The Associative Society of the Future
- / -
Paper presented to a panel on 'Cumulation in international relations;
transnational relations' at the 20th annual convention of the International Studies
Association, Toronto, March 1979. Printed in Transnational Associations, 1979, 6, pp. 259-265 [PDF version]
Abstract: Possible future environments for associative activity are briefly
discussed to show that, irrespective of the conditions, it will continue to have a
noteworthy function. Current influences on its quantitative significance are examined in
terms of: constraints, technology, problem complexity, human and social development needs,
and innovation. Trends determining the nature of associative activity in the future are
then noted. The problems of current research approaches in apprehending such activity are
considered and possible alternative emphases are discussed under the headings:
'conceptual surface', integrative perspectives, facilitation and design of
alternatives, and the role of actors (including the research communities).
It is argued here that, whatever the official institutional future, associative
activity will continue to play an important role. It is possible to move beyond the
sterile IGO/NGO dichotomy and develop a new image of society consistent with the changing
image of man (5). Expanding on McLuhan's classic phrase, the image is determined by the
research method: the method is the image. We need a new method which will respect variety
and interrelate its elements in a meaningful whole.
Possible future environments for associative activity
Before considering the nature of associative activity in the future, it is appropriate
to consider briefly some of the possible conditions of society. These have been discussed
on many occasions in the futures literature. Three factors will be considered here: order,
technology and resources (non-technological).In the case of order, societies can be
envisaged in which the predominating influence is any of the following:
This influence could be relatively centralized or decentralised. It could be effective
in ordering society (even to the 'big brother' limit of the 'brave new
world') or it could be so ineffectual that society is primarily characterised by
disorder and chaos (after the 'holocaust').In the case of technology, high,
low and intermediate technologies may be characteristic of the society. And of course the
same may be true of resources.
Clearly it is unlikely that the world society as a whole would be characterised by any
particular form, or that an extreme form would persist for any great length of time in one
area. A mix is more probable, particularly the co-existence and alliance between extreme
forms as discussed below.
These points are made in order to show that, whatever the social environment, the
associative form of activity will play a role which merits attention. The major reason for
the increasing importance of associative activity is that countries, and even large
institutions, are rapidly reaching a point of being ungovernable (1). By this is meant
that it becomes increasingly difficult for the governors to formulate any decisions or
plans which are:
- (a) comprehensible to those whose interests they supposedly serve,
- (b) implementable without compromising their value, and
- (c) relevant to the condition of society.
Society is becoming too complex for existing institutional formulas. Those with power
must obviously attempt to proceed as though this was not the case. The predominating
ordering influence, or mix of influences, will generate a social environment ordered in
some respects, however crudely. And this is the point. The extent to which the governing
capacity can control society will always leave a 'vacuum' of uncontrolled
(a) to which its reach cannot be extended - except arbitrarily or temporarily;
(b) which it considers irrelevant to its preoccupations; or
(c) which it recognize as necessary in its uncontrolled state, whether as a safety valve,
or as an arena through which certain things can be handled which could not be handled
People have shared interests which lie beyond the perceptual horizon of governing
bodies. Responses are required to problems to which the predominating ordering influence
is insensitive or to which it cannot be made sensitive in time. It is this
'vacuum' which is filled by associative activity.
The governing body may attempt to reduce the size of the vacuum, if it is perceived as
destabilising. Such activity may be regulated, administered or even suppressed.
Alternatively development of such attention absorbents as the media may be encouraged to
the point of saturation. The more pessimistic foresee applications of mind-control drugs
(it some a) or extremely low frequency electromagnetic waves to achieve similar ends. It
is doubtful whether such measures can be totally successful for any length of time, as the
information on the inmates of concentration camps and slave societies has shown. Whilst
the quantity of associative activity may be reduced, its significance does not decrease
even if it is perceived as subversive of 'good' order or 'criminal'.
Furthermore, whatever measure is applied, sufficient individuals will adapt in terms of
it so that its effectiveness is gradually eroded. On the other hand, rather than move to
reduce associative activity, efforts may be made to harness or manipulate it to the ends
of the predominating system of order. This may be done through cooperatives particularly
at the rural level, through labour unions, sporting and cultural clubs, etc. Efforts to
politicize such activity, for example, are evident in many countries, at all levels (2).
The United Nations makes considerable efforts to use association networks as media
through which to mobilize public opinion in support of the U.N. (3).
But whether or not associative activity can be temporarily contained at the grass-roots
level, it is found to be necessary between the individuals of the dominant establishment
in order to compensate for the coordinative and liaison inadequacies via official
channels. There are many examples of elite networks and clubs through which necessary
contacts are maintained amongst the leadership, whether national or international. It does
not seem that the interstitial significance of associative activity would be diminished by
technological extremes or extremes of resources. Its nature is changed but it continues to
play an important role. The point is clarified by a delightful description of the classic
example of a highly technologized programme: the development of Polaris using the
sophisticated management tool called PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique). A
recent study of the management system for the Polaris activity finds that though PERT was
'as effective technically as rain dancing, it was nevertheless quite effective
politically' (4 p. 246). The chief utility of the system was not control of the
organisation, but the appearance of formal rationality which could be presented to outside
agencies. The real management of the programme was carried out in an intensely personal
fashion, through small, informal meetings and frequent telephone calls. 'The
existence of an integrated, uniquely effective management system was a myth originated by
the Special Projects Office. The further removed it was from the source, the more embossed
the myth tended to become' (4 p. 106). One may ask how true this is of many formal
organizations in a highly technologized environment.
Current influences on associative activity
This section discusses some of the factors which change the nature of associative
activity and increase or decrease its significance in quantitative terms.
1. Constraints: Clearly the legislation in different countries may be more or
less favourable to associative activity. The questions of freedom of association, and the
freedom of associations to hold meetings and disseminate information are an aspect of more
general human rights issues under debate. Non-legislative influences such as postal
tariffs for printed matter are less well recognised. But such restrictions merely oblige
the initiators of associative activity to use other forms and procedures.
2. Technology: In quantitative terms, the development of associative activity
may be related to that of communication systems (e.g. the stages: pre-postal, postal,
postal and telephone, postal and telephone and computer). The current developments in
computer conferencing already require a reassessment of the distinctions between
organisation, meeting, journal and information system. On the other hand, the movement in
favour of alternative technology is supported by a multitude of associative activities.
3. Problem complexity: The current rapid growth in the number and complexity of
the problems recognised in society has strongly encouraged association amongst those who
recognise a particular problem. The problem 'territory' has not only grown
considerably but it has been fragmented into smaller 'lots' (There is plenty of
unworked ground for anyone with initiative who wants to 'set up shop'). Denial
of this complexity by a new system of order would be difficult to render credible.
4. Human and social development needs: The relationship between associative
activity and development is not fully understood. It is well recognised that people
associate to fulfil needs for 'sociability' friendship, etc. In developing areas
these needs may be partially met by tribal and related processes; in industrialized
countries they are partially met by associations. It has certainly not been accepted that
the greater the degree of industrialisation the greater the pressure (or need) for
associative activity -- if this is in fact the case. But even if sociability needs are
considered trivial compared to those of development as conventionally conceived, much is
made (possibly for public relations purposes) of the importance of the
'participation' of associations in support of development programmes (of UN
Agencies, UN Years, etc). The fact that much associative activity takes place in response
to development problems and needs not recognised by such programmes tends to be considered
irrelevant at best, and subversive in other cases. Yet it is the increasing sensitivity to
new values, needs, and the changing image of man (5) which is both stimulated by
associative activity and in turn engenders new associative activity, whether in response
to establishment initiatives or to correct for their inadequacies and blindspots (or those
of other associations). Such activity constitutes a vehicle for individual and collective
fulfillment and provides an important arena for the socialisation so necessary for
community development at any level. The rise in associative activity is driven by human
and social development needs and provides a partial fulfillment of them.
5. Innovation: Although formal establishment structures operate according to a
traditional hierarchical groundplan, their inadequacies have stimulated a considerable
amout of experiment in organization design particularly of an associative variety. The
recent rapid rise in the creation of 'networks' of all kinds is an example. In
many ways the innovative and self-renewing orientation is the essence of associative
activity at its best - for, of course, at its worst it engages in sycophantic imitation of
formal establishment structures. Such innovation leads to many 'hybrid'
organisational forms which increase the difficulties of analysis.
Trends and the associative future
Because of space limitations, and since many of these trends have been discussed
elsewhere (6, 7, 8, 9) in one form or another, they are listed here with only brief
1. Quantity: A continuing explosion in the number of associations of all types,
whether active inactive, or 'letterhead'. This will be matched by increases in
other associative activity which does not result in the formation of (readily countable)
2. Variety: A proliferation of new varieties of association and associative
activity, whether of the grass-roots, self-help or elitist kind. A burgeoning of ideology,
culture, sector and technology specific varieties.
3. Rapid evolution: Rapid response to new issues whether generated by
associative processes or external to them. This implies formation of new associative
complexes, whether ad hoc or with characteristic life cycles (e.g. south sea bubble,
rapidly moribund, etc). The life cycles and communications will be much speeded up (e.g.
expansion or defection of members, reorganisation, fund reallocation, etc).
4. Intertwining: The degree of meshing with non-associative structures will
increase to the point that the healthy complementarily between the two modes will be
openly accepted (rather than a matter of corridor gossip). Determining where one mode
starts and the other ends will be increasingly difficult.
5. Elusiveness: The above points will together contribute to the elusiveness of
associative activity. Vitally significant linkage patterns will be formed and dissolved
within days or even hours leaving little trace. The patterns themselves may be very
subtle, particularly if they are designed to metamorphose over time.
6. Technological facilitation: Developments in the communication and computer
fields will facilitate the changes noted above and will provide them with a discipline and
precision which has hitherto been lacking in associative activity. This is beautifully
illustrated by the current NSF-supported field test of the Electronic Information Exchange
System to link some 600 people involved in a rapidly changing mix of groups (10). It
constitutes an admirable illustration of the challenge of associative activity to future
research. Characteristically, all 'secretariat' functions are based on computer
files. To what extent do groups 'exist', in the coming 'paper free'
7. Alternative forms: With or without tehnological support, the proliferation of
varieties noted above will be accompanied by the emergence of entirely new forms. As
intersect organizations or hybrids, these may be especially disruptive of conventional
8. Integrative designs: To match the explosive divergence of forms and
interests, new techniques for interlinkage will be found to formulate common causes for
whatever period is necessary. In contrast with conventional approaches, these may well
counterbalance a variety of 'incompatible' perspectives in structures in which
the configurative element is vital (11, 37).
g. Resource sharing: Aside from, and possibly irrespective of, any of the policy
linkages noted above, new methods will be found for sharing resources and reducing general
overheads (e.g. office space, staff, professional services, pension funds, equipment,
etc). Much more flexible funding and accounting procedures will be developed to match the
10. New associative roles: The linkage problems noted above will lead, for
example, to the multiplication of 'network brokers' and related roles. Advice on
participation in networks of associative activity will be professionalised.
11. Human and social development: The wealth of opportunities to participate in
or to initiate associative activities will be seen as essential to human and social
development (rather than incidental to them, as at present). They become an essential
vehicle of expression and action in both a leisure society and in one whose conventional
institutions are faced with rapidly diminishing credibility in a complex problem
environment. Associative activity will be seen as generative of the new values by which
society is guided. The special 'look-out' role for problem-solving diagnosis,
solution, experimentation and innovation will be developed.
12. Challenge and identity: The opportunities discussed above will be seen as a
new environment for personal challenge. (Johan Galtung refers to transnational relations
as constituting a 'sixth continent' for non-territorial activity; its
possibilities are largely unexplored and may open up a new frontier). Activity there may
become as significant for self-identity as 'work'.
13. Polarization and constraints: It is to be expected that pressures to
contain, oppose or eliminate associative activity will be applied wherever possible, and
with much more precision and force than at present. This will be justified by demands for
proof of effectiveness, such as in relation to currently favoured programmes (e.g.
development, etc). Such political pressures will be partly matched by a recognised need
for 'intermediate organisations' between the individual and any level of
government. Efforts at cooptation of associative activity will increase.
Research and evaluation
Given the evolution of associative activity to the present day, and in the light of the
trends suggested above, it is appropriate to examine briefly same aspects of the research
approaches to date (12) which are relevant to 'international relations' broadly
1. Descriptive: The first approach was of course purely descriptive and
historical whether prior to 1914-18 (13), to 1939-45 (14), or up to the late 1960s (14).
The latter was stimulated by the legal implications of the United Nations recognition of
'international nongovernmental organisations' under its 'consultative
status' arrangements (Article 71 of the Charter). This avenue has been largely
abandoned. Following the creation of the EEC an emphasis was placed on 'international
pressure groups' (15). This approach has since been developed by specific issue area
2. Quantitative: Under the initiative of Johan Galtung and Paul Smoker, the
international Peace Research Institute (Oslo) collected data in 1968-1970 on international
NGOs and their secretaries general, partly as a cross-check on data being published in the
Yearbook of International Organizations (16) or based-upon it. This data was mainly
analyzed by Kjell Skjelsbaek (17). Subsequently, under the initiative of Chad Alger, a
data set of international NGOs based on the Yearbook was established at Ohio State
University and resulted in further analyses (18). A few similar data sets of this type
have given rise to a limited number of papers. A major concern of those cited was to
determine the extent to which the international NGOs reflected, and consequently
reinforced any imbalance in the nation-state system. Imbalance was deduced from the
predominance of North-West memberships and secretariat locations. This approach appears to
have been largely abandoned except as a student exercise in data manipulation. The
unresolved question is whether such patterns are equivalent to those from analysis of the
spread of other artefacts linked to the industrialization process (e.g. telephones,
libraries, cinemas) whether between countries or within a country- and, if so, to
what extent the value of such artefacts should be criticised.
3. Evaluation and impact: Despite the above conclusion the number and variety of
international NGOs, has continued to increase in both industrialized and developing
regions during the 1970s. They became a special focus of news media attention in relation
to the UN System as a result of the 'NGO Forums' held in parallel with the UN
environment, food, woman, habitat and population conferences. This has led to renewed
interest in evaluating NGOs and assessing their impact on such occasions, with regard to a
specific issue areas or at the field level. There is concern on the part of UN Agencies
that with the proliferating variety of associative activities, the number to which they
accord attention should be limited (mainly for administrative reasons). The investigations
are partly stimulated by interest in the use of NGOs conceived by UN Agency information
programmes primarily as a vehicle for the 'mobilisation of public opinion' (3).
The limits of this impact assessment approach have been noted elsewhere (19).
4. Issue areas and classes of organization: There are continuing attempts to get
a conceptual grasp of the maze of associations concerned with particular issues or
preoccupations: peace/disarmament, human rights, religious organisations, youth
organisations, environment, children, scientific and professional associations, etc. For
the purposes of a quick survey, these are 'do-able chunks' of associative
activity. The research is usually stimulated by current UN interest (e.g. a UN conference
or year) and the consequent availability of funding. A specially favoured area is that of
labour unions which have been the subject of extensive (and official) study under the
stimulus of the ILO.
5. Networks: Due to the difficulty of building up an overall picture from
associations viewed in isolation, there has been some interest in inter-organizational
network analysis as offering a more fertile approach suitable to the quantitative
information obtainable on the large amount of associative activity (38). However the
emphasis to date has been mainly on interpersonal networks amongst people who may be in
organisations. At one level this is stimulated by grass-roots 'networking', at
another by the need to improve inter-institutional coordination through low-key network
building and innovation. Regretably, the most sophisticated analyses have only been
applied to elite networks linking governmental and (multi) national enterprises (20).
6. Grass-roots perspective: The concern and enthusiasm of individuals have
traditionally given rise to voluntary activity which in the 1960s, became significantly
oriented to developing country community development programmes, and in the 1970s to
community needs in industrialised countries as well. This was partly stimulated by
government (e.g. Peace Corps, UN Volunteers) and international volunteer programmes, and
partly by a rising sense of the ineffectiveness of organisations (whether governmental or
nongovernmental) and the inappropriateness of their action in the light of the need for
real people-alternatives. Research on voluntary action has been stimulated by the
initiatives of David Horton Smith through the Association of Voluntary Action Scholars
(USA), which recently linked with national volunteer centres in a number of countries to
form the International Voluntary Action and Voluntary Association Research Organization
(21). The socio-anthropological emphasis on 'voluntary' has not yet however been
related to the other approaches above. On the other hand, Chad Alger has initiated a
unique and comprehensive approach to the individual's relationship, through his community,
to communities elsewhere, independently of national bottlenecks and filters characteristic
of the nation-state model. Johan Galtung, through the UN University project on Goals,
Processes and Indicators of Development, is stressing the association, through
'dialogue', between people in communities - but de-emphasizing the
organisational structure as a distorting factor: association without associations (23).
(a) Categories and units of analysis: The proliferation of a rich variety of
organizations and quasi-organizations has progressively eroded the value of research based
on the conventional categories ('nongovernmental', 'international',
etc). And the range of structures has eroded research with, for example, a narrow concept
of 'membership'. These problems are discussed in the recently, reorganised
editions of the Yearbook of International Organizations (24). 1t is not clear what
can be usefully counted and how to make the distinctions necessary to match the variety
which is now evident.
This problem has been discussed elsewhere (24). It is also clear that elite networks
(possibly with an associative function of significance equal to, if not greater than, many
formal bodies) escape attention. The tip of the iceberg is signalled, for example, by the
Bilderberg Group, the Club of Rome, the Club of Dakar, etc. The problem of associative
networks within and between intergovernmental bodies has not received attention. To what
extent is the associative activity behind the 'Inter-Agency Games' (Vienna, 1
979) merely of anecdotal significance, given the problems of inter-agency coordination ?
Why has the 'good' associative activity received all the attention and never
been related to the 'bad': trade associations-cum-cartels, intelligence
networks, subversive-cum-revolutionary 'organisations', international crime
'rings' and networks, etc ?
Other kinds of elite and semi-elite net works also escape consideration within some
larger common framework; for example, those associated with the: international social
'jet set', diplomatic corps, 'entertainment world', reciprocal
membership clubs, press corps, military services, 'development set', religious
orders, international foundations, secret societies, and various specialised business and
professional communities (e.g. banking, oil, diamond trade, commodity markets, foreign
exchange dealers). Their associative activity is usually greater than is evident from any
body which claims to represent them or through which it is implied that they act. But
their function within the global community is unclear, if not severely criticised.
Although their activities may be impeded or facilitated by governmental or
intergovernmental action, it is of relatively little significance to them. Their networks
adapt very successfully to changing circumstances.
A greater sense of the 'reality' of global community action can often be
obtained from unpublishable anecdotal material concerning the interrelationships of the
persons involved rather than from the formal structures and decisions which are the
primary concern of research. For example an unprecedented ECOSOC debate and vote to admit
an observer from a particular kind of intergovernmental organization is said to have been
pushed through solely because the person concerned was rich and agreed to finance a
lengthy air excursion for ECOSOC participants on the following day.
To what extent does the current approach to international relations bear a resemblance
to the research done on tribal culture (the Maoris, I believe) much admired because of its
formal debating and decision-making procedure ? Only after much research, which treated
the procedure as a reality, was it discovered that the visible procedure had a purely
ritual function to dramatise for all concerned how the decision had been reached (having
been agreed upon prior to the debate by other processes). If this is to some extent
true of formal international organisations, what of the associative activity within which
they are embedded ? How to reconcile the fact that much of what is held to be important to
understanding by those within governmental and intergovernmental organizations is
classified (or in restricted circulation only), with the fact that the majority of
research is necessarily based on publicly available material of the kind deliberately
designed to reinforce a desirable public image ?
(b) Policy implications and purpose: Given the range of disciplines concerned
with the above approaches, and given the variety of institutional and funding
opportunities which have oriented the research done, it is not surprising that the overall
picture appears very fragmented. In fact it is not clear that there is any trend towards a
common framework or a desire for one. Whilst the immediate stimulus for such research is
clear (a conference paper, a new international problem topic, etc), the longer term
purpose of it is not. Aside from the immediate stimulus, it is not clear why we are trying
to ask the questions we ask and who is expected to be affected by any answers. It is not
clear that positive or negative conclusions have any policy relevance (beyond legitimating
the institutional or disciplinary perspective which occasioned the research).
One would be hard put to find any single piece of research on associative activity
which had been of significance to intergovernmental thinking on the question, or even, for
that matter, on governmental thinking in the vast majority of countries. It is unfortunate
that the research that is done is strongly influenced by the priorities of the disciplines
used (political science, powerful organizations; sociology, community organizations,
etc.). Combined with the simplistic categories, this leads to a narrow focus which
disregards other organized activity and relationships as irrelevant, if not suspect. John
Galtung, for example, asks whether the legal perspective (so influential in international
relations studies) is not in fact 'structure blind' ? He concludes'so let
us hope that some of the new forces emerging in the world can lay the ground for a new
paradigm combining the actor and structure-oriented perspectives and promotion an
international law that would be human law and not stop at the gates of the state, but
bridge the gap between collective and individual actors better than is done today'
To the extent that the future trends identified above are correct, it is questionable
whether research as it is currently oriented is capable of apprehending the future
usefully. The tendency is to comment upon those elements in the present or the past which
have achieved an acceptable degree of visibility and have already necessitated organized
responses the relevant disciplines are then called upon to legitimate. Those who would
argue that the main contribution of such research is educational should recall that, as in
the case of the recently announced failure of UNESCO's: long-term programme against
illiteracy, the percentage of people uninfluenced by such research insights is increasing
Possible alternative emphases
In the light of the remarks of the previous section, some possible alternative or
complementary emphases may be put forward:
1. 'Conceptual surface': A basic problem would seem to be the tendency
to focus on some aspects of associative activity only, and to reduce them to a simplistic
set of matrix pigeon-holes which are then meaningless both to those involved with the
bodies so encoded and to those who otherwise might find it useful to comprehend their
interactions with them. Chad Alger argues that 'people need maps that facilitate
wider participation' and has made an interesting effort to move in this direction
(see: The organizational context of development; illuminating paths for wider
participation. Transnationai Associations, 31, 1979, 4, pp. 130-133). His use of the
matrix, comprehensive though it aims to be, still suffers from the basic difficulties
The matrix also distorts and conceals the pattern of functional relationships between
such activities. The terrestrial-globe may be used as an analogy for brevity's sake. For
what seems to be required is a shift from
- (a) a focus on fitting, organized activity systematically into the abstract
latitude/longitude grid pattern (the matrix) conceived as flat, to
- (b) a focus on identifying and delineating the unsystematic 'land and water
masses' which distinguish the different kinds of organized activity disposed around a
spherical surface. This analogy is explored in much greater detail elsewhere (see:
Anthony Judge. The territory construed as a map. unpublished paper, 1979).
The second focus has 'functional roundness' built into it, whereas the first
has a crude 'flat earth' quality which privileges the central position or
orientation perceived by whoever formulates it and lacks functional transition and
continuity. The second has the merit of portraying more clearly the functional territory
(including the 'extra-conceptual' variety) in terms of which different organized
activities take place, in a manner which provides those involved with a meaningful map.
This should be both integrated into a larger picture and susceptible of elaboration at a
more detailed level.
The absence of such a representation is currently as damaging to global community at
the psycho-social level as would be the absence of the terrestrial mans and globe to
physical communications or to trade and travel to unexplored territory. It both anchors an
understanding of integration and explains the futility of certain attempts at
communication in the absence of a context which clarifies 'distances' (e.g.
between preoccupations of the Esquimo and the Congo pygmies). An alternative explanation
is that the need at this time is for 'road maps' which people can use to travel
(according to their perceived needs) and not 'traffic models' only meaningful to
the few designers of alternative road systems. In any case the designers need the maps in
order to communicate effectively rather than arbitrarily, with the road users about their
problems, if democratic processes are to be favoured. The problem of producing such a
representation is one of design and 'goodness of fit' of the concepts with
respect to the map elements selected. This is explored elsewhere (30).
2. Integrative perspectives: Much remains to be learnt from the biologists
ability to identify and handle conceptually the relationships, synchronically and
diachronically, between the multitude of animal and plant species. The concept of an
ecosystem has not been used to integrate the relationships of species of organized
activity, of which the associative is one 'order' perhaps. It would be
convenient if this could be related to the conceptual surface discussed in the previous
section. Much could also be learnt from the biochemists tolerance of a multitude of
enzymes each catalysing a reaction in a complex pattern of reactions which characterises
life processes. Whether social network analysis will ever develop to the point of being
able to map out the equivalent of 'food webs " in ecosystems remains to be seen; the
techniques are available but neither the interest nor the orientation (1). Somehow the
natural sciences have a greater tolerance of variety than the social sciences, which are
swamped by it in practice but avoid it in theory, or else respond to it with arguments for
the need for a case-by-case approach. This ensures absence of any convergence on a useful
overview and facilitates emergence of questionable conclusions.
3. Facilitation and design of alternatives: The major research emphasis touching
on associative activity has been concerned to analyse it critically, to evaluate it, or to
assess its impact. Very little is concerned with the inherent value of such activity, the
necessity for it, and the problems of improving or facilitating it (31) particularly in
the light of changing communications technology (10). That it may play a part in organized
activity analogous to that of the developing 'third world' in the global
community has not been considered. In the latter case the challenge is to find ways of
overcoming current inadequacies, not to multiply self-satisfied studies attesting to such
weaknesses. Current investigations, somewhat beyond the pale of the social sciences, on
the role of associations in the new (anticipatory) democracies of the future (32), need to
be related to present preoccupations, particularly in the light of the rapidly eroding
credibility of the existing institutions which have received so much research attention in
There is also a need for research to clarify possibilities for design of alternative
styles of organisation (33), organizational hybrids (34), tensed networks (35), tensegrity
organisations (33), etc. It is noteworthy that it is questionable whether any
organisational innovation touching on international relations has emerged from research,
rather than from the insights of practitioners.
4. Role of actors: There is a strange tendency in international relations to
treat organisations solely from an instrumental point of view in terms of their
significance in acting on the problems formally defined as falling within their (possibly
self-selected) mandate. This is particularly unfortunate in the case of associative
activity which may well offer one of the few means for people or groups to express their
attitudes, irrespective of whether this leads to 'significant' action. The
effectiveness of associations cannot then be measured in terms of impact, but requires a
new kind of attention to the inherent value of their existence in relation to social
development. It needs to be demonstrated that they do not have to engage in development
programmes to prove their significance to external observers.
The continuing creation of such bodies constitutes (and is an indicator of) social
development for those who participate in them or instigate new ones. Whether they
are instrumentally productive or counter-productive is another matter, often of secondarv
importance.Naturally each organisation type has a vested interest in generating
information (and promoting research) to demonstrate its unique role. This is often
achieved by denigrating organisations of other types and emphasising (sycophantic) links
to organisations perceived as higher in the pecking order. The resulting pattern of
information and research reinforces the blocked situation with which many are familiar. It
would be useful to experiment with confrontations between the varieties of organisational
perspectives using an adaptation of techniques for small group
sensitivity training (36). The pre-logical, temperamental biases need to be played through
supportively as is done in psychodrama and role reversal techniques, for example, Only in
this way could the limitations of the current sterile dynamics be recognised overcome.
Perspectives which could be so represented include: UN agency, regional IGO, high status
INGO, low status INGO, multinational corporation, political scientist, sociologist,
developing country delegate, etc. The method needs to be developed and the need to
incorporate sub-perspectives explored (e.g. from within a complex UN agency).
Further effort is required to explode the myth of 'disinterested objective
research' Researchers cannot assume a status of 'invisible conceptual
Martians'. They are not non-participants as the exercise above would quickly show. It
is incredible that international relations researchers can ignore or deny the significance
of associative activity, and yet be quite capable of being highly committed to a programme
of action (reflecting this same attitude) through some international association or
This paper suffers from having dealt too briefly with points which merit more lengthy
supporting arguments. The basic concern is with the generation of research which will lead
to an understanding of associative activity which would be meaningful and useful outside
the individual schools of thought of the international relations community. The unbalanced
focus on one half of the dichotomy formal / governmental versus informal / nongovernmental
has had its day.
The questions are larger than the framework we provide. The fact that it is possible to
get locked into such patterns of thought, whether in research or practice, indicates that
the roles of researchers and practitioners need to be considered in relation to one
another. It is we who generate and maintain the patterns of sterile blockages to change;
we are the problem. The problems we perceive 'out there' are a consequence of
our action, inaction or way of thinking (1).
1. Union of International
Associations. Yearbook of World Problems and Human Potential. Brussels, Union of International
Associations / Mankind 2000. 1976. [commentary]
2. Bernard Stasi. Vie associative et democratic nouvelle. Presses Universitaires
3. Anthony Judge. Mobilization of public opinion; yesterdays response to today's
problems. Transnational Associations, 31,1979,1/2, pp. 8-14. [text]
4. H. M. Sapolsky. The Polaris System Development; bureaucratic and programmatic success
in government. Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1972.
5. Stanford Research Institute, Center for the Study of Social Policy. Changing Images
of Man. Stanford Research Institute, 1974.
6. David Horton Smith. Future trends in voluntary action. In: The Open Society of the
Future (Report of a seminar to reflect on the network of international associations)
Brussels. Union of International Associations, 1973, pp. 97-103.
7. Wolfenden Committee. The Future of Voluntary Organisations.
Croom Helm, 1978.
8. Donald Schon. Beyond the Stable State; public and private learning in a changing
society. Temple Smith,1971.
9. Anthony Judge. The role of the 'potential association'. International
Associations 23, 3, March 1971, pp. 148-152. [text]
10. Murray Turoff and Starr Roxanne Hiltz. Information and communication in
international affairs. (Paper for ISA panel on Foresight, conscience and strategy in world
control options for nuclear peacemaking) 1978. Computer-facilitated informal
organisations: extracts from the program announcement for operational trials funded by the
US National Science Foundation. Transnational Associations, 29, 1977, 10, pp
428-430 (and other articles in same issue).
11. Anthony Judge. Representation, comprehension and communication of sets, the role of
number. International Classification, 5, 1978,3, pp. 120-133; Parts 2 and 3 in 1979
12. Anthony Judge and Kjell Skjelsbaek. Bibliography of documents on transnational
association networks. In: Yearbook of International Organizations. Brussels, Union of
International Associations, 1974. 15th ed, 55-76. [text]
13. Union des Associations Internationales. La Vie Internationale (periodical), Bruxelles
14. Lyman White. The Structure of Private International Organizations. Philadelphia,
15. Jean Meynaud and Dusan Sidjanski. Les groupes de pression dans la communaute
europeenne. Bruxelles, Editions de l'lnstitut de Sociologie, 1971.
16. Union of International
Associations. Yearbook of International Organizations. Brussels, Union of International
Associations, 1978,17th ed.
17. Kjell Skjelsbaek. The growth of international organisations. International
Organization, 25, 1971, 3, pp. 420-442.
18. Chadwick F. Alger and David Hoovler. The feudal structure of systems of International
organisations. Proceedings of the International Peace Research Association Conference
(Varanasi, 1974) 1975.
19. Anthony Judge. Assessing the impact of international organisations. Transnational
Associations, 30, 1978, 10, pp. 435-440. [text]
20. European Consortium of Political Research. (Papers of workshop on
Inter-organizational networks between large corporations and Government). April 1979.
21. Journal of Voluntary Action Research. Association of Voluntary Action Scholars
23. Johan Galtung. Dialogue as a method. (Paper for the UNU/GPID project, Geneva, 1979).
24. Anthony Judge. International organisations; an overview. In: Yearbook of
International Organizations, Brussels, 1976. [text]
25. Johan Galtung. Is the legal perspective structure-blind ? (University of Oslo,
chair in Conflict and Peace Research, Papers. no. 46. 1978 ?)
30. Christopher Alexander. Notes on the Synthesis of Form. Harvard University Press, 1964.
31. Anthony Judge. Practical problems in using the potential of INGO networks. In: The
Future of Transnational Associations from the standpoint of a New World Order, Brussels,
Union of International Associations, 1977, pp. 168-205. [text]
32. Clement Bezold (Ed). Anticipatory Democracy: people in the politics of the future.
Vintane Books, 1978 (Introd. by Alvin Tofler)..
33. Anthony Judge. From systems-versus-networks to tensegrity organisation. Transnational
Associations. 30. 1978. 5. pp. 258-265 [text]
34. Anthony Judge. Organizational hybrids; transnational network of research and service
communities. Transnational Associations, 29, 1977, 7-8, pp. 306-311. [text]
35. Anthony Judge. Tensed networks; balancing and focusing network dynamics in response
to networking diseases. Transnational Associations, 30, 1978, 11, pp. 400-485 [text]
36. Anthony Judge. Emergence of integrative processes in a self-reflective assemby. Transnational
Associations. 30. 1978, 5, pp. 271-275. [text]
37. Anthony Judge. Groupware configurations of challenge and harmony. (Paper for a
seminar on alternative organisations, European Institute for Advanced Studies in
Management, Brussels, June 1979). [text]
38. Anthony Judge. International organisation networks; a complementary perspective. In:
Paul Taylor and A J R Groom (Eds). International Organizations; a conceptual approach.
London, Frances Pinter, 1977, pp. 381-413. [text]