Intent: Comprehension of Sustainable Integration
This Encyclopedia may be used like any other reference book. Using any of
the indexes, entries on particular topics may be located and consulted. This
may be sufficient for many. The organization of the book, with its many cross-references
between entries, also permits users to explore "around" any particular entry
or "from" it as a point of entry into a network of associated entries.
The deliberate lack of organization on any one page may also lead users
to stumble onto entries totally unrelated to that they first consulted on
that page. This can be a very fruitful and creative boundary-stretching exercise.
Some users see this as the most useful feature of the book.
Such uses, whilst necessary for many purposes, are far from being sufficient
in the face of the larger challenge of how to obtain some form of meaningful
overview of such disparate kinds of information. Much has been written about
the problems of information overload and information underuse, as well as
on the problems of lack of information.
A first response with this material has been to group entries by subject,
together with corresponding international organizations, in the companion
volume Global Action Networks (Vol. 3 of the Yearbook
of International Organizations). At one level this provides an equivalent
to the "yellow page" telephone directory and may be used to locate organizations
dealing with problems in a particular subject area. At another level the
organization of the subjects is an ongoing experiment in the interrelationship
of subject domains. This interweaving of subjects is designed to stress systemic
It is clear however that even more radical approaches are required to cultivate
new levels of insight into complex patterns of information on "world problems", "human
development", and "human values". This possibility is explored in three other
parts of this Encyclopedia, of which one of them is implicit:
- Integrative concepts (Section K)
- Metaphors and patterns(Section M)
- Computer graphics (see Section
Some of the implications of these approaches for an integrative understanding
of the complexes of world problems, human development and human values are
1. Integrative concepts
(a) Calls for integrative approaches: The past decades
have stressed the importance of interdependence between problem areas and
the disciplines capable of responding to them. There have been many calls
for "integrative" programmes capable of handling the complexity of emerging
networks of issues. "Interdisciplinarity" has been in vogue, especially
through the work of systems specialists.
(b) Weakness of interdisciplinarity: But despite acknowledgement
of the importance of this dimension, the integrative methodologies have tended
to be weak or simplistic and cannot be said to have resulted in breakthroughs
adequate to the challenge of the times. In fact such terms tend increasingly
to be used as buzz words indicative of appropriate intentions but lacking
significant content in practice.
(c) Integration through praxis: Currently the most integrative
methodology is perhaps that which assembles a group of specialists to focus
on a concrete problem. It is only the concrete case which ensures the integrative
dimension. There is little methodology in the way that the disciplines are
brought into play or in the way that their representatives interact. It has
been remarked that interdisciplinary meetings tend to be integrative only
in the binding of the book which holds the individual contributions together
-- relegating the challenge of synthesis to the reader.
(d) Need for integrative overviews: The kinds of information
in this Encyclopedia call strongly for an integrative overview, especially
one which facilitates comprehension. It is for this reason that one section
(section KC) reviews the range of integrative concepts as a reminder of the
approaches that have been considered and despite the limitations that each
may have from some other perspective.
(e) Failure in response to competing perspectives: A major
concern with existing integrative approaches is their essential failure in
handling competing perspectives. Advocates of any one such approach are ill-equipped
to respond proactively to another. It is as though each was an effort at
some form of conceptual empire-building, with associated dynamics reminiscent
of the geopolitical equivalent and its marginalization of certain underdeveloped
(f) Challenge of incommensurability: An accompanying section
(Section KD, 1991) therefore focuses on the challenge of forming comprehensible
patterns of sets of essentially incommensurable insights. The authors reviewed
in that section have in one way or another responded to the challenge of
conceptual discontinuity and disagreement. They suggest lines of exploration
which may help to move beyond the sterility of many current initiatives perceived
2. Computer graphics
(a) Mapping networks: The kinds of complexity represented
by the interrelated entries in this Encyclopedia strongly suggest the value
of sophisticated use of computer graphics. There are many ways in which the
networks of entries could be graphically represented on a computer screen
or on paper. This would offer users a new way of approaching such complexity,
explicitly highlighting patterns of connectedness.
(b) Beyond conceptual "tunnel vision": There is a desperate
need to move beyond the conventional bias towards describing complexity using
text or in tables of statistics. This reinforces what amounts to conceptual "tunnel
vision" and fails to suggest new patterns which give clues to new ways
of approaching the data.
(c) Non-linear sense of context: This opportunity is discussed
in greater detail in Section Z. But the sense can perhaps best be given by
pointing to the role of the subway map as a visual guide to a complex transportation
network. Such a map permits users to orient themselves in terms of where
they are, where they want to get to, whilst allowing them to consider various
options for getting there. It provides a non-linear sense of context and
raises questions about other locations on the map and the ways of getting
(d) Towards an atlas of relationships: Equivalent maps
could be produced for the network of problems, possibly bound in an "atlas" (or
made available on computer via CD-ROM or via videodisc). They could also
be related to other maps of the networks of international organizations.
Such tools offer a new response to data that is already overwhelming in quantity.
(a) Inadequate dissemination of integrative insights: Whilst
the two previous opportunities are indeed fruitful lines of exploration,
the urgency with which new insights are required suggests such efforts are
of marginal value. Both are relatively specialized tools. It is not clear
that they would be used creatively. Nor is it clear that any emerging insights
could be effectively communicated to the non-specialists who would have to
approve initiatives based upon them. The communication processes of the international
community are not adequate to the task of disseminating integrative insight
such as to prevent erosion of the richness that is a guarantee of its appropriateness.
(b) Metaphor as a widely accessible resource: Metaphor
is widely used at all levels of society to communicate complex insights.
It is used as much by the slum dweller endeavouring to empower himself in
response to an essentially alienating environment as it is by the politician
in communicating new programme proposals to the electorate. It is also used
by hard-nosed managers in articulating business strategies and by nuclear
physicists in endeavouring to comprehend mathematical abstractions. Metaphor
is an important device in the creative process. It is fundamental to certain
(c) Articulation of complex policy options: The use of
metaphor as one of the major unexplored conceptual resources in responding
to the challenge of the times is considered in Section MZ. The argument there
is that metaphor provides a way of articulating complex policy options which
could not otherwise be rendered credible. As such it provides the opportunity
for exploring the kinds of policies which could be of sufficient complexity
to respond to the dilemmas of the times -- several steps beyond the "nuclear
Many of the metaphors in Section MZ specifically address the difficulty
of interrelating essentially incompatible perspectives and of providing some
understanding of the dynamics between them and how they can be appropriately
(d) Communicability of metaphor: One of the principal merits
of metaphors is that like humour and rumour they are readily understood,
memorable and they travel well -- with relatively little loss of the richness
which ensures their appropriateness. They call for relatively little investment
and do not require expensive delivery systems. They do not threaten existing
structures. They complement conventional educational techniques and media
presentations. They are also extensively used in the political arena. The
challenge is therefore more one of providing better metaphors and creating
greater awareness of how to use them and of how to avoid becoming trapped
by bad metaphors.
(e) Simplistic approaches to "sustainable development": The
poverty of insight guiding current thinking may be illustrated by the concept
of "sustainable development". The current credibility of that option is
perhaps best illustrated by the metaphor of "having one's cake and eating
it too". This illustrates the dilemma. But the strategic complexity through
which the dilemma might be resolved is not captured by that metaphor, or
by any other.
The metaphor of "stewardship" indicates an appropriate attitude but does
not get to grips with the how -- and relies on imagery evoking benevolent
paternalism (at its best). By contrast, a rich metaphor indicated in the
text is that of "crop rotation", implying a cycle of distinct and complementary
policies to ensure the sustainability of any long-term initiative. This honours
the reality of opposing policies and indicates how they may function creatively
in relation to one another.
(f) Metaphor as a traditional vehicle for insight: Exploration
of metaphor as a response to current dilemmas is not as far-fetched as it
may seem. In many traditions insight is carried from generation to generation
through metaphor, often expressed in mythology. In crisis, cultures have
drawn on such metaphor in articulating an appropriate response. Many of the
insights concerning more profound states of awareness are expressed in metaphor,
as are the spiritual journeys through which they are encountered.
The concern at this time is to understand what richer metaphors might be
more appropriate, to clarify ways of designing and using metaphor in the
policy process, and to empower people to use their own metaphors to redesign
their own psycho-social environments in the light of their own insights.