The George Washington University
University Seminar on Reflexive Systems
Saturday, March 30, 2012 from 10:00 am-12:00 pm
Funger Hall, Room 320
2201 G Street NW
Can Buberian Dialogues Temper Political Stridency?
Stridency and polarization dominate the conduct of political debate in the media. Like the endless repetition of a bad song, the melody becomes stuck in the public’s consciousness and like a squeaky wheel attracts undue attention and energy. Many recognize this problem but as with the problem of drug addiction feel mostly powerless to contain it … never mind stop it. When the head of a political party can claim, “This is a struggle of good and evil. And we’re the good.” the visceral stridency is nearing crescendo. Something needs to be done. Lissack argues that the stridency problem is a direct result of our reliance on label/category methods of explanation. These explanatory methods are efficient reductive tools – but that efficient reduction has come at a price. Lissack suggests that social complexity theory has a potential answer.
By exploration of narratives based on mechanism rather than labels based on category the hypothesis is that the participants can be rescued from the depths of stridency and brought to a more productive, interactive conversation. The narratives are to be obtained via what is called “Buberian Dialogue” — where Buber’s I-Thou relationship is established between each side’s protagonist and an interacting audience. After thus crowd-sourcing the extraction of commonalities underlying the issues discussed, soft systems methodology is used to develop mechanism-based narratives which can be used as the basis for further dialogue. Traditional approaches to curtailing the stridency and its dangers have not succeeded. It is time to try something new.