21st Century Thinking: Tradition or Shared Purpose?

Weber brought out that there are at least four different (though inter-related) bases for collaboration over time.

One is a shared love of tradition. We cannot discount this, even if in our zeal to modernize, we strip away many traditions that once seemed sacrosanct. Attitudes about tradition change, but we still value tradition itself. So, for example, we have changed to accept gay marriage (or at least some of us have) but we hold onto the idea of marriage itself.

Another is affection. Feelings for others are strong motivators to do things with them. Romantic love is one, but not the only one. Charismatic leaders may not be loved, but they motivate collaboration as well. Like Steve Jobs did.

A third is self interest. If we see what we can get out of collaboration, we are more likely to engage in it. Take away the reward and you get less.

And the forth is a shared purpose. People collaborate in order to achieve an important objective that cannot be achieved by individuals acting alone.

So what happens when traditions, affection or self-interest get in the way of achieving a shared purpose? I think we find ourselves in this position rather frequently these days. Our notions of what is civilized (acceptable as giving meaning in life) are changing rather quickly. This forces onto the agenda many new goals and purposes. But it can be frustrating when we see what needs to be done but just cannot make progress in achieving it.

climate change is a great example. How do we adjust our sometimes conflicting bonds for collaboration to make achieving shared purposes more doable? I will be writing about that next.

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