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25 February 2009 | Draft

Engaging with Globality

through cognitive lines, circlets, crowns or holes

- / -

Overview of a four-fold exploration. Produced on the occasion of the "coronation" of Barack Obama (as president of the country from which insightful leadership is expected in response to global problems) and of the "crowning experience" of the Davos World Economic Forum (for the instigators and observers of the global credit crisis and its consequences). [Engaging with Globality -- Dimension 1: Cognitive Realignment; Dimension 2: Cognitive Circlets; Dimension 3: Cognitive Crowns; Dimension 4: Knowing Thyself]

-- Argument
-- Cognitive engagement with globality
-- Globalization and globality
-- Mnemotechnics and symbolism
-- Dimensionality of engagement
-- Encompassing difference and disagreement

Dimension 1: Cognitive Realignment -- making points and aligning a target
Arrogance of the "Masters of the Universe"
Social unrest engendered by the crowned
Complicity of authorities in dysfunctionality
Davos as the "crowning experience" for the "Masters of the Universe"
Symptoms of denial: gender and the underside of meetings
Strategic implications of denial
Cognitive pathology of the "reborn"
Repetition, circularity and self-reflexivity
Beyond "Mickey-Mouse" governance of crises?
"Magna Carta": Configuring interlocking pathways for circular argumentation
Reframing finger-pointing, the blame-game and demonization
Literature for learning in interesting times

Dimension 2: Cognitive Circlets -- learning/action cycles
Disconnected scales of scope
Symbols -- by-passing and focusing lengthy articulations
Cognitive torque and fruitful associations
Cognitive implications
Cognitive insights from mathematics
Resonances between power in practice and in imagination
Existential focus vs Radical reframing of "body of knowledge"
Cognitive challenge of 2-dimensionality and 3-dimensionality
Cognitive engagement with globality
Enabling designs of cognitive circlets and crowns

Dimension 3: Cognitive Crowns -- all-encompassing, well-rounded experience
Engaging with globality through "triple crown" cognition?
Understandings of "crowning experience"
Potential clues to embodying globality through "crowning experience"
Reflexivity and the global financial crisis
Understanding "union"
Organization of memory

Dimension 4: Knowing Thyself -- embodying engagement with otherness
Emergent cognitive unrest implicit in social unrest
Cognitive implication "down the rabbit hole"?
Encouraging paradoxical strategies
Interfacing confidently between locality and globality
Transcending categories characteristic of in-the-box thinking
Cognitive interfacing with otherness: engaging with abundance
Radical questioning: delinking from detachment
Engendering categories: self-constraining world-making and system building
Playfully engaging with globality through re-categorizing and re-classifying
Realistic unknowing, requisite humility and appropriate questioning
Dimension 5?

Annex A: Engaging with Globality through Playful Re-categorizing
Annex B: Global Governance via a Double-breasted Strange Attractor
Annex C: Engaging with Globality through Dynamic Complexity
Annex D: Intercourse with Globality through Enacting a Klein bottle



This is an exploration of the challenge of providing succinct integrative vehicles for significance, notably as this relates to any existential sense of coherence and identity. The focus in Dimension 1 and Dimension 2 is on the challenge more conventionally understood in terms of the knowledge management required by governance and the governors -- on behalf of the governed. This is developed in Dimension 3 with respect to those who are effectively "crowned". In Dimension 4 the inadequacies and impracticalities of such possibilities, hitherto considered realistic, are used to reframe the cognitive challenge for any individual obliged to order cognitive skills and accessible insights -- where such dependence on external authority is now clearly unrealistic.

A summary of the argument is provided separately (Metaphorical Geometry in Quest of Globality, 2009)

In the light of Dimension 4, readers could consider avoiding the lengthy arguments of Dimensions 1-3 (regarding what is possible, but increasingly improbable) -- then focus only on the annexes of Dimension 4 for proactive viability and light relief, notably Annex B (Sustainable Governance via a Double-breasted Strange Attractor). Those annexes are premised on the assumption that sustainable governance is necessarily sexy -- and if it is not then it is unlikely to be sustainable.


The argument interweaves the following threads:

In 2008 and 2009 the world is witness to the vain attempt to encompass global reality -- globality -- in a budgetary net of line items typically configured as a spreadsheet matrix. Hence the discussion in Dimension 1. But there is effectively little strategic skill in loops, curvature and handling the "curved ball" of crisis -- hence the commentary on the cognitive significance of circlets in Dimension 2. Both lines and circles in various combinations are structural elements through which global can be represented and comprehended in a more integrative manner -- hence the focus on cognitive crowns in Dimension 3. However, whether "circlets" or "crowns", a wearer is implied and has effectively to "get into" the holes they offer -- to "go down the rabbit hole" into the mirror world of self-reflexivity -- and be able then to "get out", without getting "stuck". Hence the discussion of the cognitive dynamics of Dimension 4.

Cognitive engagement with globality

The approach taken in the associated set of documents is quite distinct from the economic understanding of globality or recognition of the socio-political consequences of globalization. It effectively contests the exclusive appropriation of "global" in any sense by disciplines and practices that ignores its more generic significance with reference to understandings of integration. The economic, social or political characteristics of global and globalization are merely particular instances of this. This is especially true of globality, particularly when presumptuously defined as an end-state of globalization -- as with the declaration of the "end of history" by Francis Fukuyama (The End of History and the Last Man, 1992).

The argument developed in the associated documents focuses on the challenging process of comprehending globality, especially for the individual. It is especially concerned with the challenge of integrative understanding -- and of comprehending complex dynamics with respect to any turbulent domain of knowledge with which the individual engages. It is further concerned with the accessible memory aids to such comprehension -- irrespective of conventional assumptions about appropriate communication of such matters. Given the multiple crises of the globe, it is specifically concerned with the possibility of more fruitful modes of cognition of globality.

The concern (for the author) dates from involvement in the Integrative Knowledge and Transdisciplinarity Project (1972-1995), and the Global Strategies Project, as part of the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential. It includes preoccupation with vital insights into "global" from other perspectives (Future Generation through Global Conversation: in quest of collective well-being through conversation in the present moment, 1997). As with other critics, the concern contrasts with the understanding of "global" by the United Nations through its, above-mentioned, Global Compact ("Globalization": the UN's "Safe Haven" for the World's Marginalized -- the Global Compact with Multinational Corporations as the UN's "Final Solution", 2001). The inadequacy of the UN's global understanding has become only too evident with the failure of the financial system in 2008.

Contrasting examples include those associated with the an emergent global brain, any sense of global consciousness, transdisciplinarity(perhaps framed as a Theory of Everything), global wisdom (perhaps framed as collective intelligence), or even understandings of global modelling focused on the ecosystem or climate. More dramatic, however, is the sense in which the the many specific problems faced by an individual in daily life now tend to fuse into an amorphous "global" experience -- and an increasingly overwhelming one.

Globalization and globality

Globalization: The controversial process of globalization -- a necessary good to some and a problematic implementation for others -- is a continuing subject of debate. As such, it is variously defined and understood. Various metaphors have been proposed though which it may be understood, as summarized by Markus Kornprobst, et al. (Metaphors of Globalization: mirrors, magicians and mutinies, 2007).

Globalization has been described as the tendency of businesses, technologies, or philosophies to spread throughout the world, or the process of making this happen. The global economy has been referred to as a "globality" -- characterized as a totally interconnected marketplace, unhampered by time zones or national boundaries. Consequently, despite isolated arguments to the contrary, the focus of debate is on globalization as an economic phenomenon and a matter for economists. Others have vigorously protested the problematic social implications. The emergence of the notion of "globality", in the period 1999-2000, constituted one culminating point of this interaction.

Globality: This continues to be understood in both academic and business use as referring to the end-state of globalization. This is a state in which the process of globalization is complete or nearly so, barriers have fallen, and a new global reality emerges -- necessarily framed primarily in economic terms, as with "development" before it..

"Globality" was presented through the World Economic Forum (Davos, 1999) -- exemplar of the economic focus of globalization -- as a response to protest against that narrow economic focus. The term had been coined by Daniel Yergin (Commanding Heights: the battle for the world economy. 1998/2002). In The Age of Globality (Newsweek, 18 May 1998) he had described it (unfortunately in the light of the financial crash of 2008) as:

We are now beginning to see a reality beyond globalization -- the world of globality. This is not so much a process as a condition, a world economy in which traditional and familiar boundaries are being surmounted or made irrelevant. Companies and investors operate in a 24-hour world. Currency traders see the same information at the same time, and can act on it simultaneously, whether they are in Singapore, London or New York (assuming only that they are all awake at the same time). Billions of dollars move at the push of a button. Global branding is the great game.

Davos 1999-2000: "Globality" was made the theme of the 1999 Forum as: 'Responsible Globality: Managing the Impact of Globalization' (as reviewed by Rich Marino, The World Economic Forum, Davos, 2009 in an Historical Context. Economic History Blog, 30 January 2009). It was on that occasion that Kofi Annan, then UN Secretary-General, announced the formation of the Global Compact between the UN and multinational corporations -- itself a controversial initiative, now and then (as mentioned in Dimension 1).

The president and managing director of WEF, Klaus Schwab and Claude Smadja, jointly stated in Globalization Needs a Human Face (International Herald Tribune, 28 January 1999):

We must demonstrate that globalization is not just a code word for an exclusive focus on shareholder value at the expense of any other consideration; that the free flow of goods and capital does not develop to the detriment of the most vulnerable segments of the population and of some accepted social and human standards. We need to devise a way to address the social impact of globalization, which is neither the mechanical expansion of welfare programs nor the fatalistic acceptance that the divide will grow wider between the beneficiaries of globalization and those unable to muster the skills and meet the requirements of integration in the global system.

Their title constitutes a reprise of the earlier advocacy by UNICEF to put a "human face" on the economic austerities of IMF in the development process (Richard Jolly, Adjustment with a human face: a UNICEF record and perspective on the 1980s, World Development, 1991). The WEF position was further articulated by Claude Smadja (Living Dangerously, Time, 22 February 1999) as:

The new globality means a tremendous emphasis on speed, flexibility, versatility and permanent change -- in some respects, insecurity. But, in most societies, the level of civilization is a function of the degree of security and predictability governments can provide for their citizens. Managing the trade-off between the unpredictability associated with flexibility and the desire for security will increasingly present a challenge....

At the international level, the developments of the past 18 months and the backlash against globalization raise the issue of what kind of economic and social model the new globality will produce. Any attempt to reduce the globalization process to a mechanical extension to the world economy of the U.S. model is bound to create increasingly adverse reactions. Of course, there is an absolute need for common denominators in the institutional framework required from each country that wants to be part of the global economic system. But globalization will not work on the basis of any imposed model. The only way to avoid a prolonged backlash against it, and to make globality lead to sustained economic growth, is to take into account the different interpretations of the way the capitalist system should function....

Creating a responsible globality will require a tremendous conceptual effort and commitment from political as well as business leaders. It will also require the full involvement of the leaders of civil society. Recent events are a warning sign of what we may expect if we don't face up to the challenge.

The understanding was later clarified by Klaus Schwab (Challenges for the 21st Century. Issues in Global Education, 2201-2002, p. 168) as:

Globalization is a one-sided economic phenomenon. Responsible globality is different: It is economy plus society plus environmental sustainability plus human dignity. The fact that all major actors -- such as the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and major corporations -- are trying to adopt a comprehensive approach, the approach of responsible globality, shows that the effort to define a philosophy for the 21st century has just begun.

However November 1999 was to see the most important protests against globalization at the WTO meeting in Seattle -- in the form of highly mediatised demonstrations by more than 50,000 opponents.

Nevertheless, at the following WEF gathering, Klaus Schwab indicated in his Opening Remarks (Davos, February 2000):

We must develop an ideology of perpetual renewal. The reality of globality -- the time compression and the pressures of complexity or, in other words, the death of distance, the death of sequentiality and the death of traditional structures --require from each society, from each organization, and each individual an integrated and internalized capacity for renewal. . ... Particularly, a society can only flourish if it is based on change and stability. A fast-changing society requires societal glue provided by the preservation of cultural traditions and shared values.

Alternative socio-political perspectives: The appropriation of "globality" by proponents of economic globalization was contested in statements such as

Towards a critical social science of globalization, Barrie Axford (Global civil society or 'networked globality': beyond the territorialist and societalist paradigm. Globalizations, December 2004) argued that the concept of global civil society is central to treatments of globalization and to depictions of a contested globality. He contests the claim that globalization processes of connection are producing a networked globality in which reflexive agency is not lost -- arguing that to recognize this requires a radical take on networks and their ontologies and being skeptical about much of the received sociology of globalization.

Historical perspectives: Use of the term "globality" before its launch in 1998, has been traced back to 1942 by William Safire (No Uncertain Terms, 2003) when it was used as a synonym for "global".

Curiously the focus on "globality" of 1998-2000 would seem to have abated, despite the launch of a journal in 2006 (Globality Studies Journal: global, history, society, civilization) by the Center for Global History of Stony Brook University.

Karoline Postel Vinay has focused more recently on historical understanding of globality in international relations as a European invention challenging non-European world orders (Mapping Globality: A Historical Perspective, 2007), especially as distinct from "universality" and "international". Globality is then understood to refer to world orders and how world orders turned global. A historical perspective is also offered by Wolf Schäfer (From the End of European History to the Globality of World Regions: a research perspective. Globality Studies Journal, 1, June, 2006). An ethical perspective has also been presented by Victor Roudometof, The Moral Discourses of Globality: a comparison of secular and religious globalization projects, 2005).

Back to economic globality?: A newly invigorated approach to economic globality would appear to have emerged with the study by Harold L. Sirkin, et al. (Whether You Agree with Globality or Disagree, Don't Ignore It, Globality: competing with everyone from everywhere for everything, The Boston Consulting Group, 2008). They argued that:

Globality is not a new and different term for globalization, it's the name for a new and different global reality in which we'll all be competing with everyone, from everywhere, for everything.

The timing of their book has of course proven to be most unfortunate -- in relation to the crash of the global financial system in 2008, as the prime example of globalization and globality economically framed. More recently it has been suggested that "globality is what happens after globalization". (Knowledge@SMU, 3 February 2009).

Mnemotechnics and symbolism

The approach, especially in Dimension 2 and Dimension 3, is a development of arguments presented previously (Designing Cultural Rosaries and Meaning Malas to Sustain Associations within the Pattern that Connects, 2000) regarding cognitive survival devices in a fragmenting global society.

This argument also recognizes a degree of compatibility of such devices with widespread use of ornamental accessories, with or without symbolic and fashionable implications. These symbols may indeed be taken very seriously in traditional rituals (possibly dating from monarchical times) by institutions of governance, religions and sects, with whom the powerful in the emerging global society tend to be associated -- necessarily influential in any faith-based approach to its governance. The argument also relates to an earlier exploration of the need for mnemonic aids, which symbols may constitute (In Quest of Mnemonic Catalysts -- for comprehension of complex psychosocial dynamics, 2007).

As the sequel to this argument, in Dimension 4, the approach is reversed to present the role of cognitive circlets and crowns for the individual endeavouring to engage with globality, meaningfully and responsibly, and in an integrative manner -- independent of any reliance on distant coronations.

Dimensionality of engagement

The four "Dimensions" successively explored may be considered as a cognitive progression in degrees of complexity and engagement with globality -- following from the argument of Ron Atkin (Multidimensional Man: can man live in three dimensional space? 1981):

dimensions topology implication cognitive strategies awareness dysfunctionality?
1 point line "rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic" of points and their necessary alignment hyperactive attention disorder
2 circle torus, Möbius strip "circling the wagons" of the identity implied and invoked by such an opening repetitive behaviour patterns
3 sphere . "sustaining a bubble"
of hope
of the strange attractor focusing interrelationship processes ungrounded sense of reality
4 Klein bottle . consume and reproduce of the transformation associated with the intercourse process eternal pursuit of elusive identity, self-esteem and fulfillment (happiness)

A more systemic approach to this progression in dimensionality is offered by Anthony Blake (The Supreme Art of Dialogue: structures of meaning, 2008). The challenge of shifting between such dimensions has been compared to that of "changing gear" in an automobile (Conceptual Gearboxes, in The Future of Comprehension, 1980).

The limitation of Dimension 1, in the conventional approach to globality, lies in the fact that any set of point-to-point transactions neither defines globality nor enables its global quality to be understood. Similarly, transactional loops, characteristic of Dimension 2, offer only a "superficial" approximation to comprehension of sphericity.

Encompassing difference and disagreement

Conventionally "global" and "globalization" are associated with the planet and the three-dimensional geometry of a sphere -- by which they are symbolized. Strategic challenges, locally understood, are however necessarily articulated at lower dimensionality -- typically linearly -- possibly symbolized as projections of such a sphere, approximations to it, or implying it for promotional purposes. The mismatch between the linearity of strategic thinking and the curvature associated with globality in 3D is clearly a source of problems (to say nothing of the cognitive paradoxes associated with the dynamics of such a sphere, as discussed in Dimension 4). Any intuited relevance of higher dimensionality, although symbolized, typically does not inform and structure strategic initiatives. Upholding such significance symbolically may then be more a case of: Assume a virtue if you have it not (Shakespeare: Hamlet).

Globality is conventionally assumed to imply harmonious resolution of differences in an emergent sense of unity. The following exploration questions conventional understandings of such "unity in diversity" as only too evidently challenged by disagreement and conflict of every kind. The assumption here is that more fruitful cognitive engagement with globality implies an ability to transcend binary logic and to encompass disagreement, challenging simplistic understandings of reconciliation and the condemnation of "extremism". However, it is only within topology of a higher dimensionality that there is any possibility that a lion shall lie down with the lamb (as in the popular misquotation from the Bible).


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