Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Deconstructing Archetypes

Part 21 of Prisoners of the Real

Archetypes are ideal patterns. Stereotypes are their negative images. The latter can be useful, however, when looking at extreme tendencies. Among the archetypes described by Carl Jung were the extroverts and introverts, with aspects that often overlapped. Of Jung's extroverts, two were rational types – the thinking and feeling rational extroverts. The tool users and time keepers of our rationally-managed world illustrate both qualities. The technician and the rhinoceros, meanwhile, lay at two poles of rationalism – the extremes of the Individualist and the Organization Man.

The Organization Man is a collective rationalist, agreeing with Plato on the need for a unity of social and political goals. The Individualist, in contrast, is a libertarian rationalist, favoring a popular sovereignty that celebrates diversity and protects humanity's natural right of independent enterprise. The Organization Man tends toward the absolute; he wants order in a complex world. The Individualist tends toward the democratic, seeking complexity though it may ultimately lead to chaos.

The "satisficing" leader is the model of the Organization Man, one who makes all questions political matters and hopes that the ends will justify the means. The "pure" researcher personifies the Individualist. For the researcher all questions are "technical," as knowledge is refined in pieces and technical means become ends. The "satisficer" looks for workability and practicality within a bureaucratically-managed system. The "pure" researcher hopes to optimize and predict by considering every alternative.

Organization Men (and women) are drawn to conflict suppression through an often participatory program of inductive analysis. Individualists are attracted to conflict resolution through an often compartmentalized program of deductive verification. Fused with the whole, Organization Men follow the other-directed road to products. Concerned with the parts, Individualists take the same road to endless process.

In the I Ching, the Organization Man is the eldest son in the hexagram "The Arousing (Shock, Thunder)." He has "learned within his heart what fear and trembling mean." But rather than attaining a "profound inner seriousness," he may be robbed "of reflection and clarity of vision...helplessly tossed hither and thither." If his resistance and ability to yield are absent, his movement may be seriously crippled.

The Individualist is the youngest son in the hexagram "Keeping Still (Mountain)." He "turns upon the problem of achieving a quiet heart." Yet rather than reaching "peace of mind," his constant thinking may make "the heart sore," causing him to drift irresolutely. He may try to "induce calmness by means of artificial rigidity," producing "unwholesome results. Tied to ego, he isn't "free from all the dangers of doubt and unrest."

Nevertheless, these two very different sons have some common concerns and attributes: reliance on routines, concern with adjustment, and belief in the world of objective facts are among the tendencies that unite these two rational types. Reason and judging functions are supreme, noted Jung, which subordinates their intuitive lives to rational judgment alone. The accidental and irrational are excluded, and untidiness is forced into a definite pattern.

But there are dangers. Such people are sucked into objects and lose themselves. They are forced into involuntary self-restraint. At the extreme lies hysteria, an exaggerated rapport with those in the immediate environment and an adaptation to surrounding conditions that may become mere imitation. The basic feature of the hysteric is a tendency to make him or herself interesting, to make an impression. Related to this is suggestibility, vulnerability to the influence of another.

These types and their relationships can be placed in visual perspective. Imagine a vertical line, for example, symbolizing the active element often identified as male. At the bottom of the line is chaos. At the opposite pole lies the extreme of the material world, order, which is idealized in the spiritual world. Next, imagine a second line, dividing the first at its center: this horizontal line symbolizes the passive element, often characterized as female. It moves from the intuitive realm of spirit to the rational world of matter. Viewed as a whole, the two lines create four quadrants.

By imposing an inverted pyramid on this cross, we create a symbol indicating the thesis of rationalism and antithesis of intuition. Moving along the horizontal axis to the right, we venture from the mid-point between order and chaos, intuition and rationality, into the world of the real. At the extreme, in this visual representation, are the tool users and time keepers who accept the world of objects as they see it.

The line pointing diagonally southeast, in the direction of chaos and rationality, leads us to the libertarian rationalist, the Individualist bound solidly to matter in total rejection of spirit, whose extreme example is the technician. To the southwest, toward chaos and intuition, is the intuitional libertarian, the radical who may ultimately embrace anarchy and become an outsider. And to the northeast, the direction of order and rationality, we find the collective rationalist, the Organization Man. He may sometimes seek spirit within matter, but often he becomes the extreme known as the rhinoceros.

One quadrant remains – the region of pure spirit. I'll leave for later a full examination of this tendency toward intuitive order. But this direction leads to devotion, a form of collective intuition. The devoted being, an intuitive or spiritual guide, also has an important role to play in the world of leadership, one largely unexplored by management theorists. This type is an arrogant dragon who has begun to repent. Potentially, he is a spiritual adept, or an organizational shaman. At the extreme, however, the devoted being may become a blind disciple.

The dialectic of rationality and intuition which began with Copernicus and was concretized by Descartes, Hobbes, the rationalists and skeptics of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, the neo-Hegelians, and followers of Marx has led to the dominance of rationality in the conditional world of technology, bureaucracy, and behaviorism. The inverted pyramid directs us to the Organization Man, the collective rationalist who accepts a world of increasing order and predictability.

At the opening of the 21st century, the rhinoceros herd encompasses most of society. The values of collective rationality have been diffused to the masses who, to a significant extent, embrace the ethic of self-control and mechanical system. We've moved deep into the age of the bureaucratic institution, dominated by technological and industrial culture.

Among the implicit beliefs of collective rationality illustrated thus far are:

* The appropriate attitude toward the past is rejection, hostility or casual amusement.
* Humanity is inherently estranged from nature.
* Natural striving is upward and outward, exemplified by improvement and increases of production.
* Our orientation must be toward mastery, control and order.
* Our knowledge can be expanded indefinitely.
* The cosmos is a mechanical system.
* The road to improvement is accelerated movement.

Systems are viewed with a mixture of reverence and fear. Anxious Organization Men are relieved when they can be reassured that "the system still works." Even the Watergate crisis of the 70s and the Iran-Contra affair of the 80s provided such consolation for most rational leaders and their conditioned flocks.

But in order to completely understand how the dragon has been transformed into a rhinoceros, we need to look more deeply into the system in which he operates.

Consider it a whale of frightful size. A whale was said to have swallowed Jonah, its belly so large that people mistook it for hell. The whale lifts its back out of the open sea, then anchors itself in one place. Resting on its back, a level lawn is created, and bushes begin to grow. According to legend, sailing ships often mistook whales for islands and landed on them. Crews then built fires, and their heat awoke the beast. Suddenly, the huge beast plunged into the sea, pulling the ship and crew down with it.

This is a dire vision of the system at work. But there are more practical reasons to fear the whale, this organizational machine made of human beings.

Next: The Price of Order

To read other chapters, go to Prisoners of the Real: An Odyssey

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