Intervening to "Solve" National and World "Problems"
Real Change or System Maintenance?
- / -
Record of a 1976 Postal Symposium with observations and comments by Anthony
Judge [AJ] and by David Horton Smith [DHS]
Part 1 (remarks 1 to 15)
1. It would appear that many national and international programs are effectively
"contained" such that every success in one area is counter-balanced by a failure
in another - although the link amy not always be apparent. The success and
the failure may not simply cancel one another out. The dynamic interaction
between programs may introduce unpredictable systemic and synergic effects
which propel the system into a progressively less stable condition. We are
currently not equipped to detect these types of change (except through such
initiatives as the Club of Rome's reported in Jay Forrester's World Dynamics).
1.a. Don't always, or really ever, yet know which interventions will result
in what degree of "formal progress". Linkages need to be studied. How does
inquiry affect system? Social science equivalent of Heisenberg Constant. Complexity
of system makes studying interactions difficult. Computer simulation? Some
interventions may produce catastrophe; side or back effects. [DHS]
2. "Reformers, critics of institutions, consultants in innovation, people
in short who " want to get something done", often fail to see this point. They
cannot understand why their strictures, advice or demands do not result in
effective change. They expect either to achieve a measure of success in their
own terms or to be flung off the premises. But (a social institution) has
no need to react in either of these ways. It specializes in equilibrial readjustment
which is to the observer a secret form of change requiring no actual alteration
in the macro- systemic characteristics that he is trying to do something about".
(Stafford Beer. Chairman's Address to the International Cybernetic Congress,
September 1969) [AJ]
2.a. Well taken. Le Chatelier's Principle and absorption of thrusts. Continually
redefined system to include attacks. [DHS]
3. It may well be that the system functions entirely satisfactory and of
its own accord in responding to disturbances to its dynamic evolving equilibrium
conditions. As sub-systems within the system we would be unable to detect
the manner and justification of the corrective measures. If the system is
self correcting, then any "within-system" efforts to correct it are bound
to give rise to counter-balancing responses. It therefore becomes questionable
as to which changes should be proposed or implemented since every such intervention
is counter-balanced in an unforeseeable manner (e.g. The Club of Rome study
of World Dynamics concludes that industrialization is an important cause
of world problems, whereas Picht in Germany casts doubt upon the significance
of computer based studies and the American forecasting school of thought and
considers industrialization to be the only solution). Each such effort causes
system disturbances and counter-balancing responses acts as a lure for time,
energy and organizational resources and creates its own school followers and
opponents. These are within-system changes and not changes to the system.
3.a. How could one know more about the ways in which actions/ interventions
are counter- balanced in fact by dynamic systems? (U.S. poverty program and
maximum feasible participation/manipulation; c.f. Moynihan). "Blind systemic
affects" (flow of goods, services, information, people) vs. perception of
niches by particular people who can turn a program to one's own use ("abuse").
Options chosen by actors for their own ends not ends of programs or public
4. It may be that world problems become apparent due to a systemic psycho-social
("sub-conscious") response to a need for tensions and inequalities on which
the culture can "feed" (through a complex process of identification with opposing
aspects of an issue - opposite poles of the inequality - and then interacting
over the new territory thus created). This would generate social energy and
provide new perceptual complexes to internalize. (e.g. it would be interesting
to note the changing balance of concern over the last 30 years between "war"
and "world problems" - they both provide a needed social tension and both
may be systemic correctional measures.) The recognition by groups within society
of real world conditions as "problems" may be somewhat similar to the presentation
to an individual's consciousness of hallucinations and delusions as a response
to conditions of sensory deprivation. [AJ]
4.a. Aggregation of need for tension at individual level. When is a problem
really a problem? How much happiness/dissatisfaction is salutary or inevitable?
Where should we draw the line between constraint and freedom for individuals
or higher system levels? If all dynamic systems are in some equilibrium, when
should changes of the "negative aspects" be sought, given the system context?
Dead dog in a puddle here vs. in Africa. Expectation level theory in psychology
is relevant here. Being troubled by lack of poverty in Dusseldorf. Why change
things if people and groups/social systems adapt expectation levels accordingly
anyway? Why force one perception of needed changes on others and their systems
- e.g., LDCs?
Focus on roles, not individuals. Define species (of roles) in terms of possibly
fruitful intercourse. Validity of voting inter-species? Antelopes' and lions'
views of "problem" of their ecosystem. Depends on which is in greater number.
Is present voting system equivalent to having pigeons vote on cow problems?
Perhaps we should drop equality bit? Why pretend all are equal? Prevents getting
a better system. Don't assume inequality is bad. Are pigeons better than cows?
Aquarium model. Some fish bigger and take more territory. We, on outside,
try to affect equality of territory of fish. Destroys interaction process.
(Have to consider change from large to small fish, etc.) But could do this.
Question of what state of total eco-system is really desirable and whether
intervention to achieve this is needed. [DHS]
5. Concern with world problems may be "unnecessary" except as an educational
and developmental experience - a sort of social "training game" in which our
culture can be absorbed. Forrester remarks that his system analyses of corporations
in trouble generally showed that whilst each person was acting as best he
could, with the best intentions given the information at his disposal, it
was the interaction of these "well conceived" departmental policies that kept
the corporation in its difficulties. The same may be true of the world system
- its problems may be created by the interactions of well-intentioned programs.
5.a. Clearly, much concern with an intervention in world or social problems
may be useless, unnecessary, or actually harmful in long run to people. At
least it may be a waste of effort and resources better directed to enjoyment
of experiences. But the experiential aspect - the "being in becoming" - may
be crucial. Perhaps this is the key to why we need to try to deal with them.
Tension and tension reduction as valuable. [DHS]
6. It is unwise to assume that people or organizations are attempting to
improve the system as a whole. In the case of politicians, academics, and
organizations in general it is not always the substantive question which is
important. This is in many cases merely a symbol for the territory constituted
by the issue.
In the case of diplomacy or politics, issues are viewed as an opportunity
for advancement of the nation or party and only incidentally, and as an
unforeseen and occasional by-product, as a question which requires solution
in its own right, independent of national interests or party politics.
- Organizations in general, including supra-national agencies, are locked
into complex games. Again it is not program effectiveness which is the criterion
but rather the territory constituted by the problem for which the program
was created. Organizations become "learning environments" and role habitats
and have a system maintenance, rather than a system change, function. "The
organization is the message".
- In the academic environment, again it is territory which is the prime concern.
A new hypothesis is viewed, if at all, as a territorial intrusion. Even if
it is satisfactory, in terms of explanatory power, it will be analyzed in
terms of opportunities for publishable criticism or counter proposals which
will improve the academic status of the scholar. A scholar must dissent to
distinquish himself from his fellows. [AJ]
6.a. Agreed that there is much phoniness in the apparent or ostensible goals
of people and organizations. Conspiracy of silence not to discuss this phoniness.
Agree often (usually?) to take each others' individual and organizational
games seriously. Turf and territoriality and protection of the familiar. Innovation
and change as too tension producing to continue for long. Law of least effort
here, even for innovators (individual or group). Regression toward mean. Saddle
effect - stable and quasi-stable dynamic equilibria. Peter Principle. Corporation
man. Parkinson's Law. Organization man. Bureaucratic imperative. Resistance
to innovation as territorial intrusions. Ego-involvement and self extension,
both personal and organizational. Possible role of evaluation research in
affecting ability of systems to play games unchallenged. Expected resistances
to such research and its implications. Policy research to confirm vs. to set
new policy. Research for truth vs. to prove "X". Which is more important for
the system as a whole? How can one say? What can be done to really institutionalize
evaluation research on a broad scale? Will this do any good? Will it affect
how "games" are played? Will it matter if it does? [DHS]
7. Activity in politics, organizations or academe may be more directed to
stabilizing a condition of fulfilling behaviour. As a result "more effective"
or "more truthful" may become interpreted as doing more activity of the same
kind. The tension required to detect and solve the problem, and the associated
behaviour, may be considered a desirable feature of the environment and therefore
oppose convergence to any "solution".
Much activity is therefore a question of "tourner autour du pot" in
order to ensure maintenance of the status quo. One perceives a central
but unintegrated truth which one does not wish to see integrated and expressed
explicitly because this would "take apart" and render "transparent" one's
system and life style. [AJ]
7.a. Problem solutions resisted because of real desire to continue "solving
the problem". Again, process is important. Perceiving as problem what one
can really handle, given one's interests and resources. Refusal to face other
problems that tend to destroy one's organizational or personal life style.
Cognitive consistency motivation. Familiarity. Equilibration dynamics. Compartmentalization
as a defense mechanism. [See also Wrecking
an International Project: Notes from a saboteur's vade mecum, 1972].
(CVS Reprint #3). [DHS]
8. Problems are recognized and organized for in order to provide a structured
environment of such dimensions and complexity as is adequate for one's ability
to respond. Other problems are not recognized. The stimulus of the presence
of the problem is a reinforcement to one's identity. It is selected to provide
a domain on which one can demonstrate one's ability to master one's environment.
8.a. Same as 7.a. [DHS]
9 "Progress" and the acquisition by an individual or group of adequate "identity"
may be basically incompatible. "Identity" is achieved in terms of certain
organizational or conceptual structures or invariants which become progressively
more widely recognized as one's identity is accepted as a reference point
in society. But each person reaches a stage at which he feels he has found
and is satisfied with his identity and associates it closely with a unique
set of invariants defined as his territory.
Progress and social change are essentially the change in the constellation
of organizational and conceptual patterns which govern behavior. Progress
must therefore threaten those identified with any existing set of invariants.
Their loss of identity may not be compensated by the opportunities for new
identity in the new situation. The society may be stripped of identification
opportunities causing the culture to decay or decrease in richness. [AJ]
9.a. Incompatibility of personal/group identity and "intervention of an
effective sort in regard to a particular problem" ("progress"). Change and
progress as endemic and pervasive threats to identity - both organizational
and personal. Ego and "Orgo" - consistency motivation. Only by basing identity
sense on embracing of change and progress can the tendency to embrace change/progress
be fostered, if at all. Great importance of "identity-protection" mechanisms
in personal and group behavior - barriers to change, insofar as change threatens
10. There appear to be cycles of intimate integrative or disintegrative
interaction between concepts current in society, organizations formed to protect
or further such concepts, and the manner in which an individual is fragmented
or integrated by adherence to or formulation of such concepts, or allegiance
or opposition to such organizations. Each part of this cycle is the territory
of a different discipline and "invisible" to the others. [AJ]
10.a. Overlay of problems, organizations and concepts in society. Identities
as linkages among these levels. Shifting linkages over time at all system
levels. Differential perception of these linkages and differential perception
of total "mapping" of problems, organizations and concepts. Cycle of relationships
here also. [DHS]
11. Individuals and groups choose courses of action to protect and extend
their identities. Their choice generates a flora, fauna and eco-system of
roles and structures which must be respected and observed before any dramatic
attempts to "develop" them are made. "Development" and "education" may in
some ways be equivalent (in difficulty and desirability) to a bio-engineering
attempt at converting one species into another. There is not yet a framework
on which the possibilities and dangers of ontogenetic development can be examined.
11.a. Action/intervention strategies are basically identity protection and
enhancement mechanisms. Development ,as speciation? What are the relevant
analogies to the biological problems? Fruitful intercourse criterion. Roles
as central. [DHS]
12. The system may not be of a "big-bang" developmental type in psychosocial
terms, or on the time scale to which we are exposed. It may be oscillating,
cyclical or homeostatic in terms of a framework which we have not yet clarified
12.a. There are "unseen ends" and macro-processes whose elements are too
large and subtle for us to observe. How can the curvature of a really vast
globe be perceived by a being on its surface? How can such "unseen, macro-processes
and ends" be inferred, if at all? What effect will perceiving macro-processes
and ends have on our commitment to nearer term micro-processes? Should we
care? Should we give up? Should we concentrate on micro-processes and aspects
of "becoming"? [DHS]
13. The assumption is made that evolution of man has now ceased or may be
ignored and that man may control his future. But the structures with which
we identify and which we are learning how to modify may merely be temporary
containers for an ongoing evolving life-process. Evolution may now be mainly
along psycho-social lines but it will be as invisible to us as it was to our
physically changing ancestors.
In these terms we should neither expect the sympathy of the evolutionary
process, nor regret its absence, for the preservation of psycho-social structures.
In evolutionary terms the criterion is the survival and transformation of
the most appropriate. This has never included the preservation of excessive
numbers against the catastrophes which their presence must evoke. Attempts
at preservation may be anti-evolutionary. [AJ]
13.a. How can we begin to perceive, assess and even measure the relevant,
on-going processes of psycho-social evolution? Is psycho-social Darwinism
an appropriate model? If not, how do we determine appropriate intervention
strategies? Must psycho-social evolution be as invisible to us as biological
evolution was to our ancestors? Should we embrace or resist psycho-social
evolution? Do numbers of human beings matter? Given an interest in the quality
of psycho-social evolution, can this be achieved without quantity and variety
also being sought? Isaac Asimov and his Foundation trilogy as one model. Can
an elitist approach ever be stable and ever guarantee sufficient variety and
innovation? Is protection of quantity of human life productive? At what point?
What do we do if there is basic inter- group disagreement on this point? [DHS]
14. We may indeed be living at the peak of a "golden age", as the "World
Dynamics" study claims, and will from now on be progressively or catastrophically
losing all our gains in organizational, technological, and possibly, cultural
terms. These losses may be counter-balanced by gains in terras of psycho-cultural
To ensure the latter, however, we must ensure the transfer of the experience
acquired by the passing technological society - a "Noah's Ark" policy. What
is the kernel, borne of the tremendous pressures, stresses, opportunities
and resources available today? Through what media can it be passed on - given
that the next decades or centuries may be "throwing many babies out with the
bathwater"? Is it melodramatic to call this an exercise in cultural propagation
and the conservation of "psycho-social genes" through a time of chaos - or
at least the distillation of the essence of acquired experience to permit
its transformation into a form applicable to a society with other values and
resources and within which it would be impossible to glean such experience.
14.a. Must experiment with the means of transmitting and preserving accumulated
psycho-social experience. Is selection within this "treasury" necessary? Can
it all be preserved and suitably indexed? If not, who selects on what basis?
For how long should plans be made to preserve the "treasury"? Can we plan
to preserve it independently for variety of times and by a variety of means?
How to deal with earthquakes and other major forces of nature? Why pass on
anything at all, if the essence of human life is "becoming"? Will discovery
of a rich past culture destroy initiative and create dependency in a more
primitive later culture? Will a more advanced later culture really need or
have much interest in a less advanced prior culture? On the basis of whose_
values should such decisions be made? How do such decisions affect other options
for life and time and resource allocation? Is intervention worth the price?
What else could we better be doing? [DHS]
15. The world is exploding into sub-systems at a rate which is now exceeding
the rate of development of the communication techniques to overcome the psychic
distance between sub-cultures--with the exception of very crude messages. Sub-culturization
may be looked upon as control over one's own concerns and a rejection of,
or indifference to, "world order". In evolutionary terms, it is a protection
of psycho-genetic variety - essential in a time of disaster. [AJ]
15.a. Given an expansion of sub-systems at a rate faster than the rate of
development of inter-subsystem communication techniques (a proposition requiring
empirical testing and elaboration), intervention in the form of developing
better trans- system communication may be crucial. It is unclear that the
growing task of communication is more a "protection of variety" than a symptom
of disorder/"disease"/ world problem. How to bring differentiation and integration
into a systemic balance is perhaps the general problem. The conceptual inventory/modeling
project may become very crucial in the light of such considerations. Document-based
information systems are all but useless to deal with the information explosion
in the long run. More integrative conceptual approaches are needed. These
approaches, if successful, will automatically help with the earlier (#14)
problem of selection and transmission of psycho-social experience residues.
One will want to transmit, perhaps, access to an integrative, conceptual,
computerized system of psycho-social experience residues. But, again, this
may destroy initiative for future generations or societies. How can such an
issue be dealt with?
It is unlikely that any really integrative, conceptual, dynamic, computerized
system will be supported because it is too broad, too general, and challenges
too many turfs and territories. If started in one area of substance or "culture",
it is unlikely that it will be evenly expanded. A new "territory" to be protected
will be created. [DHS]
Part 2 (remarks 16 to 23)
16. The next decades will probably see an increasing disenchantment on the
part of the individual with any "distant" structure or chains of conceptual
or organizational relationship which are supposed to be relevant to his concerns.
The acceptable number of links in such chains "out" from the individual may
be decreasing year by year. There is liable to be a general loss of confidence
in links which the individual cannot inspect for himself. This applies to
news media, TV documentaries, advertising, expert and political statements.
This is significant because it is the projection of this confidence into such
structures which provides the energy and oil to make our more sophisticated
control structures work. Without such confidence, such structures can only
persist as shells with symbolic value. Individuals will isolate themselves
into relatively small communities. [AJ]
16.a. Is there any real data on this? Cannot the reverse be argued - that
more distant, abstract and conceptual links will become more important in
the future, as propinquity, kinship, and occupation become less important?
Are there various senses of "distant" structures? Cannot individual inspection
of "linkages" be compatible with new and more abstract linkages (eg., through
voluntary groups)? Is there ever more to a group than a "shell with symbolic
value"? Will the kind of "small communities" mentioned really isolate people
or reduce their isolation? Cannot both happen? What role will electronic communication
media play? Can they become more personalized? Will the balance of mass vs.
personal media change drastically, but with an increasing dependence on electronic
vs. personal interaction? How do cable TV and video plans fit in here? What
about holographic video phone connections? How will confidence in organizations
and individuals be affected by all this? Will confidence necessarily decline
in all areas? Why? [DHS]
17. The written and spoken words are "babelizing". Use of the written word
with precise meanings is becoming equivalent to that of Latin as a medium
useful for communication between those (in the academic and administrative
worlds) committed to a rationalized, abstract perspective. It is increasingly
irrelevant to the "lower" reaches of society. People can no longer read and
comprehend items which do not reinforce their own views. For many, the written
word is used as a visual symbol with floating meanings aimed at achieving
an impression and an involvement (cf. McLuhan). "Lower" here means poorly
informed rather than the usual class distinction. Visual imagery is as yet
at a crude stage of development equivalent to the old peasant dialects - the
"Bible" has not yet been translated. [AJ]
17.a. What will happen in the future re: the distribution of the major world
languages? What impact will this have? Is "literacy for all" good? For what?
In what language or languages? Should language (cum world-view) training be
pushed as the most important kind of education so that people of different
nations could understand each other better and, perhaps, work together better?
Or would this be counter- productive, with "familiarity breeding contempt"
and making it easier to take advantage of others who are weaker or "less evil."
What is the optimal amount of information for a person or group? How much
should confirm what is "already known" and how much should be new and mind-stretching?
How much "informational imperialism" is really "good for people"? Under what
circumstances? How should information be delivered? How valuable is a comprehensive
"information existence alerting system," which can be used interactively by
people and groups? Why?
Does having a certain kind of information really make a difference in the
long run? Are not information levels simply adjusted to, as are other constraints
on a person or system? Is more information always or ever clearly better for
a person or group? How can one tell? Who can really decide? Can one tell without
seeing the consequences empirically both of having and not having the information?
Could one really disentangle the effects of the information from other effects?
How is the provision of unasked-for information different, if at all, from
propaganda and PR? Can unasked-for information ever be helpful, useful, and
non-propaganda like? Under what circumstances? From whose viewpoint? How is
information likely to be harmful to people or groups? Can one generally tell
in advance? How? Why?
What is the overall value to a human eco-system of a body of common information?
Of accurate information? Of necessary information? How can such information
be defined? Packaged? Delivered? Can uninformed people or groups be trusted
to recognize their own self interests and how to work to accompli; them most
effectively? What are the political implications of this position? Is information
power? For whom? Should it be shared? Why? With whom? How? Will this really
work, or is it but another illusion that "the system" will counter act? [DHS]
18. Information is a threat to existing structures and identities. It is
not required unless preprocessed in such a way as to reinforce the perspectives
of the receivers.
As before, the politician and academic want information to improve their
holds on their territories. Information must therefore be presented in terms
of relevance to the territory. There is no framework for cross-disciplinary
discussion - -- no inter-territorial language.
The "transparency" that information can offer to the existing social and
conceptual structures is viewed as a threat to entrenched positions - both
by those who profit from the current state of obscurity and by those who need
to protect the germination of new or compensatory processes from over-exposure.
The formula for controlling the controllers of such information systems has
not been found.
It is possible that a historical perspective will show that just as a contributing
factor to the fall of the Roman Empire was an inability to transfer funds
rapidly, so the fall of the Western Civilization may be due to an inability
to transfer meaningful information rapidly. [AJ]
18.a. If information really threatens existing structures and identities
in general, it will tend to be resisted in general - though perhaps in subtle
ways (e.g., by being ignore- by not taking steps to make it retrievable when
needed and by whom it might be needed Example of U.S. Food and Drug Administration
records - massive in quantity and hence unmanageable. Information defines
"reality". Therefore, who controls information, controls the definitions of
reality and has great power. New and different information thus becomes a
threat, not all information or confirmatory information. New and really different
information also usually require the system and "gatekeepters" to adjust and
restructure the existing information base and indexing/retrieval system, hence
an additional reason to resist it.
Development of "territorial information systems" (for a defined substantive
or disciplinary/professional area) is protective of personal and group identity,
and resistive to change through new and different information. The formation
of a "profession" is especially relevant here, because it allows for maximal
legitimate control over the definition of "reality" and "valid information".
Any unwanted or system disturbing information can always be rejected on methodological
grounds, if no other. Use of any method for obtaining information. always
involves some trust and faith in a person or persons, and this can be collectively
challenged by a profession or group. This dynamic of "informational power"
leads to the fantastic proliferation of professional specialties and sub-
specialties in contemporary society.
Across linguistic lines similar critiques of the validity of information
can always be made, hence there is room for repetition of all informational/professional
subsystems independently in all linguistic/cultural systems. Cross-disciplinary
and cross-linguistic languages and models are resisted because they involve
a sharing of power and a blurring of identity. As a result, the most difficult
kind of task is to perform any kind of generalized, cross- disciplinary and
cross-cultural, conceptual/informational model building. If it is to be done,
however, it should focus both on the methodological- perceptual approaches
of people in different professions/fields, as well as on the major kinds of
abstract event models relevant in each field. These are much more crucial
than specific bits of information of a more concrete sort. Problem of "superficiality"
from the standpoint of any given field or approach. Inevitable breadth vs.
depth dilemma. Focus on information access and search strategies, rather than
on specific, primary information itself. Both at the individual and organizational
levels, systems tend to avoid new and different information thatwouldrequire
adjustment and dissonance reduction through restructuring and réintégration
of knowledge. Thus, one cannot expect either indivi- duals or groups to seek
out, accept, attend to, or deal with really new and different information
in most cases. One rare exception is where the person or group identifies
itself as an absorber of new and different information and when it thrives
on the process of restructuring and reintegrating its knowledge.
Most major innovators have this trait, whether individual or organizational.
Naturally, they are resisted strenuously by other individuals and groups.
The "Inquisition" can be seen as a very "healthful" attack by "white blood
corpuscles" on the "foreign bodies/germs" being introduced into the social
body by heretics/innovators who were unsatisfied with existing integrations
of information/knowledge and tried to present their own new and different
versions. The larger question is, however, can such new and different integrative
systems and kinds of information be known in advance to be "good for the system
in the long run"? When is a chemical added to an aquarium likely to poison
the whole system, and when will it enliven and invigorate it? What about "species
selective" poisons, or their information and knowledge equivalents? Is information
in general a poison or elixir of life? Under what circumstances is it either
or both for whom in the long run?
What does all this mean with regard to what information systems are worth
setting up with what content delivered, how, to whom, under what circumstances?
How is the ideal different from the likely here? Is there any extant model
of a fully appropriate information system for some constituency? What are
the implications of this? Is this an unattainable ideal? Is it worth striving
for? Is there a value to trying to share power with the weak by sharing information?
Why? What will be the likely result? Is there a value to sharing information
with the ignorant? Why? With what results? In a zero sum game, with limited
resources, with whom should what information be shared and how, in order to
raise the average quality of life? What are more appropriate uses of resources?
What are the tradeoffs? [DHS]
19. With respect to peace and social inequality, it is important to meditate
on the functioning of any natural eco- system and the problems, and desirability,
of suppressing violence in it. The assumption in the case of man is that each
person is an "indivisible" individual basically of similar nature. But each
individual is in fact represented in society by a multiplicity of roles of
unequal importance, even to himself, and it is through roles and organizational
and conceptual structures inhabited by such roles that the (extra- or meta-systemic?)
"individual" participates in the system. Society is an eco-system of roles
and an individual is a very abstract concept indeed.
In a social system, the "top dog -underdog" inequality may be as natural
and necessary as the dynamic carnivore - herbivore relationship is in a natural
eco-system. There are chains of processes in the role eco-system just as there
are food and other chains in natural environments.
Legislating for peace may be the equivalent of creating a human zoo, in which
each role is sealed off from the next - the "carnivores" must still be fed,
however, but by the organizers of the zoo.
The only satisfactory approach to peace appears to be through the development
of a precise means of transferring status, equivalent and parallel to the
money system. This is a long way off. All other approaches will stunt the
development of the social system and the individuals within it. War is war
between roles, not between individuals. [AJ]
19.a. Violence per se vs. violence toward certain persons or groups for
certain ends. Can violence and aggressiveness in general be sublimated by
mankind? Is it good to do so? Will it affect our long range capacity to adjust
and use creativity? Is all human life equally valuable? Is human life always
more valuable than the life of any other species? Why? If the inequality in
value is admitted be- tween humans and others, then why not inequalities within
Is there any but a very loose theological or biological justification for
treating all human lives as equal in value? Is this any more than a convenient
fiction, that no one has really believed or acted in terms of? Does equality
in the value of human life imply that the quality of all human lives should
be equal? Could this be so? How? If it were valued sufficiently highly, could
inequality of experience be eliminated by a complex system of compensation,
etc. Would this involve reducing mankind's experiences down to a dull common
denominator. Should the wings be clipped from those who can fly to make their
experiences no different from those who can only walk ( or crawl or merely
vegetate)? Is not inequality inherent in all species, including mankind? What
will increasing the equality of opportunity accomplish? At whose expense?
What about intervention to affect the opportunities for social/intellectual/economic/political
mobility? Is it really possible on a broad scale in an effective way? What
results does it have overall? Does "relative deprivation" create a "psychic
backlash" that eliminates the value of mobility opportunities. Can mobility
opportunities be "optimized" for a society? How? Would equality eliminate
war? Would equality of opportunity eliminate war? Why? If neither peace nor
equality are really possible or feasible for mankind, how should most of our
thinking about world/social problems be changed accordingly?
Can mankind face this information? What professions/disciplines/fields could
accept this under what conditions? How does focus on peace and equality drain
off resources that might better be spent on other goals? Or should resources
be allocated toward achieving peace and equality even if they are not really
attainable? Perhaps the process is again what matters. [DHS]
20. It is widely recognized that the whole system is becoming less and less
credible and acceptable to (i) the younger generation, (ii) the man-in-the-street,
(iii) the developing world. As yet, however, we have no clear historical parallel
to provide the necessary perspective. Perhaps a useful parallel is that of
the place of the Catholic Church and religion in society after the Renaissance.
We now have a new Universal Church with its orders, namely the United Nations
and its family of agencies. In the interstices of this system we have new
"protesting" sects, namely other organizations, governmental, academic, business,
voluntary, trade union, and otherwise. The Church considers itself the one
true church and is anxious to enfold the dissenting and in some cases, heretical
groups. The latter are anxious to spread their message at all costs. Most
organizations are anxious to proselytize
There are ecumenical movements amongst the protesting organizations, for
they realize that they lack the strength of unity.
We have with this system an organized society, just as that period had a
religion- based society. One must belong to an organization. Organization
has become a religion with a strangle-hold on thinking in the Western world.
It is "the only way of getting things done". The processes that cannot be
organized are ignored or condemned - just as the activities in the past which
could not be given a religious association were ignored or condemned. A non-religious
perspective was inconceivable and smacked of heresy.
Today it is the younger generation which is opting out of the societal religion
in search of a more organic life style. The results must be condemned, as
quackery, superstition, witchcraft and devilry were condemned.
But the weakness of the organized society is that it is detached from the
needs and individuality of the person - but particularly from his perspective.
Itis becoming "irrelevant". People will increasingly slip through the grasp
of organizations Our preoccupation with static organizational and conceptual
structures may appear to the eyes of the future as irrelevant and irritating
as does Columbus' preoccupation with the religious salvation of the Caribbean
20.a. Generally well taken, though it much overestimates the importance
of the U.N. system and the importance of organizations in general. I don't
think people will increasingly slip through the grasp of organizations, because
I think that the term "organization" is taking on a much increased breadth
of meaning. Traditional work organizationsand dues-and-membership voluntary
organizations may be weakening in their hold on people, but other kinds of
formal and informal groups and networks are taking up the slack. The article
on transnational networks gives a good set of examples (see The
Nature of Organization in Transnational Networks, 1972).
Formal, bureaucratic organizations may be on the wane, but I doubt very much
if human group affiliations are waning. In fact, I believe they are increasing.
A recent study by ISR at the University of Michigan shows that informal interpersonal
relations consume two orders of magnitude more time than formal organizational
relations in non-work contexts. People may increasingly slip through the grasp
of formal, bureaucratic organizations, but these same people will generally
be picked up in a larger net of group and personal affiliations, often by
new non-bureaucratic forms of formal organizations. [DHS]
21. It may be that we are close to discovering a psycho-social equivalent
to atomic energy - with all its implication for society. What does hindsight
offer in the way of guidance to the social scientist? What protective devices
can he introduce? How can the investigation be made sufficiently general in
order to foresee all the disturbances to the system? [AJ]
21.a. What would be the psycho-social equivalent of atomic energy? What
would its character- istics and general parameters be? [DHS]
22. There are practically no channels through which multidisciplinary studies
or projects may be proposed - unless a specific tie is made to some unidisciplinary
concern, thus prejudicing the success of the project. All such projects must
be voted and approved by organization channels with unidisciplinary biases.
Furthermore, there are practically no environments which are not locked into
the perspectives of a single culture. [AJ]
22.a. Agreed, sadly. The only solution I see is to work, if one is interested
in multi-disciplinary activities, toward creating one's own multi-disciplinary
environment with a reward system structured to encourage such activities.
To do this, I maintain one must first start with a powerful, intelligent and
sympathetic person in an existing organization as an ally, or else start fresh
with a new organization. Once you have demonstrated its feasibility and value,
you should try to propagate the program into other, similar systems.
It is crucial that the program not be simply a "paper tiger" with a multi-disciplinary
board of directors from various disciplines whose main concern remains the
reward system of their respective disciplines. Having a full-time occupational,
role within the new, multi-disciplinary program/ organization is thus crucial,
especially for the principal decision-makers of that system. It may still
fail to accomplish its goals, but it will surely" fail otherwise. The members
of such an organization should very carefully be chosen for their genuine,
deep and abiding multi-disciplinary interests and openness. Almost by definition,
they should be perceived as deviants, intruders and "mavericks" by the fields
in which they are technically trained or primarily worked. If the "top people"
of their profession are solidly behind them, it is probably unlikely that
they will be able to contribute creatively to an interdisciplinary endeavor.
23. Finally, how are the results of any world system investigation to be
reported and to whom? When is an explanation satisfactory and for whom? What
is to be said of an explanation which is meaningful for one group, which agrees
to use a special theoretical framework and accompanying jargon, but is meaningless
A problem of the same form is posed by objectivity. If objectivity is achieved
by cross-checking within an (academic) community, objectivity is then a matter
of consensus. One man can never be objective, unless by acclaim after the
act, and consensus never extends to the total population. If it is a question
of"a majority", what of the objectivity of the innovator?
A third problem of the same form is posed by far-reaching policy decisions
based on highly technical presentations understandable to very few - when
are such decisions "in the interests of the majority" and how is this to be
determined and to whose satisfaction?
A fourth problem of the same form is posed by the definition of relevance.
There is no framework within which the relevance or irrelevance of a particular
approach to a real world problem can be examined. Relevance is discipline
oriented and not real world oriented. [AJ]
23. Help! [DHS]