Metaphors of Alternation
an exploration of their significance for development policy-making
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Subseqently incorporated into Policy Alternation for Development (1984), pp. 175-202. Formed the basis of the section on metaphors in the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential. [searchable PDF version]
Each development policy may be considered as a particular "answer" to the social problématique. No such answer appears to be free from weaknesses. A shift to an alternative policy becomes progressively more necessary as the effects of these weaknesses accumulate. Since each such policy is a "language" or mindset whereby a world-view is organized, no adequate "logical" framework can exist to facilitate comprehension of the nature of such a shift or the transition between alternatives. Many familiar metaphors of alternation exist through which the characteristics of such a shift may however be understood. In considering them it is appropriate to reflect on those which have a developmental feature and on the distinctions between alternation, oscillation, vacillation or variation.
One foot is moved forward to a position at which it can bear the full weight of the body. The other foot is then brought forward, past the first, to a new position at which it can in turn bear the full weight of the body. The arms are moved in such a way as to act as a counterbalance. As a result of these movements the body can be moved forward at a constant pace. Although in places of difficulty the attention may be focused on the movement of one of the feet, normally attention is focused on the movement of the body as a whole.
As a metaphor One policy may be promoted and implemented to bring society forward to a new position. Eventually however the momentum of this displacement requires another distinct policy to be brought into play to prevent loss of balance and to carry the society even further foward. During this latter phase the first policy must necessarily conserve the achievements made although the weight attached to this role is gradually phased out in anticipation of a reinterpretation of this policy to take the society even further forward. Whilst attention is clearly required on the formulation and implementation of each policy, particularly at points of crisis, the progress of society is best guided in terms of the movement as a whole to which both policies contribute but for which neither is sufficient by itself. Special features: The smooth transfer of weight from one foot to the other with each foot alternately bearing the weight and then giving it up to the other. The counterbalancing movement of each arm in harmony with the opposing leg. Progress is measured by the number of alternations made.
Contrast: The metaphor of 'walking on two legs' has been used in China to describe a policy of technological dualism. The present attitude of policy advocates may be likened to the attempt to move forward with one foot only - whether it be the right or the left. This can only be J hieved by hopping - provided balance can be maintained. Policies have to be relinquished in favour of an alternative and then renewed to fulfil a new role. This is also true of any 'alternative'. Further keys: More legs (4-legged, 6-legged, etc. animals). Legless movement (serpentine). Learning to coordinate walking movements. Drunken or spastic lack of coordination. Limping, paralysis and other obstacles to free movement. Number of counteracting muscles required. Evolution of types of movement. Monkey movement through trees by swinging from the branches by the hands only.
Air is drawn into the lungs by movement of the diaphragm. This permits oxygen to be transfered into the bloodstream and metabolic waste products to be transfered back into the air ejected from the lungs during the following expiration portion of the respiratory cycle.
As a metaphor A society is inspired by the circulation of news of collective significance. This has a stimulating and revivifying effect. Such news is vital to the social metabolism. After provoking debate and discussion, such news that is not stored in the collective memory is considered 'stale' and is rejected in favour of fresh news. Special features: The body must necessarily draw in new air to replace stale air. It cannot remain locked in one portion of the respiratory cycle for any length of time. The air drawn in is distributed to some degree to all portions of the body. The transition from inspiration to expiration is normally very smooth.
Contrast: There is a tendency to believe that society can function on the basis of the inspiration to be drawn from some single favoured message and that consideration of this message does not lead to the production of stale waste products which need to be ejected. Where the need for fresh news is recognized, the difficulty of producing fresh news of significance has resulted in the progressive banalization of content. Further keys: Respiratory defects: irregular breathing, shallow breathing, etc. Respiratory diseases. Respiratory consequences of air quality: suffocation, hyperventilation. Forced breathing in times of intense activity. Techniques and consequences of interrupting the respiratory cycle. Artificial aids to respiration. Breathing exercises.
Periods of bodily exercise alternate with periods of rest. During the former the muscles become tired and the energy resources of the body are depleted. During the latter muscle tone is recovered and the energy resources are regenerated.
As a metaphor A society may exert itself for a period, whether a working day, week or longer. A period of rest is then necessary. This may be especially necessary following exceptional effort such as in a war. Special features: During the work portion of the cycle the body exhibits signs of the degree of need for rest. During the rest portion of the cycle, restlessness gradually emerges as an indicator of the need for renewed activity.
Contrast: In society work may be variously considered as an unfortunate necessity or as an unmitigated good, with rest as a wholly desirable condition or as an unfortunate necessity. This is even extended to retirement as a desirable endstate after an unfortunate number of working years. Such perceptions have been further confused by the unemployment crisis and the possibility of extended leisure. The transition between the two conditions is seldom smooth and often perceived schizophrenically. Further keys: Overwork. Laziness. Attitude and body control of experienced workers capable of working for extended periods of time without need for rest\\- and the corresponding skills of those who can rest for extended periods of time without any need to work. The work/rest and rest/work transitions... 'A change is as good as a holiday.'
During the period of practice a particular skill is exercised often by focusing on its component parts. Weaknesses are detected and given special attention. Practice prepares for a subsequent period of performance during which the skill is used in its entirety.
As a metaphor The activities of individual groups in a society may be considered as forms of exercise relatively isolated from each other. Only under rare crisis conditions is it necessary for these group activities to interlink strongly in a coordinated protective or remedial action. Special features: During practice the emphasis is on bringing weaknesses to light and on repetitive work on such weaknesses often in isolation from their context. During performance, weaknesses must necessarily be disguised and stress is placed on the coherence of the activity as a whole.
Contrast: At the societal level practice is limited to military and civil defence exercises, trial run presentation meetings in large corporations, rehearsals for artistic performances, ceremonies and parades, as well for team sport practice. The approach is not applied to activities directly concerned with the development of society such as the organization of key meetings. Further keys: Degree of informality possible in practice sessions. Degree of innovation possible in performance.
In the development of a literary or dramatic theme, interruption of one theme at a critical moment to allow the further development of some other theme is a common device for increasing the significance of the whole.
As a metaphor In society the development of an issue may be interrupted whilst attention is switched to other issues which temporarily acquire, or are given, higher priority. Special features: In this form of alternation there is a special awareness of the dramatic moment at which attention can best be switched to another theme to avoid a premature denouement and loss of interest. Skill is used in blending the themes developed in parallel in this way building up to the final denouement.
Contrast: It would seem that in societal development the technique is mainly used to postpone any denouement and reduce interest thus preventing the emergence of any new level of significance. Further keys: Nature of dramatic moments. Skill in blending themes. Significance of the whole as distinct from that of its constituent dramatic parts.
In a casual conversation amongst a well-established group of friends, themes are taken up for a period of time then abandoned for others, often to be taken up once again on some later occasion.
As a metaphor In society an issue may become fashionable for a period of time as the coin of exchange between opposing forces. It may then be abandoned in favour of some other issue, only to be taken up again on some later occasion. Special features: The manner in which interest in the topic develops and declines to the point at which people are 'tired of it' and seek an alternative. How not discussing a topic for a period increases the interest with which it is taken up on a later occasion.
Contrast: The reintroduction of issues for consideration by public opinion is very much under the control of the media (themselves possibly an instrument of government control). Further keys: How new topics get introduced and how old topics get re-introduced or definitively rejected. How long a topic is discussed or remains undiscussed. How the level of interest in the conversation is maintained through shifting between contrasting topics.
As a solution to the political problem of control of the key position of chairperson, this position may be rotated amongst several (or all) members of the body in question. In this way each person holds the position for some period of time, whether a session, a meeting or a year. (The technique is also used for office location and running expenses of small organizations.)
As a metaphor In society control of positions of power could be rotated between the forces attempting to obtain a monopoly of that power. Special features: Rules are formulated defining the period for which the position may be held and the manner in which the transition to the next holder is carried out. A well-defined sequence of holders is elaborated.
Contrast: Usually in society much of the inter-group dynamics is concerned with the struggle for one group to hold the position of power. Where this is totally unacceptable bicephalous arrangements are made (especially in countries in which bilingualism is a major issue), although 'troika' systems have also been proposed. These are all structure-oriented solutions, in contrast to the process-oriented solution of rotation. Further keys: Variations in the length of the period the position is held to allow participation of minority interests.
Individuals when free to choose the activities in which they wish to engage will perform one activity until they 'get bored with it' and then shift to some other 'more interesting' activity. The activities selected may include talking, eating, watching TV, going for a walk, music, bird watching, doing a crossword puzzle, playing a game, gardening, etc. At some stage they will take up each of the earlier activities again.
As a metaphor Collective attention and public opinion may also be seen as shifting its focus of attention between activities 'currently in the news'. Special features: The variety of possibilities that may be temporarily selected out of the pool of activities is quite large. The ability of an activity to sustain interest for any period of time varies. The nature of the interest is very different as though each provided a different kind of nourishment (or vitamin). It is not clear whether there is any order to the shifts or how long before an activity may once again become of interest.
Contrast: Public opinion is notoriously fickle concerning the subjects which retain its interest for any period of time. Fresh items ('news') are clearly essential even though they fall into familiar categories. The question is what kinds of (better) nourishment can be provided with what sort of frequency. Further keys: The process of becoming bored and the emergence of a 'hunger' for some alternative form of 'nourishment'. The nature of the search for 'kicks' and the importance of 'happenings'. The inter-activity hiatus.
An individual will engage in conversation or some other form of contact with a friend, colleague, acquaintance or stranger, possibly at a cocktail party or for a coffee. After a time the interaction is terminated because one or both have other interactions in which they believe they can more profitably engage, whether out of interest, pleasure, or some form of obligation. On parting they may fix a date for a further encounter between them, although the overlap in their patterns of behaviour may be such as to bring about such an encounter anyway.
As a metaphor Such patterns of interaction are also evident in the relationships between groups and nations (through their representatives). Special features: The different kinds or qualities of interaction and the different periods for which they are activated. The manner in which interactions are ordered and given priorities over a period of time.
Contrast: This process is extremely well developed at the individual level and constitutes much of the dynamics of interpersonal interaction. Although well developed in the commercial and diplomatic worlds, it is not clear that it yet provides an equivalent amount of 'connective tissue'. Further keys: The variety of calendar (diary) filling policies. How each interaction fits into a pattern through which the individual is nourished.
A party, whether primarily for business, pleasure or other reasons, necessitates a certain amount of design - even though in some cases it may be almost entirely self-organizing. In the traditional 'salon' the hostess played a key role in ensuring the presence of an appropriate mix of people and in catalyzing interactions valuable to the dynamics of the party as a whole. A similar technique is employed to enhance the 'chemistry' of certain discotheques. Interesting dynamics call for a constantly switching focus of attention in order to 'keep the ball rolling' in a manner which those present find stimulating and productive.
As a metaphor The possibility can be envisaged of designing the interactions between groups and societies using similar skills. This is to some degree evident in the design of some conferences. Special features: The manner in which temperament and other characteristics need to be taken into account to prevent the dynamics becoming sterile and unproductive. The need for a sufficient variety of contrasting participants to avoid monotony.
Contrast: Although the principles are used for parties grouping representatives of social groups, the skills have not been adapted to engender more interesting dynamics between formal meetings or between societies as a whole. Further keys: The elements of the art of the salon hostess. Indicators of unproductive interaction pathways. Successful and unsuccessful 'recipes'.
Every individual enjoys or experiences shifts of mood which may be subtle or dramatic (as in the case of depression, for example). Although very familiar, such shifts may be difficult to control even though engaging in particular activities may tend to induce particular moods. Individuals alternate between a relatively limited number of moods which tend to become progressively more clearly characterized.
As a metaphor Public opinion may also be said to have moods which shift more or less frequently and are responsive to certain triggers (cf the Roman 'circus' policy). Special features: The nuances of mood and the varieties of subtle or catastrophic transformation between moods.
Contrast: The moods of a group or society tend to be less well characterized than is the case for an individual. Further keys: The varieties of mood and the varieties of transformation between them. Triggering moods. Maps of mood transformation pathways.
To attract an audience or readership and retain its continuing interest, radio, television and periodicals (dailies, weeklies, etc.) have to supply a varied 'diet' of programmes, articles, or visual materials. The variety is a compromise between responding to the interests of different segments of the same audience and holding the interest of any one such segment. The materials presented must therefore respond to the tendency for attention to wane and switch to some alternative by trying to ensure that that alternative is provided in some measure by the channel or publication in question. Programme directors and editors must therefore juggle with different materials of variable length to capture and retain a fickle attention.
As a metaphor In the government of any society the government must ensure that it captures and retains support by treating subjects which attract the attention of potential supporters for a sufficient length of time. Special features: The well-developed skill required to select and balance materials. The explicit nature of the shift to more satisfactory alternatives. The well-catalogued range of a material. Further keys: Scheduling techniques. How materials attract and hold attention. Development of the capacity to switch to an alternative and to choose between alternatives. Clarification of what is attractive to an individual, and when, in each category of material from the range available. Emergence of new categories of material. Attention management.
In normal daily life individuals tend to alternate amongst a well-defined set of activities. These include sleep, commuting, work, eating (well known in French as the routine of 'boulot, metro, telelocke, dodo'). Each activity has well-established limits. The set being effectively governed by a somewhat flexible time-table, but with little scope for variations. The daily round is studied statistically by time-budget analysis.
As a metaphor This daily round is fundamental to the organization of society and determines the minimal shifts in attitude required to ensure its viability. Special features: The relative rigidity of the pattern which may indeed amount to little more than a circular sequence ('round').
Contrast: The rigidity of the daily round in industrialized societies may be contrasted with that in some rural societies in which alternation between the possible types of activity may occur at any time of the day and many times a day. This flexibility is a goal sought by many advocates of an 'alternative' society.
Further keys: Means of introducing flexibility into a time-table. Means of enriching such a daily round with variants and other categories of activity. Manner in which the different activities match with the fulfillment of basic human needs. Comparison with a religiously-oriented daily round of monastic life. The inter-activity hiatus.
Ceremony consists of a structured pattern of activities of symbolic significance. Individual activities may recur during the course of the ceremony. Repetition tends to play an important function in reinforcing the significance of certain acts.
As a metaphor Ceremonies may be deliberately designed to encode a representation of a pattern of relationships between the powers governing society. Special features: The activities in making up a ceremony tend to occur (and possibly recur) in a linear sequence, although some activities may occur in parallel. The ceremony is structured so that certain acts are perceived as especially appropriate or 'fitting' particularly in spontaneous ceremony.
Contrast: In modern society the significance of ceremonies has been severely eroded to the point of embarrassment, except when viewed as spectacles or shows. Further keys: The manner in which the pattern of activities enhances and defines the appropriateness of particular activities. How activities which are 'fitting' are fitted together.
Taking things in turn and letting others have their turn involves an understanding of alternation which is first developed in children's games. It is also basic to some adult games, to the ordering of conference speakers, or of performers at a show, and to 'waiting one's turn' for access to some service.
As a metaphor Different groups could each take it in turn to formulate or implement policies, or benefit from access to limited services. Special features: The natural understanding at least in children's games is of the justice of it being a particular person's turn, of the injustice of not letting others have their turn, and of the requirement that each should take a turn at being the hero (or villain).
Contrast: In society the right of each social group to have its turn is resisted and quarrelled about with what, in the context of children's games, would be considered as much bullying. Further keys: What is carried, expressed or contained by 'turning'? Behaviour in queues. Rules for establishing whose turn it is. The characteristics of the 'natural justice' governing the acceptability of taking turns.
In many forms of interaction, including some games (e.g.\go), considerable importance is attached to gaining the initiative in order to have a temporary advantage in controlling the process. Considerable efforts are made to avoid losing it, or to regain it again once it has been lost.
As a metaphor Each power group in society can be conceived as attempting to gain the initiative or to resist losing it. Special features: The subtlety of 'initiative' as the focus of concern, which is nevertheless understood to be exchanged somewhat like a ball in a game.
Contrast: The concept is current in the relationships between power groups but mainly with regard to their narrow self-interest rather than their contribution to the interests of society as a whole. Further keys: 'leaving the ball in someone else's court.' 'Buck passing'.
An individual tends to hold one physical position for only a limited period of time before shifting (an arm or leg, for example) to another. This is usually done because of a certain build up of tension which can best be released by relaxing into a new position. This process involves alternation between a limited number of positions. A similar situation occurs when two people are intertwined in an embrace during love-making. The couple will alternate amongst a set of positions.
As a metaphor A society can be usefully conceived as needing to modify its position from time to time in order to release tensions that build up. The alternatives then constitute a limited set. A similar situation obtains in the relationship between two societies. Special features: The selection of the alternative position into which the shift is made is determined by what it is necessary necessary to shift in order to release tension. There is a tendency to seek the most relaxed posture although once adopted an alternative is then progressively defined as relatively more relaxed.
Contrast: There is no understanding of the set of positions that a society can adopt. Shifts between positions tend to be of a spastic nature, involving resistance and conflict. Further keys: Classification of the position in a set and the permissable transformation pathways between them. How and where tension builds up and how this defines the nature of the possible release.
The basic movement of sexual intercourse is one of alternation through the movement of the penis in the vagina. This movement is supported and enhanced by that of whole sets of complementary movements in other parts of the anatomy of the two partners. The nature of the basic movement can be further modified by alternation amongst a set of positions (as defined in the Kama Sutra, for example). The initiating role for such changes may also alternate between the partners.
As a metaphor The variety of ways in which sexual roles can be abused are a potentially valuable indicator of the kinds of abuse possible in the intercourse between two social groups. The metaphor also suggests distinctions between more and less fruitful ways in which one partner can impregnate the other with its principles or receive the principles of the other. Special features: The manner in which the physiological process can engender mutual sympathy and even a blending in ecstatic union. The constant exchange of signals enabling the parameters of the alternation process to be varied.
Contrast: Although this metaphor is very frequently used to describe relationships between social groups, it is only perceived in terms of dominance and 'working one's will' on the other group, often as a form of rape. There is rarely any sense of harmony and mutual contribution to a process in which the initiative may be shared and each may be constrained to receive something from the other. Further keys: Foreplay, frigidity, impotence. How and whether the normal can be distinguished from the perverted.
Fashion governs not only styles of clothing and accessories but also the appreciation accorded to styles of art, music, recreation, tourism and even academic research. Fashions change, and are encouraged to change, especially in the case of clothing. Hems rise only to fall again on some later occasion. Certain theoretical approaches lose favour only to be taken up again at a later time.
As a metaphor Amongst social groups certain issues or principles also become fashionable for a period during which they are the basis for intense activity, only to be abandoned in favour of more compelling alternatives. Later they may return to favour once again. Special features: The non-rational subtlety of the aesthetic choices involved which appear to seek to heighten interest by exploring extremes and contrasts. Ideally the 'new' should shock and reinforce attempts to break with the 'old'.
Contrast: There is much greater ability to discuss fashions as temporary fashions in domains such as clothing than is possible with respect to issues in society where the uncritical attachment to particular issues is highly developed. There is also an expectation that the new fashions should be strikingly different from the old. Further keys: The nature of 'classical styles' less subject to the vagaries of fashion. The role of fashion leaders and the ease with which the 'fashion trade' is manipulated.
In a number of specific situations formulae for sharing the same physical resources at different periods of time have been developed. Possession of the resources thus alternates between the different owners. This can be seen in procedures for making a limited water supply available for irrigation in semi-arid rural communities, where each channels the water to his field for a specified time. (An interesting version of this is the sequence in which wild animals share access to water holes.) A holiday apartment may be owned under a condominium arrangement whereby each only has full use of the facility for a specified period during each year. Where the number of school rooms is limited the facilities may be used under a modular (shift) arrangement similar to the shift arrangement in factories. This formula may be extended to two part-time people who contract together to work non-overlapping periods to provide a full day's work thus sharing the job.
As a metaphor There is clearly scope for groups and societies to share resources over a period of time (rather than simultaneously as is presently advocated). Special features: The clarity with which the necessary timing is understood (or felt) by all parties.
Contrast: Vain attempts are made to divide up a pool of resources often to the dissatisfaction of all concerned\\- frequently leading to conflict. No effort is made to facilitate the sharing process by distributing larger portions for periods of time rather than attempting to distribute all the resources permanently. Further keys: Types of cycle, symmetric and asymmetric.
In certain situations possession of rights is determined by the rules and conditions of some form of game. Ownership may then be said to alternate between the participants in the game. At the detailed level this may be recognized by possession of a ball (e.g. football, basketball), although the rules may require that the ball alternate between the players (e.g. tennis, volleyball). At a more general level success may be indicated by the game score or the position of the team in a league table. In the absence of a ball, the struggle may be for amount of speaking time (as at conferences) partially checked by rules requiring that each be allowed to present his position. The struggle for power of political parties may be seen in this light.
As a metaphor This suggests that the struggle for power between different claimants could be rendered less naked by elaborating various kinds of games which offered each the possibility of periods of control as an outcome of performance against the other(s). Special features: The well-defined nature of the rules, which may be relatively complex, involving penalties and subtleties of scoring to ensure fairplay, as determined by adequate involvement in the alternation process.
Contrast: The interaction between the great powers, for example, is studied in the light of game theory by those involved. There is however little attempt to render the rules of the game explicit. On the other hand, such powers do take very seriously the need to perform well in any games that are offered as substitutes (e.g. sport, chess) for the basic game they are playing. Further keys: Emergence of game rules. Types of game. Game referees. Role of spectators.
In certain circumstances several people may find it impossible to share a relationship simultaneously. They may then agree not to meet all together at the same time but rather as smaller compatible groups at different times. This formula is used in connection with child visiting rights of divorced parents. It is a basic feature of the conjugal relationship in polygamous families (which in West African societies, for example, allows the wives extended periods of freedom to engage in independent economic activities). Some aspects of this formula are explored in open marriages. In large families it determines who does what with whom and when. Groups of families may alternate responsibility for all their children.
As a metaphor This concept could be developed as a means of forming coalitions in which some of the partners do not wish 'to be at the same table together'. Special features: Recognition that the co-presence of some people is either not viable or not fruitful.
Contrast: This approach is used to a limited extent in triangular negotiations via a mediator when two social groups are 'not speaking to each other'. This condition has not however been integrated into a stable coalition in which non-co-presence is an accepted feature. Further keys: Nature of the transition between one relationship pattern and another. How the rules are established.
The seasonal cycle creates and withdraws opportunities at geographically separated locations. Both animals and humans respond to these changes by moving physically from one place to the other, only to return as the cycle continues. In the case of animals, especially birds, this may involve movement in search of basic needs such as water, food or warmth. In the case of humans, the pressure may be for warmth, water or grazing for herd animals, as in the case of nomads. Within the monetary economy it may be determined by the opportunities of seasonal employment, harvesting, sea resorts, ski resorts. Another kind of migration may occur in response to the social or cultural season (e.g. jet set migration).
As a metaphor Social groups could change their pattern of behaviour in response to cyclic processes in society, especially economic cycles. Special features: Sensitivity to cyclic phenomena, their dangers and their opportunities. Displacement.
Contrast: Seasonal movement is used to a limited extent by inter-governmental assemblies (e.g. ECOSOC meetings alternately in New York and Geneva; EEC meetings). There is no inbuilt adaptation by social groups to economic or other cycles, except possibly in the form of religious pilgrimages (e.g.\Mecca). Series of infrequent periodic, international meetings in response to particular needs may perhaps be considered in this light (e.g.\UNCTAD conferences). Further keys: Concept of a recognizable cycle and the nature of a cyclic opportunity. Kinds of 'displacement' or adaptation that are possible or useful.
Many religions have festivals or other events organized within the framework of the annual cycle or even of much longer periods. At each such event within a cycle specific symbolic considerations are stressed, each qualitatively different from the others although together they are perceived as constituting a coherent response to existential needs. Some of these events may be tied to particular individuals (e.g.\saints). It is recognized that people may feel greater attachment to some of these events than to others.
As a metaphor The annual cycle, as well as other cycles, could provide a basis for interrelating alternating events which each stress one of the existential concerns of life on earth. The aim being to stress the complete range of such concerns. Special features: The cyclic organization of variety and the subtle contrasts in forms of presentation whereby their qualitative distinctions are maintained.
Contrast: This approach is used in an essentially tokenistic manner in the form of various 'World Days' sponsored by the United Nations and other bodies (e.g. for refugees, environment, etc.). These are not viewed as integrated within a cycle and the agencies responsible for any one event are seldom aware of others, and feel no need to be. The approach is also applied in the series of 'International Years' (approved by the United Nations and other bodies), but these do not as yet repeat within any cycle. Further keys: Nature of the distinctions possible between events. Preservation of the integrity of the cycle. Significance of the cycle as a whole.
Importance is attached within certain cultures and traditions to the waxing and waning of qualitative influences. These may be associated with gods, principles, astrological factors, etc. or of combinations of these. In each case these are understood to act within a multi-cyclic framework, which may include cycles of very long periodicity (e.g. the 'Ages' in the Hindu tradition). Within such cycles the waxing influence (of the reborn god) may be represented as struggling to overcome the waning influence (of the exhausted outgoing god). Celebration of these events may be integrated within religious cycles.
As a metaphor The collective attention required by particular qualitative features of psycho-social life may be seen as waxing and waning within a multi-cyclic framework ensuring that adequate (but not excessive) attention is given to each such feature in order to achieve the harmony of the whole. The relationship between the features may be conflictual. Special features: The richness of such cycles and the effort devoted to rendering them comprehensible through a multiplicity of stories and various interrelated coding systems (e.g. colour, number, sound, etc.).
Contrast: In some cultures such systems are a determining factor in decision-making but often in a manner which stresse superficial features rather than the qualitative richness that they symbolize. Further keys: The variety of qualities distinguished and the manner in which they are grouped into cyclic sets.
Phenomena acquire significance to the individual when they appear in a context in which they are effectively highlighted by contrast. At the most basic level of vision, the eye is constantly engaged in a very rapid scanning movement without which objects would blend into the context in which they are located and become 'invisible'. Objects may be given (artistic) significance by taking them from their natural context (where they would not be noticed) and placing them in a carefully structured contrasting decor which focuses attention on them. It is then the alternation between focus on the context and on the object which enhances its significance. This principle is also used within paintings and other works of arts, only then the painter has to build the context into the painting or ensure that the painting contrasts with settings in which it is likely to be displayed.
As a metaphor This suggests an alternative approach to comprehension of the recognition of social problems and the function of inquality. Special features: Rapidity of the alternation which effectively creates a stable figure/ground configuration.
Contrast: In the recognition of social problems and injustices society is still struggling with the distinction between what observers perceive as significant (because it contrasts with their own background) and what those involved perceive as significant in the light of their own background. Further keys: 'Scanning' of processes and non-material objects (e.g.\concepts, values, etc.)
There are a number of situations in which people are persuaded to change their attitudes by the alternate use of pressure and encouragement. Many forms of education involve exercises under time, peer or instructor pressure alternating with interesting exploration of new material (such as with audio-visuals). Here there is also an alternation between active and passive roles. Stick and carrot techniques have long been used to motivate the people in a work or military force, as in team sport training. They are also used in executive training, occasionally in a very severe form (e.g. some staff colleges and Japanese management motivation courses). Such techniques have also been applied to brainwashing and interrogation using the classic alternation between nice guy (cigarettes) and nasty guy (violence) in a two man team.
As a metaphor This suggests the value for a society of alternating between response to challenge and peaceful relaxation. It is the alternation which promotes development. Special features: Such techniques alternate between building up and testing/questioning (or even destroying) self-confidence so that the person is forced to look for a new position of equilibrium. It is the displacement to a new position which can constitute positive change.
Contrast: This process is not consciously applied by large social groups but it is possible that societies engage in it through the manner in which crises are engendered. Note also the challenge and response theory of history. Further keys: The educational problems of how much pressure and how much 'nourishment' and for what periods. How to determine when the technique is being abused, especially if the participants are there voluntarily.
The cycle of the seasons is a basic form of alternation, especially perceptible in the non-tropical zones. Perception of the movement through the 'four' seasons has become well-characterized and has fundamental implications for the organization of activities such as agriculture and the cultural activities dependent upon them. The seasonal contrasts are recognized by variations in the weather. There is an instinctive understanding of how the parameters of weather (wet, dry; hot, cold; wind, calm) give rise to an alternating pattern of distinctive phenomena (storm, heat wave, etc.)
As a metaphor Both the seasons and alternating weather patterns suggest ways of understanding the constantly shifting patterns of social dynamics. Special features: The manner in which the transitions between distinct seasons or types of weather can be described as continuous transformations rather than perceptual discontinuities (as in other cases of alternation). The subtle variations of weather are well recognized and therefore an ideal substrate for encoding.
Contrast: The metaphor is extensively used to describe social phenomena (e.g.\'stormy situation') but has not been developed into a systematic descriptive language encoding the complexities of social dynamics. There is unfortunately a well-developed tendency to consider 'rain' as 'bad' weather and 'sun' as 'good' weather which takes little account of the environmental significance of such phenomena. Further keys: Importance of seasonal and weather variation. Duration of seasons and types of weather. Flood, drought, hurricanes, etc.
Whether in sport, military or business confrontations with competing forces, there is a tendency to elaborate alternative strategies which can be used if they are liable to be more advantageous. The team may therefore undergo training in response to a variety of possible scenarios, as with military manoevers, war games and management games. In each case the aim is to develop the ability of the group to switch to an alternative posture and work through that pattern until it is out-manoevered by the opposition. Each such strategy may be explicitly codified with the role of each person clearly defined. The principle of alternation between postures is especially clear in certain forms of martial art.
As a metaphor This suggests that societies should be able to work through a variety of alternative organizational patterns according to the crisis they face. Special features: The stress on the need to switch between organizational modes rather than treating any particular one as desirable in its own right. The explicit definition of each pattern and clarification of the transitions between them. Recognition of the inherent limitation of any particular pattern in a turbulent environment.
Contrast: This approach has been extensively explored with respect to military strategies (although the number of alternatives in great power nuclear confrontation is presumably several orders of magnitude lower than in conventional warfare or team sport). A limited variant is applied for the alternative organization of society in response to civil defence crises. Extension of the approach to other crises has not been envisaged except through the use of various tactical economic devices (e.g. 'belt tightening') which do not involve temporary social reorganization. Multinational enterprises make some use of this approach. Further keys: Range of organizational patterns required to contain the range of (un)foreseeable crises. Whether any intermediary 'rest' posture exists or whether all postures are a response to a prevailing condition.
In a wind-powered yacht where it is necessary to travel against the wind (namely in the general direction from which the wind is coming) a tacking technique must be employed. This involves first travelling some distance with the wind on the right-hand side in a direction at a considerable angle (say 45\degrees) to that of the direction desired. Then the direction of travel is switched so that the wind is on the left-hand side again at an angle (say 45\degrees) to that of the direction desired. The boat thus advances in the desired direction by alternating repeatedly between two directions of travel which are 'off-course' in a complementary manner. An analogous technique is used for routes up a mountain which wind in relation to the direction desired, as is the case with skiing down a steep hill.
As a metaphor This suggests that there may be circumstances in which it is not possible to achieve social development using a single policy. It may be necessary to alternate repeatedly between two (or more) policies which move society in complementary undesirable directions. Special features: The explicit manner in which the vehicle uses the energy acting in a direction opposed to that in which the vehicle moves.
Contrast: This technique is not explicitly used although the conflicting directions between which social groups stumble may be seen as indicating an unconscious use of an analogous procedure. Further keys: How 'close to the wind' it is possible to sail. Balance and the keel. Moving against an entropic force.
In driving, or piloting, most vehicles over land or sea, the basic problem is to steer the vehicle towards a particular destination whilst circumventing any intervening obstructions. To maintain direction requires that the driver turn the steering wheel in one direction to correct for deviations towards the other. This tends to result in a deviation in the opposite direction for which a corresponding correction must then be made. Steering therefore requires alternating correction movements of the steering wheel. To circumvent an obstacle however the driver has to ensure that the vehicle first deviates significantly in one direction and is then brought back 'on course' by deviating in the reverse direction.
As a metaphor This reinforces the understanding that alternating movement in opposing policy directions is necessary to ensure that society develops in a controlled manner in the direction towards which it is driven. Problems can only be circumvented by accepting deviations for a period before correcting for them. Special features: The alternating deviation correction movements tend to be directed at right angles to the resultant direction of movement.
Contrast: The driving metaphor is used by leadership to a limited extent. The difficulty is that (like nervous 'back-seat drivers') the passengers in the vehicle on the right-hand side tend to shout 'turn left' to avoid dangers on the right and disagree violently with those on the left-hand side who shout 'turn right' to avoid dangers on the left (invisible to those on the right). In the struggle for control of the vehicle, there is little sensitivity to the need to check deviations by alternately moving left and right, or to the need to circumvent obstacles by making extensive deviations in one direction or the other. Further keys: Contrast between expert and novice drivers. Reactions that need to be internalized in 'learning to drive'. Drunken driving. Traffic and rules.
In the case of birds and insects, flying necessitates an alternating (up and down) movement of a pair of wings (of which insects may have several) in order to provide lift. In such cases, as with aircraft, guidance is provided by minor alterations in the symmetry of the matched wings. In aircraft this involves equal but opposing movements of the flaps which must be continually adjusted to maintain trim or to control turning.
As a metaphor This suggests the value of opposing (political) 'wings' to enable a society to 'take off'. Stability and guidance are provided by continually alternating emphases on each wing (e.g. the correct adjustment at one time may be 'up' on 'right' and 'down' on 'left', which will tend to require the reverse immediately afterwards as a counteracting adjustment). But manoeverability is only possible if emphases are unbalanced for a time. Special features: Explicit understanding of the controls required. Understanding of the art of flying under a variety of conditions and with different manoeverability requirements.
Contrast: Although the concept of a political 'wing' is explicitly used the manner in which wings function as pairs to move society, and guide its development, has not been explored. The counteracting controls are the subject of acrimonious controversy. Further keys: Controlling imbalance to achieve manoeverability. Wingless aircraft and propulsive guidance systems. Formation flying.
In many of the arts, but especially in music, the challenge is to hold the perceiver's attention by moving it through a variety of complementary modes such that the pattern of contrasts embodies a new level of significance. In music the composer may for example choose to alternate between different pitches, rhythms, degrees of loudness, or timbres (such as by use of different instruments). Themes may be repeated, moved to an alternate key, contrasted or transformed (retrograde, inversion, or retrograde of inversion). The challenge is to strike a meaningful balance in the alternation between recognizable repetition and introduction of novelty.
As a metaphor The ordering of society can be conceived as a problem of interrelating (composing) the characteristic phenomena of social dynamics, especially when the social groups are each perceived as developing musical themes which partially respond to those of others. Special features: The explicit clarification of the elements and variations that are possible. The contrast between technical possibilities and audience appeal. Explicit recognition of the importance of limits.
Contrast: Aside from occasional references to 'trumpet blowing' and doing 'the same old number', this metaphor has not been systematically explored. Further keys: Complex possibilities for the development of themes. Multi-part harmony. Need for an interesting balance between harmony and discord. Development of music and music appeal. Alternative tunings. Need for recognizable rules contrasted with the innovator's need to invent new rules (which may not then be recognizable). Lack of contact between those concerned with 'serious' music and those concerned with 'popular' music. Improvisation. The problem of the relationship between composer, interpreter, audience, and intermediaries (studios, manufacturers, distributors).
Many dances are characterized by rhythmic movements of two separated partners in response to one another, the movements of the one being complemented by those of the other. In some dances all the dancers form into patterns with the two sexes facing each other and then moving so that the patterns interweave. The development of the dance may be such that each person of one sex dances successively with each of the other. Or possibly at some stage each of the original couples dances alone for a period, watched by the others who appreciate their relative merits.
As a metaphor If the dancers are considered to represent issues or their advocacy groups, matched into opposing pairs, an interestingly stylized interaction between the issues (or their advocates) emerges. Each is given space for its development within the pattern as a whole, possibly ensuring that there is a relationship between each and all the others. Special features: The explicit nature of the alternation between complements and patterns. The place of each within the whole balanced by a counteracting complement to focus and 'contain' its movements. Emphasis on elaborating the variety of possible relationships amongst the dancers. The possibility of switching at the end of each dance to a dance of a different pattern such that the dancers alternate between a range of possible patterns in which their possible relationships are articulated in different ways.
Contrast: The metaphor is occasionally used to describe the relationships between social groups (e.g.\'pas de deux') but only in isolation. The ongoing dance of issues and their advocates has not been explored. This may be in part because some relationships are more realistically encoded by 'gutsy' tribal dances, folk dances, and rock, than by the somewhat effete classical ballroom dances. The challenge is to ensure the interrelationship of such patterns which may all be open to the dancers. Dance patterns may be usefully contrasted with military parade formations. Further keys: Varieties of dances and the patterns they encode. Transitions between dance forms. Development of dance.
The key to the art of juggling lies in alternating the movement of the hands in order to keep a whole set of objects moving through the air in a recurring pattern. Each hand must perform the role of catching and throwing in rapid succession to maintain the pattern.
As a metaphor This suggests the need to alternate functions in rapid succession to be able to handle a variety of issues simultaneously with limited resources. Special features: The distinction between mastery of the art and lack of it. Degrees of mastery as measured by the number and variety of objects maintained in the air.
Contrast: The art of government, leadership or management is frequently defined in terms of 'juggling factors' suggesting that there is an intuitive understanding of the alternating actions required to maintain the integrity of the social order. The nature of the art has not been explored in these terms, especially with regard to the number and variety of phenomena handled in this way. Further keys: Teamwork to enable an even larger number of objects to be maintained in the air at the same time. Problems of starting, stopping and introducing new objects into an established pattern.
Techniques of management have become sufficiently explicit that widespread recognition is accorded to the need to organize projects into such phases as: conception, planning, organization, implementation, and evaluation. Management teams (and others) alternate through such phases as well as through a succession of projects organized in that way.
As a metaphor In addition to groups, societies can be seen as operating in terms of such phases. Special features: Recognition of the different skills (even personality types) required at each stage. Recognition of the importance of ensuring that the different phases mesh together effectively.
Contrast: Although project phasing is a reality where organizations can be managed under appropriate supervision, such phasing is less meaningful in the case of societies as a whole. Even as a metaphor it is much less meaningful when the society is not under some monolithic pattern of control. Further keys: Atlas of Managing Thinking by E. de Bono which identifies some 200\phases in the management process.
The distinction between the phases in the life cycle of some animals is particularly striking in the well-known case of insects such as butterflies (with their caterpillar and pupal phases). An even more striking case is that of the cellular slime molds in which the spores grow independently and then aggregate together into a migrating amoebal form. This eventually transforms itself into a 'fruiting body' from which the spores are released to continue the cycle.
As a metaphor There is the possibility that some extremely different psycho-social forms can usefully be understood in the above light as constituting stages of transformative cycles. Special features: The radical nature of the transformation which may involve a complete shift of medium (e.g. from water to air). The contrast in mobility and aesthetic features between the different phases (in the case of butterflies for example).
Contrast: It is possible that the radical nature of the transformation prevents this metaphor from being used, despite the exposure of all schoolchildren to such biological cycles in classes on nature. Further keys: Relative lengths of each phase of such a cycle. Change in nature of vulnerability at each portion of the cycle.
Whether in controlling one's own behaviour, bringing up a child, commanding a regiment, or managing an enterprise, skill is used in alternating between requiring 'good' behaviour and allowing 'bad' behaviour. In the case of a child, for example, to expect good behaiour all the time stultifies formation of the child's character. It is recognized that 'bad' behaviour is in many cases a healthy expression of a 'free spirit', to be permitted within certain limits. A child always on good behaviour is recognized as lacking some quality of individuality. A similar situation prevails in an army, especially under combat conditions. A good commander knows 'when not to see things'.
As a metaphor It is to be expected that healthy groups and societies should also alternate between good and bad behaviour. Special features: The manner in which limits are defined and the struggle to maintain and redefine them. The incompleteness of both extremes. Development takes place by alternation between the limits.
Contrast: Whilst there may be some collective tolerance of bad behaviour by groups and societies, this is not understood as a necessary complement to their good behaviour. Societies are supposed to be good all the time. They are not expected to indulge in foolish mistakes. Further keys: Weekly 'booze-ups' and annual carnivals as safety valves to 'let off steam'. 'Sowing wild oats' before 'settling down'.
The classic game, much favoured by confidence tricksters at fairs, consists of determining the location of a small object (a pea or a coin) which is moved rapidly beneath one of three cups in such a way as to create the (false) impression that it is obvious under which cup it is to be found. Also known in a card version as 'Find the Lady'.
As a metaphor The key to understanding many shifting social situations often creates the impression of being precisely located. Individuals and groups may well take extensive personal, financial or career risks based on their belief of where it is located. Yet the dynamics of the social systems repeatedly shift that key into an unexpected location. Special features: The unpredictability of the alternation as contrasted with the impression of predictability of the location at any one time. The difficulty in 'pinning down' the location.
Contrast: There is a widespread confidence amongst groups in their ability to specify where the key to any shifting situation lies at any one time. There is such confidence in this belief that groups may even express considerably hostility towards those who fail to agree with their perception. Further keys: The skill of the shell game artist and how it is developed. The role of his accomplice in misleading the audience. Increasing the number of cups or the number of objects to be found.
A special sequence of movements is required when climbing. This is especially evident when climbing up between two smooth parallel walls (a 'chimney' in mountaineering terms). The climber has to ensure that there is always sufficient pressure against both walls to enable him to move upward in succession his hands, feet or body.
As a metaphor The development of society may be seen as the upward movement between any two constraining extremes (e.g.\idealism and materialism) which offer no permanent foothold. Developmental movement may be achieved by ensuring that there is sufficient pressure against both extremes to guarantee a temporarily secure or stable position from which a portion of society may be moved forward. Special feature: The sequence of movements required for such a climb to be successfully made, especially when the climber has to rest periodically. The way in which different portions of the climber's anatomy (hands, feet, body) change their function from applying pressure to moving upward. The basic requirement that there always be sufficient counteracting pressure against both walls.
Contrast: As with the walking metaphor, the prevailing attitude may be likened to that of a climber attempting to get up a chimney by attempting to cling to the one favoured wall and to avoid touching the other (perceived as anathema). A skilled mountaineer can do this by inserting spikes in the favoured wall. Much less skill is required to climb using pressure on both walls. Further keys: A climber with more extremities. Climbing up a multi-dimensional chimney with N\walls and N-1 directions in which to 'fall down'.
In all societies efforts are made to introduce variety into the food offered at a meal, whether a feast or of the simplest kind. The diner is exposed to contrasting tastes (and textures) between which he shifts in response to the temptations to his palate. The different foods may only appear in one dish. There may however be a succession of dishes each offering different contrasts which he may sample alternately. In addition, whether in a feast or in the succession of daily meals, the style of dish may vary (e.g.\breakfast as contrasted with lunch).
As a metaphor The quality of life offered in a society may be partially indicated by the variety of experiences offered and the skill with which they are blended to bring out the best in such experiences by contrast or through ensuring their harmonious relationship to other experiences. Special features: The art with which dishes are prepared and presented in an appropriate sequence to enhance harmonies and contrasts.
Contrast: There is little official awareness of the need for experiential variety or of the skill with which it can be beneficially prepared and presented. Official recognition is accorded to 'work', 'leisure' and 'rest' with rather crude attempts to manipulate the organization of leisure (as in officially sanctioned sport and similar 'cultural' events). Even for student educational work, the curriculum is usually designed with little awareness of the relationship between the subjects or the overall effect of the combination of experiences. Further keys: Special diets and cultural food preferences. One to three-star restaurant grading. Religious constraints and minimal variety meals. Food snobbery.
Both man and animals in general are fascinated by simple multi-phase bouncing movements (and sounds). These may take the form of: a jiggling toy or rattle in the case of infants; a flashing movement of a fish lure (on a line) or the kind of movements that can be used to attract the attention of a cat or dog; an alluring set of movements in animal courtship ritual, partially reflected (for a man) in fascination with the bouncing movements of a woman's breasts or legs, whether casual or deliberately organized (as in music shows, night clubs or tribal dances). In their most relaxed moments, seated at an open-air cafe, in front of a television, watching waves at the beach or the wind in the trees, people find their attention lured by patterns of movement.
As a metaphor In social life also people are fascinated by certain patterns of behaviour that contain a shift between alternatives but are nevertheless to some extent unpredictable, although sufficiently cyclic (and therefore predictable) to be considered non-threatening. Much popular entertainment is based on this property as well as on the 'blow-by-blow' presentation of any good piece of gossip or humour. This fascination may be partially exploited by the continual introduction of new issues into the news and into the political arena. Special features: The almost subliminal quality of the shift between alternatives which makes the movement eternally 'ungraspable' and therefore of continually regenerated fascination.
Contrast: Great effort is made to present society and the environment through essentially static and alienating categories when it is precisely the shimmering patterns of movement that bind our attention into experienced reality. Further keys: Brownian movement of particles. Rapid eye movement by which objects are perceived.
Some chemical molecules cannot be satisfactorily described by a single configuration of bonded atoms. The theory of resonance is concerned with the representation of such molecules by a dynamic combination of several structures, rather than by any one of them alone. The molecule is then conceived as 'resonating' among the several conceivable/describable structures and is said to be a 'resonance hybrid' of them. The classic example is the benzene molecule with 6\carbon atoms linked together in a ring. This is one of the basic features of many larger molecules essential to life. Its cyclic form only became credible when it was shown that the structure oscillated between two (and later five) extreme cyclic forms.
As a metaphor This concept could be used in designing/describing/operating organizations, especially fragile coalitions. It could also be used to interrelate alternative definitions (or theories, paradigms, policies, etc) where none of them is completely satisfactory taken in static isolation. The 'undefinable' significance then emerges through the alternation process. Special features: The precisely defined nature of the structural extremes in contrast with the lack of precision concerning the ordering of this oscillation between them.
Contrast: The concept of resonance is not at present used as a metaphor except occasionally in referring to the relationship between two people (or groups?) who are 'in resonance'. Further keys: Typology of molecular resonant structures. Probabilistic nature of chemical resonance. Implication for complementary paradigms of any kind (e.g.\wave versus particle explanation).
A significant number of stars are intrinsically variable; that is, their total energy output fluctuates over time. Of these the pulsational variables are stars in which light and colour vary as a result of pulsations in the star. Their periods may vary from a few days to nearly a year. Such variability is a characteristic of any star whose evolution carries it to a certain size and luminosity.
As a metaphor It can be useful to interpret the energy output of any social group in terms of such variability. Many groups, particularly those with activities limited to large periodic conferences, are distinctly variable if only as evidenced by funds flow, paper output and media coverage. Special features: The detailed investigations of pulsation theory have established important qualitative and quantitative relationships between the cyclic phenomena. In the case of periodic variables such as the Cepheids, the period of variation tends to be proportional to their luminosity so that they are of great importance in the measurement of interstellar and intergalactic distances.
Contrast: This metaphor is used in its non-periodic form in connection with the (nova-like) explosion into visibility of some new media 'star'. It is not used in its periodic form. Further keys: Other types of variable star.
Variation is a basic technique in music. A piece of music is changed melodically, harmonically or contrapuntally in such a way as to bring out the different melodies or 'voices' that can be woven around each other in a piece. Variation appears in the music of most cultures and is in fact one of the few universal characteristics of music.
As a metaphor An issue in society is explored in a variety of ways by those for whom it is significant. The presentation of the issue is changed by each of them, whether acting in support of it or against it, such that together these 'voices' elaborate all the possibilities of it at that time. Special features: The considerable understanding of variational possibilities whether by scholars in theoretical terms or by practitioners or audiences with 'an ear for music'. The many varieties of variation that have been explored throughout the history of music.
Contrast: This metaphor does not appear to have been extensively used except through the phrase 'variations on a theme' where 'theme' is a term common to music and to conference programmes. Further keys: Melodic variation (instrumental, figural, Baroque). Harmonic and tonal variation with the introduction of tonal goal orientation, the hierarchical arrangement of keys, the movement to the "dominant" and back to the "home" tonic. Ensemble variation. Performance variation by which an organist can transform a liturgical chant into a polyphonic composition - hymn or verse alternating with choir or organ alone. Baroque ornamentation and embellishment. Non-Western musical variation, especially the Indian raga or the Indonesian gamelan in both of which the multi-level variation is conceptually more complex than in Western music. In the gamelan the variations are simultaneous contributions of different members of the orchestra resulting in a highly complex static concept of variation.
Many mechanical and electro-mechanical devices have some cyclic feature basic to the performance of their function. Examples range from the simple pendulum, via the spring or the wheel, to the pump, the motion of cylinders on a crankshaft, motors and dynamos in general, alternators, and even the cyclo-synchrotron. In such cycles distinct phases with different functions can usually be distinguished.
As a metaphor: Certain highly organized psycho-social processes could be perceived in terms of such electro-mechanical metaphors in order to highlight the different phases of any cycle. Special features: The precision with which different portions of any cycle are both distinguished and linked together by designed transition.
Contrast: Although such metaphors are used, for example, 'pumping' money into an operation, the 'dynamo' in an enterprise, or the 'wheel' around which other things turn, the phases in the cycle are poorly distinguished. The significance of the movement of electro-mechanical energy is not recognized. Further keys: Different current modes (AC or DC). Typology of electro-mechanical cyclic complexity. Associated patterns of stress and strain, torque and vibration.
In order to maintain the fertility of a field, it has traditionally been the practice to alternate between different crops in some (more or less) regular sequence. It differs from the haphazard change of crops from time to time. Rotations may be of any length, being dependent on soil, climate, and crop. They are commonly 3 to 7 years in duration, but usually with 4 crops (some of which may be grown twice in succession). The different crop rotations on each of the fields of the set making up the farm as a whole, constitute a 'crop rotation system' when integrated optimally.
As a metaphor: It is possible to perceive the alternation in parties in power in a multi-party system as a form of crop rotation. Special features: The manner in which each crop is deliberately chosen to correct for the weaknesses of the previous crop (e.g. control of pests, soil degradation, soil fertility, etc.) and benefit from its enhancement of the soil. Understanding of the merits of particular crops under particular conditions.
Contrast: The chaotic switch between policies of the 'right' and the 'left' without any understanding of the merits of each, the need periodically to compensate for the negative consequences ('pests') of the other and to replenish the particular resources which each policy so characteristically depletes. Further keys: Balancing the rotation cycle. Fallow period, short-term advantages of the use of fertilizers (with dangerous long-term implications). Use of each crop to inhibit the pests encouraged by the previous crop.
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