My granddad worked one farm his whole life, worked for Pittsburgh Plate and Glass as a journeyman glass window maker for churches his whole life and stayed married to the same woman his whole life, and lived in the same community his whole life and went to the same church his whole life. His day began with the milking of cows, followed by a big breakfast of homemade bread and honey from the bees he kept. He knew who his people were and he lived a life grounded in one time and one place. Our lives have turned more mobile, our families move, our careers change, and our identities fragment and recompose. We live in systems within systems and communities within communities and identities within identities in ways my grandparents did not imagine.
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In the search for festival in the midst of our spectacle world, I have found it useful to look at how I am mired in various holons. A "holon" is Greek for "whole/parts" meaning literally the whole that is simultaneously a part, and vice versa. The Greek word "holon" became popularized in Arthur Koestler's (1967) book, The Ghost in the Machine and Ken Wilber's A Brief History of Time. Wilber (1996a, 1996b) has also applied holon in numerous ways we will soon explore. "We exist in fields within fields, patterns within patterns, contexts within contexts, endlessly" (1996b: 65). To me this is the basis of several worldviews of transorganizational systems I would like to explore (See Table One Below). Transorganization is the holon of how many organizations we are a part of from multiple work organizations, such as professional associations, suppliers, customers, vendors, subcontractors, Chamber of Commerce, etc. on to our volunteer relations in religious and civic organizations. Transorganization is also composed of sub-holons and emerging, deconstructing, and recomposing holons and subholons. This activity of holon decomposing and novelty creation accelerates in the postmodern world of global commerce, virtual work on the Internet, and the mobility our great grandparents did not face.
An Opening Exercise- Holons Within Holons - This is a simple opening exercise I use in transorganization workshops to get across the idea of holons. The idea as the above figure illustrates is to examine "who are my people" in the many holons we live in (left side of figure) and how these relationships affect the frames we fashion for our identities and worldviews (right side of figure). We seem to be traversing so many systems, communities, and sotries that our identities have turned multiple, our time accelerates into spectacles of shrot term and virtual relationship, and we may find it more and more difficult to find festive moments.
Question: "Who are my people?" (From Kaylynn
Twotrees). When Kaylynn asked me this question years ago, I was stuck by
silence. I could not think of who my people? Ihad moved about as an Army
brat, then moved from Spokane to Anchorage to Paris as the phone company
my dad worked was bought by ATT and then that by ITT. And my family roots,
they are so fractured (part Danish, part Scotch, and so many moves) who
can tell who are my people? As someone in a recent workshop put it: "I
am a Heinz 57." Or as Ortiz put it:
Make a list of your HOLONS. You can do this individually or in small groups. Locate each of the following lists in your various relationships:
Holon Tenet Two - Each Holon has both agency and communion. Holons can decompose into subholons or emerge in the case of organizations into transorganization systems and networks.
Holon Tenet Three - This is not the stuff of gradual Darwinian evolution; it is what I call co-evolution. Applying our model from Table One (explained below), human systems (contextual nestings: person, family, society, etc.) coevolve with ecology (organicism) and technology (mechanistic) along with various mythic and metaphoric idea systems (formistics). You may prefer the term-punctuated evolution. Wilber (1996a: 23) refers to this as "radically novel and emergent and incredibly complex holons [coming] into existence in a huge leap, in a quantum-like fashion-with no evidence whatsoever of intermediate forms."
Holon Tenet Four - Wilber pushes his own theory of self-transcendence (1996a: 23), 1996b: 64). "Because all holons are whole/parts, they are subjected to various 'pulls' in their own existence. The pull to be a whole, the pull to be a part, to pull up, the pull down: agency, communion, transcendence, dissolution" (Wilber, 1996a: 24). For Wilber transcendence is part of the evolutionary process "And in the novelty, in that emergence, in that creativity, new entities come into being, new patterns unfold, new holons issue forth" (p. 24). Wilber is putting Pepper's (1942) organicism and contextualism together. For Pepper the emergence is in the organic and the unfolding novel patterns are in contextualistic worldviews. For me its all ways of narrating our existential being.
Pepper's Four Worldviews and Holons - Let us assume people and organizations are transorganizational whole/parts of at least four hypothetical worlds (Pepper, 1942), organic, mechanistic, formistic, and contextualistic (press for table). Here I am concerned with people in their whole/part relation to organizations that are whole/parts of mechanistic networks, organic communities, organizations, nations and the bios-universe, and the formistic ideal types our theories and metaphors (even these) impose on the world. Physical and social science has spent five centuries debating mechanistic versus organic worldviews, and several doing formistic classification and logical deductive work. The fourth worldview of contextualism, primarily the terrain of the pragmatists, particularly Charles Sanders Peirce, is a recent arrival. Contextualism is explored in organization theory by the pioneering work of Fred and Merrelyn Emery (press here).
Never one to leave a good typology well enough alone I have been working with several colleagues to craft a fifth worldview, "narrativistic" (Boje & Luhman, 1999; Boje, Alvarez & Schooling, 1999). For Pepper and Peirce and the Emerys' application, contextualistic is a pragmatist epistemology and ontology. For Wilber (1996a, 1996b: 63) it is transpersonal hermeneutics. Wilber (1996b: 64) also makes the point that "deconstruction maintained that all meaning is context-dependent, and contexts are boundless. For Wilber (1996b: 65) the postmodernists are lost in aperspectival space. Wilber's solution to the postmodern babble of interpretations and self-deconstructing boundless contexts is transpersonal hermeneutics. I go a different postmodern direction.
Fifth World Hypothesis -Narrativistic - I see organizations as storytelling systems, with people a part of their own and others' stories, which are part of storytelling embedded in transorganization networks of stories. We are holon stories, between mythical whole stories that are part of microstories. And there are no whole stories, and no autonomous local story parts anywhere, there are only whole/part or holon stories.
While postmodernists and poststructuralists are critical
of Grand narratives (Lyotard, 1984) that violently aggregate it all into
universal histories. Yet most of postmodernists take a less radical stance
that says, "you can not just toss all grand narratives" because some are
humane and they just keep being constructed all about us (Best, 1995; Best
& Kellner, 1991, 1997). A middle ground is to see the relation of micro
and macro story as part/whole or holon. Microstories are embedded within
macrostories within Grand narratives, and contexts within contexts. It
is without foundation and without end. Grand narratives of great-men (Generals
and Presidents leading Great nations) are emerging and self-deconstructing
into multiple postmodern histories and thousands of "little people" stories
that were being marginalized in the grand aggregations. Elsewhere I review
the relation of Grand narrative and microstoria (Boje, 1999).
|Table One: Five Storied Worldviews of Transorganizations and Holons|
|1. ORGANIC HOLON TRANSORGANIZATIONS - people and organizations are part of natural living "transorganiztional" systems and processes i.e. the ecological world, the Gaia universe. Living systems of chaos and complexity (ecological holons -modeling human relations on observations of "real world" cycles of life). This is definitely a bios-emergence of life cyclical worldview. A cell-part is an emergent part of the living organism-whole. A part can become a whole and a part of another whole or decompose. Critique - natural world has been reengineered by humans such that "natural" is the simulacra of a manicured State Park or the spectacle of a Disney plastic tree or the in-door tropics of Las Vegas casino.|
|2. MECHANISTIC HOLON TRANSORGANIZATIONS - body, world and cosmos are engineered mechanisms i.e. railways, autos, satellites, computers are "transorganizational systems" the Social Engineers love to redesign: Hobbes Leviathan; Taylor's Scientific Management; Hammer's reengineering (realist/positivist holons in "hard system" world) i.e. "it is a system." Definite materialistic worldview - a cog-part is part of a machine-whole; a planet is a cog in the universe. Critique - "The wholeness of the holon is not found in any of its parts, and that puts an end to a certain reductionistic frenzy that has plagued Western science virtually form its inception" (Wilber, 1996a: 25).|
|3. FORMISTIC HOLON TRANSORGANIZATIONS - "transorganizations" are abstract models, typologies, i.e. mathematics, philosophy e.g. Weber, Durkheim, Burns & Stalker, Mintzberg, Evans, Trist, Aldrich, Pfeffer & Salancik - abstract logical-deductive ideal types of systems and interpretativist holons (fields, interorganizational networks, referent organizations). Nominalism- "What if it were a system?" Critique - Definite phallologocentric worldview - an ideal type-part is a part of typology-whole. Metaphor and myth classification schemes fit here.|
|4. CONTEXTUALISTIC HOLON TRANSORGANIZATIONS - Holon Theory of parts and wholes; contexts embedded in contexts i.e. person, transpersonal, family, organization, transorganization, nation, transnational, global, transglobal. Exemplars - Fred and Merrelyn Emery's purposive systems and contextualism applications of Pepper and Peirce (abduction). Ken Wilber (1996b: 63-91) (holons embedded within holons). Abduction is a "softer system" of inquiry to explore and trace holonic embedded contexts. Definite holonic worldview "reality is composed of whole/parts or 'holons'" (Wilber, 1996a: 20). "There is no whole that isn't also simultaneously a part of some other whole, indefinitely, unendingly… At no point do we have the whole, because there is no whole, there are only whole/parts forever" (1996a: 20) -A person-part is part of a family-whole, a whole/part of the universe forever. Critique - context, like form, machine and organ are metaphors, and acts of narrating.|
|5. NARRATIVISTIC HOLON TRANSORGANIZATIONS - People are storytelling animals. They commune to construct storytelling organizations. These organizations and people are whole/parts or holons of transorganization communities that narrate in ways that script their relationships. Transorganizational storytelling organization networks are all about constructing and deconstructing one another's narratives (Boje, 1991, 1995; Boje & Luhman, 1999). The narratives are whole/parts the wholes of self-deconstructing Grand narratives of macrohistory and teleology and the parts of microstories are holons, whole/part relations. Critique -. The technological developments, organic knowledge, formistic idea systems and the networks of relations in which people narrate shape our day to day narrating. We narrate across and between contexts, belief systems, etc.|
For the narrative theorists, particularly the post-varieties, truth and meaning are bound by context rather than being universal and unchanging. "One could therefore," says Culler, "identify deconstruction with the twin principles of the contextual determination of meaning and the infinite extendability of context" (Culler, 1982: 216). Wilber (1996b: 66-67) summarizes this as an insistence that truths and meanings are "context-bound."
Follow Up Exercise - Now identify which holons and subholons are organic, mechanistic, formistic, contextualistic and narrativistic.
Are there different types of transorganizations? One type might be mechanistic and formistic. Another organic and contextualistic? Are there "real" transorganizations or just metaphors and stories? - I leave you with these questions.
Holons, Narrativity, and Transversality Theory
There is a relationship between narrating, holons and transversality thoery. Transversality was first used in a philosophical context by Jean-Paul Sartre and has also been applied by Gilles Deleuze (1984) as well as (Welsch, 1987/1993; Schrag, 1989; Welsch & Sandbothe, 1996; Sandbothe, 1996). I want to explore what Sartre (1957), then Gilles Deleuze (1972, 1984) develop as "transversality theory" and apply it to narrative theory and holons. For a good summary of the relations of narrating and transverality see Schrag (1989) who develops transversal theories of narrative rationality and sense-giving articulations that transcend basic dualities (i.e. self/other). For example he says "Storytelling is a way of presencing sense and reference as moments within a configurative project of understanding" (1989: 90). The holon aspects of narratiing to me are captured in the following quote:
Giles Deleuze (1984) develps the transversality theory in studies of a psychiatric ward. He says "Transversality is a dimension that tries to overcome both the impasse of pure verticality [i.e. modernity] and that of mere horizontality [i.e. postmodernity]' it tends to be achieved when there is a maximum communication among the different levels and, above all, in different meanings" (Deleuze, 1984: 18, additions mine).
Two Applications of Transversality Theory - Schrag (1989) applies Deleuze's (1984) approach to transversality as a way to transcend the duality of modernity/postmodernity. He argues that modernity is caught up in the ahistoricism project, in attempts to develop abstract universals, essentialisms, foundational rules, and other truth games (see Boje, 1995 for definitions and examples of these terms). This modern project he describes using the strange term of "verticality." Postmodernists, on the other hand, are seen as attempting to put the modern project into fragmentation, novelty, and acts of historicizing, such as Foucault's work in geological method. This postmodern project he calls by another strange term horizontality. Obviously he has set up a duality: verticality/horizontality, which he then attmepts to resituates using narrativity along a third transversality dimension. In short, while modernity is ahistorical, postmodernity is historical in its advocacy of local narratives over grand universalizing narratives. Modernists and postmodernists, then are seen as narrating differently. To resituate, Schrag contends that we can look at instances of "narrative rationality" that transcend several important dualities. These are self/other, sense/reference, and meaning/fact. The holon implications are that in narrating, the narrator is situating his or her story in contxts of shared language, common social practices, shared beliefs, and traditions that are given historical meaning. In addition, narrating overcomes an important fourth duality, that of temporal splitting of past, present, and future. In narratiing, the narrator does a presencing of the past and a projection of future conditioins and consequences. In this way, for Schrag, the narrator is able to overcome the limits of the postmodernists who say the salf and history is dead (not all do this of course). And, in positing a narrative rationality that is more or less Ricoeur's notion of the "grasping together" of narrative elements (scenes, acts, characters, events) into plots or emplotments, Schrag achieves a rationality that is different from the modernity project. In modernity rationality is soveign meaning, a centered subject, primal authority, and the imposition of order on pre-narratied forms (i.e. universal and foundational forms of presumed transcendent truths).
What this means is that the narrating voice grasps together plots and characters into a space that is between modernity and postmodernity. In narrating we are invited into the existential realities of the narrator's and our own co-created everyday lives. The narrtor stitches together his or her and our own fragmented and ruptured life with bits of past memories and pieces of anticipated futures. The narrator is creating holons of amalgamated selves and scoial scenes, interweaving a plethera of conflicting beliefs, and crossing between intersubjectivities and disparate contexts. And this narration patterns and draws together into more or less coherence, the changing configurations of belief and social practice contexts.
A second application of Transversality Theory - Welsch (1987/1993: 804-826) defines reason as that faculty whose task it is to reflect upon the relationship between different types of rationality. Sandbothe (1996) summarizes Welsch's (1987/1993, 1996) approach to transversality and reason in three theses (press here for complete text):
Secondly, reason is in principle capable of reconstructing and precisely describing this disorderliness. ... The second thesis opposes the danger of diffusion which has led, especially in the setting of posthistorical thinking but also with some postmodern philosophers, to a position of arbitrariness and of 'anything goes'.
Thirdly, it's only when reason productively analyses the subconscious entanglements of rationalities that it will be suitably equipped to solve contemporary problems.... The third thesis makes it clear that applied and problem-oriented philosophy must in no way amount to a simple application of abstract philosophical models to reality. In its pragmatic and transversal version it is capable of reflection about those constellations of rationalities which are effective practically and which are already determined in their inner by contingent realities (Part III, p. 1).
It would be interesting to research the ways in which narrating trnsverses hlons, articulates self-identity, and accmplishes sense-giving configurations of meaning and reference. We might explore the hermeneutics of constituting agency, referentiality, and how we embed our storytelling to communities of interpretation and intertextuality. That is, texts within texts, stories within stories, contexts within contexts, etc. The irony is our narrating while not an island, is never able to grasp together the whole context, the whole of time or tell the whole story. We are between the parts and wholes, narrating and transversing holons.
HOLON PRIMER - tied to hyperlinks to other texts. What follows are several appendices to help you explore holon theory.
Holon comes from the Greek holos meaning "whole"
and on meaning "part" or particle. The key characteristics of a holon include
that it asserts its individuality in order to maintain the set order in
structure, but it also submits to the demands of the whole tree structure
in order to make the system viable. Holons are self-contained, autonomous
pieces, which follow a prescribed set of rules. The holon has a "self-assertiveness
tendency" (wholeness) as well as an "integrative tendency" (part). This
duality is similar to the particle/wave duality of light (Koestler, Arthur
(1967) The Ghost in the Machine Arkana, London.). (press
A holarchy is a hierarchy of holons. Entire organs
such as the kidneys, heart, and brain are capable of continuing their functions,
as quasi-independent wholes, when isolated from the organism and suplied
with the proper nutrients.
Characteristics of Holarchies:
Bi-directionality: Each holon can receive signals as well as send signals. The "flow" in a holarchy is both up and down.
HOLON AND SYSTEM
'System' is an overloaded word (See Boulding's Hierarchy of Systems) (press for Boulding Slide view).
An ontological misconception à Confuses reality itself with one way of thinking about reality It is a system (realism) v.
What if it were a system? (nominalism)
Use the term 'holon' for the technical concept of
an organized whole & leave system as a general term (Press
BOOKS ON THE WEB
- The Holarchical View of Existence by Andrew P. Smith (Summary Smith takes that view that Modern Science is reductionistic and seeks a Holarchical View of Science to restore some balance. It is reductionistic because it denies spirit. "Science and spirit, in short, need each other. Spirit, we might say, understands "why"; science understands "how". Spirit knows where we should be going, but in the absence of science is clueless about how to get there--about what "getting there" even means. Science is very good at getting places, but has never understood that there is any particular place to reach. Does anyone have a map?").
- PART I. THE RULES OF THE GAME 1. THE PERENNIAL FEUD
- 2. THE LITTLE BANG
- 3. TRANSLATION , TRANSCRIPTION AND COMPRESSION (Evolutionary Change is the topic).
- 4. THE MIND'S EYE (Organisms).
- There are more chapters
Holon References to show how holon is being appropriated
into many different worldviews.
Holon Zen Meditation Project (press
here). Collection of notes.
Holon Project in robotics (press
here) - Pavlo Rudakevych. " Koestler's holon is a unit of organization,
a distinct part of a larger system that is in turn composed of smaller
units…The holon robot will operate in un-modeled environments using only
tactile sensing capabilities, and its behavioral control system will allow
it to perform complex autonomous mobility and manipulation tasks…The 2PLHM's
design is based on the principle of holonic modules, a concept first introduced
by Hungarian author and philosopher Arthur Koestler." (Press
here) for Holon Engineering; A embedded systems tool for Holon engineering
(press here). Holon intranet
For More Reading on Holons, Transversality, and Ideas in this Paper
1995 The Politics of Historical Vision: Marx, Foucault, Habermas. NY/London: The Guilford Press.
Best, Steven and Kellner, Douglas
1991 Postmodern Theory: Critical Interrogations. NY/London: The Guilford Press.
1997 The Postmodern Turn. NY/London: The Guilford Press.
Boje, David M.
1991a "Organizations as Storytelling Networks: A study of story performance in an office-supply firm," Administrative Science Quarterly, 36, 106-126.
1991b "Consulting and change in the storytelling organization." Journal of Organizational Change Management, 4 (3), 7-17.
1995 "Stories of the storytelling organization: A postmodern analysis of Disney as "Tamara-land." Academy of Management Journal. 38 (4), 997-1035.
1999 "Microstoria Analysis," Chapter three of Narrative Analysis. Book in process for London: Sage.
Boje, David M., Alvarez. Rossana C, and Schooling,
1999 "Reclaiming Story in Organization Narratologies and Action Sciences." Chapter to appear in Robert Westwood (Ed.) Language and Organization.
Boje, David M. and Luhman, John
1999 "Narrativism: A 5th World Hypothesis for Organization Theory." In review.
1982 On Deconstruction. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
1972 Proust and Signs, trans. by Richard Howard. NY: George Braziller. See section on Antilogos, or the Literary Machine.
1984 Molecular Revolution: Psychiatry and Politics. trans. by Rosemary Sheed (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books.
1967 The Ghost in the Machine Arkana, London.
Pepper, Stephen C.
1942 World Hypotheses: A Study in Evidence. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
1996 "Interactivity, hypertextuality, transversality: A media-philosophical analysis of the Internet. (press here) last update October, 1999. See Part III.
1957 The Transcendence of the Ego" An Existenalist Theory of Consciousness, translated Forest Williams and Robert Kirkpatrick (NY" Noonday Press, 1957).
Schrag, Calvin O.
1989 "Rationality between modernity and postmodernity." pp. 81-106, In Stephen K. White (ed) Life-World and Politics: between modernity and postmodernity, Essays in Honor of Fred R. Dallmayr. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press.
Smith, Andrew P. (no date) The Holarchical View of Existence. Book on the web (see above)
1996 "The D e l e u z e & G u a t t a r i Conversation, Concerning Rhetoric and Composition" (press here).
1987/1993 Unsere postmoderne Moderne (Weinheim: VCH Acta humaniora 1987; 4th edition Berlin: Akademie Verlag).
Welsch, Wolfgang and Mike Sandbothe
1996 Postmodernity as a Philosophical Concept, in: Comparative History of Literatures in European Languages: Volumes on Postmodernism, Vol. 1, ed. by Hans Bertens and Douwe Fokkema, (Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Co.)
1996a A Brief History of Everything. Boston: Shambhala.
1996b "Transpersonal art and literary theory." The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology. 28(1): 63-91.
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