Functional Classification in an
Integrative Matrix of Human
Preoccupations (Part 2)
- / -
Commentary on an experimental subject configuration (see matrix) for the exploration
of interdisciplinary relationships between organizations, problems, strategies,
values and human development from Yearbook
of International Organizations.
First presented in outline form to the 5th Network Meeting of the Goals, Processes and Indicators of Development project of the United Nations University (Montreal 1980). Presented in amplified form to a sub-group of that project (Athens, 1982). First published in International classification 11 (1984), 2, pp. 69-76 and 11 (1984), 3. Subsequently published in successive editions of the Yearbook of International Organizations, with amendments.
Go to contents
of Part One
Contents of Part Two
Pattern interpretation possibilities
- Classification as a political act
- Flexible open-ended approach
- Distinguishing functions
- Function pattern
- Recovering functional emphasis
- Dynamic relationship between functions
- Non-linear and oscillatory functional relationships
- Implication of modes of comprehension
- Need for a development "container"
- Intrinsic uncertainty and paradox
- Individual and social development as mutual models
Pattern interpretation possibilities
Part of the original intention was to experiment, with patterns which highlight and
clarify functional relationships. Ideally the matrix should help to show how different
functional concerns are related to, or distant from, one another. In its present form it
offers a healthier approach to the insidious problems created by the "pecking
order" in the sciences. This is reflected in university departments and the
perceptions of intergovernmental agencies (or their divisions) of the relative
"relevance" of certain functions. Clearly it is easier to focus on functions at
lower "tangible" levels, even though any action may be taken (at least in public
statements) in the name of values associated with cells at higher "intangible"
As a form of map, it is useful to recognize how agencies can get "locked
into" the functions associated with a particular cell (eg information), without
recognizing how dependent that cell is on neighbouring cells if its activities are to be
usefully integrated into the pattern of functions. On the other hand some agencies may
engage in a form of functional empire building by focusing on a "zone" of
neighbouring cells (eg 27, 28, 37, 38), only accepting the significance of other cells
under considerable pressure. Development may also be narrowly conceived by agencies as
only in terms of cells at higher levels in the same column as that of their initial
preoccupation. In this way an agency becomes "locked into" a column of
functions. On the other hand some agencies may simply reject as irrelevant functions at
some other levels, for example those corresponding to "theory",
"praxis", or "values".
In terms of an organizational or management perspective, there is a need for the
diversity of functions corresponding to the differentcolumns in order for any programme or
community to be viable. In this sense the matrix offers an interesting series of reminders
for organizational design and development. On the one hand it is a representation of
management functions (styles or skills), as suggested by the work of Jantsch. And on the
other, it can be considered an indication of the order in which complementary functions
tend to become explicit in the development of any community. Recalling briefly the
periodic table model in which the cells at higher levels correspond to elements of higher
atomic weight, it may be asked how the analogy permits such intangible elements as
value-related experiences to be placed at the higher levels in the matrix. Although
possibly pushing the analogy too far, it is however precisely such values that are
conceived as constituting the "weightier" issues in contemporary society.
Certain values such as "freedom", carry "great weight" in social
interaction. They are quite capable of "displacing" material concerns of
seemingly greater import.
As noted earlier, a periodic classification scheme necessarily has a predictive element
built into it. In the case of chemical elements, these were each "discovered" at
a particular time, although the existence of many has been predicted since the periodic
table was produced. In the international community issues are "recognized" from
time to time (eg energy, environment, employment). It would be of great value to predict
the discovery of new ones in order to explore their policy implications. As the matrix
stands, it would appear that there are few new functional elements to be discovered. The
difficulty is that although it is possible to associate words denoting certain functional
properties with certain cells, it is as yet entirely unclear whether this exhausts the
functional significance which could in future come to be associated with the corresponding
cell, as was pointed out earlier in the discussion of cells and their relative
"emptiness". Using the periodic table again, it is possible that whilst a
functional element may have been discovered many of its "isotopes" may yet
remain to be discovered. This in turn raises the question of the relative stability of the
"weightier" elements and the recognition of what are known as "islands of
stability" in the sequence of such elements which man is attempting to create. It is
the periodic table which has given credibility to the search for isotopes with half-lives
ranging from a millionth of a second to over a million years. It is possible that a
functional classification could give credibility to creative "flashes of
insight", not to mention mystical experience, temporarily altered states of
consciousness, or the states of awareness described in much Eastern literature in which
the interaction of positive and negative forces is appropriately balanced. It is not too
far-fetched to accept that such a framework could well be relevant to understanding the
possibility for bringing about a stable peace in society. In generating the framework for
Section X by combining the cell names from the matrix used for Section W, space is
effectively created for a large range of functional compounds. Clearly from nearly 100
cells in the matrix, nearly 10,000 categories are created in Section X. Only a few of
these are used at this stage as can be seen from the statistics at the end of this volume.
The remainder are filtered out by computer. One of the miracles of modern science has been
the development of the ability to design and make new chemical molecules, of which over 5
million are now known. Seen in this light the functional classification can usefully raise
questions as to whether certain functional compounds already exist (possibly ineffectively
named or confused with others), should exist (because of their desirable properties in
social processes), or could exist (even though their properties could be highly
undesirable), and under what conditions.
An interesting problem which emerges in the attempt to allocate a single code to a word
is the tendency for words appropriately associated with one cell to be used as metaphors
with connotations for another cell, usually at a higher level. It is even possible to
question to what extent words can be assumed to be metaphor-free and incapable of
signalling the existence of functions having a "harmonic" relationship to the
most concrete use of the word. Whether more insightful metaphors can be said to be
associated with higher cells in the same column remains to be investigated. This would be
one way of improving the integration of the lowest levels (0 and 1), which are a rich
source of metaphors, into the pattern as a whole. Metaphor merits much more attention in
relation to the problem of representing classification schemes in a memorable manner (31).
It needs to be seen as being of vital significance to information users and not just to
number-oriented document cataloguers. Again there is much to be learnt from Eastern
systems of classification in which metaphor and number patterning of classes and
sub-classes are combined to constitute apowerful mnemonic aid to comprehension (32). It is
for this reason that a section on metaphor appears in the 1986 and 1991 editions of the Encyclopedia
of World Problems and Human Potential.
An interesting related problem is the tendency for action-oriented organizations to
denote their concrete preoccupations by using terms for intangible values (eg
"security" in place of "defence". This situation can be considered the
reverse of that described in the previous paragraph.
Another concern for any classification scheme which purports to be of multi-cultural
significance is whether it avoids being locked into the purely Western approach to
classification in the Cartesian tradition. This reflects a preoccupation voiced by a
number of contemporary authors (12, 13, 33) including the Rector of the United Nations
University (34). It is therefore useful to speculate on a "confrontation"
between the matrix in its present form and that associated with a thoroughly Eastern
perspective, such as the Chinese classic the I Ching or Book of Changes
(35). Aside from being a deliberate attempt to classify processes and conditions of change
(as opposed to "objects" and "subjects" of knowledge), this is
organized into a 8 x 8 matrix of 64 cells. It is not to be excluded that a relationship
could be found between these and the 8 levels and 8 columns of Figure 7 [Integrative Matrix]. This could offer new insight into
the sub-patterns of functional relationship within the pattern as a whole. This
possibility has been partly explored elsewhere (26). A related approach was used to
classify "human values" in the 1986 and 1991 editions of the Encyclopedia of
World Problem and Human Potential.
As indicated above, it is highly probable that improvements will be made to the
procedure for coding words, to the classification schemes used, and to the various
computer programmes used in selecting organizations for allocation to one or more
categories. It is also expected that greater use will be made of "manual" coding
methods to handle the more subtly defined subjects as well as categories of organizations.
This will permit better treatment of subjects denoted by compound words.
In restricting attention to keywords appearing in the names of organizations, however
these are supplemented, this volume is far from touching on the activities of the
commissions, departments and programmes of such bodies, not to mention their special-theme
conferences. This problem is partly solved by the presence of Sections E and K
organizations. It is also possible that some attempt will be made to relate this volume to
the International Congress Calendar (36). The problem will be partially remedied in
future editions by increasing use of the "hidden" keywords which appear in the
organization descriptions (eg under "aims") in italics, and are extracted by
computer. Obviously however a distinction has to be made between bodies specifically
concerned with "peace", for example, and the many which choose to claim that
their activities contribute towards peace.
Also envisaged is the possibility of providing written commentaries on the range of
organizations associated with particular levels, columns or cells of the matrix. The
intention would be to clarify how groups of these bodies relate to one another, what
distinct functions they perform, and the nature of their limitations. Finally, it is hoped
at some stage to include in this volume computer-generated maps of the networks of
relationships between organizations and world problems. The set of these maps would then
constitute a rather unique form of "atlas" from which valuable overviews could
1. Classification as a political act
1. The construction of a thesaurus or classification scheme is not a neutral process
but a political act, as was well demonstrated by the encyclopaedists in the 18th century.
A thesaurus which treats "homelessness" as an aspect of "sociology",
and "war" as an aspect of "political science" is taking a strong
political position. This is also true of an encyclopedia which omits any entry on
"torture" (37). A totally exploitative attitude towards the environment is
suggested by an institutional information system concerned solely with
"fisheries", "fishing" and "fish processing, production, storage
and utilization",but not "fish" as having an important role in planetary
2. Classification schemes tend to denature and neutralize the functional significance
of categories, by excising their nonconceptual component. This is clearly seen from the
treatment of "homelessness" and "war" in the previous section. Such
schemes are concerned with reflection and verbalization as opposed to action, which is
thus rendered impotent.
3. The political dangers of classification are not discussed amongst the specialists
concerned with the design of international information systems. Aside from their treatment
of minorities and the disadvantaged, most of these systems are simply reflections of a
western world-view. As such they can only do violence to non-western cultures in their
4. Classification schemes tend to encourage "functional empire-building", as
may be seen in the treatment of "economics" disciplines in relation to
"other social sciences" in the ILO classification of occupations, for example
(38). Many existing systems are allowed to "bulge" in favour of hyperactive
functional development (technology, industry, etc) at the expense of functions which are
politically insignificant (religion, ethics, art, etc) at the present time.
5. Positioning, or failing to position, a term in a thesaurus is a political act which
contributes to some kind of "functional story". There is no concern for the
stories being told in this way or for the political education to which they contribute.
6. The process of embodying a term in a classification scheme has a benumbing effect
which tends to render passive the users of the scheme and to deactivate the information
and the users by changing their relationship to the scheme.
7. Designers of a classification scheme necessarily engage in a process which may in
part be justifiably labelled as "scheming". The scheme imposes a pattern of
perception against which there is very little possibility of appeal. A new approach is
required which gives users some power over the process. "Who classifies for me?"
is an important political question.
8. The functional control of society (or its absence) is implicit in the emphasis and
juxtaposition of categories in a classification scheme. This is especially true when the
excesses of one function can only be corrected by another. If the latter is absent from
the scheme, or unrelated to the former, then the "spastic" processes of
arbitrary control are reinforced.
9. There is a need to "liberate" nodes of significance from the domination of
particular ways of apprehending reality. A specific concern is the politics of term
appropriation, for example in French "development" and "cooperation"
are virtually unusable in the political arena, except in relation to the Third World.
10. The above considerations suggest the need for a politically "aggressive"
approach to classification which does not simply accept the result of disciplined
political activity, empire-building, or blinkered manipulation of other functional
domains. A political stance is required with regard to the need to "see things
2. Flexible open-ended approach
1. This initiative is funded largely because of the value of the resulting check-lists
by function of "subject", not because of the significance of the pattern
as a whole. This is a considerable advantage given the design of the computer programme.
It means that at any time the word coding can be modified to produce an improved balance
within the matrix. It will thus continue to be an essentially experimental system despite
its ongoing use in processing current international organization data. In contrast to
conventional classification schemes, the investment in this scheme does not
"freeze" the coding pattern.
2. Clearly this approach also permits alternative patterns to be explored in parallel,
possibly for different purposes. It may be applied as rigidly or as loosely as required.
3. Because of the experimental nature of this approach, it opens up the interesting
possibility of exploring the potential of a classification scheme where a non-zero error
rate is acceptable. This may well be much more fruitful than where the error rate is
required to be zero (39).
4. This approach responds to the requirement that integration itself should not be
closed and final - or else the integration scheme is itself an obstacle to change rather
than flowing with it.
5. Given that the scheme is designed to "open up" cells for which there are
as yet undetected or poorly defined functions, this predictive possibility should provide
valuable feedback on functional integration.
3. Distinguishing functions
1. Given that much effort has been devoted in the past (14) to isolating clusters of
"subjects" and that these clusters are still used in modern systems, it is
appropriate to assume that they reflect some degree of functional clustering. This
exercise therefore, as far as possible, respects such clusters. Doing so has the
considerable advantage of making the result more readily acceptable. The main
modifications therefore lie in the positioning of clusters relative to one another and in
giving greater or lesser weight to some of them. This corresponds to the view discussed
above that the difficulties and opportunities lie not within the clusters but in how they
are understood to be related.
2. The process of distinguishing and interrelating functions within a framework is one
of design. As such it necessarily involves both art and science, right hemisphere and
left, and some measure of synthesis resulting in a decision. This process is guided by
previous practice and is especially sensitive to constraints. In seeking to generate a
fruitful set of overlaid patterns, materials obtained and processed in earlier papers (28,
27) were used as possible guidelines, as was the structure of the periodic table itself.
3. This paper is based on the assumption that an entirely rational approach would lead
to a sterile result. The aim was therefore to interrelate patterns of agreement and
disagreement as discussed in an earlier paper (28). The process may be likened to tuning a
musical instrument in which the significance of a tone only emerges in its relationship to
the other tones. This analogy highlights the significance of harmony and discord between
tones. The difficulty is that, given the matrix form, the "strings" take the
form of an array of columns and rows. The tuning must thus be achieved in two dimensions
to distinguish a tone appropriately. The process may also be likened to stretching a
rubber sheet (of "seamless significance") over a curved frame in such a way as
to eliminate the creases whilst giving equal prominence to each node in the pattern. It is
also worth reflecting on the generation of Chladni interference patterns in this context
4. A special effort is made to open up locations for "awkward" topics which
tend to be forgotten or grouped in miscellaneous categories. Finding any position for them
in conventional schemes is such a relief that there is no desire to open up any discussion
about the justification of the pigeon-hole finally used. Why is it that a list of
hard-to-classify topics does not seem to have been published? It is the process of fitting
in the concept for which there is no natural place which should creatively redefine the
significance of the whole pattern.
5. A cluster is not necessarily rejected because it is "fuzzy". The property
of being well-defined may well be a characteristic of certain kinds of cluster but not of
6. Words located in the cells of the resulting matrix are merely approximations to the
concepts or functions to which they refer. The cell as a whole cannot be adequately named.
Much of its significance derives from its status within the functional pattern as a whole.
7. A distinction is made between complementary or competing functions at the same level
(row) in the matrix. These are alternative modes relating to different content. A
different distinction is made between functions of the same type (column) concerned with
similar content. These two dimensions open up the possibility of two kinds of functional
substitution and development.
8. Deliberate efforts were made to avoid the distractions of currently fashionable
topics which cause current classification schemes to "bulge". These are
considered a reflection of short term functional imbalance.
9. Deliberate efforts were made to avoid the anthropocentric emphasis in classification
schemes, which reinforces a totally exploitative misunderstanding of the interacting
forces in the planetary ecosystem in a form of "environmental apartheid". The
aim is to ensure a "fair deal" for bugs, plants, and animals, as well as man.
Fish are not only to be understood as "fishable" for man. It is regrettable that
plants and animals are converted by classification schemes into pests, foodstuffs, or
industrial products. Nutrition, health, habitat, and migration are not just a problem for
man. In addition, such narrowness closes off any possibility of interspecies
understanding, ignoring such questions as animal education and the intelligence of
dolphins and whales, with all that could imply for their rights with man on the planet in
a more enlightened culture.
4. Function pattern
1. "Subject" categories selected for classification schemes tend to conceal
functions by using noun descriptors. It is appropriate to ask whether such static
categories facilitate development processes.
2. As suggested by Bohm (11) and Thom (41), a more realistic approach is to use verb
"descriptors", thus emphasizing the essentially dynamic processes of
3. Descriptors in current use can only adequately express a percentage of the functions
with which they are associated. Categories are not completely bounded by available
descriptors. Language is essentially incomplete and approximate - as is evident when
descriptors from different languages are compared.
4. An integrated pattern of categories is essential if functional integration is in any
way a reality. In many classification schemes categories are grouped arbitrarily with
little, if any, concern for the relationship between functions.
5. Classification schemes tend to conceal the absence of categories which do not relate
to the functional preoccupations of those elaborating the scheme. Such categories are
signalled naturally in an integrated pattern.
6. An integrated pattern should lend itself to perception through different
"cuts", according to depth of interest and level of complexity tolerated.
7. To contain complexity and range of differences, the pattern of integration should
highlight differences as well as similarities.
5. Recovering functional emphasis
As has been stressed, conventional classification schemes focus on
"subjects". This term covers many "objects" in the material world and
the world of ideas. If these subjects are perceived as functions, as advocated here, it
should be possible to give greater reality to the functions by clarifying how they are
manifested through such special kinds of subjects as those noted below. In each case the
cells of the matrix should reflect some corresponding element. To be specific,
corresponding to many of these functions there should be:
1. Occupations or professions which together reflect the pattern of human resources in
an integrated society.
2. Institutions, organizations and groups. Of special interest is the correspondence
with government ministries and agencies, especially as the country develops.
3. Types of building (or parts of a town), as well as rooms (or parts) of a home.
4. Organizational or community roles.
5. Information systems or styles of information processing.
6. Characteristic human needs and satisfiers associated with many of the functions.
Together these should reflect an integrated pattern of human needs.
7. Characteristic values and possibly characteristic mind-sets, ways of being or
8. Characteristic events, objects, and processes and their associ ated characteristic
concepts of change.
9. Characteristic methods, tools, distinctions and problems.
10. Characteristic human activities. These should correspond to the elements in a time
11. Characteristic symbols or rites. For certain traditional cultures there would be
divinities manifesting appropriate qualities. Together these are an important guide to
viable functional integration.
12. Characteristic images of man.
13. Characteristic educational processes. Together these would make up an integrated
educational programme, corresponding to the organization of curricula and sets of
14. Characteristic decision criteria, constraints, blindspots, biases, strengths and
weaknesses. In many cases there would also be things which are considered self-evident or
15. Characteristic social and other indicators.
16. Characteristic constituents of a system.
17. Characteristic associated verbs, possibly based on such action oriented suffixes
as: "-ization", "-izing", "icizing" (cf Thom 41).
6. Dynamic relationship between functions
1. As has been repeatedly stressed here, for integrative purposes the functions should
not be considered in isolation one from the others. Some functions clearly substitute for
one another under some conditions, others complete with each other. It is important to
arrive at some understanding of this dynamic pattern.
2. Several analogies may provide useful guidelines to explore these relationships:
- input/output matrix: as in the standard analysis of economic sectors, there is
value in exploring the pattern of exchanges between the functions
- periodic table: as with chemical elements, the pattern of possible interactions,
the degree of reactivity, and the resulting composites are worth exploring
- mythical patterns: as with the well-elaborated patterns of relations between
divinities responsible for different functions, "stories" about how the
functions relate to one another over time can usefully be explored
- psycho-cultural patterns: the pattern of relations may usefully be compared with
that of the Chinese classical Book of Changes, whose constituent hexagrams can also be
presented together as a matrix of intertransforming elements (35, 69)
- time budget: the pattern of interactions can also be explored in the light of
time budget analysis.
3. The computer programme is designed in such a way that co-present terms signifying
distinct functions result in the generation of a separate matrix of relationships between
functions. From this it should be possible to develop a clearer idea of the frequency
pattern of interaction as well as the possibility of relationships not explicitly
activated within the international community.
7. Non-linear and oscillatory functional relationships
1. The point was made earlier that to be meaningful the pattern must provide for the
presence of essentially incompatible functions, namely functions which cannot co-exist
passively (eg "science" and "religion", "industry" and
"environment"). The weakness of existing classification schemes is that they
develop a framework which implies that such "subjects" are compatible, thus
deactivating/neutralizing the dynamic nature of the relationships. This is one reason for
the sterility of such schemes.
2. In order to be hospitable to discontinuity the scheme must somehow encompass the
non-rational character of disagreement (28). This implies at least a distinctly non-linear
relationship between such functions.
3. The most accessible indication of the possible nature of this relationship is that
between right- and left-hemisphere modes (29), and the essential difficulty of integrating
them. The functional consequence is an oscillation between the two modes according to the
task to be performed.
4. On this basis, it is useful to consider the disposition of functions in the rows or
columns of the matrix as involving alternatively a right or left-hemisphere type of mode.
The result is that the matrix then takes the form of a "chequerboard" of
functions. It is this chequerboard effect which could be one vital feature for adequate
function integration. The point can be seen as remarkably obvious. Humanity does not
function in terms of one mode alone, just as it is difficult to walk on one foot -
although this may be what history will see as characteristic of this period.
8. Implication of modes of comprehension
1. A major defect of existing classification schemes is that there is no concern with
how they are comprehended or whether this is of any significance. As has been demonstrated
(42), people and groups with similar concerns tend to disagree violently because of
temperamental, pre-logical biases. These have been related to the psychology of types.
Functional integration can clearly not be envisaged until this essentially human-centred
concern is taken into account. It could well be argued that taking it into account is
vital to the credibility of any scheme which purports to facilitate human and social
development. The question may even be asked whether the existing range of functions does
not result from a special form of collective psychological projection patterned by the
distinctly favoured modes of comprehension.
2. It could therefore be very fruitful to explore how psychological types are reflected
in the classification scheme. The work of C G Jung and his school is very suggestive in
- extrovert/introvert distinction, as related to
- thinking, feeling, sensation, intuition types, as reflected in
- positive and negative male archetypes (Father, Warrior, Youth, Wiseman) and in
- positive and negative female archetypes (Mother, Amazon, Hetaira, Medium).
The material on these matters could suggest a much richer understanding of the
relationships between functions and the challenge of comprehending them. One of Jung's
major points is that a given individual does not have equal comprehension of each of the
above modes. Some are repressed. The same could be true with collectivities (eg the
"science" or "business" communities) with all that would imply for the
dynamics of their relationships and the problems of the development and maturation of such
3. It is interesting to note, in the light of the above comments, the basic division
between those committed to social change. One group favours a scientific, structured,
establishment-planned, rational approach and rejects sloppy, disorganized, spontaneous,
personcentred approaches. The other favours such participative, person-oriented, organic,
casually-planned approaches "from the heart" and abhors the manipulative
impersonality of the "head" approach.
4. The extremes noted in the previous point have dramatic implications for who can work
with whom. The challenge is to move beyond such simplistic extremes, as it is in the case
of individual maturation. It is not one or the other, but how each can be used in an
integrated dynamic pattern whenever appropriate. It is in this sense that there is a
special relationship between the structure of the classification scheme required and the
nature of individual human development, especially in its "subjective"
5. The present need is really for a more meaningful classification scheme with which
people can more readily identify in ordering their world view. The interesting difficulty
is that it is psychologically necessary to reduce the number of categories to
approximately seven to maintain continuity of understanding of the whole (32) - whence the
value of the single digit number of rows/columns and the coherence of Jung's set of types.
But, when it is necessary to encode the "10,000 things" recognized in the
environment, the number of categories must be increased considerably - which
necessarily results in a fragmentation of integrated awareness. This states the basic
dilemma of classification scheme design. It indicates the importance of interrelating
patterns of small and large numbers through factors as discussed elsewhere (27). Single
digit sets of types, such as advocated by Jung, are principally relevant as dimensions
of multi-digit function coding schemes. They provide the necessary weft and warp which
creates the comprehensible framework through which greater degrees of variety can become
apparent within an integrated pattern. Examples of such patterns have been collected
together in a earlier paper (27).
6. The alienating irrelevance of present classification schemes is apparent when set
against the challenge of producing a scheme in which recognition of the attributed code
gives the same sense of here-and-now significance as the following:
- a) player positions and attack patterns in a football game
- b) pieces and attack/defence patterns in interpersonal combat
- c) katas and attack/defence patterns in interpersonal combat
- d) recognized tactical and strategic ploys in military combat and business competition
- e) diagnosis of a particular disease
- f) recognition of a plant or animal species in the wild
- g) recognition of a pattern of music or dance.
Like the immense popularity of astrological typing (however illusory), each of these
opens the way for a functional response within a (perhaps momentarily) stabilized world
view. They introduce the dimension of time in its most positive, liberating sense, whereas
conventional "pigeon-hole" classification introduces time in its most negative
and repressive sense.
9. Need for a development "container"
1. The final points above suggest some additional properties desirable in a
classification scheme. These essentially qualitative properties are difficult to build
into the simple structure of a matrix. The grid pattern can even be considered as a
stereotype of alienating technocracy. The defect of the grid pattern is that it suggests
no sense of direction or convergence towards a unique location with which the observer can
identify as a kind of "homobase" or goal. As such it is a fundamentally
anti-developmental form of representation, despite its obvious convenience and efficiency.
2. At best the matrix is meaningful in relation to one half of the functions, namely
those associated with left-hemisphere comprehension. Essentially it "freezes"
the "objective" world, whilst neglecting or denying the significance of
"subjective" interaction with it, although it is the latter which is responsive
to qualitative conditions. Even by ensuring the simultaneous presence of incompatible
functional alternates, the stasis effect of the left-hemisphere framework still ensures
only a limited value for the scheme.
3. Going to the other extreme, right-hemisphere thinking would advocate use of
particular images to which people can relate (eg starving child or sunny beach posters),
or possibly symbols (eg asfor each UN "year"), or a person (eg Mère Thérèse).
Such forms, whilst valuable in themselves for "mobilizing" people in the
short-term, are completely unable to convey any sense of structure or pattern within which
the symbolized concerns are related to the other concerns of the international community.
Nor are they able to provide any balanced ordering of the sub-concerns which together make
up that which is represented by the image.
4. Once again there is a dilemma, namely the choice between the limitations of
"flatland" (43) and the problems of focused fascination. Can the dilemma be seen
in a fruitful light to provide a way beyond this sterile dichotomy which engenders such
"spastic" international activity?
5. In both cases it would seem that it is a question of how attention is channelled,
focused or manipulated. In the matrix case, attention is forced along well-defined
pathways and easily becomes exhausted because it is not regenerated in any way. There is
little possibility for creative interaction, and increasing orientation to proceduralism.
In the image case, attention is excited and attracted, but is not offered any channels
through which the enthusiasm can be discharged in an orderly, constructive manner. The
initial enthusiasm therefore decays quickly into indifference, apathy or cynicism, or is
transformed into dogma. Both extremes are therefore attention "traps",
"prisons", or even "cemeteries", whatever their limited merits. It is
possible to alleviate this imprisoning effect by seeking some form of synthesis between
the two modes.
6. In the case of the left-hemisphere mode, curvature may be introduced into the matrix
through a third dimension. The value of this has been argued in earlier papers (31,44). It
ensures a sense of focus and introduces the observer into the scheme. This step may also
be justified in terms of the implications of quantum logic for classification (11, 45, 46,
47) and the related essential problem of the inadequacy of particular conceptual languages
(48) to "contain" the complexity of experience.
7. In the case of the right-hemisphere mode, complementary images may be grouped into
sets, as has been done very successfully in many traditional cultures with divinities
governing complementary qualities and powers (27). Note the advantage of personalizing
these powers in order to permit an individual relationship to them. It is curious that UN
symbol posters are never juxtaposed in this way to constitute a set of complementary
images, rather than the current practice of emphasizing politically-timebound, fragmented
8. The seemingly obvious next step is to relate the curved left-hemisphere pattern of
functions to the sets of right-hemisphere images in order to synthesize the two modes. If
this could be successfully done it would be the ideal "container" for human and
social development. Attention would be appropriately regenerated and focused to that end.
As described here, however, this step constitutes a further trap and an even more
effective prison. Examples of initiatives in this direction can be seen in efforts to
build a "world city" or a "world centre" in which the architecture,
imagery and organized information would reflect and reinforce a unified world view (49,
50). This in fact overemphasizes the left-hemisphere mode. The right-hemisphere mode is to
be found over-emphasized in the proposed design of certain process-oriented (utopian)
communities. None of these initiatives "liberates" attention sufficiently to
constitute a "container" for effective human and social development, whatever
their merits for some people in the short-term.
10. Intrinsic uncertainty and paradox
1. The synthesis outlined in the previous point is basically sterile. This is because
the advocated juxtaposition of the two modes results in essentially mechanical, static
"compromises". The "logical" nature of the step proposed is precisely
what identifies it as a left-hemisphere linear extrapolation, even though it is supposedly
encompassing incompatibles. It seems that once again it is necessary to find a way of
introducing a non-logical dimension if the sterility is to be avoided.
2. It is not sufficient to call upon the excellent arguments of theoretical physicists
such as Bohm (11) concerning wholeness and the implications of uncertainty. This remains a
left-hemisphere approach, resulting in an explanation with which the observer is faced and
by which he is neutralized. The arguments are important however as a way of shifting the
discussion out of an expectancy of linear extrapolations and predictability, even in the
3. Switching to the basically right-hemisphere approach, there is much material on the
integration of the two modes, but only in aform considered academically acceptable to
psychoanalysts influenced by Jung. This material forms part of the heritage of many
cultures. Its value lies in the fact that it encodes the experiential process of personal
development and transformation, which should make it highly relevant to the further
exploration of human development. Its weakness is that it has nothing to say about social
development. Furthermore its incredible richness makes it a fascinating trap in its own
right. Its experiential nature makes it especially suspect in the light of any
4. These two seemingly blocked avenues of approach clarify the basic dilemma. It would
seem that both have vital strengths and dangerous weaknesses. As pointed out earlier, the
only way to move further forward is to be highly suspicious of both and to alternate
between them, counter-balancing one by the other, since one or the other must necessarily
5. Of great interest in the right-hemisphere material are the guarded attempts to
define the essentially paradoxical nature of the outwardly incomprehensible possibility of
creatively transcending the limitations of the two basic modes. This is typified by Zen
literature and the associated practices (51). These claim the merit of deliberately
avoiding the traps of proliferating sets of symbols characteristic of other cultures. Such
sets of symbols tend to create the impression that transcendence is possible through them
rather than through identifying with the awareness from which they emanate as a set. The
disadvantage of the Zen approach is that it is so individualistic and paradoxical as to be
virtually inapplicable to social transformation.
6. Of great interest for the left-hemisphere approach is the implication of the current
challenge of plasma physics in relation to fusion reactors for power generation. A plasma
is an electrical conducting medium consisting of positive and negative charges forming a
neutrally charged distribution of matter. A plasma is unique in the way it interacts with
itself, with electric and magnetic fields, and with its environment (*). Its properties depend on the collective behaviour of the constituent
particles, as distinct from the individual. If plasmas could be confined under certain
conditions for a long enough period of time in a fusion reactor, mankind's energy problems
would be resolved. The difficulty is that plasmas are unique in their instability and in
their tendency to revert to ordinary combinations of matter and energy.
The problems that have to be solved to achieve successful magnetic confinement are both
scientific and technological in nature. The scientific problem is to find those particular
configurations of magnetic fields, and values of plasma parameters which, when scaled up
to fusion reactor size, would ensure a viable net power yield from the reactor.
Technologically, the problems are how to create the required high-intensity magnetic
fields, how to heat the plasma towards fusion temperatures, at the same time protecting it
from contamination by heavier atomic impurities (which would quench the reaction (52). If
individual attention/consciousness or world opinion is considered as a "plasma",
the problem of human and social development and integration are well-modelled by the
7. In the right-hemisphere approach, an interesting parallel to the fluid behaviour of
plasma is to be found in the important taoist concept of "ch'i" (or ki), which
as an essentially intangible form of "energy" defies all exercises in
definition. It is by identification with ch'i that an individual develops a way of
alternating appropriately between the two modes without the normal discontinuity of
awareness. With a background in biochemistry and management, R G H Siu notes (**):
"Energy is the essential stuff for structural integrity and mechanical and
chemical processes, while ch'i is the essential stuff for pattern perpetuity and thinking
and feeling. While energy-metabolism accounts for the vigour of health in the physical
sense, ch'i-metabolism accounts for the well-being of the person in the psychic sense. A
smoothly operating cross-feed exists between energy and ch'i in the normal and serene
human being." (53, pp261-262)
In the East, many of the martial arts are explicitly concerned with practices for
controlling the movement of "ki", as in aikido for example. This is also the
case with the pattern of widely practised exercise movements called t'ai chi'i. Siu
"If one wishes he may carry the analogy further. He may postulate such laws as
the conservation of ch'i, which would read: the totality of ch'i is a constant; it is
neither created nor destroyed, it is only transformed. Comparable psychological
formulations come readily to mind, such as: ch'i gradients, as a basis for explaining
dominance, power, and influence, which would be analogous to thermodynamic gradients;
matching ch'iimpedance, as a basis for explaining harmonious social operations, which
would be analogous to electrical requirements in circuit design..." (53, pp
But although Siu has written a subsequent book on management, there is apparently
little attention in the East to the significance of ch'i at the societal level.
8. Returning to the left-hemisphere approach and the point of departure, the problem is
how to design a suitable "container" for development using the pattern of
functions. Using the plasma model as a guide, the problem can then be defined as using the
configuration of functions to contain individual or collective attention. From the plasma
case it is clear that the functions should serve a variety of purposes in enhancing
attention (the will-to-change?), in focusing it, but especially in counter-acting
ever-present instabilities. These lead to "degeneration" of the attention if it
is not effectively insulated from the surfaces of the "container". The model
suggest that these surfaces are intimately related to the functions themselves. This
confirms the difficulty of the problem. It is already well-recognized that no one function
provides the desirable solution and each of them is dangerous to society or the individual
if unchecked. But the current work on plasma confinement suggests that advances can be
made by "bouncing" the plasma around within the configuration of a magnetic
cavity. This would indicate that the problem is really one of allowing the attention to be
constrained by all the functions simultaneously but without allowing attachment to any one
of them. It is thus not just a simple problem of oscillation between two functional modes
but between enough modes to constitute a container (at least in a three-dimensional
9. Switching to the right-hemisphere approach, in discussing ch'i Siu notes that: "The
conventional theories of physics and chemistry have not been successful in clarifying the
intrinsicalness of life and the specificity of biological responses." (53, p259)
The same may be said of sociology and psychology and in relation to the specificity of
response to significance. Architect Christopher Alexander attempts to clarify the nature
of this here-and-now livingness as follows:
"There is a central quality which is the root criterion of life and spirit in a
man, a town, a building or a wilderness. This quality is objective and precise, but it
cannot be named. The search which we make for this quality, in our own lives, is the
central search of any person, and the crux of any individual person's story. It is the
search for those moments and situations when we are most alive... The more living patterns
there are in a place - a room, a building, or a town - the more it comes to life as an
entirety, the more it glows, the more it has that self-maintaining fire which is this
quality without a name... This quality in buildings and in towns cannot be made, but only
generated, indirectly by the ordinary actions of the people, just as a flower cannot be
made, but only generated from the seed." (54, pp. IX-X).
The question he confronts most admirably is how to enable individuals and groups to
work with a "pattern language" (55) to build an effective container for the
"quality without a name". (The patterns would seem to reflect life in the same
way as magnetic mirrors reflect plasma.) It is regrettable that he is primarily concerned
with social patterns related to buildings and not also with the less tangible
psycho-social patterns in their own right.
10. In both the plasma example and Alexander's "quality without a name", it
is significant that the configuration of definable patterns engenders a central space with
special characteristics. Siu cites Lao Tzu with regard to this "empty" space: "Thirty
spokes unite in one nave and on that which is nonexistent (the hole in the nave) depends
the wheel's utility... Therefore, existence renders actual but nonexistence renders
useful." (53, p 266)
But the wheel only works effectively when the compression in a particular spoke is
appropriately distributed around the pattern of spokes as a whole. This is also true in
both the plasma case and in Alexander's living environment. It is relating this empty
central space to human and social development which is the current challenge. It is for
this reason that R Aitkin's work on "q-holes" in organizations is of special
11. The essential weakness of attempting to describe the needed container is that it
places an illusory emphasis of a static configuration, when in fact any static
characteristics it may have are probably only a significant as in the case of
"standing wave" phenomena. It is the dynamics of how the container works that
needs to be better understood. This is also the problem in the plasma case, Alexander's
concern, and in Aitkin's q-holes.
11. Individual and social development as mutual models
1. The previous section has pursued a line of argument to a point at which, whatever
its merit as explanation, the significance is in danger of being lost to many. As pointed
out by Feyerabend (58),arguments need to be made accessible by avoiding abstractions and
approaching the individual human scale to the extent possible. Centuring the argument in
this way is possible, but only by using the human-centred imagery which is the material of
2. The last section attempted to maintain the revelance to social development. The
argument can be taken further by accepting a bias in favour of human development. The
whole problem of containing plasma and relating to ch'i is encompassed by the concern in
the Chinese cultural tradition with the "circulation of the light" as reviewed
by Jung (59). Thus a traditional text on meditation reads:
"When the light is made to move in a circle, all the energies of heaven and
earth, of light and the dark, are crystallized. That is what is termed seed-like thinking,
of purification of the energy, of purification of the idea. When one begins to apply this
magic it is as if, in the middle of being, there were non-being. When in the course of
time the work is completed, and beyond the body there is a body, it is as if, in the
middle of non-being, there were being" (59, p 31).
In this and related texts the parallel to the plasma is quite striking. Such a link
between physical reality and meditative awareness has been noted by F. Capra (12).
3. The problem frustrating human development is the inadequacy of the response to
opposing tendencies or contradictions some of which were reviewed in an earlier section.
Methods similar to the "circulation of the light" in different cultures respond
to this problem. The explanation of the response is necessarily unsatisfactory because the
"intrinsicalness" of life, as mentioned by Siu, is essentially experiential.
"Light" in this context is very closely related to chi's, life and time. Siu
illustrates this by examples from music and photosynthesis:
"Man is the most versatile in terms of the diversification and depth of
temporal ramifications... In the case of man, however, something new is created upon the
rendition of certain combinations and sequences of sound... Man has transformed something
related to time into a heretofore nonexistent entity - a poem, a song, a symphony. We
identify this time-related X as ch'i. We suggest that living systems possess some unique
capability of marshalling ch'i, light would be looked upon as containing both energy and a
A given quantity of light would consist of certain units of energy and stretches of
time-substance. The energy-component would be fixed in the dextrose molecule in
photosynthesis, the time substance in a temporal matrix... Just as the dextrose molecule
can be assimilated so that energy fixed therein can be processed in varying bits and
pieces to be utilized for inanimate work, so can the temporal matrix be assimulated so
that ch'i fixed therein can be transformed in varying stretches and compositions to be
utilized for animate purpose" (53, pp. 261-262).
4. This harmonious relation to opposites can be effectively represented in dance and
movement as in the case of t'ai ch'i reported by psycho-analyst June Singer:
"When Chung-liang dances, the circular process of life is made manifest...
Change is the only constant, from one movement to another, from initiation to completion,
to rest, to initiation again. The energy never stops, never pauses, never appears to be
blocked. The circulation of the light, a goal sought in Chinese philosophy, takes place
before my eyes. It takes place in the body of this man... Although in continuous movement,
the body is always in balance; the balance is always asymmetrical, so that at any moment
the design formed by the body is in the process of turning into is opposite" (60,
It is noteworthy that the interaction between this dancer and theoretical physicists
resulted in a most remarkable description of the current frontiers of understanding of
reality and how they are to be approached (61). But the weakness of dance as a mode is
that, once again, it is essentially right-hemisphere and as such a trap, preventing
5. Some of the dimensions of the trap constituted by right-hemisphere, person-centred
expression are avoided by the philosophy underlying the performance of the traditional Rig
Veda hymns in India. The performance seeks ways to avoid being locked into any particular
mode of expression, although the performance necessarily involves the spontaneous
selection of one mode amongst several.Adopting that mode for a period of time is seen as a
necessary sacrifice or limitation of options in order to make use of a particular
comprehensible language which will be abandoned as soon as the task is completed. This
affirms the essential inadequacy of any given mode. The performer then effectively
withdraws to an empty centre from which another mode will be chosen through which to
continue the performance. This process is seen as a model of an appropriate response to
daily life, as well as of a succession of incarnations (48, 62).
6. The previous points suggest a way to communicate possibilities of human development,
especially in a semi-literate society. In both cases left-hemisphere structural
significance is effectively encoded on to right-hemisphere expression. Considered in these
terms, much of the cultural material of psycho-analysis takes on a new significance for
development. The problem with this approach is the continuing danger of responding to the
material solely as a code (a left-hemisphere trap) or solely as an aesthetic experience (a
right-hemisphere trap). There is a further danger, as illustrate by June Singer's work on
androgyny as a goal of development (60), which provides a valuable overview of such
material from many cultures. Care must be taken in giving content to the synthesis of
these two modes for, once again, this synthesis is primarily significant in terms of its
dynamics and not in terms of any mechanical juxtaposition of attributes (especially as in
hermaphroditism of bisexuality). The synthesis of opposites as encoded by the androgyne is
not sexless, and therefor sterile, but rather the essence of fecundity and creativity.
Even if is primarily intra-psychic, it is very doubtful whether the androgynous condition
is as accessible as June Singer claims, although the future may be able to distinguish
usefully the degrees of androgyneity.
7. An essential characteristic of the androgynous synthesis is that it can only be
expressed, discussed and comprehended through the ongoing interaction of opposites, as
effectively encoded by the relationships between the two sexes. Expressing the dilemma of
the opposites in terms of the male/female relationship certainly has the advantage of
making its complexity "accessible". It also draws attention to how little has
been accomplished in moving creatively beyond this polarity. Given present inadequacy in
handling male/female relationships (as indicated by divorce rates, discrimination, etc),
it is highly probable that this inadequacy reinforces the pattern of suboptimum responses
in other domains, in which polarities must be handled. It is also significant that the
major product of this relationship as presently conceived, namely children, is what
ensures the major pressure on planetary resources through the population explosion. It is
also significant that it is this very relationship which provides one of the major
motivating forces for individuals on which much merchandising is directly based.
8. The relevance of the above argument is based on the assumption that the male/female
relationship can be understood as encoding other polar relationships. This is a source of
major difficulty because the dynamics of the male/female relationship are so
"fascinating" to the participants that they do not encourage reflection or
generalization. This suggests that they tend to be perceived through the right-hemisphere
thus making the argument into a circular one precluding any transcendent synthesis.
Nevertheless much cultural material of psycho-analytical significance is encoded onto the
male/female relationship and its products, suggesting the possibility of such a
development under certain conditions presumably triggered by traumas.
9. It would seem that there is a vital link to be established between the understanding
of human and social development and the understanding of male/female relationships as
exemplified by sexuality. The link between sexuality, population increase and war are
fairly evident as a "negative" self-correcting cycle. It is the corresponding
"positive" development cycle which is unclear and it is interesting how easily
the validity of this area of concern is rejected as irrelevant. It is politically highly
sensitive. In fact it is appropriate to note that any psycho-cultural phenomena involving
alternation of oscillation is rejected, "frozen" into one of its modes, or
characterized by traumatic discontinuity (as in the switch in power between political
fractions following elections of revolution). A significant exception is the
"good-guy/bad-guy" technique employed by teams of interrogaters.
10. The same inflexible attitude is characteristic of certain traditional religious
practices in support of human development. In many religions the relationship between
polarities by-passes the male/female relationship and is encoded into the individual,
especially into a highly disciplined approach to the breathing cycle of
inspiration/expiration. Within such a framework, obstacles toindividual development are
seen as encoded into irregularities in the breathing cycle. This approach is claimed as of
great value to human development (eg in yoga). The price of success is however the
obligation to freeze the dynamics of the individual's male/female relationships in
society. In this sense the monastic tradition, for example, is unable to encode any
creative understanding of male/female relationships in society.
11. The previous point indicates that there is a high price to pay if polarities are to
be usefully encoded onto the individual. Since few are tempted to pay that price, it is
appropriate to look for ways of encoding polarities into a left-hemisphere presentation of
the range of functions operating in society. Hence the interest in classification schemes.
In parallel there is value in using the environment, as perceived in the right-hemisphere
mode, as a way of encoding the polarities of human and social relationships (31).
It is too soon to assess the merit of this approach in terms of its more experimental
aims. Hopefully their implications have however been related to the organization of the
categories in such a way as not to affect its value as a practical tool. As such the
result is an interesting compromise between theory and practice with the merit of
emphasizing the dimensions of innovative change and the value-related experiences in the
name of which it is advocated.
The effort made to incorporate these less tangible dimensions in positions similar to
those usually only accorded to the more concrete manifestations of human activity calls
for a careful evaluation. It does attempt to reflect the concerns underlying recent major
international projects, such as that of the United Nations University on Goals, Processes
and Indicators of Development. This questioned the traditional "value-free"
approach to serious scientific activity (63, 64) and the efforts to avoid consideration of
non-material human needs (30). As the first stages of what is hoped to be an ongoing
experiment, it is natural that much may be modified for future editions. But whilst this
experiment is definitively not value-free, it is hoped that is helps to clarify ways in
which a variety of seemingly incompatible value biases can be usefully balanced.
The prevailing assumption that classification is an objective, neutral activity may be
what in effect severely reduces the value of its products as a support by which
international organizations can be empowered to act more effectively. It may thus
reinforce the importance they experience in the face of the problems on which they are
mandated to act (65). As pointed out above, the classification of each item of concern to
the international community can usefully be seen as a political act. The treatment of
"homelessness" as a sub-category of "sociology", a theoretical
discipline, is indicative of the manner in which problems can be swept under convenient
intellectual "carpets" in order to avoid acting upon them directly. Indeed each
item classified in any international classification system needs to be assessed in the
light of its implications for problem-solving. It can be argued, for example, that the
choice of classes or subject fields reinforces and legitimizes their organizing influence
in society such that each becomes a domain in which a different kind of significance is
accumulated, usually at the expense of society as a whole (25).
Classification schemes are the basis for user access to international information
systems. As pointed out on the occasion of a recent conference on intergovernmental
documentation, such systems are not yet adequately designed to facilitate societal
learning in order to counter the marked erosion of collective memory (66). A Club of Rome
report (67) specifically identified the need for innovative (shock) approaches to societal
learning to counter the weaknesses associated with the adaptive (maintenance) approach
built into the organization of current information systems. These tend to be totally
unprepared for future crises and developments. It is for such reasons that it is
appropriate to take the kinds of risk inherent in an experiment of this nature. Although
errors are to be regretted, they are a useful indicator that risks are being taken in an
endeavour to find a basis for a more appropriate mode of response. As pointed out by
"More bluntly, future-responsive societal learning makes it necessary for
individuals and organizations to embrace error. It is the only way to ensure a shared
self-consciousness about limited theory, and hence about our limited ability to control
our situation well enough to expect to be successful more often than not." (39)
The weaknesses of this volume as a practical tool are partly those of any
computer-based retrieval system, namely the presence (or possibility) of a percentage of
misplaced entries within any category. Weaknesses at this stage are also associated with
the fact that, as an experimental procedure, problems can only be eliminated progressively
in an iterative "semantic tuning" procedure. Hopefully however these first three
editions already indicate the possibility of organizing information on international
organizations in a manner which highlights functional relationships relevant to the
emergence of a new world order. To the extent that this has been achieved in some measure,
it may be considered a first step beyond the current subjects and discipline-oriented
approaches. These are only distantly related to the dynamics of relationships between
functional domains and the problems of comprehending them and communicating the nature of
such interdependency in support of problem-oriented action.
(*) If the states of matter are defined in terms of relationship
to the environment, plasma is the fifth state. The others are: solid, liquid,
gas, and reacting elements (eg in fire). 99% of the matter in the universe
is in the plasma state. [back to text]
(**) It is interesting that this book should be published
by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, normally associated
with left-hemisphere approaches. [back to text]
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