IDEA – The Essential Tension



IDEA: The Essential Tension



“In the late 1950s, Thomas Kuhn presented an analysis of what he called “the essential tension between tradition and innovation”; an analysis that later became the core of Kuhn’s phase model of scientific development in terms of normal science and revolutions.

[Kuhn] focused on the apparent paradox that, on the one hand, normal research is a highly convergent activity based upon a settled consensus, but, on the other hand, the ultimate effect of this tradition-bound work has invariably been to change the tradition.”   

  • (The word “essential” refers to the “necessary” or “indispensible” role played by the  equally necessary processes of convergent and divergent thought for the progrress of science, an amalgam of two usually mutually exclusive traits (

“As least for the scientific community as a whole, work within a well-defined and deeply ingrained tradition seems more productive of tradition-shattering novelties than work in which no similarly convergent standards are involved. How can this be so? I think it is because no other sort of work is nearly so well suited to isolate for continuing and concentrated attention those loci of trouble or causes of crises upon whose recognition the most fundamental advances in basic science depend (Kuhn, 1959, p. 234).” quoted from THE SECOND ESSENTIAL TENSION: ON TRADITION AND INNOVATION IN INTERDISCIPLINARY RESEARCH  by Hanne Andersen