Contexts: Conflict and Collaboration

Ours is a world in which there exists immense and unremitting uncertainty and doubt.  You might even consider uncertainty and the insecurity and sense of unease it brings to be a primary cause or selection pressure for the majority of evolutionary, social, political, economic, technological and cultural metamorphoses we have witnessed and benefited from.  Conflict and competition between opposing groups within and between nations, between ideas and schools of thought or ideology – this is a central driving force of historical change.  Dissonance, disagreement and conflict are deeply written into our cultural DNA, our myths and narratives of self- and group-identity.  Conflict is itself not the only source of historical development or the discontinuous phase transitions of major paradigm change; cooperation and collaboration has also been a persistent historical presence and it is from such productive social interdependence that the majority of our great artistic, scientific and humanitarian achievements have emerged.

Individual human beings are inevitably products of their social and cultural contexts.  The spectrum of ideas, symbols, generalised assumptions and axioms of an era, the communication and interaction of people and cultures – these all nourish the organic growth of some abstract and collective self-identity; we can call this “humanity” or perhaps, in the contemporary world – “global culture”.  A consequence of this psychological and existential context is that we are all deeply, inextricably influenced by, and reflexively produced through, the cultures we participate in and inhabit.

The deeply incongruous dichotomies apparent in culture and its narrative communication systems find themselves played out on both macroscopic and the microscopic scales.  The resonance and dissonance of collaboration and conflict find themselves not only expressed on the grand historical stages of nation states, politics and the great ideological differences and debates of our time – these patterns of collaboration and conflict find themselves expressed through social and group structures of varying magnitude and filter all the way down to the interpersonal and the mental states of individual people.  At least partially and beyond neurochemical and genetic predisposition or the vagaries of any specific personal biographical history, individual psychological expressions of this conflict and collaboration manifest themselves in many ways – both healthy and unhealthy.

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