The Many Faces Of Transpartisan I

Transpartisan Note #10

by A. Lawrence Chickering and James S. Turner

The contemporary Transpartisan movement appears to have two quite different faces. Many transpartisans, perhaps most, associate with the most recognizable theme, which might be called the Dialogue Approach. This approach regards conflict as inevitable and binary (the left-right spectrum) and encourages partisans to find common ground. Examples are the Mediators’ Foundation, Search for Common Ground, The National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation, and Living Room Conversations.

The second approach expands on the first. It starts with the belief that most conflicts are more than two-sided and that binary framing of conflicts often conceals important conflicts and differences within each side. This creates four positions and parties for every binary conflict: right critics of both the left and the right, and left critics of both the right and the left.

We believe (as Lawry Chickering first wrote in his 1993 book Beyond Left and Right and we expanded in our 2008 book Voice of the People) that ideological conflict among the four quadrants (order-right, freedom-right, order-left, freedom-left) is an Hegelian thesis/antithesis/synthesis search to integrate four positions that are partly true, but incomplete, representing the two great values in all modern societies: ‘freedom’ and ‘order’. (The quotations are important to highlight the mythic nature of these concepts, with left and right using different words to express their concepts of order — ‘virtue’ and ‘responsibility’ for the right; ‘justice’ and ‘equality’ for the left.)

Our Transpartisan Matrix integrates the two approaches by overlaying a horizontal left/right spectrum and vertical freedom/order spectrum as follows:






(For further discussion click here).

Each quadrant is partly truth, but incomplete. The separate quadrants alone feature continuing conflicts both within and between left and right, and experience great difficulty solving problems. Integrating freedom and order occurs when people come together freely in communities and solve problems.

Next week we will provide examples of how one Matrix produces six dialogues; organizing conflict toward the inherent agreement implicit in every disagreement.

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