Anomie and order are two sides of the same coin. The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations helps understand that dynamic relationship.
While unrestrained violence against life and property must be condemned and everything that can be done to stop the mindless violence and destruction should be done, it behoves us to consider the links and similarities between the values of the rioters and the values of politicians, business leaders and leaders of public institutions.
Was this behaviour not foreseeable? The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations (TIHR) Authority & Leadership international group relations conferences (the Leicester conference) has demonstrated that people unconsciously imitate leadership’s behaviour and values, both explicit and implicit. Should we be surprised at the rapid escalation from phone hacking, police corruption in some quarters, political interference and denial of corporate responsibility by those at the top and impulsive immediate gratification behaviour of looters at the bottom??
The rioters may be perceived by the rest of society as standing outside it, but our work teaches us something different – that everyone is part of a single whole; that each part represents different, but complementary, parts of the totality. Each group, whether it represents the loathed and marginalised edges of society or the popular and fashionable centre, will become increasingly noisy and troublesome, the greater the rejection they experience from the rest.
In other words, splitting and denial processes offer us unthinking, simplistic explanations of phenomena as a means of generating warm feelings of togetherness of the in-group because others, the out-group, are perceived as containing the mess and dislocation. In this way, we can say with relief ‘thank goodness it is not me/us’. Our politicians and leaders could benefit from a TIHR exploration of the tension between consumerist values and ‘the politics of choice’ that are being offered as panaceas by some politicians. They would help to achieve improved social cohesion by championing values that extend beyond personal gratification (‘spend, spend, spend’) and that of one’s immediate group to those which benefit the well-being and satisfaction of the whole of society.
Mannie Sher ( firstname.lastname@example.org)
Director, Group Relations Programme and
Principal Researcher & Consultant
The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations