Encyclopedia of World Problems - Archived Information

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Modern times are characterized both by the feeling that profound disagreements are disadvantageous, and that intense efforts at consensus formation are advantageous. However, this notion can be dangerous if it denies the possibility that advantages can be derived from the reality of disagreement processes, and that disadvantages can be associated with dysfunctional consensus formation. Typically the former leads to characteristic difficulties in handling differences; "otherness", discontinuity, uncertainty, ignorance, which all arise frequently in social processes, especially in any transitional period of social transformation when there is a possibility of a "new" or "alternative" order.

In the search for such a new order, many "answers" continue to be produced in response to the global problematique, whether in the form of explanations, programmes, strategies, ideologies, paradigms or belief systems. The proponents of each such answer naturally attach special importance to their own as being of crucial relevance at this time, whether in the short-term for tactical reasons, or in the long- term as being the only appropriate basis for a viable world society in the future.

This widespread focus on "answer production", a vital moving force in society, obscures both the significance of the lack of fruitful integration between existing answers and the manner in which such answers undermine each others’ significance. Such answers are inherently limited in that they fail to internalize the discontinuity, incompatibility and disagreement which their existence engenders, in such a way as to "contain", whether conceptually or organizationally, the development processes they promote. This naturally results in the emergence of new problems.

Any new order must therefore take into account the fluctuation between antagonistic answers counteracting each others weaknesses and excesses. It is this same fluctuation which the proponents of each dominant answer currently make every effort to prevent, as a way of maintaining their dominance in the short-term, but at the expense of development in the longer- term. But it is on this very fluctuation that a viable new order needs to be built on, if it is to contain a development that is inherently dynamic. The desperate search for "the" model of a new magical alternative order can thus be usefully complemented by a concern for models of alternation to order the pattern and timing of cyclic transformation between such alternatives, as and when they emerge into the ecological pool of available models.

This raises a major difficulty since no single framework can encompass the dynamics of alternation between such frameworks. Perception through any one of them necessarily precludes simultaneous perception through any other one (as with the wave or particle theories of light). It follows that no single conceptual language or paradigm is appropriate to the task of bridging across the discontinuity between frameworks to support the development process. This raises questions as to the nature of such a bridge and of the language with which such a bridge may be constructed. These questions provide a continuing focus for this research.