Is The Brexit an Example of What Happens When the Established Meets the Emergent?

In his book Leading From the Emerging Future, Otto Scharmer identifies 8 structural disconnects that are currently distorting our decision making, which result in collectively creating results no one actually wants.  He observed:

The current system produces results that nobody wants. Below the surface of what we call the landscape of social pathology lies a structure that supports existing patterns.

The 8 disconnects are:

  1. The ecological disconnect.
  2. The income and wealth disconnect.
  3.  The financial disconnect.
  4. The technology disconnect.
  5. The leadership disconnect.
  6. The consumerism disconnect.
  7. The governance disconnect.
  8. The ownership disconnect.

These disconnects, functioning together, result in distorted decision making which in turn create large scale results that please no one.

These disconnects prevent us from seeing issues clearly.

They impair our ability to understand and respond to changing circumstances.

They cause us to divert resources in inefficient and ineffective ways.

Scharmer summarizes:

The eight disconnects that we listed above represent a decoupling of two worlds: a decoupling of the structure of societal reality from the structure of economic thought.

We end up with a “war of the parts against the whole.”

Watching the economic and political chaos this morning, following the Brexit vote, I immediately thought about Scharmer’s fundamental argument – we need to shift our awareness. If you were to ask them, I’d bet most who voted to leave the EU either disbelieved the resulting chaos would be bad or felt it was worth it. A John Aravosis points out, however British millennials didn’t vote even though they favored remaining overwhelmingly. We see a similar pattern in the US – older voters consistently turn out to vote while younger ones do not; older voters and younger voters do not share the same concerns. Younger voters end up saddled with policies they oppose.

The emerging analysis I’m seeing is that the eventual outcome may well be a less prosperous, less influential UK (if the UK itself survives – the situation is fluid but both Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain and both could easily end up voting to leave the UK). Rather than a blow for sovereignty and independence, the Brexit vote could end up proving that the EU is the better avenue for widely shared prosperity. In striking a blow against the distant, liberal elite, English voters may well have gone the way of Kansas.

The UK saw a battle between its emergent and its established values, attitudes and power blocks. The emergent was defeated (albeit narrowly). There’s already talk that other nations may have similar referendums. The work of decades creating first the Common Market then the EU could unravel entirely over the next few years. Or, the British exit will be so painful no one follows and we end up with a strong EU and a shattered Great Britain. Or it could all turn out to be less of a big deal than we thought.

What we’re seeing is a strong response to decades of neo-liberal policy that hasn’t worked for lots of people. Scharmer pointed out that

Today we face challenges that are characterized by simultaneous market and government failure.

Distortions and disconnects.

The Brexit vote was a protest by people who’ve been sidelined by the international economic system. (See Stiglitz, Globalization and Its Discontents for a lengthy critique of the neoliberal global order.) At some level globalization and the values behind it are so accepted as accurate they have become invisible. The critique of EU as inefficient, top down and unresponsive is accurate on many issues, but the Brexit will probably calcify rather than change those tendencies.


  1. #1 by Richard Warnick on June 25, 2016 - 5:19 pm

    People in Europe generally (not just the U.K.) are angry because the EU is delivering austerity instead of prosperity. The elites on both sides of the Atlantic don’t seem to understand how unpopular they are and that their actions have consequences. Maybe the consequences will be chaotic (e.g. Trump).

    The media are not helping. A lot of policy discussions on cable TV are pure nonsense, because the truth is generally excluded from the debate. This morning on MSNBC Joy Reid said that if you don’t live in a border state and work in agriculture, then immigration has no effect on your wages. She said that, like it was a fact.

    The Koch brothers are now running a TV ad that in effect claims the solution to income inequality is to make the rich richer. As Jon Stewart said in his last “Daily Show” appearance, “If you smell something, say something!”

  2. #2 by Larry Bergan on June 25, 2016 - 5:34 pm

    The Koch’s running an ad about getting rid of winner-take-all, using their name in the ad?

    Now THAT takes some big, swollen balls!

    You really do have to hand it to them!

  3. #5 by Larry Bergan on June 25, 2016 - 8:12 pm

    The pubs in Britain must be an interesting place to visit this weekend, eh, mate!

  4. #6 by Larry Bergan (mobile) on June 26, 2016 - 12:23 pm

    I’m still trying to figure out what happened in Britain, but I thought this was a good write-up.

    How The West Was Lost and Other Joys of Greedy Sociopathy

    • #7 by Richard Warnick on June 26, 2016 - 1:12 pm

      Basically, we’ve been lied to so much that a lot of people (e.g. Faux News watchers and Trump supporters) now have trouble figuring out which way is up.

      • #8 by Larry Bergan (mobile) on June 26, 2016 - 2:07 pm

        I was watching a few videos from the NYT video section, and they are all negative. Videos of bewildered, lost world leaders including Joe Biden. Young people in Britain, very angry against old people who voted against the EU, saying their futures are ruined.

        Based on the garbage we get fed by the media, maybe this is the best thing ever. Surely interesting.

        One good thing, we’re not talking about guns or fetuses.

      • #9 by Larry Bergan on June 26, 2016 - 2:14 pm

        I’m trying to figure out how I can post from my laptop and have it show up. It worked once.

        I wish this comment posting problem would go away. This could be a good blog if people could actually say stuff.

        I’m afraid to try and get into the administration section with my laptop, because I’m afraid I might piss it off and never get in again. :)

        • #10 by Richard Warnick on June 26, 2016 - 6:00 pm

          Hi Larry. I am in San Diego this week for the Esri User Conference. Biggest GIS conference on the planet, with 16000 attendees. I have no idea what to do to make commenting easier without letting in spam comments.

          • #11 by Larry Bergan on June 26, 2016 - 8:29 pm

            Don’t worry about it, Richard. Just enjoy yourself at the conference!

  5. #12 by What a shit post. on July 2, 2016 - 1:23 pm

    What are you daft? It is simply a rejection of a TERRIBLE idea that is not serving them at all.

    The issue is sovereignty and it is the goal of world elites that no nation have any.

    No matter how you wish to spin it..globalism is an abject failure..and multi culturalism its red headed step child..

  6. #13 by What a shit post. on July 2, 2016 - 1:27 pm

    It is small wonder progressive don’t “get it”..this is what happens when you put obviously failed ideology before reality.

(will not be published)

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