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Power and Love

This paper grows out of conversations and exchanges of papers with Adam Kahane. It was stimulated by Adam’s reflections on what he described as his more and less successful efforts in working with some of the world’s most complex challenges, among them: child malnutrition in India, implementing the peace accords in Guatemala, responding to the HIV/AIDS crisis in South Africa, tensions between ultra-orthodox and secular Jews in Israel, health care reform in the United States, and the shift to a low carbon economy in Canada.

Adam’s reflection was that success was more likely when the process was “bilingual,” that it incorporated both power and love. “Love is what makes power generative instead of degenerative. And power is what makes love generative instead of degenerative.” (From a speech to the Systems Thinking in Action Conference, Boston, November 17, 2008.) The question that intrigued me about this was: What contribution to this exploration could be made by examining power and love through the lens of whole system processes?

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