Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Notes for a quadriformist manifesto — #6: revisiting Peter Drucker’s (1993) pioneering concept for creating a “social sector”

In post #2 in this series, I highlighted recent calls for greater socialism from political leaders such as Bernie Sanders and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortes. And I suggested it’d be more sensible if they limited their calls to “socialism in one sector” — meaning the creation of commons sector that would be comprised mainly of health, education, environmental, welfare, and related insurance entities and activities. For these no longer fit well in either the public or private sector, and would benefit from being migrated into a new commons sector. I also indicated that this progressive-sounding idea for a new sector, would benefit conservative ideals as well, for it should help with strengthening families and communities, reducing and unburdening the size of government, and freeing up market actors.

In multi-part post #3 in this series, I identified three other quadriformists besides myself — Kate Raworth, Michel Bauwens, and Koji Karatani — who, to varying degrees and in different ways, foresee the rise of a fourth form/sector, much as my TIMN approach does. One commonality among them is that they are way to the Left of me — two of them even foresee that the rise of the fourth form/sector may bring the end of capitalism. I’ve yet to find a quadriformist on the Right. And by today’s triformist standards, I seem to be a Centrist — Center-Left on some matters, Center-Right on others.

All of which may make it seem as though the idea for this new sector is brand new, and comes mostly from the Left. But this perception would be wrong.

In my case, the hypothesis that a new form/sector will arise over time emerged from my first formulating the TIMN framework in the mid-90s. Then, when I went looking for substantiation, lo and behold, I happened upon Peter Drucker’s idea, fielded in the mid-90s, that a “social sector” was emerging alongside our longstanding public and private sectors. Drucker was then a prominent management theorist and something of a futurist as well. If politically ideological at all, I gather he was a Center-Right conservative, very critical of the “megastate … either in its totalitarian or in its democratic version.”

In other words, the first proposal I’ve found for a distinct new sector came from the Center-Right, not the Left. Moreover, it appeared about 25 years ago — meaning it’s not a recent concoction (I’ll cite other proposers in my next post).

Drucker’s notion first appeared in his book Post-Capitalist Society (1993), where he observed (p. 171) that “the post-capitalist polity needs a “third sector,” in addition to the two generally recognized ones, the ‘private sector’ of business and the “public sector” of government. It needs an autonomous social sector.” For my purposes, it’s easier to draw on a follow-on article he wrote, “The age of social transformation,” which appeared in The Atlantic Monthly in May 1994 (then again slightly longer in November 1994).

His article, which still reads quite prophetically, is mainly about the rise of the knowledge society and its knowledge workers. Toward the end he starts remarking about the rise of a new sector:
“The right answer to the question Who takes care of the social challenges of the knowledge society? is neither the government nor the employing organization. The answer is a separate and new social sector.
“It is less than fifty years, I believe, since we first talked in the United States of the two sectors of a modern society — the "public sector" (government) and the "private sector" (business). In the past twenty years the United States has begun to talk of a third sector, the "nonprofit sector" — those organizations that increasingly take care of the social challenges of a modern society.”
The kinds of organizations and activities that, in his view, are already comprising this social sector range from long-established churches, to new nonprofit and charitable organizations, most of them performing community services, often by way of volunteers, particularly in areas of health and education. In reviewing them, Drucker finds, firstly, that “The task of social-sector organizations is to create human health and well being,” and secondly, that “They create citizenship”. Indeed, our modern society and polity has grown “so big and complex that citizenship — that is, responsible participation — is no longer possible” except for voting and paying taxes. Drucker further observes that many social-sector organizations “although partners with government, also clearly compete with government. The relationship between the two has yet to be worked out — and there is practically no precedent for it.”

Thus Drucker concludes that the knowledge society needs three formal sectors to function and progress properly — a public, a private, and a social sector:
“But one thing is already clear. The knowledge society has to be a society of three sectors: a public sector of government, a private sector of business, and a social sector. And I submit that it is becoming increasingly clear that through the social sector a modern developed society can again create responsible and achieving citizenship, and can again give individuals — especially knowledge workers — a sphere in which they can make a difference in society and re-create community.”
Moreover, the three sectors must learn to work together: The emergence of a social sector is “a central need of the society of organizations. But by itself it is not enough — the organizations of both the public and the private sector must share in the work.” He worries that “we do not have even the beginnings of political theory or the political institutions needed for effective government in the knowledge-based society of organizations.”

Indeed, in a remarkable passage that reads even more timely today, Drucker chastises the unhelpfulness of our political parties:
“There is thus in the society of organizations no one integrating force that pulls individual organizations in society and community into coalition. The traditional parties — perhaps the most successful political creations of the nineteenth century — can no longer integrate divergent groups and divergent points of view into a common pursuit of power. Rather, they have become battlefields between groups, each of them fighting for absolute victory and not content with anything but total surrender of the enemy.”
Wow! Except for Drucker’s basic proposal for recognizing a social sector, I’d long forgotten about his elaboration. Many of his points overlap with TIMN: e.g., by identifying health and education as key components of the new sector; seeing that many of its actors are non-profit organizations; finding its animating purpose in the promotion of people’s care and well-being; and arguing that the public, private, and social sectors must all work together. All such points reinforce my sense of TIMN’s future implications.

His observation about the citizenship-cultivating purposes of a social sector is new to me. I should consider adding that into TIMN, whether this new sector is called a social or commons sector (or something else).

Yet his proposal has some shortcomings too, both on its own and vis à vis TIMN: He makes no reference to the rise of the network form as a new dynamic enabling the growth of this social sector. He makes only passing references to how the public, private, and social sectors may and should interact. And there is nothing about the kinds of legal and financial initiatives that may be needed for a social sector to stand on its own and thrive. Of course, TIMN still has shortcomings in those regards too — and I’m still searching, open to suggestions.

To see the Drucker’s May 1994 article in full, go here:
For the November 1994 version, go here:

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Notes for a quadriformist manifesto — #5: a recap of basic notions, to help move me out of doldrums and back up to speed

The deepest systemic struggle underway in our society is barely noticeable at this point. It’s the struggle between a centuries-old “triformism” on the one hand, and an emergent “quadriformism” on the other. It’s a struggle that should grow to reshape all the divisive struggles that currently dominate philosophical, ideological, and political discourse in our country: e.g., those about conservatism versus liberalism (and progressivism), about capitalism versus socialism, about public versus private sector solutions, not to mention a slew of struggles over race, class, ethnicity, identity, and other social, cultural, and economic issues. All these struggles and the arguments behind them will likely remain irresolvably stuck to America’s detriment, or they will be redefined to America’s benefit, depending on whether the aging forces of triformism continue to prevail or give way to the awakening forces for quadriformism.

From a TIMN (Tribes + Institutions + Markets + Networks) perspective (see earlier posts for explanation), America is in the early throes of evolving (or failing to evolve) from an aging triform (T+I+M) system into a next-stage quadriform (T+I+M+N) system. Our triform system has served America well for over two centuries, generating abundant progress. But our society’s complexity has grown so much that the triform model is no longer well suited to enabling our leaders to address and resolve America’s growing accumulation of problems — our triform system is becoming evermore muddled, for our society is outgrowing its capabilities.

The emergence of the +N/networks form of organization is still in its early phases, and its still not clear what it means for the evolution of quadriform societies in the coming decades (and centuries). Yet, +N’s emergence already lies behind the loosening, both functional and dysfunctional, of our T+I+M system, and helps explain the reversions to a malignant tribalism (the dark side of the T form) that now plague our triform system.

The triform model has depended on the evolution of three sectors — an informal base sector of families, communities, and other kinship associations (from T), plus a public sector (from +I) and a private sector (from +M) — and for many past decades these three sectors have thrived and worked fairly well together. But today all three sectors are in faltering if not failing shape: families and communities are in distress and disarray all across America, while our public and private sectors are failing to work well together. Both of the latter two have extreme proponents who seek to overemphasize one or the other sector, in expansive ways that ultimately distort and confound the capabilities of the triform model.

This is especially true for policy matters that not only require public-private cooperation, but also that no longer fit clearly into either the public or the private sector. I refer in particular to health, education, environmental, and welfare matters, as I’ve explained in other posts. Such matters would benefit, as would American society as a whole, by enabling a new sector — by best accounts, a social or commons sector — to take hold formally alongside the other sectors, and by migrating into that new sector the policy matters and entities I mentioned above.

In short, America’s best hopes reside in adapting to and finding advantages in the rise of the fourth cardinal form of social organization and evolution — the information-age networks-based +N form. Our leaders should begin figuring out how best to use this form for society’s benefit in association with the earlier three forms. This may well mean consciously deliberately enabling the creation of a fourth sector — in all likelihood, a new social or commons sector — whose functioning will improve conditions for the other earlier sectors as well.

Triformism served our past growth, but it’s era is ending. It’s time to advance the idea of quadriformism, for it can provide a better organized and thus a brighter future for America.

More to follow, including on why these ideas should appeal as much to conservatives as to liberals and progressives.

[Revised from version posted on my FaceBook page, February 19, 2019.]

Notes for a quadriformist manifesto — #4: two ways out, two ways ahead

I better get back to this series, even if it leads to scattered repetitive fragmentary postings while I try to refine my thinking and make it relevant to our present situation. I fret that my key points about a future quadriform system and commons sector, assuming they are correct, may be years too early and too abstract to gain traction. Onward nevertheless.

- - - - - - -

There are only two ways out, two ways ahead for America. The first is to work at fixing our aging muddled triform system. The second is to push for transforming it into a quadriform system — the next stage of social evolution. Neither will be easy. But the first will prove futile. Only the second can prove fertile.

The purpose of society is to enable people to live better together, hopefully by becoming better themselves. That’s why people first clustered together in familial clans and communal tribes. Then, centuries later, why they accommodated to the rise of governments, militaries, and other hierarchical institutions that enabled large undertakings. And still more centuries later, why they opened up their societies to make room for free markets for business, trade, and commerce.
Not everybody benefitted along the way. But overall, this evolution from tribe-centric, to state-centric, to market-centric societies enabled most people to live better. Their societies improved as people learned to combine tribal, institutional, and market forms of organization — that is, to progress in complexity from monoform systems (tribes-only), to biform systems (tribes + institutions), to triform systems (tribes + institutions + markets).

The best result has been our United States of America — the paragon of a triform society, the epitome of a liberal democracy. After the fall of the Soviet Union (a totalitarian biform system), the triumph of our own and other democratic triform societies inspired an optimistic belief in the “end of history” model (Fukuyama, 1989, 1992), whereby “What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”

But matters have not evolved that way. The “end of history” is a trifomist model — offered at the moment of its greatest power and success, but also, unknowingly, on the eve of its looming obsolescence. For this model did not recognize that a new form of social evolution was emerging: the information-age network form. The rise of this next great form — with its bundle of digital technologies, organizational dynamics, and philosophical implications — is still in its early disruptive phases, and it remains unclear exactly what it will bring in the coming decades. But its rise lies behind the vast loosening and questioning, both functional and dysfunctional, that presently besets our aging triform system across all sectors.

If/as matters progress, this promises to lead to the evolution of a radically new quadriform system (tribes + institutions + markets + networks) for addressing society’s issues. It will lead to the creation of a new sector — a commons sector? — to resolve the complex problems that our aging public and private sectors are no longer suited to resolving, and which cannot, and should not, be simply tossed back to burden individual families and communities, at least not if we are to remain a great country on the cutting edge of human progress. Unfortunately, America’s current political, economic, and social leaders are all still thinking and planning in primarily triform ways — perhaps they cannot do otherwise, for the triformist design is all they know.

Thus we find ourselves in a transitional moment, peering Janus-like in two directions, facing two choices: One is to persist with the triform system we know — the legacy of the past. The other is to head deliberately toward a quadriform transformation — the promise of the future. It’s a perplexing choice, fraught with uncertainties. I shall argue for the quadriformist choice.

I’ve started doing so in posts #1-3 in this series. But there is much more to be done. While this post has not offered any new specifics, it has rendered a new preamble, in particular by pointing to the obsolescence of the triform “end of history” model that has limited so much thinking in recent decades about how future societies will be structured.
More next time....

[Revised from earlier draft posted on my Facebook page, December 7, 2018.]