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6th April 2008 | Draft

Governing Civilization through Civilizing Governance

Global challenge for a turbulent future

- / -

Prepared on the occasion of the 3rd Annual Conference organized by the Global Governance Group of the New School of Athens (NSOA): Theme: Making Global Governance Work: Lessons from the Past. Solutions for the Future (Athens, 2-5 April 2008). [In case of difficulties in printing/viewing this document, a PDF version may be more convenient]. Some arguments have been further developed in a sequel Towards Polyhedral Global Governance: complexifying oversimplistic strategic metaphors (2008)

Introduction: presentation sequence / structure
Preamble: meta-themes ("about" responding to the challenge)
Part A:
-- Contemporary "myths" governing the relationships of governance and civil society? (Fig. 1)
-- Civilizing governance vs Governance of civilization?
-- Potential response conventionally presented : "Thinking" and "Doing" (Fig. 2)
Part B:
-- Challenge of governance: metaphorical impoverishment?
-- Cognitive challenges of governance
-- A necessarily questionable "open source" articulation?
Part C:
-- Integrative schematic: Resolutique and Problematique -- with Imaginatique & Irresolutique (Fig. 3)
-- Circular configuration of Thinking/Doing categories (Fig. 4a, Fig. 4b)
-- Elaborating a richer "global identique"
-- Interdependence of governance / civil society initiatives (Fig. 5)
Part D:
-- Detailed articulation of tabular presentation of Thinking/Doing (with indicative documents)

Introduction: presentation sequence / structure

Consideration is first given, in a preamble, to the ways in which the challenges and opportunities of governance are explored -- seen as being fundamental to any improvement to the more obvious, frequently debated, issues of governance and civil society.

In Part A, this exploration first highlights a sets of "myths" governing the relationship between governance and civil society in a global context. It then notes a selection of past assessments of the challenges and status of non-state actors and relations to them and between them -- for the process of civilizing governance for the governance of civilization. This provides a context for a tabular checklist of 16 items of future "thinking" and "doing" in relation to governance.

In Part B, the probability is first highlighted that collective thinking regarding the future of governance, and the relations between organizations, is metaphorically impoverished in ways that inhibit the viable creativity that is increasingly essential. Consideration is then given to the cognitive challenges of governance in a knowledge-based society. However the present knowledge society is populated by a multiplicity of more or less definitive "models". What then follows is therefore most usefully considered as a "non-model" that highlights the design challenge of knowledge tools in support of governance that recognizes the interweaving dynamics of problematique, resolutique, imaginatique and irresolutique -- inspired by "open source" as a metaphor.

In Part C, an integrative schematic is then presented to hold resolutique and problematique together with imaginatique and irresolutique. This is then used to hold a circular representation of the tabular checklist in a simpler and more elaborate version. Their relevance to any global identique is then briefly discussed, prior to a tentative indication of the necessary interdependencies of the thinking/doing initiatives.

In Part D a detailed articulation of the contents of the tabular checklist (of Part A), with indication of relevant documents (containing their own checklists and appropriate references).

The considerations below follow from the author's former responsibility for the Yearbook of International Organizations, the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential (from 1976) and development of their online databases -- through the Union of International Associations. This included development and maintenance of bibliographic databases on the problematique and resolutique, and included an International Organization Bibliography and Resources (from 1983). Web links to studies by the author in that context are used here as a means of elaborating specific arguments. [Whereas the following is a clustering from a governance perspective, a complementary clustering enphasizing a futures perspective is provided separately (Enabling Strategies for Viable Futures, 2009)].

Preamble: meta-themes ("about" responding to the challenge)

The way in which the challenges and opportunities of governance are explored is as much a part of the challenge as the insights and possibilities that emerge from that process and how it might be improved. Some considerations:

There is therefore a case for reframing the "rules of engagement" with which these matters are envisaged and considered such as to:

Recognition of meta-challenges of global governance?

The significant problems we face can not be solved at the same level of thinking
we were at when we created them. (Einstein)

To repeat the same thing over and over again,
and yet to expect a different result, this is a form of insanity. (Einstein)

Contemporary "myths" governing the relationships of governance and civil society?

Figure 1: Relationships of governance and civil society?
Prevailing "myths"?
Emergent "reality"?
stable dynamic (turbulent)
linear development non-linear development (complex)
distinct, well-bounded diffuse, porous
concrete (globalization) virtual (globalization)
objective / explicit reality subjective / implicit / tacit reality
factual, evidence-based reality image-dependent, faith-based reality
geo-politically containable issue dynamics subject to global geo-political issue dynamics
non-disruptive (predictable) surprises disruptive (unpredictable) surprises (Black Swan)
probability of long-term evolution probability of system collapse
culture independent culture dependent
preference/bias independent preference/bias dependent
personality independent personality dependent
manageable information flows information overload/underuse
adequate attention quality/time for governance inadequate attention quality/time for governance
transparent "due processes" non-transparent "undue processes" (classified, secret)
corruption-free processes corruption-endemic processes
insensitivity to unforeseen feedback hypersensitivity to unforeseen feedback
reliable allies / opponents unreliable allies / surprising friendships
slowly changing allegiances rapidly shifting allegiances
dependable/reliable actors/agents unreliable (rogue) agents/actors
tradition-dependent viability change-dependent viability
reliability of "tried and tested" methods urgent need for "new thinking"
reliable, non-problematic technologies unreliable, problematic technologies
reliable resources unreliable resources
sustainable initiatives/processes unsustainable initiatives/processes
capacity to elicit relevant feedback on complex issues questionable capacity to elicit relevant feedback
capacity to deliver on commitments questionable capacity to deliver on commitments
negligible cognitive gap between governors and governed challenging cognitive gap between governors and governed
"typewriter" knowledge mindset "web-related" knowledge mindset
cognitively unchallenged cognitively challenged
reliance on duly certified authorities reliance on practice, experience and capacity
well-defined (chain of) responsibility plausibly deniable (network) of responsibility

Governance might be considered to be significantly challenged by a "myth" that democratic processes do "work" -- especially given widespread claims of vote rigging, even in the most "democratic" societies. It is in this context that popular feedback processes have been rendered suspect -- as exemplified by scandals regarding BBC participative phone-ins. What is presented as popular participation and feedback by millions, notably to their representatives and to overburdened international institutions, might be understood as having a probability of success analogous to that of national lotteries -- credible only to the "mathematically challenged".

How is democracy to be expected to work elsewhere, given the importance attached to provisions for armed militias in the Second Amendment, seen as essential to the coherence of the US Constitution -- and given the challenge to democracy by armed militias elsewhere (Arming Civil Society Worldwide, 2003)

Civilizing governance vs Governance of civilization?

Challenges and assessments have been variously documented:

Whereas the Universal Declaration of Human Rights makes it clear that "individuals" are not called upon to prove their right to exist or their social utility, there continues to be a sense that groupings of individuals in associations can be fruitfully called upon (even aggressively so) to prove to the satisfaction of others, according to the criteria of others, their right to exist and their social utility. There is no Universal Declaration of the Rights of Human Organization (1971).

Potential response conventionally presented: "Thinking" and "Doing"

Figure 2: Tentative clustering of "Thinking" and "Doing" items
The significance of problematique, resolutique, imaginatique and irresolutique is discussed below
Issues of viability and security of (non)governance systems are common to many of the items
and are therefore not separately distinguished
(links are provided to detailed articulation below)
"Thinking" "Doing" Docs
Resolutique Exploratory

Designing simulations to elicit (unconventional) options, associating them with openly accessible, attractive gaming to elicit cognitive entrainment Dissemination of insightful, interactive gaming and pattern emergence; adaptation of virtual stock portfolio practices to governance options [01]
Exploring unforeseen potentials of complex dynamics of non-linear systems involving multiple actors Implementing information systems to enable such structures to emerge and develop as appropriate [02]
Identifying structures of requisite complexity, viability and coherence and ensuring their emergence Implementing information systems to enable such structures to emerge and develop as appropriate through self-organization [03]
Recognition of
higher order
Articulating challenges and possibilities beyond conventional polarization (and demonisation) Creation of engaging activities that give credibility and viability to non-polarized initiatives [04]
Imaginatique Quality and
Reframing "quality of life" and "pursuit of happiness"; implications of voluntary simplicity Designing viable environments to sustain unconventional qualities [05]
Recognizing and monitoring the viability of the widest spectrum of alternatives, in isolation and as necessary complements in any system Implementation of experimental environments ("free zones", "socio-poles", "renaissance zones"); development of substitution databases ensuring that such options are considered [06]

(engaging with
Cognitive vigilance and critical thinking appropriate to detection of vital insights readily suppressed by spin and advocacy of positive thinking Develop processes for emergence of challenging and problematic perspectives (notably associated with the "unsaid") [07]
Identifying the conceptual challenges of cognitive embodiment of "external" reality and its role in psycho-social sustainability Recognition, design and implementation of strategies that effectively mirror their environment and engage participation [08]
Problematique Insight
Designing open processes for gathering, configuring and disseminating insight -- in anticipation of it proving valuable Implementing and assessing "wisdom" and innovation gathering systems (eg a strategic Wikipedia) [09]
Designing processes to identify opportunities for enabling and facilitating innovative, regulatory and "best practice" initiatives Implementation of enabling information processes and legislation [10]
and engagement
Identifying nature of coherent strategic representations capable of eliciting appropriate engagement; challenge of comprehension of complexity Developing relevant software to facilitate configuring complexity [11]
Identifying implications for social systems of the adaptive cycle, resilience and degrading gracefully under conditions of collapse Introduction of relevant fall-back procedures and alternatives; development of a "cognitive toolkit" [12]
Irresolutique Credibility
("hearts and minds")
Rethinking destructive loss of confidence (as recognized by the military); meaning of confidence (as modelled by financial system) and eroded by tokenism and secrecy Proactive assessment of confidence erosion (broken promises, tokenism, deception by authorities, etc) and consequent implementation of confidence building processes of appropriate complexity [13]
Feedback to
Identifying processes to enable meaningful access to authoritative focal points in highly asymmetric conditions (information overload and underuse) Assessing and redesigning systems of public (taxpayer) interaction with government, media, corporations and academia (in light of realistic constraints and innovative possibilities) [14]
Exploring implications of web-enhanced (social) networking for new approaches to governance of requisite complexity Implementation of systems facilitating emergence and viability of higher order configurations of knowledge and social groups [15]
(engaging with
Exploring the challenge of "designing in" otherness and disagreement beyond comfort zones (rather than harmonizing them "out") Design of systems whose viability depends on the variety of intractable differences (as with resilient ecosystems) [16]

Challenge of governance: metaphorical impoverishment?

Few would question the shift to a knowledge society -- now hyperdependent on the media and creative visualization for communication purposes and framing its future. A case can however be made that the repertoire of metaphors through which the challenges of governance are articulated is impoverished in relation to the quality of cognitive assistance that is required -- perhaps to be framed as "cognitive prosthetics". (see commentaries on Governance through Metaphor Project).

Some relevant explorations include:

If importance is attached to the "images" through which organizations may be variously understood (Gareth Morgan, Images of Organization, 1986), what then of the images of governance and globalization? Morgan distinguishes eight: Machine, Organism, Brain, Culture, Political System, Psychic Prison, Flux and Transformation, and Instrument of Domination. Similarly, a symposium of the wise, to celebrate the sesquicentennial of Boston University (Lance Morrow, Metaphors of The World, Unite!, Time, 16 Oct. 1989) selected a Tessellation as the metaphor that best captured the spirit of the times.

In that light, a self-reflexive exercise was undertaken to explore a set of metaphors through which the operation and output of "think tanks" focused on global governance might themselves be understood. These metaphors included: Fish tank, Battle tank, Reservoir tank, Holding tank, Septic tank, Sensory deprivation tank (Float tank) , Cultivation tank, Simulation tank) (see "Tank-thoughts" from "Think-tanks": metaphors constraining development of global governance, 2003). Such considerations rause the issue of policy creativity and coherence for future governance (Meta-challenges of the Future for Networking through Think-tanks, 2007)

In this spirit what might then be the seven (say) guiding, generative and mutually challenging metaphors of governance and globalization?

The earlier exercise (Cooperation and its Failures: Metaphors towards understanding the dilemma for the 1990s, 1988) explored the metaphors of: Networking and teleconferencing, Revolution, Trade and Development, Sexual intercourse, Environmental ecosystems, Drama and Opera, Sharing in spirit, Building, Games and Teamwork, Celebration, Rule of Law, and Conspiracy of elites.

More fruitful complementary metaphors, to ensure better communication between governors and governed, might now include, for example:

A comparative study of the opponents in the Vietnam War suggested that the USA lost because strategically it was "playing chess", whereas its opponents were "playing go" (Scott Boorman, The Protracted Game: A Wei-ch'i Interpretation of Maoist Revolutionary Strategy, 1969). Provocatively, is it possible that the "success" of Al-Qaida is due to its framing of its strategies through richer metaphors? (cf Transforming the Encounter with Terrorism, 2002). Such points make it possible to suggest that a desirable form of governance, in a knowledge-based society, might well focus its attention on the emergence and movement of policy-relevant metaphor-models in society as suggested elsewhere (Governance through Metaphor, 1987).

Contemporary approaches to governance: "Crazy Enough" ?

Is the conventional thinking in the face of the extreme contemporary challenges of governance unworthy of a civilization "reaching for the stars" -- and potentially dependent for its energy on understandings of physics that defy conventional modes of understanding? The latter are famously dependent on the craziest "Theories of Everything", as illustrated by the much-quoted statement by Niels Bohr in response to Wolfgang Pauli:

"We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question which divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct. My own feeling is that it is not crazy enough."

To that Freeman Dyson added:

"When a great innovation appears, it will almost certainly be in a muddled, incomplete and confusing form. To the discoverer, himself, it will be only half understood; to everyone else, it will be a mystery. For any speculation which does not at first glance look crazy, there is no hope!" (Innovation in Physics, Scientific American, 199, No. 3, September 1958)

Or perhaps, as expressed by Shakespeare:

"Though this be madness yet there is method in it". (Hamlet, 1603)

Cognitive challenges of governance

The dynamics associated with an adequate response to the "emergent reality" noted above, needs necessarily to be of requisite variety consistent with any cybernetic analysis of governance as a control system -- especially for a system that is significantly "open". The schematic explored below is therefore understood as an effort to encompass the set of cognitive challenges of governance in a knowledge-based society, including:

Contrasting caricatures of "harmonization" in governance?
Top-down "static" vision?
"explicit imaginary"
Bottom-up "non-static" vision?
"implicit real"
Harmonising governance through a European Anthem Harmonising governancne through demonic music: Lordi 2006
EU "non-Constitutional" Reform Treaty (in process of
ratification under questionable conditions of "democratic deficit") suppressing reference to the
EU anthem
(Beethoven's Ode to Joy)
Eurovision Song Contest Winner (Athens, 2006)
Elected overwhelmingly through a record Europe-wide popular "democratic process"
(Lordi's song Hard Rock Hallelujah)
If aesthetic harmony (notably musical lyrics) offers a way forward, possibilities might include:
A Singable Earth Charter, EU Constitution or Global Ethic?
All Blacks of Davos vs All Greens of Porto Alegre: reframing global strategic discord through polyphony?

A necessarily questionable "open source" articulation ?

In a knowledge society, populated by a multiplicity of more or less definitive "models", what follows is most usefully considered as a "non-model" that highlights the "open source" design challenge of knowledge tools in support of governance -- generalizing beyond the application of "open source" to software development.

Use is tentatively made here of the distinctions highlighted by the Club of Rome:

These correspond to the author's responsibility (from 1972) for the comprehensive online databases on world problems and global strategies within the framework of the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential.

The above set was further elaborated to distinguish the:

This four-fold schema has been detailed elsewhere (Imagining the Real Challenge and Realizing the Imaginal Pathway of Sustainable Transformation, 2007). This endeavours to benefit from insights into mapping the dynamics of complex systems using the "real" and "imaginary" axes of a complex plane. As clarified in Figure 3, the problematique and resolutique are then to be associated with the imaginary as explicated, whereas the imaginatique and irresolutique are then to be associated with the implicit real as experienced.

In this context, the explicit "imaginary" is understood as associated here with a Thinking/Doing axis and the implicit "real" with a Re-imagining/Game-playing axis, where

The above ordering of the array of thinking/doing items as a checklist lends itself to a fruitful critical process in terms of the number of categories (Representation, Comprehension and Communication of Sets: the Role of Number, 1978) and its configuration as a table rather on some more complex surface (Comprehension of Requisite Variety for Sustainable Psychosocial Dynamics: transforming a matrix classification onto intertwined tori, 2006; Spherical Configuration of Categories -- to reflect systemic patterns of environmental checks and balances, 1994).

Exemplification of the "implicit" challenge of global governance?

With respect to the strategic integration of a future Mediterranean Union, as proposed by Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France and opposed by Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, Ian Traynor (Germany pours cold water on Sarkozy union, The Guardian, 14 March 2008) comments:

Diplomats say the fundamental problem is one of personal chemistry, with Merkel's self-effacing sobriety jarring with Sarkozy's attention-seeking theatricality.

Integrative schematic: Resolutique and Problematique -- with Imaginatique and Irresolutique

Figure 3: Interrelating problematique and resolutique in terms of "real" and "imaginary"
(originally presented in
Imagining the Real Challenge and Realizing the Imaginal Pathway of Sustainable Transformation, 2007)
Problematique, Resolutique, Imaginatique, Irresolutique

Circular configuration of Thinking/Doing categories

Figure 4a: Elaboration of Figure 3
with superimposition of the indicative labels for Thinking and Doing from Fig. 2 (the table above)
Problematique, Resolutique, Imaginatique, Irresolutique


Figure 4b: Elaboration of Figure 4a
clarifying the relationship to the dynamics of Resolutique, Imaginatique, Problematique and Irresolutique
(cf Imagining the Real Challenge and Realizing the Imaginal Pathway of Sustainable Transformation, 2007)
Problematique, Resolutique, Imaginatique, Irresolutique

Elaborating a richer "global identique"

The challenge of communicating and comprehending the dynamics of the above figure has been presented separately (In Quest of Mnemonic Catalysts -- for comprehension of complex psychosocial dynamics, 2007). This relates to the challenge of the identity of a globalized knowledge society -- possibly to be termed its "identique" (in Club of Rome parlance) -- and how governing of civilization is then framed dynamically by such an identity. The multi-media computer innovations, currently evoking widespread enthusiasm, need to be harnessed in response to that challenge, creating a richer representational bridge between the conceptual and the strategic -- and the possibility of a global "identique" of as yet unforeseen complexity. .

This might well also be understood as a powerful attractor/repulsor -- a fifth -- matching those of problematique, resolutique, imaginatique and irresolutique. This would confirm the value of the circumferential circle introduced into Figure 4 (cf Experimental Articulation of Collective Identity -- through a dynamic system of metaphors, 1991; Identity of the United Nations: experimental articulation through a dynamic system of metaphors, 1991). Globally the set of associated processes might be fruitfully related to those discussed by Peter Senge (The Fifth Discipline: the art and practice of the learning organization, 1990).

Rather than definitive, the challenge of "operating" a civilization through a schematic such as Figure 4 might be better compared to designing, tuning and playing a complex musical instrument such as a sitar -- requiring continuing development and re-invention.Assumptions that it might be "steered" like an ordinary automobile are as dangerous as applying such optimism to piloting a helicopter. ***

Any "identique" is of course also to be associated with the role of symbolic devices such as the EU Anthem or any "Eurovision"-style song (mentioned above) -- what they evoke and how they "move" (Moving Symbols: radical change in religious psycho-social energy policy?, 2008).

Interdependence of governance / civil society initiatives

There is clearly a need for a degree of coherence in integrating any array of initiativies (cf Coherent Policy-making Beyond the Information Barrier: circumventing dependence on access, classification, penetration, dissemination, property, surveillance, interpretation, disinformation, and credibility, 1999). Hence the need for looking at the web of interdependcies that contribute to that integration and for which approipriate communication protocols are desirable.

Figure 5: Tentative indication of interdependencies
between thinking/doing initiatives (of Fig. 2 and 4)
Interdependencies between thinking/doing initiatives

Detailed articulation of tabular presentation of Thinking/Doing (with indicative documents)

Documents are included here merely as an indication of the range of topics which might be addressed under any of the 16 thinking/doing items. They are potentially helpful in any further elaboration of the scope of the item and identifying further resources from within their respective bibliographies.

Links are provided below back to the table above (which itself has links to items below). The following articulation could be developed to point to the relevance of complementary preoccupation with the Imaginatique and Irresolutique

Resolutique ("explicit imaginary")

Exploratory simulation (gaming)

Sustainable dynamics

Appropriate organizational architecture

Recognition of higher order challenges

Imaginatique ("implicit real")

Quality / Significance enhancement

Experimental alternatives

Reframing assumptions (Nasty questions)

Self-reflexivity / Internalization

Problematique ("explicit imaginary")

Insight capture

Enabling / Facilitation

Strategic engagement / comprehension

Crisis preparedness

Irresolutique ("implicit real")

Credibility ("hearts and minds")

"Access" / Feedback to authorities

Participation / Social networking

Dialogue / Chemistry / Otherness


Graeme Chesters and Ian Welsh. Complexity and Social Movements: Multitudes at the Edge of Chaos cover of Complexity and Social Movements (International Library of Sociology) Routledge, 2006

Jared M. Diamond. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, 2005

Thomas Homer-Dixon. The Upside of Down: catastrophe, creativity, and the renewal of civilization, 2006

Kevin Kelly. New Rules for the New Economy [text]

Gareth Morgan. Images of Organization. Beverly Hills, Sage, 1986

Peter Senge. The Fifth Discipline: the art and practice of the learning organization, 1990

Nassim Nicholas Taleb. The Black Swan: the impact of the highly improbable, 2007 [reviews].

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