Evaluation and management of complex social matters
The concluding chapter of a book »Policy Evaluation – Horizons of new mentality« (Radej B., M. Golobič, M. Macur. S. Dragoš, September 2011, Ljubljana: Vega, 251 pp.)
Abstract: Recognising that the society has become complex, means that the truth about social issues such as about identification of public interest or common good is not a single one, but there are a variety of well-founded and equally valid truths. The public management is complex, therefore different views do not share common denominator, they should therefore be regarded as incommensurable. The social phenomena should be seen in their duality. The realization that social matter has to be evaluated in a complex way simply means that it has to be evaluated in the golden ratio of its duality, stretched between the explanation of its primary meanings – which are constitutive for it, but in an incommensurable and deeply dividing way – and the explanation of its secondary meanings that are the only ones that lead to a holistic view, but merely in contents that are not of primary importance to anyone.
Keywords: public management, valuation, complexity, incommensurability
To recognize the complexity of postmodern society means to be aware that there is no longer only one truth about vital social questions, such as what is a common good or how successfully public policies contribute to it. There are many well-founded and equally valid truths put forward by autonomous sub-systems of a society. Enhanced social groups’ demands for autonomy are their reaction to an ever-increasing mutual dependence. It is induced by the megatrends of global market liberalization, technological changes that seem to jeopardize the possibility for preservation of societies’ internal diversity and external distinctiveness. The newly established political autonomies have disintegrated the unified core of the contemporary society into a set of constitutive but contradicting core values. So decayed on the deep level, the society cannot reach an agreement on matters that are central to it as a whole; consequently, the society cannot act cohesively, and increasingly fails to produce consistent results. As the social reality has become complex, we need a complex understanding of public dilemmas, complex doctrines of public management and complex methods for the evaluation of its achievements. These novelties are needed to endow members of the disintegrating postmodern society with holistic views without simultaneously threatening the society’s diversity on the deep level of its contradicting fundamentals.
The search for the truth about social matters is always conducted in the shadow of our assumptions about the nature of social truth and social reality itself. The society as an object of evaluation is not an inert and externally imposed object of nature. It is an endogenously or internally constructed entity. The relationship between assumptions about the nature of social reality on one side, and findings about the real state of social matters on the other, is often overlooked in social research and evaluation, but it is never absent. Prevalent today is a simplified way of reasoning about social matters. It is based on the assumption that the nature of truth is simple, which means that the truth is uniformly and objectively recognizable by a single scientific procedure. Such a simplified approach reduces evaluated objects into their elemental parts – atoms, cells or individuals – which are then subjected to a detailed analysis with a view to identifying their deterministic regularities in a linear explanation of their causes and effects. That simple is the basis of thinking used by the two most conservative institutions of modern societies, the state and the market. Their single-mindedness is elevated into a social norm that is systematically reproducing ethically biased results and repressing the development of diversity which is a necessary condition for the preservation of social complexity.
Public policies – understood as activities that accompany the preparation of regulations, budgets, programs and plans – operate in accordance with the canons of conventional or “normal science” (Ravetz, 1999). Enlightened policy-makers are clinging to the belief that the goals of social progress can only be achieved through the fulfilment of their own ideological agendas. Decision-makers first analytically define social problems applying scientific procedure; on the basis of obtained results political plans are designed which then only have to be consistently realized for the common good and in general public interest. This naive recipe had worked rather well before the global conditions changed. Present practices which are applying this recipe are therefore both insufficient and inappropriate for the fulfilment of their (over)simplified purpose.
The currently prevailing public management doctrine was developed in the private sector for dealing with completely different type of problems and only for accomplishing simple assignments, in a way. The profit-earning private sector has only one major goal to which all others are subordinate. The public sector, however, pursues many equally important major goals that are in mutual conflict because we do not evaluate them uniformly in the same frame of rationality, but within multiple mutually incommensurable and irreconcilable frames. This justifies the claim that, in principle, reaching goals in the private sector is simple, while in the public sector it is a complex task.
The simplified understanding of social matters in public domain is often dictated by the simplified public management doctrine – widely accepted since the eighties – which has been imported from the private sector. When applied in public sector, the private sector’s perspective considerably deforms the perception of social matters. So government basically deals with social matters defined in a distorted, biased way. It deals with misrepresented social problems instead of with the authentic ones. As a result, policy-making is increasingly in conflict with the wider public perception of the social matters. Consequently government requests more and more vital energy from a society only to perpetuate itself and defend its narrowly defined public commitments. In this way governmental interventions become one of the major sources of social problems.
In the prevailing management doctrine, policy evaluation is one of four main modules of the policy cycle. The mainstream evaluation has been entirely subsumed within the same simplified and narrow doctrine of public management and it blindly proceeds in the shadow of the doctrine’s distorted rationality. Therefore the first task one needs to accomplish in an effort to evaluate the social reality indiscriminately is to define social matters as intrinsically complex.
Complexity of social matters may be observed in policy-making and evaluation of its achievements along two main axes – horizontally and vertically (Geels, Kemp, 2007, Radej, 2010). Horizontal complexity relates to the fact that in a given society agents have legitimate, but very different visions of what is good for the community as a whole. An example of this is the disagreement between economical, social and ecological agendas of reproducing the common good. The vertical axis of complexity relates to micro-macro gap resulting from discontinuity between collective and individual levels of judgement about social matters. This gap nullifies every attempt at discovering collective meanings by adding together all the traits of individual events – as it is routinely practised in economic accounting, assessments of public opinion and general statistics. Equally invalid is every attempt at explaining microscopic matters by disaggregation of macroscopic observations. A direct translation from micro to macro content is not feasible in social affairs (Dopfer, 2006). Instead, what is needed is multi-level reasoning (O’Neill, 1988). Public dilemmas should be evaluated in a micro or local perspective as well as in the macro or strategic perspective, as these two sets of findings are equally important, though often opposed. Horizontally and vertically uttered oppositions against a certain narrow interpretation of a given social dilemma are mutually incommensurable because they relate to judgements on major issues that have a universal meaning for social agents who pursue them. The unavoidable result is that social visions of different social agents need to be handled in a complex way as incommensurable or deeply confronted and irreconcilable.
Incommensurability refers to a relation which concerns not only the “true” and objectively real, but also various subjective rankings of “good”. Incommensurability is thus more a concept of evaluation then of science. This is important to acknowledge because in social affairs judgments based on norms, truths and goodness are often intertwined, but rarely in a harmonious way. The managing of social matters undoubtedly requires acknowledgment of »the truth«, so we can defend ourselves against delusions; delusions are not incommensurable to the truth, but remain its binary, exclusively antagonistic opposite; however, something which is seen as a delusion in one context may be the plain truth in another, so the exclusion of an alleged delusion is not an appropriate in every case. In social judgements we also have to consider what is right, i.e. in accordance with norms and regulations, because society exists due to a social contract between its members which frames its inner normative setting. Finally, to impartially comprehend social matters it is also important to know what is good because the realization of good is the highest meaning of life.
Although the challenges for the seekers of truth, justice and good in the complex field of deep social oppositions are intertwined, they are incomparably different. A scientist is convicted to a life of irrevocable scarcity and deprivation concerning his knowledge about the objects of reality. The seeker of truth lives in a world of scarcity, unlike the seeker of the common good, who lives in a world of social abundance – of various efforts aimed at the realisation of a common good, abundance of simultaneously valid truths and pluralist values. The rationality of those reasoning in the assumed context of scarcity is completely different from the rationality of those reasoning in the context of abundance. So the seekers of truth and the seekers of good do not comprehend social matters in the same way. The first must proceed by exclusion (of delusions or lies from truths), while the second must be inclusive for different concepts of good. Hence their the irreconcilable opposition.
Social complexity implies that the concepts of truth, right and good need to be distinguished in the reasoning about social matters. What is recognized as truth in a complex society is not necessarily also right and good. For instance, when an existential minimum of income (aspect of truth) is set by social policy below the agreed limit of poverty (normative aspect), this contributes to the reproduction of material conditions of miserable life in a community as a whole (aspect of good). In the hands of policy-makers, truth and justice are sometimes opposed to conditions that a society recognizes as necessary for the preservation of common good. Nevertheless, the common good can only be understood on the platform of that which is already confirmed as true and recognized as right. In the evaluation of social matters the social truths and social rules provide only a frame of reasoning. The frame itself does not confer any meaning to social matters until it is evaluated from all incommensurable aspects of common good. Scientific and normative judgements precede all complex evaluation of social matters and are its indispensable tools.
Judgements about social matters are incommensurable and social incommensurability is basic characteristics of social complexity. As noted earlier, it should be ensured that complex public matters are dealt with in a complex way. This necessitates a shift from a simple to a complex approach to evaluation. The shift itself cannot be induced by decree or design, but can only emerge spontaneously. The precondition is that all legitimate views in the public domain, even those deeply contradictory, can have their say in definition, implementation and evaluation of the common good. Only through the participation of diverse public are social dilemmas in public management adequately articulated – as characteristically incommensurable matters and thus complex. In this case the public participation is not important (only) for providing legitimacy to the elected decision-makers; agents’ participation is now above all a necessary condition for an indiscriminate understanding of the complex nature of public matters. An appropriate response of those in charge to the management of social complexity is therefore to first assure a more complex reasoning about social matters.
The question that immediately arises is how decision-makers in public domain can control the increasing complexity of public management in practice. Our capacities to understand a complex reality are of course considerably constrained both by nature (limited cognitive capacities) and by social factors (imposed social constructs). To be able to deal with complex problems at all, we have to simplify them in some – usually very specific – way. However, this question, as a functional one, has only secondary importance. Primary important is to recognise that the response to this functional problem must insure that complex matters are consistently recognised and simplified in a complex way, and not dealt with as intrinsically simple.
A useful illustration of the implications of this methodological difference can be found in an attempt to resolve an aggregation problem in evaluation synthesis (Radej, 2011). Policy evaluation has been selected here as one of specific approaches to researching complex social matters. The aggregation problem concerns the difficulty of synthesizing the assessed fragmentary evidence of policy impacts on various criteria of evaluation into overall evaluative conclusions. The prevailing approaches tend to resolve the aggregation problem as if its nature were constructed as simple. Two practices are evident. The older approaches tend to avoid synthesis and present their findings only in the form of descriptive explanations of fragmented evaluation findings (such as Leopold et al, 1971). Or they turn to another extreme. In that case, all the fragments are thrown into a single basket in which all the diverse finding are assumed to be intrinsically uniform and having a single common denominator (Ekins, Medhurst, 2003; Camagni, 2007). The denominator is expressed either in money, utility, happiness or even in abstract terms such as in index numbers. This kind of synthesis that first demands attributing a common denominator to its varied constituents and thus rests on assumption of commensurability of evaluation findings is designed as simple. It takes no account of the incommensurable nature of social judgements, i.e. of the fact that their common denominator does not exist. Thus Bentham’s request – politicians should strive to achieve the greater good for the greatest number of people – cannot be applied in practice if it implies a single denominator of happiness.
Some academic scholars and methodologists of social research have already explored how to aggregate diverse analytical material in the conditions of system complexity (Simon, Ando, 1961; Foster, Potts, 2007; Veen, Otter, 2002, Elsner, 2008). This is certainly one of the key methodological questions for policy evaluators. The synthesis of incommensurable evaluation findings should provide a higher level of meaning so that the unimportant detailed findings can be disregarded, while the key distinctions are kept intact and presented in aggregated results indiscriminately. Since a given policy affects wider society with diverse, equally valid but differently evaluated impacts, the evaluative synthesis can be, as Radej (2011) proposes, accomplished only partially and separately for each incommensurable aspect of judgement. Thus, incompatible common denominators are applied and so not only one, but several incompatible sub-aggregates are obtained. This (methodo)logically straightforward consequence of complexity is important because it satisfies the request that judgements about incommensurably diverse social matter are provided separately for each issue in its own incommensurable domain. Because of the complex nature of the social affairs, only partial synthesis is permitted in policy impact evaluation.
Partial aggregation obviously cannot resolve the aggregation problem, but only defines it appropriately for further considerations. It assures that in the research synthesis the oppositions that are based on value differences are aggregated in their own terms as a precondition for their indiscriminate interpretation from the perspective of the whole. Partial synthesis can be completed only to the point of forming three major oppositions to a public matter which is the object of evaluation. Exactly three oppositions are formed so that the illustration remains as simple as possible – but not oversimplified such as when policy priorities are set in a uniformly monistic or binary dualistic (either-or) way. When the major axes of opposition for evaluated social matter are revealed with partial aggregation, they can be presented as a horizontal dimension of their complexity such as in a Leontief’s input-output matrix (1970). This enables evaluator to exhibit, in a cross-sectional way, all relationships between the three incommensurable social oppositions. On non-diagonal fields of a matrix indirect or secondary policy impacts are identified. The secondary impact, for instance, shows how the implementation of evaluated economic measures impacts the conditions for achievement of social and environmental goals of the same policy and vice versa.
Secondary impacts are the foundation for a correlational synthesis of partially aggregated evaluation findings. Now the synthesis is no longer additive (as it was in the first step) but correlative or overlapping. It is only possible because its objects are not expressed categorically (as economic, social, environmental claims) but in a derivative sense of secondary importance (as weakly incommensurable, e.g. socio-economic, eco-social etc., as hybrid claims). Evaluation synthesis is therefore possible only for that part of evaluative findings which are not of primary importance for those who forward one of the three main categorical oppositions in the evaluation. The result of partial aggregation is intermediate and explains the result of evaluation of policy impact on three main representations of the common good (economic measures’ impact on economic criteria, social impact on social criteria, etc). The result of the second step is different. It evaluates the degree of cohesion between secondary aspects of evaluation. The conclusion is that everything which can holistically be said about the overall impact of evaluated policy is derived from the evaluative findings that refer to matters which are only of secondary importance to those involved in the evaluation. From a viewpoint of an entire society and in normal conditions, no public policy priority can be primary for everyone but only for a minority – for the concrete policy-maker and for those directly affected. Therefore, in the society observed as a whole, a majority of the population experiences the majority of impacts of all policies as indirect or secondary impacts. This situates evaluator’s concern for secondary impacts in the centre of policy evaluation studies.
The aggregation problem is therefore easily resolvable in the context of complexity with the two-stage or dual methodology of partial aggregation and matrical correlation. The dual approach is capable of producing cohesive meanings on a higher level of validity despite being instigated from contradictory starting points. The example shows that social complexity is not by itself acting against the possibility of relatively simple and cohesive reasoning about collective concerns.
When this is recognised in an approach to policy evaluation, the secondary perspective of “the other” is becoming a guideline for strategic judgement (Radej, 2011). This conclusion is well ahead of the ambitions of prevailing evaluation practices which seem mostly content with evaluations based solely on analysis of primary effects of policies, such as its effectiveness on direct users, or even only its cost efficiency in monetary terms. However, the realization of the central importance of secondary meanings for explaining complex social phenomena is certainly original neither in social sciences nor in policy studies. Demsetz (1969, in Schnellenbach, 2005) claims that in a situation when there is no straightforward mechanism to install an optimal public policy, a policy proposal that is the most secondary effective ought to be chosen. As societies grow more complex, policy-makers should be increasingly aware not only of their own agency’s primary aims and effectiveness, but also of wider implications and unwanted effects (secondary) of their (in)activity on wider society and its overall welfare. The particular policy maker must take into account the consequences of his or her efforts for “the others”, such as other policy-makers, to realise their primary demands which are often contradictory to primary demands of a particular policy-maker. Disregard for secondary impacts might explain why good individual policies, based on strong values and even on common sense, often lead to disappointing overall results (Chapman, 2004).
The importance of secondary effects in explaining social processes was evident already to Adam Smith, who built it into his key concept of the invisible hand of the market (which manages market processes behind our backs). In Hayek’s theory of spontaneously extended order and in the work of economic evolutionists in general (Veblen, Schumpeter, Dopfer, Potts…), secondary interactions are crucial for explaining complex social processes. Hayek’s source of order is an achievement of evaluation of a tacit (or dispersed, secondary) knowledge, which is in itself useless to individuals and becomes meaningful only in interaction with others (in the formation of equilibrium price on the market). When concretely analyzed, that, which seems of secondary meaning (namely influencing the others), validates itself as a key point for elaboration of the primary meaning (Althusser, in Levačić, 2009). Long before Hayek, Scottish philosopher David Hume wrote that those things which are for the public benefit are not a product of rationalist calculation. The happiness of a community is not promoted by trying to instill a passion for the public good in people, but by animating them with a “spirit of avarice and industry, art and luxury” so that the same result (public benefit) comes about indirectly(in Barry, 1982). Welfare of a community is therefore not achieved through the awakening of passions for creating public goods, but indirectly, by awakening of individual’s passions for enterprise, art and leisure. Hayek says our intentions and actions are one thing, but their broader effect is something completely different. So the public welfare and common good are not direct materializations of politicians’ efforts. The welfare is merely a coincidence of secondary effects which takes place behind our backs as a combined consequence of actions and inactions of the government and all others. If men only did what they thought they were doing, the truth about society would be contained within a simple statement of their intentions. The idea that secondary issues are crucial in reasoning about social matters is also relevant to the thought of Popper, who takes the view that the unintended consequences of action are the principal concern of social science and that the existence of such consequences is a precondition for the very possibility of the scientific understanding of a complex society (Vernon, 1976).
Because of the above mentioned overlapping between evolutionary and complex explanations of the importance of secondary meanings for our understanding of complex social matters, a significant difference between them must immediately be emphasized. This difference is linked to the distinction, which needs to be kept, between linear and non-linear ways of reasoning about social matters. Evolutionary explanations, as non-linear, are entirely based on secondary meanings, but these are not sufficient to explain social matters in their complexity. Reducing explanations to secondary meanings is unacceptable; to substantiate this claim one needs to recall that social complexity is, after all, based on irreconcilable differences among categorical assertions. Classical evolutionists disregard this when they generalise about the importance of secondary processes and neglect the decisive role of deliberate efforts of subjects of social evolution in respect to their collective destiny. Evolutionary explanation is not a sufficient framework for elaborating social complexity because social processes can not be clarified without taking into account distinct discontinuities, the irreconcilable gaps which are caused by incommensurable social values and incommensurable scientific paradigms of knowledge. The society is not a convent, an undisturbed place from which all substantial dilemmas and deep contradictions are exiled. Just the opposite is the case. According to the system theorist and the Nobel Prize winner Herbert Simon, mass societies would not exist without deep contradictions (Simon, 1969) which are, undoubtedly, deliberate and conscious, nor naturally essential neither simply spontaneous. Postmodern mass societies are possible only because they do not have a common core nor do they need to practice strong relationships which enable them to be internally linked and related not as converging similarities but as divergences – as discontinuities of autonomous sub-systems.
As shown by the dual approach to solving the aggregation problem in policy evaluation, every explanation of a complex social matter must equally seriously consider a large number of small consistencies (secondary view) and a small number of deep oppositions (primary view), to be able to explain a complex social matter without deformation and indiscriminately. The realization that social matter has to be evaluated in a complex way simply means that it has to be evaluated in the golden ratio of its duality, stretched between the explanation of its primary meanings – which are constitutive for it, but in an incommensurable and deeply dividing way – and the explanation of its secondary meanings that are the only ones that lead to a holistic view, but merely in contents that are not of primary importance to anyone. Complex explanation of social reality is either divisive, when explained from the aspect of primary meanings or leads to dispersion, when approached from the secondary aspect.
But this does not mean that social reality is indeterminate. Emphasis on the key importance of secondary meanings for elaboration of complex social matters is not forwarded in isolation, but consistently appears in relation to the incommensurability of primary social matters. In explaining complex social matters the primary (linear) aspect and the secondary (non-linear) aspect are inseparably connected. Complex approach to a given social matter establishes a set of incommensurable relations (autonomies) between collective agents. They forward a non-exclusionary understanding of collective matters by forwarding the perspectives of “the other” into collective affairs. This is needed if social autonomies persist in their aspirations to remain connected in a wider community, such as a nation. Improved understanding of social complexity in policy evaluation or, generally, in social research thus demands two tier approach. On one side it requires recognition of interdependence in weakly related secondary contents. On the other it demands recognition of independence in principal matters – these are always put forward uncompromisingly. This two step procedure which ensures balanced appreciation for primary and secondary qualities of social complexity is a relevant finding for our neo-liberal era, in which the conditions are reversed. The central importance in policy-making is now assigned to the rationality of free market which enhances secondary meanings, while the categorical and principal matters such as the conservation of nature, social justice and human rights are subordinate to overarching uniformity of market values.
Social complexity implies that in explanations of social fact there is a duality of relationship between the weak correlations and strong discontinuities among social entities. Granovetter (1983) similarly built his theory on a difference between strong and weak ties among community members. For him the weak (secondary) ties are of fundamental importance for social cohesion in conditions when the society is initially incommensurably divided. If all the links in a system were weak, as Hayek’s theory anticipates, the system as a whole would be unstable, and its identity would soon be erased by external influences. An example of this is the consumer society which supplies a variety of differences (in products and services), but they grow increasingly meaningless. However, if all social ties were as strong as those existing in a family, club, between friends and in other examples of communities established on the same common denominator (religion, nationality, science, ideology), then the society as a patchwork of such incommensurably homogeneous communities would be internally divided and would never be able to set itself as a coherent and functional whole.
Inherent duality in the evaluation of complex social matters leads to a multi-level exposition of relationships between rational perspectives of simplicity and complexity. A complex way of thinking does not eliminate the linear and simple way of thinking about social matters, but only confines it to simple problems. Simple questions are put either on the microscopic level of the individual or on the macroscopic level of a system as a whole. Social processes unravel both on the micro and on the macro levels, but the descriptions of the processes on these two levels cannot be directly linked – the social matters are vertically discontinuous and thus vertically complex. Microscopic matters are explained microscopically and macroscopic matters are explained macroscopically. In both cases a uniform way of thinking is used that is simple in a certain way. Both single level-based explanations of social matters are valid in their own incommensurable context, but they can be coherently explained together only from a third, middle or meso level (Dopfer et al., 2004) that shares the logic that is characteristic of both single-level aspects. Meso level is where the empirical collides with the conceptual and the individual with the collective (see Ostrom, 1990); on the meso level the institutions are at work; it is the level from which policies are generated and public dilemmas are evaluated. Thus at the meso level the “substrate of social” is generated (Goldspink, 2000). So mesoscopic perspective is the imperative starting point for evaluating and managing public policy.
Therefore it is not wrong to think in a simple way about things expressed on a single level, as far as the interactions between these simplicities are done in a mesoscopic frame of the multi-level complexity. The conclusion is that the evaluation of complex social matters demands a meso rationality because it best fits the nature of the challenge. It produces a non-exclusionary perspective which expands the cognitive capabilities of society, so it can better comprehend the reality and its dilemmas. It appears that meso evaluations are a more valid approach in studying social complexity then the dominant positivist paradigm, and if so, they impose themselves on a higher level of generality as an independent rational framework for reasoning about social matters arising from an overlap between disputed but legitimate meanings.
For the indiscriminate inquiry into a constructed social reality, the meso evaluation seems to compare with the classical science in its efforts to obtain objective knowledge about externally imposed natural world. Theory of complexity implies that there is a multitude of realities (logics, paradigms) in existence, but this does not necessarily results in a confused understanding of the real world. For example, even though the social reality revolves around entirely independent logic it is not entirely independent from objective reality; social reality imposes real consequences (moral, legal, economic) on its members, so it establishes its own distinctive type of objectivity.
When observed from the meso perspective, fundamental disunity on the level of social sub-systems is not an obstacle for a more holistic understanding of complex social matters. Diversity on the deep level is arising from agents’ quest for more autonomy; this can not be seen as a misfortune endangering the possibility of achieving a sort of unity in the postmodern society. On the contrary, deep oppositions and resulting disunity are only a consequence of the fact that members of the society respond self-protectively in various original ways to the increased mutual interdependence, leading to a decrease in their autonomy. However, their self protective strategies are all motivated for the achievement of one or the other form of commonality. The genuine challenge for the postmodern society is to consistently link the multitude of these endeavours.
The preservation of incommensurable oppositions is of fundamental importance for the resolution of complex social dilemmas. What is needed for the future is to cultivate deep social oppositions instead of making an effort to consensually exceed them, to alleviate them by compromising or simply disregard them out of ignorance or through exclusion. Of course, the preservation of deep oppositions does not create a cohesive society, but only re-establishes the conditions for its creation. For example, most of hybrid eco-social, eco-business, socially-enterprising projects – which are source of plural social cohesion – thrive in the countries, where legitimate categorical demands, in their broadest range of oppositions, are indiscriminately respected not only in the free market entrepreneurship, but also in the concerns for a clean and healthy environment, and where high standards of social security are also preserved.
Aspirations for a more integral view of the multi-polar postmodern society will cultivate a non-exclusionary disagreement as a new form of expression of deep social oppositions. Although the differences in values are irreconcilable, the viewpoints based on them are not antagonistic, but only incommensurable. These oppositions are agonistic, i.e. provocative, and not exclusive ones (Foucault, in Burchell et al., 1991). According to the French philosopher Chantal Mouffe, the postmodern values will never be able to resolve deep social conflicts. Neither it is possible to apply any standard frame for their settlement and reconciliation. The only feasible frame is a non-standardised one which emerges among participating agents in their concrete situation and context as their jointly inventive construct. To create such a unique frame it is, in the first place, necessary to establish a democratic atmosphere “where the achievement is not a consensus but a relationship” (Mouffe, 1999). Or, as she states elsewhere, the “main task of democracy is not achieving consensus but managing discord through mutual respect” (Mouffe, 2010). The task of democracy is therefore precisely to establish the possibility to see its own construction of the social reality in the perspective of “the other” (Ankersmit, 2005).
Distinguishing primary meanings from the secondary ones is a precondition for an unbiased explanation of a complex social matter, because it preserves its internal disunity without endangering its external unity. Complex evaluation of social matters will undoubtedly open front doors to possibility of expressing deep social opposites. This will ensure a significant increase in the extent of social conflicts in the future. However, the deep opposites will be presented in their plural midleness and so expressed in a much more cultivated way then presently. Principally balanced deliberation of social conflicts will enable us to transform the destructiveness of social conflicts and their rationale of exclusion into a constructive force of overlapping cooperation. In this way the descendant of postmodern society would become much more conflicted in a much more constructive way.
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