Maintaining Vision – A Necessity for Successful Transformation

“Where there is no vision, the people perish…” Proverbs 29:18

There is lack of cohesion in any society where there is no common vision to hold it on its course.

If we embrace the idea of incrementalism as normative, even essential as a mechanism of change, we must also be aware of its most significant weakness – the difficulty of maintaining direction toward an intended destination when the only visible change appears, by itself, to be insignificant.

It is easy to lose steam, easy to lose hope that the small changes will ever accumulate to the point of establishing a new way of thinking and acting in the culture.  If energy is not maintained, change will become less directional, more random, less productive or even destructive, and the individual will see himself as a small boat adrift on the ever fluctuating sea of public sentiment rather than as part of an armada on a grand voyage.

Those wishing to foster significant transformative change, or even  wishing in some cases to simply maintain a given state, must be ever mindful of the overarching purpose of their common vision and must work to nurture it and broaden its embrace within the culture.  This requires, as mentioned in an earlier article, the development of a significant level of consensus, and it requires a core of adherents committed to marshaling its best efforts toward promoting the cause.

This vision must of necessity be long-term.  Each participant must see his or her role as a significant part of something greater than himself or herself.  The people that are part of the movement must come to embrace the vision and the true significance of their respective parts at a level sufficient to maintain engagement, with a determination to see the mission through to the realization of the vision.  Some transformation requires a commitment of weeks, some of years, some of multiple generations. Continue reading “Maintaining Vision – A Necessity for Successful Transformation”

Incremental Dialectical Process as Progress

In examining incrementalism as an instrument of change, we need to understand how opposing forces influence one another in the transformation process, producing new social thought patterns, practices, and systems.  The pattern that is useful in helping us to visualize this process is known as dialectics.  In its simplest expression, the dialectic process is one where two opposing ideas conflict, interact, and converge to result in a new understanding which in turn yields new practices.  Conflict is necessary to change, and conflict in the area of ideas tends to produce new ideas simply because none of us, though we may believe deeply in the positions we hold, has full understanding of anything.

It may sound to some like I am opening the door for the denial of absolutes or truth – that I am saying we do not know truth and that we only ride the ever fluctuating public consciousness from one relativistic position to another at best, or the surrender to the manipulation of others at worst.  Undoubtedly some, who do not believe in what Francis Schaeffer called “true truth,” do speak of dialectics in relativistic terms.  It would seem fair to say that it is within a relativistic context that you will ordinarily see the term.  Still, I believe it provides us who hold to the idea of absolute truth with a valid framework for understanding the way change occurs – to the bad or to the good. Continue reading “Incremental Dialectical Process as Progress”

Core Social Consensus Essential for Sustainable Systemic Transformation

The battle for sound social structures is a battle of ideas.  Without a social consensus rooted in a common core philosophy there is nothing to hold a culture on a given course.  Not that all, or even a majority, have to embrace a common core philosophy.  There is never a monolithic thought structure within a society.  Even the most doctrinaire cultures have schisms, most notable today, the Shia and Sunni factions within Islam.  They argue between themselves, battle theologically and politically, and even in the most extreme quarters kill one another, but there are causes that can bring them together.

At the founding of our nation, the historians tell us, it was not a majority that was intent on revolution to free the colonies from the tyranny of Britain. Continue reading “Core Social Consensus Essential for Sustainable Systemic Transformation”

Incrementalism as a Tactic – Was Moses an Incrementalist?

Life is comprised of many small changes punctuated from time to time with rapid broad-scale change, usually precipitated by crisis. Incremental change is mankind’s natural preference when it is sufficient to relieve the discomfort of the moment and avoid major adjustments in the status quo.  However, when incremental change is inadequate to address a problem, society will opt for a major system overhaul.  That is to say, from time to time the pressure for change becomes so great that significant transformational change is required resulting in the cataclysmic transformational event, be it reformation or revolution.  Still, incremental change is the normative process and cataclysmic change is the exception.

So, incrementalism happens.  It happens naturally as a matter of course, even in the absence of any purpose or direction beyond that of relieving some minor discomfort.  But, must it only be accepted as the norm or can it actually be used intentionally as a tool to bring about significant transformation by the accumulated effects of many small measures over an extended period of time?  It is not only possible to use incrementalism as a tool but that it is indeed the wisest and most prudent approach in the majority of circumstances.  Later I will make the argument for the appropriate use of the opportunity for cataclysmic change. Continue reading “Incrementalism as a Tactic – Was Moses an Incrementalist?”

Incrementalism as an Effective Instrument of Social and Political Change

A recent Rasmussen poll says that 75% of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction (The RCP Average of four polls puts the number at 67%). Observing the past may lead us to expect that as the current budget and debt crisis lessens in public visibility, by the adoption of some kind of debt ceiling modification and/or cuts in deficit spending, these numbers will decline – at least until the next big crisis brings itself to the fore or unless inaction on this current crisis immediately precipitates an even greater one. Still even if such radically high numbers decline they will only do so modestly in the foreseeable future and it is reasonable to expect that the desire for a new direction will remain high. Because the populace is so divided about what solutions are best and because the alternatives are at such polar extremes, there will likely continue to be a high level of dissatisfaction in the populace as a whole and a mood in the country for change in the direction and operation of our governmental systems. We should not expect that to subside into insignificance any time soon.

Some see the current crisis as the appropriate time to stand uncompromisingly upon their ultimate principles and hold their ground in hopes that the opposition will somehow cave and a new age of fiscal responsibility can be ushered in.
Continue reading “Incrementalism as an Effective Instrument of Social and Political Change”