University of Pennsylvania
Prepared for the 2000 Research Council Conference of the International Sociological Association, Social Transformations at the Turn of the Millennium: Sociological Theory and Current Empirical Research, Montreal, July 28-30, 2000
NOTE: This a preliminary draft. Please do not quote or site without first clearing with the author who can be reached at: Henry Teune
Thirty years ago the Committee on Conceptual and Terminological Analysis (COCTA) was recognized as Research Committee number one of the International Political Science Association at its World Congress in Munich. I became active in 1971 in drafting its manifesto. It received status from the International Sociological Association in 1978 and has had a place in a variety of international social science associations and societies ever since. It was and is a little agent in the development of the social sciences as a global activity.
This is not intended as a history of COCTA, which perhaps could help us understand ourselves in a broader context a little bit better. I understood our task is to present some perspectives on sociology and change not only from past experiences of our research committees and their activities but also what can be learned from that about our future. My interpretations are those of one of the parties to what some saw as a tight conspiracy to impose a language on sociology and the social sciences in general.
Reflecting back, globalization of social science was what COCTA and most of the transnational and international associations and networks were all about. Whether or not intended, they were helping to lay a foundation for what took off in the 1990s as a new kind of globalization, yes in intensification of trade and finance but also, and especially, in the realm of ideas and knowledge. For no matter how contended, globalization is now one of the major transformations of our time. The term globalization makes a presence in social science academic titles around 1990 and grew exponentially in usage. It was perhaps the most frequent term in the panel and paper titles at the last World Congress of this Association in this city in 1998.
It is unlikely that the idea of globalization at the beginning of the last decade was understood as anything more than a buzzword. It is even more unlikely that active members of international associations like this one grasped that they were part of an accelerating process of globalization-- societies becoming a total human system. Now, whatever the ambiguous and confusing referents of globalization, the debate has shifted to whether it is good or bad. Since so many are eager to join the debate, surely there must be some common understanding about human societies and how they are related in the arguments about whether globalization is good or bad.
The globalization of social science is integration of knowledge about the social world everywhere and its dynamics of change. No single language based on particular cultures, religions, or ideologies will do. Globalization is based on the integration of diversity that cannot develop on uniformity and similarity. That does not, of course, imply that there are not deep divides among theories and concepts on which they are built.
The concepts of globalization and democracy have entered into the mainstream of discourse both in the social sciences and in political debates. They will be the exemplars of how the globalization of social science is both part of this processes of change and, of course, an agent of it. The story of COCTA will be used to reflect on globalization of social science and how that has become a force for change. To do this, let us look back briefly on what pushed social science to the verge today of becoming a global enterprise.
Steps toward Globalization of the Social Sciences
Three main phases mark the globalization of social science over the past century. Each, of course, can be made complicated with earlier origins and finer distinctions. The first of them simply was getting universities to move beyond their local and religious status and become secular institutions of nation formation and the state. By the twentieth century nearly all of the major states were secular and so followed their universities and academic academies.
National Social Science. Social science as an organized activity by professionals in any number sufficient for professional activities is a twentieth century phenomenon. Social science became nationalized with national journals, associations, and claims to particular, nationally bounded knowledge. As professions within constitutional states, the social sciences were primarily western and by the 1920s had retreated from the more universal aspiration of scholarship on all human societies and civilizations. The disciplines of the social sciences became focused on the problems associated with the development of modern, industrial states. As many of us can readily recall today, social science did not prosper in comfort in countries with authoritarian and totalitarian political systems. They still do not, even in unstable democracies.
International Social Science. With few exceptions, a systematic international social science did not come to the fore until after 1945 and then only encased along the lines of national and international relations, especially those of the Cold War. All kinds of social, political, and economic sciences prevailed—American, British, Indian, Latin American, Socialist, Third World—and many of us spent time becoming acquainted with these different perspectives on how the world got to where it was, who was to take credit and blame, and what it should become. This period was one of extension of comparative research, in reality meaning cross-national research. Those "scientific" studies in retrospect involved comparisons among a few countries, but did break the national confines in which most research was and still is confined.
Global Social Science. By 1990 it was clear that social science could do its business without heavy reliance on national and international governing bodies. Nearly all areas of the world became accessible, and national political and scholarly tariff barriers were drastically reduced. This Association changed its structure of governance in a conservative way to reflect these changes by weighting research groups about equally with national associations in its decision-making. Others are moving in a similar direction. Membership in national associations crossed national boundaries. New regional scholarly associations emerged and existing ones asserted themselves. Almost all governments and societies became open to scrutiny.
The actual conduct of research radically changed during these three periods. The first was one of establishing national standards. In this sense research became "globalized" nationally. Nonetheless, scientists and their research were identified by the nationality of their universities or research institutes. The second was marked by researchers from specific countries joining together in many kinds of relationships of collaboration to do research in more than one country. Some research, of course, was conducted from a single center. The third is still evolving and involves establishing networks of people sharing common interests and ideas and having different ease of access to different kinds of data and information. It is a decentralized process of research where collaboration can proceed in informal ways. Whereas the international system and jet travel pushed toward diversity, the global period is one of integration through networks of communications aided by advances in technologies.
Both the world and the social sciences are integrated at a much higher level today than they were at the end of the Second World War. The integration of what is included is not only a higher proportion of what is there but also the standards by which their integration is assessed have radically improved. What is known is communicated more quickly, fits better into more refined categories, and is evaluated in comparison with more alternatives. From research within regions and localities to that within nations, the reach of social sciences pushed outwards to a few other countries and then everywhere. What happened after the internationalization of the social sciences in the 1960s was that studies in one country were treated as just that, data or information from just one country or a confirming or disconfirming observation about a relationship in one "setting" or "experiment". Any national study rather than being something that informed something general was taken as not saying much about what was happening in other countries or, more importantly, what was going on generally. It became an item of information or a report from the field rather than a finding of research. It is one thing to say that there has been a long-term secular decline in voting turnout in the United States and then look for particular events to account for that. It is quite another, to observe that in most of the established democracies voting turnout has declined and seek out some general explanations.
Each step toward greater integration of the social sciences was met by reactions to tear it down with specificity and diversity, to withdraw it from the broader domains of theory and explanation, and to tighten its limitations into more concretely defined contexts. These reactions came about in different forms. Those challenges are necessary for the development of knowledge, but they also are part of the processes of integration.
Perhaps the earliest of these generality versus specificities debates soon after 1945 came as emics, the general, versus etics, the specific, in anthropology. Because of the world reach of that war the Allies had penetrated "new" areas of the world in the Pacific and, indeed, parts of Europe, that were still mysteries. Anthropologists and others had been enlisted to map these cultures and report on them to military and other authorities. After the war there were military occupations and the tasks of translating a variety of cultures into common languages for international administration, including embryonic scientific ones. This was followed by de-colonialization and the problem of the new states and constructed societies. That led to the area studies versus social science debates of the 1950s that carried on long after. In the 1960s research projects of large scale for those times were undertaken and the debate got reformulated in the 1970s as thick description versus social science. In the 1980s the debate was again reformulated as case studies versus variable oriented research. A variety of compromises were introduced as qualitative versus quantitative research, and combinations of the two, where matters more or less stand today. But the intensity of the debate has tampered off and once again the first blushes of "either or" faded into shades and curves. The 1990s, however, opened the entire world to social science research. The resistance to a general economics to explain and guide economic growth abated. There are few academic fights about the value of large-scale international, now global, research. projects. The methodological problem became one not of diffusion of items from one culture and one society to another or of unknown qualitative "system differences" but rather of determining and untangling the influence of globalization on what is being observed locally. And all observations are very local and in very discrete time.
This is one story of what happened. The processes of globalization of the social sciences have been a dialectical zigzag with social science ending up somehow at a higher level of integration. There is step toward greater inclusion, generality, and then a challenge with the introduction of more diversity. Then follows the response toward incorporation; then yet another challenge. It is a near certainty that yet another challenge will appear. The globalization rejectionists are setting their political foundations and academic allies are joining. At a more mundane level, recent efforts of COCTA toward general meanings of concepts are being amended by arguments for European concepts of the state, nationality, and ethnic identity.
COCTA’s activities from this broader perspective, of course, are trivial. COCTA, however, cannot be even imagined, cannot be properly discussed, without the context of its being a response to rapidly expanding diversity in theories, data, and information along with the specific languages in which they are encased. Members of COCTA believed that underlying all this diversity was a way of organizing discourse to make the languages of the social sciences make sense to at least its practitioners. Without such efforts represented by COCTA, a Tower of Babel would cast an image strong enough to justify retreat from knowing a more complicated world.
The Early Experiences of COCTA
COCTA and its troubles and successes reflected the processes of globalization. Whatever words were used in the 1971 COCTA Manifesto, the problem of passion was a looming Tower of Babel that came from the expansion and diversification of the social sciences. By the end of the 1960s it was clear that there would be more states than anticipated by the Charter of the United Nations and its buildings in New York. Each new state would be interventionist, which necessitated professions and institutions that at the very least could pretend that they could predict the consequences of state actions. The main international scholarly and scientific associations were supported by international institutions that had the imperatives of building credible states and, hence, developing the social sciences beyond the borders of the confrontational states of the Cold War.
By the end of the 1960s the disciplinary international associations were being transformed from a small number of people who shared common academic traditions, if not friendly governments, to a large number of countries with growing universities. Meetings, especially the world congresses, were the pivots of the activities of these associations with their linkages to UNESCO in Paris and other international organizations. As important as anything else was that the skies were being filled with jet passenger planes after their inaugural flights in 1957. That made a different kind of research possible and reduced the costs of access of social scientists around the world to international meetings. But diversification of participants also massively increased the diversity of languages, ideologies, and agenda. Meetings of COCTA in the early 1970s were a face off between a small group of people aspiring to a community of scholarship and knowledge and the reality of rapid diversification of the participants in international associations and sites of social science research. The international principle of national representation in the governance of these international associations guaranteed matters getting worse, and hence, the enemy of a Tower of Babel was depicted as a growing threat. COCTA established itself organizationally and set an agenda by the end of its first decade.
The principles COCTA embraced to address this problem were three: empirical study of the terms being used in various social science fields and national settings; explication of the logics of languages of concepts within a general framework of scientific knowledge; and analyses of major concepts in the contexts of theories. Then, there were multiple, and not necessarily easily translatable vernacular languages. The operational codes embraced by COCTA were that languages of theories had to be clear according to the criterion of consistency of usage; that principles of scientific knowledge could overcome the fragmentation of ideologies and cultural parochialisms; and that collaborative, international efforts to analyze major concepts could improve understanding or, at least, contain the flames of confusion.
COCTA had incorporated two conflicting principles into its organizational ideology, reflecting the dialectics of integration and diversity. On the one hand was the idea of conceptual analysis that asserted that by applying logics to concepts it was possible to find some central, core meaning. There were many terms but few ideas. On the other was the assumption that there were many ideas and too few terms with the same terms being appropriated for different ideas. The first was the conceptual and the second the terminological component in the name of COCTA. In practice that meant that one part of COCTA would produce logical maps for the analysis of concepts with model applications of them to major concepts. Another part would design and produce glossaries of terms in use in a variety of contexts--across disciplines, cultures, and ideologies--in search of promoting common understandings of what was similar and different. Sartori pursued the first of these; Riggs the second. I stayed on the conceptual side. They became separate activities.
There were also "philosophical" differences in COCTA, one of which remains an issue. The first is that there should be no group, especially a self-appointed one, which should mess around with other people’s terms or concepts. This was bad as a matter of principle. It might be possible to do that, but evil to try. Even if coordination and control of social science languages were possible, to do so would kill the creativity that comes from ambiguity and, indeed, confusion. Efforts to do what COCTA said it would try would lead to bad results. That argument was not credible because it required telling others what not to do. The second is a more serious issue. It took the position that concepts only acquired clarity and significance in the context of theories. There could be no assessment and clarification of ideas other than in context of theories and their evaluations. The only practical answer to this challenge is to raise the question of how to get "good theories". If anybody knew the formula for constructing good theories, then they would produce them. Conceptual analysis, however flawed, is one way of proceeding to the goal of good theories.
Three COCTA Projects
Three "projects" were implied in the early documents and meetings of COCTA, in no order of priority: 1) a glossary; 2) a set of guidelines for concept analysis; and 3) explication of some fundamental concepts in the social sciences. It was more or less clear how the division of labor would proceed.
Glossaries. Fred Riggs proceeded with glossary projects. He also managed to secure a position for COCTA at the International Social Science Council. It was interested in establishing common languages for the social sciences to enhance their cooperation across disciplines as well as ideological and cultural divides. That was recognized as Inter-COCTA and its primary task was the design a production of glossaries.
Although members of COCTA were informed about these projects and meetings, most did not get directly involved. I learned that the Institute of Scientific Information, a neighbor of my University, had several glossary like projects, one of which is known globally as the Social Science Citation Index. This was also true of other professions. The construction industries had a large glossary on concrete and the medical profession glossaries of all kinds. The practical applications of glossaries are obvious, much of it going beyond overcoming problems of communication to matters of legal disputes about what constitutes a crack in concrete or a diagnosis of a disease. Social science was not there. Furthermore, what was true then is still true today: of all written items of research, analysis, thoughts, whimsies that enter the public domain, the social sciences and humanities produce less than a fourth of the total world production.
This project proceeded with two major events. In 1981 a meeting of glossary experts was convened in Bielefeld, as a COCTA conference. The approaches were varied and people outside of the mainstream of the social sciences did most of the talking. The results were published as conference proceedings. What became clear was that any single glossary was a lot of work, that if more than one of the major world languages were to be involved, even more complications would have to be addressed, and that no single source of funding except at an international level would be sufficient.
That conference, which was its own Tower of Babel, nonetheless set some parameters for the design of a glossary that would be printed. Around that time, computational power was beginning to be massively increased at exponentially decreasing costs. Various programs were been written that went far beyond the dreams of those who had worked on the applications of computers to languages in the middle of the 1960s under the label of Key Words in Context (KWIC). Those efforts had been funded at relatively high levels by U.S. national security agencies to develop machine assisted translation capacities, and, later, computer networks.
A follow-up conference was held in Caracas in the summer of 1983, sponsored by the International Social Science Research Council. It was at this meeting that I entered my two words on conceptual analysis in a paper on key concepts in the social sciences. What did get attention was my proposal for an international encyclopedia of social science concepts, which the participants allowed me, as well as others, to pursue.
In1985 the first extensive glossary was published on ethnicity. That came out of the interest that particular idea had generated. It had support across several disciplines. That glossary went through some translations and fine-tuning. It was a demonstration project, just about the time personal computers were going to market and computational power would not only be enhanced but also decentralized. It was followed up by publication of a guide for making glossaries.
Languages of Conceptual Analysis. Giovanni Sartori was busy during this time on developing a language of conceptual analysis. Papers had been presented at meetings, especially the World Congresses of this Association and the International Political Science Association. After an intensive workshop held at Columbia in the summer of 1982, Sartori planned to publish an edited book, which was published after many months of editing. In it he presented his COCTA position about what good thinking about major concepts. As part of this process, intense discussions were held on a number of specific concepts. Each contributor was then persuaded to explicate a concept explication based on the principles and guidelines of conceptual analysis. Although the individual chapters took different approaches, the book had some lasting power in sales and still is the best general example of what conceptual analysis might do.
Concept Clarification. I took on the task of putting together monographs on key concepts in the social sciences. Rather than try to do a monumental job of an encyclopedia, the idea was to produce specific papers and then devise a way of putting them together as packages. The intention was to have each concept addressed by three to five social scientists from different cultures and ideological backgrounds. These would become general statements that could be used by students and researchers. The thinking was that there would be about 30 such key concepts and that they could be revised on a continuing basis.7 I proceeded to do one on growth, which was published in 1988, but in an expanded version of the intended monographs. The concept of growth was presented as a core concept that was present in all social science disciplines and touched upon almost all of the fields of research in each of them. 8 the project was aborted by lack of sponsors as well as the development of communication and retrieval technologies.
What happened was that COCTA went in three different directions. It did what it said it was going to do. It integrated and diversified, on the one hand by looking at key concepts, and, on the other, by searching out common meanings across a variety of terminologies and contexts of their use. By the end of its second decade, COCTA had more or less at least demonstrated what could be done with terminological and conceptual analysis.
The Current Agenda
By the middle of the 1990s COCTA had dispersed to a variety of activities. Some segments became organized into what really were working groups and addressed methodological problems and issues. These included the problem of small numbers of cases in comparative research, the logic of simulation, the use of meta-languages. As such COCTA reflected a period of searching for some kind of niche in the changing worlds of social scientists. With the spread of the Internet and rapid searches, the imperatives of bringing together different areas of research through glossaries probably became obsolete. It was possible for interested individuals or groups to make their own glossaries for specific purposes and link them to others. The benefits of central places for bibliographies, data archives, and computer capacities dwindled. It was possible to search the net, put the raw data of research projects there, indeed, access any number of computer programs.
At a meeting of COCTA in 1997 at the International Political Science Association in Seoul a decision was taken to address a concept using the established approaches of COCTA, both conceptual and terminological analysis. A call was put out for people to write in their ideas about globalization from a conceptual perspective. The response was strong and a roundtable of those sending in their ideas as well as others formed the basis for a Roundtable at the last World Congress of this Association. The discussion was recorded and put on the Web page along with thoughts of other people.9 In 1999 another Roundtable was organized in Washington D.C. on the concept of globalization.10
What became apparent from these exercises was what could be expected: a wide range of views turning not only on whether globalization was good or bad but also on whether it was real or a collective illusion pushed by certain interests. Although there where questions about the meanings and referents of globalization, the contexts, especially the theoretical perspectives of the participants, were decisive. Nonetheless, it was an easy way to open discourse about a concept that resonated so widely, and, at the same time, keep a record of it.
A runner-up to globalization as one of the two main transformations of the past decade is democratization. The big three transformations are mature market economies, globalization, and democracy. As the social sciences as professions are divided into economics and the others, it is procedurally prudent here to concede that our colleagues in economics know about market economies and global markets. They in fact do have a global perspective, but are far from understanding what markets are and how they work. They do agree that they have changed over the past decade, but were found deficient in their coda of how to establish and stabilize them.
COCTA has advanced a bit by making some modification in its position on theories versus concepts. Globalization takes on meaning, in the old philosophy of science terms, theoretical significance, in the context of theories. One of the most important of these in need of theoretical development today is democracy that goes beyond the nineteenth century understanding of how political systems produce governments and control authorities through civil (human) rights, the rule of law, elections, and competitive political parties. The problem goes beyond that of "consolidating" democracy in the new democracies to democratic development in the established ones. If they fail to develop, then the new democracies will not have the global political support necessary to sustain whatever democratic practices have been introduced in the past decade. Globalization as the context for democratic development has opened again a fundamental theoretical question in the social sciences of the relationships among economic development, societal change, and democratic governance.
There has been a re-emergence of interest in culture during the past decade, largely because questions of society and culture came to the fore as a result of both globalization and democratization, giving rise to a renewal of ethnic identities, new forms of localism, and global and trans-national regional politics. Ethnic conflicts have intensified in less developed parts of the world. Pressures have increased for localities to mobilize either to manage and accelerate globalization in their communities or, more nosily, to resist it. Politics in the international organizations have moved beyond questions of offsetting disturbances in international finance and security to those of poverty, human rights, and the environment. During 1999 there were several indicators that European politics had shifted to the regional level. There was political competition among the EU and its domain of economics, NATO with the military, OSCE on security and human rights, and the Council of Europe on human rights, education, and culture. It seems that the last European Parliamentary elections reflected a European politics, left and right, rather than the votes of nations. These changes are part of the dynamics of globalization and democratization. A step toward democracy in Mexico will impact relations not only in NAFTA but also among other countries in the Hemisphere.
This year COCTA members organized a workshop on Globalization and Democracy. It plans to aid in the publication of some of those papers with others.11 It will undertake a second leg of Internet dialogue on the concept of democracy. Members have already published or presented papers. That conceptual effort will be linked to research projects.
What seems to be the agenda of COCTA in the coming years is a response to change in the last decade of the twentieth century. It may be that by the year 2010, at the 16th World Congress of this Association, the transformations of globalization will be part of the fabric of social theory and research rather than as something set aside for special attention in books, journals, meetings and panels. If that it is true, then it is likely that democracy will have been established after a Second Democratic Revolution facing a different range of problems than those of nationalism after the first one at the end of the eighteenth century. Confusion abounds about globalization but policies are being put in place by governments at all levels. Schools and universities are adding globalization subjects into their curricula faster than international relations and studies subjects after 1945. Democracy is another matter. It not only is confused but also poses theoretical issues that are difficult to formulate. One of those is the necessity of hierarchy and authority for collective decisions and achievements to be realized and accountability of all authorities to people. Another is a global system for human rights and the necessity of exclusion for local democracy where society and community meet politics and authority. Those are two of many questions for democratic theory, where progress to date is not a good example of social science achievements in clarity of analysis or even a useful vocabulary.
Evaluating COCTA in the Development of Social Science
Several efforts have been made over the past 50 or so years to unify knowledge, including that of the social sciences. We have the benchmarks of useful achievements shared across all of the disciplines of the social scientists. Kenneth Boulding was fond of saying that the two great inventions of social science in the twentieth century were the index number and the sample. 12 The first of these allowed for summaries of millions of human activities and transactions into a single numerical expression, Gross National and Domestic Product being the prime examples. The second, with a lot of contributors, allowed for very good estimations of population characteristics with a very few observations. Each of them has produced enough to wealth and well being, perhaps enough from the single industry of marketing, to justify the expenses and salaries of the few hundred thousand people in the last century who made their living as professional social scientists. All of the "big three" social science disciplines have helped improve on these tools of information and data gathering and all have benefited from their applications.
Most social science knowledge that can be called scientific has been produced in the past few decades and at least ten percent of it has to be judged as worthy as useful. Even though the twentieth century high priests of knowledge, the physicists, generally disdained social scientists as being too far from proper standards of knowing to be brought into the community of scientists, the high priests of the twenty-first century will be biologists. Their ideas have always been more akin to social scientists with shared ideas of evolution, complexity, composition, emergence, indeed, even the use of the theory of games to explain the origins of life and society.
Two notable efforts were made to unify science during the second part of the last century. The first was centered at the University of Chicago and its activities, intended to cut across all areas, was inspired by the principles of scientific knowing. Its products began to be published in 1940 as the International Encyclopedia of Unified Science, which ended after the publication of a few papers. A classic of relevance to COCTA was C.G. Hempel, Fundamentals of Concept Formation in Empirical Science. 13 The second was centered at the University of Michigan as the General Systems Society, and two of its co-founders were Kenneth Boulding and Anatol Rapport. The first idea was to bring knowledge together by what was known as the philosophy of science. The second was a logical paradigm about connections between components in systems, an attempt to address the unanswered challenges about the problems of knowing causes. Both efforts continue in a variety of ways and have their presence in this Association.
COCTA could have extended its reach to all areas of knowledge. It stayed with the social sciences, particularly the social and political sciences. It never had an institutional home. It had a way of bringing together what has to happen to any area of knowledge, fragmentation and integration. Diversity is the manifestation of innovation, which is the food of scientific development. Integration the process of theoretical development. It did this during a period of several decades of diversification of fields and sub-fields in the social science, spread across cultures and historical experiences of most peoples of the world. What it did in a small way in a
few international scholarly associations was carry the message that each of us have a responsibility to others who want to be part of the social science community to think about clarity as necessary for communication, on which we all depend.
I recognize that this focus on COCTA is not in harmony with either the magnitude of social change to which it was responding, those of continuous time of recent processes of globalization or big lumpy time changes in the dispersion of democracy. It does not cover the variety of what any social science professional society or association includes. It is it at odds with many colleagues who focus on the discipline of sociology, what sociology is all about that makes it distinctive from other social sciences. I have always held that the social sciences had differences in emphases and degrees in what defines any discipline: theories, concepts, methods, and phenomena. It always was the latter, the subject matter, that seemed to be the crux of the differences among anthropologists, economists, sociologists, and political scientists, not radically discontinuous ways of thinking.
Theory, of course, is the great integrator. One of the problems is that theories with both explanatory and predictive powers is the goal. In fact our histories show that moments or periods of integration come from a common normative aspiration. How to have good and just allocation of resources, how to have a good society, how to develop the best in all human beings in their
individual development and collective achievements. At this time in our history, markets seem to be the best way of producing goods and services. Democracy, at the moment seems the best means for attaining human development. We have done a lot of research on countries and their behavior during the last century. We can have confidence that whether or not democracy is good, it indeed does much less harm to human beings in wars, killing its own population, and repressing the human spirit than any other kind of society and government experienced. That finding, which is for the moment is generally accepted, is an achievement of social scientists and only by saying it clearly and over and over again has that message acquired the status of being the "most important fact of our time", something that is good for about everybody.
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