A Pocketful of -archies

A confluence of recent readings have reintroduced me to some -archies I was familiar with and introduced some that were new to me.

I’ll begin with holarchy, a term that I’ve recently encountered in [Integral Psychology]() by Ken Wilber. Wikipedia says the term originated with Arthur Koestler. I’ve read parts of his Act of Creation but don’t remember encountering the idea it that work.

Wilber deploys the term to describe the way complex systems nest inside of each other. For example the material world is built up of atoms, molecules, amino acids, cells, organs, organisms, etc. He uses a similar model across four developmental quadrants - intentional or individual psychological development, behavorial or the physical nervous system, social - or the human community, and cultural - or the group mythical/spiritual realm.

I think he makes a good case for a broad set of developmental constants across individual psychology by drawing from the contemporary work of Maslow, Kohlberg, and many others. The harder part is moving this framework over to the multiple agent sphere of social and cultural interaction. As I said before this area seems to be quite anemic compared to individual developmental studies.

Wilber is not without controversy, but his ideas were stimulating. I hope to explore some more of his work in the future.

Through an email I learned about an interview with Paul Hartzog at Meme Therapy. Hartzog is a proponent of panarchy and maintains panarchy.com.

Hartzog diagnoses the current cultural and political scene thusly: “a conceptual ”war“ is forming into two camps: sharers and proprietors.” On this issue I think he is correct. There is a conflict between sharing and hoarding. The authors of Afflicted Powers would probably characterize this as an outgrowth of ‘primitive acquisition’, a fundamental part of capitalism. Whether such a Marxian interpretation bears weight I’ll leave as a diversion for the reader.

There is a lot of material at the panarchy site that is worth exploring. I’ll highlight one item that resonates for me:

A second core principle is that of relational identity. In traditional atomistic/mechanistic ontologies, things are construed as having an independent existence apart from their relationships. Things have properties, and some of those properties may be relational. By contrast, the newer relational ontologies that pervade many disciplines from physics to biology, view relationships as part of what a thing is. In this light, a thing not only enters into relationships, but is in fact constituted by them. Relationships are fundamental to a thing’s identity, or self. For an example consider a person’s height vs. his identity as a father. His height is a property of his body, but his “fatherness” is not. “Father” is a linguistic way of describing an emergent property that is shared between two members of a communicative structure, i.e. a family.

I connect this with Martin Buber’s work I and Thou which emphasizes the dialogic nature of human relationships. Robert Grudin’s On Dialogue and James Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games are also dispositive.

Finally I’ll mention Jon Husbands work on wirearchy which he defines as:

The impact of hyperlinked, horizontal and vertical networks is beginning to be felt, creating new dynamics in organizations and emergent forms of organized endeavours.

A new organizing principle is emerging, called Wirearchy …

a dynamic two-way flow of power and authority based on information, knowledge, trust and credibility, enabled by interconnected people and technology.

This dynamic swirl of definitions and ideas is part of what makes the networked world of the internet so interesting. A lot of people sense that something different is happening in the world and are trying to define it.

All of this reminds me of my own experience in college. There was a semester or so of time when I thought I had diagnosed all of the major problems of the world. They all stemmed from misused or misshapen hierarchies. To put it moronically - the ‘man was keeping us all down.’ There’s a grain of truth in that statement, but I’m glad to see people pushing the boundaries even further. Good luck to all of them.