Reviews about tetrasociology and its model of a harmonious peace
Leo Semashko, Tetrasociology: Responses to Challenges. St Petersburg: State Polytechnic University, 2002, 158 pp., ISBN 5742202634, US$15.00.
Leo Semashko and 14 dialog contributors, Tetrasociology: From Sociological Imagination through Dialog to Universal Values and Harmony, in Russian, English (trans. M. R. DeWitt) and Esperanto. St Petersburg: State Polytechnic University, 2003, 396 pp., ISBN 574220445X, US$25.00
Leo Semashko, Children’s Suffrage: Democracy for the 21st Century, Priority Investment in Human Capital as a Way toward Social Harmony, trans. M. R. DeWitt. St Petersburg: State Polytechnic University, 2004, 72 pp., ISBN 5742206550, US$5.00.
keywords: Information Age ✦pluralism ✦social reproduction ✦sphere classes ✦ sphere democracy
Tetrasociology is an ambitious attempt by Professor Semashko to synthesize a long tradition of theories of societal reproduction, introducing or integrating concepts such as: the reproductive employment of people, social harmony/disharmony and four dimensions of social space–time. A central premise of tetrasociology is that sustainable development and maintenance of society (homeostasis) is provided by a natural law of social harmony (balance) achieved among four spheres of social reproduction. This harmony is constantly challenged by deviations (conflicts) within the four spheres, among various branches (social classes), enterprises, regions and social groups. The strength and number of deviations (conflicts) create a measure of disharmony. When this exceeds a critical measure, the society either perishes or the law of sphere harmony is subordinated for a time, until sphere harmony can be restored. Harmony among spheres and sphere classes (of people reproductively employed in each sphere) exists in two forms: spontaneous and conscious. Spontaneous harmony of sphere classes is the natural, historical basis for preserving societal stability, whereas conscious harmony will begin, Semashko anticipates, with self-identification of sphere classes (as social actors) in an Information Age (post-industrial society). Thus, tetrasociology posits social harmony not only as the basis for society but also as its ultimate goal.
Tetrasociology synthesizes the western structural concept of spheres of reproduction and the eastern value concept of harmony. The concept of harmony of reproductive spheres of society is the central focus and core premise of tetrasociology.
Semashko develops six ‘discoveries’ (predictions) from this synthesis: (1) self-identification of sphere classes of the population will transform them into conscious actors, striving for harmonious cooperation among spheres; (2) sphere democracy will be based on an equal distribution of power among sphere classes, among generations and between genders, transforming democracy into an instrument of social harmony; (3) sphere demographic statistics will provide a quantitative measure of representation prerequisites to enhance sphere-generated social harmony; (4) sphere information-statistical technology will be developed to calculate potentials for increasing social harmony; (5) sphere sociocultural technology will be able to measure achievement and maintenance of social harmony; and (6) sphere strategic management techniques will be developed to ensure harmonious governance of spheres and sphere classes, at all levels of political, economic and financial regulation.
Semashko distinguishes between (a) the subject and product/capital of sphere reproduction, and (b) the reproductive employment of people within each sphere.
a. The four spheres of societal reproduction identified by Semashko are the social, informational, organizational and technical. The resource/capital reproduced within each sphere is for society as a whole, for the benefit of all of its spheres. Consequently, the spheres must work together to achieve social harmony. The social sphere reproduces the resource/capital people, the informational reproduces the resource/capital information, the organizational sphere reproduces the resource/capital of organizations (political, legal, financial) and the technical sphere reproduces the resource/capital of things (material). Each sphere includes many branches (at times conflicting) and enterprises (at times competing). And each has a large number of resource inputs and product outputs, through which they exchange the capitals that reproduce society as a self-organizing cybernetic system. The reproductive employment of people in these spheres is essential to the process of reproduction in all spheres, and unites them in one self-reproductive system. The fundamental concept of reproductive employment of people covers life from birth to death, and includes all forms of social action, interaction, activity, labor and behavior. Semashko identifies four dimensions of social space–time: resource/capital (social statics), processes of reproduction (social dynamics), structures-spheres of reproduction (social structuratics) and social time: the various states of society from growth through decline (social genetics).
b. The primary reproductive employment of the population is divided into four productive sphere classes: (1) socioclass: (in the sociosphere) includes workers in education, healthcare, welfare, sports and entertainment, and also non-working population: pre-schoolers, students, the unemployed, the retired; (2) infoclass:(infosphere) includes workers in science, culture, communication and information services; (3) orgclass: (orgsphere) includes workers in management, politics, law, finance, defense, police and security; and (4) technoclass: (technosphere) includes workers in industry and agriculture. Classes of reproductive employment are more fundamental than class distinctions based on property. Property ownership is temporary, partial and inherently unequal, whereas reproductive employment is constant, universal and, although qualitatively different, inherent in all human activity.
In Tetrasociology: Responses to Challenges, Semashko lists 75 practical applications of tetrasociological theory (pp. 138–40) to meet challenges of the 21st century: terrorism, religious and ethnic strife, nuclear proliferation, poverty, ecological degradation, demographic dislocation and crises of democracy. Among the applications are sociocultural projects in problem areas, such as: family, gender, education, religious tolerance, international bilingualism, innovative statistics and information technology, anti-terror strategies and ecological preservation. In brief, Semashko believes that civilizations are founded on a naturally occurring social order of four, easily identifiable population groups, unequal in size but equally essential to societal functioning. He contends that, if each of the four sectors is sufficiently represented in the development and use of resources, a society will enhance its ability to flourish, but if one or more of the sectors is not sufficiently represented, a civilization will decline.
To the end of doing comparative studies in collaboration with international research institutes, Semashko has invited dialog with other sociologists, both in Russia and internationally. His book Tetrasociology: From Sociological Imagination through Dialog to Universal Values and Harmony (2003), is written with 14 contributors, from four continents, in three languages: Russian, English and Esperanto. It includes 10 dialogs considering various aspects of tetrasociological theory by sociologists from the US, Japan, Australia, Germany, the UK and Russia. A further publishing project in Esperanto is planned as a way to continue unbiased dialog between civilizations, and to create a global culture of peace.
Another project proposed by Semashko in this book is the establishment of a ‘Faculty of Social Harmony’ to provide ‘humanitarian education for dialog and peace’. Semashko contends that the militarization in education (which exceeds the degree of its humanitarianism) emphasizes preparing the young for war and violence rather than for constructive dialog. He would select faculty members from four educational disciplines, corresponding to the four spheres of society. An educational program teaching ways in which the spheres interact to achieve harmony, to be introduced at all grade levels, would have far-reaching consequences, he believes, for individuals in everyday social relations, and for society at every level of social organization.
Ten dialogs with tetrasociology, by social scientists from six countries, introduce ideas that respond to and expand the insights of tetrasociology from various individual and shared perspectives. In the first two dialogs, Phillips (US) and Bachika (Japan) see Semashko moving toward a New Age of Enlightenment. In the next two dialogs, Yuriev (Russia) and DeWitt (US) continue this critique from the perspective of political psychology and power sharing. Yuriev, who posits a 12-dimensional psychological typology of understanding, sees a need for greater development of Semashko’s concept of harmony, and of mechanisms of ‘formation of the new classes in the new era’ (p. 199). DeWitt integrates central ideas of Phillips, Semashko and her own to suggest (p. 201) ‘a combined approach to resolving global disputes equitably and peacefully’. Research is proposed (p. 204) ‘to compare alternative ways of sharing power’.
In dialogs five and six, Roseman (Australia) and Isaev (Russia) look further into the implications of tetrasociology for communication and negotiation skills required for conflict resolution. Roseman (p. 206) presents McLuhan’s ‘four part metaphor of the transformation process’, applies it to tetrasociology (p. 209), and asks (p. 210) ‘Is transformation of the world possible?’ and ‘under what restrictions?’ Isaev suggests (p. 215) greater development in tetrasociology of the notions of information and energy. Butkevich, Kondratiev and Cvetkova (Russia) review the history of Esperanto since its creation as an international language in 1887 (p. 217) as ‘a means of uniting people . . . in a neutral language’ for multicultural dialog that would ‘preserve the diversity of languages and cultures of the world’.
Hornung (Germany) and Scott (Britain) view sociocybernetics and tetrasociology as interdisciplinary and multidimensional sociological theories. Presenting four tables of concepts (p. 225–9) with 28 sociological concepts listed, they show corresponding concepts in sociocybernetics and tetrasociology. In the last two dialogs, Kavtorin and Lebedinsky (Russia) present practical and philosophical critiques of Semashko’s work. Kavtorin offers a practical reason for taking seriously all attempts at ‘grand theory’ (p. 234) ‘as a stimulant for elaboration of a new “general theory” of sociology’. Lebedinsky, continuing a 10-year dialog with Semashko, offers seven well-articulated criticisms (p. 236–7) of the philosophical foundations of tetrasociology, then closes with (p. 238) five ‘major strengths of tetrasociology and of a tetraoutlook’. A potential dialog is presented in an essay by Govorov, who suggests (p. 244) the development ‘of bona fide scientists capable of taking control of all social development processes’.
In Semashko’s third book in English, Children’s Suffrage: Democracy for the 21st Century, Priority Investment in Human Capital as a Way toward Social Harmony (2004), he develops what he believes to be a practical consequence of tetrasociology. This third treatise, together with the first reviewed earlier, is directed toward educating for a culture of peace in an Information Age, as global consensus toward achieving social harmony to prevent wars and to counter terrorism. Semashko’s third book is devoted to what he sees as an urgent need for children’ssuffrage executed by their parents. He responds to a resolution of the UN Special Session on Children (May 2002). Children’s suffrage is presented by Semashko as an effective political institution for a global movement, to modernize democratic representation, promote a culture of valuing children as future citizens, and eradicate the origins of terrorism in childhood. Replacing the state’s priorities on military and economic spending with priorities on children and their reproduction of the social sphere will effectively promote a culture of peace.
Semashko supplements the concept of children’s suffrage with practical suggestions for its institution. First, he proposes an international comparative research study to determine the likelihood of parents’ acceptance of children’s suffrage. Second, he proposes a project to determine an appropriate law for Russia. Semashko has created a website – www.peacefromharmony.org – to promote the idea of working together to achieve global peace by ‘putting children first’.
Tetrasociology and its derivative proposals are presented in anticipation of, and in preparation for, a global culture of peace, rooted in what Semashko believes to be a natural, evolving order of social harmony. His ideas about child suffrage express his urgent concern for reproduction of the social sphere, which is uncertain if the development of children as future citizens is given low priority. He believes in practical applications of sociology, an optimistic view in the face of increasingly difficult challenges in the 21st century. His style bears the imprint of pre-Communist Russia, suggesting an intense, searching-for-answers mentality. His approach may seem naive, in challenging deeply embedded, long-accepted, confrontational, conflict-oriented ideas about the natural order of things, but he is thorough in developing his logic, and hopeful that others will judge his practical insights on their merit. Semashko’s positive contribution is to focus our attention on sectors/spheres of society that work together to reproduce each other, as well as themselves, and thereby provide an underlying structure of social harmony (latent, at the global level). In its optimistic search for practical outcomes, tetrasociology is a sociology for post-industrial societies, and qualitatively different from the sociologies of industrial societies.
As with any social engineering proposal, Semashko’s formula for achieving global harmony and world peace will invite multidisciplinary anticipation of potential consequences. How might the power brokers of 21st-century societies, in their strategies for barter, trade and information exchange, adapt to, manipulate or try to control this new form of democratic representation, formalized as sphere power sharing? Could there be regimentation and loss of freedom? Or a renaissance of creativity? Who will decide, in an Information Age?
Dr Martha DeWitt is project director of an upcoming study of teen habits, goals and motivation under the auspices of a US medical college. DeWitt’s book, Beyond Equilibrium Theory (Lanham, MD: University Press of America; 2000), presents theories of social action formation and transformation applied to a study of family power sharing in transition.
Address: 2145 N 60th St., Milwaukee, WI 53208, USA. [email: firstname.lastname@example.org]
It is put on April 21, 2007
Dr Bernard Phillips, USA,
Review of Leo Semashko’s book: Tetrasociology: Responses to Challenges (2002, 158 p.).
The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology on line: http://alcor.concordia.ca/~csaa1/BookReviews.htm
LEO M. SEMASHKO, Tetrasociology: Responses to Challenges. St. Petersburg: St. Petersburg State Technical University. 2002, 158 p. (Introduction by John Rex; Foreword by Dr. Bernd Hornung and Bernard Scott)
TetraSociology: Responses to Challenges opens up for contemporary sociologists a window that looks out onto Enlightenment ideals that not only persist but are being carried much further by at least one contemporary Russian sociologist. It is indeed hard to imagine how those ideals could in fact be extended as far as its author takes them, given his experiences of attempting to keep his sociological ideas and ideals alive in a dictatorship for decades, and given the economic problems faced by academics in contemporary Russia. Yet there are parallels to this outside of Russia, for we might also wonder how Western sociologists like C. Wright Mills and Alvin Gouldner managed to stay with those same Enlightenment ideals despite the horrors of the twentieth century and the resulting pessimism and cynicism inside and outside of the academic world.
Imagine, along with Professor Semashko, a world that is moving toward a new Age of Enlightenment where globalization, multiculturalism and the internet are working to yield ever more harmony among all the peoples of the world. This is not a postmodern world with a pessimistic view of the potential of the scientific method. Rather, it is a "postpluralistic" world which follows postmodernism in its openness to complexity and change. But it is optimistic about the possibilities of the scientific method for understanding complexity and change by integrating elements of many theories, versus maintaining the isolation of diverse theories which fail to communicate with each other. Just as people in that world are learning to interact so as to pay full attention to others’ ideas and ultimate worth--and even to create a "dialogue among civilizations"--so are social scientists learning to integrate the work of those who have preceded them so as to follow scientific ideals for a social science that cumulates rapidly.
Professor Semashko does not assume that such a world emerges all by itself, for he follows Auguste Comte in seeing sociologists as working to bring it about by addressing modern problems in a highly effective manner. He coins the term "TetraSociology" to refer to the kind of sociology which can accomplish this, a discipline that has a breadth similar to what Mills called for in The Sociological Imagination (1959) along with the reflexivity that Gouldner called for in The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology (1970). That breadth is based on Semashko’s own background as a philosopher no less than a sociologist, including a metaphysical and epistemological stance along with his theoretical and applied orientations. And just as modern sociologists have emphasized the nature and extraordinary impact of language on shaping the individual and society, so does Semashko attempt to use that impact by coining many new concepts, such as "tetrasociology."
To illustrate Semashko’s approach, his metaphysics is oriented to three dimensions of social space and one dimension of social time, corresponding to the three dimensions of physical space and one dimension of physical time. Just as Einstein related space and time, so does Semashko see the linkage between social space and social time as crucial. In this way, he alerts us to the importance of probing into our own metaphysical assumptions. What is our own worldview or Weltanschauung, a concept that may appear to be outdated to modern sociological eyes? What impact does that worldview have on every stage of the research process? Why don’t we social scientists devote the attention to this topic that it deserves instead of continuing to rule out metaphysics and philosophy from the realm of sociology?
As for the relationship between social space and social time, Semashko is telling us of the centrality of the latter if we hope to understand the former, and he is indirectly criticizing the relatively static nature of the social sciences. This is arguably a frontier of our discipline. At the macro level this is illustrated by the efforts by comparative-historical sociologists to face up to the complexity of history, carrying further the more simplistic orientations of figures such as Toynbee, Spencer, and Sorokin. At the micro level it is illustrated by the work of symbolic interactionsts, ethnomethodologists and rational-choice theorists who attempt to probe deeply into the scene, capturing changes in emotions and speech from one moment to the next with audio-visual technology. Metaphorically, I am reminded here of Edwin Abbott’s Flatland (1952), a science-fiction story written in the 1880s, where a three-dimensional sphere is able to see into all of Flatland’s two-dimensional houses and inhabitants by hovering over them. Analogously, we require a four-dimensional perspective that includes social time to see into the our own nature, probing into the history of the individual and society in order to understand present-day behavior. Here we have Semashko carrying further the long-term historical orientation illustrated by Marx, extending it to the momentary scene.
If we turn to Semashko’s epistemology, we find--implicitly--a profound critique of our modern approach to the scientific method. His postpluralism calls for the ability of the social scientist to make good use of all of the relevant theoretical ideas from the past in investigating any given problem. Yet sociologists are divided into numerous specialized areas and literally hundreds of subspecialties, and they generally fail to communicate across specialized and subspecialized lines. This is illustrated by the division of the American Sociological Association into no fewer than 42 distinct Sections with their own organizations and immunity to outside ideas. By contrast, Semashko’s ideas bridge many specialties, as called for in Bernard Phillips’ Beyond Sociology’s Tower of Babel: Reconstructing the Scientific Method (2001) and the edited volume Toward a Sociological Imagination: Bridging Specialized Fields (2002).
There are many questions which Semashko raises. Viewing TetraSociology from a theoretical and applied perspective, why does social stratification persist throughout society, by contrast with the cultural value of equality? What are the forces which are presently yielding sexism, ageism, classism, and ethnocentrism? Why is Durkheim’s "normal division of labor"--with the worker’s awareness of his or her contribution to society as a whole--in fact an "abnormal divison of labor"? Given what we have experienced in the 20th and early 21st centuries, is a "new Age of Enlightenment" a realistic possibility? How would Semashko analyze any particular social or theoretical problem in some detail and come up with insights which go beyond what we have learned from the contemporary sociological literature?
Professor Semashko comes out of modern Russia with ideas that are in some ways more revolutionary than those of Karl Marx. Just as Toynbee saw human history in terms of challenge and response, he attempts to respond to accelerating modern problems by pointing toward the possibility of a new Age of Enlightenment. He suggests nothing less than changes in the metaphysical stance of modern society, based on the potential weight of language. And he goes back to what may well prove to be the future of social science: the ideals of the scientific method and the enormous breadth of the classical sociologists. Yet, like Moses, he may have brought us to the Promised Land yet be unable to enter it himself. For he fails to demonstrate how his broad metaphysical, epistemological, theoretical and applied approach to social science yields deeper insights into any major social or theoretical problem. Perhaps if we contemporary sociologists can learn from Semashko to rekindle the fire of ideals that gave rise to the Enlightenment and the origins of sociology, a fire that we desperately require in these times of troubles, then we may learn to enter that Promised Land.
[Book Reviewer’s notation: given the dearth of knowledge about Russian sociology, I accepted this review as a means of stimulating international awareness. Readers may want to correspond with Professor Semashko at <email@example.com >]
Dr Bernard Phillips
THE TETRASOCIOLOGY OF GLOBAL HARMONY ASSOCIATION (GHA)
AS UN EPISTEMOLOGICAL GUIDE FOR A NEW SYSTEMIC INDEX OF HUMAN DEVELOPMENT:
IN SEARCH OF WORLD PEACE
By Francisco Parra-Luna
The work that GHA is doing is commendable. It is enough to see, not only the political and scientific personalities interested or involved in its global project, but, and above all, the enormous theoretical, essay and scientific content stored on its website. But all this effort should not be kept only in libraries, but be applied for the good of humanity. Uncontrolled migrations, ecological problems, famines, wars and terrorisms are already morally unbearable.
Interestingly, the Tetrasociological approach (People, Information, Organization and Things) of the GHA (Semashko) can be a prelude to the Axiological-Humanist approach (Parra-Luna) where the four pillars are: the individual person, society as a whole, the universal needs and the values that satisfy them. Measuring the levels of satisfaction pursued in each of these needs (values), the achieved realizations (objective and subjective) and the deviations produced, would be the antepenultimate step prior to the corrective action (cybernetics) in search of the desired and progressive world happiness and peace pursued by the GHA,and that, in the words of Leo Semashko, implies the general improvement of the social conditions of humanity what it means to meet all their needs, both basic and artificial.
But this step would require, in turn, on the base of the Tetrasociological approach, to add five complementary approaches to the GHA theory:
* First, "re-humanize" its language, in a way that should be easily graspable and understandable by the "man in the street". This new language should be spoken in common terms of their salaries received, health services available, education, equality of opportunities, and so on. In short, to respond to their concerns of corporal, material and security wellbeing for him and for his people in a future perspective. As Protágoras said: “Man is the measure of all things”.
* Second, to do that, it is necessary to use a REFERENTIAL PATTERN OF NEEDS / UNIVERSAL VALUES (RPUV) such, f.i., as the one developed by the author on the basis of Natural Law of Plato, Ciceron, Suarez, Crocio.., the UNO Human Rights, and A. Maslow among others. (see, F.Parra-Luna, “An Axiological Systems Theory: Some Basic Hypotheses”, Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 00-2001.p. 1-26.This RPUVincludes the following nine universal needs/values: Health, Material Wealth, Security, Knowledge, Freedom, Distributive Justice, Conservation of Nature, Quality of Activities and Moral Prestige, a list that must include any possible human appetite (as proof of its validity) and therefore, must serve as a general theoretical framework for valid comparative measures in any space and time.
* Third, operationalize these nine values through their theoretical dimensions and each of them by empirical quantified indicators that represent them with a minimum of validity.
The number of indicators to use can vary between only one and several hundred, but always looking for the information provided (Y) cost as little as possible (X). It is about maximizing the general expression T = Y / X, as will be seen later.
* Fourth, present the resulting axiological profiles (a graphic comparison of their relative levels achieved) both globally and at the level of each country, or any other smaller society,resulting in the visualization of this instrument, perhaps, the only "dashboard" (control panel) available to know where our societies are axiologically going and in particular the global society as a whole. If we do not have this graphic axiological profile, it is as if we are driving a ship in the ocean without knowing where we are going.
* Fifth, apply the general systemic rule of T = Y / X where T is the transforming capacity or efficiency of any system; "Y" represents in this case the average (to be maximized) of the levels reached in the value system; and "X" the effort or costs (to minimize) caused. Index of productivity that forces in each case (f.i., the elaboration of this Index, the GHA projects, the achievements of each government, etc.) to reduce the efforts "X" to align them with the achievable "Y" in order that the "T" results (using standardized numerical expressions) equal to or greater than "1", or in other words ecologically sustainable in the short, medium and long term . Any project, especially as ambitious as the one proposed by the GHA project,can not fail to apply the formula T = Y / X which tries to achieve always the desired results with the minimum possible cost. How to obtain the best possible health, as well as material wealth, security, knowledge, freedom, distributive justice, conservation of nature, quality of activities and moral prestige with the least effort, energy consumption or possible costs? This simple expression of T = Y / X raises something very close to the concept of "neguentropia" in relation to the Second Law of Thermodynamics that could prevent the world from its foreseeable ecological difficulties.
In summary: The Tetrasociological approach (People, Information, Organization and Things) could be, and in my opinion should be,complemented and closed with the Axiological-Humanistic approach that ends with the person, the society, the need and the value that satisfy it. In my humble opinion it should be its final inevitable language.
I am afraid that this mere and previous theoretical language of Tetrasociology in terms of "Spherons" ("social", "Information", "organization" and "Technical"), or "Resources", "Processes", "Structures" and "States" , never have application because of its disconnection with the daily reality of the people.
Given that what is pursued is world peace, it would not be superfluous to take a first operational step by publishing and presenting to the governments, as well as to the UN and interested institutions, this new SISTEMIC INDEX OF HUMAN DEVELOPMENT(SIDH), or other very similar, that in any case should be penalized by the export of arms when using as its denominator, the percentage of world exports in each period, which means to suggest to governments not to export weapons for two reasons: first, because it could be a flagrant immorality to sell weapons to poorer or less rich countries given their inhuman lethal consequences; and second, because, in effect, it will reduce the so-called Human Development Index under the ethical principle that it can not be considered a country "humanly developed” to the same extent that it exports armaments.
It is only a suggestion that I submit to the GHA in case it is of interest.At the moment we are carrying out in the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM), in collaboration with the Spanish Society of General Systems (SESGE) and its Bulletin ADVANCES SISTÉMICOS, a first calculation of the ISDH applied to the 28 countries of the European Union.
Retired professor of the UCM;
Honorary President of the SESGE;
AVANCES SISTÉMICOS editor;
Member of the International Academy for Systems and Cybernetic Sciences (IASCYS).
1.Bernard Scott and Bernd R. Hornung, Reviews of Leo Semashko’s book: Tetrasociology: Responses to Challenges (2002, 158 p.), Journal of Sociocybernetics, V4, N2, Fall/Winter 2003-2004, p.40-46, www.unizar.es/sociocybernetics/
2.Bernard Phillips, Review of Leo Semashko’s book: Tetrasociology: Responses to Challenges (2002, 158 p.). The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology on line: http://alcor.concordia.ca/~csaa1/BookReviews.htm
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