What are we for? Towards a Social Ecology
In 1973, Towards a Social Ecology, Contextual Appreciation of the Future in the Present was published by Tavistock Institute scholars Emery and Trist. In chapter 13, where they explore the issues of interdependence and our Capacity for Joy, they say:
“Let me ask what the salient cultural patterns are today compared with thirty years ago, more especially those related to our core values, whether personal, organisational or political. The answer can only be that they are largely the same. Is it surprising therefore that we are witnessing a mounting crisis of alienation whose manifestations increase in variety and in intensity, whether expressed as withdrawal or protest?” [p.172]
Today, in 2021, some 40 years since they wrote the above, we need to ask ourselves as advocates, scholars and practitioners of the systems psychodynamic consultancy and research processes, and those running Group Relations learning; as we face the challenges of our day, “what are we for, and can we practice what we preach?”
The times are too precarious and the issues too complex for us to simply regurgitate and reproduce the old ways of doing things, namely, entering a system, observing its activities, analysing them and then writing a report to see what “they” do with our recommendations. It seems to me that in this age, this Type 4 Epoch, where we are now beyond hyper-turbulence, in Vortical environments. Our offering/gift is to reveal and share our parallel processes. We need to do be able to demonstrate that it is possible to live, in ourselves, what our philosophy points towards.
The political dynamics in our post-pandemic world could be thought of as us entering a new realm of Democratic Communism. How do the processes of authorisation and representation become enacted at local, regional, national and international levels? The key learning in a Group Relations Conference is designed to equip participants with the capacity to think about role, organisation and authorisation in new ways to liberate organisational capability.
As a collective call to action, we can ponder:
- to what extent are we a global community?
- how do we behave collaboratively whilst simultaneously exploring our competitive and rivalrous thoughts, feelings and actions?
As Emery and Trist say:
“They may be expected to be communal rather than individualistic regarding access to amenities, co-operative rather than competitive regarding the use of scarce resources; yet personal rather than conforming regarding lifestyles and goals.” [p.173]