Community building: Scott Peck and "The Different Drum"

@strypey shared the book link to “The Different Drum” by Scott Peck that had made a profound impact on perspective wrt community building. It is described on Wikipedia in:

Quoting from Wikipedia:

[Four Stages of Community Building]

Based on his experience with community building workshops, Peck says that community building typically goes through four stages:

  • Pseudocommunity: In the first stage, well-intentioned people try to demonstrate their ability to be friendly and sociable, but they do not really delve beneath the surface of each other’s ideas or emotions. They use obvious generalities and mutually established stereotypes in speech. Instead of conflict resolution, pseudocommunity involves conflict avoidance, which maintains the appearance or facade of true community. It also serves only to maintain positive emotions, instead of creating a safe space for honesty and love through bad emotions as well. While they still remain in this phase, members will never really obtain evolution or change, as individuals or as a bunch.
  • Chaos: The first step towards real positivity is, paradoxically, a period of negativity. Once the mutually sustained facade of bonhomie is shed, negative emotions flood through: members start to vent their mutual frustrations, annoyances, and differences. It is a chaotic stage, but Peck describes it as a “beautiful chaos” because it is a sign of healthy growth (this relates closely to Dabrowski’s concept of disintegration).
  • Emptiness: To transcend the stage of “Chaos”, members are forced to shed that which prevents real communication. Biases and prejudices, need for power and control, self-superiority, and other similar motives which are only mechanisms of self-validation and/or ego-protection, must yield to empathy, openness to vulnerability, attention, and trust. Hence, this stage does not mean people should be “empty” of thoughts, desires, ideas or opinions. Rather, it refers to emptiness of all mental and emotional distortions which reduce one’s ability to really share, listen to, and build on those thoughts, ideas, etc. It is often the hardest step in the four-level process, as it necessitates the release of patterns which people develop over time in a subconscious attempt to maintain self-worth and positive emotion. While this is therefore a stage of “Fana (Sufism)” in a certain sense, it should be viewed not merely as a “death”, but as a rebirth—of one’s true self at the individual level, and at the social level of the genuine and True community.
  • True community: Having worked through emptiness, the people in the community enter a place of complete empathy with one another. There is a great level of tacit understanding. People are able to relate to each other’s feelings. Discussions, even when heated, never get sour, and motives are not questioned. A deeper and more sustainable level of happiness obtains between the members, which does not have to be forced. Even, and perhaps especially, when conflicts arise, it is understood that they are part of positive change.

How do people do constructively use this model?

Firstly, it can be used in community-building, as a map to figure out where a community is at. If everything was going swimmingly, then suddenly everyone is at each other’s throats, the map tells you you’ve just made the shift from pseudo-community to chaos. It also points you to the way out of chaos, and the various false escapes people might be falling into.

Secondly, once you’re familiar with how the procession through the stages works, you can use it as a planning aid when starting new communities. If all the committed people familiarise themselves with the stages at the start of the process, they can warn the rest of the participants that chaos is almost certainly coming. They can facilitate the process of moving past pseudo-community, and out of chaos through emptiness.

One of my favourite quotes from the book is about how people can be in community only to the extent that we can tolerate a lack of highly structured organisation.

That sounds interesting. I’d like to hear about real-world cases of such predictions / responses. It all gave me a very post-hoc impression when I first reviewed the stuff…

It’s all there in the book.