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December 27, 2009

Other thinkers have seen the Knight and Gardener worldviews at play in world history, world religions, game theory, and politics, but refer to them by other terms.

  • Winners and Losers and Challenge and Response are the terms used by historian Arnold Toynbee in his 12-volume examination of the life cycles of 23 major world civilizations A Study of History, published between 1934 and 1961. Toynbee’s thesis is that civilizations fail when they remain too long in Winners and Losers mode, and fail to operate primarily from a Challenge and Response orientation. Futurist Peter Schwartz borrows from Toynbee in his book on scenario methodology The Art of the Long View: Planning for the Future in an Uncertain World (1996).
  • Zerosum games and Nonzerosum games are the terms used by journalist and historian Robert Wright in his study of the intersection of human evolutionary biology, civilization, and moral development Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny (2000).
  • Finite games and Infinite games are the terms used by New York University religion professor James Carse in his study of religion, culture, and history Finite and Infinite Games (1987). (Many thanks to Dr. Carse—the unconventional structure of this book is based on his.)
  • Strict father and Nurturant parent are the terms used by cognitive linguistics and political rhetoric professor George Lakoff in Moral Politics (1996) and Don’t Think of an Elephant (2004).

Other thinkers have made similar points, but have not coined counterpart terms. Historian Jared Diamond outlines how zerosum (Knight) orientations have caused civilizations to fail in Collapse: How Societies Choose to Succeed or Fail (2005). Comparative religions expert Joseph Campbell often said that a major theme across the major world religions was a quest to reunite two warring factions or separated halves in the world into one-ness. The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), The Masks of God: Creative Mythology (1968), The Power of Myth (1991) and Reflections on the Art of Living: The Joseph Campbell Companion (1995) contain this theme in Campbell’s works. Even national security and global affairs thinker Thomas Barnett refers to a Knight military as a “Leviathan” military, and Gardener military as a “System Administration” military—and outlines the need for both—in The Pentagon’s New Map (2004) and Blueprint for Action (2005).

Don’t mistake me as saying “There are two kinds of people in the world”—that’s absurd. While there are many other worldviews and worldview-narratives at work in the world today, I focus on the Knight and the Gardener because they are the most relevant to our current political, cultural and religious situation.

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