontinuities they represent, it would be necessary to somehow encompass or "contain" the non-rational character of the disagreement between them (22). This implies a distinctly non-linear relationship between them. The most accessible indication of the possible nature of such a relationship is that between right- and left-hemisphere modes of thinking (40), and the essentialdifficulty of integrating the perceptions to which they give rise. The functional "solution" in daily life is an oscillation between the two modes according to the task to be performed. Integration, namely the meta-answer, is here represented bY the Pattern of oscillation between the distinct modes.
The question is whether this is relevant to the wide range of answer domains and the modes of action/perception they represent. In an earlier paper (34), it was argued that this was at least a fruitful area of exploration. In another (27), it was used as a basis for an experimental ordering of the range of preoccupations of international organisations in a "chequerboard" matrix classification scheme based on right and left-hemisphere modes. Such a classification scheme (criticised below) is a minimal pattern of interrelationship (namely a "container") between answer domains, reflecting the discontinuities between them. This suggests, as stated there, that the present pursuit of "alternative models" may be proceeding in an unfruitful direction:
The fact that social conditions are very much subject to cycles (e.g. Kondratieff), and that policy "breakthroughs" (such as centralisation or decentralisation) are periodically rediscovered with enthusiasm, suggests that alternation should be explored as a cyclic phenomenon. In fact, as any physical model will illustrate, a pattern of oscillation is not stable unless it is accompanied by some form of revolution of which the observed alternation is often a consequence (e.g. night/day on the revolving Earth; seasons on the Earth revolving around the Sun). Control of the "revolutionary process" is absolutely basic to the generation and use of electrical and other forms of energy (e.g. generators and motors).
Cyclic processes are also characteristic of many biological phenomena (e.g. respiration, reproduction, metabolic cycles). They are also evident in many socio-cultural phenomena (41), not to mention various symbolic and mythological cycles. But in the non-physical cases, humanity has gained little effective control of the revolutionary process. In fact the significance of social "revolution" is limited to the superficialities of discontinuity which are thus reinforced.
It has proved difficult to give operational content of any value to the non-disruptive dimensions of the "permanent revolution" advocated by marxists. This may well be due to the fact that it does not involve cyclic alternation between incompatible modes, because of the emphasis on an essentially linear series of dialectically superseded modes. Such linearity is a Western cultural concept of change which is not married to the valuable Eastern insight into change as recurrence. In metaphorical terms the marxist stress is on the struggle of abandoning "winter now" for "spring tomorrow" without any additional recognition of the revolutionary process whereby a new "winter" (with similar characteristics) will necessarily be encountered (or brought about) or of the importance of the ecological role of "winter" in general. If there is any significance to the importance of the revolution-based design of generators for the industrial revolution, there should be some insights of relevance to the current problem of designing a meta-answer to the present socio-cultural condition. In fact, in Attali's terms (5), such physical designs may well have prefigured the socio-cultural design problem of the present.
Designs appropriate to Attali's "third world" or Toffler's "third wave" could seemingly only emerge following recognition of the validity of a "third perspective". Integrated comprehension of the revolutionary cycle is only possible through a conceptual relationship to the axis that stabilises perception of the cyclic processes with reference to it. Without this third perspective, the revolutionary cycle can only be confusedly comprehended as a linear process in one or two dimensions. It is in terms of this third dimension that the required meta-answer designs may well be possible.
Humanity does not function in terms of one mode alone, just as it is difficult to hop (or limp) forward on one foot - although this may well be what history will see as characteristics of this period. The "struggle" between two feet is avoided by a third "walking" perspective. Switching metaphors, it is as though the vehicle conveying humanity forward had the spokesmen of antagonistic groups struggling on the driver's seat for control of the steering wheel.
Those closest to the left-hand window (and the abyss on that side) shout "turn right", and those on the right-hand side (seeing the abyss there) shout "turn left". Luckily the vehicle has so far remained on the road because their over-corrections counter-balance each other. A more balanced third perspective is required to allow the vehicle to follow a road with both left and right-hand curves and abysses on either side (not to mention on-coming traffic).
The argument can be taken a step further. A cycle as discussed above is a very abstract concept. It may constitute good descriptive "geometry", but it does not contain the additional features whereby the abstract geometry is geared or anchored into the complexities of reality. Additional design constraints are required to relate such a cycle to its environment and prevent it spinning out of control. This problem, and its significance, has been extensively studied by Buckminster Fuller (42). He makes the point:
"Not until we have three noncommonly polarised, great-circle bands providing omnitriangulation as in a spherical octahedron, do we have the great circles acting structurally to self-interstabilize their respective spherical positionings by finitely intertriangulating fixed points less than 180 degrees apart....The more minutely the sphere is subtriangulated by great circles, the lesser the local structural-energy requirements [cf Bateson: "A self-healing tautology, which is also a sphere, a multidimensional sphere" (12, p. 207)] and the greater the effectiveness of the mutual-interpositioning integrity. This spontaneous structural self-stabilizing always and only employs the chords of the shortest great-circle arc distances and their respective spherical finiteness tensional integrity." (42, I, 706.20 and 706.22)Assuming the circular representation of cycles, he is in effect saying that it takes at least three interweaving cycles before there is interaction (entrainment?) of a type to stabilize the abstract processes within a minimal non-abstract form which their interlocking brings about, in this case a sphere [cf Attali: "L'un et l'autre de ces deux mondes designent done la hausse des couts de ['organisation comme la cause de la crise" (12, p. 266)]. With less than three, the form can exist only as a transient phenomenon, if at all. In his terms, three cycles is the condition for a minimal system. Returning to the possibility of insights from generator design, this suggests the possible importance of polyphase revolutionary cycles (in an engineering sense) as a necessary basis for an adequate meta-answer.
It appears from Fuller's work that cycles interlock with greatest facility (i.e. minimum energy condition) in such a way as to form configurations of modes in relatively simple geometrical patterns (e.g. spherical tetrahedron, octahedron, etc) according to the number of cycles. The modes correspond to answer domains effectively stabilized into sets by standing wave interference effects. The portions of cycles linking such modes are then the transformation pathways between them which favour information transfer and learning. The pattern as a whole can also be considered as a transformation of the two-dimensional matrix representation of answer domains (discussed earlier) into a "wrap-around" three-dimensional "container". The observer, in terms of the "third perspective", is effectively given a location at the spherical centre in contrast to his undefined status in relation to the matrix. The significance of this transformation has been discussed in earlier papers (24, 43, 45).
Fortunately as portrayed this representation is essentially sterile. Even though it encompasses incompatibles it does so within a framework which is a typical example of left-hemisphere thinking. Only by re-introducing right-hemisphere thinking is it possible to open the way to anything of transformative significance. In effect the rational objectivity of a presentation must be challenged (and, in Attali's terms, "seduced") by irrational discontinuity and subjectivity. Strangely it would seem that the scholastic preoccupation with avoiding "non sequiturs" is precisely what renders academic conclusions non-transformative, at least in any revolutionary sense. They do not internalise discontinuity but effectively project it onto their non-relationship with other answer domains.
The challenge of internalising non-sequiturs is one of the exciting aspects of the frontiers of fundamental physics (7, 32, 33). Many observers have remarked the relationship to Eastern concepts of consciousness, especially Zen (47, 48, 49). Others note that the challenge of the times calls for a change of consciousness, but are unable to design any framework to focus the approach to this. As a response to this dilemma, an earlier paper (27) experimented with presenting the steps of an argument in terms of left- and right-hemisphere modes alternately. This procedure was based on the assumption that a transformative argument cannot be wholly based on one mode or the other, but each must provide clues (negative and positive feedback) for the next step of the other (as implied above by the "walking" metaphor).
Bateson has argued strongly for a somewhat related approach:
"...it is necessary to expand on the relationship between form and process, treating the notion of form as an analogue of what I have been calling tautology and process as the analogue of the aggregate of phenomena to be explained. As form is to process, so tautology is to description....What is important...is to note that my procedures of inquiry were punctuated by an alternation between classification and the description of process....I shall argue that this paradigm...recurs again and again wherever mental process...predominates in the organisation of phenomena. In other words, when we take the notion of logical typing out of the field of abstract logic and start to map real biological events onto the hierarchies of this paradigm, we shall immediately encounter the fact that in the world of mental and biological systems, the hierarchy is not only a list of classes. classes of classes. and classes of classes of classes, but has also become a zigzag ladder of dialectic between form and process" (29, p. 190, 193, 194)The earlier paper (12) alternated between presentations of right-hemisphere (RH) arguments considered academically acceptable to Jungian psychologists and left-hemisphere (LH) arguments concerning structure. The RH material forms part of the symbolic heritage of many cultures (50). The concern of Jungians is to clarify its contemporary significance and thus counteract the "cerebral imperialism" and "dominance" (51, p. 255) of the LH over the RH and the projections onto society to which that gives rise. They see this dominance pattern as the subjective origin of the present social crisis. The therapeutic objective is the achievement of a greater integration between the LH and the RH through a transcendent "union of opposites", namely a transcendent function (or the "meta-answer" seen in a new light):
"One tendency seems to be the regulating principle of the other; both are bound together in a compensatory relationship...aesthetic formulation needs understanding of the meaning, and understanding needs aesthetic formulation. The two supplement each other to form the transcendent function" (51, p. 272)In the LH approach, the structural problems of containing and transforming attention were explored using as a metaphor the current research on the containment of plasma (whose fluidity corresponds closely to that of attention) in fusion research. This requires a special configuration, yet to be discovered, before energy can be generated at a sustainable yield. It would seem that the patterns of thought and structure required for this fusion breakthrough offer insight for a corresponding breakthrough in human and social development (and are a technological prefiguration of it, in Attali's terms (52)).
Whilst the approach outlined is worth exploring, once again it is necessary to challenge the essential inadequacy of the previous step. It is not sufficient at this time to elaborate "descriptions" and "theories". Whatever their RH component, they are essentially LH in nature, confronting the observer in a manner which deactivates and neutralises him. If there is to be effective "seduction", something more stimulating and participative is required. The basic weakness of the above approach is that it fails to clarify or internalise the obvious differences in peoples ability to comprehend and derive significance from a meta-answer. In this sense a meta-answer is not definable and subject to enclosure, but is elusive in that it is understood and defined to different degrees by different people. To the extent that there is no foreseeable limit on future increases and refinements in understanding, the definition is in fact open-ended in terms of time.
The problem of the social consequences for communication, of partial comprehension by groups of complex psycho-social structures, has been elegantly explored by Ron Atkin (53, 54, 55). The degree or variety of comprehension has a major level-structuring effect which affects all transformative communication, whether positively or negatively. Of special significance for human and social development are the "q-holes" resulting from the core of non-comprehension which determines the cycles of information flow within an answer domain. This has been discussed in an earlier paper (56). Atkin's structured communication perspective needs to be related to that of comprehending at different levels the interlocking cycles emerging from Fuller's perspective (discussed above).
In such a social condition of "structured fluidity", observers can no longer usefully assume that they are standing on solid ground around which events flow (for their intellectual delectation). Such an assumption merely temporarily defines the observer (or an aspect of his personality) as a rigid element in society, within which he is not currently undergoing a process of developmental transformation. In this sense observers are, momentarily, non-participants in the process of human and social development. Furthermore observation is only one step in the learning process, to the extent that it is useful to consider that observers, as observers, are effectively non-learners.
It would seem that in a fluid environment, structured by degrees and kinds of comprehension, that a vital step forward is to switch from interpreting actions in terms of their significance for development to their significance as learning. It is strange that "development" is conventionally a process applied to, or undergone by "others" -- never by the "developers", despite their well-documented limitations. It is acknowledged that good teachers succeed partly because their attitude is one of learning with, and from, the student - to the point that "facilitator" is more appropriate than "teacher". The advocated change can then be- represented by:
A recent Club of Rome report extends this notion to "humanity":
"Our continued survival is testimony that humanity indeed learns... So we have to reconsider what is meant by the statement "humanity learns". Does the statement no imply - indeed demand - that learning occur at the right time and on a scale sufficiently large not only to avoid disasters but also to conclude a century, so much traumatised by successive follies, with a gain in peace, dignity, and happiness?" (60, p. 118)The report concludes however that:
"The conventional, often unarticulated, conception of how societies learn...(is reduced to one of)...adjusting to and consuming the discoveries and knowledge produced in canters of expertise. The unavoidable consequence of this view of societal learning is elitism, technocracy, and paternalism. What is omitted is the fact meaning and values - decisive for learning - are products of society at large, not of specialised centers...(that)...tend to reproduce themselves according to their own internal logic. This autonomous and self-reproducing development accounts in large part for the fact that so much of societal learning is maintenance learning." (60, pp. 80-81)The basic distinction made in the report between the necessities of maintenance (adaptive) learning and innovative (shock) learning can be related to the alternation process discussed above "Innovative societal learning seeks to restore active learning to those in society conventionally confined to a passive role of assimilation" (5, p. 8). But whilst much research has been done on individual learning processes, hardly any is done on organisational or group or societal learning (60, p. 137).
The key question then becomes: what is the individual or collective learning component of any activity? A major weakness of conventional concepts of development is that, outside the economic answer domain, there is no positive coherent image of what is being achieved by human and social development processes. In a learning society, however, it is "learning" which is being accumulated, where this can best be partially defined in terms of accumulation of recognised patterns. Discovery of the manner in which newly comprehended patterns interlock and constrain each other most economically, in terms of a meta-pattern, is the organising constraint upon the accumulation process.
Given the current passive, academically inferior status of "learning" (as part of the professor-student, trainer-trainee dominance mind-set), it should be apparent that a complementary active (learning through doing), conflictual (learning through opposing) dimension is inherent in what is advocated here. Learning is effectively being "defined" by the accumulation process in the zigzag ladder of dialectical alternation between perceptions of form and process (*), which Bateson considers "basic to the way in which the world of adaptive action is put together." (29, p. 201). [These are in fact aspects of the multi-face/ted definitions of left- and right-hemisphere thinking discussed earlier. (**) As is implied by the Club of Rome report "No Limits to Learning" (60) in terms of the trivial sense that there is some new permutation of possibilities reported every day (e.g. in the media). This aspect of the report was criticised in an earlier paper (58).]
"I shall further suggest that the very nature of perception follows this paradigm; that learning is to be modeled on the same sort of zigzag paradigm; that in the social world, the relation between love and marriage or education and status necessarily follow a similar paradigm; that in evolution, the relation between somatic and phylogenetic change and the relation between the random and the selected have this zigzag form. I shall suggest that similar relations obtain at a more abstract level between speciation and variation, between continuity and discontinuity and between number and quantity." (29, p. 195)Learning of this kind can only ever be partially contained within an organisation or a paradigm, because of its essentially dichotomous nature. As Bateson says:
"This view makes the process of learning...necessarily discontinuous....A world of sense, organisation, and communication is not conceivable without discontinuity, without threshold. If sense organs can receive news only of difference, and if neurons either fire or do not fire, then threshold becomes necessarily a feature of how the living and mental world is put together." (29, p. 202)Learning is an ordered dynamic response to discontinuity and conflict between institutions and answer domains - a conflict which it engenders and by which it is engendered, for learning to continue. But learning is not an unconstrained process without limits (**), except in a purely gross sense. Due to the progressive interlocking of accumulated patterns into nested meta-patterns, as a solution to human processing capacity limitations (43), there is a form of directed, convergence onto a progressively clarified ultimate meta-pattern, towards which learning tends asymptotically, in that final (en)closure is never achieved (except possibly as an essentially transient, private, transcendental experience). Bateson describes this ultimate pattern as:
"The pattern which connects (all living creatures) is a metapattern. It is a pattern of patterns. It is that metapattern which defines the vast generalisation that, indeed, it is patterns which connect."(29, p. 11)Final enclosure evanesces in the paradoxical world of self-reference explored in a left-hemisphere mode by D Hofstadter (15). Jantsch points out however that in life the issue is not control but dynamic connectedness. For him "Learning may generally be described as the co-evolution of systems which accumulate experience." (21, p. 196). He cites Christine von Weizaecker:
"...co-evolving systems...play between adaptation and non-adaptation. Total adaptation and total non-adaptation are both lethal. In ecology, a niche fits the species sufficiently, without defining it; the species, in turn, fit the niche sufficiently, without defining it. What else is fitting, but not defining each other, than an emancipated relation." (76)
The approach to learning discussed is too basic for it to be possible to derive much of significance that can be applied directly to organisations. The problem lies in the Western bias discussed earlier in favour of a learning "zigzag" in an essential linear direction. If the zigzag is considered as occuring around a learning cycle however, marrying in the Eastern bias towards recurrence, this cycle can then be subdivided into sufficiently detailed elements to be of significance for organisational operations. Jantsch discusses cyclical organisation in terms of the system logic of dissipative self-organization:
The question then becomes how many discontinuous phases (Jantsch's "participants") it is useful to distinguish in the cycle. Too few and the incompatibilities between them are too fundamental, too many and the distinctions between them are too subtle. The operational significance of this conceptual constraint has been explored in earlier papers from which it is apparent that significance is lost if more than about 7 categories are used (43), unless the total breaks down into sub-sets based on simple (e.g. 2, 3, 5) factors (23).
A novel approach to the learning cycle in relation to action has been taken by Arthur Young (61) as a consequence of his experience as the inventor of the Bell helicopter (whose three-dimensional movement is notoriously difficult to control - as with the development process). He establishes the vital learning-action link through a new interpretation of the operational significance of the set of 12 "measure formulae" through which material phenomena are observed, acted upon and controlled in physics and engineering. Of special interest for the development theme is the significance he attaches to the sequence of movement around the cycle: one direction involving essentially unremembered experience-without-learning, the other involving conscious learning-action. As briefly presented here (see Table 2 and Diagram 5), his approach has been adapted and modified to further emphasise the action-learning significance.
Inspection of this example clarifies how portions of such a cycle are vulnerable to institutionalization (as specialised, independent answer-domains, or habitual responses) to the extent that there is no learning bridge across the discontinuities. The problem of (social) integration is thus intimately related to the functioning of (collective) learning cycles [A more complex 64-phase learning cycle is that in the Chinese "Book of Changes" which was discussed in an earlier paper (34). A simpler one is the 3-phase dialectical process. Tentative descriptions of cycles involving from 1 to 20 phases are given in an earlier paper (22, Appendix 2).].
It seems probable that needs (and their satisfiers) also relate to different portions of such cycles, as would ranges of incompatible development goals or alternative visions of desirable futures. In each case the point to be emphasised is that such seemingly incompatible fragments are "frozen" portions of a cycle with which individuals or groups identify. None are of lasting significance in their own right, especially insofar as they hinder the collective learning process which must take place through them. The facilitative and obstructive factors to further learning (i.e. successful "struggle" in marxist terms) at each stage in the cycle are probably linked to patterns of complementarily and incompatibility between the stages according to their membership of (2, 3, or 4-member) sub-sets in the cycle (e.g. preceding and succeeding stages in the cycle are in conflictual relationship since they would correspond to thinking of the opposite hemisphere). Answers given from any part of a cycle are of course "questionable" as perceived from other parts of the cycle.
As noted earlier, a single cycle is not a sufficiently concrete representation of the complexity to be encompassed by an adequate meta-answer. Where several cycles interlock to form a sphere, the nodes are effectively combinations of cyclic phases. The relationships of challenge and harmony between such nodes have been discussed in earlier papers (62, 63, 64) concerning Fuller's tensegrity concept (42). It is this which clarifies the potential and vulnerability of networking (1, 65) as an essentially right hemisphere mode of organisation which needs to be more "seductively" married to the much-criticized left-hemisphere, hierarchical mode.
The acid test of learning cycles however, is whether they can encompass the discontinuities between the major political tendencies by which the world community is seemingly divided. Any such relationship posited must necessarily be highly controversial, but the controversy should be patterned according to the aspects of the learning challenges involved. As an exercise (in oversimplification) therefore, the 12-phase cycle has been collapsed to a 4-phase cycle, with portions of which the major political answer domains have been tentatively identified (see Diagram 6). Note that collapsing any cycle to this degree overloads each phase with significance so that any label effectively becomes a caricature of the multi-face/ted reality associated with that phase.
Positions on each axis distant from the origin are here interpreted as indicating more extreme manifestations of the phase characteristics. The learning cycles within each phase are then effectively represented by distorted (elliptical) "cycles" in which other phases are "repressed" or "inadequately expressed". The range of elliptical shapes can be used to distinguish varieties of political tendencies sharing the same basic axis
[There are a number of features of E Haskell's coaction cardioid diagram (66) which could be reinterpreted to enrich Diagram 7]
A somewhat related diagram (Diagram 7) can be used to highlight the problem of asymptotic convergence on a meta-answer. The axes represent right- and left-hemisphere thinking, with other equivalent dichotomies collapsed into them. The diagonal therefore reflects practical positions of balance between them, namely viable compromises between structure and process, for example. [This diagram bears some relationship to that indicating stable isotopes of increasing atomic weight.]
Some answer domains have tentatively been located on the necessarily oversimplified diagram in an approximate manner. A distinction is made between the answer as expressed in theory, doctrine, or public claims (subscript D), and the answer as it tends to manifest in practice (subscript P) faced with nasty decisions due to the consequences of its own limitations or impracticality. It would appear that the diagonal serves as a kind of "mirror" in that "D" answers are "rotated" about it into a corresponding "P" position when they are implemented and their negative features are experienced by others. This would accord with the concept of the "repressed" or "inadequate" features of an answer being brought to light under such conditions. In Jungian terms, the "P" answer is the unconscious "shadow" (51, pp. 210-243) of the "D" answer. The "third perspective" is located on the diagonal, but the more ideal the practical combination of structure and process sought, the more "inaccessible" it is along the diagonal. [A spiral representation could be developed from a combination of Diagrams 6 and 7]
This paper has stressed the limited value of various conventional modes of expression. These arguments necessarily apply also to papers of this kind. The question is whether it is possible to devise some means of by-passing the desperately slow learning cycle associated with research-education-policy formulation-implementation in a world in which the education gap is increasing rapidly. If the current crisis is to be taken seriously, people must acquire access to an appropriate response by some other means. The problems of doing so have been reviewed in earlier papers (27, 67, 68, 69).
The challenge is to make available something simple enough to be comprehensible and yet "seductive" enough to retain peoples involvement. On the other hand, if it is to be of any value at this time, it must also be sufficiently complex and coherent to encompass the complexity of a social reality in crisis, and yet empower people to act together to contain the crisis in such a way as to be transformed by the unique learning opportunity it constitutes. This is a tall order, for beyond the capability or ambition of conventional international programmes.
Under the circumstances it is appropriate to look at unconventional possibilities. One approach is through existing processes, penetrating all levels of society, which already hold most peoples attention, transform their awareness, and govern their actions. The challenge would then be whether it was possible to "code" onto these, as a king of "carrier", a second level of meaning. The "double meaning" should then offer a totally new set of insights suggesting new patterns of action. Some possibilities for this approach are:
The merit of the last two possibilities is that they effectively involve coding the world problematique back onto the world and onto human beings, which would seem to be a conceptually elegant response to the problem of self-reflexiveness (12). There is also merit in relating a conscious pattern of significance to a substrate by which people are usually governed unconsciously. In Jungian terms this is an appropriate and fruitful form of marriage between conscious and unconscious elements. Humanity's inability to relate creatively to aspects of these unconscious elements (e.g. the environment and the reproductive instinct) severely aggravates the problematique (e.g. environmental degradation and the population explosion).
This approach therefore involves the simple pleasure of learning a new metaphor which would enchant, empower, explain and orient approaches to the problematique. But the metaphor is only new in that it has not been widely used before, despite the fact that everyone has access to it. The charm of it, as Bateson stated in concluding a conference on the effects of conscious purpose on human adaptation, is that: "We are our own metaphor." (75, p. 304). Unfortunately we have over-identified with the metaphor and have been unable to see ourselves in perspective. [As a first experiment in the metaphorical use of sex, a forthcoming paper reinterprets a key locus in approaches to the world problematique, namely international meeting processes (71, 72).]
The transformative right-hemisphere step advocated in the previous section can be advantageously complemented and challenged by a left-hemisphere focus on innovations in structured information processing. As argued in an earlier paper (58), the information systems currently installed or envisaged facilitate, in the Club of Rome's terms, maintenance (adaptive) learning but not innovative (shock) learning. This applies particularly to the development information systems promoted by the intergovernmental community. Maintenance learning calls for information systems in support of existing programmes for problems recognised in the past. Innovative learning calls for systems which enable unforeseen future problems to be anticipated:
"Innovative learning is problem formulating and clustering. Its main attributes are integration, synthesis, and the broadening of horizons. It operates in open situations or open systems. Its meaning derives from dissonance among contexts. It leads to critical questioning of conventional behind traditional thoughts and actions, focusing on necessary changes. Its values are not constant, but rather shifting. Innovative learning advances our thinking by reconstructing wholes, not by fragmenting reality..." (60, p. 42).The systems required involve a degree of preparedness and an ability to redefine classificatory frameworks (not just to reshuffle and augment predefined lists of categories in a participative environment. These possibilities have been designed out of most existing systems. This may be seen in the cumbersome way in which the intergovernmental community has to re-equip itself at the information level for each newly discovered problem (e.g. environment, energy, etc.). The academic community is in a similar situation.
Bateson makes the point:
"At present, there is no existing science whose special interest is the combining of pieces of information. But I shall argue that the evolutionary process must depend upon such double increments of information. Every evolutionary step is an addition of information to an already existing system. Because this is so, the combinations, harmonies, and discords between successive pieces and layers of information will present many problems of survival and determine many directions of change." (29, p. 21)As argued elsewhere (58): "Retrieval systems focus queries in the light of the user's existing knowledge and biases." The Club of Rome report notes: "We submit that many of the difficulties of learning today stem from the neglect of contexts." (60, p. 23) Soedjatmoko states: "Part of our incapacity to comprehend fully what is happening to us in the changing conditions of the world, despite the plethora of available information, lies in the operational inadequacies of present conceptual frameworks." (59) What is needed at this time is a new variety of computer software which facilitates conceptual pattern formation as part of the inquiry process. The challenge is to facilitate accumulation of patterns, and of patterns of patterns. This is in total contrast to current approaches which only meet the needs of users who assume that they know the pattern about which they require further information. Existing systems reinforce contextual ignorance. The need is for pattern building software to enable users to interrelate and nest their range of preoccupations in a flexible, non-simplistic manner which is inherently integrative.
Some possibilities have been discussed in earlier papers (58, 73) to counter the current erosion of collective memory, namely negative societal learning. The related implications of information networks for a transnational university have also been explored (68, 74). It is to be hoped that the newly created, development-oriented World Centre for Computer Technology and Human Resources (Paris) will focus on such questions. They correspond to Attali's concluding plea for the mobilisation of "technologies reductrices des couts d'organisation." (5, p. 295)
The current difficulty is not so much with answers but with the lack of any operational perspective on the relationship between answers. The impotence of the current approach is unfortunately disguised by the plethora of studies on "motherhood" problems like "population", "energy", "environment", "food", and "health" whose limited significance nobody dares to challenge. On the other hand academic work does not seem able to move beyond its propensity to be satisfied with pretty patterns of categories within specialised frameworks.
The emphasis here on learning as development introduces the challenge of a dynamic dimension which involves both the "observer" and the "developer" in the transformation process as participants rather than as manipulators. The learning process cannot be limited by the preoccupations of those who favour a single answer. It challenges the value of any "unified world model" or any corresponding "unified world government". Such a monolithic over-arching structure, even if decentralised, can only fail to internalise the essentially discontinuous nature of transformative change, which must challenge pre-existing organisation. The structure is therefore obliged, using a sexual metaphor, to take one of the two sex roles. If it takes the male role, at present it reinforces phallic authoritarian (alpha) structures which, when they are not paternalistic, will tend to rape the "peoples of the world" who are cast into the corresponding female role. If it takes the female role, at present it reinforces associative (beta) structures which, when they are not restrictively maternalistic, invite rape on the part of any group capable of adopting an authoritarian mode. Violence is discharged but not contained.
This paper has attempted to clarify the learning cycles through which the essential dynamism of any more subtle relationship between these two modes can be embodied. It is in dynamics of an "androgynous" pattern of alternation or resonance between these modes that the possibilities for a planetary meta-answer lie. But, as with the ideal of marriage, there are many well-recognized patterns of unfruitful organised relationship which are valuable to the existence of both partners. Fruitful, transformative union, when it occurs, may involve shared ecstasy of long-term significance (on which ideals are focussed), but the moment of union between opposites is temporary (although possibly recurrent). Permanent union is clearly impractical and sterile in the light of current understanding [See quotation of von Weizaecker, page 40].
For there to be a viable response to the current condition in the immediate future, the present answer economy must be transformed by reinterpreting it through a more seductive idea. Hence the merit of an essentially human sexual metaphor to "contain" the dynamics of discontinuity faced by humanity and facilitate widespread understanding of the nature of the "pattern which connects". For, as Bateson warns:
"Break the pattern which connects the items of learning and you necessarily destroy all quality." (29, p. 8)
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