Introduction- Hokyo Joshua Routhier
(Note: This is will possibly be jargon heavy)
On May 26th, 2008, Integral Life posted an article by Corey W. deVos entitled "Integral Trans-partisan politics" containing a video by Ken Wilber talking about 2008 U.S. presidential election. The article was recently reshared via e-mail to Integral Life subscribers. I looked over the article and found familiar feelings coming up about Integral politics and activism and posted this Facebook status:
"[I] skimmed over the recent article from IL about Integral Trans-partisan politics. I keep finding myself wondering about this Integral Trans-pluralism meme. Effectively the view seems to be to take pluralism and then add the term "Integral" which then somehow makes it more effective while still reifying the same "stuckness". I can understand that an "Integral Perspective" would include as many perspectives as possible (5th to Nth person). But it seems to in its argument [say] that all perspectives are "true but partial", it has effectively dismissed the perspective that a view can be wrong. In my opinion, this is the basis in which Integral moral ambiguity can arise as this may be the point where "green" as a structure is disowned and then found in a sort of organismic [communal] shadow. By not being able to assert which perspectives are right/wrong, appropriate/inappropriate, effective/ineffective, from my perspective, the view from IL is one [of] overt flexibility with zero ability to take a stand in an effort to recapitulate the "no hurt feelings" meme in early "green". This could be why one Zen master said that the [Integral] community is "green". While I don't support generalizations, I can see the perspective." ~Hokyo Joshua Routhier
Erupting from this FB status was a 100 comment discussion speaking about the notions of activism, action, and integrity from an Integral perspective and a critique of the Integral community from the Intersubjective and Interobjective perspectives. In this edition of Six Perspectives On (actually eight!), we will discuss the view of Integral Trans-partisan politics.
Integral Trans-pluralism and the Audacity of Praxis
Bonnitta Roy once said "One could expect that the "higher levels" past "green [i.e. postmodern]" become increasingly problematic, increasingly deficient stages... because spiral dynamics cannot see past its own paradigm to see the kinds of efficient forms of "growth and development" that cannot be named by a theory of structural dialectics. Time to jump that ship."
Those words were the first inclination that my intuition as posted above was not my imagination. For a long time now, I have been in a tension in which I supported the use of Integral Theory but found myself unsatisfied by the enactments of the theory at the community, state, governmental level. By unsatisfied, I mean a fusion cycle of understanding and frustration leading to Facebook debates and deeply embodied gestalt therapy. Part of that frustration lead to the creation of Integral Trollz.
My critique of Integral Theory is based on my personal litmus test. That test is the question about praxis. Does the theory lead to a necessary conclusion of action in the world? To put it another way, is the theory in integrity with the world? My observations are mixed but I find the answer like anything is synthetic (thesis & antithesis) or in this case yes and no depending on how you look.
From the Upper Left quadrant, I find the model holds as I often see many individuals who are engaged and involved/evolved in their subjective lives including the community. That is, that the model seems to lead to a sort of praxis of individual evolution. However from the Lower Left and the Lower Right quads, things seem to get more complicated. If we look at the community of those affiliated with Wilber's theory as an organism, the Integral community from my perspective appears dis-integrated, detached, and lethargic. This becomes truer for me if we look at the movements from previous structures especially Green/Pluralistic/Individualist (Wilber/SD/SCG). To put plainly, we are not having a profound effect in the world regardless of what Wilber tells us; at least not yet.
My belief is that this has to do with three factors that are inherent within the Integral model that are responsible for this discrepancy between our subjective behavior (personal evolution) and our community action (Trans-pluralist stuckness):
1. Integral theory seems to have two major values within the explicit map given forth by Wilber and observed in the behavior of the Integral community. The first is that "all perspectives are true and partial". The contradiction with this is that the perspective that "all perspectives are true and partial" is inherently true and partial as a perspective. For me this means that something is missing in the context of the map. Where is the piece about evolutionary negation? In the evolution of man, several sub-species along the way were forced to die out as our ancestors became the dominant species. What is it about the Integral community that seems incapable of reaching consensus and "killing off"/let go extinct seemingly compassionless and unhealthy perspectives (ex. Randian moral philosophy)? In many ways, this mirrors the very critique that Wilber himself has against his favorite target "Green" and the paradox of "all perspectives are true but the perspective that all perspectives are true is truer", and seems to lead to the same inactivity only more so.
2. The second value within the Integral community seems to be the gaining of perspectives. That is, the underlying assumption of the Integral model is that the more perspectives gained, the better. I contend that this is not the case. In fact, as more perspectives are gained, I believe it's more likely for a person to become stuck in a sort of Integral aperspectival madness (a transcended version of the aperspectival madness of postmodern pluralism). To put clearly the more perspectives a person has, the more likely they are to be stuck insofar as in-the-world action or to be less satisfied by their choices of action.
At best, the Integral map is a great system of organizing perspectives within a structural and developmental model. However from my perspective at its worst, it becomes Perspectival Archaism. Storage with no substance beyond meta-perspective philosophical debate.
3. Teal/Yellow/Context-aware (Wilber/SD/SCG) as a structure seems to be unaware of its own contextually nested nature. That is that the model itself arose in a very specific context and environment. While those influences are not explicit in the map, I believe they are implicit in the map. Wilber himself is from the west and the map itself is structural in the same way that most western philosophies are which I think creates issues. I have heard Bonnitta Roy (who I quoted above) say something in regards to the model not representing a process view. I would add to that by saying that the enactment of the Integral model from its contexts has given it a very ingrained focus on the notion of agency with very little to speak of in the realm of communion.
In the article and video linked above, Wilber is asking us to act from a level of understanding and patience. I do not disagree with any of that nor do I disagree with his take on the American political system. Where I diverge from his critique is that I believe patience and action (or We-Action) is necessary. Not specific projects or categorical focuses such as "Integral business" but in-the-world action based on a choice of values that go beyond simply archiving and selling enlightenment.
For me, the lack of mention of anything looking like involvement or creation of a third party as well as the conflicting political messages in the Integral community such as Robb Smith advocating conservatism or Terry Patten supporting an "Integral Obama" are the wrong direction for me as they do not get to the heart of the matter. Politics is values in action. The way we choose our direction. As of right now with the factors and values I mentioned above, action cannot be taken as we haven't consciously done what all other cultures, communities, societies have done naturally.
We haven't chosen our stance and discarded the perspectives that are not appropriate for the time so that action becomes possible.
(A less enlightened perspective but somewhat accurate to my frustration, via Foamy the Squirrel)
Hokyo Joshua hopes someday to be done with school. He is training in Gestalt Therapy in Michigan and lives with his beautiful family
Plato’s Republic: Ken Wilber’s Integral Redux
I must admit: politics is not my forte. So much so that you’ll be at a loss for insight from me. I was about to hand in my hat when I found at least one important thing that can be said about Ken Wilber’s “Integral Trans-Partisan Politics.”
So, if I’m understanding this correctly, Ken Wilber suggests that the solution to American politics is to install what he calls a House of Wisdom in government. That is, a house of evolutionarily elite members who can navigate the complex landscape of American consciousness.
The problem, he rightly asks, is how do you justify a House of Wisdom that is “developmentally higher than 90% of the population.” For Wilber, the answer is development. The more you embrace it, understand it, enact it, the more you represent this developmental elite that is capable of recognizing that “all views are partially right.” Able to mingle with liberals for lunch and conservatives for dinner, fluidly shifting your communication skills to adapt to their memetic center of gravity.
But the thing is, most folks won’t embrace this idea, let alone enact a government in the spirit of a Plato’s Republic – a nation ruled by Philosopher Kings. If you think you’re catching a whiff of skepticism on my part, you’d be right. It sounds to me that this whole idea retrieves the medieval social structure of the Right of Kings, where the elite rule over the masses in a form of benign elitism. Corey Devos writes that it is an “elitism to which everyone is invited… anyone can continue to evolve to the highest reaches of human potential, despite the fact that so few do.”
While that’s all well and good, I can’t help but be profoundly skeptical with Wilber’s political philosophy, which happens to sound dangerously close to a memetic version of Reagan’s “trickle-down” economics.
Even if we do consider this idea – and I’m not against the concept of cultural evolution, it’s a major focus in my studies – Wilber’s plan doesn’t seem to push many boundaries but to enable a business-as-usual political system. The Left and the Right need a Third Way, he tells us. Culture evolves, so we have traditional values and then we also have progressive ones. Each is true, but partial. The problem with this ideology (in the sense that it is a conceptual framework – a kind of mantra or reference-map that one may use in Integral for all value systems) is that it dulls the knife of discernment that might be necessary for an actual evolution of American social consciousness.
What if we do need to push Left a little more? Here’s my thinking.
Wilber attributes the Left politics to external, social issues. It’s all about the plurality and the collective. Meanwhile, the “right” represent individual rights and capital. The philosopher Jean Gebser, whom Wilber has adapted into his developmental theory, suggests an alternative.
“Since ancient times,” he writes, “the left side has stood for the side of the unconscious or the unknown; the right side, by contrast has represented the side of consciousness and wakefulness." Gebser’s interpretation of the Left is that it is an eruption of the unconscious – those invisible and intangible “intensities” of the psyche that defy quantification.
The history of the modern West has since been an ongoing struggle, between what Gebser calls the “irruption of Time” into consciousness and our attempts to systematize it. The breakdown of “meta-systems” – that is, rational and synthetic thought, quantification and systemization, has been part of the cause of crisis in the modern age. In the politics of America, we have an un-finished Left because we have yet to truly realize the implications of this new consciousness. Gebser’s “integral” or “a-perspectival.” All this suggests quite a different scenario than embracing a singular, hierarchical and developmental system to solve social problems. “As people evolve, they move through a particular sequence of stages,” Corey writes on Integral Life, “a sequence that has been long studied by Western psychologists and has been found to be essentially universal to every culture in the world.” [My highlights]. Even progressive psychologists and social theorists would raise an eyebrow at that claim.
If anything, then Wilber’s political philosophy is not very forward thinking, but reactionary; a systematizing approach to the problem of the Left.
This leads us to the final problem with Integral Trans-Politics, in that it ignores the vast immanent shift our world society is currently undergoing. It argues for a political philosophy where the elite of society rule from the top-down. But everything that is going on today – with networks of social communication, experimental peer-to-peer economic systems, and decentralization of social power – suggests that human culture is undergoing revolutionary changes. It ignores the possibility of mutation. A new consciousness might coincide with wholly different forms of government that are not based upon Confucianist order, Philosopher Kings or “Spiral Wizards” (a la Spiral Dynamics). Evolution is important. Perhaps there is a shift or a “raise” in consciousness that can take place, but let’s dare to imagine the way out through the emergent postmodern knowledge of our day. Not new ways of old thinking. The Leftist “green meme” is a modality of thinking that Wilber’s integral politics has certainly consumed, but seems to have difficulty digesting.
In the end, I challenge and advocate integral political thinkers to re-imagine what development and emergence look like in such an immanent age that is a discontinuous leap from politics as usual.
Jeremy is a graduate student in the Consciousness Studies program at Goddard College. He researches the emerging planetary consciousness of our time, mythology, the Imagination and esotericism.
Integral Is Not a Necessary and Sufficient Condition
This will be primarily in response to Ken's "trans-partisan" video (though he doesn't seem to use those words himself) that was recorded during the 2008 presidential primary season. There are a number of things that strike me when I watch this video. When I examined the common thread in my observations, it was why Integral needs people specifically informed (perhaps even experts) in any field in which it decides to participate/involve itself in.
There was something which Ken started with and ended with. In the beginning, he said that with democracy that there is no possibility of Integral politics or stances in governance. In the end, he states that if we continue with democracy, that we will continue to be stuck. The solution, he seems to imply, is a structural change not only within the two-party system (which he seems to equate with democracy in this video) but into changing the legislature into more of a parliamentary system. This was confusing to me, as the current system is technically capable of supporting more than two parties without changing the actual structure of the legislature. But both a multi-party system within our current legislature and an actual shift to a parliamentary system (which is not simply the addition of more parties) still function through democracy. So what Ken is saying is unclear when one is more than tangentially familiar with what he is saying.
Another portion which piqued my interest was Ken's talk about setting up a "House of Wisdom". Whether that is just an ideological grouping inside of the current structure or whether it's an actual structure inside of the new parliamentary form of government depends on how far you take Ken's vague inferences (of which he will not go into how to implement). But this is part of the problem with this entire video, which makes claims and proposes vague solutions with the specificity of a shotgun.
In a number of places in this video, Ken makes what appear to be gross generalizations and over-simplifications (and not just simplexity) on a matter of factors that deserve more nuance than they are given. A particularly egregious example was the idea that the Founding Fathers with their Orange Constitution moved from "slavery to freedom". I could take issue with as that idea is highly contextual. If we are speaking of literal slavery, then this statement seems to be patently false. If you mean freedom from the perspective of white, male land-owners? Then absolutely! But this comes back to my point that if Integral is to have a greater impact, I believe we need to acknowledge that simply being at Integral (by whatever measure) should be supported by actual knowledge and expertise.
Consider other statements that had this issue, e.g. the talk of Third Way politics. Third Way politics is also a name for when a partisan politician borrows ideas from the other party to secure the support from independent voters to secure a majority (see Nixon's presidency). For my last example, the mixture of Amber and Randian Orange in the Republican party was simplified to the fact that the Democrats had moved to include Orange and Green and not a concentrated effort during the Reagan era to create a conservative coalition. But this seems to be part of a larger issue inside of the Integral sphere. That simple awareness or knowledge of Integral or even the attainment of "2nd tier" development in the line of cognitive development makes one qualified. Ken speaks about it in relation to Democrats who have "in a sense" endorsed Integral and when he speaks of Integral candidates being elected because of developmental elitism.
There are two issues with this idea that I feel need to be examined.
The first is enumerated by Ken Wilber himself during the video. He mentions that Karl Rove and others have begun to use the Integral model to accomplish their goals. Current political operatives and leaders are using the technology of Integral to implement what could easily be interpreted as not Integral goals. But to once again quote Ken from the video, being at Integral does not actually mean being smarter or better, it means you can be colossally stupid because you have more means in which to accomplish your stupidity. Any Integral candidates that attempt to be elected need to be elected not on the basis of their developmental achievement, but their achievement and qualifications beyond their development. Development does not equal merit, it is only a factor of merit.
The second example is once again brought up by Ken himself, that a number of significant political leaders of this point in time -are- Integrally informed. So not only does one's development not equal a necessary and sufficient condition for progress in a positive direction, but it does not seem to securely necessitate more beneficial outcomes. While it could be said that just because some one can cognitively understand and apply the map it does not mean they are at an Integral stage of development as far as values, that is true. It would seem that the "All Lines" portion of AQAL gets sacrificed either for the sake of convenience or something else. Regardless, I see this as an example of a Level/Line reduction which seems to rear it's ugly head relatively often.
Finally, I want to make a brief comment on the idea of Integral trans-partisanship. While the article with this video spoke of "trans-partisan" politics, this seems to be a smoke screen of simply not taking a stand on any issue involved without further explanation of what trans-partisan Integral politics actually entails. While this could simply be my own confirmation bias, Integral once again takes a stand on absolutely nothing as it remains in the realms of big-picture posturing without any consideration or interest in the details of what that means. "If we can simply hold all of these perspectives long enough, everything will be okay..."
Kaine DeBoer is a curmudgeonly young man often found shaking a cane while yelling at all these Integral Kids to stop trampling his Green lawn
The Autopoiesis of Politics
There are a number of things to consider in looking at the article and video on Integral Trans-Partisan Politics from 2008, and the musings on it that resulted. Those with awareness of the different and overlapping value sets of which Wilber speaks are in a relatively unique position to offer clarity out of which a way forward might emerge. If we can back out from the immediate situation, and be aware of the overall processes or forces at work in the more absolute sense, we can then orient the more evolutionary situations within that.
Ken notes the incredible difficulty and complexity involved in this topic, and in a 30 minute video could not possibly touch on all that is inherent in it. I think it answers some good questions and offers some good ideas about where we might go. But he still asks, how? This is the question, and this is also what was discussed in the ensuing Facebook conversation. Hokyo points to some of the issues with so called "integral" approaches to large scale global problems, including (and these are my interpretations/generalizations, I do not wish to put words in his mouth!) distinctions between absolute and relative perspectives, a kind of "Ivory Tower", and about ways in which the theory sometimes leaves out bridges to the territory: who is walking it around the world, how are they doing it, and with what degrees of effectiveness? I am not certain we should depend on a theory to create such bridges for us, but would argue that we can each find our own ways to contribute and serve if we are so called, in whatever ways that shows up (and of course we can share the bridges we do find with one another). And, as Ken says, there may be inherent in this a kind of elitism, but no one is excluded from that if they choose to be a part of it. What I see in the video, article, and discussion is a useful conversation about some of the ways in which we can step toward embodying and learning to breathe this map, as territory, and allow it, as us, to inform and influence our world.
To my mind, a major thing to remember is that the fact of identification is huge, with the vast majority of humans, the vast majority of the time. This is the common theme of our differences-we are attached to what we perceive as important, even if we don't know how we arrived at those stances. In the emergence of a trans-partisan integral politics, we do need to be able to meet people where they are in one sense (because that is where they are!), and communicate the aims we have in ways that show them how their needs will be met and how they will be cared for. This requires integrally informed leaders who can accomplish this through having more fully embodied what the map contains, but without needing to explain the architecture of it. So this speaks a bit to how we might begin to get any such candidates as we could find, into office, in terms of speaking to constituents. Such a leader would also need to have a grasp of so much more in terms of geopolitical chess game that is our world, of the currents and history, global economics and so forth. And still there is the question of the bridge between skillful use of language in explaining things, and actually doing something (doesn't that sound typically political). How do world leaders act, even from a lovely worldcentric place, when worldcentrism doesn't have the boundaries that almost the entire globe holds to be very very real and important?
Part of the criticism aimed at "integral" stances (or scarcity of them) on the political system, and other current problems on the ground, arises out of differences between the points of view of the critiques, and the points of view which they are critiquing. Just as if we back out from the close-in situations in politics to look at the longer view, we can do the same in focusing the lens on the leading wave. Even here, there is more to see than just one snapshot. There is a range, again, of fluency and focus, and it is not always easy to know how embodied and fluent a given individual or group is in using the map as a tool. There seems to be something to the idea that newly integral spheres sometimes repudiate Green a bit and perhaps lose some of Green's on-the-ground enthusiasm for activism, and which perhaps returns at the later integral stages when the capacity to prioritize all that is seen emerges. My sense is that that is part of it. It also seems that some of the later perspectives hold the space that allows things to unfold as they will and there is increasingly less attachment to particular outcomes, and from these spaces my sense is that despite increased care and concern, perhaps this care and concern does not look the same as it looks like at the earlier stages, and the focus may not be on individuals or groups but on universal cosmically-scaled flow-processes.
There seems to be a frustration in the community about how long these kinds of changes are taking, which Ken commented on and which also arose in the dialogue. Hokyo was speaking to the question of how this looks in the LL and LR quadrants, and I think one way to connect the dots is that when something is new, people don't have easy access to it, and it takes time for a more solidified version of it to arise in themselves, much less for these ideas to become structures in the LR and shared understandings in the LL. It has to come through us individually first. My experience is that one of the best ways to share/transmit something is by embodying it and walking it around (UL/UR). This contributes to an eventual transformation in the UL/UR of others, and then to the LL/LR as more people come into resonance with it. Even as the theory says that all occasions co-arise, this still happens in time and space, and so there is some degree of linearity, in different directions, with it.
Is it telling that the suggestion made in the video (that because of the difficulty in getting Orange and Green [i.e. modernist and postmodernist] together the Republican candidate would win) did not come true in 2008, nor did it in 2012. I wonder then if perhaps this could be indicative that the scale is tipping toward, if not a closer unity between orange and green, but to the possibility that the whole of us is inching up the scale. This would be good news!
Ken suggests a "3rd way, 3 party, parliamentary" kind of system where Amber [i.e. traditionalist], Orange, and Green all get their own parties. This seems like a step to me. I don't know how that would look exactly and specifically, but I do feel that what he is pointing to in terms of creating structures in the LR that allow the "truths" coming forth in the other quadrants space to emerge is a step toward a trans-partisan politics. My sense is that in addition to meeting people where they are, we can offer spaces that invite us all forward. I don't know a lot about Holacracy, but I will throw it out there. What about using a version of it to include these newer cultural value distinctions and restructure things? I am not an expert in this system/structure, but have read a bit about it and it seems exciting. I would love to invite comments from anyone with more experience actually using Holacracy and hear how/if it could be applied to politics, as it speaks to the LR systems orientation.
Karen S. Anderson is currently earning a Master’s degree in Integral Psychology at JFK University and has been teaching and facilitating meditation classes and groups in the Minneapolis area for about 10 years. She is a yoga instructor, chef, and musician. She is most interested in being playfully present in service to conscious evolution in whatever ways arise.
Why does the integral community have a problem getting politically activated? Why does the socio-political evolutionary strategy coming from KW Integral HQ seem to revolve mostly around encouraging personal growth and the development of exceptional leaders? Why are the descriptions of Green Lower Right political/economic systems so sparse and dismissive?
Some of the answers can be found by going beyond KW’s “orienting generalizations” in the referenced video/article and diving into the profound, complex, nuanced, and compassionate work of integral political/economic academics and consultants that he heroically helped to gather. I’d highly recommend Christian Arnsperger, Marilyn Hamilton, Peter Merry, Barrett Brown, and David Martin, but here I’ll draw upon work Kevin Bowman’s done on political/economic line/type distinctions and the Spiral Dynamics insights on Variations of Change.
Following Bowman, an individual basically goes from an immature to a sophisticated understanding on the political/economic line as both their cognitive complexity level and their breadth of study in the field increases. Bowman also sees a typology of Liberal, Conservative, and Radical cutting across the ego, cognitive, values, and moral lines of development. In the contemporary American political context, the Liberal will favor social movements instigating systemic government reform, the Conservative would rather trust free, self-disciplined inventors, entrepreneurs, and leaders to pioneer improvements; and the Radical will mistrust the whole State Capitalist system. (Here’s an interview Bowman did on this:)
In Don Beck’s SDi, social tension, suffering, and potential collapse result when the dominant biopsychosocial vMeme constellation in a society no longer fits with changing Life Conditions. The eight levels of Change Variation describe the scale of change necessary to functionally re-adapt (ranging from simple Fine-Tuning at the 1st to the epochal Quantum whole vMeme constellation shift upwards of the 8th).
What occurs to me is that, due to the three political/economic typologies, individuals in the Integral community view the current Life Conditions, vMeme constellation, and the field of potential in America differently and therefore feel a different level of Change Variation is required to produce the greatest depth of goodness for the greatest span of population. This thread at Integral Life is the quintessential example:
For Sophisticated Liberals like Terry Patten and Jeff Salzman, Obama is pretty close to what is needed at the moment. Obama speaks as the representative of various social movements (civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, labor, environmentalism, etc.) and promises effective systemic government programs to realize their goals. For many Sophisticated Liberals, a relatively simple 2nd or 3rd level Change Variation of improving the givens would make things better for most people right now. I’d say they’d like to take the American political/economic system in the direction of a more explicit, coherent, and effective Rawlsian Social Democracy; rather than the chaotic, redundant, and ad hoc Progressive system we muddle with today. To do that they need to build on Obama’s messaging and develop a more coherent and inspirational partisan ideology that can hold these interests groups together going forward. They also need to promote their government watchdog groups to better reveal which politicians are catering to moneyed interests and which government programs are ineffective.
Sophisticated Conservative commentators on the thread, like Robb Smith and GameofThriving, see more dire circumstances requiring a higher level Change. The intra-Republican Civil War between the Immature and Sophisticated Conservative in the 2012 election post-mortem has been fascinating. The sense I get is that Sophisticated Conservatives want to move the country in the direction of a pragmatic, post-Progressive Libertarianism. This would take the 5th Level Change of stretching the Republican Party up the Spiral enough to shake free of the patriarchal, racist, nativist, and war-mongering free-market ideologues in their base. This would be an incredible challenge. The Religious Right controls the Republican primaries. The Neo-Cons make up the Republican foreign policy establishment. Republican think tanks and talk radio hosts want to eliminate Social Security, Medicare, and Wall Street regulations, not fix them like Mitt Romney claimed. It might be easier just to work on building and sophisticating the Libertarian Party and let the dwindling, Cold War minded Republican Party die off.
For the Sophisticated Radical, represented on the thread by C4Chaos, the current political/economic system can’t be fixed from within. I see myself falling in this group and my feeling is that representative democracy at the continental scale of 300 million people cannot help but to represent only the most powerful special interest groups. The processes of capitalism, such as monopoly and the business cycle, invariably lead to rising income inequality and the rich getting richer and more powerful…now at the transnational level creating a global plutocratic oligarchy. For Sophisticated Radicals, it’s imperative to wake people up to these inherent systemic problems while developing new, more egalitarian, more liberating, more compassionate, and more resiliently sustainable forms of economic interaction and political decision making. Sophisticated Radicals see in the field of potential of current Life Conditions the possibility of a dramatic vMemetic upshift of the 7th Change Variation.
Of course, we’re not merely “Sophisticated”, we’re Integral, too. So what could that mean for Integral Politics. I think what comes out of KW Integral HQ is largely Conservative (focus on individual pioneering efforts) and anything more radical than Conscious Capitalism in the still emerging and maturing Green Lower Right is dismissed to a degree. Because this feels like it comes from KW, it gains an air of authority as the last word on the topic, which can be tough to get past. Liberals and Radicals don’t see themselves as much in all this reaching out to established business and political leaders. It’s not how we understand the kind of change we want happening so we feel stifled and confused.
Understanding the political/economic typologies allows us to open up our strategy. Liberals pushing for an effective Rawlsian Social Democracy and Conservatives pushing for a pragmatic, post-Progressive Libertarianism would produce a much healthier two-party system while Radicals work tirelessly on making practical new political/economic forms so they’re ready for Liberals and Conservatives to live in when they finally come around… ;-)
Lincoln Merchant is the kind of political nerd who fantasizes about appearing on C-SPAN 2. He lives in southern Indiana with his wife and 5 year old son
What is Integral Politics? What is the Integral Movement? Does it even exist?
True, but partial; transcend and include; integrate every person and every sentient being and their partial views. Who wouldn’t agree to that? It’s not rocket science, isn’t it?
But is it really that simple? In watching the so-called Integral movement getting stuck in its own political, personal and systemic issues so often makes one wonder if we might be overlooking something.
So let’s start with the basics!
The word “integral” has at least 4 different meanings that are relevant for us:
1. The name for a Meta-Theory or Map of the territory that is called reality.
2. The name for a structure-stage or even a structure-tier in our personal development.
3. The name for a set of norms and the intention to live according to these norms: to be more integrative, compassionate, loving and all-encompassing.
4. The name for a new age that was intuited by Gebser as following the magic-mythic and the rational age.
If I look at that, I don’t see a lot that would qualify to help create a movement or a political stand that could be called Integral politics.
The movement that is claiming that WE have the best map of the world is not really gaining momentum. The set of norms is quite appealing but not enough to get people out of their comfort zones. The coming of the Integral age seems only to be of interest for a couple of elite folks or esoteric dreamers.
And the stage or tier??? Have you ever heard of a movement created by a new stage of development? Is it enough to say that we want the brightest and most complex thinkers to govern our world? Is that what the Integral approach to politics is all about? Really???
Most movements were started by people who were dissatisfied with the situation in the world. They were angry enough to get out of their comfort zones and on the streets, take risks, gather together with folks that were dissatisfied and angry with the same situation for very different reasons and stand up against some outside force that was seen as the enemy. That is where for example green and red consciousness get along really well. And only later did political parties grow out of these movements that slowly but certainly became established by sorting out the “red elements”.
And that’s an interesting point, because how can the Integral Scene gain momentum and gather folks from different memes with its transcend and include, true, but partial, we are the 100% approach? Where can we actually stand up for, when standing up for something also means standing up against something? Because what we stand up for, grows naturally as a solution for something we stand up against.
Does the slogan “True, but partial” really mean that we cannot take a stand? That every view is equally wrong and equally right? That would be more of a postmodern pluralistic view that Integral wants to overcome. Yet, it sometimes seems difficult to distinguish.
When I look at the world, I see a lot of people who are angry at the given systems – for very different reasons – yet cannot hold the complexities of the issues involved, give up in frustration and fall into depression. Then there are those who see the complexities and are able to hold them and either get lost in analysis paralysis or lose their momentum by trying not to exclude anybody including their views instead of trying to gather them together for a common purpose and get them all excited and enthusiastic about it.
I sometimes wonder if the descriptions of the view from the Integral stage of consciousness are kind of constructed by people who have read Ken’s books or Spiral Dynamics and who are thinking about how this worldview must be: integrating the views from all previous levels. But is that really true?
In this construction, there seems to be a confusion between ladder, climber and view, as Ken calls it. The climber (the person) remains the same, the ladder (that is the structure) gets included, but the view gets changed forever (that is transcended). So, we cannot construct the new view by combining all the previous views. This doesn’t work for the move from red to amber, nor from amber to orange, or from orange to green. The only move where people are trying this is in the move from green to teal.
Yes, teal is the first structure that is recognizing the whole ladder or spiral and the importance of each stage for the health of the whole, but that doesn’t exhaust the teal view, and it is by no means the only thing that teal is able to see. You only get to the authentic view of teal and turquoise and indigo… by actually doing the looking from that place!
When I look at the world from my perspective (whatever color my view might have), I see a lot of problems – problems that I wasn’t able to see before, and problems that I didn’t have any solutions for, and problems that were so complex that I couldn’t see the multiple causes of in former stages of my own development. And now, I am looking at these problems, talking with friends, and a new understanding is arising, new solutions are showing up on the horizon, and the only problem seems to be that we need almost everybody to join in and help and do what needs to be done for whatever reason that gets THEM going.
So, the real question becomes: What cause am I really excited for? What is the purpose that is burning in me? What change do I want to see in the world that I believe is absolutely necessary? What need do I see in the world that I can fulfill with my unique gifts and my unique projects that I am enthusiastic to give and co-create?
The next step then in my opinion is to gather a few people who are able to see and hold the complexity of the issue and who are excited about it and willing to contribute their unique gifts into it, building a strong Core Team, an evolutionary We that is committed to a shared purpose, aligns with that purpose, builds the first structures around this purpose that can actually hold the new consciousness even if it then in the next step gets transformed and communicated across the memes and types and sub-cultures to reach as many people as possible and get them involved and excited.
By that we can create something like imaginal cells in the society that are right now still fought against by the immune system of the whole system. But the more this system gets dysfunctional and starts to break down, the more energy those imaginal cells are getting, starting to spread out, attracting more and more people to them.
Organizational structures and processes like HolacracyTM might be of help to incorporate the new. Networking or meshworking between the different projects, cells and organizations becomes an additional virtue that will support each part as well as the new emerging whole.
That’s the real power that engaging in politics and real world applications from the Integral perspective can unfold, and that can be started by Integral folks but that in my humble opinion should not be titled Integral but be centered on the respective shared purpose that it is all about.
Kerstin Tuschik is an Integral Project Developer, Consciousness Worker, Coach and Trainer. Her passion is to support people in experiencing and living their Unique Selves and to create new structures in the world that are able to hold and resonate with the newly emerging consciousness of integrated wholeness.
The Need for Integral Trans-Partisan Politics and The Question of How to Actually Get it Done
In Corey DeVos' article on Integrallife.com entitled "Integral Trans-Partisan Politics," DeVos skillfully recants the structures of consciousness from which the major American political viewpoints spring. DeVos also calls for unification of these perspectives in politics.
This article is well-done, but it's somewhat of a re-hash of a theoretical viewpoint that is not in practice. I will address what I think this practice should look like as well as a point made by Joshua Routhier, namely that in current integral approaches to political views:
"...the view seems to be to take pluralism and then add the term "Integral" which then somehow makes it more effective while still reifying the same stuckness. I can understand that an "Integral Perspective" would include as many perspectives as possible (5th to Nth person). But it seems to in it's argument that all perspectives are "true but partial", it has effectively dismissed the perspective that a view can be wrong."
A view cannot be wrong, but facts stated by the holder of that view can be wrong. Any experience occurring to a subject is always "right", but what the subject then says of the world may in fact be incorrect. This is not functionally distinct from Routhier's point, but important nonetheless – the idea that everyone is right in some way must be preserved. Additionally, values can have different levels of importance, creating a values scale (as opposed to "right" or "wrong"). An Integral politics would include all levels of value but also exclude behaviors initiated by those perspectives which were harmful towards or dominant over other perspectives.
To bring this to the ground, consider the the contentious abortion issue. There is basically a "for" camp and an "against" camp. We do not live under the rule of a government that allows for both camps to get their way. The "against" camp wishes their views to be imposed on all others (no abortions allowed universally) while the "for" camp believes that the decision is individual (allowed to anyone who opts for one). These views are not right or wrong, they are simply views.
How would we include the values of both camps without allowing either one to dominate the other? The answer arises when we separate "inclusion" from "selection." To include a perspective does not mean giving it the power that it seeks by choosing it as the singular approach. Competing sides argue: "abortion should be illegal – it is immoral to harm a developing child," versus "anyone should be able to get an abortion – it is immoral to remove reproductive rights." An Integral politics preserves both of these moral positions without letting one dominate the other. Are we finding that any person in our society can opt for either view without being forced to submit to the other? This should be the goal. Maybe a healthcare system that allows individuals to select which services they would like to fund and have access to would help dissolve the necessity for the nation as a whole to choose one side's view and force it on the other.
With that, the question of who is right and who is wrong is moot as is the question of which view is higher. Views exist, and they are allowed to occupy their rightful territory. This is fundamental to integration – agreeing to disagree.
Though views are never wrong, Routhier pushes us to remember that people can be wrong by applying those views. An example: "trickle-down" economics – the idea that providing tax cuts to the wealthy results in a healthy economy – has repeatedly been proven wrong, but is still used as a justification for political and economic decisions. If the goal is a healthier economy, we know that this is not the way to get it, yet it has been employed with success for many years. Do we have a system that disallows beliefs in such falsehoods? How would we bring that into politics? Could we construct law that would disallow falsehoods to be used as justifications for writing law? Who would write that law if it hasn't been written so far?
Both inclusion of all views and exclusion of all falsehoods in law (and, by extension, of pathological dominance) must exist in an integral politics.
In any political system, lawmakers are given legitimacy socially. For law to be just, it must be agreed to. In the USA's system, we select rulers by vote. This is commendable for its inclusiveness but deplorable for its lack of exclusion of faulty beliefs. Because elections are won with popularity, being persuasive is more effective than being capable (acting on factually correct beliefs) as far as becoming an elected official. Are there measures that expressly restrict entry into public office based on competence? If not, we will have to face the fact that a popular false belief may often become the rule of law. We will also need to face the fact that, to get integral leaders elected, we must be persuasive rather than candid.
If we are going to have integration in our politics, we will need politicians capable of integral thought. Can democratic elections select for this? Not if potential Integral leaders are going to speak in terms of hierarchy and development. If we want the developed to be successful in politics, we should not be talking about development in politics. As Ken says, integral leaders cannot justify themselves as good candidates by saying "we're better than y'all."
It will be the job of Integral leaders and their surrounding community to find out how to be selected for leadership. This is where we should be focusing, as it is the only place that we have any power at all aside from an overhaul of our entire voting system and legal code. If we want to hasten this process, we should be creating integral think tanks, grooming integral candidates, and funding integral campaigns to get integral leaders into office. If we are going to create integral leadership in politics, we should be organizing to place into office those who can understand and value these integral principles.
I believe that our current political system will never be capable of conducting integral politics. I believe that we need a full system overhaul which I will not detail here. For the time being, we must do the best we can with what we have, and the first step should be using our resources to put integral candidates into power.
Justin Quirici is certified in Integral Theory by JFK University. Also, one time, he saw a blimp.
A Truly Integral Political Theory: Transcending and Including Both Translation and Transformation
As integralists we need to understand the unfolding of development so that we can work with ideas, systems, and people right where they are. This recognition leads to two different approaches: translation and transformation. Which approach we use is dependent upon where a person or system is in its current unfolding.
For example, some people are new to a stage of development and still have much to learn in that stage while others are well established in a stage and are not going to change their general worldview anytime soon. This is where we use skillful means to try and work with the interpretation of ideas to create a more healthy translation. (Example: getting Christians to care about the environment by referencing the scriptures and getting them to see them selves as “good stewards of the earth”) This often means embracing a quadrant that might be rejected or given less influence. (Like getting the Christian to care about the LR environmental systems). It also might mean doing a better job of encouraging the growth of the previous stage, or more fully taking up the role of the current stage of evolution being occupied. (Example: Red is impulsive/egoic. "I want it now" and Blue is a conformist stage where we "sacrifice now, for something better later." This is often a magic/mythic translation but it doesn't have to be. The main thing that makes a stage healthy is that it keeps the lower stage in check and/or helps it to evolve.)
On the other hand, there is a point in evolution called “the dark night” where the ideas in a stage have reached their natural culmination and new problems emerge that can’t be solved by the old ways of thinking and something new is required. This is where transformation into the new stage is necessary, and old antiquated ideas that inhibit development must be dealt with. This is often a painful process, but it can also lead to a beautiful rebirth into new previously undeveloped potentials and a more positive harmonious way of being.
I find that when I speak to integralists about politics there is a bit of a split.
Many integralists focus on a more short-term approach. There is real excitement in the integral community about more healthy translations that are slowly unfolding. Many integralists want to get more involved and work with our political system where it is to create better lives for the people now. This includes great things like equal rights for different genders, classes, and races; The end of prohibition, and the drug war, etc.
Many other integralists will argue that while these things are positive advances, it’s ultimately just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic; fixing only the symptoms in a system that is destined to go down if the real problems are not addressed. They are seeing that we are stuck in a dark night and find that our current political discussions are not dealing with the real underlying problems that have manifested as a natural result of our current system’s philosophical foundations.
Here are some of the main problems not being addressed:
1. Unsustainability - in terms of our use and waste of limited resources in the environment as a natural outgrowth of materialism, gluttony, consumerism, and planned obsolescence resulting in environmental degradation and systems collapse.
2. “Haves” and “Have Nots” – scarce resources ultimately lead to a huge gap between rich and poor that is ever-widening. More and more people are finding that the “American Dream” is an unhealthy nightmare that we must wake up from and that these freedoms that we take for granted are claimed at the expense of the systems that support us. (There is an unhealthy balance between positive and negatives liberties i.e., “freedom from” and “freedom to” with a narcissistic, individualistic, “hands off my stuff”, and “I’ll do what I like” type of underlying attitude that has to change.)
3. “Us and Them” Thinking – in a world where all of our systems are becoming ever more connected, ideas like borders and political party lines cease to make any sense. It becomes more obvious all the time that humans share this planet with each other (transcending our ideas of local culture into a historic perspective of unfolding human culture) and with other species. We are now seeing that we are a part of the ecosystem, and that it was not put here for us to exploit like a cancerous virus. We are outgrowing the blue/traditional/ethnocentric and orange/materialistic/nationalistic ways of thinking into a more worldcentric understanding and expansion of care. (This is also a natural outgrowth of a scientific cosmology, and that should be appreciated.)
4. Limited Education and Health Care systems – unsustainability is also evident in human society because there is a limited focus on development. Often what should be seen as “investments in our collective human future” are seen as “handouts to the irresponsible.” To see people as just what they are now and not as what they could be or bring to the table is a flat and static view with a very limited understanding of human development, and results in a limited investment in a natural growth hierarchy. Our current systems are run like a factory and people are treated as cogs in the machine, beasts of burden, wage slaves, means to a mechanistic short term monetary end only reaped by the corporate elites.
5. Biased Problem Solving Methods – all of these problems are a result of legislating taste (top down) vs. taking a vote (mob rule). Everything from corporate corruption in politics (corporations as people and money as speech) to the idea that what is true or good is equivalent with what is popular amongst a people who are not even educated enough to make decisions in their own best interest. (This is the real source of the paralysis in our systems. We need a more unified scientific “peer review process” type of system that factors in natural growth hierarchies, takes good ideas from everywhere based on their merit, tests these ideas, and is open to refinement over time.)
Here is a video I made expressing many of these same points:
Why I Think Capitalism Is Our Main Problem: (5:41 mins)
In the face of all these problems, many integralists have stopped participating in our curent systems; but, also see limited to no solutions coming from the green/postmodernist/deconstructionist uprising (e.g., The Occupy Wall Street Movement). While it is a positive sign of growth and shows a deep desire for something better, it is also seen as more:
1) “us and them” thinking (we are the 99% - not we are the 100%),
2) a lack of understanding of development (blaming the 1%, expecting them to be better and/or fix things instead of fixing them and making things better themselves, as well as not appreciating the advancements brought by this way of thinking in an unfolding context),
3) a flatland lack of distinction even within its own participants and their motives, as well as a rejection of the natural growth hierarchies that could ultimately hold the solution.
A favorite quote amongst integralists more focused on transformation is:
"We never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." - Buckminster Fuller
So while many integralists are working on short-term healthy translation, conscious capitalism, trans-partisan third-way integral politics, and expressing these ideas in a way that can be heard and appreciated in our current culture (building from the bottom up), many other integralists are focusing on building new integral governance, education, and resource management systems from the top down. (Such as new ideas about “Collective Individualism” and what that might look like in theory and practice.)
Currently we are not just dealing with a single idea, person, or system, but a dynamic spectrum, and so It is my opinion that BOTH of these approaches are important and that for either of them to be truly effective they must inform each other and work together in an unfolding way. This is the importance of integrating the long-term and short-term approaches of integral translation and transformation.
To focus only on the short term is to take action that is not informed by the big picture. To ignore the short term can be seen as a form of integral inaction and paralysis, building castles in the sky in a world that needs us NOW.
I would like to think that as integralists we could see the importance of both approaches and find some way of establishing a means of working on them both together, refining them over time, and unifying them into a REAL integral understanding of “Integral political theory and practice” in an unfolding context.
Each of us may have our own ideas and want to focus on particular areas based on our personal passions and interests; but we must be open to, and have great respect for, anyone who is truly working towards healthy integral translation and transformation. Lets come together with a method and take it further.
For more info on a more transformational approach check out this post, and the videos by Troy Wiley especially “Integral Zeitgeist” and “NeoTribal Zeitgeist – Supreme Ordeal“. Also Check out this song I wrote called "2nd Tier Revolution" from my last album "Spiral Dynamics”.
David Long is an American Integralist Artist/Musician/Philosopher/Psychologist interested in making integral rEvolution a fun, beautiful, sexy, and practical way of life.