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Koinonia

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A study of the larger group, focusing on the processes and dynamics whereby the group micro-culture emerges. As the initial frustrations of the group find expression in hate, this is transformed through dialogue to what the Greeks knew as 'koinonia', or the state of impersonal fellowship.Essentially, Koinonia concerns itself with an operational approach to dialogue, culture and the human mind through the medium of a larger group context, and adopts a direction similar in many ways to the group-analytic method of S.H. Foulkes. In attempting to link the most intimate aspect of individual beings naturally and spontaneously in the socio-cultural setting of the larger group, by the very nature of its size, offers a structure or medium for linking inner world with cultural context, and is thus able to establish a unique dimension-that of the micro-culture. Until now neither psychoanalysis nor small groups have been able to handle this aspect empirically, since, in the former, the analyst represents the assumed culture, while in the small group situation the hierarchy of the family culture inevitably prevails. The larger group displays the other side of the coin to the inner world, namely the socio-cultural dimension in which interpersonal relationships take place. The exploration of this field shows how objects, including part objects of the mind, can be related to systems and structures in a manner not previously attempted, and raises the vexed question of the relationship of systems to structures and of culture to social context.In this study of the larger group, particular attention is paid to the processes and dynamics whereby the group micro-culture emerges, as the initial frustrations of the group find their expression through hate; as hate initiates, and is transformed by, dialogue; and as dialogue ultimately establishes what the Greeks knew as 'koinonia', or the state of impersonal fellowship.

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CHAPTER ONE: The story of the larger group approach

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The story of the larger group approach

The introduction of large groups convened along group-analytic lines brings a new approach to our thinking about groups.

Basically, what we are doing is to apply Foulkesian group-analytic concepts to the larger situation: we are increasing the size of the group-analytic group.

The increase in size is crucial. When the group of eight becomes a group of twenty, we begin to have a different level of group activity, representing a different dimension of human experience. We have gone beyond the confines of the familio-centric group; in this larger setting the group acquires another range of meanings, and cultural context becomes the central issue.

Group analysis, building upon the foundations of psychoanalysis, made it possible to move beyond the bounds of one-to-one dyadic therapy. The large group approach, in its turn building upon the foundations of (small) group analysis, now brings the possibility of moving beyond the bounds of family- and network-centred therapy.

 

CHAPTER TWO: The median group

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The chronicles of King Arthur relate how King Arthur with the help of a Cornish carpenter invented the marvel of his Court, the miraculous Round Table at which his Knights would never come to blows. Formerly, because of jealousy, skirmishes, duels and murders had set blood flowing in the most sumptuous of feasts.

The carpenter says to Arthur: ‘I will make thee a fine table, where sixteen hundred may sit at once, and from which none need be excluded and no knight will be able to raise combat, for there the highly placed will be on the same level as the lowly/

Marcel Mauss, The Gift’

The features that are specific to median and large groups can be considered under the following four headings:

1. Structure. This refers to the context of the larger group itself, in this instance approximately twenty members meeting weekly in a circle.

2. Process. This refers to the dialogue that arises as a result of the members being placed in this context.

3. Content. This refers to the subject matter, themes, and topics.

 

CHAPTER THREE: Dialogue

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Some people have to say something, others have something to say.

Comment made at one of the meetings

Dialectic is a term used to describe the process of reasoning by dialogue. Its beginnings are usually associated with the Socrates of the Platonic Dialogues, and with the art of debate by question and answer. The Platonic Dialogues, however, took place in symposia composed of between two and eight people and therefore are distinct from dialogue in the larger group setting,

The term ‘dialectic’ has taken on various meanings. Aristotle attributed it to Zeus. Plato conceived of it as the science of first principles, the ultimate clearest highest sort of knowledge, the ‘Supreme Art’. Aristotle distinguished between dialectical reasoning, which proceeds ‘syl-logistically’ from opinions generally accepted, a process of criticism wherein lies the path to the principle of all inquiries, and demonstrative reasoning, which begins with what is actually occurring (as in empirical science). Eristic reasoning was the art of specious reasoning for the purpose of victory in argument.

 

CHAPTER FOUR: Culture and Koinonia

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Culture and Koinonia

Men fear thought as they fear nothing on earth.

Bertrand Russell, Principles of Reconstruction, 1916

The nearer in blood, the nearer bloody.

Shakespeare, Macbeth

In our village, only the village idiot speaks his mind.

Irish priest, 1980

We live in a world of technical brilliance and cultural barbarity.

E.deMare, 1983

The four quotations at the heading of this chapter do not refer to thought itself, but to the nature of the surrounding cultural context. In each instance it is the context that evokes fear. If, on the contrary, the context is affirmative, we can evolve a culture which the Greeks, felicitous in words appropriate to all occasions, termed Koinonia, or fellowship.

Durkheim saw human association as a creative process, not simply as an aggregation; he emphasized that the psychological potential of human society is dependent upon dialogue. Most societies at some time or other have declared free speech illegal. The boy who steals an apple is not frightened of apples, any more than Adam feared the tree of knowledge.

 

CHAPTER FIVE: Object relations theory, Systems thinking and structuralism

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Object relations theory. Systems thinking and structuralism

A system is a set of units with relationship among them.

Ludvig Von Bertalanffy, General Systems Theory, 1968

Time is the particular instant at which a structure exists—the measurable period over which a structure endures.

James G. Miller, Living Systems, 1965

The mind is peopled by part objects and by images and subcultures of the past, and it is only by introducing the microcultural dimension that structural transformations can take place between systems and cohesion become coherence. Under the reciprocal influence of evolving microcultures, dialogue can become humanized by real here-and-now people and their dialogue. The subhuman subculture of the past, and the indifferent macrocul-ture of the social environment, can be viewed against the creative microculture of the present median group, so that instead of identifying with the subcultures and social mac-roculture, we are now able to scrutinize them from the distance of this new perspective. Microcounter-culture is the specific metastructural dimension of the larger group, bringing about transformations in the part objects of individual subcultures and in the attitudes to the surrounding macrostructures of the social environment—e.g. the family subculture gives way to the social macroculture of a horde mentality, of a family writ large, as Freud would have it.

 

CHAPTER SIX: Ecological perspectives

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The role of numbers in structure and the influence of numbers in shaping, blocking, or facilitating dialogue

There are certain crucial numbers that have been recurring throughout history—the one of rhetoric, the two of duologue, the three of the dialectical triad, and the eight of the family, the oligarchy, and the small group. These constitute a ‘natural number’, and so does the twenty-to-thirty of the social group, which demands dialogue for purposes of learning to handle itself. Five hundred has been suggested as the largest natural social unit in which every individual can form some personal relationships with the whole group: This appears to have been the optimum number for villages in all parts of the world over the last 10,000 years.

The next numerical turning point begins at 5,000 and goes up to 10,000, Here we have tribal units of several villages and the beginnings of cities. Beyond 100,000 the ills of megalopolis begin.

Kirkpatrick Sale, in his book The Human Scale (1980), talks of parthenothanitos, the death of culture. He tells us that the Parthenon will have totally crumbled within the next half-generation, dissolved by droplets of sulphuric acid in the air as a result of pollution. He sees this as a symbol of the human condition.

 

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