Planning as the Art of Collective Anticipation*

ARTICLE | | BY Gerald A. Gutenschwager

Gerald A. Gutenschwager

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The definition of planning changed several times over the course of the 20th century. Anticipation, on the other hand, is a new science, though the problems that it confronts are as old as humankind. As a science it must confront the fuzzy reality that defies the usual mechanistic search for linear causal relationships that would allow an anticipated future to be manipulated and controlled. Anticipation as art could, on the other hand, incorporate those dimensions of social reality that have been so difficult to comprehend, both in the scientific framework defined by Aristotle and developed by Newton and his followers, as well as in the religious framework that preceded it. As individual anticipation evolves into collective anticipation, art can offer many insights into the social processes within which this occurs. Art is at home with ambiguity and uncertainty; in fact, it thrives on them. It can bring to light the emotional and moral context of the communication processes within which inter-subjectivity and collective anticipation develop. Furthermore, it should help to anticipate and give rebirth to a new philosophical framework within which all human problems could be confronted. This framework will have to be closer to the Epicurean framework than the Aristotelian-Newtonian framework that has governed our thoughts for the past 400 years or more, thus helping us to live more comfortably within the uncertainty of the quantum world. The whole idea is that planning could benefit greatly by incorporating itself within this more humanistic framework.

It is quite possible—overwhelmingly probable, one might guess—that we will always learn more about human life and human personality from novels than from scientific psychology. The science-forming capacity is only one facet of our mental endowment. We use it where we can but are not restricted to it, fortunately. Chomsky (1988), Language and the Problem of Knowledge, p. 159 (Quoted in John Horgan (1996), The End of Science; Facing the Limits of Knowledge in the Twilight of the Scientific Age, p. 154)

– Noam Chomsky on Art

Everywhere I go I find that a poet has been there before me.

– Sigmund Freud on Poetry

What you are about to see is not an idle tale of people who never existed and things that could never have happened. It is a PARABLE… some of the people in it are real people whom I have met and talked to. One of the others may be YOU. There will be a bit of you in all of them. We are all members one of another. Introduction to the film, Major Barbara (1941)

– George Bernard Shaw on Entanglement

1. Introduction

In the early 20th century, city planning was associated with architectural design, a tradition very much alive in a large part of the world today. Then, following the Great Depression and World War II, it was seen as a problem in social engineering. Its perspective was broadened to include social, economic and political dimensions along with the traditional physical problems associated with engineering. In addition, there was a search for scientific generalizations that could be applied in all circumstances involving planning from cities and regions to businesses and the military, etc. Then in the 1960s it was swept up in the Cultural Revolution that is still evolving throughout the developed world today ( This movement was and is critical of the authoritarian attitude of the engineering approach to social problems and seeks a more democratic participatory approach to planning as a social process. Here it intersects with the new science of anticipation, and the insights that it has to offer. None of these approaches is absent in planning efforts today; each has something to offer in a more collaborative effort in which we may confront the problems associated with life in an increasingly complex society. This will involve a de-compartmentalized perspective that is not usual in the still male-dominated world of science and engineering in today’s society, as we shall see below (Gutenschwager, 2017).

Traditionally, scientists have been expected to present their work in the passive voice. It was believed that the scientist was a mere observer (and analyzer) of phenomena that (traditionally) he would faithfully and objectively report on. The back-story, the narrative of how and why the scientist arrived at the moment of presentation is, according to tradition, left out (Mair, et al., 2015). This includes especially the effects of the ‘academic marketplace’ (Caplow & McGee, 2001 [1958]), the decisions about funding, as well as the special interests of the funders, possible hidden intentions about the use of the research, to say nothing of the petty and not so petty squabbles among the scientists themselves, etc. In fact, anyone who has spent time in an academic setting will probably admit that it often feels like something between a Shakespearean comedy and a Greek tragedy.

The rather alienating tradition of the passive voice combined with academic aloofness came under severe criticism during the 1960s, not only because of the continuing insistence by many, if not most scientists, to remain detached from the social struggles that were taking place on a world-wide scale, not just irrespective of the political-economic system in which they were found, but also because of the number of books about science and about the ivory tower academic world that were being published at that time. The idea of science as a linear, cumulative process was undermined by Kuhn’s (1970 [1962]) book on scientific revolutions. The idea of science as an objective endeavor was criticized in Roszak’s (1969) book on the countercultural movement, especially his chapter on the ‘myth of objectivity’ and later by Wallerstein (2001). The political-philosophical role of science was addressed in Easlea’s (1973) book on the liberating potential of science. And so forth.

In addition, positivism in the social sciences was losing its hold, as the influence of phenomenology and hermeneutics was being felt. Examples of books include Berger and Luckmann’s (1966) The Social Construction of Reality, Natanson’s (1963) Philosophy of the Social Sciences, Bernstein’s (1978) The Restructuring of Social and Political Theory, the writings of Alfred Schutz (1962, 1964, 1966, 1970), as well as the (re)discovery of the many books by Kenneth Burke (1961 [1937], 1965 [1935] 1968 [1931], 1969a [1949], 1969b [1950]), and Hugh Duncan (1962, 1968, 1969), that outlined a sociodramatic rather than a mechanistic view of social reality.

“Individual and collective anticipation are linked in a dialectical relationship, in the same way as the cognitive, moral and emotional aspects of anticipation are part of a holistic process that should not be reduced and compartmentalized for the sake of (mathematical) convenience.”

The current movement for a Science of Anticipation is a direct descendant of these earlier writings and research, though there is a danger that it might be a movement still more under the influence of the traditional mechanistic rather than the humanistic or artistic side of this concept. The word ‘anticipation’ carries a strong emotional and moral connotation, something not well suited to the mathematical and deterministic tendencies of science. Human orientation to the future, as seen in the planning of behavior, includes a sense of seeking something better, carrying with it all of the emotional and moral implications of this term. Without these connotations we are simply talking about forecasting or predicting, not about anticipating. This would seem to imply that we should be talking as much about art as about science.

2. Collective Anticipation

In any case, anticipation appears to focus upon the individual process of decision making and acting, with orientation to the future as well as the past. Not very well explored is the question of how individual anticipation leads to collective anticipation and action. This is not a separate issue, of course, because individual and collective anticipation are linked in a dialectical relationship, in the same way as the cognitive, moral and emotional aspects of anticipation are part of a holistic process that should not be reduced and compartmentalized for the sake of (mathematical) convenience. What human anticipation confronts is a fuzzy world (Kosko, 1994) composed of what Epicurus referred to as the necessary structures of nature, the social structures created to survive in that physical world, ‘l’enfer des autres’ Hell is other people, as Jean Paul Sartre had described it and, finally, pure chance. This is a quantum world with multiple causes and many random, even contradictory, outcomes (Stamatiadou, 2013). It is a world of inter-subjectivity, as defined by phenomenology or entanglement, as defined by the quantum world view.

We each enter this world with our own anticipations along with ‘others’ and their anticipations, and somehow a structured, though constantly changing social world emerges. This is not a mechanistic world; there are few linear causal relations. There are mutual, reciprocal causations over time; the individual is ‘causing’ social causations and the social ‘causes’ individual causations in this world. The natural structures are ‘causing’ the social structures and vice versa. It is very difficult for the individual to anticipate the future under such circumstances, which is why both religion and science, to say nothing about politicians, market researchers and even some parents, share a common interest in certainty: a desire to believe that the future can somehow be controlled.

This is also why the literature on the ‘art of anticipation’ is so concerned with the question of ‘leadership’, or how to control others for one’s own purpose, often for economic gain (de Jong, 2015; Hines, 2007; Maher, 2014). In any case, in examining the relationship between individual and collective anticipation, we must emphasize the importance of communication: how the process of communication organizes individual behavior into collective behavior and vice versa. Communication depends upon the specific capability of humans to use symbols, especially language, to organize themselves collectively. It is here that we must seek to understand how the art of individual anticipation leads to collective anticipation. Other species also use communication to organize their social behavior, but human communication is much more evolved than the forms of communication used by other species, which involve primarily the transfer of instinctive information.

Every act of human communication is also an act of persuasion: we seek to persuade others that our understanding of reality is appropriate. Persuasion is, however, not just a cognitive process; it also involves emotion and morality. We seek to persuade others of our view by appealing to their emotions as much, if not more than to their cognition. All politicians, teachers, advertisers, artists, religious leaders, etc. know this very well. And since each of us believes that our own view of reality is the appropriate one, for whatever rational or non-rational (not to be confused with irrational) reason, we are also persuading morally: ours is a good reality, or for those who do not agree with us for whatever reason, a better view of reality than theirs. Thus, we must seek to understand the dialectical transition from individual to collective anticipation and back again as a process of communication, and more specially, persuasion, including all the means of persuasion available, from reasoning to courtship to the use of force.

3. Anticipation as a Dialectic Process

I designed the original diagram on the ‘Dialectic of Change’ in the late 1960s as a result of exposure to the many new ideas about social science and social reality that were presented in the books listed above. The diagram was attached to an article (Gutenschwager, 1970), on social change, but was not reproduced, apparently for technical reasons, in the journal at that time. Thus, it had to await the subsequent publication of my book on Planning and Social Science (Gutenschwager, 2004), before it could see the light of day. As I attempt to demonstrate in the diagram and as the science of anticipation also seems to imply, the social construction of reality is a dialectic, not a deterministic or even a probabilistic process. This idea has also been present in the writings of scholars from the past, ranging as far back as Heraclitus, for whom everything moved and changed (Τά πάντα ρει), up to Hegel, Marx, Husserl, and their descendants in the 20th century. Also, I am not talking here about the use of the term “dialectic” as rhetorical battles, as used by Plato, but rather something more mechanistic, that is, “interaction”, perhaps ironically one might say, as used by positivist scientists.

Positivist social science attends primarily to the objective reality, or the environmental aspect presented in the diagram. It seeks correlations among documented variables in order to infer causation at this level only. Neither humans nor their anticipations are necessary for their explanations. These efforts have, of course, resulted in many insights, especially with regard to the unanticipated and often unintended consequences of human action, and they have been useful both for understanding social processes at the larger scale, as well as for policy makers who must make decisions about programs and plans at this scale.

However, the tendency for determinism present in positive science often limits understanding of any given social situation because the existing social structure is simply taken for granted, much as the structure of nature is taken for granted in the natural sciences. That is, the thoughts and intentions of the human actors who have, throughout the past, created the present structure are no more considered, at least at the formal level, than the thoughts and actions of those same actors taken into account in the policy and planning recommendations of the scientist-engineers who propose solutions to current problems. The complex socio-psychological theater in which the social world is created simply cannot be captured in a mechanistic framework, a fact that often frustrates the implementation of otherwise valuable social science findings in the real world.

This somewhat rigid, reductionist and mechanistic framework of science is now being modified by movements such as that of the science of anticipation, and, indeed, by a more general search for new paradigms to better understand social processes. Alexander Wendt (2015), for example, seeks to introduce the framework of quantum physics into the social sciences, using the idea of particles and waves as exemplifying the differences between the positivist and the interpretive schools: positivists deal with objective reality, or particles, while the ‘interpretivists’ or hermeneutics deal with consciousness and meanings or wave actions.

Without a conscious awareness of the quantum framework at the time, I tried to express these ideas in the diagram as a dialectic process that is a continuous and never-ending flow. The contents of the sectors of the diagram represent cuts or snap shots of this wave process, interrupting it by creating the particles that result from attempts to observe it. Cultural, scientific, religious and other forms of consciousness and meanings are ‘entangled’ with each other in the subjective and intentional or anticipatory portions of the diagram, just as structures are ‘entangled’ in the objective reality. Attempts to understand this never-ending process always involve a disturbance of the dialectic between particles and waves, leading to the well-known problem of ‘uncertainty’ that characterizes the eternal search for knowledge. If we add to this the spiritual or invisible realm of the quantum universe and the problem of the collective subconscious with the entanglement of meanings at this level, we can begin to appreciate the full complexities involved in an understanding of the difficult problem of anticipation.

At the same time this can also be seen in other sciences, such as biology (Lewontin & Levins, 1985, 2007; Lipton, 2008; Lovelock & Sahtouris, 2000), or in physics (Capra, 1982; McTaggert, 2008 [2001]; Sheldrake, 2011 [1988]), and many, many others.

The factual difficulty of formulating evolution as a process of adapting to preexistent problems is that the organism and the environment are not actually separately determined. The environment is not a structure imposed on living beings from the outside but is in fact a creation of those beings. The environment is not an autonomous process but a reflection of the biology of the species. Just as there is no organism without an environment, there is no environment without an organism. The construction of environments by species has a number of well-known aspects that need to be incorporated into evolutionary theory. (Lewontin & Levins, 1985, p. 99)

“There is a critical need for a new holistic social science embedded in philosophy, a social science that would include simultaneously all aspects of human existence in a non-fragmented way.”

Thus, it would appear that we are witnessing a real turning point in the philosophy of science. Consciousness is the new starting point for all of these new approaches. Consciousness and intention (or anticipation) are the keys to this new form of knowledge. Here we are talking about subjective (and intersubjective) reality, or the ‘meaningful aspect’, as well as the ‘intentional aspect’ in the diagram. The accumulated wisdom of psychology and anthropology would seem to be invaluable to understanding reality at this level. Yet, it is more than that. The current study of psychology without economics should be unthinkable, and in addition, economics without psychology and anthropology should be even more unthinkable. There is a critical need for a new holistic social science embedded in philosophy, a social science that would include simultaneously all aspects of human existence in a non-fragmented way, which, unfortunately, has not been the case until now.

Mark Gungor (YouTube) addresses this issue in a very humorous way when comparing the male and the female minds. The male mind, he claims, is divided into separate boxes, one for each subject: one for the car, one for the house, one for work, etc. These boxes may be opened one at a time but never simultaneously. If a different subject is introduced, the original box is carefully returned to its place without touching any of the other boxes. Then the new box is opened to discuss the new subject, and then returned when another subject is raised, and so forth. In some ways this reminds one of the male dominated university system, where the separate disciplines, while housed on the same campus, rarely know about or communicate with each other, or the male dominated medical profession with a high degree of specialization on the various organs and systems in the body!

The female mind, according to Gungοr, is totally different. It is a mass of lines, all communicating with each other all the time. It is emotionally charged and with a very good memory for all the things stored there. It is well adapted to multitasking, usually without confusing the various tasks with one another. It reminds somehow of what the quantum universe is described to be. What we are looking for here is a combination of both minds, a ‘golden mean’, as it were. In a world filled with machines, keeping the boxes in some kind of order is absolutely necessary, but, then, seeing the connections among the boxes is also quite necessary.

Riane Eisler (1995) addresses this issue in a more academic way in her book, The Chalice & the Blade. As more female archeologists become involved in interpreting the prehistoric past, the understanding of that past is changing quite dramatically. Where earlier male archeologists found mainly symbols of warriors seeking to dominate everything in their paths, i.e., the blade, female archeologists (as well as some male archeologists) are now finding symbols of cooperation, i.e., the chalice, at least in those cultures before the invasions of herders from the Steppes and from the arid deserts in North Africa made their way into the Middle East and Crete. New archeological discoveries with more balanced interpretations tend to

“… reveal a long period of peace and prosperity when our social, technological, and cultural evolution moved upward: many thousands of years when all the basic technologies on which civilization is built were developed in societies that were not male dominant, violent, and hierarchic” (Eisler 1995, p. xvi).

A recent article in the periodical, Economic Thought (2014), when speaking about the problem of popularization of economic science declares, “There is, however, a danger. The danger is a descent into oversimplification and caricature”. What could be a better description of economics, itself, a ‘boxed in’ science that reduces complex social and psychological processes, including especially human consciousness and intention, to mechanistic terms, describing this reality with a complex mathematical system and believing that this caricature is somehow an adequate, if not the best possible representation of social reality.

“To understand collective consciousness and beliefs requires an understanding of how they are created, socially, psychologically and anthropologically.”

Indeed, but when this formulation is imposed upon society through various laws and programs (Polanyi, 2002), to say nothing of the many years of propaganda about its ‘naturalness’ (Sahlins, 2008), we can begin to see how our beliefs about reality actually participate in causing reality to be what it is. This is to be seen not in any mechanistic sense, but in the Heisenbergian sense that we cause reality to be what it is by observing and acting on it within an often reified and mystifying framework that we, ourselves, have created (Gutenschwager, 2015). This is not at all unlike the placebo effect, where people are cured by a sugar pill that they believe to be a new ‘miracle’ drug, an experimental fact that is confirmed for something like a third of the participants in drug trials. When the 10% of nocebo effects, people receiving the actual drug but with no therapeutic effects, is added, one must begin to take seriously the importance of mind-body connections, in medicine as well as in society, that is, in social anticipation.

4. The Art of Collective Anticipation

In collective anticipation we are talking as much about art as about science. When we are convinced that something is true and then act as if it were true, it tends to become true, hence the emphasis on ‘leadership’, or propaganda, or marketing and advertising. But this is not a deterministic process. Thus, our beliefs do not always ‘cause’ reality to be what we think it is, especially when we do not (yet?) have the means to alter something, say like a rainy day, or when other individuals and groups believe reality to be something different. In other words, collective or intersubjective beliefs and their reality are not necessarily the same thing as individual beliefs and their reality. Thus, moving from an understanding of individual consciousness and anticipation to collective understanding and anticipation with all of its entanglements is not a simple additive process. To understand collective consciousness and beliefs requires an understanding of how they are created, socially, psychologically and anthropologically. We must engage with processes of socialization and of education or persuasion in the broadest sense, both in children and adults.

For example, the current economic system in the West is now dominated by financial capitalism, that is, of making money by gambling with money and less out of the production and exchange of goods and services. This is the product of over 200 years of socialization and education designed to make it appear natural and good. We anticipate, based on the subjective (moral) belief, reinforced by the idea of the ‘unseen hand’, that all profit-making is essentially good and will lead to the best social circumstances possible. We have been educated to believe that this is true. Of course, this is especially true of economists, who have received the most intensive socialization to believe this. Their status and rewards in society also reinforce this belief system, while the entire structure of data collection and processing appears to further reinforce this on the social scale. The actual definitions of ‘goodness’, i.e., the indices of growth and development, further reinforce this belief. All of these definitions are reified human constructs that have been invented since the end of the 18th century to legitimize the rise of the new ruling class of merchants and industrialists, and more recently, bankers and financiers. They have been designed to reinforce the definition of reality created by Adam Smith and his followers. The economic indices are in many respects the placebos of the current social theater.

This is not a claim that there is some evil plot at work here, or that the indices are not measures of the reality that has been created. These are natural human and social processes deriving from the fact that humans are conscious beings, existing also, at least as some claim, in a conscious universe. As conscious beings, we are now slowly becoming aware that the social reality we inhabit is not a mechanistic or deterministic system, though there may well be deterministic phases that result from our inability or unwillingness to be aware of or to reflect upon the implications of our beliefs and actions, and/or to accept the responsibilities that accompany them. Art, especially narrative art and theater, has always been able to put aside the common beliefs of an epoch and to confront them, either by exaggerating them and showing their contradictions and often unintended consequences, or by proposing an alternative reality that would appear (for a time, at least) to overcome these unintended and often unwanted consequences.

5. Creating Collective Anticipation

There are many levels in the process whereby collective (and, hence individual) consciousness and anticipation are created. The first stage is, of course, early socialization. Berger and Luckmann (1966) have described in some detail the processes of socialization and typification that explain how humans create and pass on their socially constructed reality to subsequent generations. These realities are structured to the extent that they create typifications that allow people to anticipate the thoughts and behaviors of those who share the same cultural reality, and thus to interact with them with a large degree of certainty. Each of us has passed through this stage, though the realities into which we are indoctrinated are not all the same. Indeed, there are multiple collective realities, which are more or less strongly adhered to by people around the globe.

“Science, for the most part, uses mathematical symbols based largely on the binary logic of Aristotle: things are or are not, without any grey area in between.”

For well over a hundred years anthropologists have been describing and explaining these alternative (cultural) realities that are a product of early socialization processes. They, more than anyone else, have helped us to understand the relativity of cultural reality and the dangers of assuming that everyone is like us (at least for those who are willing to listen to them). Meanwhile, most cultures today continue this socialization process within more or less elaborated educational institutions. Here scientific, historical and philosophical knowledge may expand the understandings that have accumulated over the ages. This helps both to reinforce understanding of one’s own culture and often to expand understanding of other cultures as well. In this sense education can be very instrumental in developing a broader sense of reality that would allow anticipation to operate at an even larger scale.

Social science at higher levels of education contributes to this process by examining universal generalizations about human nature and human behavior that are not, theoretically at least, bound by local cultural presuppositions. In some respects, these generalizations are part of a trans-cultural culture, governed by certain ontological and epistemological presuppositions that structure the quest for knowledge. In this sense, science is also socially constructed and is subject to its own paradigmatic revolutions from time to time, as Kuhn has so tellingly described. It is also within this context that the science of anticipation is operating, influenced by the history of science up to this point in time.

6. Symbolic Anticipation

Meanwhile, Kenneth Burke and others, including, especially, Hugh Duncan, have proposed a different paradigm, more within the realm of art, for understanding and anticipating human consciousness and behavior. This paradigm incorporates a set of ontological and epistemological presuppositions quite different from conventional social science. Burke defines humans as symbol-using beings, language being the most important of these symbol systems. Thus, humans live in a symbolic universe, always in danger of being alienated from the actual reality which the symbols, themselves, represent. Thus, Burke studied the manner in which symbols are used, both to describe and create different realities. The symbols and their use then give clues as to how best to anticipate the future in any given community of humans. This is particularly true for those in leadership roles, including especially scientists who, today, command the most authoritative symbols in most realms of society.

The ability of symbols to truly represent the reality to which they refer is, of course, of critical importance here. Science, for the most part, uses mathematical symbols based largely on the binary logic of Aristotle: things are or are not, without any grey area in between. Quantum physics and fuzzy logic are questioning this logic as they seek to incorporate the grey areas between 0 and 1 (Kosko, 1993; Cicourel, 1964). These symbols, especially in the case of economic science as Keynes has observed, may sometimes have only a slight relationship with the reality they seek to describe, in which case they may be used in a more sociodramatic than a scientific sense as a form of mystification, as we shall see below.

Burke proposes key sociodramatic processes that are used in ‘adult’ education. He emphasizes two ritualistic processes in particular. These are ‘mystification’ and ‘victimage’. Mystification is a ritual that reinforces separation (into hierarchical classes or levels of a society). In mystification rituals incomprehensible language is often used, along with special behaviors, vestments and accoutrements, to separate the experts, now especially scientists, but also teachers, leaders or rulers, from those below them in the social hierarchy. Rites of passage are used to mark the passage from a lower to a higher ranking in the social hierarchy. Victimage, on the other hand, is a ritual of incorporation, accomplished via the actual or metaphorical crucifixion of the symbol of evil, either a person or an idea. The crucifixion serves as a catharsis for the people in the audience, whose potential fear and guilt for similar ‘evil’ thoughts are cleansed with the sacrifice of someone or something else, thus reincorporating them into the social body.

Another example would be the evolution of painting and architecture over the past several hundred years, as they have sought to communicate something about the prevailing social order. In contrast to those who believe in ‘Ars gratia artis’, that the arts and their history refer only to themselves and have little or no relation to the social reality in which they are found, I would suggest that relationships can be found, and that art does indeed communicate something about social reality. This is not to say that art simply reflects social reality; rather it is in a dialectic relationship with that reality: sometimes it supports it, sometimes it opposes it, and sometimes it is merely ambivalent. Painting and architecture in the West during and before the Renaissance, for example, were almost exclusively related to religion. Then they turned to an architecture for, and portraits of, the newly rising bourgeoisie. This cannot be unrelated to the rise of industrial capitalism and the wealth that was accumulated in this rising class of merchants and industrialists. Subsequently, Impressionism withdrew, both stylistically and in the choice of subject matter, from contact with the unpleasant reality that this new social order presented to the world. Many scenes were either painful reminders of the grey living conditions suffered by the new urban dwellers or were bucolic park and pastoral scenes from a recently lost past.

It was not until the art of Social Realism cast a critical eye on modern economic reality, especially during the depression years of the 1930s, that measures were taken to restrict its exposure (Shapiro and Shapiro, 1977). Support was directed to abstract impressionism, whose critical social messages, if any, could not be discerned in the blur of abstract colors that were portrayed on the canvas. The alternative was, of course, the nonsensical portrayal of mundane objects in pop art à la Andy Warhol. Art was to be exiled from the real world and artists who took this non-critical stance were richly rewarded for their ‘troubles’.

The history of architecture has had a similar though different relationship with social reality. From its close relationship to religion it entered a brief neoclassical period, as it sought to bring a rebirth to the ancient Greek and Roman style. From there it evolved into the modernist style, which sought to reinforce the values of the new industrial world, devoid of any embellishment or ornamentation. The need for this stylistic change has been explained by Jacques Ellul (1964) in his book The technological society. Modern architecture is austere; its form follows its mechanistic function. The engineering apparatus is exposed; its concrete is bare. It follows the demands of industrial production, something which can only be profitable when it is stripped of all embellishment and ornamentation, when it is devoid of all art, except for symmetry, of course, necessary even for engineering, until postmodernism began to question even that.

Postmodern and deconstructionist architecture have sought to ridicule this modern iconography, the first in a comic and the second in a tragic style (Gutenschwager,1996). They are part of a more general expression of discontent and disenchantment with modernism, insofar as it has been related to an obsession with unlimited economic growth, along with the mechanistic mentality that characterized the 20th and early 21st centuries. They seek to help us anticipate a new paradigm and a new social world free from the contradictions with which we have been living over the past 200 years or more.

7. Victimage as Symbolic Communication

“Planning could also be a science, with a symbolic status equal to that of classical economics.”

Victimage, as mentioned above, was Burke’s other key sociodramatic ritual, one that communicates a different purpose. It is to unify a social group by allowing it to participate in a cathartic experience where a victim or victims are publicly sacrificed so that others in the group can be both intimidated as well as cleansed of any rebellious thoughts that they might have had, thus hopefully re-solidifying the group. There is also the fortunate and purposeful effect that every individual is then relieved of the guilt that they might have had as a result of their own possible anticipated thoughts and actions in opposition to the structure, especially the hierarchical structure of the group. There are obvious and celebrated examples of victimage, though it need not take such extreme forms, of course, since any form of public rebuff or defamation, from the wearing of a dunce cap, to a damning word from a parent, a teacher, a priest or mentor, etc., may all serve the same purpose.

The list of tragic public victims is long and somewhat depressing. They have all been sacrificed for their unconventional ideas, many of which became standard understanding sooner or later after they were victimized. We might begin with Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods, followed by Socrates with his ‘demonic’ ideas corrupting the youth; Jesus Christ with his belief in love, something inspiring to many, though unfortunately not all Christians over the years; Julius Caesar in a power struggle with his senate; Hypatia, who believed that philosophy should inspire our lives; the poor souls caught in the Spanish Inquisition; or Hester Prynne, forced to wear a scarlet letter around her neck to broadcast her shame, and even Adam and Eve who dared to taste the forbidden fruit, which is perhaps emblematic of all victims who dared to taste the fruit of unacceptable knowledge. The list continues on up to more modern times and includes several American presidents, including Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield and John F. Kennedy, movement leaders such as Martin Luther King and even entertainers such as John Lennon.

Victimage usually results in a tragedy, often resulting from a tragic act or criticism against the current social reality. However, because of the high cost of victimage, to say nothing of its ultimate ineffectiveness in avoiding the long-term changes supported by the victims, Burke does not support tragedy as a form of symbolic criticism. It places too much emphasis on sin and eternal damnation. He rather supports the idea of the ‘comic corrective’ in the belief that, rather than sins, what is involved are mistakes, something we are all prone to. Perhaps this is what Christ meant on the cross when he said, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do”. Maybe this also might suggest a slogan for the current world of uncertainty, something we should all profess prior to any thoughts or actions: “Forgive us, Father, for we may not know what we do”.

8. Planning as Collective Anticipation

Planners in the public sector are in a most difficult position in today’s social systems. The “free” market is supposed to regulate everything and produce the best social outcome. Planners, who attempt to create collective solutions and protect society against the often unintended and usually ignored consequences of this predatory system, are often castigated (symbolically victimized) by proponents of that system. Meanwhile, the free market system is given great symbolic importance by the science of economics, often through the use of mystifying (to many) mathematical models. Thus, planners must often enter a symbolic conflict with that science in their professional efforts.

Several economists and others, who were veterans of the Great Depression and its applications of Keynesian economics, attempted to create a new science of planning in the post WWII era at the University of Chicago. Their effort was to counter the accusations by free market scientists that planning was mere art, usually in the form of architectural design before that time. Their claim was that planning could also be a science, with a symbolic status equal to that of classical economics. That interdisciplinary program lasted only a decade at Chicago, without ever being supported by the economics department at that university. Nevertheless, it spawned a national, indeed, international movement to redefine planning as an interdisciplinary science.

However, in part because that movement has never really understood itself as an important sociodramatic moment in the history of human thought, it has not been able to achieve the status of the economic science of the free market system. This can be seen clearly on the political stage of the western countries at the present time. These countries are struggling to overcome a chronic contradiction in the free market system, which ignores the importance of a necessary equitable distribution of income, in order to maintain some sort of equilibrium between production and consumption. This is not to mention other contradictions pertaining to the entanglement of social, political, psychological and moral issues that are largely ignored by classical economic theory. Nevertheless, planning is rarely mentioned as a solution to these problems.

What a profession of planning must confront is the importance of seeing itself as a part of this sociodramatic struggle. Planners must realize that when they are appointed to a position they must first carry out, for themselves at least, a socio-anthropological study to discover what is the theater they enter. Who are the heroes and villains, both as to ideas and as to protagonists, in that ongoing theatrical production? What are the intentions and purposes of the important players? What is the symbolic language they themselves must use in order to be accepted as members of the cast? Their success is likely to be as much a product of their sociodramatic acumen as their scientific and professional qualifications. If they are seen as opponents of the existing free market paradigm, for example, they might have great difficulty in accomplishing their efforts to protect society from the contradictions of that system, though this may be changing on today’s crisis-ridden scene. In any case, awareness of this artistic dimension of human reality should be a helpful addition to the purely technical and scientific portfolio for the professional planner (Urhammer, 2015).

Essentially, planners working for the public good must see themselves as “Guerillas in the Bureaucracy” (Needham & Needham, 1974), with all the uncertainties that accompany such a role. The chief protagonists in the “Free Market” theater do not tolerate interference with the idealized mechanisms of their imposed reality. But there is an important ally in this struggle: the people who would benefit from the planning. Here planners must insist on developing good relations with these lesser ‘protagonists’. They must learn to talk with (not at) and listen (carefully) to the people and help them to participate in the planning effort. That is, they must abandon the role of social engineer, without abandoning their special knowledge and skills, of course, and instead become partners in a fully “participatory planning” effort.

9. Conclusion

Endless other examples from history could be offered to illustrate the manner in which art has played an important role in symbolizing support for or criticism of the existing social order. Working within the entangled or intersubjective consciousness, art has often had the freedom to cast light on the moral implications of that order, and to offer an alternative order if that seemed appropriate. As a result, ruling classes have always sought to control art to the degree possible so as to insure their own position in the social hierarchy. This could also extend to allowing an escape valve for the uncertain or critical members of the society, something which the court jester symbolized in the days of kings and queens, and something which is carried on today with comedians in the mass media. Dissatisfied citizens can, thus, be given a sense of anticipation that something is or would likely be changing.

As with all anticipations, however, they might at any time turn into a consciousness of reality that could no longer be laughed off. These are the moments when widespread movements for change arise and when there is likely to be an increasing use of force to control behavior, as well as consciousness. Not that theatrical performances are missing during these times, usually appealing on a predominantly emotional level to issues of race, culture, nationality, etc. The efforts of religion to dogmatize morality and of science to ‘sweep it under the rug’, have both proven inadequate to confront the philosophical problems facing every society at every point in history. It is time that we opened our hearts and our minds to the sort of inquiry that philosophy alone can encompass.


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* This article is a modified version of a paper presented at The First International Conference on Anticipation, Trento, Italy, November 5-7, 2015

About the Author(s)

Gerald A. Gutenschwager
Emeritus Professor, School of Architecture, Washington University, St. Louis, MO, USA; Scientific Fellow, Department of Regional Planning and Development, University of Thessaly, Volos, Greece