Saturday, April 19, 2008

StE Theory: an alternative to "the Dialectics"

The adversarial approach in mentality and attitude that is second nature to generations of earthlings - notably to lawyers and politicians - is today generally taken as the natural course of things. Only very seldom is it recognized as a man-made phenomenon; that things could well have been different had other choices been made in the past. It is hardly ever seen as a deliberate strategy to enforce desired results, the phenomenon so cherished by the Left: 'change to progress', motivated and justified by the ethics of deontology (good-intent-bad-result-never-mind morality).

The culprit is at first sight an unlikely candidate, the German anti-modernist philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831). He turns out to be the linchpin in the dichotomy of political Left and Rightism. This is not to be confused with the other popular Manichaism, which pits reactionaries against modernists (or Classical Liberals, or Libertarians; today's 'liberals' are actually Leftist Hegelians). Hegel's Leftist and Rightist followers were and are anti-modern Socialists.

Hegel's dialectic lies at the bottom of the adversarial approach, a fact exacerbated by the 'improvements' made by his follower of the Leftist variety, Karl Marx. The latter's dialectic resulted in the universe being radically and irreconcilably divided into two species of human beings: oppressors (those in power) against the oppressed (everyone else), a recipe for perpetual strife, war and bloody power struggle. The mechanism is admirably and in-depth explained in this article, and made visible in this chart.

Dr Sam Holliday, a regular contributor to these pages, is founder of the Armiger Cromwell Center and developer of the Theory of Stability through Equilibrium (StE). He has now published an essay suggesting alternatives to the adversarial approaches of the Hegel and Marxist Dialectics. In an addendum he answers questions that might arise from the philosophical perspective. The importance of this momentous contribution cannot be overestimated. Enjoy!


Stability Through Equilibrium (StE) originated in 1968 in an effort to define and describe the commonality of the Aristotelian Golden Mean, Chinese Yin-Yang, the stable state of physics, and the homeostatic equilibrium of systems management. It was initially used to explain the prerequisites for development in irregular warfare and to counter the view that stability means permanence or preservation of the status quo. In 1999 it became a focus for the activities of the Armiger Cromwell Center. It is now presented as a guide for decision-making and an alternative to the adversarial approach based on the dialectic.

We are unaware of how postmodern thought, and the adversarial approach, shapes our perceptions, influences our decisions and controls our behavior. We do not recognize them as outcomes of interpretations of Hegel’s dialectic theory and his Utopian vision. Yet we are drifting toward centralization—the “whole” of which Hegel speaks—and endless self-perpetuating conflict.

An Alternative to the Hegelian Dialectic
An alternative is needed for decision-making. The theory of Stability through Equilibrium (StE) presented in this essay seeks self-regulating systems of conflict/cooperation that maintain a stable system through coordinated responses of its parts. Also StE would encourage decentralization and greater freedom. The theory of Stability through Equilibrium (StE) is presented here in nonacademic language in the hope it will improve the decision of those concerned with public policy. However, it will not challenge Hegel’s dialectic theory as philosophy. Hegel’s place in philosophy is established; however, in the art of decision making the dialectic has serious limitations. It injects continual conflict when conflict/cooperation as a whole more accurately reflects reality. It always visualizes some Utopian future when stability through equilibrium might be more desirable.

The Hegelian dialectic often shapes policy. Perhaps this is because it accurately describes human behavior, or perhaps it has been learned. After Hegel’s death in 1831, Metternich of Austria and the czars of Russia used his ideas to justify authoritarian rule. Since then many very different, and contradictory, movements have claimed Hegel’s philosophy as their inspiration—including the totalitarian passions of fascism, Nazism and communism. The only things these movements have in common are his theory of dialectic, his glorification of centralized authority, and his vision of perpetual progress. Perhaps this is because Hegel’s writing is so abstract and unintelligible people can read into it whatever they want.

Today political, economic, security, and social issues are argued from extreme ideological positions (Hegel’s thesis and anti-thesis) in search of a synthesis. Most lawyers, politicians, members of media, and professors of the humanities depend on this adversarial approach. Debates, spin, conscious raising, intimidation, bribery, and compromise are tools used in progress toward Utopian visions. However, Utopias assume that all humans are the same, an assumption refuted by the facts. All of this can be traced back to the Hegelian dialectic - so can postmodern thought.

In politics feelings, emotions, and self-interests often triumph over thought, reason and the common good. We need to remember that the end of the Hegelian road - progress toward his “World Spirit” - would be world government with the power to enforce “the rule of law” in every corner of this planet. Who is going to decide what is to be enforced?

If people were aware of how the Hegelian dialectic shapes their thoughts, the odds are they would want to replace such rhetorical arguments with analysis and comparison of alternatives. Rather than an ideological outcome as specified by some Utopian vision, they might be satisfied with merely a climate of order and satisfaction resulting from thought and reason seeking the common good. Rather than moral relativism, they might want a way to differentiate good and evil since one person’s good is often another person’s evil. They might want to avoid both the status quo and chaos. Surely they would prefer self-regulating (homeostatic) stable systems involving conflict/cooperation as a whole to endless conflict. Surely they would want continual feedback in order to insure efficiency and effectiveness.

It does no good to seek Hegel’s intentions and motivations, or even to debate his philosophy. However, it is necessary for people to recognize how Hegelian dialectic shapes public affairs. Hegel’s views support the argument of Hobbes that in order to achieve peace people must surrender to absolute rulers; this requires force capable of enforcing decisions made by those with secular authority. This has caused ideology to replace thought and reason, and allowed demagogues to spin perceptions, and distort reality, in ways to increase their power. Capable, intelligent, people with Free Will have been turned into narrow minded, xenophobic slaves of governmental authority. Hegel’s views have insured perpetual conflict. They teach that the only way to spiritual satisfaction is through conflict. They ignore the need for individuals to have an inner compass to guide their behavior.

Postmodern Thought
Since the 1960s Hegel’s views have been the foundation of postmodern thought, in its pursuit of a Utopian vision of a nonjudgmental, egalitarian, nondiscriminatory world, and in which disagreements are resolved by discussion, compromise, and law - but never by the use of force. Postmodernism has pushed aside much of the modernism developed by Western Culture to prevent chaos, and to achieve both order and a climate of satisfaction. Postmodernism attempts to deconstruct the concepts, institutions, roles, rules, and standards associated with Western Culture. It claims that objectivity is an illusion (created by “dead, white, Western men”) used to maintain patriarchal societies and to oppress females, the disadvantaged, and people in less developed countries.

The philosophy behind postmodern thought is an intoxicant that resonates across generational lines. It is a philosophy of redemptive self-esteem that calls for collective action to recognize, address and resolve oppression. It glorifies “progress, hope, change and struggle” to be realized through centralized secular authority. Postmodernism attempts to eliminate or modify many of the roles, rules, standards, and character that were accepted as proper, good, and right prior to the 1960s.

In the past decade postmodernism has become the ally of the Third Jihad - a global religiously inspired movement based on an ideology that teaches that it is every Muslim's duty to use any means necessary to compel the world's submission to “the way of the Prophet.” Postmodernists in Europe and American have lost sight of the fact that we are engaged in a centuries old struggle between the cross and the crescent.

The current conflict pits Western culture, as it has developed since 1500, against Islamic ideas of a proper society, from the 7th Century, which claims the sanction of God. The ideal of Western culture is a balance between freedom and unity, between individual self worth and a sense of common identity, between sacred and secular authority, and between principled convictions of individuals and respect for diversity. This balance is represented in the theory of Stability through Equilibrium (StE).

Postmodernists have lost touch with the deepest sources of the Western cultural commitments to belief, nationalism, patriotism, freedom, tolerance and the scientific method. In the strategic communications campaign against the Third Jihad the West must be able to convince everyone that Western culture is superior to Islamic culture, and that the struggle against the Third Jihad is a noble quest worthy of sacrifice.

Many might accept that the way to Truth is through thesis, anti-thesis, and synthesis, but it cannot be proven that this is better than other ways (scientific method, sacred authority, and secular authority) to determine Truth. No matter how the Hegelian dialectic is defined, or the arguments make to support its validity, it remains an unproven theory that leads to conflict, uniformity of thought, a lack of freedom, and centralization of power.

The merging and reconciliation of thesis and anti-thesis does produce change, but not necessarily the higher, more complex, and better whole that Hegelianism assumes. The change might be decline and decay. What is difficult to understand about Hegelianism is that after repeated failures it is still advocated as the way to Truth. Are today postmodernists unaware of the history of fascism, Nazism and communism?

Why Stability Through Equilibrium?
Probably the greatest weakness of the Hegelian dialectic, as used by Marxists and postmodernists, is its lack of feedback. No human system is inherently stable. The maintenance of stability requires some negative feedback that will identify, and allow compensation for, any lack of equilibrium. While negative feedback is common to physical systems, feedback is often weak in human systems. They are often governed by emotions and self interests.

Hegel recognized this when he stated: “Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion;” and “The history of the world is not the theater of happiness; periods of happiness are blank pages in it, for they are periods of harmony.” Lacking adequate negative feedback accelerates extreme behavior and the well-known cycle of rise and fall. The dialectic theory does not provide adequate feedback for human systems. The theory of Stability through Equilibrium (StE) provides for the necessary feedback.

With all of the limitations of Hegel’s dialectic theory there is certainly reason to seek an alternative in decision-making. But what is the theory of Stability through Equilibrium (StE) and why is it a better theory for the art of decision-making? What is conflict/cooperation?

Stability is a code for a complex condition that is as old as history. Yet probably no condition is more misunderstood and misused. In Western culture the word stability refers to the Golden Mean: the pragmatic approach that avoids extremes. In Chinese culture it is Yin-Yang: self-adjustment among opposites. In physics it is a stable state: a condition of continual change within an overall state that is not changed. In systems theory it refers to a homeostatic system: a system that maintains balance among its parts through continual adjustments. Unfortunately many people still think of stability as permanence, or preservation of the status quo, as the French did in the 17th century under absolutism.

Equilibrium is a means of self-regulation (homeostasis) to maintain the internal stability of any system through coordinated responses of its parts to any internal disruptions or inputs from its external environment. In human affairs equilibrium involves conflict/cooperation, it requires negative feedback, it requires thought and reason, and it requires judgments to correct imbalances between good and evil, right and wrong. Equilibrium is achieved through responsiveness to reciprocal and endless interactions resulting from negative feedback. Stability is not a sub-set of equilibrium; stability is an outcome, or end, while equilibrium is a means.

Conflict/Cooperation is a dynamic whole with at least two interacting parts. Its unity is achieved through:

- Struggling for dominance: Each party attempts to satisfy its interests, regardless of the impact on others, through various means.
- Co-opting: one party adopts all or part of the agenda of an opponent in exchange for a trade-off.
- Collaborating: Parties seek to satisfy the concerns of others in order to advance their own interests.
- Creating interdependence: Parties make change in order that no party loses any interests and all parties "maintain face."
- Compromising: Some parties are willing to give up some interests.
- Avoiding: A party desires to withdraw from or suppresses conflict.
- Accommodating: Parties are willing to give priority to the interests of others and accept loss of some interests or “face”.

In summary, it is necessary for decision makers to apply the theory of Stability through Equilibrium (StE) in a way that minimizes the gap between theory and practice. StE holds that there is objective reality (existence), and thus it includes a moral component. It must be seen as a tool to explore and explain the real world. It must be used as a reality check against ideological fallacy. It must replace the semantic language games of postmodernists. To ensure maximum credibility, conflict/cooperation appropriate to each threat is needed. Frivolous or meaningless threats need to be identified and minimized in order to achieve the greatest benefits and the lowest possible costs. Success is improved when the application of conflict/cooperation is predictable and profitable.

Just as with the Hegelian dialectic, Stability through Equilibrium (StE) can be applied to all human affairs. Stability through Equilibrium (StE) would be a useful alternative in many spheres of human activity:

(1) peace - irregular warfare - war,
(2) secular - sacred authority,
(3) centralization – decentralization governance,
(4) indivisible unity - freedom/liberty.

It is suggested that Stability through Equilibrium (StE) would be a better tool for decision-making than Hegelian dialectic in all of these activities.

The theory of Stability through Equilibrium (StE) would be better than Hegel’s dialectic theory in the shaping of our perceptions and in determining how to conduct human affairs. This is not said in anger or with pride, but simply in an attempt to improve decision making in public affairs. Hegel’s theory, as interpreted by Marxists and postmodernists, causes endless conflict in attempts to achieve Utopian visions in the future, and it provides inadequate negative feedback. It assumes that “hope, change and progress” will always result in improvement, yet it might bring about decline. The theory of Stability through Equilibrium (StE) uses conflict/cooperation in attempts to achieve order and a climate of satisfaction in the present and future as the result of negative feedback and judgments between good and evil, right and wrong.

Copyright © 2008 Armiger Cromwell Center, 3750 Peachtree Road, NE, Suite 374, Atlanta, GA 30319-1322. 404-201-7374. Permission is granted to forward this article by e-mail to friends or colleagues on a fair use basis. For reprint permission, contact Armiger Cromwell Center at

Printable format (in Google Docs: may require registering)

- Addendum to "Stability through Equilibrium", reasoning behind the theory

- More on the author and the "Armiger Cromwell Center" on Articles.

- Filed on Articles in "The Dystopia of Paradise"


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