Shakespeare & Systems Thinking - the high and low co-operate in the general system of unavoidable concatenation

Malcolm Cawood
13 July 2020

People I talk to often seem a little wary of the term “systems thinking” – a bit abstract, perhaps, and far too intellectual. On other hand, anyone who can appreciate complex drama, from Shakespeare to modern TV shows like The Wire, is arguably already doing it, that is thinking, to some degree, systemically. These complex and involved dramas invariably reflect something about social reality as well as one’s own actions and limits within that reality; but they rarely, if ever, offer up prescriptions or “solutions”. Rather, they are – like myth - stories for making sense of the world, or in Kenneth Burke’s phrase, “equipment for living”.

Dr Johnson wrote in his “Preface to Shakespeare” (1765), that, in Shakespeare, we see “the high and low co-operate in the general system of unavoidable concatenation” (a suggestive phrase 150 years before systems thinking came on the scene).The presentation explores examples of this “unavoidable concatenation” – not just within the plays themselves, but also between the actors and the audience, both of whom are  historically-embedded.

About Malcolm Cawood

Malcolm Cawood currently work as a Business Architect for a major investment bank. Before that, he was a consultant for a vendor of enterprise architecture modelling tools, a technical author, worked for various local education authorities during a time of major organizational change, tried (but failed) to write a thesis on political drama, has a degree in English, and an MSc in human computer interaction. This presentation is, in some ways, a synthesis of those experiences and ongoing interests

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