- / -
The implications of a pattern of cultures are more and more a challenge to comprehension. In order to clarify understanding of such complexity, statesmen make use of notions which are both simple and symbolic. "The House of Europe" and "European Space" are examples of this approach. Such metaphors serve as vehicles to suggest approaches with many strategic implications. They fulfil the function of codes to communicate among cognoscenti and as key phrases in the interaction with public opinion.
The fundamental problems of cultural integration raise the question of the extent to which metaphors currently used are of adequate richness to articulate strategic options which are both useful and viable. The dilemma remains the necessity, on the one hand, to reflect the richness of the complexity of which any cultural strategy must take account, and, on the other, to make available an integrative image capable of "enchanting" people seeking some sense in the development of their personal and professional lives. This dilemma is made all the more problematic by the multiplicity of cultures and schools of thought, as well the diverse marginal groups.
Why this emphasis on metaphors instead of relying on the language of models? In part this is because in the elaboration of strategic policy it seems less and less useful to employ the old language in which so many reports have been presented. Despite the level of expertise and the complexity of the models, such reports have tended to be "forgettable", in the words of the Economist in describing the recent South Report (1990). We are being overtaken by events.
Media communicability has become increasingly important to the life of political and social initiatives. It is the ultimate constraint in social and political transformation. It is therefore useful to note the developing role of metaphor in articulating or opposing social transformation. Boris Yeltsin chose to describe Mikhael Gorbachev's compromise reforms as a "marriage between a hedgehog and a snake". Such imagery, of which there are many examples, easily undermines the best of initiatives. It would seem that the struggle has shifted from the world of ideas to the world of images. Commentators everywhere remark on the sterility of proposals in the eyes of the general population, and especially of voters. Instead of the "power of imagination , there is a bankruptcy of imagination.
Recent research has demonstrated the cognitive function and influence of metaphors in the most disciplined and rigorous thinking. Examples in the natural sciences, and even in fundamental physics, are cited. The same is true in the social sciences and notably in understanding of organizations and their management. It appears that metaphors, whether explicit or implicit, are essential to the ordering of cognitive elements. Furthermore it is now almost impossible to extricate them from the language of many disciplines. As examples the following may be noted: a "field" of study, the "direction" of research, a "line" of argument, a "target" audience, "mobilization" of resources. It has been shown that, beyond its rhetoric functions, the choice of a metaphor may be crucial to the kinds of communication which become possible or impossible. A recent study of the metaphors underlying the Gulf War even suggests that "metaphors can kill".
All the religions use metaphors to render comprehensible the most complex and subtle notions. It is with the help of metaphors that people are most profoundly touched in relation to those hopeful factors which give meaning to personal and social life. And it is with the assistance of certain metaphors that new inspiration has been given to cultures fatigued by old formulas and received ideas.
It is not that models are ineffective or inadequate. The diffiCUlty is rather in the incompatibility of models, however useful in different specialized domains, and in the weaknesses which emerge as a result in any supposedly integrated strategy. Suspicion concerning, integrative models has become a wise precaution.
Beyond any structural modifications, the key to the success of future strategies appears to lie in the imaginative manner in which valid, but incompatible, initiatives are woven together. The challenge is highlighted by the absence of models adequate to the reconciliation of "centralized" and "market" economic strategies in the countries of Eastern Europe. There are no available models because the challenge to the imagination transcends the world of model builders by which strategies have been so influenced. It could be concluded that new and richer possibilities for cultural integration are to be found beyond the strategic incompatibilities in which visions of its future tend to become entangled.
It is metaphors which provide the imagination with "keystones" to balance the tensions between tendencies which, without such integrative elements, would appear incompatible. World governance in this sense is a question of "imagination building" rather than "institution building". Governance of cultural evolution at the highest level (and if that indeed suggests an appropriate intent) should therefore focus attention on the emergence and movement of policy relevant metaphors -- that are capable of rendering comprehensible the way forward through complex windows of opportunity. The challenge lies in marrying new metaphors to models to ensure the embodiment of new levels of insight in appropriate organizational form.
The nature of cultural integration is thus closely associated with the "gene pool" of metaphors. From this the cultural community may draw fruitful metaphors in the formulation of responses to new opportunities and crises. Culture may be understood in terms of this gene pool.
This vision of cultural governance does not call for radical transformation of institutions. Rather it calls for a shift in the way of thinking about what is circulated through society's information systems as the triggering force for any action. At present governance in the international community is haunted by a form of collective schizophrenia -- a left-brain preoccupation with "serious" academic models and administrative programmes, and a right-brain preoccupation with the proclivities of public opinion avid for "meaningful" action (even if "sensational"). This quarrel between models and metaphors could be transformed by focusing more effectively on the metaphoric dimensions already so vital to any sustainable motivation of public opinion.
Cultural integration should not be so closely linked to the seemingly impossible task of maintaining a consensus on particular responses to dilemmas as appropriate, and therefore "correct". The collective insight to cultivate could well be detached from this level of short and medium term preoccupation. This focus favours tokenism and unimplemented resolutions which in turn reinforce cynicism, alienation and loss of credibility. In these times all simple solutions eventually become problems, just all problems are in effect unpleasant solutions. The creative opportunity is to cultivate instead an understanding of how incompatible solutions can be woven together as phases over time in a cycle of policies. It is metaphors -- such as crop rotation -- which make comprehensible and credible such a complex approach. It is at this level of conservation and generation of metaphors that may be found a dynamic cultural identity appropriate to a sustainable development.
What approach should be taken to the possibility of choosing a metaphor to better articulate the diverse elements of cultural integration in such circumstances? Five criteria should be considered:
In the advertising and media worlds, considerable sums are invested in research on the image of for a corporation or a brand. The choice of political or strategic metaphors is usually done with much less effort and without any "market research". What follows can only be considered a first selection of possible metaphors, with all the reservations that implies:
How many complementary metaphors are necessary to sustain insight into the rich subtleties of cultural integration? Would it not be natural for a major metaphor to be associated with each domain with which a major policy or government ministry is associated -- or with each "general directorate" of cultural institutions? It would of course also be possible to understand cultural integration: as a system of navigation; as a collection of temples or ministries; as an interplay of cultural spaces; as a system of learning and development environments; as an olympiad of competitions; and as a building (as a way of exploring the positive implications of the notion of a "European fortress"). The challenge may involve not so much the use of one or more such metaphors but rather that of recognizing an appropriate set of metaphors such that each offers necessary and appropriate insights that the others may be unable to carry. It is designing such a set of metaphors, rendering it widely comprehensible and ensuring the appropriate checks and balances between the insights they imply, which is the concern. This "design" problem is itself an intercultural challenge.
Our verbal articulations of the situation we face are failing us. There is a need to draw more deeply on our cultural insights to reframe our windows of opportunity. In effect we need to design a new language that is more sensitive to appropriateness -- a language that more clearly protects diversity and facilitates fusion, as and when each is called for. There is a need to enable people to play more freely with the images of the world to which they are exposed, empowering them to reinvent their environments in ways which allow new forms of development. The clash, symbiosis and fusion of cultures can usefully be understood in terms of the possibilities of the emergence of new forms of order through cultural self-organization. A richer metaphoric language would enable all to participate in this process to the fullest.
Comprehension of Appropriateness. (Project on Economic Aspects of Human Development (EAHD) of the Regional and Global Studies Division of the United Nations University). Paper for Rome workshop, September 1986. Brussels, UIA. [text]
Governance through Metaphor (Project on Economic Aspects of Human Development (EAHD) of the Regional and Global Studies Division of the United Nations University). Paper for Geneva workshop, June 1987. Brussels, UIA. [text]
Metaphoric Revolution: in quest of a manifesto for governance through metaphor. Paper prepared for the 10th World Conference of the World Future Studies Federation (Beijing, Sept 1988), under the auspices of the China Association for Science and Technology. Group 8: Changing political institutions. Brussels, UIA, s.p. [text]
Innovative Global Management through Metaphor. Paper prepared for The Conference on Social Innovation in Global Management, organized by The Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western, Reserve University, 1989. Brussels, UIA [text]
Through Metaphor to a Sustainable Ecology of Development Policies. In: Trzyna, T C and Gotelli, I (Eds): The Power of Convening; collaborative policy forums for sustainable development (Proceedings of an International Workshop sponsored by the Commission on Sustainable Development of IUCN-The World Conservation Union, California Institute of Public Affairs, and Center for Politics and Policy (Claremont CA, October 1989)). Sacramento CA, California Institute of Public Affairs, 1990, pp. 64-81. [text]
Recontextualizing Social Problems through Metaphor: transcending the "switch" metaphor. Paper prepared for the International Conference on Demography Issues and Sustainable Development organized by Development Alternatives (New Delhi, 1990). In: Transnational Associations, 43,1991,1, pp. 37-46 [text]
Guiding Metaphors and Configuring Choices. Brussels, Union of International Associations, 1991 (Paper for the Development Administration Division of the UN Department of Technical Cooperation for Development) [text]
Metaphors as transdisciplinary vehicles of the future. (Paper prepared for the Conference on Science and Tradition: Transdisciplinary perspectives on the way to the 21st century, Paris, 1991). Brussels, Union of International Associations, 1991. [text]
this work is licenced under a creative commons licence.