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Global Strategies Project (Explanations)

Governance: The resolutique

Global Strategies Project


In 1991 the Council of the Club of Rome produced a report The First Global Revolution (edited by Alexander King and Bertrand Schneider). The report first summarizes the world problematique and then presents the need for a resolutique in response.

1. World problematique

Perceived as the trademark of the Club, the "world problematique" is defined as "the massive and untidy mix of intertwining and interrelated difficulties and problems that form the predicament in which humanity finds itself" (p. x). The Club has explored the problematique, since publication of Limits to Growth in 1972, although it appears to have avoided any detailed articulation of the full range of problems and relationships with which groups and individuals are confronted. Possibly it is assumed that this is done elsewhere, notably in global modelling exercises, although few studies take a systemic approach to more that 10 to 20 problems (in contrast to the kind of exercise in this Encyclopedia). Like other conventional strategic studies, reference is however made to an asystemically ordered range of problems as part of the standard linear text presentation. The calls for imaginative new approaches to improved comprehension suggest the need for new visual aids.

2. Resolutique

The report coins "world resolutique" in order "to connote a coherent, comprehensive and simultaneous attack to resolve as many as possible of the diverse elements of the problematique, or at least to point out tracks to solutions and more effective strategies. By resolutique, we do not suggest a grand attack on the totality of the problematique in all its diversity. This would be impossible. Our proposal is rather a simultaneous attack on its main elements with, in every case, careful consideration of reciprocal impact from each of the others" (p. x).

Concern with the nature of the resolutique is also a major emphasis of a subsequent report to the Club The Capacity to Govern (1995) by Yehezkel Dror (see Note 6.3). In relation to the concerns of this Encyclopedia, this clearly merits careful attention. It is also important in any evaluation of the Club's evolving understanding of its own task and role following a quarter of a century of well-funded, influential concern for the problematique.

3. Identifying the "main elements"

The report summarizes what are perceived as the main elements of the problematique and outlines the main elements of the resolutique in terms of "three immediacies". There are a number of aspects to this procedure which can be questioned as indicative of why this approach is inherently flawed. These issues are discussed below in order to highlight how they undermine the great value of the resolutique approach -- had it not been interpreted in the way it has. A somewhat different interpretation is very compatible with the emphases of this Encyclopedia, and this strategy volume.

4. Unitary limitation

The report indicates that "Our aim must be essentially normative: to visualize the sort of world we would like to live in, to evaluate the resources -- material, human and moral -- to make our vision realistic and sustainable and then to mobilize the human energy and political will to forge the new global society" (p. xxiii). It calls for "the creation of world solidarity" (p. xxv) and "reshaping world society" (p. xxvi) using "a coordinated world strategy" (p. 72).

As articulated, this is dangerously simplistic. Is it likely that fundamentalists of various persuasions will come together on any single vision of the world? Who can be expected to do the mobilizing -- or impose it? Following Bosnia, how exactly is this political will to be generated? Advancing the notion of "solidarity" is increasingly a signal of unlikelihood of achievement.

The report is flawed because it fails to draw on richer understandings of any form of integrative knowledge, of subtler ways in which a manifold vision might be articulated, of the forms that a higher order of solidarity might take, and of the nature of coordination in such a context. Having been trapped into themathematics of global modelling, the Club has never paid any attention to the forms of mathematics that might have assisted comprehension of complexity, and the graphics software that might have provided visual support to such understanding.

5. Top-down, elitist limitation

Recognizing the limitations of democracy (p. 110) and the limited understanding of the masses, the report, as with that of Yehezkel Dror, relies heavily on the strengths of various elites to understand and bring about the necessary transformation. Although, at the same time and to an unusual degree, it recognizes the increasing importance of people power and the vital role of civil society organizations in the processes of governance. "Governance is no longer the monopoly of governments and intergovernmental bodies and its effectiveness will depend on the capacity of leaders to selectively include in their decision making these new actors, which are in fact their partners in governance" (p. 189). Various types of nongovernmental organizations are cited.

As an elite group, it is too easy to accuse the Club of a certain lack of objectivity with regard to elitism. But, given the present plight of the planet, and despite the influential reports of the Club and of others, it has to be asked whether it is appropriate to rely on elites. Those defined as elites have been remarkable for their inability to articulate a world vision capable of attracting universal support, or to envisage the realistic processes whereby it might be achieved. There is no lack of laudable recommendations -- each lacking vital features to which others respond. Nor is there any lack of fundamentally opposed groups of elites. Most significant is the remarkable lack of desire to address the primitive nature of the dialogue amongst elites. This is best seen amongst spiritual leaders, but is equally evident amongst leading representatives of different academic disciplines, to say nothing of political leaders.

6. Wisdom limitation

The report is remarkable for its concern for wisdom. "Today's approach is superficial....We look in vain for wisdom" (p. 104). And: "In these difficult and complex times we begin to realize that the pursuit of wisdom is the essential challenge facing humanity" (p. 218). But the report is exceptionally weak in identifying where such wisdom is to come from, how it is to be recognized and communicated, and by whom.

A principal difficulty is that most of the collective wisdom of humanity is already "available" in written form. The challenge is how to identify its relevance to particular situations -- especially when the wisdom lies more in how knowledge is interpreted and applied than in the knowledge itself. It cannot just be "read" or "heard" to become meaningful and operative. Clearly many "look in vain for wisdom". But what prevents them from recognizing it collectively? Wisdom is continuously generated. Why is there no concern for "insight capture" systems? Is it to be assumed that elites, despite their many failures, have a monopoly on wisdom?

7. Universal values limitation

The ethical manifestation of the unitary limitation is evident from: "only through the acceptance of an overriding common ethics of the survival of the race and the living planet can divergent interests be harmonized" (p. 125). "The world resolutique includes the need for adopting an ethical approach founded on collective values..." (p. 136). Like other reports, it advocates certain "permanent values" (p. 241). Again: "a global society can hardly be imagined without a base made of common or compatible values" (p. 240). This requires an "ethical mobilization worldwide" (p. 179).

The total dependence of the report's approach on acceptance of a particular set of universal values can only be seen as condemning it to failure -- in the light of the appalling track record on this front. As argued elsewhere (See Section VZ, Volume 2), a much richer approach to values is called for. Putting forward a tired set of value categories, including "human rights", when the extent of abuse (and failure to act significantly on it) is evident worldwide (Rwanda, Bosnia, Sudan, etc), should signal that an alternativeapproach is required (if only as a back up). Failure to do so makes such proposals an exercise in armchair strategy-making.

The challenge lies not in abandoning the possibility of a set of "values" that could be called "universal", but rather of recognizing the disastrous implications of relying on a simplistic checklist of values as formulated in so many meetings and declarations, and so easily forgotten. The current discussion of "universal" and "values" is of the crudest nature, taking little account of many advances in understanding of cognition, the challenges of integrative understanding and multi-cultural realities, or of the involvement of the observer in the creation of social reality. John Major's "Back to Basics" campaign in the UK is indicative of the fundamentally flawed nature of such a simplistic approach. It is pathetic to expect that "pertinent ethical values may be defined and hopefully agreed upon" (p. 240) in a complex society.

The report does indeed acknowledge that "different value systems do in fact co-exist even though their co-existence is sometimes coloured by opposition and mistrust" (p. 244) and that there is the possibility of the "harmonious co-existence of very different values" (p. 243). But the easy use of "harmonious" and "co-existence" immediately flaws the report because it discounts the necessity for major breakthroughs in how these terms can be more fruitfully understood and operationalized -- especially when confronted by fundamentalism (a challenge the report acknowledges but fails to explore) and other intractable differences. Following Bosnia conceptual naivety, tokenism and good intentions are no longer enough. Radical approaches are required to managing differences without requiring agreement.

The report stresses once again the theme of a "learning society". In such a context, there will be many ways in which "universal" is understood and many different priorities attached to "values". It is through the dynamic integration of these challenges to comprehension that a reliable base for global society needs to be found -- but this universality is of a higher order capable of handling a multi-dimensional range of values. This is the context for "a value system which would provide a basis of stability to the life of individuals and of society and which would give... the vision of a systematic world capable of leading to a systematic future" (p. 240). Failure to distinguish such a higher order universal framework from the simplistic conventional universal frameworks is a direct cause of the conflict between religious and other values systems which also fail to make this distinction.

8. Spiritual insight limitation

In total contrast to many such reports, emphasis is placed on spiritual and non-intellectual dimensions. It argues "that which is cerebral and intellectual...cannot approach so mysterious a truth as reality unless it equally resorts to the apparently irrational, the intuitive and the emotional, which are...the foundation of human relationships" (p. 216). And: "The global society...cannot emerge unless it drinks from the source of moral and spiritual values which stake out its dynamics...There is in human beings...a quest for a beyond that seems ungraspable and is often unnamed" (p. 237).

But the report completely fails to point to the pitfalls in pursuing these questions. Such laudable insights then readily fall prey to reductionism and tokenism, and a total inability to recognize any operational challenge. Means are offered for "grasping" the ungraspable with the clumsiest of conceptual tools. Despite the fact that "a true transformation of mind-sets and behaviour is imperative" (p. 180), the challenge is trivialized through a certain intellectual arrogance. Although it is recognized that "minds are not in the least prepared for this multifaceted revolution" (p. 180), the implication is that it is the inadequately educated public that is the obstacle -- when often it is elites that exhibit significant inability to grasp subtleties appropriately. Why do spiritual leaders continue to reinforce conflicts such as that in Bosnia or around Jerusalem?

9. "Pushing the river"

The above limitations appear to stem from an approach that implies an ability on the part of some group, whether elites or significantly advised by elites, to envisage what needs to be done and to mobilize resources to that end. As described, the resolutique only aims to focus on key or critical issues as determined by analyticalmethods selected by elites -- ignoring concerns that may be vital to politically-significant others.

This approach easily loses sight of the multitude of strategies already activated and the many initiatives in process of implementation. These focus on issues recognized as critical by some, although possibly considered as sub-critical by others. The powerful concept of resolutique is thus limited to an exercise in "starting from scratch" what might otherwise be usefully understood as massively underway and with its own tremendous momentum. By so doing it defines the task as one of "pushing the river", rather than the subtler one of "guiding the canoe".

10. "Guiding the canoe"

The strategies documented in this volume correspond to a much broader understanding of the resolutique, respecting what is already underway or envisaged by a multitude of actors. This does not deny the importance of endeavouring to identify critical strategies. But it avoids the presumption that any particular groups can readily identify them appropriately. Through the tentative move here towards the identification of problem loops (Section SV), and the implication that strategic equivalents might be found (Note 5.3), it is suggested that critical issues and strategies are emergent phenomena that require new processes of detection. These processes are more context sensitive than those allowing asystemic generation by the world community of key strategies.

In this sense the strategic challenge becomes one of how to facilitate serendipitous interactions between strategies envisaged by a wide range of actors -- especially where agreement is not a simplistic pre-requisite. The challenge becomes one of encouraging more fruitful patterns of interrelationship between micro-strategies, evoking self-sustaining interlocking strategic cycles, rather than effectively micro-managing the implementation of temporarily fashionable mega-strategies. Functionally, some strategic cycles may well emerge as "great circles" englobing the world resolutique. This could then be seen as justifying simpler understandings of such a dynamic context. But the difference is significant.

11. Imaginatique

Efforts to provide a unifying framework have long been seen as increasingly suspect and as vehicles for hidden and suspect agendas. The report itself recognizes the need for innovation in language and approach. Many reports call for imagination, and new thinking. There is, therefore, a case for an "imaginatique" to match the resolutique. Such an imaginatique would be the totality of potential patterns on which the imagination can draw to order conceptual and organizational initiatives. Clearly simplistic orderings of integrative concepts, values and strategic initiatives are no longer adequate. They are often inherently boring. There is a need to integrate into such an imaginatique the audio-visual patterns which resonate most effectively with the world of many. The multi-media computer innovations, currently evoking widespread enthusiasm, need to be harnessed to that end, creating a richer representational bridge between the conceptual and the strategic -- and the possibility of a new global "identique".

12. Irresolutique

The "shadow" of the resolutique is the irresolutique. Bosnia is but the most dramatic definition of its nature. Whilst the resolutique may indeed be a "global approach at every level of societies within a global perspective to interactive solutions destined to solve problems" (p. 132), as a new enabling methodology, it also carries the challenge of resolve, resolution and political will -- and irresolution as the basic lack thereof.

The subtle possibilities of transforming the irresolutique into the resolutique need to be more effectively understood. Properly framed this may be more a matter of "guiding the canoe" than "pushing the river" -- an exercise in strategic aikido. It is more powerful imagery which could prove the best catalyst for such reframing, both amongst elites and amongst the wider public, and as a vehicle for the transfer of insights between them. The information tools generated by industrial society need to be adapted to capture insight, and to carry and present the wisdom of all ages, in a manner directly relevant to the strategy empowering exercise required at all levels of society.

From Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential

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