Home Organizational Psychology System Dynamics / Complexity Leading into the Future VIII: Language and Segmentalism

Leading into the Future VIII: Language and Segmentalism

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The communality arises in part from shared experiences, which in turn are the product of the electronically-mediated global community of which Marshall McLuhan spoke prophetically over thirty years ago.[iii] We can create world-encompassing computer-based models that predicts the flow of resources, the growth of population and the destruction of our ecology with frightening accuracy.[iv] Similarly we can now trace worldwide trends in fashion, movies and other expressions of popular culture. This point is vividly confirmed in the specter of a young man in China or a young woman in Iraq, wearing a T-Shirt with a picture of an American sports hero or comic character, trying to either defy or defend a culture that is radically different from our own. We now have global lifestyles and many more intersect cultures that readily cross and borrow from many different societies and social values. The bohemian, international society of Paris during the 1920s has been replicated in many urban settings, ranging from Hong Kong and Singapore to London and even Moscow.

At a much deeper level, there is even the possibility (or is it only a hope?) that the Eastern and Western worlds are beginning to come together. There is a growing awareness, in at least some Western countries that, “cultures, non-European, non-Western cultures must be met by means other than conquest and domination.”[v] In the Nonwestern world there is growing recognition that issues of ecology and the environment are not just capitalistic or imperialistic artifacts, nor primarily a matter of politics. There is a deepening sense that the ecological perspective itself offers a penetrating critique of the modern world that the Eastern world both wants and does not want to embrace.

From a quite different perspective, the world seems to be highly segmented. We are becoming increasingly less successful in saying much that is generally valid about even our local communities or nation—let alone the world. We are confronted with discrepancies, diversity and unpredictability. Polarization exists throughout the world. Huyssen describes an “appropriation of local vernaculars and regional traditions” in postmodern societies.[vi] Robert Bellah and his colleagues have written about new forms of community that are to be found in the United States.[vii] In the modern world, men, women and children lived in small, geographically contained communities (villages, towns, small cities).

According to Bellah, they now find postmodern community in “lifestyle enclaves.”[viii] These enclaves are constituted of people who usually don’t live near each other (except in the case of enclaves that are age-related, such as singles-oriented condos or retirement communities). Rather, members of the enclave, according to Bellah, share something in common that brings them together frequently or on occasion. These lifestyle enclaves may be found in Porsche-owner clubs or among those who regularly attend specific sporting events. They are also found among churchgoers and those who attend fashionable nightclubs. Regardless of the type of enclave that someone chooses, this enclave contributes to the diversity and ultimately the unpredictability of the larger social system of which the enclave’s participants are members.

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