Sketching the world in systems
That title denotes something that I always do. Wherever I go, for instance the VSM thought framework is like an tool on a heads-up display for me -- always available as a device to peer through at each new interesting social organization that I stumble upon.
Today, there are more systemic, organizational issues than ever. I don't think this is only a function that I have more time to observe and reflect, but things are more complicated, if not more complex, at every level of human organization, from individuals and their relationships all the way to institutions that play a global or planetary role.
It’s a bit head-in-the-sand to think we don’t have a global system. We’re just arguing about what that system is like, using VSM terms. From a VSM point of view there seem to be more and more linkages among System 1 players. S1s at a global level include nation states, of course. But, there are more and more transnational players, doing the business of the humanosphere. IBM, Al Qaeda, the U.N., Oxfam, etc., etc. There are also strong message amplifiers and attenuators at national and global levels. Think BBC. Think al Jazeera. Think Fox. For sure think CNBC. C-Span. Huff Post. Etc.
It seems that at that level there is a weak or nonexistent System 3. There is no agency that I can think of that can actually direct the efforts of S1s all over the world. What are we talking about here, a Security Council resolution?
As a Russian colleague remarked to me once, “Business is the American religion.” I am thinking that it is more and more true to say that business is the world religion.
The George Soros lectures come at a timely juncture. He points out that the regulatory regime of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, etc., is obsolete according to Soros. The current regime is based on the Washington Consensus, which replaced the previous regime based on the Bretton Woods agreement.
This is hellishly complex. For instance, Soros points out that the euro is an incomplete currency, due to lack of a treasury function. He talks about national capitalism as a growing phenomenon, which is juxtaposed against (competitively) international corporations.
The balance of power is clearly shifting from a world dominated by the US, with decisions and benefits inhering to this dominant player to a world where China is set up to be the unambiguous winner of the recovery. In this world, Soros states, national capitalism will result in nations competing economically, which is always dangerous, since this is competition among players who have militaries.
Now more than ever, it seems that the world order is changing, economic systems are evolving quickly, and the lens of the VSM helps raise some of the right questions about what is happening and what should be happening.