Politics > Get Oriented > Background

Background to this Politics Inquiry

This is the longer story as I recall it now (Easter 2009)—alternatively, see the short version.

ClosedPolitics and Working with Values

For about five years (1987-1992), I was joined by a former leader of a local council, David Wilshire, to create the Political Management Program (PMP) at Brunel, University of West London. We inquired together and analyzed many political topics, with an orientation to local government, national-local tensions, and provision of services. To the surprise of colleagues, our seminars on political work were popular with politicians. We also provided consulting services. Most of the PMP inquiries will not be covered in this portion of TOP, because the Frameworks were derived from levels of purpose. The PMP work assisted in the validation of parts of «Working with Values».

The PMP inquiry results included here were those that clarified natural communities and social territories. Politicians and governments find it difficult, if not impossible, to execute efficiently and effectively. So this work focused on how politicians and governments could properly respond to communal needs without getting over-entangled in direct provision of services.

By 1994, it seemed that I might never complete «Working with Values». Every step forward, every clarification, and every development seemed to lead to additional relevant discoveries. I just had to stop somewhere. So I put aside a draft of a Chapter on Participation in Society with notes about the main issues. Instead, I wrote a final Chapter, wrapping up the ten year effort; and moved the text to publication.

ClosedDiscovering the Spirals of Growth

In the late 1980s, I had discovered that the decision systems (PH'1) generated a Spiral that related to management culture. I investigated, developed and tested this idea in multi-year organizational change projects until in 1994 it was published as Strengthening the Management Culture (SMC).  This was well-received by readers of all sorts, and used in consultancy with good acceptance and implementation by clients.

From what I understood at that time, it was a near-certainty that a similar transformation would apply to the Ethical Choice Approaches (PH'6).

I had not then (1995) accepted the idea of unification of my frameworks into a comprehensive taxonomy. In the earliest days, I deliberately avoided just copying patterns or assuming patterns were similar from one topic to another. I had been misdirected by that sort of thinking a couple of times, and concluded that «first principles inquiry» was the only sensible policy. It was a hard choice because it meant that every new topic had to be worked out from existing knowledge and fundamentals. This meant careful scholarly delving into a range of relevant fields. Such work is immensely time-consuming and exhausting—especially when the field feels alien, and if a person has to make a living as well.

At some point in 1996-97, the successful observations of the SMC Spiral led me to cursorily formulate the remaining primary Spirals of Growth. I knew full well that such speculations were not worth much without the hard work of validation. This led me to put more effort into the Spiral for Ethical Choice Approaches. Trying to think it through from first principles led me view it as about the social cohesion and civic participation. However, the end result was only marginally satisfying, and I noticed that I was unwilling to show the framework to anyone. I also found it difficult to apply to societies or even conceive of its usefulness in practice. Something was not right. So I put the documents away and largely forgot about it.

Of course, such a fiasco couldn't be truly forgotten or dismissed—that would have invalidated the hypothesis emerging around this time that there was a unified taxonomy. Either the Spiral transformation did not apply (and I would have to explain that) or there was a correct Spiral transformation principle that I had not yet grasped. The ethical choices challenge would inevitably return sooner or later.  So, it remained at the back of my mind, niggling me to put enough time aside to complete the job.

There is nothing new in my inquiry for progress to grind to a halt or to get stuck in a quagmire of notes, diagrams and references. It happens regularly. One just needs to accept one's imperfections and inadequacies, be patient, and maintain alertness—then suddenly one day, if it is really important, the challenge solves itself seemingly with no effort.

ClosedPutting THEE into Software

Now fast-forward a decade. During that time, a lot happened. I had gained much more confidence that THEE was indeed a single comprehensive entity. Then in mid-2007, I was invited to speak at an International Conference and was pleasantly surprised at the participants' receptivity to THEE frameworks and the overall approach.

I had considered putting part or all of THEE into software on more than one occasion in the past. I now reviewed the situation and noted the widespread provision of reliable high speed broadband, the falling costs of computing and communications, and some change in consciousness within people that was probably associated with globalization and advances in communication technologies. So the possibility of a software version of THEE re-emerged as a practical opportunity.  With the help of Forrest Christian , I worked at this for about 15 months with the aim of engineering THEE software to power everyday inquiries about human problems and provide a range of valuable products and services.

The credit crunch and global financial collapse put an end to that strategy, but not before I had become fully committed to the THEE-Online Project (TOP). Part of the work to specify THEE in software required me to make diagrams of THEE itself.  This was both fascinating and difficult. Many times before I had half-attempted and then given up on such efforts due to the complexity. But, since the last attempt, I knew more about THEE and the coders needed diagrams. So I worked away at producing specifications.

One of those specifications had to show details of the Spiral transformation. I looked at all the possible Spiral transformations together, primitive and incorrect as most of the formulations were. No clear pattern of any sort emerged. Nor was each Spiral unique in its ordering of phases. There was some patterning, but that was not linked to other patterns, nor especially illuminating, nor elegant. It just looked wrong. But this time I could not walk away—the coders would be depending on me. 

ClosedA Chance Encounter with the MBTI

Studying it all carefully, I realized that there was only one Spiral transformation that had been well-validated and that had my full conviction: the one emerging from the Decision-making Approaches (PH1). I focused on that alone. I wondered and puzzled, puzzled and wondered: could that be the standard pattern for all Spirals?

Then I recalled a colleague from the Group Therapy field who had attended a talk on Strengthening the Management Culture that I gave in Sydney in the 1990's. He made contact with me some years later and told me he was using that framework in his seminars. I was pleased—others have done the same—but he worked with SMC and the MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator), and he wanted me to do that test. Completing a questionnaire about myself is not my favourite activity—and I am wary of psychometrics generally. Although the MBTI does not stand up scientifically, I let myself be persuaded to complete the forms and read the booklets. I looked at the results for myself (INTJ on that occasion), and discussed the ideas with him.

I came to the conclusion that the MBTI, though invalid, probably appeals because it taps into the Taxonomy. 

The MBTI labels fit the Management Culture Spiral quite well, even though the MBTI is person-based and general. It seemed likely that the MBTI pattern probably applies to all the Spirals, and the MBTI itself represents a crude synthesis. That might explain why the MBTI is liked by many and persists.

ClosedSpecifying the Spirals

Comparison of MBPI Names with THEE concepts in Quadrants of a TET

So in 2008, I returned to the drawing board and revised my software diagrams to show just one pattern of Principal Typology re-ordering and Spiral growth. That entailed changing the patterns in provisional Spirals so that all diagrams became the same (in formal terms) as that described for Strengthening the Management Culture (PH'1C). Whether or not I understood any of it was irrelevant.  The pattern was now fixed, and understanding had to be post-hoc.

On the right, you can see the standard Typology Essences 2x2 Table with the MBTI "generic names" added. This work led me to produce taxonomic generic names for the 4 quadrants, which are also shown.
ClosedMore on Generic Names.

The most important THEE concept in that whole diagram is «PRACTICALITY».   If THEE is of any value at all, it is because it is wholly practical. Everything in it ends up being about implementation or action—the one social requirement no conventional science has ever properly grappled with. Remember Kant:Closed He advised scientific researchers long ago that science had no business in the world of action, because action lies in the sphere of ethics.

Every Spiral has to start in the quadrant of PRACTICALITY. While other modes are touched just once, the single approach spreading elliptically in the PRACTICALITY quadrant is used three times. Each iteration reflects a greater capability for delivering the socially desired result.  After the first manifestation of PRACTICALITY, three sets of values in sequential quadrants are incorporated; and after the second manifestation of PRACTICALITY, three additional sets of values are incorporated in the same sequence.

Blank spiral of development developed from a THEE 2x2 Typology Essences Table.

That is a nice pattern. Even more elegantly, the second set of three shows a special quantum difference from the first set of three. That turned out to be a discovery of major import, but occurring long after I noticed it as just one of many intriguing phenomena. The final sophisticated manifestation of PRACTICALITY at the extreme lower right corner brings everything together.

The significance of this pattern flows from posing the following question when investigating any Spiral: What is the basic unavoidable, inevitable, pervasive and universal, practical manifestation of this psychosocial phenomenon? When investigating, it is usually rather easy to see the concrete beginnings of things—because every real-world example we look at will, by definition, either be at the beginning or will have been there. In addition, we can often see relevant psychosocial entities creating flurries, either by fighting to stay at the beginning or by striving to grow intelligently from the beginning.

It is usually much harder to work out the manifestations of later Stages in the Spiral that deal with growth or strengthening. The later Stages demand much effort of development or maturation in a social environment. So there will be relatively few examples out there of the complete Spiral. Problems of «exemplification» are also likely to disturb our perception of universal fundamentals—2014 Note: Closed This turned out to be true in regard to Politics.

ClosedA Writing Commitment Springs a Surprise

At this point (mid-2008), I had applied the new "standard" Spiral order to the Ethical Choice Approaches without further study or reference to my earlier drafts. A few months after, I found myself again in Thailand in the midst of the political turmoil that has characterized the country for decades. Politics was floundering in Thailand, and I was asked to write something about «democracy» to assist one of the groups. Over a few days, I put my general views down in writing.

Writing generates commitment due to public exposure, and Thailand's fascinating politics combined with its sharp difference from Western politics aided my reflections. Turbulence is a wonderful laboratory for any social inquirer because it requires the various protagonists to clarify their position in both words and actions. Writing that article led me to think harder about what politics was about.

I was also independently preoccupied, like many others, with the seeming stupidity manifested by governments and wondering how to model this. Governments may do stupid things—groups often do—but politicians are reasonably intelligent. They face almost intractable social challenges and numerous pressures. Most take good care to get re-elected, get many perks, and often have to work quite cleverly to get kickbacks and quasi-bribes without being fingered. Stupid or not, the behaviour of politicians and the choices made by governments had to be directly evident in any analysis that was to be valid and useful.

It then occurred to me that perhaps everything «political» might link to the Spiral transformation of the Ethical Choice Approaches. I retrieved the diagram from my files, and realized immediately what «practicality» meant in this situation. I had used the name «Pragmatist» (for PH6-L'3) and this works well for making ethical choices and fits the quadrant allocation. However, I saw that one of the alternate names naturally fitted politics: «Pluralist».  That also helped me correct an error in the earlier formulation where I had failed to recognize the significance of groups for all members of a society: groups orient themselves to get social goods for their members. With that adjustment to names, I quickly started to see how the many distinctive features of Politics could be modeled via the Spiral.

ClosedPolitics and the Challenge of TOP

So I commenced working on Politics for the website in late January 2009.

One of the clearest thinkers on politics was Aristotle. Man, said Aristotle, is intrinsically a political animal, and politics is an aspect of ethics. So, it is impossible, he asserted, for a truly ethical life to be lived without participation in politics. What better confirmation that I was on the right track could I want? To get going, all I needed to do was:

I had started work on Politics partly in reaction to my disappointment at the failure of my initial Internet strategy. But I realized that a website can link people in a network of reflection and discussion far more widely, more cheaply and more effectively than any other medium. So I posted the website in the second half of 2009 for everyone to enjoy, use, and improve.

I have now come back in 2014 to incorporate new awareness and improve the drafting where possible. The two introductory sections have had a major overhaul.

Originally posted: July 2009; Last updated: 23-Feb-2014

All posted material is part of a scientific project and should be regarded as provisional. Visitors are encouraged to think through the topics and propositions for themselves. Copyright © Warren Kinston 2009-2016.
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