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Strategic pillars

Towards Polyhedral Global Governance: complexifying oversimplistic strategic metaphors (Part #3)

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Curiously a very common strategic metaphor in European institutional architecture is the "pillar". It is commonly associated with a schematic representation of classic Hellenic architecture in which a series of pillars, constituting a colonnade, support an entablature -- intrinsic to an Parthenon-like structure, echoed in much classic Roman architecture. Such a structure was a primary feature of temples in classical Greece and Rome, and earlier in ancient Egypt -- and as such a focus of the celebration of their values. As a schematic image it is common to the logos of a number of key organizations, most notably including UNESCO.

Isomorphic Representation of Columned (Value) Structures?
Columned (Value) Structure Columned (Value) Structure Columned (Value) Structure

Given the challenges of global governance, a case could be made to revisit the metaphoric implications of pillared structures to determine whether more complex institutional architectural metaphors could be derived in a similar manner. The cognitive implications of such metaphors have been explored in a classic study (George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By, 1980).

In an earlier study, a detailed checklist of use of "pillars" in international institutional discourse was provided, with the suggestion that strategic understanding was subject to "pillar-ization" (Challenge of "soullessness" -- beyond the "pillar-ization of Europe", 2004). The pillars detailed there are clustered as follows:

  • in EU Community parlance people often refer to the three pillars of the EU Treaty [more]. The European Union was created through the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 (EU Treaty). This Treaty has since come to symbolize the political roof resting on three pillars.
  • the EU is also described as consisting of four pillars:
  • the Maastricht Treaty was based on four pillars:
  • the EU's enlargement policy that has evolved since 1989 is built on four pillars:
  • the EU Social Policy and EQUAL (EU strategy promoting new practices in the fight against discrimination and inequality) operates within 8 themes directly linked to the four pillars of the European Employment Strategy (EES) (plus a ninth covers the specific needs of asylum seekers):
  • EU Common Fisheries Policy has four pillars
  • EU Common Agricultural Policy rests on four pillars:
  • the European Commission consultation on youth has had four pillars:
  • the European Court of Auditors (ECA) bases its analyses on four pillars
  • the four pillars of the European Security and Defence Identity (ESDI)
  • the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) which brought together four pillars under UN leadership:
  • the new partnership agreement between the European Union and the ACP countries (Cotonou, 2000) is based on five pillars:
  • the joint initiative of the Geneva Association (Four Pillars Research Programme), the Club of Rome (European Support Centre), and the Risk Institute (Double Helix Research Programme) is based on the concept of four pillars:
  • the six pillars of development policies (Statement on Development Policy in 2001)

Edward de Bono, famed for his advocacy of "lateral thinking", is in process of establishing a World Centre for New Thinking in Malta -- to be housed in a building tentatively represented in the same pillared classical style. His architectural preference is somewhat curious given the common association of "pillars" with "linear" -- and, by extension, with "linear thinking". Corridors of parallel pillars are also used to ensure progress in a particular direction -- as in the classical stoa. "Agoras" appropriate to future dialogue are also symbolized with the use of such imagery (see Institute for 21st Century Agoras).

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