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As societies and social systems grow in complexity and scope, the need for a coherent approach to provide pragmatic solutions and inter-related views becomes paramount. Respectively, if we look at the real world system as a physical or organizational one, developing new models may take into consideration systems structures devoid of the creation of arbitrary internal boundaries. Literature tells us that social systems encompass a large and relatively amorphous body of methods and principles, all oriented to look at the interrelatedness of different forces and yet part of a common process. All of these diverse approaches seem to have one guiding idea in common: that the behavior of all systems follows certain general principles. They appear rooted in the systems dynamic understanding of how complex feedback processes can generate problematic patterns of behavior within organizations and large-scale human systems.
How will we unlock the enigmas of social thought and cultural understanding based on the theoretical constructs and ruminations presented to us by theorists? Is it even possible to do so taking into consideration all the presented elements working against such an attempt? We may want to debate the nature of the principles of social systems ranging from the curious to the profound and create provocative dialogue among future theorists, focusing on efforts to create true understanding and communication. We may want to synthesize insights gained from past theories, history, and our own observations to present a new paradigm. We may want to forget old stereotypical ideas and assumptions and look at current state-of-the-art discoveries and ideas assisting us in the search for new answers and fresh theories.
If social systems truly are a realm where ideas about multiple dimensions and problematic situations harbor, we have an opportunity to explore and produce new domains, each with its own distinct set of characteristics and possibilities.
Cassard, A. (2009) Baltimore Women in Leadership Examiner
Dear Ms Cassard
I am a Canadian living in India this past one year doing volunteer work for an NGO. My time here has been educational, inspiring and heartbreaking (witnessing the poverty and suffering). My work is that of organizational development, but my interest is in the people, the culture and thinking processes. My background includes a degree in developmental psychology from McGill University and so I know I have a propensity to see things in a developmental perspective. I respect that there are many definitions of culture from time past to present day configurations. I have not studied any of them, but have had some cursory looks at some of the concepts. I admit I’m out of my field.
I jumped to a conclusion about the driving culture here in India, in which I basically figured that they drive the way they do here for two reasons: 1) they were given a technology that was foreign to them and did not have the cultural experience of learning the protocols, courtesies, laws and physics of these devices and systems, and 2) the mindset of the average driving Indian is akin to that of a 10 year old boy. I appreciate that there are some cultural aspects that have nothing, or little to do with a developmental concept such as this. By developmental, I should say that I think all human beings go through a similar, if not identical process of development, both physically and psychologically. Therefore I take the liberty of trying to compare the developmental psychological or cognitive aspects of the Indian culture to that of what I understand the process is about. Hence I imply that drivers here are behaving in a similar manner as that of a 10 year old boy would in any culture around the world.
So taking this perspective, I started to look at other aspects of Indian cultural behaviour and wondered if what I was seeing could be lined up to other developmental benchmarks. Acknowledging I might be a bit rusty on these benchmarks, I have often noticed that many Indians are very curious about things, looking into rooms, bags, drawers etc of others (like myself) without asking or feeling guilty about doing that. Imagine someone taking your purse and going through it just for the sake of looking. Then imagine that person is 5 years old. Would you not be in an understanding and forgiving nature of the 5 year old versus that of the 30 year old doing the same thing? Have most Indians just never been taught not to respect this kind of privacy of others? (I can tie this into their more intense family relationships at another time.) So to me, this prying behaviour is like that of a 5 year olds. In a similar account I notice the failure of many adult people around the world to not be able to see that there are not just black and white differences in applying the law, which is the developmental phase of a child at around 8 years of age who has not learnt about the grey concepts of law. I have noticed this behaviour of many who have become law enforcers, that their perspective is that the law says such and such and you obey it or pay.
So I guess this all adds up to a question for me about who else has had similar ideas about this developmental aspect of culture and maybe a more general question: am I way out of line and too biased to even make these observations in the manner I have done. In other words, to use your words:
How will we unlock the enigmas of social thought and cultural understanding based on the theoretical constructs and ruminations presented to us by theorists? Is it even possible to do so taking into consideration all the presented elements working against such an attempt?
Mark L. Takefman
I very much appreciate reading your response to this topic. It is indeed an area we could discuss endlessly, and perhaps someday, we might find some answers. I enjoyed your declaration that you have a “propensity to see things in a developmental perspective.” It reminded me of a statement by Wilson“ that it is necessary to understand the meaning ascribed by persons to the activities in which they engage in order to understand their behavior” (Wilson, 1999).
Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me.
Anita Cassard, PhD
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