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Liberating Provocations

Use of negative and paradoxical strategies (Part #1)

Promoting "negative" strategies?
Why then engage in such an initiative?
How would this provocative mode work?
Playing games?
But is it already done?
Provocative dramatisation and médiatisation?
Reservations -- when to avoid paradox?
Conclusion -- Doing the Unthinkable?
Le Chatelier's Principle as Applied to Social Systems

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Prepared with Nadia McLaren. See also a French translation by Jeanne Gruson

Considerable energy is invested in exhorting constructive, positive behaviour in response to social and other problems. This approach has been used for many past decades. It is the basis for many institutional strategies, whether at the level of the United Nations, governments, or local communities. It is fair to say that these strategies have been relatively modest in their success -- in comparison with the challenges. This is as true with respect to health, violence, environment as is it is with respect to discrimination and other issues. Critics point to characteristically tired language and outworn formulae.

Without denying the merit of these positive strategies, there is at least a case for reflecting on another strategic approach -- especially in the light of the current disruption of the international framework of law and order and the increasing recognition that the forces undermining positive achievement are more powerful and widespread than was previously assumed. There are increasing appeals for more imaginative approaches and what follows is a modest contribution to this end.

Promoting "negative" strategies?

Let us suppose that instead of appealing for "positive" solutions in every domain, energy was devoted to encouraging people to engage deliberately and consciously in counter-productive, "negative" responses. Instead of exhorting people to conserve electricity or water, why not encourage them to waste it deliberately? Instead of investing in campaigns to inform people of the dangerous consequences of recreational drugs, why not deliberately encourage them to partake? And so on for: environmental damage, corporate fraud, pornography, domestic violence, discrimination, etc?

At first sight, this approach appears to be totally scandalous and irresponsible. It is. That is its purpose -- to "appear" to be irresponsible and scandalous.

le. It is. That is its purpose -- to "appear" to be irresponsible and scandalous.

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