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Successful solutions to pressing social ills tend to consist of innovative combinations of a limited set of alternative ways of perceiving and resolving the issues. These contending policy perspectives justify, represent and stem from four different ways of organizing social relations: hierarchy, individualism, egalitarianism and fatalism. Each of these perspectives: (1) distils certain elements of experience and wisdom that are missed by the others; (2) provides a clear expression of the way in which a significant portion of the populace feels we should live with one another and with nature; and (3) needs all of the others in order to be sustainable. ‘Clumsy solutions’– policies that creatively combine all opposing perspectives on what the problems are and how they should be resolved – are therefore called for. We illustrate these claims for the issue of global warming.