Good, innovative governance – what is that?

By Johan Galtung

Pretoria, South Africa, Keynote

Governance is politics, power–political-economic-military-cultural; decisions-carrots-sticks-ideas. Politics is about problems of realizing one goal; about conflicts realizing incompatible goals. Contradiction = danger+opportunity; the art of the impossible.

Answer: Good Governance GG = CC Creative Conflict-transformation.

This includes diagnosis, who are the parties, their goals and the incompatibilities; prognosis, from frustration to aggression/apathy, from prejudice-discrimination to hatred-violence; therapy, conflict solution-transformation, proposing creative visions of a new reality where the goals are compatible and new conflicts more easily handled.

Two examples of creative, good governance from Norway and Europe:

The Norwegian Labor Party, in a steeply class-divided state, deeply impressed by the 1917 Revolution, became a member of the Communist International. Lifting the bottom out of misery by active state intervention and planning was the goal; no chance as a communist party in Christian-Capitalist-Democratic Norway.

They exited from the International, made an alliance with small farmers and fishermen and created a new reality where abolition of misery was compatible with democracy. That new reality had names: socialism, social democracy, welfare state. The German origins were sidetracked by the national socialism, nazism; but later reemerged as social capitalism.

The other Nordic countries were on the same track, making small countries in the high North shine like lighthouses for others. Today, however, the majorities favor less distribution and state, more growth and privatization. A contradiction transcended; new emerge. History.

Today China combines the best of marxism-communism, the focus on basic needs of the most needy, with the best of liberalism-capitalism, the innovative, entrepreneurial spirit. Lifting the bottom up indeed, maybe 400 million from 1991 to 2004, for participation in a blossoming market.

They call it Capi-Communism, both-and, playing on the best of both. The arrogant West protects its ignorance by dismissing China as authoritarian, knowing nothing about 2,500-year petition democracy, or seeing massive discontent as loss of the “mandate of heaven”.

Meanwhile China benefits from its daoist comparative advantage, an epistemology based on holism-dialectics, not on dualism-manicheism.

The second example: the conflict between punishing Germany and building a new Europe after World War II.

The Monnet-Schuman formula had a touch of genius: “Germany has been so atrocious that it must be a member of the European family”. Europe, ridden by two world wars in one generation, needed cohesion; Germany was indispensable, reborn on equal terms. The formula, ridiculed and suspected, gained acceptance and became commanding: Do me!! – starting in 1950 with France and Germany; in 1958 there was a 6-member European Economic Community, now 28, with big contradictions between creditor Germany and many others as debtors. History again, more is coming, in search of much creativity.

A simple formula for creative conflict transformation: mapping-legitimation-bridging, by way of dialogue, mutual search, questioning, mediators with all parties, 1-on-1, one at a time. Ask what the marriage, school, work place, Afghanistan, Middle East looks like where they would live. Ask how they justify their goals, test the answers for legitimacy according to law, human rights and basic needs; of humans, for survival, wellness, freedom (options), identity (meaningful life) and of nature, for diversity and symbiosis. Two sacred non-negotiable pillars on which good governance can grow.

Third: creatively bridging, transcending, legitimate goals, building an acceptable relation based on the positive, good in all. Social scientists are often too positivistic, true vs false, to be creative; lawyers too moralistic, right vs wrong. Go for architects, engineers, good businessmen-politicians, multi-tasking women, artists.

We are today working at five levels of governance: municipal, provincial, state, regional, global; too territorial but necessary.

Add the subsidiarity principle: solving problems and conflicts at the lowest level possible and add democracy-parliamentarism. But how?

Not the Westminster formula of single person constituency-debate-vote-the winner takes all: a conspiracy against creativity:

• the constituency is not an organic community holon with dialectics, but an artificial entity, prone to gerrymandering;
• the debate is between frozen party positions, not a dialogue of mutual search for new bridging ideas, possibly leading to consensus;
• the vote cuts that process short, sacrificing ideas to arithmetics;
• the winner has already a position, a bridge-head, not a bridge;
• the opposition, when in position, will destroy that bridge-head in favor of its own, and vice versa, leading to a pendular stand-still.

Rather the Swiss formula based on 2,300 local municipalities and direct democracy, on coalition governments with built-in dialectics, responsible to the people in referenda. These are key dimensions.

Back to the four types of power.

There have to be decisions, but not based on carrots and sticks, bribes and threats, money and bombs. Those with much of that are in no need of creative, bridging ideas.

NGOs (Non Governmental Organizations) have only idea power, and have to be based on creativity.

TNCs (Trans National Corporations) have money power, invest it creatively on the market, reap growth and inequality, insult human and nature needs. Cooperatives with direct sales rather than corporations with endless chains and links charging commissions. Boycott TNCs with the worst CEO-worker salary ratio, divest, sanction; levy taxes on financial transactions.

I am just back from Mexico on violence reduction by 50 creative means; before that, creative solutions to island conflicts in the China seas; before that, 150 others, some quite successful: creativity works. But it is hard work, and may take time.

Welcome to TRANSCEND!

Originally published here.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.


Subscribe to
TFF PressInfo
and Newsletter