"Driving over the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge", (c) 2012 Roman Bansen-CC BY SA 2.0). Via Wikimedia.

Warren Kinston on Movements and Their Leadership

Forrest Christian Change, Networks, Warren Kinston Leave a Comment


Some thoughts on Movements as described by Warren Kinston. I can’t imagine that they are interesting to anyone else, just here as notes for the future.

Kinston, Warren. Working with Values: Software for the Mind. SIGMA Centre: London. From Chapter 10 : “G-35 Ideals” : “Social Processes”.

Ideals have the power to awaken people permanently to possibilities of social life at its best. So ideals find their natural home, their locus of responsibility, within social movements. A movement is an endeavour pursued by a loosely bounded and minimally organized collection of people. It develops and spreads new values spontaneously and has the potential to transform groups to which its members belong (see G-53: Ch.12). Its elites — self-proclaimed spokesmen, ideologues, academics — conceive, document, defend and disseminate the ideals for the wider public. The ideal, initially, is incomprehensible but vaguely appealing to many. Only through much discussion, explanation and exhortation does its nature emerge. Managers, for example, were at first confused by the phrase ‘total quality’; elderly women wonder what ‘women’s liberation’ means; and I still puzzle about the ideal of the ‘social market’. [emphasis mine]

Movements aren’t headed by someone, or even an organization. A movement is amorphous and in many ways leaderless. They must be at best minimally organized. People who say that they have an organization that is a Movement are simply deluding themselves.

Of note is that the ideal that moves people seems beyond understand but at the same time appeals to many people. A movement does not have to start out with a complete idea of what the end will be. In fact, it can’t. Some of this is due to the same things that George Friedman talks about in The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century
, that the future is unthinkable even twenty years before. William Strauss and Neil Howe say something similar in The Fourth Turning
, that before the details of the future are unknowable before the cataclysm, and even what it will be is unpredictable beyond some broad thoughts. The present locks you into thinking that things are consistent, constant. An upheaval like the U.S. or British Civil Wars or even the Internet makes things work out in new ways.

A movement has to be vague because it is manned by people who work in the Philosophies of Living work domain. It gets instantiated into one or more Societal Institutions, like the Press or even the Corporation. These require instantiations in Disciplines and inside Organizations, which are also work domains.

But you have to have the vague, appealing, potentially disastrous Movement first.

G-5: Organizing an Endeavour. 3 pentadic groups (5 levels per group) ensure that work serves the values of both society and individuals. This grouping reflects the existence of three embodiments of autonomy which enable joint endeavours to be created and thrive in society. Movements introduce new values; authorities clarify and preserve values; and enterprises pursue recognized values. All such autonomous endeavours must be organized consensually, that is to say by appeal to freely-given agreement on certain values by individuals within them and by those generally without. Successful endeavours generate power which must be controlled if society is to remain stable and ordered.[Chap 10, pp. 318]

In these pentadic groupings at G5, we see why movements to abolish either authorities, religious or secular, — without creating new ones — or enterprises / working organizations are foolheaded. You need these to accomplish work. Their balance is constantly unsteady. Movements are the Conscience, so to speak, speaking out like prophets trying to get people to change their values. As some large group or majority adopt these values, they begin to push authorities to respond. Of course, enterprises could adopt these values and begin to push the authorities to clarify them. But you need to have all three pentads: you will anyway, and you just lie about their existence.

One wonders about the French Revolution as a movement. Seems to exemplify a successful endeavour that’s power was not properly controlled, leading to instability and disorder. I need more research in this, and the contemporaneous movement in Russia.

Social movement bodies may also be of this type. Non-political social movements have their own set of valued ideas, beliefs and principles (i.e. ideology) which give them form and strength. The movement spawns cells and networks as part of its attempt to transform society through spontaneous collective action rather than through formal channels. Joining a social movement is an act of differentiation. The networks typically promote values and offer suggestions in an effort to reform society. [pp. 400]


Popular movements … are large, minimally organized collections of people who seek to introduce new values into society. [pp. 408; emphasis mine]

Here we have the definition of movements. It’s interesting to think about how movements have changed our thinking. Women in America were probably not unhappy before the consciousness raising of the 1950s and 1960s feminist movement; or not much unhappier than anyone else. The movement changed the way that we think about women’s roles. I’d also guess that there were generational issues going on but I’m not sure of the timing. Anyway, it totally changed the way that we think of women’s roles. Its success has led to an irrelevancy of feminist activists to many Millenial women, even those who consider themselves heirs to their work. When you win, you are left with a bunch of activists who usually can’t stop wanting to fight. It’s just that nobody is left to fight.

Then they turn on their own.

G-53: Movements are autonomous endeavours which seek to transform all or part of society through voluntary collective action. Their function is to develop and establish new values of fundamental importance to society. Examples include: the workers’ movement, the women’s movement, anti-war movements, the psychoanalytic movement, revolutionary and millenarian movements. Such entities operate in the cultural arena, engaging with political, religious, economic and other issues of the day. They tend to spread across societies. Movements command the emotional power of ideas whose time has come, and promise fulfilment of personal ideals and identity. People constituting the movement’s grass roots are consciously committed to the new values and freely put time and effort into supporting these. Participation requires a minimum of formality, but to spread the word and generate spontaneous collective action, the movement does require some structure. The basic organizational element is an informal but highly purposeful group of people who could be said to constitute a cell. Cells operate largely autonomously within loose networks, and have an egalitarian ethos. Sometimes a movement organization will form in an attempt to define a cell structure and provide rudimentary coordination, but there is great difficulty keeping track of cells. The movement’s membership and the proliferation of its cells tends to increase and diminish in an unpredictable and relatively uncontrollable fashion. Cell activities are oriented to embedding and spreading the movement and its values. Movements achieve their ends by influencing authorities and government, and by spawning and shaping a wide variety of organizations. If the movement is successful, culture itself is altered and the movement’s ideas and values come to be taken for granted by most people in society. [pp. 409; emphasis mine]

The cell probably requires proximity to enforce thinking patterns. Sunstein’s papers on how groups move towards polarization against outsiders is relevant. In the feminist movement, suburban housewives started attending small consciousness raising or reading groups (cells). The members didn’t start out radical compared with mainstream thinking. They simply wanted to explore these ideas together. As time went on, the group began to drift further and further into rejecting their old thinking and into new, radical thinking. Those who leave are seen as apostates, traitors, heretics. [Sunstein, Cass R.. “Deliberative trouble? Why groups go to extremes“. Yale Law Journal, 2000 October 1.]

But without the continued support, even in a vague way and seen as half-hearted by people still in the movement’s core, the movement will be marginalized and have no lasting effect on the culture.

The movement, as it becomes successful, sees people within it develop organizations to deliver its values or promote its agenda. These may fight with each other for primacy. They will be real organizations, and have to be worked within the organizational domain. If successful in their goal of achieving primacy, and if the movement succeeds in changing culture, they may become permanent social institutions.

Key is to understand that the cells are out of your control. You can’t count them and you can’t control them. When you do, they fall apart because you no longer have a movement. Church groups have this problem all the time, and it may explain how the Roman Church is at best ambivalent (usually hostile) to the Christian Base Communities in Central and South America. They challenge the primacy of the clerical hierarchy for authority and are difficult to control. Best to cut them off quickly. The same thing appears in megachurches who are very controlling over what could be home-based bible studies or groups within their parishioners. Having a rogue group could lead to a disruption in the clerical authority which in Evangelical megachurches must retain primacy for the model to work. However, the early megachurches have been fairly good at starting a movement within Evangelical clergy towards their models of organization, polity and belief in all-powerful clerical control.

Image Credit: “Driving over the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge“, © 2012 Roman Bansen (CC BY SA 3.0).[Color adjusted] Via Wikimedia.

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