Challenges to Governance through Contrasting Images
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Annnex to: Policy
Options for Civil Society through Complementary Contrasts. The following alternative perceptions are discussed as contrasting metaphors
of civil society and its implications for the process of association and development.
They are not mutually exclusive and may often be complementary. The contrasting
images are summarized in Table 1.
TABLE 1: State versus Society (tentative)
Each horizontal rows represents an axis of bias in selecting a policy
mix between State and Society. A policy choice must effectively be made
between the extremes for each of the 7 axes. For wider public understanding,
it is vital to represent each extreme by comprehensible images
|| "Subway network"
|| "Carnival fair"
|Planning (urban zoning)
|| "Assembly line"
|Going with the flow
Alienation and anonymity
Avant garde music ?
|Division of labour
Pictures at exhibition
Vulnerability of integrated systems
Organized crime rings
| "Residential complex"
Family / Kinship (extended)
| "News broadcast"
(metaphorical or unstated)
Learning by example
Unwritten rules (Catch-22)
|| "Public school"
||Overexposure of private life
Religious belief and practice
4.1 Challenge of coherence
Here the challenge to governance is to strike a balance between the extremes
of excessive order and excessive disorder. Excessive order inhibits levels of
diversity necessary to an adaptive response to a complex and changing pattern
of problems and possibilities. Excessive disorder inhibits any possibility of
comprehensive or integrated programmes to such patterns within society as a
4.1.1: Ordered array ("Subway network") Civil society
can be viewed as constituting an ordered array of modes of association, like
stations on a subway network. This view would tend to be favoured by those who
are used to defining their environment in an orderly manner, in terms which
favour management and control, whatever the degree of simplification necessary.
In such an array, when permitted, each form of association has its place and
function. All are relatively accessible, although some may only be reached through
intervening associations. Each such context is different, but not necessarily
better in any developmental sense.
Development: In this metaphor, development might be envisaged
in terms of extending and complexifying the network into a rich array of associations.
This would be contrasted with a less developed condition equivalent to a subway
network with relatively few stations and (possibly poorly connected) lines.
Goals of social development might be expressed in terms of improving the stations,
increasing the facility of movement throughout the network, and organizing the
network into the most effective configuration of stations.
4.1.2: Disorder and chaos ("Carnival fair") Civil society
can be viewed as essentially unordered in any planned sense, to the point of
being essential chaotic and disorderly -- or self-ordering as in a natural ecosystem.
This view would tend to be favoured by those who do not seek control over their
whole environment, realizing that they are subject to more forces than they
originally assumed, or simply prefering the challenge of the disorderly and
unpredictable (cf William James, Bergson, Schopenhauer, Rousseau). The range
of associations may then be too confusing to present any stable or orderly features
permitting them to be distinguished or usefully labelled in any typology.
Development: In this metaphor, development would be more concerned
with ways of increasing the diversity and richness of counter-balancing groups
and organizations, avoiding reliance on arbitrary or artificial patterns of
order. As in any form of horticulture, the challenge for governance is to facilitate
the ability of each species of association to counteract the excesses of other
4.2 Challenge of change
Here the challenge to governance is to strike a balance between features of
society ensuring stability and predictability against those associated with
change and development. Excessive stability results in a stultifying, unchallenging
society, unresponsive to a changing world. Excessive change leads to social
instability and insecurity, making consolidation of any social progress impossible.
4.2.1: Static structure ("Assembly line") Civil society
can be viewed as forming a static, semi-permanent set of associative contexts
(especially by those who benefit from such predictability). This view would
tend to be favoured by those seeking a reliable set of social partners (employers),
stable markets (advertisers), or faithful constituencies (politicians), over
an extended period of time.
Development: Legislation and regulatory procedures would be used
to reinfoce this view by anticipating the range of basic needs of the average
citizen, which are held to be unchanging or to change quite slowly. Social development
is then primarily the process of ensuring that more people have such needs satisfied.
4.2.2: Dynamic structure ("Market") Civil society can
be viewed as constituting a dynamic structure, in which associations arise in
the dynamic relations between relatively static elements. Like harmonies and
melodies, based on a configuration of established musical notes, such associations
cannot be readily isolated and named with any confidence. They only exist temporarily
as dynamic relationships changing continuously. This view would tend to be favoured
by those who respond to the unique opportunities of the moment, possibly because
their survival depends on the uniqueness of their response.
Development: In terms of the musical metaphor, social development
then becomes a question of being able to form more complex harmonies amongst
the predictable features of the environment, encompassing for longer periods
the disharmonies which might otherwise be considered more significant. The challenge
for governance is then to provide information and communication systems of sufficient
sophistication to provide a suitable framework for the emergence, development
and reconfiguration of such associations. The telephone/fax system is now a
well-recognized model; e-mail and Internet are suggesting models for the future.
4.3 Challenge of identity
Here the challenge to governance is to strike a balance between encouraging
individualistic identification with particular organizational units as opposed
to identification with a wider community of relationships between many such
bodies. Excessive emphasis on individualism results in an alienating degree
of specialization which inhibits more integrated, holistic approaches. Excessive
emphasis on patterns of relationship inhibits individual initiative through
4.3.1: Discrete phenomena ("Army") Civil society can
be viewed as made up of distinct associations, with a well-defined membership,
with some form of boundary separating them. This view would tend to be favoured
by those who need to distinguish clearly where they are, either from where they
have been, or from where they want to be. As on a ladder, each association corresponds
to a dependable step and there is no intermediate condition. Individuals are
viewed as identifying with particular associations.
Development: In terms of this metaphor, social development may
then be conceived as moving up a series of steps, possibly understood as a series
of developmental stages. From each successive step a broader view may be possible,
incorporating those below it. Governance would rely on the ability to systematically
track such associations, their functions, and their members.
4.3.2: Continuous phenomena ("Community") Civil society
can be viewed as part of a single continuous field of societal activity. In
the light of field theories, particular associations might then be understood
as interference patterns (cf Moiré patterns). Individuals identify with patterns
of relationships between individuals and groups in a wider community. These
cannot readily be limited to particular associations as illustrated by the phenomenon
Development: In this metaphor, social development might be understood
in terms of increasing the number and complexity of such interference patterns
and increasing the facility for shifting elegantly between them.
4.4 Challenge of participation (and involvement)
Here the challenge to governance is to strike a balance between marshalling
human resources as opposed to relying on the ability of individuals to self-organize
in response to social needs. Excessive emphasis on marshalling human resources
inhibits individual motivation and evokes resistance to collective initiatives.
Excessive reliance on individual initiative leads to selfish indifference to
4.4.1: External relationship to phenomena ("Residential complex")
Civil society can be viewed as made up of externalities, as objects of investigation,
and as "places" that can be visited. As such their existence is independent
of any particular observer. This view would be favoured by those with either
a rationalist or an empiricist orientation.
Development: Social development is then a question of acquiring
the expertise, or possibly the technology, to gain access to such places at
will. For governance, organizational units can be understood as rationally positioned
on "maps" through which their functional relationships can be understood.
Governance may then be concerned with the efficiency of such disposition in
terms of the operation of such units and access to them. Organizational resources
are seen as lending themselves to "mobilization" and "marshalling".
4.4.2: Identification with phenomena ("Café") Civil
society can be held to be only genuinely comprehensible through an intuitive
identification with the experience it constitutes, experienced by the observer
as he experiences himself (cf Bergson, Hegel). This view would be favoured by
those whose views have been strongly formed by particular unsought personal
experiences of alternative associations, largely unconditioned by external explanations
Development: Social development from this perspective might then
be viewed as progressive achievement of a more profound, enduring, and all-encompassing
identification with such alternative associations as communities through which
identity itself is redefined. "Mobilization" of any kind is resisted
and governance is faced with the task of encouraging individual and group self-motivation
as well as the freely chosen participation of individuals in associations that
reflect their perspectives and goals.
4.5 Challenge of significance
Here the challenge of governance is to strike a balance between significance
clarified through clear definitions as opposed to significance implicit in situations
and contexts but eluding unambiguous definition. Excessive emphasis on clear
and literal definitions inhibits ability to respond to conditions characterized
by ambiguity and the unstated. Excessive emphasis on unstated contextual significance
inhibits any ability to formulate unambiguous rules where these are essential.
4.5.1: Sharply defined phenomena ("News broadcast")
Civil society can be viewed as being made up of clearly defined phenomena (cf
Descartes, Hume), like individually framed paintings. This view would tend to
be favoured by those concerned with the objective, legal reality of organizations
and associations. For them, any other kinds of association are unreal abstractions
of no significance, other than as distractions from the concrete legally defined
reality. Associations undefined in this way literally do not exist.
Development: Social development might then be viewed as a process
of progressively refining what is defined to exist in this way. Governance is
then a matter of devising ways of evaluating and recognizing bodies deemed necessary
for social progress.
4.5.2: Implicitly defined phenomena ("Symbol") Civil
society can be viewed as implying levels of significance beyond those which
are defined by legal (or other academic) categories (cf Hegel, Whitehead, Niebuhr,
Proust). As with the experience of an iceberg, this view would tend to be favoured
by those for whom the associative experience encompasses both the visibly definable
and some sense of the invisible presence of its underlying mass (and the possibility
that it may suddenly become visible). Significance is attached to the unexpressed
presence or the potential of any moment.
Development: Social development might then be viewed as the emergence
of such potential and the increasing recognition of the range of significance
that remains unexpressed and which can be progressively given form within society.
Society is understood as pregnant with an emergent future.
4.6 Challenge of understanding (and communicability)
Here the challenge of governance is to strike a balance between a stress on
comprehensible initiatives in respose to communicable problems as opposed to
a stress on initiatives of a less comprehensible or communicable nature. Excessive
emphasis on what can be readily communicated inhibits any ability to respond
to deal with levels of complexity and subtlety why defy human comprehension.
Excessive emphasis on what is beyond human comprehension leads to superstition
and reliance on self-selected experts and inhibits action within existing capacities.
4.6.1: Inherently comprehensible phenomena ("Public school")
Civil society and its component elements can be viewed as comprehensible in
terms of existing paradigms or through their natural evolution. This view would
tend to be favoured by pragmatists, and those with a scientific orientation,
for whom a satisfactory explanation in terms of collectively known factors must
eventually be possible (if one cannot immediately be imposed).
Development: Social development is then a process of making what
is known to the experts more widely accessible and of investigating what they
do not yet comprehend. The challenge for governance is then to identify and
work with appropriate levels of expertise and to ensure that recommendations
are comprehensible and communicable.
4.6.2: Inherently incomprehensible (or inexplicable) phenomena ("Church")
Civil society can be viewed as calling for explanation in terms of other frames
of reference, which may not necessarily be accessible to the ordinary human
mind (cf Plato, Schopenhauer, Hegel, Plotinus, Niebuhr, Toynbee). This view
would tend to be favoured by many religious groups (especially of fundamentalist
persuasion) and in cultures sympathetic to belief in other levels of being or
realms of existence. It might also be favoured by experts relying on very sophisticated
mathematical models of strategic challenges and opportunities whose nature cannot
be readily communicated.
Development: Social development is then essentially an evolving
mystery whose nature is beyond the grasp of the human mind. The challenge for
governance is to respond to the range of articulations of the nature of that
challenge, without being unduly swayed by particular extreme views.
4.7 Challenge of spontaneity
Here the challenge of governance is to strike a balance between due process
and spontaneity. Excessive emphasis on due process in response to social phenomena
inhibits vital improvisation and self-organization in the case of unforeseen
problem situations. Excessive emphasis on spontaneity inhibits any ability to
benefit from collective learning and to ensure equality and justice in social
responses to similar conditions.
4.7.1: Phenomena in a context of due process ("Tribunal")
Civil society can be viewed as subject to known (or knowable) laws and procedures
as a part of definable processes. This view would tend to be favoured by those
concerned to minimize exceptions in dealing with associations of various kinds
and to rely on precedents, even to the point of requiring them.
Development: Social development is then viewed rather like a pre-established
educational curriculum through which people need to pass in an orderly manner,
building on appropriate foundational experiences, to the possible levels of
achievement defined by the outstanding pioneers of the past. The challenge for
governance is to ensure that the procedures are appropriate and to minimize
unnecessary red tape and procedural delays.
4.7.2: Spontaneous phenomena ("Dance") Civil society
can be viewed as a set of totally spontaneous conditions or experiences unconnected
to each other. This view would tend to be favoured by those who perceive chance,
accident or divine intervention to be prime explanatory factors. It is also
natural to those who respond spontaneously to their environment, placing relatively
little reliance on norms, precedents and expectations. As in emergency situations,
associations would be created and abandoned according to need and with little
concern for legal and procedural requirements.
Development: In this view social development is the increasing
ability to rely on the spontaneity and inspiration of the moment and the ability
to respond proactively to the opportunities it offers. The challenge for governance
is to provide contexts which facilitate self-organization and reconfiguration
of associative groupings whilst inhibiting the emergence of inadvertent injustice