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Paradigm shift: from a single pattern to alternation between a set of patterns


Unknown Undoing: challenge of incomprehensibility of systemic neglect (Part #7)


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Conventional practice seeks desparately for a single invariant pattern of categories through which strategic reality can be articulated. The models that are produced and promoted in support of strategic development exemplify this tendency. Given the fact that different constituencies have preferences for different models, which may be variously fashionable, there is a case for recognizing the need to engage through a plurality of stakeholders using a variety of models.

The desirable paradigm shift at this time may therefore involve a recognition of how distinct models are used and in what ways they can relate to each other. Etienne Klein (Conversations with the Sphinx: paradoxes in physics, 1996) helpfully highlights the challenge:

We have seen that the concept of paradigm is connected with that of consensus. It is the doxa of scientists, the highest common factor of their convictions. Aided by habit and success, every new theory gains in authority, becomes a doxa, and eventually becomes established as a very subdued version of the upheavals that installed it, even if it sometimes takes a while to circulate.... Doxa becomes orthodoxy. If it grows too rigid, it may degenerate into dogma, and the paradigm turns into a machine for manufacturing new prejudices. As it degenerates, it deadens critical vigilance and wears down reservations... It is only once prejudices have begun to flourish that new paradoxes can provoke a crisis of the paradigm....

Every prejudice is a potential paradox becauses paradoxes are defined by the prejudices they contradict, for instance during a confrontation with experience... paradoxes are former prejudices, prejudices former paradoxes. In this context, alternation is the name of the game. (p. 93-4)

The various patterns presented above, that may serve as alternative ways of interrelating strategic initiatives, therefore raise the question of how many such patterns exist and whether any understanding of "sustainable development" is dependent on the ability to shift appropriately between them. Is it indeed the case that every particular arrangement of strategies lends itself to interpretation otherwise -- and requires such interpretation to hold a more complex dynamic reality?

Minimally this then points to the vital importance of recognizing a four-phase approach to many terms that are conventionally only considered in a two-phase, binary manner in which one is framed as "good" in some way and the other as therefore "bad". Recognized as a quadrilemma according to Kinhide Mushakoji (Global Issues and Interparadigmatic Dialogue, 1988), the four phases may be represented as:

  • Condition A ("knowing", "doing", "feeling")
  • Condition Not-A ("unknowing", "undoing", "unfeeling")
  • Condition A-and-Not-A
  • Condition Neither-A-nor-Not-A

This would correspond to both the classical Vedic insight of Neti Neti (Not this, Not that) and to the first insight of the Tao Te Ching:

The Tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.

In the proposed new strategic emphasis on "soft power" by the Obama presidency, through the foreign policy initiatives of Hillary Clinton, the challenge is then to move beyond the binary logic of the Clinton and Bush presidencies -- perhaps best exemplified by: "If you are not with US, you are against US". In precluding other conditions, such a false dilemma (as with "guilty vs not-guilty"), even suggested that any "abstention" in a UN Security Council vote on controversial issues was as meaningless as that implied with respect to any failure to support the "war on terrorism". Soft power might then be exemplified by the art of working with the third and fourth conditions -- most notably in the Middle East.

Those conditions would seem to offer considerable opportunity for moving "out-of-the-box", beyond the agonizingly intractable strategic dilemmas framed by the first two conditions: employment/unemployment, health/illness, knowledge/ignorance, development/environment, resources/scarcity, tolerance/intolerance, etc. Ironically, navigating the subtle ambiguties of the latter conditions is most familiar, at every level of society, in the experiential dilemmas of affective relationships, especially of a romantic nature.

The patterns presented certainly evoke the possibility of interpreting them otherwise. For example, the four arrangements presented in Figure 3 give rise to other insights if the convention of reading the hexagrams from top to bottom is reversed. This is also true of circular arrangements where it is a convention (and a decision) as to whether they are read "top-out" or "top-in" (see Interrelationships between 64 Complementary Approaches to Policy-making, 2007).

Comprehending the nature of any such shift is facilitated by:

The approach taken here is consistent to some degree with contributions to the 1971 Conference on the Conceptual Basis of the Classification of Knowledge (Joseph Wojciechowski (Ed.), Conceptual basis of the classification of knowledge, 1974):

Is it the case that the paradoxes implicit in Rumsfeld's "poem" point to an aesthetic possibility for responding to the "incomprehensible" tragedies engendered by conventional strategic thinking? Etienne Klein (Conversations with the Sphinx: paradoxes in physics, 1996) uses aesthetic language to acknowledge the drama of cognitive tragedy with which some new engagement is urgently required:

The fate of paradoxes is a tragedy. In some ways it is analogous to the fate of theories. Paradoxes have the fiendish and matricidal power to kill, at least in part, the theory that gave them birth.... A new theory arises to settle a paradox, and then dies of the paradox it kindles. The paradoxes born of new experience die of a new theory.... From offspring, they become corpses. The paradoxical state is therefore a temporary one. Ephemeral beings, transient interludes, paradoxes last only as long as it takes to transcend them. But their brevity is their strength: it makes them the fuel of scientific progress. (p. 94)

In the desperate quest by governance for "harmonious" relations (as they are so frequently termed), there is therefore a case for taking seriously the cognitive organization of music, given its universal appeal. The case has been well-argued by Ernest G. McLain (The Myth of Invariance: the origins of the gods, mathematics and music from the Rg Veda to Plato, 1976), notably with respect to related preoccupations of Antonio de Nicolas (Meditations through the Rg Veda: four-dimensional man, 1978). The unique feature of an epistemological approach grounded in tone, and the shifting relationships between tones, has been expressed by de Nicolas in the following terms:

Therefore, from a linguistic and cultural perspective, we have to be aware that we are dealing with a language where tonal and arithmetical relations establish the epistemological invariances... Language grounded in music is grounded thereby on context dependency; any tone can have any possible relation to other tones, and the shift from one tone to another, which alone makes melody possible, is a shift in perspective which the singer himself embodies. Any perspective (tone) must be "sacrificed" for a new one to come into being; the song is a radical activity which requires innovation while maintaining continuity, and the "world" is the creation of the singer, who shares its dimensions with the song. (p. 57)


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