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. Let’s 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 Phillip’s 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 Semashko’s 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 the‘socialization’not 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,‘reinforcement’of values may be disrupted by comparisons that engender a sense of ‘relative deprivation,’ which may lead to feelings of‘alienation’at 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 one’s 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 I’m 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 wife’s 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).
Phillip’s 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 Russia’s 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.
Semashko’s 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:firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more: http://peacefromharmony.org/?cat=en_c&key=149