Transitional Approach to Change

Organizations, Management of Change and Ethical Dilemmas

A brief outline of the concepts in the transitional approach to the management of change.  [quite a bit of this is summarised from Ambrose, A. Key Concepts of the Transitional Approach to Managing Change,  in Lisl Klein, ed. [1989], Working With Organizations, Kestrel Print, Loxwood, West Sussex.] Then, my thoughts follow as I believe this approach also has impact on the ethical dilemmas which appear as change progresses. I would also say that the paradigm shift created means the change is not just another surface reform, so that institutional social problems, like racism, sexism, disablism, etc etc do not remain under the surface, buried in the institutional structures.

The Transitional Approach

A paradigm shift can occur in organizations when management recognizes how personal and interpersonal values, attitudes and engagements make impact on the purposes strategies and plans which are essential aspects of organizational life and change.

The transitional approach to the management of change is a way of thinking. That is, the transition is in mind as much as in the external context. The approach acknowledges each person, a recognition of the whole self of each person, the differences each brings and the commonality or otherwise of issues regarded as central in the organization and its need for change. The approach supposes that each of us has an “organization in the mind” and that we see the external organization through the lens of this one, the one in the mind. The “transition”, like Winnicott’s “transitional object” the child’s teddy, is both ‘me’ and ‘not-me’, it is inextricably imbued with things which cross the boundaries of self and perception and what actually is.

Besides this over-arching concept of “organization in the mind” the following concepts help identify aspects of the approach, and all are necessary, entwined together:

  • Development potential: Difference will exist in the extent to which individuals are ready to change, and the ways in which they are able to change.
  • Open-system perspective: That is, the organization is not closed, nor made up of fully separable parts, but is exposed to uncertainty and unpredictability in the wider environment, and to internal confusions and conflations, as well as inter-dependencies.
  • Problem toleration: A consequence of adopting an open-system perspective, is that ‘change-agents’ are faced with complexity and uncertainty, so they will be subject to anxieties, confusions and dissonance as they assess the implications of change.
  • Potential space: Innovative thinking is akin to play, so potential space is the ‘play’ space in the mind. Ownership of ideas or imagination etc is not an issue, instead, the varieties of freedom and constraints allowed range through lateral and logical thinking, and produce new meanings and new patterns in the mind, before an objective is identified.
  • Transitional learning: Like play, this is active not passive, as one is not shown what to do. It is however more than just experimentation as it contains the idea of ‘working through’ that is, at each step, consequences and effects on the real space, outside of the mind-space, are also held in mind. The ‘game’ becomes more complex as learning proceeds. In this respect it is different from trial and error, or design process methods of reaching a solution.
  • Double task: If the work of organizations, that is many people, and the work of individuals, are both to flourish and be effective in the long-term, then ‘the work’ can be conceived of as two intertwined and interlocking tasks, like a double helix. The double task looks at the wood and the trees and the whole, which is more than either.
  • Transitional space: Notice that if this is not both sanctioned within the system and provided for, with e.g. time, or place, and possibly facilitation, minds have real dicfficulty in changing. Imagine how the mind of a child is hurt when a parent throws away the teddy bear, rather than knowing the child will at some time replace it by her own developmental growth as opportunities open.
  • Transformational situation: This is the direct correlate of the ‘transitional object’ in the early life of an infant. In an organization, the transformation may not come about even when transitional space is provided as participants may not know how to engage with transitional learning; indeed may seek other more traditional engagements. The transformational situation changes the boundaries, or lifts taboos, in a way in which security is maintained. It may be likened to a catalyst, and is in some sense similar as it is a temporary enabling situation, which is seen insightfully, so that defensive or traditional ‘log-jams’ can be dispersed. Then, new forms of interaction will be initiated by the participants themselves and transitional learning can happen.

This transitional approach to change is an intervention of a peculiar kind. It does not impose the change, nor does it attempt to meet the problems of a change head-on. Instead, it works with the realization that each and every person, and each and every part of the system, are, as living parts of the system both experiencing ‘issues’ as themselves, and as responders to the system they are in. It could be said that everyone has a “double task” and some are better placed to work through this, by chance of the position they happen to be in, as well as by personal capacity for reflection. Attention and insight regarding how each issue belongs to the system within which individual(s) experience it, and how each individual has effect on the system through their response will create the conditions within which an evolution to a different kind of system occurs.

Ethical Dilemmas

As change progresses, ethical dilemmas are experienced in which the characteristic of the dilemma is that all choices appear to have “rightness”, or deep value, yet it appears that these choices preclude each other. There are four classic paradigms of such Right/Right dilemmas in which the choice to be made does not centre on an analysis of “right” versus “wrong” where choosing is simple if the analysis is well done. Right/right dilemmas are paradoxes and can be paralysing. Some can turn into “double bind” where any action brings loss. Consider:

  • Individual versus community or group – instanced by examples where the needs of particular individuals are in conflict with the needs of other ‘stakeholders’.
  • Truth versus loyalty – as for example when the desire for open and free communication is clearly at odds with issues of confidentiality and privacy
  • Justice versus mercy – as when the need of a victim cannot be reconciled with the hope that the perpetrator of harm could be enabled to learn for the future
  • Short-term versus long-term – this can apply in relation to each of the above, but is often particularly relevant when considering ecological issues

The transitional approach to managing change provides a means by which these paradoxical dilemmas can be held. Instead of reaching toward the “successful outcome”, the management of “failure” is part of the transitional process.  In other words, in transition, the effects of the point of view not chosen can be taken in. There is room for contradiction and disappointment to be experienced, even grief or resentment, as feelings are worked through. The child gives up the teddy bear when she learns to play with princess dolls or skateboards. Development is more interesting, better fun and learning is just as good a place to be when need for transitional space is granted. The final outcome contains more of the whole, of people who are lively and eager to engage.

Yes I know that last sentence is idealistic, but the probability of a successful flourishing shift taking place is a lot higher than when change is assumed to be possible through only rational persuasion, or through stick and carrot types of behavioural rewards. Transitional change pays attention to human values like ethics and justice. These are not incompatible with other aims, such as profit or economic viability. Though more mercenary motives may be modified, they do not disappear. The transitional approach is not an ideology, nor is it an idealists dream. It is a process, using situated knowledge, in real contexts, affected by and affecting real people.

Love-Hate Relationships/History of Money

While taking a really good online course [Institute for Sustainability and Leadership: Money and Society] I have had to write an assignment for the first time in many years. Having been taken through Monetary History with a series of slides and associated papers, we were asked to develop our own theory on the main factor influencing monetary history, using examples, recurring themes etc. This is what I found myself writing, it was supposed to be 500 words, but this is over 1000. [Luckily, online courses do not assess.]

Human Interactions and System Creation

Sorry, I am out of time to shorten this … but very grateful for the way the assignment gave me an opportunity to put the ideas into words within the monetary context.

Systems, their Currencies and Functions (Moneystuff) are inventions of humans, not universal laws. Money stuff comes from human minds. How do brains/minds work to make these artefacts, cultures, organizations, institutions?

Theory: Bio-social-psychological learning from neuroscience, anthropology, sociology, psychoanalysis, suggest states of mind result from dynamics of experience through feedback loops (amygdala, hippocampus, cortex) acting on and responding to the complexity of internal and external happenings, bringing artefacts, cultures and institutions into the loop.[1]

LAW: Moneystuff is a product of mind-states projected onto the outside world.[2]

The states of mind existent in humans give rise to three different types of “projected cultural interactions” applicable to monetary history.[3]

These interactions conflict, are productive or degenerate, depending on use and particular context. Each can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the feedback loop resonates; hegemony takes hold. If projection is of a single interaction mode it will in time become dysfunctional, even though at first it may have shown promise of wellbeing. A single interaction mode may be useful by itself in particular circumstances, but reality requires flexible engagement with each as circumstances change.

DEPENDENCE – An experience of all humans (birds, mammals also) engenders a state of mind that obeys authority, feels envy and gratitude, seeks and gives help and security[4]. The monetary systems of Mesopotamia, Yap stones are decreed by law or custom equivalent to law, and refer to human necessity, agriculture, food, shelter. In authority and obedience responsive to need, they represent dependency interactions. The example from Rome seems to show how what was at first a productive fiat currency, Dependence, became dysfunctional, causing a switch to the next mode.

INDEPENDENCE or SURVIVAL As it develops, mind engages with attachment, separation, anxiety, loss of unconditional provision, but at the same time, gains experience of mutual support, and/or competition. “Me” realizes “Us” and “Them”. Entering the world of siblings and others, we echo how humans moved from hunter-gatherer living to settlements about 10,000 years ago, necessitating brain development overlaying more basic biology [Solms]. When competitiveness, fear, anxiety about scarcity or other threats to survival exist, the projection becomes fight or flight, us or them. Money becomes a commodity, capital, of which there is enough, or not enough[5].

Where Survival and Dependence co-exist, co-operative and collaborative systems develop. The Tally Sticks of the Middle Ages may look like “fiat”, and are established by the king’s decree, but in practice are exchange between the king and his subjects enabling the aims of each. However, it could be said that Survival became the sole interaction after the death of Charles I and the brief puritanical republic. Central banking and capitalism emerged at this time, alongside colonialism, fear of scarcity bringing exploitation. Laws passed in the 17th century allowed debts to be freely bought and sold, a social interaction became a commodity. In Survival mode plenty is achieved through “survival of the fittest”. Survival dominates later monetary history, helped by Adam Smith and the enlightenment putting reason above emotion not seeing the way in which emotion underpins all reasoning and enables it to be in tune with reality. Later, living within an already formed Survival understanding of Money, many believed the free market promised well-being. Neo-liberal philosophy is a degenerate form of Independence/Survival that diminishes both Dependence and the third interaction mode.

FUTURE (called Pairing in psychosocial literature) is the human ability to plan, perceive future, remember past, use tools, and join with others to regret, repair, and reproduce to find hope in the future, rather than repeat. This mode contains memory and desire, used alongsid ethe other two is genuinely creative. However, when used without the other two, pairing allows emotionality, fantasy and prejudice unchecked by evidence, to dominate. Many utopian proposals and conspiracy theories that hope to trigger monetary reform probably belong in this interaction, but I cannot find examples in monetary history where money or currency could be considered a projection of this type.

A monetary system that issues money as debt with interest diminishes this third interaction. It makes a destructive charge on the future of ourselves and our planet. Possibly Islamic Banking that restricts usury, may be one form of money that recognizes some aspect of “Future”, micro-finance schemes may also do so, but I do not know enough about either.

Prediction: Recognition of the failure of the neo-liberal monetary system, will lead to either a different form of Survival, or to a Dependent mode. For example, the film The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse analyses the system failure, then supports a return to a regulation and gold standard, i.e. commodity money, exchange, limited by authority. This is again Survival, with a reach for something that can be identified as secure with competitive problems deemed soluble by appeal to authority. Positive Money seeks a monetary commission, but its own solution is to have a Money Committee taking the power of issuance away from banks, and deciding on how much or in what currencies money will be issued. This seems to be a return to a Dependent mode, though with good listening parents, the family will be allowed to participate. This could be reconcilable with the third interaction, but equally might see-saw between Dependence and Survival modes, as most solely rational functioning has done in monetary history.

A transformative system would include Future Pairing mode, acknowledging human gift, all our interaction modes, our capital. This may grow in small local cooperatives or transition groups, but none that has appeared has gained much traction[6]. I am intrigued by Bendell’s “Acknowledgement” function of money that seemed to me similar to “paying forward” or “what goes around comes around”, in which trust in goodness, remembrance of past worth, allows different ways of thinking about what money might become. If money were used according to observed circumstance for human-and-environment wellbeing rather than economic growth, its interaction mode would vary. I do not see any government at present able to formulate such a flexible monetary system. My hopes from this course are to be more able to so, but I cannot predict it.


Beuys, Joseph, ed. What Is Money?: A Discussion. Forest Row, England: Clairview Books, 2010.

Bion, Wilfred R. Experiences in Groups, and Other Papers. London: Tavistock/Routledge, 1989.

Bollas, Christopher. The Christopher Bollas Reader. London ; New York: Routledge, 2011.

Davies, Glyn. A History of Money: From Ancient Times to the Present Day. 3rd ed., With revisions. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2002.

French, R. B., and P. Simpson. ‘The “Work Group”: Redressing the Balance in Bion’s Experiences in Groups’. Human Relations 63, no. 12 (1 December 2010): 1859–78. doi:10.1177/0018726710365091.

Hoggett, Paul. Politics, Identity, and Emotion. Boulder, London: Paradigm Publishers, 2009.

Maizels, Neil Is That Really What It Is! Capitalism un-emperored,

Rowbotham, Michael. The Grip of Death: A Study of Modern Money, Debt Slavery, and Destructive Economics. Charlbury, Oxfordshire : Concord, MA: Jon Carpenter ; Distributed by Paul and Co, 1998.

Solms, Mark, and Oliver Turnbull. The Brain and the Inner World: An Introduction to the Neuroscience of Subjective Experience. New York: Other Press, 2002.

Standing, Guy. The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class. London, UK ; New York, NY: Bloomsbury, 2014.

Waddell, Margot, and Tavistock Clinic. Inside Lives: Psychoanalysis and the Development of Personality. London: Karnac, 2002.

Zarlenga, Stephen. The Lost Science of Money: The Mythology of Money, the Story of Power. Valatie, NY: American Monetary Institute, 2002.


[1] See e.g. Solms for neuroscience, Waddell for states of mind, Hogget for processes of cultural formation.

[2] Psychosocial references: Solms, Waddell, Maizels, Hogget, French.

Monetary History and socio-political references: Rowbotham, Standing, Davies, Zarlenga.

[3] Adapted from Wilfred Bion’s theory of basic assumptions in group unconscious and Robert French’s development of it in leadership studies where the assumptions are considered to be universal interaction modes that can be both positive and negative. The names above are mine, to apply the ideas better within 500 words.

[4] Maslow heirarchy of needs – food and shelter

[5] Neil Maizels:

[6] Joseph Beuys “What is Money?”


A new Paradigm for a new Monetary System [4]

Read Part 1 here, and Part 2 and Part 3.

Based on philosophical and psychological inquiry, part 1 referred to the philosophy of science in order to show the need for a new paradigm approach to a world problem: to think how “money” or a monetary system might be better planned to support life. Part 2, supposed three interlinked relationships within life as the foundation of this holistic approach [transcendent, rights, and exchange]. Then in part 3, a thought experiment began where “exchange” was left out, so that some notions of what “money” might mean without that aspect we are so accustomed to viewing could emerge. This “out of the box” thinking helps the realisation that the current paradigm (a hegemony in thought) allows exchange to dominate. This can be seen again, but each time a little differently, when the exchange aspect of life is paired with each of the others, but all three are not in combination. Leave out “transcendence” and inevitably, the view moves to conflicting aspects of sociology and psychology. The “elephant in the room” is that we talk about cultures, spirituality, the uncertainty of future, as if we were not in the experience. This is OK if we do not forget that there is a wider perspective, but when that perspective is forgotten, it can be observed that thinking tends to become reductionist, about short-term, immediate issues.


Politics tries to balance the needs of economy – seen as market – without which aims (even self-interested aims) for the well-being of all cannot be begun, nor rights advanced. The viewpoints shift from ‘left’ to ‘right’, neither seems to succeed.

If “exchange” is paired with “transcendence”, leaving out “rights”, observation from this view shows another familiar dichotomy, that between simplistic reductionism, and a more utopian idealism. The idea of “rights” gets dragged in to discussion, almost as an afterthought, again linear thinking as if either ‘left’ or ‘right’ had the answer, overwhelms more complex thoughtfulness. People are again in US and THEM mode, one group being thoughtless consumers, the other utopian idealists, depending which sort of US group one happens to be in at the time.


One aspect of life has become dominant, so that it is almost impossible to use the word “economics” as meaning life management, it refers primarily to “exchange”, trade, things with technical meaning like “balance of payments”.

In a more holistic view, considering disparate fields of inquiry, every discipline* has proposed a different theory of living that contains some truths. From each particular lens, a version appears, of three, sometimes four, drives, instincts, or needs, differently named, but similar in quality, to the threefold approach being used here. Finding correlations, or links, or even differing semantics, is welcome, a collaboration in understanding from a variety of perspectives. 

The foundation chosen here, although it refers to Beuys, an artist with a deep interest in economics and money, is a re-wording of discovery from the psychoanalysis of groups. Over the many years that psychoanalytic thinking (an experiential observational inquiry) has developed, it has left behind early cultural misapprehensions, it has found affirmation from the newer discipline of neuroscience, as well as from practical results in particular applications (therapy being just one of these). For psychoanalytic thinking, often called psychodynamics, one of the biggest problems now is that of expressing valid and useful findings in ordinary language, so the information can be used by all, rather than using the specific technical language that is just as hard to understand as the languages of physics or literary criticism, or any other depth inquiry.

The next part of this exploration of how to make change in a monetary system will use this basic understanding of human life and its motivations, applying it to economics, the idea of “money”.

return to  Part 1 here, or Part 2 or Part3.

*look up almost any discipline and search for “basic human” …: Cultural anthropology, Sociology, Psychology, Genetics, Evolutionary biology, Economics, Neurology, Philosophy


A new Paradigm for a new Monetary System [3]

Read Part 1 here, and Part 2,or go to Part 4

These produced questions, that are counter-intuitive to how we often consider money: First: Could we, creative people, conceive of a money system that is like life? [Life is a gift] Second: What would money as gift look like?

Before damning this as totally unrealistic, playing games, think instead about breaking the paradigm, gostarting from what is in life that is indeed a gift: the sunlight, the seeds that know how to grow, the seasons, and ourselves with myriad capabilities, including those of death and destruction. This post is about real, not a fantasy wish-list.

People created money as we think of it at present, and most of us think about it as something it is not!! It is not concrete stuff, it is an idea, an artifact of mind, that we use to represent necessary relationships.

Look back at the foundation diagram (in part 2), and take it apart from different venn1perspectives, remembering that it is a whole. Or, at least an attempt to represent something holistically.

Leave out the exchange part, that has become so dominant in recent history.

Surprisingly, historical research[i] into money creation suggests that it first emerged as a combination from the Transcendent and the Rights sectors, not using exchange at all! And, it allows me to think about children, dependents generally, as well as those bugbears of power and authority, both inner world perceptions and beliefs as well as the outer world effects. These are so evidently part of the necessary debate about money and its uses and abuses that somehow it feels like a good road to take. [Reflexive thought, inner awareness of feelings plus outer observations, evidence, combination to assess truth or prejudice. Keep going.]


This brings notions about holistic think methods – basically the well-known brainstorm process. Brainstorm “money as gift” or “life as gift” or just “what kind of money do we want”? What do you get? What did I get? Words like money is relationships between people, payment for service or product, trust, risk, not enough, root of all evil, work reward, many things to many people…

I also discovered that brainstorming alone is not a great idea, so looked at the record of an earlier brainstorm process with others, at a recent Positive Money Retreat a brainstorm about good or bad groups, produced the flip-chart below. It seems to me that the “bad” group represents pretty well how our society has sleepwalked its way to the monetary system we have at present, and the good group processes have been pretty much absent when it comes to designing what we want from money, or monetary system.


Using words from the ‘good’ group brainstorm – do they apply to money? Effective, common purpose, synergy, … why not use these alongside the other words that are more commonly used to describe the meaning and use of money.

Also, would the other parts of the diagram reveal interesting aspects of what we really want from “money for life”?

go to Part 4, or return to  Part 1 here, or Part 2.

[i] See Stephen Zarlenga, the New Science of Money

A new Paradigm for a new Monetary System [2]

read part [1] here

How do we set about creating a system that would represent life better? Inadequate as it is, the Venn diagram below helps me think about how we can stop seeing money as only a means of transaction between people, helps me start from something more whole in human experience. There are three interlinked relationships within our life, expressed in many different ways and differently divided by other writers[i]. However they are expressed, all agree that without each and without each in combination, the picture of life fails in some important respect. Joseph Beuys[ii] proposed a basic foundation that encompassed what he called the Spiritual Life, the Rights Life and the Economic Life. A little differently, I consider the life of the transcendent, rights, and exchange[iii]. Suppose a foundation could look like this:


If we said the need was for a money idea that covered life needs, human and world in which we live, then it is not utopia to say this is a final objective, but on the way there will be lesser aims, transitional shifts. Whatever these are, they need to be seen to be stages in heading towards a monetary system that might be uncertain but would even so be more genuinely reaching for real requirements than the present pseudo-science that is too frequently taught as economics[iv]. The direction in which proposed change takes us matters.

In brief:

Could we, creative people, conceive of a money system that is like life?

What would money as gift look like?

read Part 3 here, then part 4

or return to Part 1

[i] Interactions: see French, R. B., and P. Simpson. ‘The “Work Group”: Redressing the Balance in Bion’s Experiences in Groups’. Human Relations 63, no. 12 (1 December 2010): 1859–78; The Threefold Social Impulse: see Roesch, Ulrich. We Are the Revolution!: Rudolf Steiner, Joseph Beuys and the Threefold Social Impulse. Forest Row: Temple Lodge Publishing, 2013; add your own knowledge from whatever perspective e.g. ecology, religion, sociology, philosophy, etc.

[ii] Beuys, Joseph, ed. What Is Money?: A Discussion. Forest Row, England: Clairview Books, 2010.

[iii] This is roughly comparable to Wilfred Bion’s unconscious theory of group behaviours, pairing, dependency and fight/flight. see French and Simpson above for development of this idea as basic interactions.

[iv] References, many include:

Rowbotham, Michael. The Grip of Death: A Study of Modern Money, Debt Slavery, and Destructive Economics. Charlbury, Oxfordshire : Concord, MA: Jon Carpenter ; Distributed by Paul and Co, 1998.

Jackson, Andrew, Ben Dyson, and Herman E. Daly. Modernising Money: Why Our Monetary System Is Broken and How It Can Be Fixed. London: Positive Money, 2014.

Ivo Mosley, and Positive Money websites.

A new Paradigm for a new Monetary System [1]

Equity, Fairness and Worth

We, or our governments, spend time talking of economics and money, and even more esoteric things like fiscal policies, and when some idea is proposed, there is an instant antoinettequery about “resources” which usually means, “Where is the MONEY?” Our societies and their institutions are made up of people, made by people, they may seem fixed, but are, like our minds, more plastic than we may wish to acknowledge. The word “money” is also not concrete, not fixed, it is in fact an idea rather than a thing, and throughout history has had many forms. However, when the talk is of values, what is valued, it is the future that is envisaged in many different ways, with all its uncertainties, and over and over again, the wishes, for something fair, and something worthwhile, something equitable. “Be the change you want to be” is now a mantra, a useful one. What it may mean is that things will be different, will become different, when we are different in both thought and action, when our minds have changed along with our behaviours. We do now know that body, mind and action are not separable, but interlinked.

Thinking, the process or the way people think, has many forms, patterns if you like. It often seems natural, indeed often is instinctive, to start with parts, and build towards a whole, understanding the organism by seeing what each bit does, and then trying to find relationships. This is classificatory, cognitive, rational, and has often been mistaken for the “scientific process”[i]. However, this is only one aspect of scientific thinking, indeed only a part of any kind of thinking or thoughtfulness. There is another equally important, probably more important aspect to thought. This more inclusive, but more uncertain, way of thinking starts with the “whole”, allowing perception, feeling, intuition, experiment, and allows the parts themselves to show their enfolding into each other, so that understanding follows the actuality of their relationships. A better idea of whole emerges into the thinking mind.[ii] This is creative thought, reflexive, situated in the reality of observation, aware of bias in the self. Reflexive thinking moves mindfully between subjectivity, feeling experience, and logical connections, towards a stronger more enduring objectivity. This fluid thought process properly acknowledges that understanding is a matter of direction and probability, never complete, but what it grasps, is real. The parts, and logical patterns previously observed will fit in somewhere if the idea, so far, so good, matches reality. If parts don’t fit, if the process becomes mired in confusion, complication, anomaly, contradiction, then it does not matter how rational the theory sounds, it is a mess, not fit for purpose. The history of science, and politics and human endeavour is full of paradigm shifts, as theories were seen to fail, rather than succeed. In science, think Copernicus, Galileo, the wave theory of light, and in human interactions, remember the Berlin Wall, the Industrial Revolution, the outlawing of slavery, all the way back to the iron age replacing the stone age. Thought shifts towards the future, based in reality, when something whole is grasped, even if at first it is not at all understood.

Anyone attempting to follow modern 21st century economics theory, economics policies, government fiscal and monetary understanding, boom and bust, austerity, debt bonds, scarcity and wealth, the deficit, the borrowing, etc.etc. can see that economic theory, in particular neo-liberal economic theory, is not fit for purpose.

Economics is a study of a very important aspect of life, how people interact to produce the goods they and others need or want, how governments enact policy in particular ways to enable people to interact within markets to get what they want or accomplish certain goals. Or not, sometimes. It purports to study the production and consumption of goods and the transfer of wealth to produce and obtain those goods. Within the theories there will be parts that are in tune with real lives, as they are lived, and parts that are plain wrong. Without a new frame we cannot at the moment tell which is which.

Economics requires a rethink, a different paradigm, emerging from the sense of life. We may seek equity fairness and worth, but they can be put aside, temporarily, while life is observed as it is lived by all, not just some, not just in general, but by particular people each of whom lives their own story, connected to the stories from others. Life is a gift. We forget. How can we remember?

The next posts will look for the forward aspect of economics, that would happily not require too many major shifts in many of the ways we use money and production, as those parts of thinking and practice that do work well, will find a better home, and those that do not become redundant. Much of the detail and analysis, especially the details of economics and its history, owes a lot to Positive Money, to Ivo Mosley and to all those people who by active enabling listening and thoughtfulness have helped me to think. Positive Money ask that anyone who comes to see this need for a new way forward in economics, sign petitions here, asking that quantitative easing be directed towards the productive economy, and here, asking for a money commission.

Read part 2, then parts 3 and 4

[i] This is actually only the justificatory aspect of science, the checking out if the theory works, to see what evidence supports it, see by reasoning and logic if the theory stands up in practice. To create a theory, explore uncertainty, scientists also use a heuristic process, and this is more often than not an emotional and instinctive, highly subjective way of engaging with the world being explored.

[ii] Charles Darwin’s wife reported in the appendix to his autobiography that he had stated “it is fatal to reason whilst observing, though so necessary beforehand and so useful afterwards” Collins Edition, 1958. p.159. To work holistically from the real world of observation and experiment, not being afraid to see contradiction and anomaly, is how real understanding of anything has proceeded – and there is no “total” real understanding, no “certainty” just perspectives from which one can go outside of one’s mind and thought into the world, and find a fit with what is there. [Psychological references from Wilfred Bion, Learning from Experience, Daniel Seigal, Mindfulness, and Bessell van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score, and many others.]

Twist, or, psychopathy

This post is made up of excerpts from a paper “Making and Mistaking Reality” written 2003.

Systemic thinking can be defined as not looking for statements about a situation, but for provisional and partial explanations (or images) which illuminate the here-and-now. The idea of being inside or outside a system is recognised as being itself a thought construction. In systemic thinking, the need to decide inside or outside disappears. Accepting that the whole is discernible in each part and that each part is influential in the whole, the experience in the here-and-now is of a tension between separateness (e.g., personal identity) and relatedness (e.g., belonging to a group). Freud’s methodological discovery, now encapsulated in the concepts of transference and countertransference, was that this tension could itself be attended to. Expressed as here-and- now, the multi-layered dynamic experience of the present is the crucial material for thought and thinking. In the present, the concept and practice of “Mindfulness” is a clear expression of this focussed, but freethinking awareness.

I am indebted to Anne MacDonald (2002), a forensic psychiatrist from Glasgow, speaking at a conference on “Counter-transference” for her representation of the effects of different kinds of breaks and joins, using a simple ring or a mobius strip, though she is not responsible for the following.

Beginning with the ring, there is an inside and an outside, a blackknot1
and white say, two surfaces connected only by whatever is in the depth between them. A ring can turn into a mobius strip if it breaks and is twisted, so that when rejoined the separate surfaces have become one. Different breaks and joins, with or without the twist, make all kinds of knots and tangles, or helices, depending on what is found as the broken ends seek a rejoin.

Whatever the complexity, there are essential differences between the single surface of the mobius strip, the double surfaces of the ring, or the multiple dimensions, and connections in the helix. On the strip, like Escher’s (1963) ants forever on one surface, living has no tensions between different worlds, only stop or go, following the rules. escherantsOn a ring, or more complex knot, ants on the different surfaces might continue forever in endless parallel worlds. However, they might also, through trial and error, like Popperian conjecture and refutation, learn slowly.
Recall again that in the notion of systemic thinking, one is oneself a part of the system. McDonald (2002) described the profound differences in her own feeling and sense of herself which occurred when she worked with disturbed and dangerous others in prison. People with “two surfaces,” however hard to reach, had strong passions and black and white views. They understood the rules, and why they had broken them, and why they were in prison. In out of prison terms, these people are moralistic, rather than moral, and in thought terms, they make mistakes of ignorance and assumption. These in the moment reactions in people, are emotionally immature, and so is the thinking process happening at that moment, however complicated its content. In spite of this, Anne McDonald said she found it relatively easy to work, even when individuals were wholly immature or violent, as she did not feel her own sense of self in danger of being overcome.

She declared the one-surface model (formed by making a twist) much more difficult, both to see, and to influence, because in making a relationship of any kind with such a person, or the twist part of a person, one had to join them on the single surface, whatever it was. One is sucked in to the existing system, drawn in by ones own ordinary needs in contact with others (e.g., assuming trust, making a living, etc.). Instead of being able to take part in a dialogue, one loses ones own vision or perspective. McDonald (2002) said it was essential to find other people who related differently, and get out of such a system, otherwise one would be seduced. A twist in response to a break includes the manipulative, the emotional blackmailer, the con man, and the abuser, as well as the workaholic portrayed by Escher (1963), because no other way of being can be seen. The idea corresponds to hegemony of belief which distorts everyone’s experience. Institutional and cultural examples are those firms like Enron where a profit motive divorced from value existed, or the evidence of the Macpherson report (1999) of institutional racism, and the Stevens report (2003) of institutional collusion in murder in Northern Ireland. To work well in such a context, one needs a sense of ethics, as ordinary response (especially rational response) will itself become twisted, and, more importantly, in emotional terms, our sense of self is betrayed by our own need for interaction with others.
McDonald’s comment was that the only way out was to see the break and twist for what it was, a distortion which seemed like a good idea at the time, and what one really needs is the totally uncomplicated view of someone ordinary with no axe to grind (e.g., the child who saw the emperor naked, or, in real life, the chat with the secretary at the photocopier). She purposely makes time for such ordinariness, so that there is room for seeing yourself as others see you, from a distance, as well as for relationship, dialogue, and understanding (2002). Then, the distortion which seemed like a good idea at the time can be finding the break, re-breaking, and trying a different kind of join. In therapeutic understanding, counsellors know that to help someone, they often have to be seduced into failure, so they are in the kind of failure this person has previously experienced. They, unlike their client, may know the way out, and, unlike most professionals, they have supervisors who are as interested in the process of failing as they are in the process of succeeding. From emotional education experiences, it seems to me that the twist is more difficult to find in organisations, as day-to-day experience of authority, especially that of hierarchy and tradition, hide its effects within what seems like good practice at the time.

So, that is the idea of the Twist.

Now, I want to combine this with previous ideas on thought process, to develop a notion of psychopathy that helps us to see how psychopathology infects organizations and cultures. I expect this will be closely related to Paul Hoggett’s concept of as- if cultures, or perverse social structures.

Most important in my aim is to explore the idea of the twist in ordinary everyday experience, that is indeed damaging, but is far from the perversities of paedophilia or criminality that have been the subject of MacDonald’s and Black’s work.

Economy – Change towards Human Rights

This post, like my last one, was also written in response to many detailed thoughts on Positive Money.

I believe we want, and need, a systemic structural change towards Human Rights.

Possibly you do too. Let’s start with that horrible accusatory saying “Get a Life”, not saying it to you who are making contributions, but to ask you what it implies about the way people function, doing whatever it is that they do. How is ‘get a life’ relevant to all the detailed discussion about savings, taxes, hoarding, circulating, interest, etc.?

What is meant by telling someone to ‘get a life’ is often something like “what are you spending your time and energy on that for? Is it actually what you need to be doing? Even though it is important, even though we all know that attention here has to be spent, sometime”.

The thread here on Positive Money is referring to “people” the public, the bankers, the great unwashed, government, [name your group here], AS IF they made their decisions about savings and interest and which bank to use ON RATIONAL GROUNDS. AS IF they even attended to this sort of thing when they make their decisions, instead of just taking a bit of notice temporarily, and doing what a friend suggests. As well as there being differing aspects to the detail, I think this is one underlying reason why we can’t ever agree. The focus is neither on what really happens, nor on what needs to be done. Our viewpoints are too various.

Do not get me wrong, “rational” is very important in the proper place, a definite part of creating change. It is needed if someone wants to design a better structural system within which all those people and groups end up functioning in whatever rational/irrational way they will function whether you like it or not. I do not think Positive Money contributions are thinking enough about the kind of structural system that allows the variety to work in the same direction, including those who are not convinced at all, the people elected to create changes. Here in the Positive Money forum the intention is to debate ways forward. It seems that first we should be accurate about where we are, and then see what is most likely to come next. My point is that hardly anyone (except the posters on this thread and the financial industry and media) pays any attention to the detail of these financial matters, not because they are inattentive, nor because they are unaware, but because their attention is on other things – they are living a life.

Real life:

Thirty years ago I needed a new bank as I had moved to a different job, different city. Picked the branch of a High Street bank in walking distance from the new job. Paid attention, did the transfer etc. Now, same bank account, most of my financial matters go via that, the bank is a subsidiary of someone else, the branch doesn’t exist, I wouldn’t want it anyway as I am not in that job any more, but whether I like their policies, overdraft charges, online systems (that I happen to use more than any other of their functions) savings accounts, credit cards, I am at the moment not going to change. I did have savings and credit cards at a different institution but they became the same, so I got another place I can funnel stuff towards (Ha Ha this is not the tale of large quantities of stuff) No real change. Even if I knew how, the effort, the trouble, the numbers of entities that would have to be informed… the small %increase in my £££ dosh is not how I want to spend my time, so I don’t. None of this is foolish, It just doesn’t deserve my detailed attention. IMO any other “High Street bank” would have been similar, and would have morphed forward with my needs in similar ways.

Don’t others also function like this? Am I odd?

Savings accounts – people pay some attention at different times for different “necessities” from needing to think ahead for the school fees, to the holiday, to greater or lesser quantities, for more or less desperate needs. I have never met anyone who even spends more than a very small proportion of their time assessing the best way to amass/keep/increase the savings. Their view of ‘best’ is personally variable, but more to my point is that once the decision is made, their attention goes off to somewhere else entirely. How they will judge the school? Where they will go for the holiday? What to get for Mum’s birthday?… the amount of money saved can be a constraint, but the how it was saved is no longer what is attended to.

Same story re someone I knew who belonged to a “shares and investment club”. None of them paid more attention to the movement of shares than they felt it warranted, they were more interested in what they were doing it for, thinking of their children, their life styles, the next golf game, whatever.

Now, corporations and banks KNOW this about how people pay attention only sporadically, and they know they are more often irrational than rational in making decisions. Why else in the past twenty years would the ‘fashion’ for great offers for new accounts have developed? Why do current adverts e.g. for ‘apps’ say “more you-time”? Were the offers and apps there to create jobs for media finance editors, who play the field as if it were the racing pages? No, they exist because people will NOT be paying attention, they exist to appeal to a feel-good factor. Even where individuals are finance savvy, there will be a time lag between when the offer runs out, and when the money is moved, even a charge for moving. Similarly “great new offers” from corporations e.g. Virgin Media, etc. before the regular rate kicks in. Many people, like me, simply can’t be bothered, though I am glad when an organization like ”Which” pays attention to this time lag practice/get the consumers in, rather than acting as the finance pages do to give ‘best account for this week’ comparisons.

Hence if we accept that ‘get a life’ implies that most of the time we use our money in a tacit knowledge space, seldom in an attention space, how can Positive Money contribute its perspective effectively?

  • First we agree that the present international money system is abysmally failing.
  • Second, although there are places in which proposals for the creation of a different money system are put forward (here and elsewhere), local communities where something such as ‘scrip’ has started fail when they interact with the wider system, as they must do from time to time, for some kinds of commodities.
  • Third, not only can we in Positive Money not agree which proposal is best, others, including quite well informed politicians, say we can’t create change that way, that practicality in the present is the only option.
  • Fourth, the international community can’t even get together effectively to deal with environmental destruction, climate change, or devastating wars, displaced civilians. What hope that they will ever reach agreement about that thing that is their currency … money?

Oops. Round in another circle. Negative. Ooops.

Think laterally, out of the box.

The world has dealt with structural change before. We do not need detail …yet… we need the reason for changing the structure, world-wide.

“Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.”

“Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law”

Yes – from the United Nations –

Whether or not countries have managed to fulfil their obligations, they have frequently managed to put some of the changes needed into their statute books. I am thinking of the Civil Rights laws, the Gender Equality Laws, and the antiracism, anti-discriminatory practice laws. These exist under different names in different countries, cultural practice may well have a long way to go, but where the law exists, so too does redress, however limited its teeth. [If you should be thinking West – good, other – not so good, google recent reports from Ferguson, Missouri, or closer to home, Yarl’s Wood detention Centre, or Women’s Rights Legislation in Pakistan.]

Sometimes, legislation follows cultural change, but often it may be the other way round.

It is salutary to realize that the UN declaration does not directly consider any monetary system. There is no “right” to an economics that would outlaw financial exploitation or usury. The nearest I could find were open to interpretation:

Article 22.

  • Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 25.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
  • (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 28.

  • Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

[I could, maybe will, write another post on Article 25 (1 and 2). This is where “dependence”, an essential of human experience, is rooted.]

That Human Rights are protected by the Rule of Law is a structural change.

Could we start by campaigning strongly for the principles in Article 25, A Rights Economics Act. What about the following?

  • Law that capped the cost of an adequate home in relation to average salary, hence would limit the rise in house price or rent (Switzerland example)
  • Law that entitled all to minimum allowance – without means testing
  • Law against exploitation (offends dignity) that could be against Usury: the lending, or practice of lending, money at an exorbitant amount or rate of interest, especially in excess of the legal rate. That would mean setting a legal rate.
  • Law against making money from money – there are economists who can express this properly – the use of return on investment to make further, secondary even tertiary investment in money rather than return it to the productive economy of infrastructure, goods and services (drains the organization and resources of each State).

What laws can you suggest that make Article 25 a reality within which no-one need pay (much) attention?

What economic practices at the moment mean that Article 25 can only be adhered to by continual offsetting adjustments being required, to the detriment of all?

At the moment our Laws and practice concerning economy are akin to saying we will not have a law against slavery, or we will not have a law against corporal punishment of children, but oh yes, we deplore nasty bad treatment of individuals and every time that happens we will see if the individual complains enough for us to pay attention. Or maybe they died.

Back to the beginning of this long post:

Most of the time, living a life, we do not want to have to pay attention. We want the STRUCTURE of our society to be the kind of framework that allows us to do that.

Examine every regulation on banking, taxes, property, social security, etc. to see how it stands up for or against Article 25.

Campaign for Law in Economy that furthers Human Rights.

Money: Do we have to have a debt system?

I follow a group from UK called Positive Money. Sometimes I agree with them, sometimes I do agree with the way they are asking questions about the way money / economy works. Or, I agree with some of the questions. However, I feel that like many others within a hegemony of thought, that it is hard to get outside the status quo to ask the questions more relevant to all those who are not in the positions of power – for example it is notable that within the Positive Money debates, so far I have heard from only three women, including me.

So I spent most of yesterday trying to think out how I could engage, stay within focus and at the same time open up a different angle. And to some it will be obvious that I was writing with Bion’s basic assumption groups in mind. [and of course I have not yet done a post on that – you will have to google.] What I did with them, is down to me. This is what I came up with:

To further Positive Money thinking

I am very much in support of Positive Money ideas, but have problems with aspects of the reasoning in its various videos, blogs and threads of conversation. Although worried in a minor way that we might be considered utopians, I am more concerned that the contributions to the debate can become (or are becoming) encapsulated within a theory of monetary exchange and rational argument concerning it, as though the answer was already known and has only to convince others. This is to the detriment of seeing how lives are really lived and how the best of Positive Money thought can indeed be furthered and taken on board by all, be they individuals, communities, governments.

Read on so that hopefully what I mean becomes clearer.

First – the Market Dimension
By the “money exchange” I include barter and saving, or any ‘token of value’ as this is how people operate. The miserly hoarder is bartering his pile for something he values, security, feeling of triumph, whatever. And so on, there is not a requirement that any exchange is rational, nor any judgment that the irrational is somehow a poor bargain. Did I buy an American doll outfit for my grand-daughter that cost more dollars than my own jacket? Yes I did, and the hours of play she has spent say that on this occasion at least, I used my money well, but not rationally. Thinking also of Arabian souks or Chinese streets, “money exchange” could be seen as operating within a “Market Dimension” one aspect of life.

We all live in such a Money Market of one kind or another. The system is transactional, something of value X is exchanged for something of value Y, and either it is even, or some other value Z is owed by one party to the other. Then, if we stay in this dimension, we notice, indeed know, that X, Y and Z fluctuate, as well as knowing that their supposed value has only sometimes got a relation to intrinsic worth. We also know that quantitative value changes frequently, and might be bargained to change to our advantage. [My grand-daughter might show that she loves me, as well as the American doll, so the worth of that plastic outfit changes for me, but be the same as it always was for others.] The changes of value are multiply determined by factors outside the original transaction.

A phrase (here taken out of its context) pushed me into writing this essay: they’re free to spend LESS on booze, holidays, clothes or whatever. This too popular notion of freedom to choose A or B according to a quantitative balance, is just NOT how people live. Quantity transaction cannot show how people choose between options in multiply constrained contexts, nor can it show present versus future, nor does it show how a past decision is now affected by factors quite randomly beyond the rationality of the original decision. For example, choosing a holiday, is that an inessential? It isn’t if you are carer for a disabled family member, and you are exhausted, and the other members of the family, all in work, club together to send not just you but also one of your sisters on a holiday. If you do not get a rest, they know both mum and dad will be needing care next. Etc. Think of real people, real examples. There are not only multiple determinants of choice, there are also many delimiters of choice. Some choices are simply not available in a transactional balance. Life does not provide free choice except in its most trivial matters.

Second – the Dimension of Dependence and Support
This is affected by money, as nearly everything is, but cannot be adequately addressed by a transactional or quantitative discussion.  As suggested in the purposely chosen carer example above, dependence and support are huge delimiters of choice. This dimension also illustrates how who owes whom what can shift momentarily or over time. Example, parent cares for child, both age, child cares for parent, further aging, grandparent helps care for grandchild, then grandchild becomes carer. Not always, not every way of living a life, but a fluctuating dependent /support /care system. We are ALL, whether we acknowledge it or not, in dependent systems. They are not just about childhood, illness or old age. Whether we live in urban or rural areas, whether we heed it with awareness or not, we live in inter-dependence with each other’s skills, work and behaviour.

Considering parenting a human baby as an example we all know: Parent cares for child, child smiles at parent. Both are enriched by something quite other than money, or any other form of bartered value system. The interaction is transformational, rather than transactional. We are all so used to everyday transformational interactions, that we almost forget how important they are, the good, the not so good, and the bad. In the not so good, a parent might care for a child hoping to feel good, so that she will feel like a good parent. At an extreme, this parent requires that the child makes her feel good. This is exploiting the child, and what might have been a transformational exchange has degenerated to become a transaction. Car eis bargained or is emotional blackmail. We can ask if there such a thing as a ‘pure’ transformational interaction where the care is unconditional, a gift? This is a different debate. It is enough to consider here that most of us will have millions of experiences that lie somewhere in between, in an ordinary life, an intermingling of transaction and transformational exchange.

What the dependence/support system has to do with economics, is that it says clearly
•    the quantity in the exchange may be necessary but it is not sufficient, the QUALITY has also to be considered
•    the quality of the dependence support system is a strong delimiter of choice in economic decision-making
•    poor quality leads to exploitation. For example, slavery and serfdom have high co-dependence between master and servant, but very low quality. It would seem that many loans to poorer countries, grossly mis-identified as ‘aid’ have the same low quality and are in fact forms of exploitation.

Any discussion of economics has to ask reflective questions of itself that take in from the beginning its effects on the qualitative dependence /support interactions, asking: How does this money production, control of supply etc support better quality of interaction? Will the quality of interaction be enabled or disabled (for example, how would aid to other countries be given?). Very few national or international discussions start from the plight of those who are disempowered, the disadvantaged groups, the women, the disabled. Ask the question: Who is this for? Is it for the person in control (the exploitative parent) or the person with whom we interact and on whom we depend for qualitative satisfaction?

[To me, the ‘Who is it for?’ question stops most debate about details like QE from further development.
if it is not for the people with whom we interact, we have become encapsulated in an already failed system.]

Third – The Dimension of Future, or Leadership
Transaction and transformation are both part of economic systems of thought, so also is transition. [Note also that economics is a system of thought, it is not food or shelter or other need.] Evidence, both historic and current, abounds to demonstrate that the current loan/debt/money system is failing abysmally, whether considered from the perspective of corporate world, nations, individuals or planet. It is ironic that the one that was not thought about until relatively recently, the planet, is the one that will take all the rest to extinction if we do not change the way we live on it. This third dimension has one obvious difficulty, we do not know what the future will bring. Therefore, what we can know is that we certainly do not need hero leadership, the narcissistic, I know and you follow, way of leading. We have had more than enough of that already. I do applaud the way Positive Money has worked to engage UK elected representatives, and has set up local groups.

We need unlikely leaders (see an Open University course on this). Positive Money could lessen its tendency to encapsulated thought (aka isolated economic dimension) by seeking the views of unlikely people, those who are poor, those who are disadvantaged, possibly ill-educated in standard qualifications, those who know a lot more than we tend to think. Why, for example, do so many voters in UK from typical lower income backgrounds, support conservative fiscal austerity or UKIP isolationist policy? They are not ‘just stupid’, turkeys voting for Christmas, or selfish racists. This seems to me to be a labeling assumption. Could they instead have responded to some aspirational hope that has been tapped by the appeals to austerity or nationhood? Is it because their lives are already austere? I do not think that we know, but could we not find out? These are the same kinds of places where Credit Unions once flourished, and probably Christmas clubs still do.

There is nothing wrong with detailed discussion of the market system of transaction and commerce, such as Positive Money is engaged in, provided that we know we are operating in a system that is not closed, and that concentration on this theory as transaction only will put people off engaging with it.

“I know it is not about me.” Dependency on others, and qualitative transformation, affects transactional market choices whether made rationally or irrationally. None of us are informed enough to grasp all our need for what the planet provide, and can continue to provide, as well as our needs in relationships with each other, but we know that this dimension is as real as the transactional. Then, we also know that the dynamics of time affect both, economic reality is three dimensional, contains transaction, transformation and transition no matter which is in the foreground.

The effects of dynamic transition, change to a different system, is where leadership lies. Given the way governments of the present are embroiled in holding on to the debt money system, we do need to continue to contact our representatives, but we also need to spread different kinds of knowledge. Bill Still’s documentary [] shows us past as well as a possible future. It does not show us how to act with regard to our own money now.

With regard to the future, and leadership, I have to move to the personal, asking questions that show what I need to know, and hoping others will respond similarly.

Conclusion – up for debate
Positive Money and the Still documentary have already shown me the difference between a commercial bank and a national government owned bank. Could someone start exploring and informing us of the differences between mutual societies (if there are any left) building societies, co-operatives etc. Could a bank like that of Dakota State (see still documentary) start up where I live and would it cope with my money needs (which happen to be multiple online management and foreign exchange, all on a teacher’s pension.) Can you help individuals show by their use of institutions, that hey care where they put their money, that they care how their money is handled? Also, has anyone analyzed the current interaction between Greece and the Eurozone with regard to closeness to Positive Money suggestions or indeed irrelevance? What is the role of micro-finance institutions? How would the ethics of Islamic banking support or not the perspective of Positive Money?

We should of course be interacting with the Green Party and other green organizations, particularly the transitional groups.

I personally want to see an approach that acknowledges these three dimensions of everyday life that I have very briefly addressed, and that reflects on how each of these is enabled, or not, by the details of the discussion. I write because I have felt too much discussion within the ivory tower of theory has taken place and I have felt confused rather than informed by it.

Am I wrong to ask this? No, I need to feel that I am enabled, helped to make personal decisions, however constrained they may be, and helped to become part of a movement towards something better. For Positive Money ideas to develop well and make a good change in the UK and hopefully in the world, it needs to feel less that it is providing an answer if only people would listen, and more like a community that seeks wider perspectives. Acknowledge how interdependent we all are, and how leadership might be found in unlikely places. Wonder what questions have not yet been asked.

Thanks for reading.

Convention on the Rights of the Child

Rights, and Responsibilities,  go together. Whose right, whose responsibility, what kind of relationship between the people who exercise them, or ask for them?

This post is actually a straight copy of a lecture I used to give ten years ago when I was a teacher trainer. Ignore the references to Ed.2 etc, they are all outdated, but the substance is not. I hope. Also, some of the diagrams have not transferred properly to the blog – I’ll try to get around to fixing them but not just now. I have put it up here after writing a post about Responsibility and Rights on my other blog.



Themes: Social Justice and the Curriculum – Responding to Difference and Diversity -Putting Children at the Heart of Education



Concepts of Equality, Opportunity and Inclusion have already been introduced in the Education 2 lecture series. All of these social context issues rest on a complexity of personal, cultural, and institutional (or structural) interactions.  They are all dynamic processes, which is another way of saying that each one of us is within the processes which change us and which we change.  Critical thinking about meaning and consequence is an ongoing matter.  This lecture will challenge you to take your creative thinking further.

The basic principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child considers rights in terms of PROVISION, PROTECTION and PARTICIPATION, and treats these as interlinked concepts which do not stand alone. Everyone agrees in principle that education and classrooms should MODEL human rights, or to put it another way, we are sure that no individual, child or adult, should experience a violation of their rights while being educated, within a classroom or elsewhere. Without ignoring the meanings of provision and protection, this lecture will concentrate on the meaning and impact of a child’s right to PARTICIPATE, and how difficult it can be within our present cultures and structures to understand and ensure this right.  Without it, it is much harder to be certain that our actions to provide or protect are good ones, as the nature of being a child is that each has only one childhood.  The effects of inadequate provision or faulty protection will not be visible unless the participation of children is genuine.

We look at these rights, in this lecture, for the children we work with. The lecture is focussed on our issues in our classrooms, where all of the rights of children are from time to time endangered or violated. We are not comparing West with East or with Third World or with anywhere else supposedly worse or better than ourselves. On the contrary, we are working from the position that all humans in the world are in a process of development trying to understand what is meant by “provision, protection and participation”.  Cultures have evolved differently, and are different, and of interest, but, for now, we concentrate on our education, here in Scotland.


CRC – History, Reality, Myths

The rights of the child, summarised, are to: provision, protection and participation. History shows a change in society’s views on children. In 1924, the Declaration on the Rights of the Child, was simply a statement.  The rights listed then were to:

  • The means for normal material and spiritual development
  • To be fed/helped/reclaimed/sheltered and succoured (note ‘reclaimed’ – children stray, adults rescue )
  • To be first to receive relief in times of stress
  • To be put in a position to earn livelihood protected from exploitation
  • To be brought up in the consciousness that its best qualities are to be used in the service of its fellow men (sic)

There is no mention of participation here. In 1979, the international year of the child began the move from a mere statement of rights to making them part of international law and ratification by member states. In 1989, the UN, stated the current Convention on the Rights of the Child. In 2001 this has been ratified by all but two of the UN member states, which are Somalia and USA.

(“Ratify” means that the convention becomes legally binding in the country and the country will bring its legislation into compliance with it in “a reasonable time”. See these and other details on

To repeat, the rights of the child are to provision, protection and participation, and it is important to recognise what each of these means in detail: provision of needs, what needs?; protection from harm, what kinds of harm?; and participation in what, and how?. The last, participation, represents a major change from 1924, but each is now seen differently.

In Scotland, at several levels we have examples of how the CRC and its changes are being incorporated in the structure of our society and in education. To illustrate this, the document Improving Our Schools, has the following incorporated:

  • School Development Plans required to include a statement of the mechanisms that are in place within the school to allow children and young people to participate in decision making processes and discussions about matters affecting the school
  • Schools and Local Authorities are encouraged to identify further ways in which young people can be involved actively and constructively in the education process
  • (see CRC art. 12)

As another example, the GTC (General Teaching Council for Scotland) policy statement on the accreditation and review of courses specifically refers to the CRC:

  • is appropriate coverage given to the rights of the child ?
  • do professional studies reflect the spirit and philosophy of CRC?

(see article 29)

The Scottish Office Competences for beginning teachers are almost all relevant, eg consider:

3.3 demonstrate a working knowledge of his or her contractual, pastoral and legal responsibilities

3.9 demonstrate an understanding of international, national and local guidelines on child protection and teachers’ roles and responsibilities in this area

4.7 value and promote equality of opportunity and fairness and adopt non-discriminatory practices, in respect of age, disability, gender, race or religion

From the CRC (articles 2,3,12,19,28,29), the concerns of education are as follows:

in all actions/matters concerning the child:

  • children are to be protected from any form of discrimination
  • the best interests of the child to be a primary consideration
  • the child has a right to  express views freely
  • the child’s views are to be given due weight
  • the child is to be given protection from abuse, neglect, maltreatment
  • school discipline is to be consistent with human dignity
  • the aims of education are

development of personality, talent, ability

respect for human rights, cultural identity, natural environment, parents

preparation for responsible life in a free society

Now, when these are closely considered, and compared with statements sometimes made in the practice of education, we find contradictions This is where you are asked to think critically in order to successfully challenge these views, which may sound valid, because they contain partially true elements, but which are actually myths.  Consider the following myths:

  • children cannot have rights until they are capable of exercising responsibilities
  • children are not competent to participate in decision making
  • rights for children threaten the stability and harmony of normal family life
  • the imposition of rights takes away children’s opportunities for childhood

To disprove these, it may help to think about where you intend to draw lines above or below which children are supposedly capable or incapable.  Who is deciding about these lines?  Also ask if “rights” are in a competition of some kind, as if when one group, “children” are given rights, those of another group, say adults, have their human rights infringed or reduced.  It may help if you spot rivalry of rights, as then you can sense that these arguments are missing the needs of collaboration and relationship between humans.  The rights of all have to be sought and worked for, in the kind of relationships which enable each to act and exercise their rightful capacity for responsibility and development.

Participation in an CRC curriculum (3-D curriculum)

Remember that earlier lectures have talked about models of curriculum.  Consider again the Equity Rights model, in a diagram which you have seen before:


Social and Political Effects


Equity                  Participation








Life Chances


QUESTION: Are Human Rights enabled in this “institution”?

Opportunity, empowerment, democracy, freedom from discrimination or harassment?

This kind of curriculum can be realised through a holistic 3-D approach to teaching which attends to both pedagogic need and cognitive development while at the same time it promotes equitable attitudes.  Think of three ‘d’s Difference, Development, Democracy and also Decide to DO something about Deficit Thinking and Discrimination.

Ways to create the 3-D approach:

  1. Shift focus from teaching to deep-learning, if and only if learners play a responsible part in their learning process – see personal differences in a developmental, not deficit way
  2. The culture or ‘atmosphere’, the mood and emotional feel of the environment respects difference and works to understand conflict – e.g. it is OK to make mistakes when learning, trying is valued as well as outcome etc., though in the social justice sense, the outcome aimed for is an inclusive space
  3. Learning is embedded in its context – learning of what is happening in context is needed – see the societal structure to which the topic relates, thematic work
  4. Each of Personal, Cultural, Structural affect the learning space and the emotional responses to these are respected and thought about in a holding way (“Holding” means that anxiety is neither ignored nor allowed to be overwhelming)

It is claimed that such a 3-D or Participative curriculum provides

  • Pedagogic Development – children are active thinkers in their own lives
  • Equitable Access – the variety of different views are heard
  • Empowerment and life chances within democracy
  • Child Protection – children can find adults who act on their behalf

No one argues with these ideals, yet still we find schools and classrooms where the model is the assimilative one, and the question which underlies the work being attempted is: Does the Individual Fit into our System? This model can also be called the “Deficit” model, or the “Medical” model – something is wrong with these individuals and it needs fixing, via compensatory programmes (which may be good in themselves, but do not counter their hidden deficit message).  At extremes, fuelling the myths, there is a message being given that it is wrong to be a child, to not know things, and that education is fixing people to fit them for adulthood.


Remember also this quotation, which should bring all teachers some humility, as humanness is beyond what is provided by education.


Dear teacher,

I am the survivor of a concentration camp.  My eyes saw what no man should witness:

Gas chambers built by learned engineers.  Children poisoned by educated physicians. Infants killed by trained nurses.  Women and babies shot and burned by high school graduates. So I am suspicious of education. My request is:  help your students become human.  Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths, educated Reichmans. Reading, writing, arithmetic are only important if they serve to make our children more human.


Source: Siraj-Blatchford, Iram (1994) The Early Years: Laying the Foundations for Racial Equality, Trentham Books  pp 61 -62.

Anxieties and Containing Anxiety


It is part of our experience that good intentions are not carried forward fully into the practice of schools. Indeed there are many anecdotes of teachers who decide, once they are ‘experienced’, to ignore all that college theoretical stuff; we are at the front line and have to be practical – so forget the theories and ideas about individual rights – people have to learn to fit in…etc


The next part of this lecture addresses the reasons why this is a prevalent experience, and why generations of educators have still not managed to create genuinely participative experiences within educational establishments. The predominant factor is emotional, and depends on how we as humans are involved in emotional processes in order to survive.  Part of our adaptive inheritance is the way in which our mental systems respond to the environment, and to the ANXIETY which is aroused. Teachers’ anxiety is often of the “pig in the middle’ variety – lots of pressure on them from above and lots of responsibilities, conscientiousness and becoming exhausted or disillusioned.

Anxiety is an adaptive emotion, beginning unconsciously and existing whether or not we have conscious awareness of it. It is a rehearsal for danger, ensuring our survival. A little anxiety helps focus the mind, and our action, in touch with reality, and we learn. For example, we can see a picture of a child who has been parted from its mother, moving towards mother, and each of them is learning from and about the other, empathically, and about the reality they are in.

Too much anxiety paralyses us, like rabbits in the headlights.  At this point reflect situations which make you anxious , so that as you read, you connect with the feeling level of what we are talking about.  What happens to humans is sometimes comparable to a visible freeze of this kind.


Survival adaptations for a self who cannot hold conflict or anxiety in feelings are such that personal security or identity is maintained through the giving up of parts of a more complex self, and finding compartments (unconsciously defended) within which it feels safe enough to function. This is called SPLITTING of the emotional spaces. The kinds of split make different states of mind, which surface as attitudes to others and to the current context. There are a lot of possible consequences. A common one is the physical ‘sore tummy’ which one has at the same time as ‘carrying on’, ‘pulling oneself together’. etc. Another consequence may be vulnerability to a real illness.  Other consequences are non-physical, too many to detail here, but talking with others will bring more examples. (I am making reference here to what is known as Object Relations Theory. To follow up some of the modern thinking about the unconscious, which are reasonably accessible to teachers, try Salzberger-Wittenberg, Henry et al. 1983; Waddell 1998).

The effect I want to discuss here is the way in which splitting creates “autopilot” thought – a kind of thought which has actually switched off from the present and is relying on habits, or what has happened before.  In autopilot, we may look as if we are thinking, and say the words as if we are thinking, etc. but actually we are:

  • getting rid of anxiety
  • doing the bit we can do
  • doing what we have done before, as we have always done
  • doing what someone else has told us to do, either now or long past
  • just responding to the stick or carrot ie external motivators, not principles
  • not reflecting, so the state of mind is “don’t be aware, don’t think, its not emotionally safe “

And, of course the last may or may not be true – because we are not actually looking at the situation, we actually have no idea if it is safe or not!  In other words, we can’t possibly be considering a 3-d curriculum or any kind of deep learning.  This is the process which leads to Myths and rigid views of US and THEM.  It leads to the emergence of “Powerful and Powerless”, the loss of space to think/reflect, the loss of community space to become aware of others and self with others, the loss of communication space where others might help us. And so we get denials, compartments, deficits, and discriminations. It also seems that it is impossible to become organised well enough to function better, as there are too many things to attend to, and there is often a dissociation of action from responsibility or rights.  Principles and values are too difficult. AND there is a lot of stress – more anxiety, and more splitting.

The counteractive process is called EMOTIONAL HOLDING. It is easy to describe, less easy to enact in difficult relationships, but always possible to work at.  It is not a solution, as it is a way of being, not a way to find an answer.

Being and Doing

Holding is a process one tries to become aware of doing as best one can. It works at the three levels of person, culture and structure:

  • personal – become aware of anxiety and conflict in feelings, let it happen, and see that “it is not so bad” to have a feeling which one can think about. Learn to see what, how, when one jumps into autopilot, and what a difference it makes
  • cultural – appreciate difference and diversity, become aware of ones own culture and attitudes, think about others’ attitudes and what changes attitudes, identity can evolve
  • structural – see institutional roles, responsibilities, rights, resources, constraints, and work so that they are used for empowerment not power, facilitation not control

To enable this emotional level for oneself as a teacher, and thus also for the pupils or students one is responsible to (not ‘for’ in a participative environment) it helps to make time to become aware and reflect, and this helps keep ones thinking in the ‘holding’ anxiety area, out of the ‘splitting’ area.  Then principles, theory and practice do indeed hold together.  The UN Convention on the rights of the child has to be worked at to make it happen. Be aware of childrens’ rights.

All Children are entitled to

Provision of needs

Protection from harm , which includes unfair discrimination

Participation – in all decisions and actions which concern them.


Salzberger-Wittenberg, I., G. Henry, et al. (1983). The Emotional Experience of Learning and Teaching. London, Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Waddell, M. (1998). Inside Lives: Psychoanalysis and the Development of the Personality, Duckworth.


Elspeth Crawford, May 2001