TOWARDS A CONCEPT OF NORMATIVE INCREMENTALISM: ONE PROSPECT FOR PURPOSEFUL NON-SYNOPTIC CHANGE IN HIGHLY FRAGMENTED SOCIAL SYSTEMS

CALVIN HARMON PETER PAVA, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

The growing emergence of problematiques--complex, ill-structured problems--requires active systems adaptation through normative change. This necessitates collaboration among heterogenous parties, who must come to jointly will a different future. But the ascendence of problematiques also makes such cooperation less likely. There are increasing rates of change with more complex and subtle interdependencies. Under these conditions groups that participate in extended social systems are likely to become divergent factions; parties amid intense social paradox that simultaneously demands both high differentiation and high integration. Divergent factions are most likely to need the integrative benefits of active systems adaptation through normative change. At the same time the social fabric between them is so deeply torn that they are least likely to attempt such change. This thesis develops one concept of systems intervention that can work under these extreme conditions, called normative incrementalism. The concept of normative incrementalism is suggested by field research into ten public sector labor-management committees. Multiple cases and multiple investigators enhanced reliability and validity of observations. A normative incrementalist pattern is suggested by scrutiny of consistently robust committees, through a conceptual lens of the theory of logical types and normative planning. Normative incrementalism is a process by which divergent factions can undertake active systems adaptation via normative change. The process has three component activities. One, is unclear vision of desired change. This does not explicitly stipulate redesigning the entire systems, nor does it challenge continuation of any existing interest groups. Two, is the component of action. Members of all parties act jointly on a decentralized basis to make the theme happen, even though no one really knows exactly what it means. Three, is the component of fitting behaviors, through which people make their ambiguous theme and contributed actions inform each other. Fitting behaviors are comprised of observable sequences of ritual communication, that clarify a theme, and make it into a necessary social order where collaboration mediates necessary conflicts. Normative incrementalism appears to be disorderly. Action is taken before people know what they are doing. Components of the process do not strictly follow stepwise order. But the outcome of this non-synoptic process can be reasonable adaptive change. The thesis proceeds to locate normative incrementalism in relation to other methods of planning social systems change. General boundary conditions constraining the suitability of any particular planning method are proposed. This leads to a contingency view of planning, in which different types of planning are appropriate for different sorts of conditions. Normative incrementalism is found to be indicative of many new approaches involving non-synoptic system change. This is an emerging family of planning methods, heretofore overlooked. They stress disorderly, or non-synoptic, strategies of change that tend to yield reasonable change between divergent factions amid high social paradox. They complement other methods of planning systems change, which suit other boundary conditions.

Subject Area

Social research

Recommended Citation

PAVA, CALVIN HARMON PETER, "TOWARDS A CONCEPT OF NORMATIVE INCREMENTALISM: ONE PROSPECT FOR PURPOSEFUL NON-SYNOPTIC CHANGE IN HIGHLY FRAGMENTED SOCIAL SYSTEMS" (1981). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI8117831.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI8117831

Share

COinS