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Comments on Problematique of GPID

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Comments on report by Kimon Valaskakis of Group B of the Goals, Processes and Indicators of Development (GPID) project of the United Nations University
1. "Multidimensional integration involves the meeting of diverse methodologies and ideologies"

A "meeting" would tend to imply that the diverse elements all interact together at some common focus. It is worth considering the more probable and more feasible form of integration in which the diverse elements farm a pattern not focused at a single point (Meetings tend in practice to be a celebration of diversity rather than of unity).

2. "A premature merger of these ideas and elimination of diversity may not always? be as productive . . ."

Are there significant precedents indicating successful "mergers" of ideas ? Mergers are necessarily accompanied by the "elimination of diversity" from the territory over which the mergers can establish control, but no t over the territories by which it is surrounded and to which the diversity is then exiled, until it can "liberate" the conquered domain. Merger may be as desirable as imperialism, premature or not.

3. "The full explication of differences"

It is one thing to "explicate" differences as an intellectual exercise, but it is quite another to recognize that real people have invested heavily, often at a gut level, in their standpoints. The data bases maintained in support of each such standpoint cannot be undermined by explication. They support different perceptions of reality, which is presumably sufficiently complex to warrant a range of alter natives.

4. "The gradual reduction of these (differences) "

Is it absolutely necessary to start with an assumption that differences must be "reduced" ? How have such reductions been successfully accomplished in the past - particularly in the academic community ? Do GPID members distinguish themselves individually by the views they hold in common or by those which divide them ? How long could a GPID member maintain self-respect if he/she could not engender a difference with respect to a common ground ? Surely there might be a non-reductionist and more feasible approach to differences which could produce significant integration.

5. "... an acceptable common ground"

Why the need for such homogeneity at the socio-political level ? Are fundamental differences not equally acceptable, if not essential to avoid vulnerability in the psycho-cultural "gene pool" ? Achieving an acceptable common ground could even destroy the human race as a viable evolving species. More intriguing (and true to life) would be to discover a form of integration which could justify differences, namely a socio-political analogue respectful of the differing perceptions of esquimo and jungle pygmies, for example.

6. "Diversity produces tension"

But is it not equally true that the need for tension engenders diversity ? The two are complementary. Cultures and groups engender diversity when faced with an equivalent of sensory deprivation. Tension is "contained" by sufficient diversity (cf. the role of Roman circuses and of TV/)

7. "...there are two types of tension"

Perhaps for the purpose of this exercise. But there may be other nondualistic categorizations of tension valuable to an understanding of integration problems.

8. "Positive tension exists when alter native answers are offered to agreed upon questions... positive results"

Agreed, but this is somewhat similar to the development of technological solutions to well-defined problems. (Better mousetraps ?). Dramatic break throughs only occur by asking new questions and positive tension can then exist between those asking alternative questions in response to agreed upon conditions.

9. "Negative tension exists when there is no agreement on the underlying questions"

Tension may indeed be excessive and beyond the ability of participants to handle. This is however bad design rather than bad tension. It may simply be that it is not useful to confront two (participant) viewpoints when there is a creative tension between each of them and a third viewpoint which thus performs a mediating or tension transforming role. It may simply not be useful to confront esquimo and pygmies although dialogue with the same intermediary may be fruitful. Disagreement on questions is therefore possible provided adequate separation is maintained. The focus could usefully be shifted onto unbounded patterns of separation.

10. "If everyone has his own, rigid unchangeable problematique and there is no common ground..., the discussion becomes either frustrating or boring"

This depends on how the common ground is conceived. The statement would be correct with a "Flat earth" conception of common ground. It is then necessary that everyone agrees that the sun rises at the same time for discussion to be fruitful. However, in a "round earth" conception of common ground, no such agreement is necessary - provided that participants recognize the consequences of roundedness when they exchange statements (by radio) about the angle or absence of the sun in the sky. Of course, flat earth models tend to be perfectly satisfactory for most day-to-day local concerns. Frustration occurs when day-to-day feet-on-the-ground pragmatists dialogue with round earthers - it is clearly quite ridiculous that other feet-on-the-ground pragmatists elsewhere should seem to be standing at angles or on their heads, as claimed.

11. "The result is that participants "turn off" with uniformly negative results"

Agreed. In principle GPID should consider turn-offs as an important indicator and a phenomenon to be circumvented in the larger society.

12. "It follows then that it is necessary to agree on the questions before any "answers" are attempted"

As argued above, the configuration of the ground separating the participants is what needs to be agreed upon not the questions. And in fact the "uncommon" ground is then engendered in terns of the common focal point of the configuration (e.g. the centre of the earth according to the above analogy). This common focal point is not then in the same plane as the ground, however configured. As such this point of integration has the enormous advantage of not being a privileged territory which can be occupied or possessed. Note that this approach frees the questions and answers to be locally determined (in accordance with the dialogues philosophy).

13. "Group B has identified four foci concerning 'development' which are in fact categories of questions"

In one of my GPID papers I discuss the implications of number- governed sets such as this four foci set. Among other things such sets each have distinct patterns of relationships amongst their elements. Such relationships are not mentioned, except indirectly as the how - to-get-there fifth focus. A test of the value of this 4-set is how the categories might shift in meaning if a 3-set, a 5-set, etc. had been used. And of course part of the challenge is to communicate with people using such other

14. "How do we tackle the problem of development ?"

Use of "we" always implies some common ground. The reality is that there is no single "we", but many highly individualistic "we's". find the we's are not about to tackle anything together except as a short term public relations gesture. What is required is not "tackling together", but rather a self-organizing way of interweaving independent strategies.

15. "What is the nature of the problem itself"

The problem does not have a nature. Various natures, or none at all, are projected as tension-complexes into collective communication space. Standardizing such perceptions may obscure significant dimensions to which some are sensitive. "The" problem could be more usefully conceived as the common focal point for a pattern of such perceptions configured around it - such that no statement can be formulated at the level of abstraction of that focal point, but only as a perception at the level of the pattern around it (see quantum logic implications for classification).

16. "Once me have identified the appropriate methodology..."

As argued above only "we sub-sets" will reach consensus on methodologies, each being advocated as appropriate. The challenge would seem to be a meta-methodological one of how these distinct methodologies self-organize into a configuration of methodological complements (The paradox that this approach itself constitutes a methodology subject to this argument has been discussed in a GPID paper).

17. "... what are the ten variables that "explain" observed processes'

It might be more fruitful to devote some effort to looking at the variables which explain how processes are selected for priority observations under different conditions. There is however a danger in expecting too much from explanation. In today's turbulent environment, it is not too much of an exaggeration to say that any scientific discipline or communication art (especially including politics) can be used to explain anything in any way sufficiently at least to influence significantly any associated decision-making. (Misrepresentation can be very effective, and the "truth" usually emerges too late to be relevant, except for the history books - themselves subject to the vagaries of interpretation) .

The fundamental problem of explanation is that it creates the impression of being detached from the processes explained when in fact it is partly embedded in them. The explanatory process is a key process after all. But the special weakness, of explanation is that it loses its involvement in process dynamics and is sterilized by its detachment from them.

18. "A normative theory of development would explicate what the theory builder believes is a desirable future. Accordingly, this normative focus relates directly to the VDS and VDW subprojects of the GPID"

There is little problem in elaborating credible normative visions in quantity. The problem lies rather in discovering how they might interleave allowing others to emerge, given that no one vision can triumph as the interweaving framework. This is not a philosophical issue, since any self-respecting group will act to elaborate and implement its own vision. It is of course typical of visions that they exclude alternative visions. Presumably a meta-vision is required, and determining its necessary characteristics is a useful challenge.

19. "Strategic focus... It answers the question "how do we get from here to there", it being understood that "here" is answered by the explanatory focus and "there" by the normative one"

The above argument attempts to show that this can only apply to "we sub-sets" each with different "here starting points" and with different "there arrival points". It is also questionable whether the starting and arrival points should be considered as fixed "points" rather than linear trajectories or preferably cyclic trajectories (a Chinese view). The implicit analogy to moves on a chess board is limiting. The "board" should have no "edges" (for example a sphere), and it is necessary to be much clearer about how to conceive the start (which historically cannot be static) or the arrival (which presumably cannot be static either, and must have an inherent developmental momentum if the future is not to be still-born). Once again how are changes in the configuration of the ground to be conceived ? Again it is a meta-strategic problem of finding a way to allow the individual strategies to play off against each other as complements correcting for each others excesses.

20. "...the assumption that people communicate best when they are concerned with the same issues..."

It is my experience that people tend to communicate very badly when they are concerned with the same non-trivial issues, because they experience each communication as a possible threat to territory. Communication is best when the issues are complementary- which is the half-way stage to perceived "irrelevance".

21. "... and need not feel in any way compelled to involve themselves in issues which they may consider irrelevant"

Fine. But some effort should be devoted to discovering why some issues are perceived as mutually or unilaterally irrelevant. It is on this perception that integration is fragmented whether within GPID or in the larger world.

22. "Stage 3 ... presentation of results to the whole network in oral form"

I am increasingly unconvinced that the complex process of integration lends itself to the vagaries of the necessarily linear mode of oral presentation. GPID note taking has not given rise to documents on which "we" can build.

23. "Methodology : Sub-integrating paper on the dominant GPID methodology which seems to be emerging after two and a half years work"

The use of the term "dominant" is very revealing. Far there to be a dominant there must presumably be a "dominated". And, given that GPID is especially concerned with the socio-political consequences of dominance, is it not possible that GPID is falling into the kind of trap it makes every effort to analyze in the larger world ? Should GPID not be in search of non-dominating methodologies?

24. "Sub-integrating paper on alter native methodologies and ways of perceiving the problem"

At the GPID concepts of development meeting (Geneva, 1980) I learnt from the Wemegah /Galtung/Preiswerk paper and discussion that an "alternative" does not mean a "substitute" but rather an adjunct (as in the case of a second house,belief system or job). From the above argument it should be clear that I am not specially interested in other kinds of models in the ecosystem, except to ensure the diversity of the conceptual gene pool. My interest lies more in knowing how any models can be seen as interrelated and how an appropriate meta-model can be designed to facilitate the emergence of complementary alter natives (in the Wemegah sense) to correct each others excesses(c.f. the analogy to anti-bodies and diets). Such a meta-model could offer a significant "alternative" framework introducing a much needed alternative level of understanding (in the non-Wemegah sense of alternative).

25. "Sub-integrating paper(s) on the topic (s ).. What is happening in the North...South"

Here we see the consequences of the operation of choices. When do we get any sense of "What is happening in the East. . .West", or "What is happening in the Inner World ... Outer World", etc ? There are other dimensions of much greater significance to many real people than the North-South dimension. And unless their dimensions are meshed with the North-South dimension in a non- dominant framework, they mill simply to be turned-off and their energies locked out. And there is plenty of evidence of that already. Or should they be "forced" to change their attitude ?

26. "Sub-integrating paper on the topic of the emerging GPID visions of desirable societies and worlds emanating from the GPID papers.."

The argument above emphasizes the importance of meta-vision rather than vision. The range of GPID visions is a symptom of the problem rather than of the solution. Visions are self-defeating because not operationalizable. A meta-vision, open to the range of visions, could well indicate consequences, for implementation.

27. "Sub-integrating paper on alternate strategies and scenarios..."

As before, does "alternate" mean secondary ? And is the problem not one of meta-strategy rather than of a menu of strategies ? Menus offer little guidance to the user who is faced with the fundamental problem of how to choose in the light of considerations of :

  • immediate needs (state of hunger)
  • recent consumption (need for alternative gustatory experience)
  • current concerns (body weight, cost)
  • time factor (cooking time)
  • longer term concerns (balanced diet, longevity)
  • tactical considerations (what does the description really
  • imply - yesterday's scraps ?) ethical concerns (vegetarianism, etc)
  • mode of preparation (caste factors, kosher rules, etc)
  • environmental concerns (pollutants, additives) social factors (consideration for host/guest) spiritual concerns (Ramadan, Lent, begging bowl )
  • solidarity (forego-a-meal for the starving)

What is much more interesting is the structure of the menu, not as a list but in some form which reflects the dynamic interrelationship between the choices, each of which is both "right" and "wrong" in the short term. Such that the succession of choices - the choice pathway - is what becomes clearer. The "right" and "wrong" is then shifted to the level of "better" or worse pathways, although these may be very different for different users.

28. Major difficulty

A major difficulty I have is in understanding why GPID efforts are directed toward producing new models (Marks 251/2/3...) which compete on the same level (ground) with extant non-GPID models (Marks 1 - 250). Since most models will continue to have adherents who (whether out of ignorance or conviction) will continue to act in their light, the real challenge of integration is not to produce a temporary top-dog model (can progress be halted ?), but to blend the model-producing process into under standing of the development process. "Out-of-date" models will always be with us. The whole concept of "my model - right model" is very limiting however much intellectual muscle one has available to ensure a lengthy top-day status ("might is right" etc).

Frankly I think that "the" problem we face is merely reinforced by producing an N + 1th model or viewpoint to compete for attention in the same idea ecosystem as the others. Conceptual "genetic engineering" to design a "tougher" model, "better" than the others, which will hopefully then all get edged out of existence, loses sight of many important environmental lessons. It is not by focusing on intra-model questions that the properties of the ecosystem are recognized or modified. Rather we need to look at inter-model questions within which any GPID model becomes a secondary issue. It is in this shift in perspective that GPID could move beyond simply competing with other models to offer a perspective which could interrelate them, whatever their nature meekly lambs, toothful wolves or decay-loving insects), in the interests of the goals, processes and indicators of development. The shift should be such that it is not perceived as an effort to create a new privileged centre - hence my emphasis on non- centred organizational/conceptual structures. I believe that significant operational implications would emerge from such a shift. Hence the stress on a meta-model.

29. Comment

The above comments stand in a dialectical relationship to those of Kimon whilst at the same time stressing the need for a more dialectical approach. As such they reflect the GPID quandry and the futility of focusing on the question of whether either Kimon or I is "right" or "wrong".We both believe we are "right", although we both learn from an exchange of this kind, if only to reinforce our positions. We can both generate products satisfactory to us individually (and possibly "irrelevant" to the other) on the basis of these positions. We may each conceive of the other's position a as sub-set of our own larger "integrating" perspective - for which we may each develop a "market" or constituency. But such "integration" is not at a sufficiently fundamental level to constitute a significant breakthrough. A more fundamental approach is required - a meta-method perhaps - which predicts the kinds of "integration" that tend to emerge (such as our two perspectives) and shows how they are integrated within a larger pattern.

This larger pattern cannot be "seized" by any one approach but is defined by the dialectical relationship between the different positions possible within the pattern. The conventional approach to dialectics is pattern-free. The greater the variety of viewpoints however, the greater the need for the form of the dialectical pattern to be rendered explicit if any degree of integration is to be possible. The dialectical (and paradoxical) problems of giving greater clarity to and comprehending such a pattern should delineate the integrative form of which GPID could most usefully be the author.


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