Critical systems thinking and pluralism : a new constellation
This thesis explains theoretical issues concerned with paradigm incommensurability and the solutions offered by various critical systems writers. The problems of "imperialism" are outlined together with an analysis of the meta-theoretical views which purport to avoid imperialism. It is suggested that researchers attempting to understand alien or incommensurable paradigms or cultures often succumb to imperialism in its various guises. Three models of methods used by such researchers are described. The last of these, the model of critical appreciation, incorporates two crucial components advocated by Habermas and endorsed by Bernstein: critical self-reflection based upon an analogy of Freud's model of dream analysis, and an explicit critique of ideology. Methodological guidelines are offered which draw on an analogy of dream-analysis and on historical reconstruction as ideology-critique. It is suggested that any social inquiry must contain elements of "reflexive" (philosophical) and "scientific" (practical) inquiry together with ideology-critique and critical self-reflection in order to bring about the emancipation of individuals and groups. A model of self-society dynamics reveals the need for reflexive inquiry, discourse and action (as exemplified in the critical appreciation process) in any efforts to transform 'self' or 'society'. Consideration turns to the relationship between critical thinking and pluralism. The enriched version of critical appreciation is shown to require an a prior commitment to a new, discordant pluralism, which it also suggests in its modus operandii. In particular, the 'either/or' problematique presented by many writers is transformed into a 'both/and' juxtapositioning which lends its support to the form of pluralism involving both critical self-reflection and ideology-critique. The fully elaborated model of critical appreciation will finally be shown to fulfil the demands of the commitments of critical systems thinking.