Josep Burcet Llampayas

josep@burcet.net

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Cultural change
The deepest trends of cultural change
The unbending process

 
The notion of New Stage Revolution rests on the emergence of several factors. Probably, the main one is the process of unbending.

By process of unbending, I mean the process of growing state of independence from nonmaterial determinants. This process seems to have four stages.

 


The first stage
In the first stage, humans are not aware of the existence of nonmaterial factors (see below *) that shape their way of life and work. They consider their convictions, their signs of identity, their beliefs and in general the culture in which they are submerged, as something which is an inseparable part of themselves. The feel they are "that". If they perceive some parts of their nonmaterial resources as external, they tend to consider them as something sacred and pertaining to a supernatural order.
Any attempts to modify any portion of the nonmaterial baggage is perceived here as a grave threat to what is considered to be holy and, sometimes, a menace to a sense of survival.

In the first stage, men and women feel free to choose but in fact they basically are not their own masters. They live within rigid cultural constrains


The second stage
In the second stage, men and women know that their actions are affected by opinions, ways of understanding, social norms and other cultural principles and social conventions and structures. They know, for instance, that their convictions are probably relative and they can understand that they would have other convictions under other circumstances
They are also able to make some theoretical speculations about moral and ethical issues, but they are incapable of liberating themselves from the influence of their own nonmaterial resources.

We see here a form of fatalism that impedes the effective adoption of different nonmaterial tools. They will perceive such a change  as too thrilling or embarrassing to be undertaken. In other cases, such changes would be construed as a rejection of what they have always been.

Any change on trivial grounds, such as the modification of their professional skills, for instance, may represent too difficult a decision to be taken. Any change in the way they think or in the convictions they hold may be sensed as a lack of honesty or a reproachable lack of character. A more substantive change, such the hypothetical genetic manipulation of her or his own genoma will be judged as absolutely unacceptable.


The third stage
At the third stage, nonmaterial resources are clearly experienced as external objects which can be used or abandoned. They cease to be understood as an inseparable part of oneself. They are perceived as tools and the assessment of their value is according to their function which depends, in the last instance, on the kind of intended activity to be undertaken or the sort of experience one is looking for.
At this stage, people wonder whether a particular nonmaterial resource fits the course of the action they want to engage in or the direction they are intending to go on. 

At the third stage, organizations, like individuals, begin to wonder what the nonmaterial resources used by their members should be.

Access to the third stage is always achieved via the second one, so the knowledge of nonmaterial resources is still precarious. One knows that nonmaterial resources exist, but the understanding of how they work, what they exactly are, and to what extend they influence action still remain to be fully clarified.

At this point, one begins to wish to understand one's nonmaterial resources and to model the mechanisms which play some role in their functioning. The need to reshape nonmaterial resources or to build better ones also begins to be strongly felt. In other words, at the third stage, humans feel the need for nonmaterial engineering.


The fourth stage
Once humans pass into the fourth stage, a huge quantity of new problems will emerge to be understood, traced and solved. Problems like the change form a particular formal set to another will be faced. The adherence of nonmaterials to men and women is more insidious the longer has been the time that people have been exposed to their influence.
At the fourth stage, what one sense is the need to develop procedures that shorten the time required to free oneself from old nonmaterial objects and to reduce the time demanded to adopt the new ones. It becomes clearer that one's own strength, relevance and capability for survival depends very closely on the control one has over one's own nonmaterial resources. 

In the fourth stage, any nonmaterial set is not considered as a definitive end. Here, existence is perceived as a constant movement, a never ending transition from one formal set to another, implying not only the reshaping of nonmaterials but the creation of new nonmaterials to be successively adopted, used and abandoned.

Never before humans have experienced in such crude manner the creation of nonmaterial reality, because such operations imply a journey deep into the unknown. At the fourth stage, changes in human nature become conceivable and free men from the constrains that confine them to their original cultural and biological condition.

 


 (*) By nonmaterial I mean all formal forces that shape or drive human action. These include all kinds of social and cultural forms, such as mental maps, norms, beliefs, paradigms, algorithms, and all sort of procedures and conventions, all kind of cultural patterns, ideologies, cognitive structures, professional skills, fashions, economic and social structures, social institutions and any other kinds of formal apparatus that affect, enforce or shape human activity.