Skip to main content

Cooperation Denial

By Henry Benedict Tam. Original article at Question the Powerful. Reprinted with permission.

Findings from anthropology, social psychology, game theory, and many other fields consistently suggest that where people cooperate with others as they would like others to cooperate with them, it leads to positive outcomes for all concerned.

Yet from ancient monarchic oppression to contemporary corporate exploitation, we keep coming across cooperation deniers who refuse to accept that working in equal partnership with others is a preferable option. They all exhibit one or more of these familiar symptoms: they claim to have answers to problems that no one else should question; they feel they deserve to have a better life than others; or they need to have far more power than others if chaos is not to break out.

Consequently, either their rejection of cooperation is accepted, in which case everyone has to put up with their egocentric behaviour; or persistent cooperation denial stokes frustration and resentment until tension boils over to bitter confrontation.

Is there another alternative? How can society be guided away from anti-cooperative forms of human relationship without falling into other types of asymmetric structure or some anarchic free-for-all where those with the might will sooner rather than later declare themselves to be exclusively ‘right’?

According to the Radical Communitarian Synthesis, a political philosophy that brought together the three most pertinent strands of critique against cooperation denial, this problem should be tackled by addressing its three underlying causes. First, systemic ignorance allows misunderstanding and deception to stop people seeing how more reliable answers can be ascertained cooperatively. Secondly, selective indifference to the plight of others blocks people from taking into consideration the full impact of their own behaviour. Thirdly, structural imbalance of power makes it possible for some to dismiss as unlikely any prospective retaliation against their unjust actions from victims too weak to hit back.

Correspondingly, a culture of cooperation can only flourish if we strategically advance the core elements of inclusive community life:

(1) Cooperative Enquiry: truth-claims must be subject to coherent and transparent assessments that can be validated by informed participants deliberating under conditions of evidence-based and uncoerced exchanges. (For examples of how the cooperative approach to problem-solving can be applied in practice, see: ‘Together We Can’).

(2) Mutual Responsibility: arrangements should be put in place so that people can effectively help improve each other’s wellbeing, and collectively curb any activity which intentionally or otherwise inflicts harm on others, especially those most in need.

(3) Citizen Participation: the gap between the powerful and others should be continuously reduced so that all those affected by any given power structure can participate as equal citizens in determining how the power in question is to be exercised. (For more on how this problem has been tackled, see ‘Against Power Inequalities’).

To counter cooperation denial and the deleterious effects it has on society, we must therefore have:
  • Lifelong learning that will raise people’s shared understanding of how things will get better through collaboration and enable them to see through the lies and dogmas spread by charlatans and exploiters;
  • Commonly owned institutions through which people can tap into meaningful give-and-take interactions so no one’s contributions are undervalued and everyone’s needs are taken into account;
  • Power redistribution so that the power gap is substantially reduced and greater power is only ever entrusted to those who are truly answerable to and can be replaced by the people they are meant to serve. 
The extent to which these are achieved will determine how far and fast open cooperative governance in decision-making by states, businesses and community groups, from the local to the global level, becomes the norm.

--
[For a detailed exposition of the ideas outlined above, see ‘Communitarianism’]

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Village Towns

Vandana Shiva from Sustainable Cities™ on Vimeo.

Vandana Shiva, an internationally recognized Indian activist and philosopher, explains that planning for the human being rather than the automobile can liberate space and create community within a city. In her opinion, a sustainable city should operate as a self-reliant and self-sufficient cluster of villages.

Naturmaterialen åldras på ett sätt så att de får en ny och kanske till och med ökad skönhet

Syntetiska material kan till exempel omedelbart verka snygga och praktiska. Teflon, goretex och de många nya nanoimpregneringsämnena är kända för deras otroliga förmåga att avvisa vatten, fett och smuts, men den avvisande kvaliteten verkar också gälla mer generellt för de syntetiska materialens estetiska verkan. Det finns ofta en endimensionalitet i materialen, som gör dem starkt monotona i större mängder. Syntetiska material åldras dessutom i allmänhet med mycket lite behag. Från det ögonblick de börjar mista sin industriella glans kommer de snabbt att likna avfall. Detta är helt motsatt hos naturmaterialen som ofta åldras på ett sätt så att de får en ny och kanske till och med ökad skönhet. Det är som om de rymmer en stor mängd upplagrad erfarenhet, som om detaljrikedomen först på allvar avslöjas i förfallsprocessen. Skönhetens Befrielse av Morten Skriver, s. 166

Sommerhilsen fra Terje Bongard

Noen tanker:

Nesten halvparten under 30 år kommer ikke til å stemme i høst. Individet i storsamfunnet er fremmedgjort: Følelsen av å ha innflytelse er liten, avstanden opp kjennes utenfor følelsesregisteret. Avisene i dag fokuserer på at om man ikke stemmer, så har man ingen innflytelse. Spørsmålet er bare om forskjellen ville bli så stor om vi smurte 50 % mer stemmer ut over dagens partilandskap. Blir framtiden mer bærekraftig av det? Blir følelsen av innflytelse større?


Det påligger folk med kunnskaper et svært ansvar nå. Framtidas livsnødvendigheter, omsetningen i de store systemene som gjenskaper og omsetter luft, vann, jord, klima og næring, selve livsveven er i ferd med å knekkes. Ikke bare mat og klær, også helse og livskvalitet, trygghet, konflikter mellom individer, regioner og land ligger i potten. Biomangfold er en sikkerhet vi trenger for å holde sykdommer i sjakk, matproduksjon oppe og livskvalitet levende. Du ser tegna rundt deg hele tiden. Det er en håndfull arter som …