The paradigm we use today has its roots in the intellectual revolution(s) that brought us capitalism, democracy, and more over the last few centuries. It is one of the main reasons why we have made so much progress, but it could also be true that it is running out of steam today.
As the accompanying table suggests, most of us approach divisive problems today using the values and assumptions in the left hand column, whether we are consciously aware of them or not. That starts with the assumption that we are competing for scarce resources and are seeking to maximize our own interests in doing so, whether that is ourselves, our group, or our country. We also assume that when push comes to shove in this “dog eat dog” world, only one of us can win in most divisive disputes. As a result, we tend to stereotype and even demonize our adversaries using what psychologists refer to as the image of the enemy. It is, thus, hardly surprising that we tend to think of conflict in win-lose or zero-sum terms and that divisive conflict rarely leads to positive outcomes—however you define positive outcomes.
But what difference does it make that we live in an interdependent world in which everything we do affects everyone and everything else, however faintly or indirectly?
|Current Paradigm||New Paradigm|
|Starting point||Scarce resources||Scarce resources|
|Nature of Actors||Autonomous||Networked|
|Overarching Goals||“Me” first||Good of the whole|
|Time Horizon||Short term||Long term|
|Nature of Problems||We v. they||Shared problems|
|Nature of Power||Power over||Power with|