21 April 2009 | Draft
Remedies to Global Crisis: "Allopathic" or "Homeopathic"?
Metaphorical complementarity of "conventional" and "alternative"
- / -
Relevance of therapeutic metaphors to economics
Systemic remedies: "Allopathic" vs "Homeopathic"
Connotations, confusions and implications?
The 3 D's: Denial, Deception and Demonisation
The 3 R's: Remedy, Recovery, Replicability
Underlying epistemological and strategic challenge
Bipolar disorder of the global brain?
Strategic complementarity: towards a "healthy mix"
Deprecation of "homeopathic" remedies to global crisis
Gentle action -- exemplar of a genuine "homeopathic" alternative?
Strategic components of a "healthy mix"
Embodying variety in a system of strategies
Beyond strategic "vision" to polysensorial strategic
Indicative possibilities of "homeopathic" responses
to global crisis
| Acupuncture | Alchemy
-- "Elementary" metaphors
of economic health
-- Beyond "homeopathic" metaphor
Dynamics of a "healthy mix": the cyclic dance of complementaries
Sustaining a healthy flow: confidence, energy, finance
Prepared on the occasion of World
Homeopathy Awareness Week
and the publication of the Global
Financial Stability Report of the International
Abridged version published in Journal of Futures Studies, March 2010, 14(3), pp. 61 - 74
At the time of a global financial crisis for which the adequacies
of proposed conventional remedies have as yet to be demonstrated -- and with
further economic consequences yet to emerge -- it is appropriate to
explore mindsets through which the remedial response to any form of globality
under stress might be articulated and envisaged.
In using therapeutic metaphors here, this approach contrasts
with a previous use of geometrical metaphors to explore such possibilities
Geometry in Quest of Globality: in response to global governance challenges,
with Globality -- through cognitive lines, circlets, crowns or holes,
The argument here is that there is a curious parallel in the
discourse -- to the extent that there is any -- between the remedial strategies
of "allopathic remedies" and those of "alternative remedies",
whether in the case of the global financial system or in the case of global
approaches to individual health care.
"Homeopathy" is used here metaphorically as a widely
recognized exemplar of
the therapies of "alternative medicine" as
distinct from those of "allopathic" conventional
medicine, understood here as typical of the financial prescriptions of
the G20 Summit (April 2009). A
more generic focus on the metaphoric potential of the range of alternative
remedies is discussed in a concluding section.
Relevance of therapeutic metaphors to economics
The use of therapeutic metaphors for a challenged economic system
was illustrated in 2005 by Andrei
Illarionov (economic advisor of the Russian President)
in an insightful press conference on Russia's
Economic Diseases and Ways to Treat Them (2 June 2005, Johnson's
Russian List, #18, JRL 9169):
...between the economy as a sphere of activities and humans as an organism,
there is much in common. There is also a lot in common between economics
and medicine as spheres of research. In fact, there also are parallels in
our language and each of us has made use of that many times, when commenting
on certain economic events, using medical terms, while sometimes not even
paying attention to that. We say sometimes: the economy is ill, the economy
recovers, the temperature of the economy is high, the economy is in paralysis,
and there are lots of other medical terms used to describe the state of an
Like pathology in a human body, there may be different pathologies among
economic pathologies. For instance, in a human body there may be cardiovascular
diseases. In the economic sphere, something similar happens to diseases in
the financial system, because the financial system performs functions similar
to those performed by the blood circulation system in a human body. There
are locomotor apparatus diseases. In the economic sphere, similar diseases
are described as structural problems. They emerge when some or other parts
of the economy have been distorted and structural reform is required or,
in other words, surgery is required to mend inborn or acquired deviations.
There are digestion diseases in a human body, and there may be similar problems
in an economic body. There are respiratory diseases in a human body, and
something similar may happen in the economy. Perhaps, in the economy the
analogy is the energy sector, because it provides energy to the economy like
the respiratory system supplies oxygen to a human body.
Naturally, there are lots of nervous system diseases, mental diseases, diseases
related to other systems in the body. So, to get some idea of that, one may
take a look in the medical encyclopedia, a doctor's reference book. So, for
a human body and an economic body, the set of diseases is similar, as it
Illarionov offers a brief survey of an extraordinary range of
diseases of economic relevance. His unusual press conference notably refers
at some length to possibilities of treatment, including homeopathy:
There are lots of other diseases, pathologies, syndromes, and
where possible, we may touch upon some of them, but as we are discussing diseases,
we have at least three main spheres of medicine studying those diseases, those
dealing with, first, symptoms, with monitoring of economic behavior, deviations
from the norm, second, their diagnostics, primarily with the help of statistics
and economic analysis, diagnosing some or other diseases and finally, issuing
recommendations concerned their treatment, which may belong to homeopathy,
therapeutics or surgery.
Illarionov is now a senior fellow in the Center for
Global Liberty and Prosperity of the Cato
DC), which might well be held to be
an exemplar of "allopathic" strategy development. In considering
appropriate responses to the economic crisis of 2008-2009, use is also made
of a medical metaphor by Hazel Henderson, Reforming
Global Finance: diagnosing the economic body politic, Ethical
Markets, 9 January 2009) -- who might be more closely associated with
"homeopathic" strategy development.
The possibility of an orderly identification of systemic
parallels to diseases of the body has been explored in relation to the emergence
of a knowledge-based information society (Memetic
and Information Diseases in a Knowledge Society: speculations towards the
development of cures and preventive measures, 2008).
Systemic remedies: "Allopathic" vs "Homeopathic"
Medical metaphors may indeed be used to describe the economic
remedies. The economic sectors are then to be compared with "organs" of
the economic "body". But in exploring the labelling of "allopathy" and "homeopathy" as
contrasting approaches there is a significant caveat which is relevant to the
argument here regarding their potential use as metaphors.
As described in the Wikipedia entry
on allopathy, the term
is not commonly accepted by the world of medicine, namely the broad category
of medical practice that is sometimes called Western medicine, biomedicine,
scientific medicine, modern medicine, mainstream medicine or evidence-based
medicine. The term was introduced, with pejorative connotations, by those seeking
to contrast it with the philosophy and practice of homeopathy,
considered by them to be more appropriate (see Homeopathy
and Allopathy). Briefly:
- for practitioners of "medicine", any other therapy is a dubious
"alternative", and the label "allopathy" is not considered
- for practitioners of any "alternative" therapy, notably including
"homeopathy", mainstream "medicine" is framed as "allopathy"
This definitional game-playing -- a binary, adversarial, "us
and them" mindset -- is closely paralleled by the relationship between
mainstream political economy and proposed "alternatives" (notably
to the paradigm of economic growth).
With the importance attached to the G20 Summit (April 2009) and
the remedies it proposed for economic "stimulus" packages by industrialized
nations -- plus the increased financial buffer for vulnerable economies through
the IMF -- there is a resemblance to allopathic remedial strategies. Particular "medications" are
selected and targeted to particular sectors of the economy in the expectation
that this will engender a healthy global response in the economic system as
a whole. Various forms of "buffer" are made available to those who
do not respond as desired, or experience "pain" during the therapy prescribed.
This perspective is highlighted by Frank Shostak (Obama's
Allopathic Economics, We Live in Interesting
Times, 6 January 2009) in distinguishing between the "allopathic" strategy
adopted by Obama and an alternative
based on naturopathy (which
It struck me this morning, while listening to Obama talking
the patient" that is our sickened economy, that the way that he intends
to treat the patient is entirely parallel with allopathic medicine. The patient
is sick. The treatments he wants to give are suppressive; they do not treat
the cause nor induce a cure, rather they suppressed the symptoms of the disease
and drive it deeper into the patient. This suppression of an acute disease
causes the disease to shift to a chronic condition with much more fatal complications.
And so it is.
The treatment I wish that Obama would offer would be one based
in Naturopathic principles. What our sick economy needs is not more bailouts
to suppress the symptoms of its illness. Rather, the economy needs to go through
a healing crisis, during which it gets a hot fever and exudes waste products
from every orifice. Our economy needs to eject all the corrupt banks, the military-industrial
complex, the corporate-medical system and auto-makers like so much snot, vomit,
sweat and diarrhea. The patient would feel weak but much better after such
As argued by Steve Messer (Thinking
Homeopathically, 1995), the succeptibility to disease is in the
whole person, not in the particular organ affected by the disease:
works on the level of the whole person to increase vitality and reduce
the succeptibility to disease. In modern medicine bacteria and viruses
have taken the place that demonic posession held in medieval medicine.
In both cases the goal of treatment is to drive the invader out. Allopathic
medicine is filled with violent metaphors for medical treatment and these
metaphors color its approach to treatment. Homeopathy says that healing
comes from the self healing force of the organism, while allopathy views
the patient as helpless to cure the disease on their own...
One "official" approach to an "alternative" --
indeed one that might possibly be said to be "naturopathic" given
its emphasis on
"nature" -- was taken by the United Nations Environment Programme
(UNEP) which, with leading economists, launched on 22 October 2008, the Green
Economy Initiative (GEI) -- aimed at "seizing an historic opportunity
to bring about tomorrow's economy today". Ironically it might be said that 'global
warming' is just such a 'fever' - even to the extent
that a rise of 2˚C or more is considered potentially fatal to both the
human body and to many on the planet
The financial crisis has been engendered through the inadequately
constrained risk-taking logic of conventional financial economics -- whose
proponents are in the main largely unrepentant. It might be said that an equivalent
is to be seen in the level of "medical
mistakes" made by the proponents
of conventional medicine -- and hence their dependence on very high levels
of insurance to compensate for the risks they typically take and for which
they may be held responsible, as perceived by the insurance industry, especially
if malpractice can be proven. There would seem to be little
possibility that malpractice will be recognized in relation to the financial
crisis. Ironically those who might be so accused are being rewarded -- in fulfillment
of their contracts.
With respect to the financial crisis and an op-ed column by Paul
Economics Returns: the United States economy has entered a state of affairs
in which the usual tools of economic policy have lost all traction, New
York Times, 14 November 2008) one respondent (Mike
B), as with Shostak, points to a possible complementarity between the two
styles of remedy:
In seeking a solution, the closest analogy or metaphor that
I could find would be in the medical field. Our current system of medicine
is largely based upon allopathy -- a system where opposites are used to force
the body into a balanced state. In other words, if one is too agitated or
excitable, you introduce a depressant or calming agent into the process.
In our economic example, where the economy is entering into a dangerous pattern
of increased depression or inactivity, we need to excite or invigorate the
economic body through a bold stimulus package -- a sort of economic amphetamine.
Under ideal circumstances, my preference would be for a more holistic approach
-- a homeopathic approach that treats the core deficiencies in an effort
to restore the body to its natural, healthy state. But that will have to
come later. Right now, emergency care or treatment is warranted. We need shock
treatment to restore economic sanity and prevent the patient from going
off the deep end.
Clearly, the patient -- our economy -- is in the Emergency Room and quick,
bold, and deliberate action is called for.
Those drawn to "alternative" economic models tend to have close
personal experience of the inadequacies of the "conventional" model and believe
that there are more appropriate ways of acting in support of community development.
This is of course framed as totally misguided by those promoting conventional
approaches -- now somewhat at a disadvantage given the many
with direct experience of their application. Again the parallel is to be seen
with health therapies -- where those whose health has not been improved by
allopathic remedies are drawn to a variety of proposed alternatives.
The relevance and nature of "homeopathic" therapy in
response to the global crisis is discussed further below.
Connotations, confusions and implications?
Beyond the immediate contrast between "allopathy" and "homeopathy",
there is intriguing potential for confusion in the connotations of the terms,
their roots and suffixes, in framing any discourse between "us and them" or
"same and different" in relation to a range of systems with which
people variously identify. These confusions arise from various possible understandings
of the roots:
meaning "other", "otherness" or "difference"
(in terms of the etymology)
- such that allopathy implies "other
than the disease", namely the use of methods of treatment unrelated
to the symptoms created with the disease -- methods which are therefore
potentially harmful to the patient.
- such that allophobia implies "other than
the norm", namely
preoccupation with any deviations from a general (statistical) norm,
irrespective of the particularities or instance in which the deviation
is apparent. From the Greek perspective of Nikos Gousgounis (Information
Technology Creates Allophobia: How to Eliminate It?, Anthropologist,
1, 2002, pp. 233-247), allophobia
is the fear for the unknown other, resulting from the increasing
aesthetization and acceleration of modern life, especially in an
Allophobia (more common in French and German) has been used and advocated
as more appropriate than racism:
As noted by Victor E. Taylor and Charles E. Winquist (Encyclopedia
of Postmodernism, 2001),
the sociologist Zygmunt
Bauman argued that xenophobia was not enough to target
the Jews since Europe was full of strangers.
Instead, the tradition of allophobia meant that Judaism came
to embody ambivalence and incongruity, the great enemies of order;
the Holocaust was but the most literal and extreme "expression
of that tendency to burn ambivalence and uncertainty in effigy".
in Fragments: essays in postmodern morality, Blackwell,
1995, p 220).
French sociologist Monique Selim (An
anthropologist between banlieues and globalized world, Eurozine,
6 December 2007) describes how she used "allophobia" (purportedly
an "obsolete word") in preference to "racism" in her
earlier research, which also focused on the "ethnicization" of
social relations and demonstrated how
social relations were reorganized around the mental image of "foreigners".
French it is comparable with hétérophobie:
1. Rejet de la différence
en tant que telle ou de toute marque d'altérité.
2. Plus précisément : 'Le
refus d'autrui au nom de n'importe quelle différence' (Albert
Memmi). Pour certains auteurs, l'hétérophobie
constitue la catégorie générale dont le
racisme classique représente une variante, définie
par le rejet des autres en tant que porteurs de différences 'raciales'.
Use of allophobia has also been advocated in the USA in preference
to racism (Call
for a new word to cure an ill-defined American concept,
"Allo-": implying "all" (irrespective
of the etymology)
- such that allopathy implies focusing on the dysfunctionalities
of the larger system whilst failing to consider those of the particular
(inability to "see the trees for the wood")
- such that allophobia implies a degree of fear with
regard to consideration of whole systems in preference to focusing
on the immediate and particular (inability to "see the wood for
- as used with respect to the AlloSphere
Research Facility at the California NanoSystems Institute (University
of California, Santa Barbara).
This is an " all-round" 30-foot diameter sphere built inside
a 3-story near-to-anechoic cube, allowing for synthesis, manipulation,
exploration and analysis of large-scale data sets in an environment
that can simulate virtually real sensorial perception. It is an
instrument similar to the telescope, in that it will enable scientists
to see data in new ways that provoke insight. "Synthesis" might then
be understood as an effective psychoactive engagement with otherness
-- in contrast with "allophobia".
It is also like a violin or a symphony
orchestra - an instrument to compose for and to play.
- scientifically, it is an instrument for gaining insight
and developing bodily intuition about environments into which
the body cannot venture: abstract, higher-dimensional information
spaces, the worlds of the very small or very large, and the
realms of the very fast or very slow, in fields ranging from
nanotechnology to theoretical physics, from proteomics to cosmology,
from neurophysiology to the spaces of consciousness, and from
new materials to new media.
- artistically, the AlloSphere is
an instrument for the creation and performance of avant-garde
new works and the development of entirely new modes and genres
of expression and forms of immersion-based entertainment, fusing
future art, architecture, music, media, games, cinema,
meaning "sameness" (in terms of etymology)
- such that homeostasis implies
regulation by a system (notably a living organism) of its internal
environment and tending to maintain a stable, balance constant condition
-- necessarily viable and therefore in some measure healthy. Disease
may then be understood as associated with disturbance of homeostasis
homeostasis), although in cybernetic terms, analogous dysfunctionalities
are to be recognized in biological
systems and ecological
well as in production processes. Other domains in which such balance
is recognized are:
which behavior known to be dangerous continues until dramatic consequences
actually occur, of which ecological
crises have been suggested as an instance.
homeostasis, namely the tendency of a population or
an individual to stay at a certain level of stress
homeostasis proposed in reference to the lack of net gain
from energy-saving technologies
homeostasis in reference to tendency
of in-groups to condense their
speech so much that they are actually worse at communicating novel
information than strangers are -- whilst not being conscious
of this limitation (presumably related to patterns of groupthink)
- such that homeopathy (possibly
spelt incorrectly as homopathy) implies "similar
to the disease",
namely the use of methods of treating diseases with small amounts
of substances which, in larger amounts, would produce the observed
symptoms -- namely methods considered benign in their
effects on the patient at those lower doses. The approach assumes
that any disease is symptomatic of imbalance in a life
force, typically unrecognized by conventional medicine
- such that homeophobia implies a degree of fear of
sameness, most notably with respect to homeopathic treatments relying
on a particular relationship to the symptoms. It has been applied with
reference to fear of homeopathy as a therapy considered to be fraudulent
(Rustum Roy. 'Homeophobia'
must not be tolerated Homeopathy should not be labelled a fraud.
The Guardian, 19 December 2007; Rampant
Homeophobia, 19 December 2007; Earlene Forsythe. Homeophobic:
tribulations of integrated medicine in Nevada. Nevada
Journal, 1999, 4)
- understood, incorrectly or not, as "homo" (namely "human" in
etymological terms, derived from "one and the same" as with "homeo"):
Any confusion with "human" may be extended to "humane" in
the sense that
"homeopathy", as an exemplar of alternative therapies, asserts
the importance of an attentive understanding of the patient as a whole
-- a luxury that allopathic practitioners claim not to be able to afford.
With respect to economic systems this corresponds to calls (notably by
UNICEF) for structural adjustment "with a human face" to complement
the prescriptions of the IMF (UNICEF, Development
with a Human Face, 1997).
- such that homopathy may be (incorrectly) substituted for homeopathy
- such that homophobia is
an irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality
These potentials for confusion are especially intriguing because they reflect
many of the challenges of responding to otherness, whether through a reactive
"us or them" or, as is explored here, in terms of the manner in which
sameness and difference are considered in any remedial strategy in response
to dysfunctional systemic imbalance (cf "Human
Intercourse" "Intercourse with Nature" and "Intercourse
with the Other". 2007).
It is appropriate to recognize (in passing) the potential phonetic associations
(for some) of "allo" in relation to greeting an
"other" (although this
is far from conclusive in the extensive discussion of the etymology of Hello in Wikipedia):
- as perhaps in a Gallic variant of Hello
traditional first test message for programmers learning certain applications;
in French, allophobie has been described as fear of using the
- as in "allo-phobia", the attitude of unconvivial strangers
as experienced by those of more gregarious cultures -- potentially of significance
in relating in the future to extraterrestrial cultures, despite the SETI project
with Aliens: the psychological dimension of dialogue, 2000). Some
would of course argue that "allo-phobic" is a primary characteristic of the
relationship between " conventional" and "alternative", with a record having
been set by the USA with respect to Cuba.
The 3 D's: Denial, Deception and Demonisation
Given the definitional game-playing, the future may find the
quality of the discourse between
"conventional" approaches and "alternatives" to be quite
pathetic -- whatever the justification for those most directly involved. Perhaps
to be caricatured as a combination of "allopathetic" and "homeopathetic" !
Denial: The "conventional" and the "alternative"
approaches, whether with respect to the global economic system or individual
health, are in general quite systematic in the denial of the merits of "the
other". This may simply take the form of ignoring the achievements of
the other. In a more active mode this takes the form of active denial --
notably focused on the quality of the research and proof by which the recommended
methods are substantiated and the results evaluated.
With respect to the global economic system, this has been most
evident in the parallel discourses of those configured around the World
Economic Forum (Davos) and the World
Social Forum (Porto Alegre). In the current phase
of the argument, the World Economic Forum is faced with embarrassment at the
failure of its globalization agenda whose claimed successes it has previously
trumpeted widely. The World Social Forum -- with five heads of state and 100,000
activists gathered to promote an alternative economic model in face of recession
-- indulged in a comprehensible riposte (Rory Carroll, World
Social Forum message to Davos: We told you so, The Guardian,
30 January 2009).
With respect to health delivery systems, their failure even in
the most advanced industrialized countries, is only too well recognized by
anyone with personal experience of their challenges. They are only too obvious
to the impoverished. This in no way prevents the proponents of such systems,
whether the conventional medical profession or the pharmaceutical industry,
from denying the value of any other approach to health care and delivery as
risky, if not dangerous (although substantive "proof" of such claims is seldom
offered). The fact that there may be no way that adequate health care can be
supplied, notably at the cost demanded, is considered to be irrelevant. At
the same time, alternative therapies -- even when reframed non-confrontationally
as "complementary" therapies
-- are dismayed at the lack of responsiveness of conventional health delivery
and their seeming incapacity to deal humanely with the individual as a whole
Deception: Whether conventional or alternative,
each is perceived by the other to indulge in a degree of deception as to the
effectiveness of its remedies and the claims it makes regarding the effectiveness
of the other.
In the case of the economic system, "deception" has
been a key feature of the sale of "toxic assets" to unsuspecting
(or gullible) buyers. It is now argued that the regulatory measures were inadequate
-- whether or not the new measures proposed by the G20 prove to be any more
adequate, given the propensity of those so regulated to deceive whenever this
is profitable. The role of so-called "dark
pools of liquidity" has recently
been highlighted as necessarily operating "under the radar". The tendency
of the regulators themselves to deceive -- if only regarding the efficacy of
their oversight -- has also become evident.
To what extent can those advocating and implementing alternative
economic models be said to be indulging in deception and misleading claims?
At one extreme there are the many examples of intentional communities that
are subsequently recognized by their supporters to be practicing a degree
of deception. Many larger socialist experiments are accused of being defective
with regard to the improvements promised. Other than communist systems of Europe
and China, there are the cases of Tanzania and Cuba. Such accusations are of
course now made against Venezuela. Whilst the many experiments in local
exchange trading systems (LETS) appear to offer possibilities that are
welcomed by their members, the question is whether their partial success on
the scale at which they are implemented is inherently deceptive with respect
to their applicability to larger scale and global systems -- as claimed.
In the case of the conventional health delivery systems, they
are held to be deceptive both in the level of care effectively offered and
in the efficacy of the remedies prescribed. Critics argue that many of the
remedies may be toxic, even known to be so. They point to the deception associated
which eminent physicians effectively approve results generated in a less than
transparent manner. Claims made through costly advertising campaigns as to
the efficacy of the resultant products may well be considered suspect. Critics
would also claim a degree of deception on the part of professional regulatory
bodies with whom "cosy" relationships are cultivated. In this context,
most questionable is the objectivity of allopathic professionals regarding
terminal patients and their access to euthanasia -- given that patients in
that condition are a major source of income for the allopathic industry. Is
this pattern also to be found with respect to economic entities in "terminal"
Alternative therapies emerge from a long tradition in which there
is a complex mix of charlatans ("snake oil" vendors) and those whose
health care is appreciated by multitudes. The rule has been caveat
a notion considered curiously unnecessary in the case of conventional health
care. There it is replaced by the detachment associated with the phrase "you
are free to seek a second opinion". To what extent is an array of professional
opinions any more deceptive than the offerings in the alternative therapy market
-- especially given the level of medical malpractice, to which insurance premiums
are very sensitive? As to claims regarding "snake oil" vendors, one
might ask how well this label applies to those creatively promoting the
sale of toxic financial assets to the gullible.
Demonisation: Again, whether conventional or
alternative, each is perceived by the other as inherently dangerous in terms
of the potential harm it may cause. The term "allopathy" is readily
to be seen as a deliberate negative framing of conventional medicine.
In the case of economic systems, this has been most evident on
the larger scale between capitalist and socialist systems -- each readily considered
by the other as "evil". Following the decline of the purely communist
form of socialism, this is now translated into the relationships between "right" and "left" in
the political arena -- each again being susceptible to demonisation, and prepared
to engage in it. With respect to more recent approaches to framing economic
alternatives, as noted above the World Economic Forum and World Social Forum
readily indulge in a form of demonisation of each other.
Potentially more vicious is the manner in which any economic
"alternatives" are viewed as a fundamentally dangerous threat to
the values and way of life of "conventional" capitalist systems --
as the response by the USA to the experiments of Cuba, Chile and Venezuela
"Alternatives" cannot be tolerated. The evangelist Pat
Robertson has been readily able to frame Hugo Chavez as an embodiment
of evil -- thereby justifying his surgical removal by the USA. Advocates of
conventional economic systems have however proven to be very silent regarding
who should be sanctioned -- as "evil" -- in relation to the collapse
of the financial system, although suitable scapegoats have been highlighted.
The challenge for conventional economics is that the level of social unrest,
now engendered by those who are feeling the pain consequent on the application
of its methodologies, readily leads to many in elite positions being demonised
-- rightly or wrongly (as always).
Eminent advocates of conventional medicine freely and vigorously
expound on the potentially mortal dangers of alternative therapies -- even
though cynics note that it is because they are undermining sales of allopathic
medication. Little is said in that context regarding the dangers of allopathic
medication -- despite the need for heavy insurance against malpractice. It
is of course the case that advocates of alternative therapies accumulate evidence
regarding the "evil" practices of "Big
Pharma" -- which
are assumed to extend to
"dirty tricks" wherever possible (Martha Rosenberg, 15 Dirty Big Pharma Tricks That Rip You Off and Risk Your Health for Profit, Alternet, 22 December 2010). Of course "snake
vendors may be discovered to be delivering potions which are either dangerous
in their own right or as a result of deluding those in pain into avoiding more
appropriate therapy. Alternative therapists may even have strong views in this
respect with regard to practitioners of "other" alternative therapies. Any such perceptions regarding nefarious practices in the health field suggest useful questions regarding proposals for remedial strategies in other fields and more generally.
The succession of the above phases (involving denial, deception
and demonisation), in progress towards global recognition of new strategies,
is explored elsewhere (Considering
All the Strategic Options: whilst ignoring alternatives and disclaiming cognitive
The 3 R's: Remedy, Recovery, Replicability
Whilst any set of "3 D's", like that above, is characterized
by a quality of "targeted" focus, paradoxically -- as with "conventional" approaches
to global economic or health challenges -- any set of "3 R's" is
likely to be much more diffuse in its implications. Curiously the quality of
this diffuseness might be compared with that challenged in relation to "alternative" approaches.
Whether economic, physiological or psychosocial,
"health" is necessarily subtle and qualitative rather than being
readily assessed in quantitative terms.
Remedy: Whatever the ill, any viable remedy
tends to call upon resources and understanding beyond a simplistic
framework. This may be as true of corporate bankruptcy as of a broken leg.
These resources may be understood as "extra-systemic" -- "transcending"
any in-the-box systemic framework.
The year 2009
is witness to an extraordinary focus on the subtleties of "building confidence"
as vital to the viability of the financial system. The actors within the latter
could not be more quantitative in focus or more prepared to exploit trust and
confidence (on the part of the gullible). Similarly the remedy of a broken
leg may involve more than repairing the bones -- if it came about from systemic
causes (dietary, environmental or attitudinal). At critical moments, reference
may then be made to the patient's "will to live". This suggests an
intriguing question in relation to any unconscious "death wish" of a
How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, 2005; John
Ralston Saul, The Unconscious Civilization, 1995).
Recovery: The focus of the G20 Summit recommendations
is to "get the system working again". The possibility of "business
would then be defined as successful recovery. Such an appreciation has been
challenged by those who perceive the economic system, notably as promoted by
the advocates of globalization, to have been in an inherently unhealthy condition
for a long period. As with an individual faced with a health crisis, recovery
does not necessarily mean enabling the person to indulge once again in heavy
substance abuse (smoking, drinking, drugs, overeating, etc).
"Recovery" then rather implies enabling the system -- whatever its
nature -- to become more "healthy". The challenge here is that there
is very little consensus on what is meant by "health". The health of
the global economy has indeed been called into question with regard to what is
effectively substance abuse (peak oil, water shortage, pollution, deforestation,
Economic systems that pride themselves on being healthy may achieve
this sentiment by ignoring the conditions of those exploited to sustain that
belief. This may also be true of the intentional communities promoted as desirable
alternatives to conventional models -- most obviously in the case of "gated
communities". The understandings of "health" offered
by conventional medicine, and even by the World Health Organization, extend
with difficulty into the psychosocial dimensions on which many alternative
therapies focus (WHO
Global Atlas of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine,
2005). For WHO, "mental
health" is defined as: ... not just the absence of mental
disorder. It is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual
realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life,
can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to
her or his community.
Replicability: Again it would appear that remedies
are not necessarily as reliable as most would like to expect. They are not
necessarily associated with certainty. Curiously, with respect to the remedies
being implemented for the economic system, frequent use is made of "hope" (whatever
that could possibly mean to economists) with regard to the possibility
of their success. Leadership is considered vital to "talking up" and
sustaining hope (Barack Obama, The
Audacity of Hope: thoughts on reclaiming the American Dream, 2005).
In the case of health remedies, whether conventional or alternative,
certainty is not on offer. Proofs regarding the efficacy of allopathic medication
are not free of uncertainty as is so readily implied. They are based on statistical
evidence on particular samples. Complex surgical operations and courses of
treatment have only a certain statistical probability of being successful
rather than disastrous -- if not fatal.
The response to alternative therapies might also be seen in this
light. Any success may well be entirely dependent on a placebo effect.
The same approach may not work in the same way -- whether with success or failure
-- in another context. Remedial strategies are not necessarily reliable or
replicable when dealing with complex systems -- whether the global financial
system or the health of an individual. Clearly of interest is whether "allopathic"
strategies are more replicable (reliable) than "homeopathic" -- being
possibly less dependent on contextual conditions. In the case of "homeopathic" strategies
however, any higher degree of dependence on contextual conditions may enable
other techniques to "work" successfully within that same context.
The confidence engendered by the therapist (or leader) may be a determining
factor in sustaining those conditions.
It could be considered extraordinary that the conventional commitment
to quantitatively proven "allopathic" strategies is appropriately
qualified by a degree of uncertainty. This is evident in the statistical reservations
regarding any allopathic therapy -- despite any deprecation of "homeopathic"
alternatives. The fundamental weakness of this posture has been dramatically
demonstrated by the widespread reliance of the financial community on the Gaussian
copula as a means of handling investment uncertainty. It was indeed recognized
as "proven" to work most of the time, however -- as with any therapy
-- there are occasions and conditions when there is a known probability that
it will not work. The subprime crisis emerged under such conditions.
innovative formula of David
X. Li with
regard to the Gaussian
copula is admirably described by Felix Salmon
for Disaster: the formula that killed Wall Street, Wired,
17.03, March 2009) -- or on the title page of the issue as The Secret Formula
that Destroyed Wall Street. Arguably, whether in the case of allopathic
or homeopathic models, Li's early qualification is relevant: Very
few people understand the essence of the model (Mark Whitehouse, Slices
of Risk, The Wall Street Journal, 12 September 2005). Nevertheless,
the Gaussian copula soon became such a universally accepted part of the world's
financial vocabulary and methodology -- as with the adoption of any "allopathic
posture". But, as noted by Salmon:
... people used the Gaussian copula model to convince themselves
they didn't have any risk at all, when in fact they just didn't have any risk
99 percent of the time. The other 1 percent of the time they blew up. Those
explosions may have been rare, but they could destroy all previous gains, and
In contrast with any gambling casino, where one loses 99% of
the time, with a 1% probability of winning ("big"), using the Gaussian
copula one could win 99% of the time -- conveniently forgetting the probability
of losing ("disastrously") just 1% of the time. This
would seem to call for an adaptation of the well known statement by
Abraham Lincoln: You can fool all the people some of the time, and some
of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.
Underlying epistemological and strategic challenge
The above confusion goes to the root of the strategic challenge of the misunderstandings
and strong prejudices associated with the strategic dilemmas associated with
in relation to any "difference" as inherent in the following:
- the impulse to change and develop ("growth", "progress")
- concern with preserving values, cultural identity and way of life
- introducing remedies "foreign" to the dysfunctional system
(top-down, or out-in)
- community building from within the community (bottom-up)
- systemic focus:
- focusing only on specific symptoms (fixing what is wrong)
- considering how the system as a whole has engendered any symptoms (systemic
- respect for norms
- emphasis on mainstream authority and legitimacy, and its rationalization
of any inadequacy
- emphasis on an alternative, complementarity mode to compensate for
- engaging with globality
- imposing a collective understanding of global derived from
- eliciting an emergent local understanding of global in the present
These are paradoxically intertwined in ways which are a challenge to communication
and to the very nature of any balance between "achieving consensus" and "making
perhaps usefully summarized as follows.
||remedial and therapeutic
response to imbalance &
(unity in diversity)
and proven reliability
||intervention (operating from without by
imposition of orderly pattern)
to constitute unity by "fixing")
||normalization and harmonisation
(external balance and equilibrium; the Washington
|conformity by fixing local
||intravention (operating from within by catalysis
or evocation of inherent nature)
to ensure emergent unity by "healing")
|mixed farming, permaculture,
||internal balance and equilibrium
As a form of archetypal Great
Game, these dynamics suggest a multitude of
case studies about the (game-playing) interface between "conventional" and "alternative" of
which the following could be examples:
- the manner in which pressures through vested ("allopathic") interest
groups are exerted through government to "regulate" the dangerous
excesses associated with "alternative" forms of health care (Linda
Economics, and Government, 2002)
- traditional handling of "alternatives" by mainstream faiths,
notably the efforts to demonise them as "witchcraft"
and "sorcery" -- requiring witch-hunts to locate them to ensure
their suppression (notably by burning)
- framing of Jews in relation to the Aryan ideology of the Nazis, and the
efforts to demonise them -- and eliminate them
- relation between "natural sciences" and "social sciences" --
with the latter held to lack any substantive basis, especially when extended
to include the humanities -- characterized as the "two
cultures" challenge by C.
P. Snow (The
Two Cultures: And a Second Look: An Expanded Version of The Two Cultures
and the Scientific Revolution, 1964). More recently dramatized by the
Sokal Affair -- a
hoax perpetrated by physicist Alan
Sokal on the editorial staff and readership of a postmodern cultural
- relation between mainstream "science" and "pseudoscience"
-- which naturopathy and homeopathy are readily held to be; a relationship
even more problematic due to the difficulty that "science" in establishing
any fruitful dialogue with views that are not consistent with its methodology,
as discussed in relation to "intelligent design" (End
of Science: the death knell as sounded by the Royal Society, 2008)
- the dynamics between Western and Islamic worldviews as highlighted by Samuel
P. Huntington (The
Clash of Civilizations: remaking of world order, 1996)
- the challenge to the "universal values" of some by others, held
to exemplify extremism through their failure to subscribe to their universal
in the Global Struggle against Extremism "rooting for" normalization
out" extremism? 2005) -- perhaps suggesting that American foreign
policy in relation to the otherness of Allende's Chile, Castro's Cuba and Chavez's
Venezuela, is a case of allophobia, affecting its capacity to respond more
appropriately through non-allopathic strategies to the Taliban (and with
potential implications for interactions with extraterrestrials from other parts
of the "universe")
- relation between "conventional" business models (rigidly focused
on ensuring and exploiting intellectual copyright) and those epitomized by
the improbable success of open
source models (emphasizing a variety of modes of sharing the benefits
of conceptual innovation). A notable case study is that of Eric
S. Raymond (The
Cathedral and the Bazaar. ed 3.0, 2000).
One effort to explore the complexity of the interface between "conventional"
and "alternative" might consider them as exemplified by "order" and "chaos",
thus relating the challenge to the dynamics of complex systems (Imagining
the Real Challenge and Realizing the Imaginal Pathway of Sustainable Transformation,
(the problem was fixed but the patient died)
||xenophobia, elitism, racism
Bipolar disorder of the global brain?
The highly disruptive dynamic between advocates of "conventional"
and "alternative" strategic approaches is epitomized by the violence
of the demonstrations by "alternative" groups at global summit gatherings
designed to promote "conventional" strategies. There is
some merit in caricaturing this disorderly dynamic as a form of "bipolar
disorder" in the health of the "global
brain". This might be all the more appropriate in that bipolar disorder
is a modern reframing of what was otherwise recognized as "manic depression"
or "manic depressive psychosis" -- terms perhaps more expressive
of popular experience of the current global crisis.
As described in Wikipedia:
Bipolar disorder is a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a
category of mood disorders defined by the presence of one or more episodes
of abnormally elevated mood clinically referred to as mania or, if milder,
hypomania. Individuals who experience manic episodes also commonly experience
depressive episodes or symptoms, or mixed episodes in which features of both
mania and depression are present at the same time.
The peculiar combination of hope-mongering and loss of confidence
that has characterized the current global crisis, and its precedents, might
indeed be seen in terms of "mood swings" at the global level (Credibility
Crunch engendered by Hope-mongering: "credit crunch" focus as symptom of
a dangerous mindset, 2008). "Globalization",
as so enthusiastically and uncritically promoted by the World Economic Forum,
might even be understood as a form of hypomania. The alternation between optimism
and despair of those enthused by "alternative" potentials -- at the
World Social Forum, for example -- might also be seen in this light. At the
global strategic level, the cyclic nature of the disorder suggests a form of
dysfunctionality due to a collective failure to embody healthy cycles (as discussed below).
Use of bipolar disorder as a metaphor here is especially valuable
given the controversy associated with the therapeutic response to it, as
notably articulated by psychiatrist David
a short history of bipolar disorder, 2008). With respect to therapeutic
strategies, Healy highlights:
- the manner in which large pharmaceutical companies ("Big Pharma"),
exemplars of the allopathic conventional approach, have reconstituted the
very terms through which the culture of global society understands and responds
to mental illness. This offers a valuable parallel to the manner in
which the G20 Group (or the G8) endeavours to frame the response to global
- the extraordinary venality of many leading academic psychiatrists, notably
lending their names to the ghost-writing by public relations
specialists (of Big Pharma) of supposedly cutting-edge research reports --
thereby lending authority to what is effectively fraudulent science (if not
suggests a possible reframing of the role of some of the leading advocates
of "globalization" and their complicity in creating and sustaining
the culture in which Ponzi schemes involving billions of dollars have developed
- the routine suppression or gross misinterpretation of data on the effects
of psychoactive drugs such as to maximize profits (of Big Pharma). This
offers a parallel to the misinterpretation of data on the viability
of "alternative" strategies by proponents of "conventional" strategies
with the capacity to influence such interpretation in support of "business
as usual" -- primarily for their own benefit
- the manner in which the research process into viable therapies is now effectively
controlled (by Big Pharma), notably by assembling, funding and managing large-scale
clinical trials and the selection and interpretation of the results, to the
point of manufacturing new "diseases" requiring proprietary medication
("diseases have all but become commodities and are as subject to fashions
as other commodities, with the main determinant of the fashion cycle being
the patent life of a drug"). This offers a parallel to the manner in which
advocates of "conventional" strategies effectively control the funding and
trials of potential solutions to global ills, notably in order to marginalize
and discredit those emerging from an "alternative" framework.
- the manner in which the initiative of major promoters and defenders of
allopathic therapy (Big Pharma) "increasingly appears to jeopardize the health
and well-being of our friends, relatives and children" in its manic pursuit
of profit, unconstrained by any ethical limits, notably in its effects on
the youngest and most vulnerable. This offers a parallel to the initiatives
of promoters of globalization, consistent with the problematic
consequences widely noted by its critics -- especially following the financial
crisis of 2008-2009.
However, since the disorder is "bipolar", the question
is how the dysfunctionalities of the promotion of "alternative" therapies
might then be usefully framed to honour valid criticisms from a "conventional" perspective,
notably with respect to the response to global crises. This is especially
the case with respect to the "global brain" of the emerging knowledge-based
society. The general challenge of such dialogue between incommensurable perspectives
is discussed elsewhere (Guidelines for Critical Dialogue
between Worldviews: as exemplified by the need for non-antisemitic dialogue
with Israelis? 2006).
towards a "healthy
It is curious that economists readily attach value to "mixed
economies" -- as a "healthy mix". The dangers of economies dependent
on a limited range of economic or industrial sectors are acknowledged. It could
be argued that the collapse of the financial system in 2008 resulted from
unforeseen dependencies on a narrow range of financial services. Why it was
unforeseen is another matter -- perhaps less significant than what else remains
unforeseen from within that mindset, as foreseen by Nassim
Nicholas Taleb (The
Black Swan: the impact of the highly improbable, 2007)
The notion of a "healthy mix" does not however extend
to encompass "alternative" economic models. Any such alternatives
are in effect framed as "unhealthy". The effort is to promote a "one
model fits all" approach. On this approach Andrei Illarionov (Russia's
Economic Diseases and Ways to Treat Them (2 June 2005, Johnson's
Russian List, #18, JRL 9169) prefaces his remarks with:
There is a well-known school of economic doctors known as the
Procrustean school, which treats economic diseases proceeding from the one-model-for-all
principle. Therefore, no matter what patient they have, they tend to extend
or cut off certain organs in the belief that this way they bring the patient
closer to the norm, which may be reflected in some statistical data.
Economists may of course debate amongst themselves as to which
Nobel Prize winning model offers the preferred framework. Again however, lessons
from the singular dependence on the Gaussian copula are still to be widely
learnt (Felix Salmon, Recipe
for Disaster: The Formula That Killed Wall Street, Wired,
23 February 2009).
From such a perspective it might well be asked whether a single
"universal" set of human rights is inherently "healthy", as with efforts
to impose "democracy" worldwide as a self-evident universal "value" -- especially
given the very problematic responses to these particular understandings.
There seems to be little sense of the importance of "complementarity"
between different approaches or of the meaning of "healthy complementarity"
-- especially in systems blindly focused on "healthy" competition,
understood as besting the competition (preferably to the point of grinding
them into bankruptcy). The situation is much more problematic when, as is typical
of the allopathic mindset, there is neither respect nor understanding of the
value of the complementary mode. This is well-illustrated by the history
of the emergence of the Grameen
Bank, now honoured by a Nobel
Peace Prize, despite considerable early disparagement by the banking community
-- including the World Bank. Given that each would prefer the other to disappear,
there is little exploration of the ways in which the worldviews of the World
Economic Forum and the World Social Forum might be complementary (All
Blacks of Davos vs All Greens of Porto Alegre: reframing global strategic discord
through polyphony? 2007).
In the world of conventional medicine, there is also a degree
of recognition of the vital importance of a multidisciplinary team to respond
to the range of possible challenges to individual and community health. Architecturally
this recognition is reflected in the hospital and the clinic. However these
establishments may well be headed by an individual with extremely strongly
held views on which disciplines are admissible.
The initiative to reframe "alternative therapies" as "complementary
therapies" may therefore be upheld as very appropriate to the challenge
-- even when that complementarity is only perceived by one side. The recognition
of such complementarity would be a concession of major political import by
the world of conventional medicine. There are however traces of such a more
healthy approach -- notably in provision of allopathic and homeopathic medication.
In some countries these may be distributed through the same outlets. In the
case of China, this may simply involve using different guichets in the same
official dispensary. Also of great interest is the introduction in India of
low cost major operations ("awake surgery") to bypass the prohibitive
requirements of bloated health-care systems, despite ridicule from a conventional
from a frugal innovator, The
16 April 2009).
Following the fall of the Soviet Union, a conference organized
by the President of Kazakhstan (Alma Ata, 1993) was the occasion for the emergence
of many traditional healers from rural areas. The explanation was that official
health delivery to those areas had been inadequate and that the population
had been obliged to turn to those providing traditional remedies. Curiously
it might be said that the USA is similarly challenged by the incapacity to
deliver health care to the impoverished -- suggesting that a recognition of
"complementarity" might acknowledge a healthy alternative.
The challenge at any systemic level is one of sustaining the
confidence of people, whether with respect to socioeconomic conditions or to
health delivery. It is curious the academic and political effort to make system
design so dependent on single-model or single-plan approaches -- a form of
conceptual monoculture, preferably "global". The environmental sciences
are replete with examples of the merit of redundancy within systems to facilitate
resilience under unpredictable circumstances.
Such biodiversity is vital to the cultural identity of many indigenous peoples
as documented by Darrell
A. Posey (Cultural and Spiritual
Values of Biodiversity: a complementary contribution to Global Biodiversity
Assessment, 1999). "Mixed
valued for such reasons.
The value of crop rotation is well-recognized by peasant farmers. This alternation
process may yet prove to be the essence of democracy (Sustainable
Cycles of Policies: Crop Rotation as a Metaphor, 1988).
Deprecation of "homeopathic" remedies to
For convenience, the current mainstream strategic approach
to global crisis could indeed be framed as "allopathic" -- recognizing
"allopathy" is not a label with which any conventional approach identifies.
Such labelling is part of the definitional Great Game of "memetic warfare".
It may well be the case that it is not feasible to step outside that game and
the necessary interplay of epistemological alternatives. The challenge may
be analogous to the paradox highlighted by the Uncertainty
Principle in fundamental physics -- which may well have a relevant analogue
in the psychosocial domain (Garrison Sposito, Does
a generalized Heisenberg Principle operate in the social siences? Inquiry,
12, 1969, 3, pp. 356-361). This challenge is insightfully explored in a
science fiction novel (M. A. Foster, Gameplayers of Zan,
Aside from the more recent references above to a form of "homeopathy"
in the economic world, it is intriguing to note the following older references
where "homeopathy" tends to have been used in
a derogatory sense (perhaps appropriately matching its own early framing
- In a debate on production in the UK House of Commons, the future Prime
20 November 1946 vol 430 cc864-981) indicated:
The encouragement of fuller production, not the maintenance
of scarcity; the waiving of restrictive practices by trade unions; measures
to control and reduce monopolistic tendencies in industry; better supply
and distribution of raw materials--those, indeed, would be constructive
contributions to the solution of the
problem. To make a series of huge State monopolies is really not a cure for
the drift towards monopoly. Indeed, that seems to be a kind of homeopathic
economics on a fantastic scale.
- "Thatcherism" and "Reaganomics",
with their supply-side economics and monetarism, have been equated with
homeopathy (Francis Wheen,
How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World: a short history
of modern delusions,
2008) as argued by Andrew Ross (New
Age Technoculture, In: Lawrence Grossberg, et al. Cultural
Studies, Routledge, 1992):
In many respects, the holistic picture of the body-mind-spirit as an efficiency
state of equilibrium tends to reflect or express the ideology of the "natural",
self-regulating organism of the free market economy that has again come to
prevail during the last two decades, over the troubled Keynsian body of liberal
social democracy. Logical flaws in the bureaucratic technology of "external"
statistical solutions have brought the welfare house down; now, all responsibility
falls upon the more "natural" economy of individualism. To drive
this point home, I suppose we could say that what we saw under Reaganism
and Thatcherism was the revival of a "homeopathic" economics,
where the principle of supply-side investment acts as a kind of biofeedback
input, a trickle-down stimulant for accelerating the dynamic health of the
free market system as a whole.
- For Perry Anderson (US
Elections: testing Formula Two, New Left Review,
8, March-April 2001):
As the Cold War came to an end, this pattern changed.
Over the next decade, Centre-Left regimes came to power in the US, UK, and
throughout most of Western Europe. Once again, Washington and London led
the way, as the Clinton and Blair regimes set the tone and direction of the
new period. With their arrival, the 'organic
formula' of neo-liberalism
was significantly modified. A continuing dynamic of deregulation -- of
financial and labour markets alike -- was now surrounded with gestures
of social conciliation: homeopathic drops of fiscal redistribution, job creation
or school reform.
- The UK Member of Parliament, Frank
Progressive Crisis, 17 February 2009) offers a critique of
currently levels of government borrowing as characteristic of "homeopathic
The Government is now on a course of borrowing that is at a record post-war
level in order to deal with a crisis whose root cause is in over-borrowing
on a scale unknown for generations. This over-borrowing is both personal
as well as public. The Government's intention to borrow still more
money will strike many people as a form of homeopathic economics - of
applying more of the disease to cure the disease itself.
With regard to the current crisis of 2008-2009, some strategies
have been deprecated as "financial homeopathy" or "economic homeopathy", as
indicated by the following comments of bloggers:
- The world is now planning to solve its problems with a dose of financial
homeopathy, and the thing that makes me cry in my soul is that it is the
little innocents who will get mangled in the process.
- Paulson-Geithner gradualism
is an attempt to do two mutually exclusive things: to retain the potency
of privately held shares while drenching them in a soup of federal participation.
In other words, the policy of the Bush and Obama administrations is a failed
experiment in financial homeopathy.
- Actually, what the central banks and governments are doing now is the equivalent
of financial homeopathy: if in a healthy economy, inflating the money supply
causes a a credit crisis, than it stands to reason that inflating the money
supply will cure a credit crisis.
- Obviously, something needs to be done to loosen the credit
markets and get lending going again...But it does seem like a bit of
economic homeopathy that the cure for what's ailing the economy is the
same thing that helped cause the problem to begin with: debt.
Beyond responses to the global specifically deprecated with metaphoric
reference to "homeopathy", whether economic or financial, such deprecation
has been articulated in terms of other "alternative" therapies:
- acupuncture: For Thomas Friedman "managed trade" but might best be
thought of as "economic
Approach to Japan: 'Economic Acupuncture' New York Times,
18 March 1994).
Strategies dependent on "trickle-down" effects have also been
described as economic
- ayurveda: The ancient Indian
health science of Ayurveda says that the cure for poison is poison itself -- vishasya
visham aushatam. Here is a cocktail of 'ayurveda' and 'economics' for
a new modern theory of 'Ayurvedic Economics'. (S. Gurumurthy, 'Ayurvedic
Economics'. The Hindu Business Line, 18 April 2009).
a meeting of the Irish trade union movement, held by chance in an Ayurvedic
health centre, the Secretary-General argued that a leaflet from the
centre described Ayurveda as 'an
exquisite, gentle and beautiful holistic system of relaxing, revitalising and
healing therapies. Its
origins may have been Indian, but not even the Hindu fundamentalists of the
BJP applied such a system to their economy....The
issue of corporation tax as a booster for business is a dead letter. We need
realistic solutions and not Ayurvedic economics". [more]
Such metaphoric use of alternative therapies is perhaps comparable
with a long tradition of reference to "voodoo economics", the framing
by George H. W. Bush given to Ronald Reagan's supply-side
or 'voodoo economics'? BBC News, 5 June 2004). That framing
has also been subsequently used (Sebastian Mallaby, The
Return Of Voodoo Economics: Republicans ignore their experts on the cost of
tax cuts, The Washington Post,
15 May 2006). Of course, given the recent shift to massive bailouts and quantitative
easing (aka "printing money"), the import of any such criticism pales to insignificance
in the light of the financial policies that have necessitated their use in
efforts to restabilize the financial system.
Gentle action -- exemplar of a genuine "homeopathic" alternative?
In a recent study, F.
David Peat (Gentle
Action: Bringing Creative Change to a Turbulent World. Pari Publishing,
2009) argues that while individuals, organizations or governments
take action or give aid, often from the best of motives, it is sometimes
the case that such action is disruptive and damaging to a community, economy
or environment. The reasons are that in some many cases plans and policies
do not take into account the complexity and delicate nature of the surrounding
systems. Moreover the nature of the organization that attempts
to bring about positive change may be more rigid than the system it seeks
to alter. In addition so often the organization is now working from within
the system but imposing change from outside.
The solutions proposed in the book are that new forms of "gentle action" are
needed, actions which begin from within the system in question and emerge
in creative ways. This might be understood as the essence of any "homeopathic"
The solutions may range from projects on an international scale
to a simple action by an individual. Such actions generally flow from what
Peat has termed "creative suspension" -- that temporary pause when we listen
and learn what the system has to teach us before taking action. This might
be understood as a characteristic of the homeopathic practitioner -- often
in contrast to that of the allopathic practitioner.
In contrast to the deprecatory framing of homeopathy above, that of Woody
into the Nature of Slow Money: investing as if food, farms, and fertility
mattered. 2008) has been understood as a form of "financial
homeopathy" involving "a drop of slow money under the tongue of the
body economic". The question is what might be its effect upon the health
of the whole system
Strategic components of a "healthy mix"
Whilst appreciating the articulation offered by David Peat, the
argument here is with regard to the need to take strategic innovation further.
"Gentle" is one extreme of one significant polarity
-- effectively used by Peat to challenge conventional (allopathic) approaches.
However desirable, its limitations may be briefly caricatured in terms of its
potential undesirability in emergency situations, dancing (the tango) and love-making
-- or perhaps well-illustrated in the art of playing chess or go, especially
in asymmetric situations.
In order to develop the argument beyond its binary logic of "conventional"
vs "alternative" (expressed metaphorically here as "allopathic" vs "homeopathic"),
there is a case for using a well-known binary coding system to represent such
polar extremes. The system is that developed as a classic work of Chinese
culture, namely the I
Ching (or Book of Changes) -- variously promoted in the
West, notably by Carl Jung (R. Wilhelm and C. Baynes, The
I Ching or Book of Changes, Princeton University Press, 1967).
As a preface to the following discussion, it is appropriate to
note that this coding system has been recently used, quite independently, by:
- Maurice Yolles of
the Centre for the Creation of Coherent Change and Knowledge (Maurice and
Paul Iles, The
Knowledge Cybernetics of Culture: The Case of China,
International Journal of Knowledge and Systems Sciences, 3,
4, December 2006; Maurice Yolles, Graham Kemp and B. Roy Frieden, Toward
a Formal Theory of Socioculture: a yin-yang information-based theory of social
37, 2008, 7, pp. 850-909; Maurice Yolles and Zude Ye,
Taoist Viable Systems, International Society for Systems
Cancun, 2005; Maurice Yolles and Zude Ye, The Cybernetics
of Taoist System Thinking)
- Pierre Levy in
the research programme promoting a radical innovation in the notation and
processing of semantics. IEML (Information Economy MetaLanguage) is a regular
language that provides new methods for semantic interoperability, semantic
navigation, collective categorization and self-referential collective intelligence.
This research program is compatible with the major standards of the Web of
data and is in tune with the current trends in social computing. The binary
coding is notably used to distinguish six networks of collective intelligence
Computing to Reflexive Collective Intelligence: the IEML Research Program,
Adapting a portion of an earlier exploration
Richer Patterns of Comprehension to Reframe Polarization, 1998), the
strategic dilemmas of "conventional"
and "alternative" may be encoded by the classic yang and yin symbols.
At a first stage, with respect to "2-phase comprehension", they may
then be explained in terms of their respective manners of framing "space" (left-hand
table cells) or "time" (right-hand table cells).
(conventional vs alternative)
(of). Ownership. "Mine -- it belongs to me; it is known thru me". Others
have no ownership rights. Unification, order, integration, focus, agreement,
defined, aligned. Right.
time. Scheduling. "My time and agenda". Certainty, impatience, consistency,
Possession (by). Non-ownership. "Not mine -- I am identified thru it;
I belong to it". Possessed or owned by another. Diversity, fragmentation,
disagreement, enrichment, adulteration, unbound, non-aligned.
diversity of times. Shared (permeable) time and agendas. Uncertainty,
patience, inconsistency, acceptance, unconstrained, adaptive.
Such a coding becomes more interesting when the possibility of combining "conventional"
and "alternative" is considered to offer a 4-fold quadrilemma of 4
distinct strategic possibilities (as shown below). The positioning of "conventional" over
or under "alternative" is
then suggestive of relative dominance or priority of either (or neither) in the
4 cases. In this sense the strategy on the left is pure "conventional" ("allopathic")
whereas that on the right is pure "alternative" ("homeopathic").
possession. "Mine in body and soul" (as with slave ownership, and
certain understandings of marital relationship). Traditional citizen
-- loyal in body and spirit. "My land" -- wholly owned. Meaning what
is said. Affirmation [K]. Homogenistic, hierarchical,
classificational [H]. Thinking-Sensing [C]
(predictable) in principle and in practice. Rail-roading. "My time
and and agenda". Anglo-Saxon rendez-vous. Living for the future.
"of the body", but "not of the spirit" (as with attitude of employees
concerning relationships with their employers). Tax payer, but having
no other allegiance to the country (as with some immigrants). Right of
use of (rented) land -- owned by another. Ambiguity of what is said.
Neither affirmation nor negation [K]. Heterogenistic,
interactive, morphogenetic [G]. Feeling-Sensing
(predictable) in practice, but not in principle. Work slavery whilst
the elites do play. Emerging organization.
"in spirit", though not "in body". Spiritual affiliation, but no material
rights or involvement (as with the allegiance of some disenfranchised
Commonwealth citizens). "My land" -- rented or occupied by another. Contrasting
expressions of a common meaning. Both affirmation and negation [K].
Heterogenistic, interactive, homeostatic [S]. Thinking-Intuition
(principle) in principle, but not in practice. "When the cat's away,
the mice do play". Latin rendez-vous. Scheduled recreation. Flexi-time,
time-sharing, taking turns.
neither "in body", nor "in spirit". Stateless, disaffected, free
spirits, citizens of convenience. Neither "mine", nor "mine to use".
De-linking of what is said from what is meant. Negation [K].
Heterogenistic, individualistic, random [ I ].
(unpredictable) in principle and in practice. Spontaneity. Hanging-out.
Shared agendas and times. Living the moment.
Although the above 4-fold relationship is seemingly modest in scope, it
may already be considered a challenge in practice. It contrasts with the apparent
simplicity of a 2-fold relationship -- typically characterized by an "us
or them" logic
and efforts to marginalize and discredit the other as dangerously irrelevant.
This 4-fold pattern effectively raises the question of the different conditions
of "co-existence" of two approaches -- recognizing that in two of
those conditions the other is absent and in one of the two remaining conditions,
the other may be dominant. This is only viable in a dynamic situation (discussed
Embodying variety in a system of strategies
One structural inadequacy of the 4-fold set is that it does not encode a richer
range of strategies. Hence the interest of extending the coding system. In
the following set, the coding indicates the possibility of distinguishing a
richer mix of 8 distinct strategies. The pure "conventional" ("allopathic")
variant is on the far left with the pure "alternative" ("homeopathic") variant
fourth from the right.
comment on this 8-fold set is in the original paper (Discovering
Richer Patterns of Comprehension to Reframe Polarization, 1998) --
as with the explorations of other variants (16-phase,
together with relevant Notes and
Of potential interest is the extent to which existing strategies can
be usefully associated with one of the 8 distinct possibilities. A
valuable test case would be that of "alternative" strategies of which, as noted
above, "homeopathy" has been used as an exemplar when it should be more appropriately
distinguished from other "alternative" strategies.
A key question, if such an approach is to be considered useful, is when
it is possible to limit such a codification to 4 primarily "conventional" strategies
and 4 primarily "alternative" strategies, in contrast with when
it is more valuable to recognize 8 "conventional" and 8 "alternative" strategies
and to consider how they might then be combined. The traditional coding system
is in fact extended further, notably to represent 64 conditions, in which each
of the 8 above is combined with another of that set to constitute a hexagram.
It is perhaps appropriate to stress at this point that the pattern
of 64 decision-making conditions was long considered an essential means of
comprehending and discussing the patterns of change faced by governance (hence
the title (Book
of Changes). It was much respected as a tool of governance and decison-making
-- required learning for positions in the civil service.
With respect to the title of Gentle Action, as chosen
by David Peat, it is appropriate to note how the quality of "gentle" is held
within the above coding:
- set of 8: one of the "trigrams"
(Xùn) is explicitly named
as Gentle and is traditionally associated with Wind in nature. From a mnemonic
perspective, the configuration of the trigram (third from right above) has
a single "alternative"
(broken line) emerging below two "conventional" (unbroken lines)
-- and is consistent strategically with the sense of wind
- set of 64: one of the "hexagrams"(Sun,
#57) is indeed characterized as
clarity: Metaphors: Gentle / Subtle penetration / Groundedness
/ Wind of change). It is made up of a combination of two (Xùn) trigrams
of the 8-fold set.
Beyond strategic "vision" to polysensorial strategic metaphors
Allopathic strategic articulations make extensive use of the
"vision" metaphor -- the dominant sense-based metaphor.
Strategies are "envisaged" and
people are to be inspired by the "vision" of leadership; organizations
are expected to develop their own strategic "vision" (Metaphor
and the Language of Futures, 1992).
Curiously this is echoed in a therapeutic context in the allopathic case,
where the visibility of a disease, even if only through visualized evidence,
is a key to its being considered as "real" rather than "imaginary".
An argument can however be made for the merits of a polysensorial approach
to strategic remedies and navigating an uncertain future (Strategic
Challenge of Polysensorial Knowledge,
into, or through, the Mirror: embodying alternative scenario patterns,
In the light of the above proposal to distinguish a set of contrasting
"alternative" therapies, there is then a case for considering the
possibility that any such set should be metaphorically associated with a set
of enriched strategic metaphors -- beyond the focus on vision. The US National
Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) has developed
of Alternative Medicine Practices; a variant has been developed by
the Office of Alternative Medicine of the US National Institutes of Health
of Alternative Systems of Medical Practice). Is it possible to cluster
these tentatively in support of a complete range of sensory metaphors?
association of therapies and strategies in relation to senses
||massage therapy, reflexology, chiropractic, osteopathy, acupuncture, dance
||aural therapy, music
"talking up", "stories", appeals
Wikipedia offers a Glossary
of alternative medicine. The association of senses with trigrams is
based on Michael P. Garofalo (Eight
Trigrams Chart for the I Ching (Book of Changes), 2008). The above
table raises the question of how "polysensorial" strategies are to be understood,
especially given that some of the therapies would claim to be essentially polysensorial,
as with some disciplines understood to be of therapeutic significance. Examples
which might then be associated with the alternation between several senses
(effectively a resonance hybrid) include yoga and shamanism (Marcus
Six Shamanic Concepts: charting the between in futures
work, Foresight, 11,
2009, 2, 2009, pp. 29-42).
Indicative possibilities of "homeopathic" responses to global
This is not the place to explore the value of all such metaphors
in any detail. The following two examples are therefore merely indicative of
a spectrum of possibilities that merit greater attention, with due reservation.
Ayurveda: The traditional concept of "vedic
economics" has been recently developed, notably through the various institutions
founded by the Maharishi
Mahesh Yogi, including the Maharishi Vedic Education
Development Corporation. Vedic economics has also been promoted by Sri
Aurobindo and the new
approaches to management explored by the Sri Aurobindo
Society with its various economic enterprises.
Studies include: A.K. Sharma and Balvir Talwa (Corporate
Social Responsibility: modern vis-à-vis
Vedic approach), ,Ian Brown (Consciousness-based
Vedic Economics: a new approach, Indian
Economic Journal, 2000; 47, 4), Shiva Acharya (Nation,
Nationalism and Social Structure in Ancient India, 2005).
Acupuncture: In the case
of acupuncture, the following are indicative of the possibilities:
- Darren O'Donnell (Social
Acupuncture: a guide to suicide, performance and utopia, Coach
House Books, 2006) uses
acupuncture as a metaphor for the imbalance of power and resources
('chi' or energy) in the social body. His concern is for a form
of art that pinpoints problems in the civic sphere and actively
intervenes. Social acupuncture is framed as an opportunity
for artists to find funding and fame, while benefiting the disenfranchised.
- Adam Kuby (The
Acupuncture Project Treatment for Portland: art and acupuncture for the
city, 2008), in using acupuncture as a metaphor, suggests that
a city might be understood as a physical body that also has a parallel
system of energy that flows in distinct pathways called meridians. Each meridian
has particular acupuncture points where that energy can be accessed and adjusted
to achieve an optimal balance and avoid "disease".
- Virstan B.Y. Choy (From
Surgery to Acupuncture: an alternative approach to managing church conflict
from an Asian American perspective, Congregations -- Alban
Institute: Action Research Team
on Conflict Management in Asian American Congregations, Nov-Dec, 1995)
... in addressing problems in interpersonal and intergroup relationships,
many Asian Americans are inclined to adopt a position of subtlety, indirectness,
and nonconfrontational interaction. They are not inclined to adopt most current
approaches to church conflict management, which involve direct, face-to-face
interactions, personal disclosure in public settings, as well as provision
of private personal information to outsiders or strangers. Like surgery,
these approaches involve cutting the body open, exposing for examination
(and therefore exposing to risk) delicate parts of the body, and sometimes
even cutting and removal of parts of the body. Like surgery they risk causing
trauma to the body. Like surgery, they sometimes cause the death of the body.
contrast, acupuncture is less invasive, less incising, and less risky. Rather
than pre-surgery X-rays, probes, or the introduction of other foreign chemicals
or instruments into the body, it involves noninvasive external observation
of key points of the body. Rather than involving surgical incisions, this
approach calls only for the gentle insertion of small needles. Rather than
identifying, examining, chemically treating and/or cutting out parts of the
body, acupuncture seeks to keep body parts in healthy relation to one another,
working to free the flow of energy within the body and between its parts.
For many Asian Americans, acupuncture is an attractive metaphor suggesting
new ways of intervening in church conflicts.
Given its emphasis upon maintaining
balance in the body and enabling the free flow of energy within the body, the
acupuncture metaphor provides an opportunity for reconceiving intervention,
mediation. and the use of third-party consultants in conflict situations. Consultants
need a posture less like that of an 'outside expert' in objective
process and more like an intermediary - not necessarily mediator nor arbitrator,
but more a 'go-between' who
provides an avenue for subtle and indirect contact between people in conflict.
A 'shadow consultant' who works informally in the background
rather than directly and visibly may provide the sort of non-invasive intervention
suggested by the acupuncture image.
- Marko Pogacnik (Earth
Healing), as a practitioner of lithopuncture, argues
Since our modern culture is building large civilization structures expanding
all over the globe, and at the same time ignoring the multidimensionality
of the Earth, the life base of the planet is under threat of destruction.
This realisation led me to create different methods of protecting and restoring
the invisible levels of life which I simply call Earth healing. It is an
approach alternative to the scientific ecology, which is taking care only
for the material body of the Earth.
With methods similar to acupuncture
and homeopathy it is possible to intervene with the vital, emotional and
spiritual levels of places, cities and landscapes and work on restoring
or balancing the subtle levels of life. My work is consciously based on
art as complementary to science. Instead of the head-orientated view of
the modern science, I try to promote a heart centred approach to the Earth,
nature and the human essence, based on personal experience and transpersonal
insights. The knowledge called 'geomancy' functions
as base for my explorations and for practical work....
I developed a
method of Earth acupuncture that I call 'lithopuncture', plus
different methods of Earth healing work that can be done by groups.
Alchemy: Most unexpectedly,
many web documents make reference to the metaphor "financial alchemy",
notably, as a way of framing the transformation of the relationship with money. Joseph
Stiglitz titled his explanation
of the fall of Lehman Borthers as Financial
Using the same metaphor, a theoretical and practical account of current financial
trends, with his innovative investment practices, is provided by George
Alchemy of Finance, 1987). He notably discusses the scope for financial
alchemy. The metaphor has been extended by Jacques
F. Vallée (Four
Elements of Financial Alchemy: a new formula for personal prosperity,
2001) using the four basic symbols of alchemy as a model to
represent increasing levels of risk and reward -- from earth to water to air
to fire -- identifying investment vehicles appropriate to each level.
The financial crisis has been described as being a consequence of financial
alchemy (Jaimini Bhagwati, Meltdown:
a story of financial alchemy? Business Standard, 24 April
The metaphor has also be used to exemplify the deprecated financial
operations that engendered the global financial crisis, notably in a chapter
Alchemists and the Sport of Moneymaking in a new book by David
for a New Economy: from phantom wealth to real wealth, 2009). It might
be asked whether such "alchemy" would be similarly deprecated in a local initiative.
But it is in another book, translated by Carl Jung's colleague
Richard Wilhelm (1929), that he comments on a fundamental cycle identified
in a Chinese text The
Secret of the Golden Flower (T'ai I Chin Hua Tsung
Chih) -- more recently translated by
Thomas Cleary (1991). This focuses on the meditative psychology of the
practice of taoist "inner alchemy" (Neidan) which, in its pursuit of immortality,
may be understood as a potentially insightful framing of the socio-economic
challenges of sustainable development. The practitioner may be depicted
as centered within the 8-fold set of trigrams.
"Elementary" metaphors of economic
health: Curiously, modern economics uses metaphors
fundamental to "homeopathic" perspectives, including ayurveda and acupuncture,
namely those encoded as polarities in the I
Ching system. It is unclear why these elementary metaphors are considered
so unquestionably relevant to the explanations -- by a mindset renowned for
its focus on quantitative tangibles -- of the complex subtle dynamic conditions
of an economy.
|Elementary metaphors fundamental to
the condition of health of an economic system
|"hot": as in "overheated
economy", "financial meltdown"
||"cold": as in "overcooled economy",
"cooling economy", "frozen equity"
|"wet": as with financial "liquidity"
||"dry": as with inadequate "liquidity"
|"air": as with inflation (and "bubbles")
||"air": as with deflation (and
collapse of a "bubble")
|"light": as with transparency
||"dark": as with "black
If such metaphors remain intuitively relevant in the economic
sphere, then some attention could well be paid to understanding of their value,
and those of related metaphors, by those who make conscious use of them in
remedial response to the imbalances in the health of the human body -- as a
metaphor in its own right of the economic body.
Beyond "homeopathic" metaphor:
civilizations have constructed stelae,
and consciously placed them for commemorative and related purposes -- including
declarations of principles, as with the inscribed Pillars
of Ashoka (Ashokstambha), placed around
India by the Emperor Ashoka,
and that bearing the famed Code
of Hammurabi. In the form of cenotaphs,
they are held in high respect for modern ceremonies. They might be compared
with the placement of acupuncture needles at well-defined acupuncture
points on meridian
lines -- notably given any traditional recognition of leylines,
as between church spires.
Tthe mining industry in Australia has, for example, been obliged to acknowledge
their importance as the "songlines" recognized by aboriginal culture.
It might be argued that the "stakes" held by
"stakeholders" in socio-political systems offer a curious parallel
to the use and placement of such acupuncture needles -- effectively controlling
the movement of "energy" through the social system, although as yet
with little conscious understanding of their appropriate positioning. Indeed,
in a social system, what exactly is associated with the process of "staking" one's
reputation? More intriguing is the manner in fundamental values and principles
are associated with particular "pillars" in major institutions such as the
European Union -- effectively analogues to that of Hammurabi, as discussed
Value Frameworks: pillar-ization, polarization and polyhedral frames of reference,
2008). "Pillars" are also used to focus stratrgic thinking (Sohail Inayatullah,
Six pillars: futures thinking for transforming,
Foresight, 10, 2008, 1, pp. 4-24).
It is intriguing
to speculate on the possibility of analogous "needles" that might be appropriately
positioned along "meridian lines", within cyberspace and virtual
worlds (Second Life,
etc) to ensure healthy
movement of information and insight within knowledge society (From
Information Highways to Songlines of the Noosphere: global configuration of
hypertext pathways as a prerequisite for meaningful collective transformation,
of Hyperlink Geometry, 1997).
Such possibilities are less farfetched than might be assumed
when seen in the light of the worldwide focus on "networks" and their
operation, notably concern with key "nodes" (as "hubs") in such
networks -- vital to the viability of the network as a whole. With respect
to the "health" of
such networks, there is considerable interest in designing "robust" networks -- even by the intelligence community (Polyhedral
Empowerment of Networks through Symmetry: psycho-social implications for organization
and global governance, 2008). To the extent that such robustness is
dependent on some form of symmetry, such concerns highlight the
potential significance of the latter for global governance (Towards
Polyhedral Global Governance: complexifying oversimplistic strategic metaphors,
of Valuing: psychodynamics of collective engagement with polyhedral value configurations,
Dynamics of a "healthy mix": the
cyclic dance of complementaries
Some commentators have remarked critically on the multitude
"models" available, advocated, and taken up, to assist in the process
of management, strategy development and governance. The manner in which they
come into fashion and are dropped, has resulted in many being described as "management
Strategies, or Management Fads? Growth
Strategies, Oct 2004).
Another way of reframing such shifts in preferred
framing is as a healthy process of alternation to compensate for the inadequacies
of each as they become evident in response to emerging conditions -- much as
individuals may choose to eat a variety of dishes to ensure their dietary needs.
A sustainable strategy may then be understood in terms
of the dynamics of alternation (between alternatives), as previously argued (Development
through Alternation, 1983; Policy
Alternation for Development, 1984; Metaphors
of Alternation: an exploration of their significance for development policy-making,
1984). In principle this is the essence of democratic governance in response
to changing conditions.
The Chinese binary coding above can be understood
as a detailed exploration of such alternation. Hence one translation of its
title as The Book of Changes. Each strategic condition, whether in
a set of 2, 4, 8 or 64, shifts into another condition in response to challenge
or opportunity -- appropriately or inappropriately handled. An interpretation
of this process of alternation, highlighting its relevance to policy cycles,
has been explored elsewhere (Towards
Another Order of Sustainable Policy Cycles: insights from the Chinese Book
of Changes, 1990) and has been integrated into a more general pattern
whose connectivity can be readily explored (Transformation
Metaphors for sustainable dialogue, vision, conferencing, policy, network,
community and lifestyle, 1997).
The "diseases" of the human body, of the natural environment,
or of the global socio-economic system, are then usefully seen as imbalances
within the global dynamic pattern of ongoing change. Each condition therefore
implies both the possibility of "disease" and of "therapy".
Any policy decision is then to be recognized as having a degree of appropriateness
which however calls for particular vigilance regarding its inherent weaknesses
The "dance" is highlighted in diagrammatic form in the studies cited
above by both Maurice Yolles and Pierre Levy. Such a presentation was also used
to describe the possibilities of variable institutional geometry (Alternation
between Variable Geometries: a brokership style for the United Nations as a
guarantee of its requisite variety, 1985).
Although any such pattern constitutes a dynamic integrated whole, understanding
that integrity poses challenging problems. Advances in web technology suggest
ways of presenting the "dance" between alternatives to facilitate
such comprehension. Examples are presented elsewhere (Animation
of Classical BaGua Arrangements: a dynamic representation of Neti Neti,
Exploration of Value Configurations Interrelating traditional cultural symbols
through animation, 2008).
In the light of the arguments of Susantha
Goonatilake (Toward a Global Science: mining civilizational
knowledge, 1999), it may well prove to be the case that non-western epistemological
frameworks, epitomized by the Chinese, may be able to use such strategic flexibility
in ways that are a challenge for western understanding. The point was well
made by Scott Boorman (The
Protracted Game: a wei-ch'i interpretation of Maoist revolutionary strategy,
1969) -- demonstrating how, during the Vietnam crisis, the western strategic
approach (inspired by chess strategy) was out-maneuvered
in the region (by a go-inspired strategy). An ironic consequence is the possibility
that conventional "western" culture faces the probability
of not being able to "get it" in terms of understanding viable responses
to global crises.
To put it bluntly, if metaphorically, the West may not be able to "grok" it,
as argued previously with respect to polysensorial comprehension (Authentic
Grokking: emergence of Homo conjugens, 2003) and as suggested with
respect to the contextual sensitivity of the Chinese (Zeeya Merali, Westerners
and Easterners see the world differently, New
Scientist, 22 August
Curiously the metaphorical
need for those of the allopathic mode to learn to dance in the "post-entrepreneurial
articulated from the Harvard Business School by Rosabeth
Moss Kanter (When
Giants Learn To Dance, 1990) -- with the ironic spectacle in 2008
of major corporations being obliged to "dance" to obtain essential
bailouts. An analogous argument could be made for academic disciplines -- as
a suitable metaphor of the necessary dynamics of transdisciplinarity, in contrast
to characteristic efforts of each to "off-foot" the other. One might
ask to what extent the therapeutic disciplines represented at a clinic "dance" appropriately
with one another -- whether the clinic is "allopathic" or "homeopathic" in
orientation. The dance metaphor is also consistent with the need to "unfreezing
which crises are framed (Framing
the Global Future by Ignoring Alternatives: unfreezing categories as a vital
necessity, 2009). The capacity to dance between alternatives may be
what is required to both "lay down" and "tread" the subtler pathways into
the future with confidence (Walking
Elven Pathways: enactivating the pattern that connects, 2006; Climbing
Elven Stairways: DNA as a macroscopic metaphor of polarized psychodynamics,
In contrast to conventional approaches to articulating
and presenting strategic frameworks, of considerable importance is the manner
in which the challenge of comprehension is integrated by the Chinese into the
abstract binary coding system. This places considerable emphasis on metaphor
poetically expressed. It is consistent with the challenge of identifying mnemotechnical
aids to the comprehension of complexity (In
Quest of Mnemonic Catalysts -- for comprehension of complex psychosocial dynamics,
Alternative Conceptual Realities: clues to the dynamics of enacting new paradigms
through movement, 2002, Hyperspace
Clues to the Psychology of the Pattern that Connects, 2003).
Sustaining a healthy flow: confidence,
As noted above, the financial crisis of 2008-2009 has resulted
in an extraordinary focus on what was otherwise held to
point of being neglected as irrelevant if not imaginary. This has emerged in
two necessarily complementary ways
- the recognition from a "conventional" perspective
of the loss of confidence within the financial community and the need for
"confidence building" measures, even of the most historically dramatic
kind. Confidence is of course fundamental to any monetary system of transactions,
however readily this may be forgotten when confidence is not challenged. But
in 2008-2009 it is seen as vital to ensure "flow" in the sense
of banks lending to each other to achieve liquidity.
- the massive
loss of confidence -- on the part of many (on the ground)
whose homes and livelihoods have been lost as a result of the crisis --
in authorities responsible for safeguarding
the global financial system, the economies dependent on it, and proposing
remedies for its ills (Credibility
Crunch engendered by Hope-mongering: "credit crunch" focus as symptom of
a dangerous mindset, 2008).
What is especially intriguing about this historical period is the degree of
"dematerialization" of the challenge. Although a related trend towards
faith-based governance might be set aside, despite its bloody consequences,
the extent to which understandings of the subtleties of
faith, trust, confidence and value are now conflated in practice
merits careful consideration. This
is especially the case when they are associated with (and engender) energy and
movement embodied (or carried to some degree) by the tokens (monetary or
otherwise) by which they are represented (Moving
Symbols: radical change in religious psycho-social energy policy?
of Value Configurations: interrelating traditional cultural symbols through
, 2008).With respect to the "confrontation" between "conventional" and "alternative",
as framed metaphorically by "allopathic" and "homeopathic" worldviews,
the dynamic nature of this intangible is acknowledged in an elusively convergent
manner in the recognition:
- within an "allopathic" framework, despite any therapy,
of the determining role of the "will to live" as it engenders and
sustains any "life force" (however this may be framed)
- within a "homeopathic" framework, of some form
of "life force" sustaining (and underlying) the health of the individual
Such recognitions do not however go as far as may be required by a subtler
and more appropriate approach to either the health of the individual, of
a community, of the environment, or of the global system. The challenge might
be framed in terms of understanding "flow" in psychosocial
- from an "eastern" perspective underlying the Chinese binary coding
system above, namely the manner whereby the flow of qi,
understood as energy flow, is engendered and sustained through the dynamics
- from a "western" perspective, in notions of energeia or élan
vital (vitalism). Curiously this is well-recognized in judgments
on collectivities, whether clubs, communities, cities, or even countries, as
being "alive" or "dead" -- although with little ability
to describe the flows involved. The continuing work on the psychology
of flow at the individual level is indicative of the relevance of such
insights to collectivities and the manner by which their sustainable development
is in fact sustained, notably under conditions of crisis (Reframing
Sustainable Sources of Energy for the Future: the vital role of psychosocial
Given the amount of research that has been undertaken into the dynamics of
flow with respect to various technologies (fluid
etc), there is clearly the possibility of "mining" technologies for metaphors
of relevance to flow in psychosocial systems, especially those required
to sustain the energy of a knowledge society -- as exemplified by nuclear
a Cognitive Fusion Reactor: Imaginal Transformation of Energy Resourcing
Global society might be held to be essentially characterized by
progressive dematerialization of flows -- epitomized by information
travelling through the web, of which financial flows are but one form. But
intimately associated, if not conflated, with these are the subtler flows
of opinion, knowledge, insight and values -- however they are brought to any
focus in centres "of excellence", or otherwise, enabled or not by an emergent semantic
web. Their implication becomes more apparent through
the work (cited above) of Maurice Yolles on knowledge cybernetics and of Pierre
Levy's distinction between six networks of collective intelligence (From
Social Computing to Reflexive Collective Intelligence,
More intriguing however is the even more intimate and subtler flow associated
with attention as the scarcest of resources, whether for an
individual or collectively. This is most notably acknowledged in politics and
marketing (especially of fashions). But more intruiging still is the nature
of the thought associated with such attention -- the primary concern of many
disciplines of meditation. In this context, the question is the nature of the
"energy" flow implied by the much cited adage of those disciplines, namely
"energy follows thought". Perhaps not surprisingly this is the focus of a contribution
to a newsletter focusing on business and politics (Russell Bishop, How
To Escape Meltdown Mania, The
Huffington Post, 11 October 2008). But what is the "energy" that follows
attention, and how is it related to the financial challenge as currently framed?
As implied by the arguments for
"cognitive fusion", however, the challenge of any such attention
flow is one of fruitful self-reflexivity (Consciously
Self-reflexive Global Initiatives,
2007; Douglas Hofstadter, I
Am a Strange Loop, 2007). This challenge is frequently highlighted through the metaphor of a
mirror and of mirroring (Stepping
into, or through, the Mirror: embodying alternative scenario patterns,
Embodiment of Transdisciplinary Integration: the universal criterion of species
maturity? 2008). Typically such mirroring raises and reinforces
understandings of identity (whether individual or collective) -- perhaps
the most problematic challenge in the emerging global society. In the case
of any preferred focus on individual action (locally in a community) as being
more "concrete", of special interest is the manner in which this
implies an implicit cognitive mirroring of any global focus (My
Reflecting Mirror World: making my World Summit on Sustainable Development
worthwhile, 2002). This may prove to be a significant factor in
the outcome of the State
of the World Forum (Washington DC, 2009), especially
with its integral
There is a challenging degree of self-satisfaction amongst proponents
of both conventional and alternative strategies -- with little humility in
relation to the unknown (Unknown
Undoing: challenge of incomprehensibility of systemic neglect, 2008).
This might be caricatured by the "allophobic" reactions of the constituency
of the World Social Forum to the approaches promoted by the World Economic
Forum - and by the 'homophobic' reactions of the constitutency
of the latter to the approaches promoted by the former. Arguably
they are both in a metaphoric trap (Metaphoric
Entrapment in Time: avoiding the trap of Project Logic, 2000). As
stated by Geoffrey
Vickers (Freedom in a Rocking Boat: changing values
in an unstable society, 1972) in defining such traps: A
trap is a function of the nature of the trapped.
Whatever the dysfunctionalities to be detected in "homeopathic" strategies
from an "allopathic" perspective, the metaphors through which the
latter operate have long been widely disseminated by business schools and periodicals.
This has not prevented the financial crisis of 2008-2009 whose possibility
was seemingly undetectable through those frameworks, or given little credibility.
Following the arguments of Susantha
Goonatilake (Toward a Global Science: mining civilizational knowledge, 1999),
there is therefore a case for recognizing a degree of metaphorical
impoverishment in the articulation of conventional strategies. In that sense, the spectrum
of "homeopathic" therapies -- as the epitome of traditional "civilizational
knowledge" -- merits exploration, as argued at World Futures Studies Federation
in Beijing (Metaphoric
Revolution: in quest of a manifesto for governance through metaphor,
1988) and subsequently (In
Quest of Uncommon Ground: beyond impoverished metaphor and the impotence of
words of power, 1997; Enhancing
the Quality of Knowing through Integration of East-West metaphors,
"Allopathic" and "homeopathic" metaphors
may be seen as a form of problem framing. Donald
the Stable State, 1973) has
argued that the essential difficulties in social policy have more to do with
problem setting than with problem solving. For him: "the framing of problems
often depends upon metaphors underlying the stories which generate problem
setting and set the direction of problem solving." Schon
contrasts a housing problem where slum areas were defined as a "blight" or "disease" with
one in which they were perceived as "natural communities". Using the medical
metaphor the former justifies use of radical "surgery" to excise the blight
-- "allopathic style" -- whereas the other calls for ways of enhancing the
life of those communities. This would constitute a "homeopathic style". Both
need to be considered.
It would seem that there is considerable possibility for future exploration
of the dynamic relationship between strategies having
different mixes of "allopathic" and "homeopathic" elements -- where no one mix is then held to be viable and sustainable in its own right,
but only as part of what amounts to a resonance
hybrid based on the connectivity
within the set of such possibilities (Patterns
of Alternation: cycles of dissonance and resonance, 1995). A sustainable
democracy is then best understood as such a resonance hybrid.
of a respected and sophisticated Chinese understanding of the patterns of
change, as highlighted above, has previously been marginalized in "conventional" western
thinking -- especially given its more recent appreciation by those exploring "alternative" worldviews.
Curiously the situation has now evolved dramatically to the point that there
is some expectation that the G20 Group will soon be recognizable as an expression
of a "G2 Group" -- China and the USA (Martin Jacques, When
China Rules the World: the rise of the Middle Kingdom and the end of the
western world, 2009). However, any such polarization runs the danger
of another manifestation of "bipolar disorder" in the global
brain -- another phase in the Great Game of "conventional" vs "alternative".
There is therefore a strong case for learning from frameworks that enable such
polarization to be reframed as previously suggested (Coherent
Value Frameworks: pillar-ization, polarization and polyhedral frames of reference,
The global challenge of the immediate future is usefully exemplified by the
current global focus given to the strategy of enhanced intervention in Afghanistan
-- for which "all the strategic options" have supposedly been considered
All the Strategic Options: whilst ignoring alternatives and disclaiming cognitive
protectionism, 2009). Given the inherent "allopathic" framing
of the challenge, it is interesting to consider the relevance of any possible "homeopathic"
framing of an alternative (Poetic
Engagement with Afghanistan, Caucasus and Iran: an unexplored strategic opportunity?,
Jousting through Poetic Wrestling: aesthetic reframing of the clash of civilizations,
New roles are now envisaged by the G20
Summit (2009) for the International Monetary Fund and for the regulatory
body reframed as the Financial
Stability Board (Anthony Faiola, A
Bigger, Bolder Role Is Imagined For the IMF: changes suggest shift in how global
economy is run, The Washington Post, 20 April 2009), It is
in this light that consideration is now being given to the IMF's Global
Financial Stability Report: responding to the financial crisis and measuring
systemic risks (2009).
It is however appropriate to
ask whether the essentially "allopathic" perspectives envisaged should
be complemented by a "homeopathic" perspective, as argued
above -- especially in the light of UNICEF's challenge to IMF a decade
past (UNICEF, Development
with a Human Face, 1997; Santosh Mehrotra and
Richard Jolly, Development
with a Human Face: experiences in social achievement and economic growth,
OUP, 2000). Will the transformation of the IMF, and its role in the financial
system, embody any new insights, or will it be a case of "more of the same"
-- careful rearrangement of the deckchairs on RMS
Titanic, with consequences to be anticipated?
China has provocatively intimated the possibility of shifting away
from the dollar as the reserve currency (China
calls for new reserve currency, Financial
23 March 2009), but it might
be the case that that "currency" should be reframed
as a complementary currency in a manner more fundamentally
related to confidence and energy as discussed above, namely a "homeopathic" understanding
of currency. Is it indeed from the understanding of Chinese culture that
such a "currency" of
confidence and psychosocial energy -- qi --
could best be articulated?
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