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Beyond Method: engaging opposition in psycho-social organization (Part #8)


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1. The ordered collection of statements presented in Annex 2 raises a number of interesting questions. It is necessarily imperfect, and is even more so as a first draft. Its current status can best be compared to an unituned musical instrument. Only when it is tuned, to the extent possible, will it be possible to determine whether it can be realistically applied as a guide to operations.

2. Prior to, or during, the tuning process itself it will be necessary to sharpen up the sets to a greater extent. This is due to the weakness of some of them in terms of the constraint requirements for:

  • maximal disagreement between set elements, perhaps requiring a greater degree of controversy, risk, uncertainty, or paradox
  • operational orientation, since some of them are more descriptive rather then transformative (the emphasis is on nouns or adjectives, and not on verbs)

In this sense it is necessary to "charge up" each set and render it inherently more dynamic. The generated sets can be confronted with new source material to assist in this process. (For example the 16-point definition of dialectics by Lenin, quoted above).

3. The "tuning" process may be envisaged as follows. The different sets need to be compared to highlight the pattern of relationships between them. For example, the sets with common numerical factors (e.g. 2, 4, 8, etc) have commonalities which can be highlighted. This will help to clarify the contents of each set and to increase the degree of order prevailing between them.

4. The tuning process is necessary to overcome the problem of the awkwardness of the individual statements. Such awkwardness, is to be expected in a first draft, given the manner in which the sets were generated. There is a basic dilemma in formulating such statements in order to avoid an impression of jargon. But the problem is really that a "general, neutral" set of statements is inconsistent with the underlying philosophy of this approach. No particular wording is adequate.

5. Efforts to produce an exhaustive "definition" merely result in an exhausting amount of text. The study of the significance of some of the sets has in fact been a life work for some people, resulting in many volumes of commentary (as is the case with Carl Jung and the 4-set). The very quantity of information quickly becomes counter-productive in terms of operational criteria.

6. One may around this problem of awkwardness and length is to use the "artificial" statement scheme as generated here as a basis for generating other schemes, corresponding to the difficulties initially encountered:

  • Schemes may be produced scaled up or down in level of abstraction (Vertical scaling)
  • Schemes may be produced oriented in terms oft stages, qualities, problems, conditions, etc (Horizontal scaling)
  • Schemes may be produced using different lan uages: poetic formalistic, religious, sociological, etc. (Model scaling)

By combining these different possibilities sets of "more readable" statements can be produced which will presumably be closer in terminology to particular source material sets. Sets may thus be generated according to application.

7. The problem of the lack of sufficiently general words needs to he seen in the light of the previous point and the use of synonyms. In effect by shifting the emphasis according to any of the above scales, there is a shift through the set of synonyms used to generate the set. The tuning process and the generation of sets could be better studied using an on-line synonym database, which could also permit alternation between noun, adjective and verb.

8. It is possible that the problem of lack of general words would disappear in sets having an even higher number of elements where the emergent concerns would become much more specific.

9. At this preliminary stage, it is preferable to assess the value of the approach an the basis of the internal structure and consistency of the scheme. Specific references from each generated element to source material have been omitted because of the quantity of such material and the complexity of the decision process leading to a particular choice of words. In some cases, for example, 20 source sets were compared to produce the generated set.

10. It will be noticed that the attributes of the higher number sets are aspects of those associated with their lower number factors and "condensed" into those associated with their prime number factors. In affect each set "tells the same resource management story", but in the lower number sets the story is highly compacted. In the higher number sets, the attributes associated with elements are simplified, and more easily comprehensible, at the cost of making the relationship pattern more complex. In the lower number sets, these qualities are absorbed into more complex set elements, at the cost of comprehensibility, although the relationship pattern is simpler.

11. It will be noticed that sets which are multiples of 2 do not result in new information. The 2-operator merely dichotomizes each element in a set, elaborating on a common point. However a set with 2 as a factor establishes an unresolved polarity which can only be handled in an operational setting by introducing a new perspective (the set elements + 1) from which the polarity can be viewed and balanced. In this sense such polarized sets can effectively "give birth to" a new perspective as pointed out in one of the source documents:

'A vibrating string of any reference length can be halved to sound the octave higher or doubled to sound the octavo lower... The number 2 is "female" in the sense that it creates the matrix, the octave, in which all other tones are born. By itself, however, it can only create "cycles of barrenness", in Socrates metaphor, for multiplication and division by 2 can never introduce new tones ...' (14, pp. 19-20)

12. As structured the scheme supports the view that a monolithic structure of any kind inhibits development. The tension of a polarity is necessary to engender any development. It is useful to distinguish growth or elaboration (in which no new pattern is introduced, by a 2-factor, for example) from new development (in which a new pattern is introduced as a result of balancing a polarity). This suggests that any of the classic polarities are very healthy, if they can give birth to a new pattern: capitalism/communism, governmental/nongovernmental, rationalism/empiricism, etc. It suggests that a monolithic "world government" would be a total inhibitor of development. In an earlier paper (21), it was suggested that oscillation or resonance between two or more polar positions was essential to significant integration or qualitative transformation. The extreme example of brainwashing (stick and carrot) techniques (22) was given there as an example of oscillatory operations which have there constructive equivalent. This emerges more clearly here.

13. "Disagreement" as it has been discussed here, and allowed to emerge in the generated sets has not been clearly defined. This is because the definition is implicit in the 2-level set. At that level the subtleties of any distinction between opposition and complementarity, for example, do not emerge. "Disagreement" therefore also covers its synonyms, namely: disaccord, dissent, unconformity, controversy, disunion, discrepancy, difference, oppo4ition, dissonance, irrelation, inequality, incompatibility, irreconcilability, etc (Roget's Thesaurus).

14. There is a progressive "dilution" of the degree of disagreement between elements in a set as the number of elements increases. In affect the basic maximal disagreement of the 2-level is spread between the elements. This suggests that using sets with a higher number of elements as operators makes it progressively easier to contain the disagreement.

15. Each set is a container for a different kind of disagreement. Each can also be used to highlight what can go wrong when working with operators at that level, namely the characteristic errors for that level of operation.


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