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Harmony Forum

Peace from Harmony
Martha Ross DeWitt. The sociologist and woman from harmony


Martha Ross DeWitt
Global Harmony Association Honorary Advisory Committee Member

I with my grandchild. Nancy Lee at Grammas

Martha Ross DeWitt, PhD, Sociology, Social Theorist and Research

Consultant, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA


International Sociology Review of Books Vol. 22 No. 2; March 2007

The Scope of Sociology DeWitt

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, Childrens 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.


Author, BEYOND EQUILIBRIUM THEORY; Theories of Social Action and Social Change applied to a study of Power Sharing in Transition. (2000). Lanham, MD: University Press of America, Inc.


Dear Leo, Dear Ada, Dear International Peace workers,


In honor of Global Harmony Day, June 21, 2009, following are introductions to parts I and II of my presentation for the recent World Civic Forum held in Seoul, Korea. Korean students in Seoul did not acknowledge a separation of their country into two parts, hoping for peace with the north in peacefully attained reunification, I learned from talking with Korean youth.


Attached is a synopsis of my presentation. Also presented was a 3-dimensional model of six base levels of consciousness formation that consider o­nly the economic and political requirements of human existence, plus six higher levels that consider cultural and social requirements, which are often ignored by leaders and elites in their quest for expediency.


Transition to Social Harmony as a Global Transformational Process

First World Civic Forum, Seoul, South Korea, May, 2009,

By Martha Ross DeWitt,

Psychiatry & Behavioral Medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, USA

How does Consciousness Formation at the Global Level generate ways to create a framework for Global Justice, as a foundation for Global Harmony?


Part I

A model of general, social causality is used to show how societies are able to reorganize at higher levels of shared responsibility. The model provides a basis for recognizing A Need to Establish Equity in the distribution of rights, privileges and rewards for sustainable economic development. The model also provides, at higher levels of consciousness formation, a basis for establishing Cultural and Social Prerequisites to Ensure Justice and Promote Harmony.


Part II, M. R. DeWitt, First World Civic Forum, Seoul, May, 2009

Relevant questions: Who owns the means to sustain life o­n the planet? Who controls the means? Who uses the means? What are the rights of each group? What are the privileges of each group? What are the rewards of each group?




Dear Peace Workers,


Following is a research note o­n Humility, introduced at the end of my previous e-mail. It's a foreign concept to many, but not to those who achieve high honor, it seems.


To me it sounded like a "wake-up" call to all of us who find ourselves working with people we regard as stubborn, when in fact they are probably just fearful, of things we can o­nly imagine, even when the person is a close friend or associate. As an envoy I would have to be sensitive to this handicap of myself and others because it often short-circuits effective communication.


I have sent it separately, because the photo attached to the previous e-mail might cause it to be spam filtered. All who receive this research note o­n humility may find it helpful because of its high relevance to practical, everyday issues that catch us by surprise. We often attribute our own understanding to the other person, not realizing that cultural differences are at work.

Anyway, here's the note: Humility Linked to Success

Name recognition is the goal of every politician this election season marketing yourself and your achievements in a positive, assertive way is how you succeed in life, right? Not necessarily, according to a study by
Baylor University in Texas.

If you are humbled by something, some would think you would get depressed and question your self-worth. But our findings indicate that humility is a positive quality associated with self-esteem, well-being and even performance benefits, said Dr. Wade Rowatt, head of the team that studied 200 college students.

Athletes, in particular, were researched. Nearly every top athlete in every sport was associated with humility, according to Rowatt. Those traits may influence things such as the way they prepare for a game to how they respect their opponents.

In another study, Rowatt examined whether humility is associated with higher academic performance. The preliminary findings indicated that college students who showed more humble traits got higher grades than those who were arrogant and narcissistic, reports NewsWise.

Rowatt defines humility as a psychological quality characterized by being more modest, down-to-earth, and respectful, rather than arrogant, immodest, or egotistical. This conception of humility implies that o­ne acknowledges mistakes, realizes limits, avoids bragging, and is respectful of others.


Well, there it is. The strong man/strong woman image does not dominate, after all. This contradicts our expectations of ourselves and others at a gut level. Advisors to political candidates tell them to "come out swinging," "put up a strong front," "never let them see you cry." Have you ever noticed that those who let their guard down, showing their vulnerability as "softies" in a positve way (on behalf of others, rather than themselves) gain public approval?

It also works with opponents. Football players who show sincere camaraderie with players of the opposing team (many are friends off the field) are called "good sportsmen." Scrapping with opponents is called as a "personal foul" when it gets offensive, even fined, in extreme cases. Strength is not measured by showing off muscle. Honor is not defended by shoving the other person until they are down. The old rules no longer apply. Bullies are that, and nothing more.


As Peace Workers, what are the most important messages we want to convey? It makes a difference in how we proceed. Are we divided, or can we agree o­n a set of compatible views?

Please reply to Martha, Elizabeth and John

January 7, 2008



Earth Odyssey


The following understandings came to me during my 74 years, as if in a series of dreams:

The logic may appeal to you, or not. The truth of each person is exclusively theirs. If it fits with that of another, a partnership grows. If there is discord, the partnership withers. If fear stalks the partnership, it dies. Fear is part of our genetic inheritance. Peace workers can't afford to give in to it. 'Protecting ourselves from others' does not protect us from ourselves.


If we work together, we can accomplish that which we would find impossible, alone. Work separately, and our energies will become exhausted from trial and errors of miscalculation. Whether the following is truth, half truth or fiction, we cannot meet the global challenges of the present Age while disrespecting o­ne another. So, I share with you my lifetime insights hoping that they will encourage us to become: Peace workers at Peace with o­ne another.



Atlantis did not sink. It was part of a fleet of "floating islands" in the Pacific, each of which left its mark. The inhabitants explored the earth, and then they left. Atlantis stayed behind, redesigning some of the creatures. When it was decided this was a mistake they also left.


Time of intervention. As o­ne of their redesigns found ways to blow ourselves up, along with the rest of earth's creatures, they were required to intervene. Why are we in the dark about this? Not because they haven't tried to tell us through prophets and religious teachers. We just don't get it. Warfare does not make us into heroes.


String of Pearls. Cities in the Sky will be placed around the equator when this planet can no longer support life, held by anti-gravity (magnetic fields that repel the earth's magnetic field). "Bone density" of life forms will not be a problem. We can't begin to imagine the technology advances, of which o­nly about 5% have been shared with us, most during the 20th century, 'channeled' to our scientists and inventors.


As the time for Exodus approaches, those chosen will have been prepared, their natures sublimated to a higher calling. No o­ne leaves without this preparation, which is not done against our will. Agriculture, commerce, transportation and communication will occur as abundantly as they do here, under the supervision of a superior life form that we call by various names, in our various religions. Essentially, we have never been alone.


As the planet becomes inhabitable, again, the cities will be gradually lowered and "pilgrims" will be allowed to descend, to prepare the way for others. Wars and armed conflict will have vanished from our repertoire of ways to get along. All the fears that have survived in humans will have been resolved, somehow, with adequate coping skills translated into our DNA. The problems encountered by Atlantis, while redesigning the human life form, have been solved.



Our animal natures, necessary to our early survival, now threaten to cause our extinction. Exodus is an individually chosen pathway to a new way of life, which each o­ne must take alone. Those who choose this narrow foot bridge will survive. Followers of the prophets will become the Teachers who will make this Exodus possible for every person who is willing.


If we coordinate our efforts, without regard for the supremacy of this or that idea, we will make the transition possible for many more people than if each of us insists o­n being the o­nly true voice. We are a chorus of many voices, and not o­ne of us is the Conductor. We o­nly hear that Voice in the stillness of prayer and meditation. That is our o­nly True Guide.


Let's put aside our differences, and work as a team, when we can, and acknowledge o­ne another with proper regard, when differences seem to pull us apart. In unity is strength. A family can tolerate many quarrels, yet know that they will pull together, for the sake of all. Let's be a family in that sense, and regard our differences as different facets of o­ne jewel.

January 1, 2008



Dear Iqbal (and Maria, Harold, and Reimon, per exchange, below, with Leo, December 17th),


In my pilot study of young teenagers in the suburbs of a large city, I learned that contact with unrelated adults, as a source of social support, had the greatest effect o­n their feelings of well-being, world view, and hopes for the future. In a few weeks I will be repeating the survey with young teens in the inner city, to learn their sources of social support, and how they are influenced by them. Unrelated adults include academic and religious teachers, counselors, and others in the community. Family and friends are important sources of social support, as well. How children learn is as important as what they learn. The simple rhymes that you are developing as learning techniques for language will also work for learning about themselves in relation to the global community, of which they are unknowingly becoming a part. Motivation to seek help from others, while learning important lessons of life, is acute in the young. If we do not feed this motivation with healthy information, they will satisfy their hunger elsewhere.


Thank you for sharing knowledge of your technique for teaching grammar, a basic tool in the teaching of language, which makes possible communication with others, beyond the limited circle of family and friends. If we want healthy world citizens, we must be careful in selecting what they learn as children becoming aware of their difficult transition to adulthood in a world of unlimited possibilities, even for the poor. If hopes for the future, world view, and feelings of well-being are not fed by those in the community with peaceful intent, then we have failed as peace workers to recognize their insatiable appetite for new information, which will be fed by thrill seeking and dangerous pursuits if we do not respond, in time. The clock is ticking. Are we awake or asleep?


The wake-up call is contained in our Magna Carta of Harmony, which I am asked to rewrite with your help, if you are willing. Our goal is to make it understandable for those who are unfamiliar with our mission of advancing the cause of Global Peace based o­n Harmony.


It is a simple message, based o­n a theory of natural selection of peaceful means if given a choice. Please re-read the Charter with that in mind, and help with our noble Quest. Most adults read at about a "14" age level. We want to reach everyone with this message, even young teens at an age when they are beginning to become aware of themselves as future adults. The language of our Magna Carta must become a Language of Hope for the Poor.


Following your message about teaching language are excerpts from recent e-mails with Leo, in which he suggested that you might be willing to help draft the 2008 edition of the Charter.

May your joys be the tried and true joys of comraderie with family and friends, during this Holiest of days, when "Peace o­n Earth" became a promise yet to be fulfilled.


Love, Martha

December 17, 2007



Dear Leo,


Recently you asked me about the Child Suffrage Question in my Teen Study. This is how I presented it, following a list of public issues. I don't know how well this will copy in an email, but if you reduce the size of the font, it should be readable. My 8th graders (ages 13 to 15) had no difficulty checking issues, checking with whom they discussed them, and checking whether o­ne or both parents would be likely to vote o­n their behalf, if given that right. Some said Dad, some said Mom, and some said both. Yesterday, talking with a school counselor, I learned that voting rights for children recently came up for debate in the Gifted and Talented program, so it is topical, and her young students were interested. A class of 7th graders will be surveyed next week, and two more classes of 7th graders in January. This completes the pilot study, and I will then have tentative answers for you. Of course, it would be nice to know what the parents think, but, my contact with parents is very indirect, just to get their consent for their child to participate in the survey, which includes 212 questions, total. Tomarrow I will meet with o­ne more school counselor, to arrange for the third class of 7th graders. So far, no objections to any of the questions. My best strategy has been: stay open to all suggestions. It's the best way to deal with 'stiff necked' opposition, which I got at the district level last year - and had to 'redesign' the study. There are always creative ways to deal with 'difficult' people.


The first rule: "A kind word turns away wrath." (Some people were just downright rude!) It's from the (Christian) Bible. A compromise saved the day. Being willing to redesign the study (i.e., for 7th graders) got rid of objections from people who just, flat out, don't like surveys.


My other rule: spend time with John, in the evening, and do my important work when he's asleep. I feel 'guilty' about time spent 'just goofing off' but we all need that time to stay sane.

It isn't just a kindness to the other person. It gives us time to recharge. We need that time.


A third rule, for life: "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." Mostly we argue with people whose minds are closed. What's the point? They aren't going to listen, and we just end up putting ourselves in a bad mood. This is the hardest rule for me to follow.

It's 4:30 a.m., so I'm going back to bed.


Following is the excerpt from my questionnaire:


X. At the present time, how concerned are you about each of the following public issues:


A) Very concerned B) Somewhat concerned C) Undecided

D) Somewhat unconcerned or E) Very unconcerned?

(++) (+) (0) (-) (- -)

133. Human rights? A) B) C) D) E)

134. Civil rights? A) B) C) D) E)

135. Property rights? A) B) C) D) E)

136. Gay rights? A) B) C) D) E)

137. The environment? A) B) C) D) E)

138. Global warming? A) B) C) D) E)

139. Public debt? A) B) C) D) E)

140. Job security? A) B) C) D) E)

141. War in Iraq? A) B) C) D) E)

142. Terrorism? A) B) C) D) E)

143. Patriot Act? A) B) C) D) E)

144. Crime? A) B) C) D) E)

Any others?

(please print) A) B) C) D)

A) B) C) D)

If or when you are concerned about a public issue, with which of the following are you:

A) Very likely to share your concern B) Somewhat likely C) Unsure

D) Somewhat unlikely or E) Very unlikely to share your concern?

(++) (+) (0) (-) (- -)

145. Parents? A) B) C) D) E)

146. Teachers? A) B) C) D) E)

147. Older friends? A) B) C) D) E)

148. Same age friends? A) B) C) D) E)

Anyone else?

(please print) A) B) C) D)

A) B) C) D)


XI. Some say children are unfairly excluded from representation in elections.


If you could register to vote, with o­ne parent given the right to vote in your place until you are 18, how likely would your parent be to vote in your place: A) Very likely B) Somewhat likely C) Unsure D) Somewhat unlikely or E) Very unlikely?

(++) (+) (0) (-) (- -)

149. If that parent was your Dad? A) B) C) D) E)

150. If that parent was your Mom? A) B) C) D) E)


December 5, 2007


Martha Ross DeWitt

Interaction Analysis within the framework of the Web Approach: Understanding the Origins of Terrorism

Paper presented to the
Sociological Imagination Group
San Francisco, California
August 16, 2004


How can our discipline move us toward a deeper understanding of human, social behavior? How can it develop our ability to confront massive and escalating societal problems? Phillips challenges us to show that the Web Approach provides us with a direction toward fulfilling each of these ideals: to achieve understanding of social behavior, and to address societal problems.

A possible theme for this paper (from DeWitt, 2000:98, Figure G): might be: Terrorism as a misdirected effort to challenge disparities in the social order. Religious traditions/values combine with recent political history to provide rationales for selecting acceptable targets and target populations, which then substitute for authority figures in the social order of o­ne's own experience. This makes it difficult to come up with logical cause and effect statements.

An alternative theme is: Origins of terrorism. Moving from context to individuals (in DeWitt, 2000:63, Figure E) we might profile age, occupational groups, and social strata of persons most likely to be recruited as terrorists. While contextual analysis (Figure G) helps to identify structural bases for group sponsored and state sponsored terrorism, individual analysis (Figure E) helps to suggest nonviolent, remedial solutions at the individual level. It's important to identify the sponsors of terrorism as well as the terrorists, to know their agendas as well as the motivational structures of the individuals involved, to be able to confront the problem effectively at both levels.

The Web Approach (Phillips, 2001) provides an overall framework within which contextual and individual factors interact, to produce potential variations of response to disparities in the social order. The Phillips thesis of a growing discrepancy between expectations and achievements provides us with further understanding of the escalating nature of this disparity (2001).

How do we tie these threads of analysis together, into o­ne unified, scientific approach? What I will attempt to show, in this brief presentation, is that an interactive analysis is both possible, to help us understand individual acts of terrorism, and necessary, to help us confront systemic terrorism.


Terrorism is more than a criminal act. It is a means of engagement that says: I am in pain. Pay attention to me or you, too, will be in pain. It is an extreme form of communication that demands full attention, and total response. It is a negotiation for unconditional surrender. However, terrorism today is also a symptom of societal decay. The decay is systemic, and global in its consequences. Surgical removal will merely spread the disease that is causing the decay. It cannot be simply rooted out with search and destroy methods, without unraveling the very fabric of society.

Opposing casts of characters

Terrorism has many points of origin, and many forms of expression. It often involves networks of people with a variety of organizational skills. It requires an underclass of recruits, willing to sacrifice their lives, sponsored by a privileged over-class of ideologues, willing to fund them indefinitely, and supported by a network of trained technicians who plan and coordinate their violent acts. Opposing casts tends to mirror this cast: a volunteer army of mostly lower social strata recruits, deployed by an ideologically motivated government, supported by advanced technology and strategies of a military elite. This oversimplified view of the engagement is not sympathetic to a military response, because it tends to be inefficient, costly, and ineffective. The challenge of global terrorism requires new thinking, new planning, and new strategies.

Variations in the setting

Terrorism has been viewed as a clash of religions and cultures. It is tempting to view rationales for terrorism as the motivation for terrorism. A more reasonable approach is to look at how disparities in the social orders of

Islamic nations have limited the economic opportunities of their citizens. As global communications expose the stark contrast of rich and poor in oil rich countries, discontent is stirred, and a zeal for change becomes displaced and misdirected. Religion prevents rational political activism in these nations, but provides a rationale for redirecting the discontent elsewhere.


The Web Approach provides a framework for understanding the root causes of terrorism, and suggests ways to transform negative orientations rather than remove them. First, I will describe three contexts of terrorism, and identify those groups in the population most likely to risk everything, including their lives, to escape from an otherwise difficult existence within each of these three settings. Then, I will employ Web concepts to describe two, self-reinforcing patterns of orientations that create either negative or positive ways of interacting with others and with the society as a whole.

I hope that these ideas will help to inspire new thinking about those who terrorize others, and new strategies for dealing with disparities in the social orders from which they are recruited. We cannot separate o­ne from the other and hope to be effective in meeting this urgent, global challenge.

Three contexts of terrorism

Figure 1. Structured propensity for social change, as basis for type of goal-directed social action, by mode of resolving disparities to achieve, maintain or restore social order.

Figure 1 differentiates three types of goal directed social action within or between social orders, that subject them to abrupt changes as a result of self-initiated, guided, or coerced conflict.

Coerced conflict is ruler-justified, and the rules of engagement are dictated by the ruler. World Wars I & II are notable examples, but wars of conquest are legend, and changes in social orders of the losers often follow.

Guided conflict is justified by the institutionalized values of dominant elites, and political advisers establish the norms of engagement. The War in Iraq is the most recent example, with changes in the social order stated as, and in fact, a primary objective.

Self-initiated conflict is fueled by thwarted needs, and all parties to the conflict strategize to create rules of engagement. The War o­n Terror is a response to a conflict self-initiated by what were o­nce freedom fighters in Afghanistan. The freedom rationale is now replaced by a religious rationale.

Each context provides a rationale that conceals the real needs of those who carry out the acts of terrorism associated with all three. Rank and file participants, in each type of conflict, come from population groups that are frustrated in their attempts to meet basic, economic and personal needs.

Population groups at risk

Figure 2. Tension states, states of action directives, general and specific modes of alienation, and groups at risk.

Figure 2 identifies these population groups as young, unskilled and semiskilled in the work force, and coming from the lower social strata and substrata. These are the expendable recruits, experiencing discomfort in their efforts to find a place in the existing social order, and easily ordered, coaxed, or persuaded to join a cause that promises a future reward. Most are feeling under-challenged and restless, but some are prone to violence. 

Profile of a terrorist

Figure 3. Profile of a potential suicide bomber

Figure 3 is a flow chart of relationships among some key concepts identified by Phillips (2001) as part of a Web of key concepts in Sociology - that help us understand the feelings and behaviors of human beings in our relationships with o­ne another and with society as a whole. In this Profile of a potential suicide bomber, I describe progressions of feelings, of self-other orientations, and of behaviors that develop at different levels of personal, social, and societal organization, and are reinforced at the individual level by what we believe about ourselves, and at the global level by a worldview that we share with others.

Antidotes to terrorist feelings and behavior

Figure 4. Profile of antidotes to negative feelings and behaviors

 Figure 4 is a comparable flow chart, in which interventions have successfully challenged the negativism that permeated the feelings, self-other orientations, and behaviors described in Figure 3. In this Profile of antidotes, an interactive, multidimensional worldview and a positive self-image reinforce these interventions. The new worldview is key. The black and white dualism of a bureaucratic worldview permeated the era of the Cold War, and still lingers in the minds and hearts of those in power who ignore the lessons of history and fail to learn from the mistakes of others.

Figure 5: Interventions at global and individual levels


 The War o­n Terror will be won or lost in the consciences of those who hold the reins of power. Collectively, they have a critical choice, to address the hopelessness of the unemployed and underemployed, who feel isolated and disconnected from society, or continue to cater to a wealthy elite that neither knows nor cares about the fate of their less fortunate fellow beings.

An escalating gap between expectations and fulfillment, described by Phillips (2001), has laid a foundation for the kind of class warfare foreseen by Marx 150 years ago, but o­nly if political leaders cling to a bureaucratic worldview that the wealthy are more deserving, and the less fortunate are not, mirroring the negativism of the underclass that catering to the greedy by their own governments has provoked.

The irony of the War o­n Terror is that the terrorism spawned by the oil barons of the Middle East has been directed toward the West. This could not have happened if the West had lived up to its ideals of freedom, justice, and equality of opportunity. When these ideals became empty promises, for our own people, during the past quarter of a century, our fate became sealed.

To save our own people, we must now care about terrorists who plead their case in blood, theirs as well as ours. Killing or capturing their leaders is not enough. Hope for a better life can be provided o­nly by countries of origin including ours that are willing to direct their resources toward industries and infrastructure to meet the everyday needs of their discontents.

Directing our resources, also, toward assisting other nations with this process will have a better return o­n investment than our current, massive spending o­n rooting out evil, which is inefficient and ineffective. Lend lease turned enemies into allies after World War II. Ending the Arms Race ended the Cold War. Sharing responsibility for the betterment of an underclass that is producing defiant behavior o­n a global scale is a humane way of fighting the War o­n Terror. Lets hope that our leaders have the will, the wisdom and the skill to do this, and can persuade other leaders to do the same.

Martha Ross DeWitt, PhD, Sociology, Social Theorist and Research

Consultant, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
Author, BEYOND EQUILIBRIUM THEORY; Theories of Social Action and Social Change applied to a study of Power Sharing in Transition. (2000). Lanham, MD: University Press of America, Inc.

Pragmatic roots of idealism

RIYADH (Reuters) By Mark Trevelyan and Dominic Evans05 Feb 2005 (an excerpt):

"I know that terrorism will not go away overnight and our war against terrorism will be long and bitter," de facto ruler Crown Prince Abdullah told security and intelligence officials from more than 50 countries."

"Terrorism increases in ferocity and violence the more the noose tightens round its neck, but I trust the final result will be victory, tolerance, love and peace," Abdullah said."

Dear Leo and Hilarie, In my rush to characterize this quote, I misinformed you about the use of "love and peace" as a strategy to fight terrorism, but I found it interesting that the Crown Prince is thinking in terms of "tolerance, love and peace." Unfortunately, it is the repressive regimes in Saudia Arabia and other Islamic nations that spawned the insurgencies, in the name of religion. I call it a displacement phenomenon, in my paper o­n terrorism. Strangulation and tolerance are not exactly compatible terms, yet Abdullah combines them in the same sentence. It was hard for the Saudis to 'come to terms' with the central role of their nationals in 911, until their nation was targeted, as well. Now, they are walking an 'international tight rope,' as Pakistan is doing, also, to try to please the U.S. as an ally, while the U.S. is seeking to "democratize the world!"

As much as we like to criticize Bush 2, for using the military to enforce this uncompromising stance, it seems that he has captured the attention of tyrants, world-wide, who still count o­n courting our favor. This includes Israel's Sharon to some degree. Cynical Europe, since his re-election, is also rethinking its collective role, and will soon do so under Blair's leadership. It's a recognition of moving into an Age of Idealism, rooted in the Pragmatism that began with Nixon.

All of this was made possible when Nixon recognized that the Cold War was foolish, and that it had to end. 'Power sharing,' with ideological foes, with practical interests in common, made this transition work at the international level, as it has throughout history, at ever-increasingly-complex levels of societal organization. Thus, the Sunnis are recognizing that they must work with the Shiites, and the Israelis are recognizing that they must work with the Palestinians, if there is ever to be progress in their domestic agendas. Strangulation of the dispossessed is a temporary solution. It doesn't work for long if fundamental issues of inequality aren't addressed.

Martha Ross DeWitt


2.4. Power sharing of sphere classes as an alternative to armed conflict

Martha Ross DeWitt, USA, 2003

Three approaches to the study of human social behavior are integrated to suggest a combined approach to resolving global disputes equitably and peacefully.

1) From Phillips web approach (2001), sociological concepts are selected that identify a progression of static and dynamic social settings in which conflicts may arise, involving individual participants according to their habits, self-images, and worldviews.

2) From research using my theories of social action and social change (DeWitt, 2000), cause/effect relationships in the formation of social behavior, behavior change, and power sharing in transition appear to identify circumstances in which positive outcomes of power sharing are likely to occur.

3) From Semashkos tetrasociology (2002), sphere classes are selected as conscious actors and equal partners in power sharing and conflict resolution.

Aspects of each approach are selected that, taken together, might improve our understanding of the origins and dynamics of conflict, and of ways to resolve conflicts without the win-lose 'survival of the fittest' mode that has dominated human history. Each approach is examined to determine what it contributes to the topic. What insights and understandings are suggested by each approach? What solutions or alternatives?


For two centuries, social scientists in Europe and America have attempted to identify the cultural and social forces that shape societal functioning - for the survival and betterment of humankind (Hughes, 1958; Nisbet, 1966; Coser, 1977; Garner, 2000).

Sociologists and social psychologists have developed a myriad of concepts to describe these forces as they form the social settings in which we, as individuals, groups, and larger entities interact with o­ne another, not just to meet our social obligations and the expectations of others, but also to satisfy our own needs and expectations for ourselves (Mead, 1934; Lewin, 1958; Giddens, 1971; Wrong, 1994).

A recent effort by Phillips (2001) and Phillips, et al. (2002) to codify these insights and draw them into a coherent whole has been called the web approach. I will begin by selecting concepts from this overall approach to identify settings in which conflict may occur.

A web of sociological concepts

At each level, links between cultural and social are mediated by thesocializationnot o­nly of individual actors, but also of collectivities of actors. At the structural (macro) level,valuesmanifested ininstitutionsare perpetuated by groups identified with each strata of society, and are relatively stable. At the more dynamic (meso) level of social interaction,reinforcementof values may be disrupted by comparisons that engender a sense of relative deprivation, which may lead to feelings ofalienationat the individual (micro) level.

When transitions become unbalanced by a sense ofrelative deprivationfor a critical mass of actors in dynamic settings (e. g., legislators, labor union officials, religious leaders), or by feelings ofalienationfrom society for a majority of its citizens, specific knowledge of inequities may trigger social conflict.

Forms of social conflictare determined at the macrolevel, by structures of a society and of its relations with other societies. Codes of conduct are formalized by agents selected to represent the society, or at least a dominant faction, and are instituted within a bureaucracy established to carry out their collective decisions. Codes of conduct reflectnormsof behavior, i.e., that are considered acceptable, including forms of protest, such as rallies and marches, that do not disrupt the rules, e.g., of a free society.

Expressions of social conflictmay be initiated at the dynamic level of social interaction, by agents who represent citizen interests that may eitherconformordeviatefrom those of the society as a whole, or of its dominant faction. These include civil disobedience, e. g., interfering with government placement of nuclear waste, thought to be harmful to life and/or the environment.

Intensity of involvement in social conflictis determined at the microlevel by individual personalities, as reflected in theirself imagesas powerless or powerful,but also by theirworld views, habits or addictions,andfeelings of alienationfrom society. World views tends to be part of o­nes cultural heritage, and center either o­n an us vs. them dichotomy of insiders vs. outsiders, or o­n we are all in this together, the latter being less intense but more conducive to negotiation and compromise. Habits may be assessed as functional or dysfunctional as coping mechanisms, addictions being more intense than other habits, harder to change, and more resistant to rational thinking. These factors set the stage, not o­nly for conflict, but for conflict resolution.

Theories and research by DeWitt (2000) describe causal sequences of social action formation and transformation, in which sources of conflict might be identified by protagonists, and addressed in a shared manner to mutual advantage.

Social action, social change, and power sharing in transition

Formation of social action is seen as a natural progression of cognitive responses to cultural, social, economic and personal/political stimuli. Ideas that are accepted are likely to be consistent with past imagery, reinforced within familiar social settings, found relevant in satisfying needs, and consistent with personal responsibilities within established spheres of influence (DeWitt, 2000: 5, Fig. A.).         

Alteration of a response sequence may begin at any point in a progression where continuity is no longer possible, or where the usual response is no longer adequate. This can occur not o­nly in developmental change, but also in adaptive or innovative changes due to changes in the setting. Responses to developmental change are often anticipated, and adaptative changes may require o­nly minor substitutions. Innovative changes, however, often require the formation of entirely new response sequences, with uncertain outcomes that mark the beginning of social transformation. During transformations, individuals and groups may be exposed to new ideas, beliefs, attitudes, and interests, experience new goal choices and motivations, and accept new responsibilities and obligations, depending o­n the nature of changes in their cultural, social, economic, and personal/political settings.

As new settings grow in complexity, opportunities for conflict arise in which individuals and groups compete to control economic resources, and struggle to establish favorable spheres of influence. Culturally they look back for adequate rationales for their conduct, and forward for sources of new information. Socially they look to o­ne another to confirm the legitimacy of their efforts.

From competition, alliances grow."If Im not able to best my opponents, I will seek to influence them in my favor, either directly or through others."This seems to be a major organizing principle of societal development, a natural consequence of increasing social complexity. Open conflict seems to be a consequence of failed alliances, or of an inability to form alliances. Conditions that favor power sharing may include: valuing potential allies, valuing an association with them, accepting their goals, trusting their intentions. While compatibilities hold, compromises are attempted to resolve differences and minimize conflict. Although spheres of influence might overlap, societies of stable alliances are able to function.

In research o­n power sharing, in transition, applied to farm families, I found recent increases in innovative behavior in farming to be associated with high decision sharing when the wifes involvement in farm work was increasing, identifying the family as emerging, nontraditional, and a) her involvement in farm decisions was increasing, or b) she kept most of the farm records, or c) her husband was not entirely satisfied with the way they made decisions and resolved differences, or d) he saw her as a source of new ideas in farming. Using multiple regression statistical analysis, these results were found to be separate, positive effects, given either his commitment to continue in farming, or a high farm debt to farm income ratio (a 'willingness to risk' factor). Although specific to farm couples, this research demonstrated how to model theory applications to be able test my interlocking theories of social action and social change (DeWitt, 2000).

Phillips web of sociological concepts helps to identify settings for conflict and conflict resolution. My theories of social action and social change help to identify processes in which individuals or their agents can, through power sharing, find ways to resolve social conflicts. But how are actors identified in these settings? Whose intentions can be trusted? And whose goals can be accepted to minimize societal contradictions and resolve social conflicts? Justice systems of courts and law enforcement provide basic services for conformance. Equality of influence through the election of representatives may be the closest that political systems have come to selecting agents to pass laws to regulate the behavior of their citizens.

Semashko (2002) suggests a new way to improve representation, so that every essential 'sphere' of society is represented, not just those 'branch' classes that happen to be more influential, due to monetary and other socioeconomic advantages and privileges.

Tetrasociology and sphere classes

Semashko offers a blueprint for achieving equity in place of failed equality in social relations. His theory proposes a new look at social data o­n under-represented population groups, to determine how power should be redistributed to balance their influence. Four sphere groups of population, unequal in size but equal in importance to the economic and social functioning of society, are identified whose interests should be represented equally in managing a society. This is a new concept of representation, suggesting a peaceful transition from competitive struggles to voluntary cooperation, based o­n a shared understanding of what is fair, right, and good for society as a whole as well as its individual members.

Using Russias population as an example, Semashko has calculated numbers of people in sphere classes in millions for 1991, 1996, and 2000 (see table of sphere classes in section 1.2, above). Populations of sphere classes can be calculated for any country or nation-state. In Semashko's opinion, sphere classes have enormous capacity to achieve social harmony, to constructively overcome the challenges of globalization, and to provide the key to social transformation of the modern world.

A detailed methodology is developed to identify the four sphere classes of population, using readily available population data. In the methodology, all ages and occupational groups are represented, including populations that are not involved in paid work: students, homemakers, unemployed, and those who are retired or disabled. What is unique is the way in which the sphere classes are identified, not by status or standing, but by the way in which each reproduces essential, equally important resources of society. Semashko names this criterion "reproductive employment (r-employment)". Twenty sphere indices are developed in all, to represent the four sphere classes, differing o­n this criterion. In contrast, 20th century sociology offered status oriented interpretations of class structure, based either o­n ownership of property/relationship to the means of production (Marxian), or o­n multiple criteria for social stratification, including occupation, income, and education (Western sociology). Property based classes, Semashko argues, are focused, first, o­n taking from a society, rather than o­n  giving to it, consequently they are sources of conflict and disharmony. Sphere classes have the opposite priority. Property class priority is consumption, whereas the priority of sphere classes is production.

Reproductive employment is more inclusive than categories of work, economic employment, and economic activity, because it includes non-labour, non-economic and non-active forms of employment, all of which are viewed as productive. Sphere classes are viewed as equally necessary for a society, but different in the quality of employment in each sphere. Equality and distinction of the sphere classes, and also their striving for balance, makes them harmonious and solidary classes, in contrast with classes based o­n property, which tend to be competitive and disharmonious. Semashko does not consider inequalities of power and influence within sphere classes, but considers them to be of lesser importance to the harmonious functioning of society than inequalities between sphere classes. If the sphere class as a whole is adequately represented, then constituent parts are presumed to benefit.

Semashkos new definition of class structure as all-inclusive and of class function as reproductive creates new tools for understanding the past, for predicting the future, and for addressing many seemingly unresolvable, chronic problems of today. His theory of sphere classes is insightful in areas of common interest, and imaginative in areas not yet analyzed by other social theorists.

Taken together, these three imaginative approaches to sociological analysis suggest a comprehensive approach that takes into account setting, class identity, individual world views, and power sharing processes that might increase harmonious response to global challenges of the 21st century.

A research proposal to compare alternative ways of sharing power

Essentially, Semashko proposes that social policy in a democracy be determined by representatives of what he defines as sphere classes, rather than by representatives of branch/bureaucratic classes of elites. To test the efficacy of this proposition requires comparisons that are not readily available, since no societies of self-identified sphere classes exist.

An alternative is to artificially create representatives of sphere classes and branch elites, present them with scripted global conflicts, in scripted settings, (involving somewhat ambiguous descriptions of each external challenge or threat), and record their problem solving efforts. This can be done with relatively naive subjects as actors. Class identity is scripted to include each of four essential types, whether sphere class or elite, with selection of class identity by subjects somewhat voluntary within each experiment. A group of twelve subjects is selected for each experiment, and divided into three teams of four. o­ne team of four decides o­n codes of conduct, acceptable ways in which the conflict might be resolved. Another team decides whether to conform or deviate from whatever codes of conduct they perceive as relevant, of those included in their script. The third team decides how far to go in pursuing any of the action alternatives suggested in their script.

Each team of four then selects a spokesperson to summarize their position in a joint session. Teams then reconvene separately to try to resolve differences. This process continues, back and forth, for a stated time interval, and the results are recorded, including rationales for decisions made. Individual responses are also recorded, to test related hypotheses. Each individual is part of 12 experiments. According to the theory, representatives of sphere classes (in the sphere class experiments) will increasingly resolve their differences with rationales that favor maximizing global harmony,if most of the individual participants also have an interactive world view. Representatives of elite classes (in the branch/elite class set of experiments) will increasingly resolve their differences with rationales that favor maximizing elite class advantages,if most of the individual participants have a bureaucratic world view. A control set of experiments, without class identity scripts, will test an alternative hypothesis: that class identity (coded from individual questionnaires) is unrelated to changes in rationales given, in either direction,regardless of world views of the participants.

In subsequent rounds of experiments, each participant might experience the other two types of experiment, but with different scripts. This would test a transferability of class identity reinforced by world view hypothesis. Such experiments might be part of a semester course for high school seniors, for extra units of credit in social studies or civics, or an elective Saturday class during the summer, with discussion of the results at the end of the course. Each experiment takes at least three hours, to include time for instruction at the start of each experiment, and time following each experiment for individual responses to written questionnaires.

The primary hypothesis tests a progressive, interactive effect of class identity and world view o­n the consequences (harmony or disharmony) of power sharing to resolve global conflicts. The outcome variable is multidimensional, a predicted quantitative change that varies qualitatively, as an increase either in potential harmony (balanced advantage) or potential disharmony (unequal advantage). A secondary outcome is alliance formation. For control groups this might be based o­n personal characteristics, since class is irrelevant. For test groups it might be based o­n class identity, and either reinforce or confound predicted outcomes. Random sampling techniques are used in the study design. Ideally, a stratified random sample is possible, to include a diverse population of school districts. A pre-study is used to test the adequacy of each of the conflict and setting scripts. Subjects from senior class student populations are selected who have completed a course in social studies, civics, or government with a passing grade and satisfactory attendance record. Quantitative statistics are applied to analyse the results. Ethical procedures are followed to protect confidentiality of information about individual subjects and individual school districts.

Ultimately, this research might provide the basics for a standard high school course in Multicultural Dialog, that prepares students for community involvement and participation in government at all levels, applying principles from the three approaches summarized in this review.


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Martha Ross DeWitt, PhD, Sociology, Research consultant, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. Email:mrossdewitt@msn.com

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