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Political Anticipation and Networks – Creating Anticipatory Systems for governement and society

LEAP’s method of political anticipation, invented by Franck Biancheri, and applied every month in the GEAB, is honoured to have been invited to contribute a 20-page chapter in an international scientific publication on Cognitive Systems entitled « Anticipation across disciplines » edited by world famous anticipation expert, Prof Mihai Nadin (Springer, 2015). The chapter on Political Anticipation is entitled « Political anticipation and networks : creating anticipatory systems for governement and society » by Marie-Hélène Caillol, President of LEAP, and we have the pleasure to offer our readers a glimpse of it here below. For more, the entire book is available on springer.com.

Growingly dysfunctional systems of governance

There is a tendency in this early XXIst century to worldwide institutional « suffocation ».
For instance, an EU country, in the framework of its dealing with the euro-crisis, must make its own way amidst legal constraints imposed by : the IMF, the OECD, the EU, as well of course as its own democratic system of decision-validation.

All these legal frameworks have been well thought, duely negotiated and voluntarily agreed, in the previous decades, in times of non-crisis, by this country together with many others. The reason for this supra-national effort is obvious : in a globalized world, but mostly in a world with gigantic discrepancies in size of nations, it was necessary to create clusters of nation-states sharing converging interests to join forces and make sure to have some influence on a global scale.

However today problems arise from this architecture :

. a problem of democracy: these supra-national entities are turning national governements into mere executors of their legal requirements at the expense of elected governments’ prime mission of serving the people who elected them

. a problem of relevance: the supra-national level, originally designed to enhance the capacity to serve its members’ collective interest, lacks the grassroot articulation and connection to reality to understand problems other than theoretically and therefore to address them other than on a legal, or even ideological, basis

. a problem of efficiency: the combination of « hardware » entities, all of them copies of the XIXth century model of nation-states, accumulating layers and layers of pyramidal systems of linear chains of command and information, has led to a level of complexity that results in sheer dysfunctionality

. a problem of timelyness: this very complex and disconnected system is on a purely reactive mode; even if individuals within are capable of anticipating changes, and even if in some cases this capacity can be shared throughout the system, the system in the end runs into every problem as if it hadn’t seen it at all (1); the system then reacts to events, with the two-fold aim of solving the problems, knowing that in complex systems it is too late to address a crisis when the crisis is already there (2), and of creating the conditions, through the production of a new set of rules, for that very problem to never happen again, knowing History doesn’t repeat.

. a problem of adaptability: in the constantly changing reality of a highly interconnected world, these supra-national entities should be capable of adapating themselves to new circumstances rather than regularly failing and creating the need to found more such entities (3).

As chaos grows on the face of the earth, we are summoned to invent political and institutional systems taking stocks of the previous system’s failings, identifying new modus operandi mechanisms and reasserting purposes of collective interest and stability. In the face of such challenging responsibilities, Political Anticipation pretends to be able to bring useful elements of solution.

Anticipation and adaptation

Anticipation is the sense that enables a system (biological, social, political, mechanical…) to adapt to change. That requires to see change coming and to define and implement the structural adaptation needed to integrate that change. Otherwise change becomes shock, shock creates more change, and systems derail/die.

It could be that the speed of change accelerates as systems complexify ; but it could also be that uncontroled complex systems increasingly create change. In both cases, enhancing political and institutional systems’ capacity to deal with upcoming change is key.

Therefore enhacing institutional and political systems’s structural capacity to both anticipate (see change coming) and act in consequence (adapt) is a vital challenge for our globalised societies.

Networking and the capacity to anticipate but… the system’s incapacity to adapt

In the 90s, Franck Biancheri wrote a lot on networks and networking (as opposed to pyramid-based organisations) which he saw as the specific modus operandi of the European Community (4), seen as a group of countries collaborating on an equal footing for which linear pyramid-based governance was ineffective (even counter-effective).

Since he created his first trans-European organisation (5), Franck Biancheri was always connected to European and global social and political realities via the networks of collaborators and followers he created. Today LEAP considers that this multi-point, multilingual and transnational connection to human society through networks, and then internet-based networks, of Franck Biancheri and his collaborators, accounts to a large extent for their collective anticipation skills: an enhanced organic connection to reality would be key in « sensing » upcoming changes and identifying paths to deal softly with these changes. Through internet and network-based structures, we see more clearly how to build anticipating beings.

But it is now time to highlight a major challenge for political anticipation. If it is possible to enhance the individual capacity to anticipate changes, how to turn organisations (companies, institutions…) into reactive/adaptative systems? Indeed, the current global systemic crisis, in many ways, has been anticipated by isolated individuals but also collectively within organisations which happened to be incapable of turning their collective capacity to see change coming into a systemic capacity to adapt to the coming change. Thus LEAP is growingly concerned about contributing to the invention of tomorrow’s organic and adaptative systems of governance.

Our hypothesis is that network-based organisations can develop this feature.

For more : Anticipation across disciplines, ed. by Mihai Nadin (Springer, 2015)

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Notes :

(1) Imagine a Titanic full of passengers with mini-radars spooting the iceberg, but the captain is deaf and sealed in his command post…

(2) Because of the sequence of crises triggerred by the irruption of the first crisis. A very good example is provided by the Euro-crisis, raising democratic questions, leading to a political crisis, weakening European states capacity of response to a geopolitical crisis, etc. The whole of Europe ends up running after time.

(3) Again the Euro-crisis provides a vivid example : the EU invents the euro currency but happens to be inadapted to deal with a euro-crisis ; a new institutional embryo, let’s call the « Euroland », is set up in an emergency… soon competing with its mother institution, the EU.

(4) The European Union was called « European Community » until the Maastricht Treaty renamed the group in 1992.

(5) In this case, the trans-European student organisation AEGEE-Europe in 1985.

À propos Marie Hélène

LEAP, Membre de la WFSF

Les Réseaux Franck Biancheri