> A paradigm, as used by myself, and I believe Ann's usage is similar,
> is a
> mental model of how the world looks and works. Another way of looking
> at it
> is: a paradigm is a core belief system, or a worldview. A worldview
> can be
> seen as the product of one's experience, or as the process of one's
> experience. I prefer to not think of a paradigm as a fixed, rigid
> but as a process of becoming..... In effect our ability
> to perceive and interpret "reality" is shaped by this core belief
> Holding a particular paradim can preclude us from being open to
> an alternative interpretation of reality.
I don't completely agree with your model of how people think. Clearly,
humans are a sort of herd animal, and often bound by habit and systems
of social reinforcement. But it may be a mistake to reify this inertia
into such a concrete concept. It almost becomes an excuse. Or a
convenient way to pigeonhole your opponent... "Of course you don't
understand me, you have the wrong paradigm".
IMO, at the very core, all humans have a common way of "interpreting
reality", at least if they have developed in a normal way (parental
love, and sensory stimulation). It is hard to understand though, from a
modern perspective, the diversity of thought that seems to have occurred
through history. What was life like for Ghengis Khan's field
commanders? or what went through Peter's mind when Jesus called him?
Our perception of others is colored by our image of the historical
setting, and it could be that at the core, these people were very much
like ourselves. Likewise, as we imagine others, like you imagining me,
we get distracted by the circumstances, and group dynamics. It could be
that we are more alike in terms of inner life than you think.
> People, or organizations, do not "break out"
> of their paradigms per se, as the strength of belief systems is, as we
> know, fairly stout, though not wholly inflexible. M.E. Colby (1991)
> did a
> wonderful job of creating a 5-category paradigm typology. One can view
> these categories as mutually exclusive with no shared or overlapping
> beliefs, or one can see them as on a continuum. Seen as a continuum,
> or a
> process of becoming allows us to consider how a worldview might change
What you are trying to say then is that peoples ideas and habits of
thought change over time? I would agree with that.
> With worldviews, change over time is an important consideration. The
> problem is, and this is key to our current dialogue, the time span of
> worldview change might exceed any one individual's lifetime. My own
> research on two local bakeries, and 4 multinational food companies,
> two of
> which were over 100 years old, suggests that the statement, "many big,
> aggressive growers are very good at breaking out of paradigms, and
> preconceived ideas" is not true.
You could be mistaking institutional stasis due to exogenous factors
(such as markets) with personal inertia. Rapid change is possible.
Take, for example, recycling. This grew during the 70's and 80's, and
now, everyone I know wants to recycle, and the desire has outstripped
the capacity of the market. How about the adoption of hybrid corn? It
only took about ten years for the whole midwest to switch over. It
would have gone faster if the seed industry could have accomodated the
...negotiating such a change in today's "big and aggressive"
> corporation is like grabbing the tail of the dinosaur and trying to
> wag the
You're sure right about that! I've been knocked around a bit myself!
But the big enemies here are group-think and specialization. Smaller
firms and individuals are much better able to accomodate change. But
even in big companies, the pace of change is measured in years, not
> However, my research
> suggests that many practice changes are undertaken within the context
> the predominant belief system, and are not reflective of a marked
> change in
> paradigm and the perceptions of the world that follow from that model.
But change in practice is what we're after! Highly hypothetical change
of "paradigm" is secondary.
> The market is a social construct, and by this
> I mean it is constructed with a particular worldview. In fact, it is
> constructed to exclude externalities until specific mechanisms are
> established to account for their absence.
Markets are hegemonic because they are efficient, not because they stem
from a highly abstract, culturally specific, hegemonic worldview.
Markets can and do include externalities as a result of conscious policy
decisions. For example, putting a deposit on soft-drink containers
really does keep them out of the landfill. It works by commodifying
what was an externality. A similar example could be developed around
air pollution credits. The reason these market solutions are so
distasteful to many activists, is that (IMHO) they are caught up in
ideological (and parasitic) group-think, chasing an edenic (and
puritanical) illusion of eco-conversion. (pardon me, I'm getting
> I feel compelled to recommend a thorough (or is it Thoreau!) reading
> Kuhn, "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions," and perhaps, Bruno
> Latour's work on laboratories (sorry, the title escapes me). The Colby
> article can be found in, (1991, Environmental Management in
> The evolution of paradigms," "Ecological Economics, 3(3), 192-213). I
> especially recommend, Hechts' work, (1987, "The evolution of
> thought," in M. Altieri (Ed.), Agroecology: The scientific basis of
> alternative agriculture), and Fritjof Capra's, "The Turning Point."
Yeah, I have read this stuff. I think Kuhn is simply mistaken about how
science works (see Popper's "Myth of the Framework"). I think Latour
has some anti-science political axe to grind. Altieri is highly
political, basically a Marxist. Capra is an ontological relativist.
Relativism doesn't work for me. It isn't that I fail to understand
where these people are coming from, I just disagree with them.
It is funny though, the degree to which we disagree about these things
appears to prove your point about the strength of paradigms. However, I
reject the notion of incommensurability. We CAN understand, with some
effort, how the other thinks, and critically discuss. Thanks for the
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