- / -
Part 1 of Development through Alternation
. Augmented version of a paper
originally prepared for Integrative Working Group B of the Goals, Processes
and Indicators of Development (GPID) project of the Human and Social Development
Programme of the United Nations University (UNU). This document was originally
distributed as a separate monograph in 1983. The paper provides a structure
linking reviews of alternation as it emerges in studies from a wide range of
sources. The paper is in 9 separate parts
[searchable PDF version
1.1 Questionable answers
The many initiatives in response to the global problematique are in most
cases stimulated by a need to determine guidelines for action. The question
to which an answer is sought at all levels is some variant of "what
can be usefully done?"
The answers to this question have taken a range of well-known forms which
include the following:
policy recommendations to appropriate institutions,
publication and distribution of research conclusions to academic communities,
public information programmes to adapt and disseminate conclusions,
formulation of educational programmes for schools and universities,
implementation of community dialogue programmes in the light of the conclusion,
implementation of field programmes acting directly on societal problems,
design of new organizations and institutions capable of responding more
adequately to the societal condition,
elaboration and dissemination of visions of alternatives and future action
design of a new information system to ensure more effective interaction
concerning materials related to the subject matter and conclusions,
organization of (a series of) meetings on the subject matter and conclusions,
proposals for further research on the subject matter and conclusions,
whether involving practical applications or fundamental re-assessment
elaboration of innovative audio-visual presentations of the nature of
the problem and the action possibilities,
elaboration and dissemination of a new set of values through which consensus
can be obtained,
elaboration and dissemination of a declaration concerning action to be
elaboration of a multilateral treaty concerning action to be taken,
elaboration of an interaction process whereby the problematique can be
approached in a new light.
These are all "classical" options to ensure an integrated response
to any societal condition. They have been extensively applied since the
origin of the International Development Decades and in response to every type
of problem, including: energy, population, food, refugees, discrimination,
health, youth, drugs or environment. It is fair to conclude that these answers
have been successful to the extent that the problem was either a narrow technical
one involving little controversy (e.g. smallpox) or did not call for immediate
action (e.g. creating environmental awareness). The answers have however
been of limited effectiveness in containing the problematique in its essential
globality. The point has been reached at which predictions by the highest
authority of the cumulative consequences of inaction are met with increasing
indifference and a sense of helplessness.
It is possible to take any one of such answers and show why it is inadequate
as a response and why in fact it may merely aggravate or displace the problem.
This too is increasingly recognized. And yet such answers continue to be
formulated in desperation because of the need to respond to constituencies
who want to believe that something effective is being done which will alleviate
the problem and avert disaster. Protests that such answers have proven to
be of limited effectiveness in the past, meet with responses of the type:
"these things take time"
"we must do what we can"
"we must concentrate on what we can handle effectively"
"it is participation in the process which is significant, not the
It is possible to move beyond the uni-modal answer and recognize that
because each form of action has both strengths and weaknesses, the key to
a more effectively multi-modal answer lies in finding how to interrelate the
various uni-modal answers so that they correct for each others weaknesses
and restrain each others excesses. There are some efforts in this direction
but they run up against another constraint, namely whether integrated action
of any type is feasible at this time. Consider the variants implied by the
theme of the 1980 Global Futures Conference "thinking globally/acting
thinking globally/acting globally (e.g. UN Action Plan)
thinking globally/acting locally (e.g. Local plan within agreed world
thinking locally/acting locally (e.g. Local plans unrelated by any wold
thinking locally/acting globally (e.g. Global actions in terms of local
no action - laissez faire (e.g. Proliferation of answers competing for
What then is the nature of the answer that would prove appropriate?
What are its "properties"? What would be the response to the formulation
of such an answer? Are there more fruitful ways of formulating such an answer?
The clarification of the significance of these questions is the purpose of
this paper. Assumptions such as the following are too easily made:
the appropriate answer can be made in the same conceptual framework
or "language" as the question "what can be usefully done?"
- the answer will not challenge the status and self-image of the questioner
or potential "doer".
- the answer can be rendered in a comprehensible form to the questioners
or to those from whom they have received their mandate.
- the answer would simply involve a reshuffling of existing organizational
resources and priorities, but would not imply any radical transformation of
their status and mode of working. (It might well be interpreted by many
to take the form of the N + 1th UN World Action Plan and therefore to conform
to standard UN administrative procedures.)
the answer would not engender valid opposition and resistance, except
by reactionary segments of society whose views are irrelevant,
- the promulgation of the kind of answer sought would not deprive the future
period (during which it is implemented) of the ability to initiate alternative
the answer cannot be conceived as competing with other answers, which
if they are advanced must necessarily be subsumed, opposed, or preferably
- the psychological and institutional systems could adjust satisfactorily
to the complete elimination of the problematique by the ideal answer.
Assumptions such as these result from thinking similar to that associated
with modern medicine. Illnesses are diagnosed and then surgery and/or a
course of treatment is recommended based on specific drugs and diet. It
is assumed that if the world problematique could be accurately "diagnosed"
and mapped, malignant growth could be excised and appropriate "pills"
could be designed and "prescribed". Some further treatment may
also be advocated in the form of various therapies or re-educational exercises,
with "stimulants", "tranquilizers" and "vitamins"
as necessary. This "pill psychology" approach takes no account
of the questionable role of medicine in society, as explored by Illitch (3)
and Attali (4). It does not take into account issues analogous to those
raised by such currently debated phenomena as conflict between specialists,
malpractice, iatrogenic diseases, placebo effects, commercialization and institutionalization
of medicine, drug cost as a perceived indicator of remedial power, folk medicine,
euthanasia, hospital vs home environment, and problems of psychosomatic origin.
The approach to providing a "GPID answer" must therefore be examined
very carefully. Advocating a particular model or course of action is tantamount
to advocating a particular type of pill. It raises the question of how this
might conflict with treatment advocated by other "health centers"
from which the "patient" is seeking advice. On the other hand,
presenting a range of conflicting opinions by eminent specialists on possible
alternative courses of treatment would be of little value to the patient,
as would recommendations for remedies for an aspect of the problem (a "micro-answer").
And pointing to directions for "further research" would be simply
abandoning the patient to his own resources for the meantime.
In each case, it is not the treatment which is necessarily the main problem,
but rather the framework within which the patient's relationship to the
possible treatments is defined. The question is therefore whether this
situation can be seen in a new light and whether a new kind of response can
be made to the question "what can be usefully done?".
1.2 Forms of truth
The exploration of the nature of an appropriate answer must take into account
a most important phenomenon. That is that few groups, projects, or schools
of thought have difficulty in discovering and promulgating an answer. The
difficulty for society as a whole arises from the conflictual relationship
between such answers, or their denial of each other as irrelevant, out-of-date,
erroneous, or unworthy of consideration. In the words of Jacques Attali
(#2) concerning remedial ideas about the current crisis:
"Au-dela des problemes que pose toute selection d'idees....voici 1'essentiel:
si tout ce savoir n'est encore aujourd'hui ni synthetise, ni assimile, s'il
reste un lieu d'affrontement et d'anathemes, c'est parce qu'il charrie une
image du monde d'une intolerable fixite; et que tout groupe social trouve
interet a en occulter certain fragments pour tenter d'asseoir sa domination."
(5, pp. 10-11)
Perhaps the most important feature of this phenomenon is that every effort
is necessarily made to ignore it, to deny its significance, but especially
to avoid exploring non-trivial routes beyond the barrier it constitutes to
social development. As Attali continues:
"Face a 1'immensite de 1'enjeu, faut-il alors cesser ce combat rudimentaire
entre un vrai et un faux, mettre un terme a cette denonciation de la parole
de 1'autre? Et avoir le courage d'admettre que plusieurs discours peuvent
etre simultanement vrais, c'est-a-dire peuvent valablement interpreter le
monde?" (5, p.11)
Attali notes in passing that the multiplicity of truth is also encountered
in physics (for example the wave vs particle theory of light). Clearly,
as he proceeds to demonstrate, the problem lies in the way truth is to be
understood. He distinguishes three senses (5, pp. 11-14):
A theory is true if it can be articulated according to the rules of
formal logic, and if its consequences can be verified empirically by any
observer. This is the most common scientific criterion of truth, and is
that used by establishment institutions of every kind in every society.
It gives rise to difficulties if some of the consequences it implies are
contradicted by experience. The institutions are then obliged to construct
a representation of the world which denies any possibility of its own negation.
- A discourse is true (and therefore scientific) if it provides a useful
mode of communication for a group in its struggle for power. Unanimity is
then forcefully imposed rather than emerging from agreement with a universal
- A discourse is receivable, and thus true, the moment it produces an understanding
of the world for those articulating it. Unanimity is achieved neither by
pure logic, nor by force, but by the virtue of seduction. As with beauty,
and because it is intimately related to it, truth is not in itself universal.
Truth is aesthetic.
Attali compares these three forms of truth in physics with mechanics, thermodynamics,
and relativity theories. The equivalents he suggests in economics are regulatory
theories, theories of value production, and theories of the organization
or management of violence (especially of the non-physical variety), each
with their appropriate modes of organization. The first two may be equated
with capitalist (most general sense) and marxist (theoretical) approaches.
It is the third approach, or basis for world order, which needs to be defined.
As Attali stresses, it is necessary to recognize that the reality of the
world, whether in physical or psycho-social terms, is too complex to be
encompassed by a single mode of discourse. The real cannot be separated
from each necessarily partial view of it. It is in fact the multiplicity
of views of the world, with all their differences and ambiguities, which renders
the world tolerable to the majority, permitting each to develop his own understanding
and to manage the violence done to it by others.
"Aujourd'hui cette multiplicite est difficile a preserver. C'est
que les deux premiers mondes de la science ont prone, 1'un 1'universalite,
le second la force: ni dans 1'un, ni dans 1'autre 11 n'y a place pour la tolerance.
Aussi, toute societe qui accepte de se representer le monde selon une seule
de ces deux classes de discours s'oblige a i'uniformite. Elle ne peut laisser
vivre le troisieme sens du vrai, et le voila inevitablement contrainte au
mensonge et a la dictature: tout ordre qui elimine 1'esthetique comme langue
et la seduction comme parole implique inevitablement la dictature." (5,
Just as in physics the three approaches continue to have their domains of
validity, so it should prove to be in the realm of psycho-social organization.
The human being has three brains, the third being essential to mediate between
the conflicting functions of the other two. The key question is then what
kind of organization is implied by this third order of truth such that it
could be of any significance for social development? Failure to take account
of this question can only result in an answer of essentially limited value.
1.3 Accumulative answers
As pointed out at the beginning, society does not lack for answers to
current difficulties. The problem lies in the limited constituencies to which
such answers appeal. It is useful to
look at answers as products, or
manifestations of an accumulation process.
Answers tend to emerge from
ordered accumulations of information.
The amount of information
effectively entering any such accumulation process is necessarily limited
because of limitations on human processing capacity. This does not mean
that the information arises from a limited geographical region. On the
contrary it is a characteristic of present day answers that they result from
interpretations of information (of Edgar Morin (7)) selected from a globally
distributed pool of information (e.g. data networks) which may well be
physically accumulated at a particular spot (e.g. major libraries). It is the
selection process which ensures the filtration. Each such answer is
formulated in terms of a limited information base. For example, this is
usually discipline-oriented in the case of academic answers, but ideological,
action-preference, educational-label, "priority" and other filters
may also be
used, whether together, alone or in various combinations.
Once an answer has been formulated it acquires symbolic significance over
and above the rational arguments which support it. It provides a rallying
point for those searching for coherence in terms of the information base
from which it emerged. Particular jobs
may be tied to its promulgation or
implementation. As such it reinforces
the accumulation of further
information in support of that answer.
Competing answers, and
contradictory information, are ignored, avoided or suppressed whenever
possible. In the case of a
well-developed answer, all "available" information
of any "relevance" is perceived as supporting the position. The answer is
then used as a vehicle for vigorous proselytizing activity amongst those who
subscribe, out of ignorance, to different answers. The aim is to ensure that
such "infidels" are converted to the
answer, namely that consensus is
achieved so that effective action can be undertaken. Everybody must be
"accumulated" by the answer.
Over the past decade this approach has taken on a new aspect, due to
recognition of its obvious limitations. Instead of answers emphasizing
particular conceptual perspectives or content, many now focus on a
particular process (e.g. community dialogue) or mode of action (e.g.
networking, struggle) which permits or engenders a variety of local answers
in concrete situations. The process
advocated thus becomes the answer for
which universal support is sought.
There are many parallels in this to the emergence and historical
development of religions, each of which makes universal claims for its
unique grasp of the answer to the social condition. The current (lack of)
relationship between organized religions provides an excellent model for
understanding the relationship between groups subscribing to any given
answer. The model is enriched by its
representation of the formation of
schisms and priesthoods as well as by the process of religious disaffection,
accompanied by the continual emergence of a plethora of sects, each with a
1.4 Developing a new "meta-answer"
If "an answer" is sought for the current global condition, and
one is urgently
needed, it would seem that great care is required to avoid falling into the
trap of formulating answers whose nature forces them to compete in the
unending, and essentially inhumane, "gladiatorial combats" of the "answer
arena", in an effort to attract the temporary support of fickle
partly inspired by novelty. This does
not mean looking for a semi-secret
answer only meaningful to those initiated into a particular elite group
(cf. world modellers) with its own limited information base. The answer
must be of a different nature, but at the same time widely comprehensible.
It should not attempt to accumulate glory by direct combat in the answer
arena. It should rather redefine the
significance of that arena and the
answers which emerge temporarily victorious there.
In effect humanity already possesses a single, universal "meta-answer". That
is the one which defines the present nature of the answer arena. It is the
mind-set which perceives that arena as the place on which differences should
be settled and effectively legitimates the processes which currently occur
therein. This legitimation is obviously
neither fully conscious nor explicit.
It is derived from the instinctually felt "appropriateness" of
"stamping ground" processes in the time of early man. These were shared
with pack animals.
This essentially instinctual meta-answer has, for specific and limited
purposes, been partially modernized and given respectability. That is in the
concept of the global "marketplace" for exchange of goods and
the various "international assemblies" for exchange of views
for ideas"). But these are but a
thin disguise for an arena which remains
essentially primitive, in which most other differences are "settled",
and as a
result of which pack allegiances are redefined. Everybody participates
actively or passively in these processes whereby movements of opinion arise
and "world opinion" is formed and modified. They appeal to the "fickle
instinctual spectator" in each of us.
The challenge would seem to be to find
a way of placing this current meta-answer in a new light, not so much by
combatting it on its own terms, but rather by offering a more
Attali's sense) alternative. The
difficulty is to avoid the temptation of
defining this meta-answer as an answer and thus ending up in the current
trap. But at the same time, if it is to be of any relevance, the meta-answer
should do more than simply provide a context for the emergence of better
1.5 Decodification of analyses of capital accumulation
In attempting to understand better how individuals and social groups
accumulate the significance they associate with their particular answers, it
is appropriate to look at critical analyses of the well-documented capital
accumulation process. This should
provide further insights and clues for the
pursuit of the enquiry into the characteristics of a desirable meta-answer.
The task is therefore to "decodify" such analyses, using them as a
understand accumulation processes in general rather than as limited to
economic processes in the narrrow material sense.
(a) Basic elements
It is first necessary to adapt some basic concepts in order to generalize
the discussion and relate it specifically to the production of answers:
"Capital": Anything material or non-material which may
be accumulated (or dissipated), including the inherited and acquired abilities
of humans (as partially covered by "human capital"), but especially
satisfiers for all varieties and levels of human needs whether physical, affective,
intellectual, aesthetic, or spiritual.
A non-material basis for capital has in fact been elaborated in a recent
study by Folkert Wilken on "The Liberation of Capital" (154).
Capital, in his view, is like a river which flows from the Geistesleben
into the Wirtschaftsleben before permeating every aspect of the latter.
The Geistesleben means the entire intellectual, cultural, artistic, religious,
mental, ideological, technological, and educational life:
"The entrepreneurial function, the organising function and the technological
function together comprise the role of thought in the development of the economic
system. The mind is the powerhouse of all these developments - indeed
mind is capital. It is mind which determines the precise way in which nature
will be worked upon...The basic nature of capital is thus embodied in mind;
it is mind which determines how capital shall be efficient. This source
is wholle non-material." (154, p. 224)
"The willpower of the entrepreneur is expressed in his thought, and
so becomes his capital, the dynamic of which he directs....Thought therefore
constitutes capital of the first degree. Capital of the second degree has
taken a money form." (154, p. 225)
"At first sight it may seem odd - particularly to anyone trained
in the natural sciences - that the essence of capital lies in the power of
the human mind. Yet intellectual power can be seen in the initiatives which
have to be taken by the managewrs, in the creative technological aptitudes
essential if any capital equipment is to be designed, in the organisational
and leadership abilities without which no work force could ever be organised.
The means of production owe their very reality to the fact that the human
mind has flowed into them; otherwise they would be no use to the entrepreneur
at all." (154, p. 231)
Any person or group undertaking to produce an answer should therefore also
be considered as an entrepreneur acting within the "answer economy".
"Production": Also covers non-material products and services
(some of which may be exchanged without entering a monetary economy), but
especially satisfiers for all levels of human needs (as noted above). This
includes production of "answers" to a need, whether or not the answer
is an adequate one. Products of any kind answer a need, although its necessity
may be severely misrepresented.
"Profit": Includes the perceived advantage in initiating
any exchange of products or services for the satisfaction of immediate needs
or which is expected to result eventually in a net accumulation of value associated
with fulfillment of development goals. Profit from the production or exchange
of an answer is only possible if there is an effective demand for such
"Value": Conceived as a continuum between the extremes of
material and non-material values. In practice several kinds of value (streams)
may be distinguished as being generated simultaneously and independently by
the answer production process, desired as a goal of development processes,
or intrinsic to an exchange process.
"Money": A token of confidence permitting delays and
flexibility in the process of
exchange. Such tokens serve temporarily
as a store of value and significance.
Verbal and other formulations of answers can serve as such tokens.
"Accumulation": Production and accumulation of more answers
than are required
for the satisfaction of immediate needs.
Such a surplus of answers to a need
increases freedom of choice beyond the condition in which there is no
to the single answer available for the satisfaction of a need. The accumulation of
answers is essentially a learning process.
Accumulation tends to become an end in
itself, leading to so-called anarchy of production.
(b) Critical analysis
Some key phenomena can now be adapted, especially to illustrate structural
problems in the production, and distribution of answers:
development of societal and
psychological structures to maximize accumulation, despite the consequent (a)
increases in the inequality of distribution and the contractualization of
transactions, (b) exploitation of the producers, and (c) creation and
of dependency relationships.
"Capitalist system": The mode of production in which answer
production is for
profitable exchange in the market place.
As a buyer (of answers) on that market
efficiency is rewarded, but as a seller (of answers) political power is used to
thwart efficiency. This basic
contradiction is the defining characteristic of a
dichotomy": Control of the capitalist
system by an elite
group exploiting privileged access to decisions about answer production by the
dichotomy": In a capitalist system there
is an accumulation of
surplus answers under exploitative conditions of unequal exchange, resulting in
capital leaks from the periphery to the centre. This is pervasive, continuing, and
"Exploitation": A characteristic of the capitalist
"world-economy" as a process
with a centre and a periphery, both of them moving, the context of them moving,
the exact processes within and between changing, but the gradient of
remaining, enriching the centre and impoverishing the periphery in various
This reinforces inequality and dependency.
The process is set in motion when and
where the two conditional inequalities, inequality of distribution and
become coincidental, interrelated, or interwoven.
between entities of a system in their
possession of, or control over, accumulated capital, and consequently in their
freedom of choice. This situation can
only be maintained by a system of
repression governed by the relation between the willingness of the possessors of
answers to repress, and the ability and willingness of the others to rebel
"Dependence": Centre/periphery structural-relational
constraints that make it
impossible for certain units in the system to initiate and sustain answer
"Demand": A function
of the sum of the political arrangements between the
organized units (resulting from previous struggles) which determine the real
distribution of the accumulated surplus of answers.
"Cyclical stagnation in
imperatives of answer accumulation
result in an inherent tendency to the expansion of absolute volume of
although demand remains relatively fixed for intermediate periods. This results in
recurring bottle-necks of accumulation in the form of stagnation, decline, or
retraction, possibly aggravated by the disproportionate energy required to
appropriate the surplus. Such
down-turns create pressures to restructure the
network of answer production processes and social relations to renew the
possibilities for expansion.
"Expansion": Cyclic stagnation is ultimately resolved
by: (a) expanding the outer
boundaries of the system through creating new pools of low-cost direct answer
producers incorporated at a disadvantage into the market; (b)
effective demand for answers, partly by proletarianization of direct producers,
partly by redistribution of the surplus among the "bourgeoisie". There are logical
limits to both these possibilities.
"Hegemony": Results when answer producers in a given
domain make their
products more readily accessible to those in other domains than are equivalent
(competing) products produced within those domains. Such a systematic advantage
enables the hegemonic domain to reinforce the advantage of its producers by
seeking a dominant position for its other products, especially through
its modes of thought and analysis.
(c) Critical perspective
The previous phenomena can only be satisfactorily examined within a
perspective from which alternative possibilities can effectively emerge. For the
purpose of this exercise the material, above and below, has been adapted from
papers on the "world-system" perspective by I. Wallerstein (9, 10,
11) and Herb
Addo (1 3), although as interpreted here they bear little relation to the
that social action takes place in an entity
within which there is an ongoing division of answer producing activity.
Empirically it seeks to discover whether such an entity is or is not unified,
what way. Theoretically it asks what
are the consequences of the existence or
non-existence of such unity. This
focuses attention on alternative possibilities for
organizing that entity.
"World-empire": A world-system characterized by organized
production and distribution of sufficient surplus of answers to support both
the producers and the group administering production. Expansion of production
is limited since too large a surplus engenders the temptation for its pre-emption
before it reaches the administrators. The extent of inequality is therefore
subject to some limitation. Cyclic accumulation patterns involve the perpetual
incorporation and release of mini-systems based on the simpler process of
"World-economy": A world-system characterized by the
continuing absence of overarching organization. It is based on a single
division of capitalist productive activity, but without any unified process
for the redistribution of accumulating capital, other than the market (whose
processes can be readily manipulated by appropriate intervention).
(d) Transformational goal
In the light of the above insights it is useful to look at the goal envisaged
by those attempting to eliminate the negative consequences associated with
"World-government": A world-system in which both answer
production and distribution are controlled within a unified organization,
acting in the interests of the producers and of those in need, who ultimately
determine the policies of that organization.
Such statements are not particularly illuminating. Unfortunately critical
analysis of the defects of the accumulation process are seldom accompanied
by any clear insight into the kinds of "unified" structure which
could be created to counteract the acknowledged defects of "unified organization".
For example, Wallerstein notes:
"Mais il est tres difficile de prevoir les formes institutionnelles
que pourrait prendre un tel ordre socialiste mondial. Le systeme interetatique
devrait sans aucun doute etre remplace par une structure politique unifiee
(indispensable pour prendre des decisions sociales de production a 1'echelle
de I'economie-mondiale), rnais dont la forme est impossible a definir aujourd'hui."
(11, p. 53)
Wallerstein does however recognize that: "II serait d'ailleurs aussi
futile que dangereux d'extrapoler les formes politiques de 1'ordre socialiste
mondial a partir de celles que nous connaissons actuellement..." (11,
p. 53). Unfortunately, other schools of thought which do venture into explicit
discussion of the "world government" structure required tend to
generate just such simplistic extrapolations which take no account of the
polarizing processes noted above, or else do so in a totally impractical manner.
What is refreshing about the world-system perspective is the manner in which
it avoids taking present structures for granted. Both Wallerstein and Addo
(13, pp. 6-7; 1 4) criticize the conventional "developmentalist"
framework within which current answers have been vainly sought for two decades.
Wallerstein contrasts this with the world-system perspective:
"What is crippling about a developmentalist perspective is the fact
that...large-scale historical processes are not even discussable, if one uses
the politico-cultural entity (the 'state') as the unit of analysis"
(9, p. 352)
Equally crippling however, in attempting to understand the accumulation of
significance, is the restriction of "world-system" type analyses
to the limited range of material phenomena significant to a scholastic entity,
namely "political economics". Other phenomena are then simply
"not even discussable". The difficulty is understandable in that
once the scope of the analysis is extended to non-material phenomena it is
obliged to become self-reflexive (15) and include the production and distribution
of world-system perspectives. Since it is an explicit characteristic of any
such perspective to use political action in the "marketplace of ideas"
in order to ensure its own dominance, it is difficult to see how its strategy
can be distinguished from that of any other aspirant hegemony. The same
is naturally true for any answer entering that marketplace or with an established
place in it.
1.6 "New International Conceptual Order"
It is not solely at the level of material phenomena that an appropriate meta-answer
can be usefully sought. Somehow the relationship between answers
at all levels must be examined more creatively. It is a "New International
Conceptual Order" that is required as a basis for any effective New International
Economic Order. All the unsatisfactory material processes for which an NIEO-type
response is sought are a rather pale reflection of equivalent conceptual
processes which continually reinforce them and undermine remedial action
in any context.
Adapting Johan Galtung's comment on "structural violence", it could
be said that: Amateurs use the organization of material accumulation to dominate
a situation, this can be done professionally by the organization of non-material
forms of accumulation. In fact the very vigour of the processes of radical
analysis and conceptual innovation may well reinforce the material accumulation
processes deplored in such analyses.
The subtleties of Addo's (13) assessment of the limitations of NIEO could
also be generalized to cover those of the "answer economy". What
is to be the status of answers formulated or favoured by minority groups or
weakly organized large groups? There is an exploited "Third World"
to be recognized in non-material terms, and current concern with cultural
domination is a step in this direction.
In discussing associative approaches to peace Paul Levy focuses on the central
problem of claims for an exclusive hold on the truth, which any answer implies:
"Rien, aucun sentiment n'est plus poiemogene que celui de detenir
seul la verite. Les conflits internationaux ne sont qu'accessoirement des
conflits d'interets, tous finissent par reveler leur veritable nature: ce
sont des guerres de religion. Un conflit qui aboutit a 1'effusion de sang
se sacralise inevitablement et il ne peut durer et se developper que dans
la mesure ou il se sacralise vraiment.
La prétention a la détention exclusive de la vérité engendre l'intolérance
et l'hostilité. Les Etats connaissent toujours l'agressivité des possesseurs
de vrai. Leur qualité d'Etat leur interdit d'admettre la "vérité des
autres". 11 en est de meme des religions et de toutes les idéologies
a l'origine. Elles n'arrivent que graduellement a se dégager de l'intolérance
indissolublement liée a leurs premiers pas. Puis vient l'âge de l'ouverture: de l'exclusion on passe a la mission (d'abord violente, ensuite non-violente),
puis de la mission a la co-existence pour finir par la coopération."
(16, p. 35)
Edgar Morin (7) touches on similar points, as does Attali (5). But in all
such cases the nature of an appropriate meta-answer remains unclear. It
is quite insufficient to favour such out-dated, optimistic remedies as "cooperation",
which is a vehicle for many forms of exploitation, when it is not essentially
cosmetic and ineffective. Levy's religious metaphor is also limiting because
the phenomenon is more general. The religious manifestation is merely a
well-known form, now and in the past.
Each answer is effectively an attempt by a limited group (with limited sensibilities,
and with a limited information base) to give better organized expression to
"the good, the true, and the beautiful". The problem is in devising
a suitable rneta-form to interrelate answers which can only retain their essential
quality within forms which are antagonistic to one_another. Advocating
tolerance in a pluralistic, laissez-faire context is a very superficial, impractical
response to the current existential challenge.
1.7 Accumulation and development
There would seem to be a vital connection between human development, social
development, need satisfaction, and accumulation. This can be represented
by Diagram 1.
These relationships are more clearly seen in three dimensions as expressed
by the tetrahedron in Diagram 2a. Note that this may be usefully skewed
to indicate distorted relationships between the different processes, or limiting
cases where one is identified with another.
The difficulty arising from this representation lies in the ambiguous status
of accumulation as:
a by-product of the process of need satisfaction, in that any effort
to satisfy needs is always accompanied by an additional effort to accumulate
the need satisfiers, possibly in anticipation of future needs
a symbol or indicator of development achieved in the domain within which
the satisfiers accumulated are considered significant
a motivating or energizing force for the development process due to the
pattern of activities to which it gives rise in the effort to achieve need
a problem due to the distortions in the development process to which
the consequences of that pattern of accumulation give rise
in this sense accumulation may be viewed as a necessary waste product
of the development process.
|Diagram 1: Mutually constraining interrelationships between development,
need satisfaction and accumulation processes
|Diagram 2: 3-dimensional presentation of Diagram 1
|Diagram 3: Transformative develop^ment of the development processes
of Diagram 1 through successive levels -- namely a Development II process
At each new level the content of the Development I processes is redefined
and partially substitutes for the content at preceding levels
There is a further difficulty with accumulation in the context indicated
by Diagram 1, namely that it "ties" or defines the processes of
human development, social development and need satisfaction in terms of that
which is being accumulated. As such the accumulation process restricts
evolution of these other processes, limiting them to the level of whatever
is being accumulated.
l.8 Development of accumulation
The restrictive nature of a particular form of accumulation also affects
the kinds of answers sought to the problems arising from that accumulation
process. Answers tend to focus on changing the pattern of accumulation or
eliminating it altogether. The focus of attention is however limited to
the level of accumulation at which the problems are currently most evident.
Answers tend not to be sensitive to what is accumulated through promulgation
and implementation of the favoured answer. It is also important to understand
how a system can slip, or be displaced, into other modes of accumulation at
an equivalent level.
It is assumed in the light of the variety of forms of accumulation and its
ambiguous functions, that it is highly unlikely that this process can be eliminated.
The question is then whether it can be transformed such that the focus of
attention is not on a particular level. Whilst it may not be possible to
eliminate accumulation (e.g. of X at level 1), it may be possible to give
progressively greater emphasis to the accumulation of X2, X3
...Xn. This would involve changing the significance of
X, in relation to its context, especially by classifying the range of X's
(at different levels) more creatively. This would allow Diagram 1 to be
presented in a more elaborate form as Diagram 3.
From Diagram 3 it becomes apparent that it is useful to define two forms
of "development". The first, Development-I, characteristic of
a Diagram 1 context, is primarily associated with "growth" and "spread",
namely "quantitative" development. The second, Development-II,
is primarily associated with qualitative development or transformation.
This is brought about by shifting the centre of gravity of the accumulation
process. In this sense the challenge is to find ways to "develop accumulation".
1.9 Domains of significance
It is convenient to designate as a "domain" that subset of the
space of psycho-social communication within which questions of a particular
type maintain their credibility for sufficient time to sustain a discourse.
If Attali's lead is to be pursued, the nature of such domains needs to be
Attali argues that three theories open the way to an analysis of the production
and circulation of meaning in an organization (5, pp. 207-208). The theories
converge and give the following. An organization exists:
when information having significance for its members is circulating and
produces a compromise between identity and diversity (cf. Henri Atlan (17))
when the production of the organization by itself obeys non-linear, continuous
laws (cf. Prigogine (1 8))
when the dynamic laws of a form can be elucidated from the discontinuities
in its processes (cf. Rene Thorn (19)).
|Diagram 4a: Schematic relationship of learning zones associated with
a particular answer domain
Zone 1: No significant
new information acquired from beyond domain. The domain engenders
answers perceived as comprehensive and self-consistent. Supporters
are totally committed.
Boundary 1/2 Learning from other domains
is limited to recognition of their existence
Zone 2: Learning rate with respect to domain (zone
1) is greater than rate of generation of new meaning from other domains.
The significance of the domain is increasing. Supporters become progressively
Boundary 2/3 Learning rate with respect
to domain (zone l) equals rate of generation of new
meaning from other domains. The significance of the
domain is not increasing.
Zone 3: Learning rate with respect to domain is
less than rate of generation of new meaning from other domains. The significance
of other domains is increasing. Supporters are attracted by other domains.
Boundary 3/4 Learning rate with
respect to domain (zone l) is zero
Zone 4: Learning rate with respect to domain (zone
1) is undermined and eroded by learning rate with respect
to other domains. The relative significance of the domain
Boundary 4/5 Learning about domain is
limited to recognition of its existence. The perceived
significance of the domain is at a minimum. There are no supporters.
Zone 5: Existence of the domain
is not recognized.
Diagram 4b: Possible ("standing wave") articulation of
an answer domain in terms of number of learning factors
Based on Table 2 and Diagram 5, but organized to correspond to Diagram
Note that the more frequently occurring or short-lived the answer domain,
the fewer the number of learning factors characteristic of its organization.
Thus the most frequent domains would only have zone "L", namely
with one factor only
Few answer domains would develop to the stage of including six factors,
namely zone "ML2/T3"
The form may be destroyed by aggression, noise, fluctuation, catastrophe,
or by the accumulation of internal conflicts. Attali argues that under the
first two forms of truth, any such crisis can only be overcome by absorbing
or eliminating the disturbance.
In order to link the argument more closely to human and social
development, it is
appropriate to express the organization of such domains of significance in
the learning process (as in Diagram 4).
A domain of this type clearly remains fairly stable provided it can
"import" information (products) on which the learning process can
Knowledge, in the form of processed information, is then distributed out from
centre of the domain, or "exported" beyond its periphery, as part of
maintaining the stability of the domain.
Before discussing the nature of this "learning" process in
more detail, it is
appropriate to note that it involves the accumulation of knowledge in one form
another. Domains based on the
accumulation of knowledge, in its narrow sense,
are not the only kinds of domain characteristic of society. Similar domains arise
from other accumulation processes which each create a coherent environment for
communication or exchange. At this
stage it is therefore useful to make the
argument more concrete by giving an extensive range of examples of accumulation
which each tend to give rise to such domains (see Table 1).
Table 1: Transformative interrelationships of complementary forms
of accelerative - including accumulation of human need satisfiers
N.B. Neighbouring "cells" may be viewed as interacting learning
domains linked into interweaving learning chains and cycles
sexual, other) Solidarity
Quality of living
Risk-taking Identity Individuality (Poverty)
Post-humous credit Generosity
(windpower, solar power)
Cult. heritage Historical sig.
Group process control
Planning cap. Formulating cap.
Borrowing cap. Opportunities
Kicks, appetite Experiences
Destructive cap Protective cap.
Ritualistic cap Proselytizing
Family bonds Dynastic bonds
Earning-work Conditions of work
Sources of inf.
Commodities Trading cap.
I ndustrial cap
P ollution cap
Plants (and microflora)
- for food (processing, spice)
- as property (eg new variet.)
- interplay with (eg trees)
Invertebrates (and microfauna)
- for food (processing)
- for agriculture (bees, worm)
- pest clearance
- interplay with (butterflies)
Vertebrates (reptiles, fish)
- for food or transpotation
- as property (camels )
- interplay with (birds, dogs)
- pest clerance (wolves, wild)
- as symbols (Hindu cows)
-for food (cannibal society)
- as property (slaves, harem)
- for breading (eugenics)
- as manpower resource
- as mutual challenge
Appreciation of nature
Breathable fresh air
Interaction with wind/sky
M odification of wind systems
Drinkable fresh water
Interaction with water (Gangeé)
Water rights (cattle herds)
Modification of water systems
Warmth (or ooolth) Interaction.with sun/fire
Access to light
View (ancient lights)
Earth for agriculture (land)
M inerals for nutrition (salt) Interaction with earth (rocks
Appreciation of physical environment
- life expectancy
- life prolongation (e.g. rejuvenation, support systems)
Space related existance
- living space
- territory (space to be)