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What to call the use of relational models in politics?  Relational Politics?  Systems politics?  I don't like the sound of either.  Maybe you can help.  What I do want to do is to try to create a way of looking at the political aspects of our life that does not dissect politics out in a Cartesian reductionist manner but emphasis the way political activity relates to other aspects of the system and demonstrates that it can not be isolated from them without losing essential information.  I have sown seeds for this way of thinking in this series and began this phase of the discussion in the last diary Readings Ramblings: Let's talk politics which also serves as the first of a set of links that can be followed back to the beginning.  I am going to also introduce you again to my latest published work which serves as a summary of how we are going to proceed.  Read on below to get started.

In this paper I sketched out where I think we need to go and I also did one more thing.  I gave you my answer to a question that has bothered me for a long time.  Namely:  "Why has Robert Rosen's new paradigm been so carefully ignored by the world and, in particular, by the scientific community.  I assert that this question and its  answer are important from a political point of view along with others.  Here's the link to the paper and also its abstract:Even More than Life Itself: Beyond Complexity

This essay is an attempt to construct an artificial dialog loosely modeled after that sought by Robert Maynard Hutchins who was a significant influence on many of us including and especially Robert Rosen. The dialog is needed to counter the deep and devastating effects of Cartesian reductionism on today’s world. The success of such a dialog is made more probable thanks to the recent book by A. Louie. This book makes a rigorous basis for a new paradigm, the one pioneered by the late Robert Rosen. If we are to make such a paradigm shift happen, it has to be in the spirit of the dialog. The relationship between science, economics, technology and politics has to be openly recognized and dealt with. The message that Rosen sent to us has to be told outside small select circles of devotees. The situation has even been described by some as resembling a cult. This is no way for universal truths like these to be seen. The essay examines why this present situation has happened and identifies the systemic nature of the problem in terms of Rosen’s concepts about systems. The dialog involves works by George Lakoff, W. Brian Arthur, N. Katherine Hayles, Robert Reich and Dorion Sagan. These scholars each have their own approach to identifying the nature of the interacting systems that involve human activity and the importance of identifying levels of abstraction in analyzing systems. Pooling their insights into different facets of a complex system is very useful in constructing a model of the self referential system that humans and their technology have shaped. The role of the human component in the whole earth system is the goal of the analysis. The impact of the Cartesian reductionist paradigm on science and the related aspects of human activity are examined to establish an explanation for the isolation of Rosen’s paradigm. The possible way to proceed is examined in the conclusion.
 Let us review the ideas in the abstract with more care.  I hope you will read the entire essay.  For our purposes here, you can see that I put together a "panel" of Modern experts to try to begin to put each of their ideas, along with the Rosen question, into a common context.

George Lakoff is already familiar to many here.  He is the author of many books and teaches us about the cognitive workings of the political mind and why the idea that framing issues, avoiding the oppositions frames (Don't think of an elephant), and causal reasoning explain the things we seem to be unable to understand about why so many of the 99% vote as the 1% want them to.  He also has a lot to contribute to answering the  Rosen question.  Katheryn Hales ideas about how we became "posthuman" contribute valuable insights into the way technology changes us.  Brian Arthur, besides being a source in economic thinking, has written a marvelous book on technology and helps us see the way technology s something that has come from human activity to turn things around and actually drive human activity.  The latter idea has close ties with the way our economic system works.    Economics is intimately entwined with the rest of this and I call upon Robert Reich for the systems idea that the particular agents at work at any given time are nearly irrelevant to understanding how the system works as a composite of all these complex functional components.  So the stage is set now and we can go forward into uncharted territory.  Stay tuned.

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 09:01 PM PDT.

Also republished by Anti-Capitalist Chat, Postcapitalism, and Systems Thinking.


A systems approach to politics

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (8+ / 0-)

    An idea is not responsible for who happens to be carrying it at the moment. It stands or falls on its own merits.

    by don mikulecky on Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 09:01:04 PM PDT

  •  Geez, don (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    palantir, matching mole, linkage

    This is probably brilliant.  It is also almost 2:30 a.m. and I worked a 10-hour shift (until just after midnight) and there is NO WAY I can focus on your larger issues, but:

    What is wrong with the Cartesian approach of thesis, antithesis, synthesis?

    Of course, in a time when the opposition party is made up entirely of thieves, scoundrels and fools -- and authoritarians -- I suppose that model does rather break down into destructive elements (cough, Rove, Darth, Rush, cough).

    I call him Rick Scumtorum because he IS scum: pond scum, with the brain of an alga.

    by Youffraita on Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 11:34:46 PM PDT

    •  This is the Fichtean dialectic: (0+ / 0-)

      It goes back to the Greek philosophers and has nothing to do with Descartes.Wiki Dialectic

      The problem with the Fichtean "Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis" model is that it implies that contradictions or negations come from outside of things. Hegel's point is that they are inherent in and internal to things. This conception of dialectics derives ultimately from Heraclitus.

      An idea is not responsible for who happens to be carrying it at the moment. It stands or falls on its own merits.

      by don mikulecky on Sun Mar 25, 2012 at 09:47:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  my issue with the model (0+ / 0-)

        is resonance, which can produce a very violent synthesis--a scalar leap far surpassing what I expect are modest expectations for the process.

        and I wait for them to interrupt my drinking from this broken cup

        by le sequoit on Sun Mar 25, 2012 at 06:12:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  How to engage systems with change in mind (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    matching mole, don mikulecky

    One of the difficult things when coming to realize that complex systems relations and dynamics are a moving, living force within which you are personally incorporated is that it takes away the previous basis of your thinking about your ability to change the world around you.

    linear causal thinking as a basis of personal agency is what all of us grew up with. If you can find the cause of X, the thing to be changed, and change it you can change X. When you realize that X is an emergent phenomena of a system and that changing what you thought was the cause of X really is not going to work then what do you do? The process of realizing linear causality is a crock is not just an intellectual process but a deeply personal process because we have been culturally conditioned to apply this causal model to our view of reality which necessarily includes ourselves. A causes B, A is unaffected by B. Get to A and you will be able to control B.

    Donella Meadows Dancing with Systems is a nice article that points out some of the changes in orientation that come along with living from a point of view that is not any longer dominated by the reductionist linear causal way of thinking. I have gotten into it to the point where it has become liberating as opposed to dis-empowering. One of the implications for me was that I can stop looking for a starting point for anything, there is no such thing. This change in perspective helped me realize that I am a full participant in the living world, not an effect of a cause looking to find the source of the things I want to change so I can gain control. I tried to get the feeling of it down in a poem.

    There is no starting point
    Now I can dance
    The ceaseless dance
    The spinning and choosing
    The moving and being moved
    There is no starting point
    Now I can dance

    Love = Awareness of mutually beneficial exchange across semi-permeable boundaries. Political and economic systems either amplify or inhibit Love.

    by Bob Guyer on Sun Mar 25, 2012 at 12:23:52 AM PDT

  •  This isn't a comment on this diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    don mikulecky

    so much as on  the entire series.  I am interested in learning more about this topic but I find them frustrating.  I don't think this is anything unique to you because it seems a common response among my colleagues.  The frustration is that it seems incredibly vague.  After reading your diaries I'm not at all clear about what an empirical systems biologist (I'm a biologist so that's what it is easiest for me to think about) would do that is different from what a 'regular' biologist would do.

    e.g.  What sort of hypotheses would they ask?  What kind of data would they gather?  How would they analyze it?

    Most of my colleagues would say that they study systems - they look at interactions between things (organisms in a community, individuals in populations, genes in a developmental pathway, etc) including indirect interactions, redundancy etc.  They would also say that detailed knowledge of the components of these systems is necessary to understanding the interactions.

    I'm hoping this doesn't come across as hostile.  I would love it if in a future diary you could go through an example and compare the two approaches providing more detail on what would actually been done in each case.

    "We are normal and we want our freedom" - Bonzos

    by matching mole on Sun Mar 25, 2012 at 06:49:55 AM PDT

    •  You must have forgotten the first parts (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      matching mole

      Quote from Hutchins in the first one:

      Science is not the collection of facts or the accumulation of data.  A discipline does not become scientific merely because its professors have acquired a great deal of information.  Facts do not arrange themselves.  Facts do not solve problems.  I do not wish to be misunderstood.  We must get the facts.  We must get them all... But at the same time we must raise the question whether facts alone will settle our difficulties for us.  And we must raise the question whether...the accumulation and distribution of of facts is likely to lead us through the mazes of a world whose complications have produced the facts we have discovered.
      and from the second
      A social scientist is a person who counts telephone poles.
      I'm hoping that this does not come across as hostile, but Biology is not what you think it is, nor are "systems" what you think they are.

      My doctorate was in Physiology at Chicago.  One of the best departments ever.  Then they did away with it!  Now they have replaced the very same thing with "systems biology"  Old wine in new bottles.

      An idea is not responsible for who happens to be carrying it at the moment. It stands or falls on its own merits.

      by don mikulecky on Sun Mar 25, 2012 at 09:59:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I did read that (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        don mikulecky

        I was assuming that to be a rejection of over use of quantification of details not a rejection of gathering information in any form.

        I'm not asking for a collection of facts.  I'm just asking for an example of how you do systems biology as empirical science. Science, other than theory, involves making observations.  I'm assuming that systems biology is not purely theoretical and involves some sort of analysis (I'm using this word in its most general possible sense) of information gathered from nature.

        Say you want to do a systems biology study of an ecosystem.  What does the biologist doing that do?

        "We are normal and we want our freedom" - Bonzos

        by matching mole on Sun Mar 25, 2012 at 10:20:33 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Do you know these works? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          linkage, matching mole

          Robert Ulanowicz

          Robert Edward Ulanowicz is an American theoretical ecologist and philosopher who is best known for his search for a unified theory of ecology
          James J. Kay
          in Physics from McGill University and a Ph.D in Systems Design Engineering from the University of Waterloo. His Ph.D. thesis was entitled Self-Organization in Living Systems.[1][2] Much of his work relates to integrating thermodynamics into an understanding of self-organization in biological systems.[3] For example, when water in a pot is heated, it will spontaneously form convection currents such as Bénard_cell. This is an example where as the amount of energy available to a system increases, the system self-organizes in order to dissipate energy more efficiently. Kay has examined how similar types of self-organization can occur within living systems at the level of individual organisms and ecosystems. In other words, organisms and ecosystems evolve to use the maximum amount of energy available to them. This has been backed up by studies showing that more mature ecosystems such as old growth forests are cooler (i.e. dissipate more incoming energy) than clear cuts or bare rock that receive the same amount of energy.[4][5]
          Kay was an Associate Professor of Environment and Resource Studies at the University of Waterloo, with cross-appointments in Systems Design Engineering, Geography, Management Sciences, and the School of Planning. He was also cross-posted to the School of Rural Planning and Development at the University of Guelph.[
           Both Bob and James stidied Rosen and the ideas I am reviewing here.  Their work is very indicative of  some of the places this all leads.

          An idea is not responsible for who happens to be carrying it at the moment. It stands or falls on its own merits.

          by don mikulecky on Sun Mar 25, 2012 at 11:08:00 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Transactional Politics .... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    don mikulecky

    Relational Politics is accurate, but not at all suggestive.

    How about "Transactional Politics." It directly activates the "frame" of a transaction.  Suggestive of a process involving two subjects where there is a transaction between them.  

    I often note the the current lack of transactions between the Republicans and Democrats to those I'm talking to about politics.

    Also, it suggests a connection to the Transactional Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics.

    Who is running the systems thinking group?


    "Upward, not Northward" - Flatland, by EA Abbott

    by linkage on Sun Mar 25, 2012 at 02:18:50 PM PDT

    •  In the universe of discourse I think (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      "relational" may be much broader.  Transactional analysis has a well established meaning and it is not this.  In fact the "transactions" in today's politics miss this point entirely.

      An idea is not responsible for who happens to be carrying it at the moment. It stands or falls on its own merits.

      by don mikulecky on Sun Mar 25, 2012 at 04:47:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Relational and transactional differ in essential (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ways.  The link you sent is totally a throw back to reductionism.  I'm sorry but the essence of relational and that of transactional are too contradictory.

      An idea is not responsible for who happens to be carrying it at the moment. It stands or falls on its own merits.

      by don mikulecky on Sun Mar 25, 2012 at 04:50:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  do intellectuals actually say things like (0+ / 0-)

    "This is no way for universal truths like these to be seen..."?

    Seeing that historically we're only a step down the learning trail beyond the system of vapors, that's pretty comical stuff.

    and I wait for them to interrupt my drinking from this broken cup

    by le sequoit on Sun Mar 25, 2012 at 05:50:24 PM PDT

    •  intellectuals can say almost anything (0+ / 0-)

      at least that was true of the one I met

      An idea is not responsible for who happens to be carrying it at the moment. It stands or falls on its own merits.

      by don mikulecky on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 08:21:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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