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Our everyday lives usually pass uneventfully. We have routine responses to a flow of changing situations, know how we feel about them, and are untroubled by others' opinions. Tensions arise if new problems...

  1. have no ready-made solutions,
  2. call up ambiguous feelings, or
  3. are unclear as to how they reflect upon us.

While the contexts for defining problems and our responses within those contexts are infinitely variable, I hold that restrictions on their variability, at any given moment, are driven by six binary factors. Three deliniate a problem's context and three depict possible directions of response to that problem. I see this paradigm both as potentially relevant to ordering our perception of the whole spectrum of social-psychological and socio-cultural concepts and as important for improving the typologies of possible responses we elaborate around those concepts.

The attempt to represent concepts resulted in a cube of archetypal contexts for responding to our problems according to the presence or absence of three learning experiences...

  1. by the exteriorizing of our demands into pragmatic expectations,
  2. by the interiorizing of our needs into emotional involvements and
  3. by the objectifying of our subjective evaluations into symbolic values.

The typological attempt resulted in another cube, this one with prototypic corner-styles of response categorized according to the variables of...

  1. urgent immediacy (active / passive),
  2. salient importance (strong / weak) and
  3. imputed valence (positive / negative),

(For instence, an 'active', 'weak' and 'positive' cubic corner might be called 'flexible' and a 'passive', 'strong' and 'negative' one might be called 'rigid'.)

problem contexts

Differences in problem-solution contexts can be represented in pigmented two-dimensionality by a Venn Diagram or by a Mandala where an absence of all three types of learning is shown as White, the sectors with only one as either Red, Blue, or Yellow, those combining two types as Violet, Orange or Green, and the problem-context that combines all three as Black.

Both illustrations have the advantage of showing many solutions as trial-and-error White ones to problems with no routine Red pragmatic solution, no embedded Blue emotional set, and no Yellow self-reflection. These 'domesticating' constraints are combined in the focused Black central sector, where problems are addressed by drawing upon what I will call Orange's (Red plus Yellow) operative strategies, upon Green's (Blue plus Yellow) regulative morality and upon Violet's (Red plus Blue) sense of realism. But they have the disadvantage, as opposed to a cubic presentation, of showing neither the prototypic variability of responses to problems in the various sectors nor the dialectical oppositions between problem-contexts.

A cubic representation of variations in possible modes of response to problems in these eight color-contrasts necessatates overcoming an initial barrier because of the 'foreigness' of cubic thinking about human situations, as opposed to our familiar ways of perceiving package-wrapping or archecture. In a sense, it is like adding perspective to a work of art. I hope to convince you of its utility - even of its necessity for the analysis of our human situation

To persuade you, I offer a paragigm of response cubes (indicating eight prototypic differences in urgency, salience and valence) occupying the eight archetypic color sectors of the eight problem-contexts. (That would yield the 'gambling' response of Figure 10 and the 'opportunism' of Figure 11, in Part 3, or combined, as the Brittle Adaptation of Part 4's Figure 23.) This yields a sixty-four cornered hypercube. At each of these corners is the possible meeting point, at a given moment, of six binary (zero/one) variables, e. g., a brittle (active, weak and negative) response when combined with the exteriorized Red, interiorized Blue and subjective White of a Violet problem-context.

Described here are three hypercubes. Psychological terms, in one, define its variables, its eight archetypal contexts and its sixty-four prototypic corners depicting an individual's range of response within those contexts. A second hypercube does the same for collectivities. A third one, a more abstract Model for the archetypes of the other two, but here without the sixty-four corner labels, subsumes them both. (After developing this paradigm, I serendipitously found that the Model's unlabeled corners corresponded remarkably with the sixty-four zero/one hexagrams of the Chinese classic, I Ching. Confirmation by an oracle? Cf. Addendum.)

Systems Dimensions
Early systems theorists Herbert Spencer and Emile Durkheim, extrapolating from biology, both realized that societal specialization from increasing differentiation and integration didn't yield societal progress. I suggest that adding a third system-dimension - one for the directionality (opposition-to-approval) of symbolized acceptability - to differentiation and integration - provides a humanistic basis for interpreting personal and social change in that it permits the representation of values, the basis of humanity. This, the third type of learning, yields the objectification that is peculiar to us beyond the stage of infancy, i. e., yellow learning, as differentiated from the Red and the Blue that show the differentiated complexity of structure and the integrated cohesion of unification.

Because little of our problem-focused behavior depends upon these dimensions of relative systematization (indeed, most of it probably involves none of them), I must show what precedes these types of learning in problem-conscious White situations such as playing in a financial market or on a playground.

  1. On the dimension of increasing complexity, before exteriorization by pragmatic expectations, our demands may be either active or passive.
  2. On the dimension of increasing cohesion, before interiorization by emotional involvement, our needs may be either strong or weak.
  3. On that of increasing acceptability, before signs are objectified into symbols, there is interplay between positive and negative evaluations.

Along each of these increasing dimensions there are abrupt reversals. For complexity, aroused demands precede low expectations (because structure permits casualness?). For cohesion, strong needs precede low levels of emotional involvement (because unification permits relaxation?). And for acceptability, positive evaluations precede negative intentions (because symbolization permits reflection?). These directional reversals are essential for constructing my hypercubes with their over-all dimensions of increasing complexity, cohesion and acceptability.

Problem-Context Archetypes
Using all three dimensions, this paradigm holds that there are eight problem-context archetypes relevant to systematization. I see our improvisations, not as chaotic, but as unsystematized definitions of sensed problems because the three learning experiences have not yet happened. Without an available pragmatic routine for solving the problem, aroused demands tend to be fleeting. Without an emotional feeling of identification with the problem, mobilization is unsustainable. Without imagining the self-implication of one's reactions, subjectively anticipated pleasure or pain reflect no sense of purpose.

Why does the paradigm show the eight corners of a cube as representing prototypic responses within the eight archetypal problem-contexts? For White, the answer is simple. The situational variables of passive/active, weak/strong and -/+ evaluations are binary 'either/or' ones. Thus the only responses possible, at any given moment, are on the prototypic corners where these variables intersect. For Black, in seeming contrast, the three 'continuous' variables, over a period of time, may yield a 'property space' with its corners indicating only departures from 'normal' distributions. However, I hold that, at a given moment, all three variables will have 'U-shaped' distributions, all cases falling near their extremes. [Thus a crystalline structure seems to hold also for cubes with continuous variables.]

According to this schema, systematization may be "complete" (structured, unified & symbolized), "partial" (any two of these), "minimal" (only one), or nonexistent (none of the above). At any given moment, our situational reactions may be totally unsystematized, i. e., hedonistic. But the alternatives are best visualized in my Model within a color-coded hypercube (a cube of eight juxtaposed subcubes) balanced on the low point of its complexity, cohesion and acceptability dimensions.

The White lowest sector, Hedonism, is unsystematized. The Black sector at the top, my Governance, has all three of the systematizing dimensions. Instrumentality, Expressivity and Projectivity are shown as Red, Blue and Yellow while their combinations are shown as Operative Orange, Regulative Green and Maintenance violet. Cubically,

;for individuals, the opposed archetypes are Identity/ Dispositions, Character/Existential, Personality/Emotions, & Probity/Habits.

;for collectivities, they are Policy/Interaction, Community/Ideology, Organization/Belonging, and Piety/Reciprocity.

Later, of course, I will elaborate upon and attempt to justify the labels for these archetypal problem-contexts.

George Herbert Mead
The above becomes clearer if we extend the social-philosopher George Herbert Mead's Mind, Self and Society (1934) distinction between an active 'I' and a self-conscious 'Me' (based on others' reactions to ones' self) to a 'We' and a reflexive 'Us'. Each of these four pronouns may be shown as having four forms, i. e., 'incipient', 'internalized', 'externalized' and 'combined'. Their resulting interrelationships (shown in the pop-up illustration) reflect the Individual and Collective archetypes and suggest their dependence upon those of the Model.

At the bottom, Hedonistic White archetypes are shown as Incipient "I" & "We" (for Dispositions and Interaction). Above them are the reflexive Yellow's Incipient "Me" & "Us" (for Existential and Ideological). At the Blue lower right are Internalized "I" (Emotions) & "We" (Belonging) while above them are the Green Internalized "Me" (Probity) & "Us" (Piety). The lower left has the Red Externalized "I" (Habits) & "We" (Reciprocity) and above them are the Orange Externalized "Me" (Personality) & "Us" (Organization).

Emotions and Habits coincide in the Violet Combined "I" that I call Character, while Belonging and Reciprocity reinforce one another in the Combined "We" that I call Communal.

At the Black top, Identity depends upon Character, Personality and Probity, while Policy combines Communality with Piety and Organization.

Erik H. Erikson's Developmental Archetypes
Another perspective on the relationships among the archetypes comes from Erik H. Erikson's "A" through "H" sequence for "stages of healthy development" (Childhood and Society, 1950) that depend upon variables like mine, i. e.,


oral sensory

for Dispositions


Incipient 'I'


muscular anal

for Emotions


Internalized 'I'


locomotor genital

for Habits


Externalized 'I'



for Existential


Incipient 'Me'


puberty & adolescence

for Character


Combined 'I'


young adulthood

for Probity


Internalized 'Me'



for Personality


Externalized 'Me'



for Identity


Combined 'Me'

The Paradigmatic Cube of Cubes
Combining the individual, collective, and interrelationship cubes results in a cube of cubes. Distinctions between the subsumed Individual and Collective archetypal labels are indicated, respectively, by parentheses and brackets.

The now familiar pigmentation relationships of the color wheel show that above the White subcube there are three others - a Red for the Instrumental Pragmatism where structure is substituted for activity, a Blue where Expressive Security substitutes unification for strength, and a Yellow where Projective Agendas substitute symbolization for negative/positive evaluations.

Above these four, but below the Black subcube, three others combine two of these systematizing dimensions. Violet for Maintenance Continuity's adaptability puts Red Instrumental Pragmatism with the Blue of Expressive Security. Orange for Operative Strategy puts the Yellow of Projective Agendas with a Red of Pragmatism. Lastly, the Green for Regulative Morality combines Yellow Projective Agendas with Blue Expressive Security.

[One should note that William Ryan in Blaming the Victim (1976) and Charles Morris in Signification and Significance (1964), each used three bifurcated dimensions like mine to contrast 'spontaneity' (my white) with 'systematized' (my black)

Ryan contrasts an "exceptionalistic" view (internal, individual & different) {my unstructured, nonunified & subjective} with one that is "universalistic" (external, collective & similar) {my structured, unified & objectified}, but he does not show the prototypic response variations where their extremes meet. Nor does he consider the three other axes that result from using three dimensions.

Similarly, Morris contrasts "semiotic signs" (designative, appraisive & prescriptive) [my unstructured, nonunified & subjective] with "axiological values" (operative, conceived & object) [my structured, unified & objective] but he too omits labels for the resulting corners. Like Ryan, Morris does not take what might have been the next step - that of mixing their variables to show the dialectical oppositions of the three remaining sets of three-dimensionally opposed archetypes.

In contrast, three of Talcott Parsons' pattern variables in The Social System (1951) produce the dimensional bases for the individual version of my archetypes: i. e., quality/performance [demands vs. expectations]; particularistic/universalistic [needs vs. identifications]; and self-orientation/collective orientation [subjective evaluations vs. objectified values].

Furthermore, his remaining pattern variables, i. e., specificity/diffuseness and affectivity/affective neutrality, seem to correspond to the activity and strength of my style cube. My third determinant of style, valence, occurs in both of his 'orientations'. But he does not show them as being binary variables (at a point in time), and he does not develop the stylistic prototypes where they intersect, as I do in the next section.]

One should keep in mind that the hypercube's top/bottom extremes incorporate the Black/White contrast between systematized response styles and those of spontaneity. Similar dialectical oppositions exist for Yellow/Violet, for Orange/Blue, and for Green/Red. Table 1 shows the distribution of variables for these oppositions.

The dimensions in Table 1 for sixteen Individual and Collective archetypes will be the bases for Figures in Part 3 showing response-styles within what I call Semantic Space.

Table 1
The Variables of the Sixteen Archetypes

Table 1

[Persons familiar with Harold D. Lasswell's World Politics and Personal Insecurity (1935) will note my terminological dependence, for Hedonism's Individual dimensions of activity & strength, upon his distinctions between needs and demands. For the Collective ones, I change these to force and influence. Governance's Individual dimensions become expectations and identifications, and, for collectivities, authority and control.]

Here one can begin to see more clearly the bases for the four dialectical tensions between Black and White, Violet and Yellow, Orange and Blue, and Green and Red. They will provide the organizing principle for all that follow in the next sections where I argue that the importance of style cubes has been neglected to the detriment of the rationalization of variables called for by Herbert Blumer in his 1956 Presidential Address to the annual meeting of the American Sociological Society.

Before that, however, the rationale must be shown for the stylistic prototypes on the corners of each archetype. This will be done in part two.

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Problem Contexts and Response Modes
Copyright © 1991 - 1999 Paul Oren
Last Updated: Nov. 29, 1999