|R Buckminster (Bucky) Fuller
What’s their strategy?
Many, I would venture, may not be able to answer that question. Others may answer in terms of tactics rather than strategy.
So, perhaps a clarification of the distinction between strategy and tactics is in order.
Strategy defines how a long-term goal is to be achieved. Tactics describe the specific actions along the way that get you there.
Strategy can be visualised as the path you wish to take. Tactics are the steps you take on that path.
Working towards social change requires both strategy and tactics. 2,500 years ago the military strategist Sun Tzu wrote that,
“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”Thinking about, and formulating, a strategy before considering tactics is crucial if we are to achieve our goals. Otherwise all we do is create a lot of noise.1
Social change advocates utilise many strategies with greater or lesser effectiveness. Are all strategies of equal worth? Is it better to have an ineffective strategy than no strategy at all? What is the most effective strategy?
Is It This One?
Richard Buckminster Fuller (Bucky) was an American architect, systems thinker, futurist, designer. He wrote more than 30 books, was awarded 47 honorary degrees, and is perhaps best known for popularising the geodesic dome.
In a 2011 book on Bucky’s life and philosophy Fuller is quoted as saying,
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”2Is this the most effective social change strategy ever espoused? It is certainly quite different than most other social change strategies, which strategise about how to change the present reality by opposing it.
Fuller however, not only tells us what strategy does not work, he suggests a strategy that does. In one of his last books published whilst he was still alive, Fuller tells us that he,
“…resolved never to attack or oppose undesirable socioeconomic phenomena, but instead committed myself to evolving and cultivating tools that would accomplish humanity’s necessitous tasks in so much easier, more pleasant, and more efficient ways that, without thinking about it, the undesirable ways would be abandoned by society.” 3Was Fuller naïve, or was he just able to see more clearly than many of the rest of us? Certainly this quote suggests he had a lot of faith in humanity. Perhaps more faith than those who espouse strategies of opposition and confrontation.
But, let us stop and consider for a moment. If we were to adopt Bucky’s strategy what would that mean?
First, we would be working for something rather than against something. Surely that would serve to reduce our feelings of frustration, despair, and anger.
Second, it would save a lot of wasted energy. Energy that could be put towards a better future, and in doing that, a better now.
Third, it would inspire us to think creatively and to use our imaginations in a fuller (thanks Bucky) manner.
Fourth, this strategy shifts our thinking away from hierarchical and centralised power structures to inter-connected networks in which power is shared.
You could call this strategy the Strategy Of Ignorance. Not a blissful sort of ignorance, nor an ignorance that offers nothing. Rather, a very conscious disregard of, a snubbing of, social structures that do not serve the needs of people and the planet. It is a strategy that gives the cold-shoulder to elites. But, it does not stop at ignoring, it then goes on to do something - to "build a new model."
Now For Tactics
Adopting this strategy also means co-creating new and different tactics. No longer the tactics of opposition, anger, and frustration; rather, tactics that call on our resources of cooperation, mutuality, and respect.
Already, there are many people undertaking tactics that fit with this strategy. Think of the permaculture movement, or Transition Towns, of those exploring truly democratic decision-making methods, or nature-based therapies.
All these, and others, are examples of tactics that guide our steps along Fuller’s strategic pathway.
Do we have the willingness, and the courage, to adopt Fuller’s strategy?
1. Sun Tzu’s use of the word “noise” is interesting. Many of the tactics of the strategies of opposition are often noisy.
2. L Steven Sieden, A Fuller View - Buckminster Fuller´s Vision of Hope and Abundance for All, Divine Arts Media, 2011.
3. R Buckminster Fuller, Critical Path, St Martin’s Press, New York, 1981