- / -
Prepared on the occasion of World
Homeopathy Awareness Week
and the publication of the Global Financial Stability Report of the International Meonetary Fund
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 (Metaphorical Geometry in Quest of Globality: in response to global governance challenges, 2009; Engaging with Globality -- through cognitive lines, circlets, crowns or holes, 2009).
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.
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 economic body....
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 turns out.
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.
Andrei Illarionov is now a senior fellow in the Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity of the Cato Institute (Washington, 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).
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:
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 includes homeopathy):
It struck me this morning, while listening to Obama talking about "saving 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 a crisis.
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:
Homeopathy 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 Krugman (Depression 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.
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:"Allo-": meaning "other", "otherness" or "difference" (in terms of the etymology)
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". (Life in Fragments: essays in postmodern morality, Blackwell, 1995, p 220).
The 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".
In 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, 2000)
"Allo-": implying "all" (irrespective of the etymology)
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):
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 person.
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 with "sponsored research" in 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" condition?
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 emptor -- 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 have demonstrated. "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 oil" 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 protectionism, 2009).
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 civilization (Jared Diamond, Collapse: 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 as usual" 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, etc)
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.
The innovative formula of David X. Li with regard to the Gaussian copula is admirably described by Felix Salmon (Recipe 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 then some.
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.
The above confusion goes to the root of the strategic challenge of the misunderstandings and strong prejudices associated with the strategic dilemmas associated with "sameness" in relation to any "difference" as inherent in the following:
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 a difference", perhaps usefully summarized as follows.
|remedial and therapeutic strategies||norms in
response to imbalance &
(unity in diversity)
|"culture"||global focus||local focus||certainty
and proven reliability
|allo-||extra||intervention (operating from without by imposition of orderly pattern)||against difference
to constitute unity by "fixing")
|monoculture||normalization and harmonisation
(external balance and equilibrium; the Washington consensus)
|conformity by fixing local|
|homeo-||intra||intravention (operating from within by catalysis or evocation of inherent nature)||cultivate difference
to ensure emergent unity by "healing")
|mixed farming, permaculture,
|integrative individuation||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:
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, 2007).
(the problem was fixed but the patient died)
|allophobia||"anti-pharma"||xenophobia, elitism, racism||complex ecosystems||anti-TOE||all-o-phobic|
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 Healy (Mania: a short history of bipolar disorder, 2008). With respect to therapeutic strategies, Healy highlights:
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).
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 perspective (Lessons from a frugal innovator, The Economist, 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 farming" is 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).
For convenience, the current mainstream strategic approach to global crisis could indeed be framed as "allopathic" -- recognizing that "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, 1977).
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 of "allopathy"):
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.
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:
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:
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 policies (Reagonomics 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.
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" alternative.
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 Tasch (Inquiries 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
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:
Adapting a portion of an earlier exploration (Discovering 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)
|Possession (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.||Linear time. Scheduling. "My time and agenda". Certainty, impatience, consistency, constraint, imposition.|
|Non-possession. 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. Obligation.||Poly-time; diversity of times. Shared (permeable) time and agendas. Uncertainty, patience, inconsistency, acceptance, unconstrained, adaptive.|
|Total 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]||Scheduled (predictable) in principle and in practice. Rail-roading. "My time and and agenda". Anglo-Saxon rendez-vous. Living for the future.|
|Possession "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 [C]||Scheduled (predictable) in practice, but not in principle. Work slavery whilst the elites do play. Emerging organization.|
|Owned "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 [C]||Scheduled (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.|
|Owned, 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 ]. Feeling-Intuition [C]||Unscheduled (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 further below).
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.
The explanatory 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, 64-phase) together with relevant Notes and References.
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:
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, 2008; Stepping into, or through, the Mirror: embodying alternative scenario patterns, 2008).
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 a Classification of Alternative Medicine Practices; a variant has been developed by the Office of Alternative Medicine of the US National Institutes of Health (Classification of Alternative Systems of Medical Practice). Is it possible to cluster these tentatively in support of a complete range of sensory metaphors?
tentative association of therapies and strategies in relation to senses
|taste||homeopathy, herbalism, diet-based therapies||targeted
|.||touch||massage therapy, reflexology, chiropractic, osteopathy, acupuncture, dance therapy||"hands on",
|vision||hypnosis, chromotheraphy, art therapy||inspirational
presentations, scenario building
|.||sound||aural therapy, music therapy, narrative therapy||propaganda,
"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 Bussey, Six Shamanic Concepts: charting the between in futures work, Foresight, 11, 2009, 2, 2009, pp. 29-42).
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).
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 Alchemy (2008). Using the same metaphor, a theoretical and practical account of current financial trends, with his innovative investment practices, is provided by George Soros (The 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 2009).
The metaphor has also be used to exemplify the deprecated financial operations that engendered the global financial crisis, notably in a chapter on Modern Alchemists and the Sport of Moneymaking in a new book by David Korten (Agenda 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 economy"|
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: Many 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 previously (Coherent 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, 1996; Sacralization 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, 2008; Topology of Valuing: psychodynamics of collective engagement with polyhedral value configurations, 2008).
Some commentators have remarked critically on the multitude of "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 fads" (Business 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 and vulnerabilities.
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, 2008; Dynamic 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 2005).
Curiously the metaphorical need for those of the allopathic mode to learn to dance in the "post-entrepreneurial revolution" was 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 categories" through 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, 2007).
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, 2007; Navigating 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).
Given the amount of research that has been undertaken into the dynamics of flow with respect to various technologies (fluid dynamics, magnetohydrodynamics, 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 fusion (Enactivating a Cognitive Fusion Reactor: Imaginal Transformation of Energy Resourcing (ITER-8), 2006).
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, 2009).
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, 2008; Self-reflective 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 process.
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, 2000).
"Allopathic" and "homeopathic" metaphors may be seen as a form of problem framing. Donald Schon (Beyond 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.
The potential 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, 2008).
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 (Considering 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?, 2009; Strategic Jousting through Poetic Wrestling: aesthetic reframing of the clash of civilizations, 2009).
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 Times, 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?
Russell Bishop. How To Escape Meltdown Mania, The Huffington Post, 11 October 2008
Rory Carroll. World Social Forum message to Davos: We told you so. The Guardian, 30 January 2009
Jared Diamond. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Viking Books, 2005
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
Susantha Goonatilake. Toward a Global Science: mining civilizational knowledge. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999
David Healy. Mania: a short history of bipolar disorder. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008
Hazel Henderson. Reforming Global Finance: diagnosing the economic body politic. Ethical Markets, 9 January 2009
Douglas Hofstadter. I Am a Strange Loop, 2007
Andrei Illarionov. Russia's Economic Diseases and Ways to Treat Them. Johnson's Russian List, #18, JRL 9169, 2 June 2005
International Monetary Fund. Global Financial Stability Report: responding to the financial crisis and measuring systemic risks. Washington DC: IMF, 2009
Martin Jacques. When China Rules the World: the rise of the Middle Kingdom and the end of the western world. Allen Lane, 2009
Paul Krugman. Depression 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
Pierre Levy. From Social Computing to Reflexive Collective Intelligence. Information Sciences: an International Journal, 180, 2010, 1, pp. 71-79
Santosh Mehrotra and Richard Jolly. Development with a Human Face: experiences
in social achievement and economic growth. Oxford University Press, 2000
Barack Obama. The Audacity of Hope: thoughts on reclaiming the American Dream. Crown, 2005
F. David Peat. Gentle Action: Bringing Creative Change to a Turbulent World. Pari: Pari Publishing, 2009
Darrell A. Posey (Ed.). Cultural and Spiritual Values of Biodiversity: a complementary contribution to Global Biodiversity Assessment. Nairobi, United Nations Environment Programme, 1999
Felix Salmon. Recipe for Disaster: the formula that killed Wall Street. Wired, 17.03, March 2009
John Ralston Saul. The Unconscious Civilization. House of Anansi Press, 1995
Donald Schon. Beyond the Stable State. W. W. Norton, 1973
Frank Shostak. Obama's Allopathic Economics. We Live in Interesting Times, 6 January 2009
George Soros. The Alchemy of Finance, 1987
Garrison Sposito. Does a generalized Heisenberg Principle operate in the social siences? Inquiry, 12, 1969, 3, pp. 356-361
Nassim Nicholas Taleb. The Black Swan: the impact of the highly improbable. 2007
UNICEF. Development with a Human Face. University Press Oxford, 1997
Jacques Vallée. Four Elements of Financial Alchemy: a new formula for personal prosperity, 2001
Geoffrey Vickers. Freedom in a Rocking Boat: changing values in an unstable society. Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1972
Mark Whitehouse. Slices of Risk. The Wall Street Journal, 12 September 2005
World Health Organization.WHO Global Atlas of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Geneva, 2005
Maurice Yolles 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 change, Kybernetes, 37, 2008, 7, pp. 850-909;
Maurice Yolles and Zude Ye. Taoist Viable Systems, International Society for Systems Science Conference, Cancun, 2005
This work is licenced under a creative commons licence.