Policy Alternation for Development

Third persective "container"

Anthony Judge

Revolutionary patterns of alternation Prigogine, Jantsch, Attali and, in effect, Feyerabend conclude that it is necessarily impossible, if not anti-developmental, to define an organized, rational structure to bridge across discontinuity. The only "solution" being to adapt more spontaneously or aesthetically to the processes in relation to discontinuity (The relationship between the argument here and Prigogine's concept of "order through fluctuation" and "dissipative structures" (38, 39) needs to be further developed. The relationship to Jantsch's work (21) is also underdeveloped.). In effect what is being said is that, even in mathematical terms, it is impossible to discover a space whose form (a "meta-answer") validates every argument ("answer"). In Bateson's terms: "The question is onto what surface shall a theory of aesthetics be mapped....a map of the region where angels fear to tread" (29, pp. 210-214). But even if such a form could be discovered, it would presumably be too abstract to be of any value in society.

The difficulty is one of handling essentially incompatible answers which cannot co-exist passively (e.g. "science" and "religion"; "industry" and "environment"). In order to be hospitable to the discontinuities they represent, it would be necessary to somehow encompass or "contain" the non-rational character of the disagreement between them (22). This implies a distinctly non-linear relationship between them. The most accessible indication of the possible nature of such a relationship is that between right- and left-hemisphere modes of thinking (40), and the essentialdifficulty of integrating the perceptions to which they give rise. The functional "solution" in daily life is an oscillation between the two modes according to the task to be performed. Integration, namely the meta-answer, is here represented bY the Pattern of oscillation between the distinct modes.

The question is whether this is relevant to the wide range of answer domains and the modes of action/perception they represent. In an earlier paper (34), it was argued that this was at least a fruitful area of exploration. In another (27), it was used as a basis for an experimental ordering of the range of preoccupations of international organisations in a "chequerboard" matrix classification scheme based on right and left-hemisphere modes. Such a classification scheme (criticised below) is a minimal pattern of interrelationship (namely a "container") between answer domains, reflecting the discontinuities between them. This suggests, as stated there, that the present pursuit of "alternative models" may be proceeding in an unfruitful direction:

"The point is not simply to discover some magical alternative model of value to development but of limited appeal. It is rather to discover "models of alternation" (or oscillation) to contain the development process in relation to different alternatives which may be periodically adopted. Institutions could useful consider the value of an alternation policy (e.g. centralization/decentralization), rather than having it forcefully imposed upon them periodically by their environment or pursuing a schizophrenic policy using departments with alternative approaches which are impossible to reconcile. Each alternative becomes a boundary condition. The challenge is to use a configuration of such alternative models in such a way as to constitute a "container" for the development process." (27, p. 35)

The fact that social conditions are very much subject to cycles (e.g. Kondratieff), and that policy "breakthroughs" (such as centralisation or decentralisation) are periodically rediscovered with enthusiasm, suggests that alternation should be explored as a cyclic phenomenon. In fact, as any physical model will illustrate, a pattern of oscillation is not stable unless it is accompanied by some form of revolution of which the observed alternation is often a consequence (e.g. night/day on the revolving Earth; seasons on the Earth revolving around the Sun). Control of the "revolutionary process" is absolutely basic to the generation and use of electrical and other forms of energy (e.g. generators and motors).

Cyclic processes are also characteristic of many biological phenomena (e.g. respiration, reproduction, metabolic cycles). They are also evident in many socio-cultural phenomena (41), not to mention various symbolic and mythological cycles. But in the non-physical cases, humanity has gained little effective control of the revolutionary process. In fact the significance of social "revolution" is limited to the superficialities of discontinuity which are thus reinforced.

It has proved difficult to give operational content of any value to the non-disruptive dimensions of the "permanent revolution" advocated by marxists. This may well be due to the fact that it does not involve cyclic alternation between incompatible modes, because of the emphasis on an essentially linear series of dialectically superseded modes. Such linearity is a Western cultural concept of change which is not married to the valuable Eastern insight into change as recurrence. In metaphorical terms the marxist stress is on the struggle of abandoning "winter now" for "spring tomorrow" without any additional recognition of the revolutionary process whereby a new "winter" (with similar characteristics) will necessarily be encountered (or brought about) or of the importance of the ecological role of "winter" in general. If there is any significance to the importance of the revolution-based design of generators for the industrial revolution, there should be some insights of relevance to the current problem of designing a meta-answer to the present socio-cultural condition. In fact, in Attali's terms (5), such physical designs may well have prefigured the socio-cultural design problem of the present.

Designs appropriate to Attali's "third world" or Toffler's "third wave" could seemingly only emerge following recognition of the validity of a "third perspective". Integrated comprehension of the revolutionary cycle is only possible through a conceptual relationship to the axis that stabilises perception of the cyclic processes with reference to it. Without this third perspective, the revolutionary cycle can only be confusedly comprehended as a linear process in one or two dimensions. It is in terms of this third dimension that the required meta-answer designs may well be possible.

Humanity does not function in terms of one mode alone, just as it is difficult to hop (or limp) forward on one foot - although this may well be what history will see as characteristics of this period. The "struggle" between two feet is avoided by a third "walking" perspective. Switching metaphors, it is as though the vehicle conveying humanity forward had the spokesmen of antagonistic groups struggling on the driver's seat for control of the steering wheel.

Those closest to the left-hand window (and the abyss on that side) shout "turn right", and those on the right-hand side (seeing the abyss there) shout "turn left". Luckily the vehicle has so far remained on the road because their over-corrections counter-balance each other. A more balanced third perspective is required to allow the vehicle to follow a road with both left and right-hand curves and abysses on either side (not to mention on-coming traffic).

The argument can be taken a step further. A cycle as discussed above is a very abstract concept. It may constitute good descriptive "geometry", but it does not contain the additional features whereby the abstract geometry is geared or anchored into the complexities of reality. Additional design constraints are required to relate such a cycle to its environment and prevent it spinning out of control. This problem, and its significance, has been extensively studied by Buckminster Fuller (42). He makes the point:

"Not until we have three noncommonly polarised, great-circle bands providing omnitriangulation as in a spherical octahedron, do we have the great circles acting structurally to self-interstabilize their respective spherical positionings by finitely intertriangulating fixed points less than 180 degrees apart....The more minutely the sphere is subtriangulated by great circles, the lesser the local structural-energy requirements [cf Bateson: "A self-healing tautology, which is also a sphere, a multidimensional sphere" (12, p. 207)] and the greater the effectiveness of the mutual-interpositioning integrity. This spontaneous structural self-stabilizing always and only employs the chords of the shortest great-circle arc distances and their respective spherical finiteness tensional integrity." (42, I, 706.20 and 706.22)

Assuming the circular representation of cycles, he is in effect saying that it takes at least three interweaving cycles before there is interaction (entrainment?) of a type to stabilize the abstract processes within a minimal non-abstract form which their interlocking brings about, in this case a sphere [cf Attali: "L'un et l'autre de ces deux mondes designent done la hausse des couts de ['organisation comme la cause de la crise" (12, p. 266)]. With less than three, the form can exist only as a transient phenomenon, if at all. In his terms, three cycles is the condition for a minimal system. Returning to the possibility of insights from generator design, this suggests the possible importance of polyphase revolutionary cycles (in an engineering sense) as a necessary basis for an adequate meta-answer.