Home » Creativity » Together. The Rituals, Pleasures & Politics of Cooperation

Together. The Rituals, Pleasures & Politics of Cooperation

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Ditching Museum of Craft & Design is a gem. Its aesthetics, book choices and cake are amazing. It was worth joining simply to get the discount on all the books I bought.

As a budding local politician negotiating the slippery-slide of collaboration with other parties this is proving insightful. How do we get on as humans when our ideas might differ? How might we get on when our ideas overlap totally and we wish to avoid point-scoring and one up manship?

‘Cooperation is embedded in our genes, but cannot remain stuck in routine behaviour; it needs to be developed and deepened’ writes Richard Sennet in the Preface.

‘Cooperation is a craft.’ He continues, ‘It requires of people the skill and understanding and responding to another in order to act together, but this is a thorny process, full of difficulty and ambiguity and often leading to destructive consequences.’

He defines cooperation as ‘an exchange in which the participants benefit from the encounter’. He goes on to describe three types: cooperation in organise competition; cooperation in rituals spiritual and secular and cooperation that is both informal or formal.

Collusion is not cooperation.

The most important fact about cooperation is that is requires skill. Aristotle defined skill as techne, the technique of making something happen, doing it well.

Modern society, Sennett writes, is ‘de-skilling’ people in practising cooperation.

Sennett considers how the infant develops and learns to cooperate and to read its surroundings. These are life-lessons.

He uses music practice, rehearsal and performance as a metaphor. A talented musician he both played and conducted. He argues that homogeneity is dull.

Cooperation is built from the ground up.

Musicians with good rehearsal skills work forensically , investigating concrete problems.

The good listener detects common ground more in what another person assumes than says.

In everyday conversation, which is less easy to achieve online, ‘bouncing ideas off other people’; is where ‘these verbal balls land may surprise everyone’.

Curiosity figures strongly in empathy.

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