An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber

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Joe CorbettJoe Corbett has been living in Shanghai and Beijing since 2001. He has taught at American and Chinese universities using the AQAL model as an analytical tool in Western Literature, Sociology and Anthropology, Environmental Science, and Communications. He has a BA in Philosophy and Religion as well as an MA in Interdisciplinary Social Science, and did his PhD work on modern and postmodern discourses of self-development, all at public universities in San Francisco and Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at



The Political Philosophy and
Organizational Form of an Integral Society

Joe Corbett

Any discussion of socialism these days must keep in mind the developmental distinctions of socialism.

Any discussion of socialism these days must keep in mind the developmental distinctions of socialism: Stalin and Mao were red-authoritarian and blue-traditional state socialists, with orange-industrialist aspirations. The USSR and Mao's China never had communism, those were state socialist dictatorships in a mostly agrarian society (red-blue), something Marx suggested could not develop into communism because you cant skip levels of development, meaning you cant skip the stage of orange-capitalism and its dialectics of development for the means (technology and resources) and capabilities (knowledge, skills, and organization) to emerge whereby a global communist society could eventually thrive.

Castro and Chavez (as well as present day China to a lesser extent) are orange-industrial state socialists by virtue of their need to develop their underdeveloped countries (although the American embargo has made this difficult for Cuba). Even America could be considered an orange-socialist state insofar as there are massive welfare subsidies to corporations and the rich. Orange-green or modern-postmodern socialism can be found mainly in the European and Scandinavian models of the pre-austerity welfare state. An integral yellow socialism has not yet existed on a large scale, but when and if it does emerge I think it will be the precondition for the eventual emergence of an egalitarian or communist non-dual turquoise society that would simultaneously create and be created by Buddha-Christ citizens.

Exploring Ecosocialism as a System of Thought

Keeping these socio-developmental distinctions in mind, if what we want at this point in the crisis or failure of modern and postmodern capitalist values and institutions is an integral post-postmodern society at yellow, it's probably not going to be a kinder-gentler 'conscious capitalism' (a functional modern-postmodern system), but rather a libertarian eco-socialism; that is to say, a low fossil-fuel permaculture based society organized around self-managed decentralized local communities of direct democracy federated into regional, national, and global governing bodies. Local communities would be much more energy generating and autonomous than they are today, and the people themselves would decide directly how they would live among themselves, not mediated by representatives "under the influence" of big money or far removed from the lives of the citizenry, but through the independent municipalities where they live and work in citizens' assemblies, workers councils, trade unions, and peer-2-peer cooperatives. So it's not that there wouldn't be a city, state, and national structure under an organizational mode of libertarian eco-socialism (a post-postmodern integral society), but how that structure operated within and between the parts would be vastly different.

Small business practices could be encouraged between local communities, while local communities would decide for themselves the laws and regulations they would follow. State and national governing bodies couldn't come in and raid your marijuana garden, for instance, but if a community wanted to burn coal or burn witches at the stake the larger governing bodies could intervene, as well as deliberate over the larger projects of a collective humanity for the purposes of common safety, sustainability, and civilizational advancement. So there would be much greater freedom and diversity at the local level, but at the same time an integrated vision of the common good, hence, libertarian yet socialist. Of course, the many details of self-governance cannot be planned in advance or dictated to posterity but can only be worked-out by the people themselves in dialogical participation in a flex-flow self-governing mode of being and consciousness, which is also the pre-condition for human development to yellow post-postmodernism.

How then are we to get there from here? If we look at history, particularly the transition from feudalism to capitalism, a new level of development in civilization was brought about largely as a result of seizing power from a failing system and imposing a “higher standard” of values and practices on the previous level. And I think it's no different now, now that we need to seize power from the prevailing elites and impose green and yellow values and practices on the masses who must be and can only be lifted-up by the leading edge of the historical moment. The only other option is to have this new world order of decentralization imposed by a catastrophic collapse of the global capitalist system, where everyone is forced into local survival groups at the archaic and brutal red worlds of the mad-max warlords. But wouldn't the conscious choice to decentralize social organization by social revolution, rationally and relatively orderly, be preferable? Of course it would.

History is made not by the force of persuasion but by the persuasion of force.

However, social revolution to the next level is not about persuasion (idealists be damned). Again, it's about seizing power and imposing the higher level to which the masses must follow, like teaching children through an enforced system of rewards and punishments to grow up. In this case, to grow up and out of orange individualism and industrial technologies and into a green and yellow techno-collectivist libertarianism, by the force of law and the institutional habit of the long (normative) revolution. Indeed, history is made not by the force of persuasion but by the persuasion of force, and ultimately by the newly habituated beliefs and practices.

The crucial thing in the next stage of our collective development is getting the collective center of gravity to an orange, green and yellow alliance rather than the red, blue and orange one that we have now. The current problem is firstly the failure of the mean-orange meme to sustain human communities and the natural environment on which they are based, and secondly the failure to move beyond the modern narrative of meritocratic hierarchy based on individual achievement to a new narrative of social liberty and equity based on the spiritual integrity of each and all, otherwise known as libertarian eco-socialism (yellow).

But all this isn't so simple to see, at least in America. A century of anti-socialist propaganda and oppression has muted the masses to its vision, to its own collective potential, and the socio-political and cultural fragmentation of green-postmodernism has distracted the progressive arch of history away from the prize of enlightened diversity in unity toward the disintegrating order of the global neo-liberal dystopia.

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