INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Publication dates of essays (month/year) can be found under "Essays".
Ray Harris is a frequent contributor to this website. He has written articles on 9/11, boomeritis, the Iraq war and Third Way politics. Harris lives in Australia and can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I think the logical conclusion to be drawn from Wilber's work is that we are moving toward a state of Kommunism.
I welcome Steve's response (btw, no need to call me Mr. Harris). Unfortunately it does not really answer my concerns, instead it deepens them.
But perhaps first I should start by way of a short introduction. Steve, I'm a member of the politics group of the Integral Institute, if that group can be said to be still functioning (it still runs an active email list). I guess I was always an outsider, which is both an advantage and a disadvantage. I guess I've also fallen out of favour with Ken since I started disagreeing with his 'boomeritis' notion. It all started when I visited the US and got to meet a few of the Institute folks. They were all very warm and welcoming and I am genuinely appreciative of their generosity, but I came away feeling a sense of disconnect. The impression I got was that 'some' had not sufficiently dissociated from the orange meme, in part because they had not stepped outside the dominant paradigm of the American dream/myth. I say 'some' because I have discussed this with others in the Integral movement and I am satisfied they understand the issues.
But just to reassure you of my credentials here's a quote from Ken's 'The Deconstruction of the World Trade Centre'. Steve, I've either met or have had significant email exchanges with most of these people.
An integral or AQAL politics takes all of those scales into account in order to fashion a more comprehensive view of human political possibilities--and a more comprehensive, balanced, effective form of political inquiry and action. Several of our colleagues are already working on this (see Gregory Wilpert, 'Integral Politics: A Spiritual Third Way, Tikkun, 16, 4, Jul/Aug 2001; see also A Theory of Everything and its endnotes; and the works of Drexel Sprecher, Thomas Jordan, Don Beck, Maureen Silos, Jack Crittenden, Sean Hargens, Paul van Schaik, Mike McDermott, Lawrence Chickering, Mark Gerzon, Tyler Norris, Kees Breed, Ray Harris, Mark Palmer, Karin Swan, Michael Ostrolenk, and other IC members).
But before I get to the substance of my reply I'd like to make a couple of observations/corrections.
Firstly, I take note of your comment that you do not necessarily accept capitalism as a given.
In that light I'd like to clarify something. I do not have a 'contempt' for business. Perhaps we need to define business. Any society needs to provide for its needs and manage any surplus that is created. It can choose to do this in any number of ways. The modern corporation is one way of doing so. But we need to examine whether or not the modern corporation is the best way of doing business. For example, there is a devolutionary dynamic that affects business in our current competitive economy. It goes something like this. An orange level individual invents a new process. This process finds a new market and the inventor becomes the MD of a successful corporation (e.g. Microsoft). The corporation shifts to blue as it develops a hierarchical organisational structure (as it manages production, marketing and distribution). It then usually goes public and begins to face competition in the market it created. It devolves to red as shareholders demand greater return and as it faces aggressive competition. Our previously orange inventor is caught in a downward spiral of anti-competitive behaviour, tax avoidance and an accounting scandal involving a globally respected accounting firm (Andersons, KPMG, you name it). Sound familiar? As I was thinking about writing this I happened to catch a US program on the extensive tax avoidance industry in the US. It mentioned one bank that had made a multi-billion dollar profit but had somehow managed to report a loss on its tax return, a loss that resulted in a multi-million dollar rebate. In other words, through unethical practices, particularly a legal leasing scam known as 'lilo – lease in, lease out', the bank's existing profit was also being boosted with additional tax payer's money.
What continues to fascinate me is the general acceptance of a schizophrenic system of ethics where people will tolerate certain practices in business that they would not tolerate in their personal life. The ethics gap is often shrugged off with the lame justification – 'it's just business, nothing personal.'
I have nothing against a society organising its affairs, its business, in an appropriate way. It's just that I suspect our visions of what is appropriate and efficient differ. I have argued that worker controlled business, particularly co-operative structures, can be more efficient and more creative than the modern corporation.
I was watching a program on Australian television called the New Inventors a short while ago. It featured a wonderful invention, a new type of spark plug called 'Green Fire'. It had been successfully tested and it was shown to dramatically reduce harmful emissions and increase fuel efficiency by 20-30%, but it had been rejected for development by the major US car companies. It was the same story behind another Australian invention, the rotary engine. The myth is that capital is reinvested in innovation, thus providing reward for all sorts of improvement. But capital can be very conservative – it will invest in sure things, in those schemes that maximise profit and minimise risk. Over the last five years or so in the US, capital has actually been removed from investment in production and innovation to investment in speculation.
So it's not a question of business as such but what type of business.
Next, another clarification. I am not overly fond of Marx. My own background is that of Anarchist politics, particularly the 'mutual aid' school of Kropotkin. Anarchists have always been critical of Marx's failure to understand the maxim, 'power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.' It is of no surprise to Anarchist theory that those states that attempted a Marxist inspired revolution ended up as totalitarian states. Having said that, Marx contributed a considerable amount to the theory of political economy, indeed Marx was an early 'integral' thinker who should be taken very seriously.
At least Ken doesn't dismiss Marx. Steve you really should reread “Excerpt A: An Integral Age at the Leading Edge.” In it you will find Ken saying such things as:
“There is another way to state this important point: namely, third-person materialities have a profound effect on first- and second-person realities. That was Marx's essential and enduring insight, and it remains true to this day because it reflects an important aspect of the AQAL matrix.”
“It was Marx's genius to spot these internal tensions and contradictions between base and superstructure (LR and LL) as new techno-economic bases historically emerged, and he intuitively understood that if there is not tetra-mesh, all hell is about to break loose, as the newly rising culture (meshed with the new base) is attacked by the old culture (functionally fitted to the old base). This is usually translated as the idea that history is driven by class warfare, but the crucial point for Marx was that classes themselves are defined in relation to a particular mode of production--the warfare is between different techno-economic modes and the worldviews they support. As new technological modes emerge, more progressive and expansive worldviews become available, but societal revolutions are often required to put the quadrants back in sync (more about this in a moment). Time, history, depth, and Eros are on the side of the newly rising culture, but the transition from the old paradigm to the new paradigm is usually less than pleasant.”
I won't continue on this point because I intend dealing with it in another article, an article I'm thinking of calling “Kommunism – Marx and Wilber”. I've spelt it with a 'K' in a move similar to Ken's spelling of Kosmos. You see I think the logical conclusion to be drawn from Wilber's work is that we are moving toward a state of Kommunism. When you really think about it what else would a turquoise political economy look like?
I should also remind you Steve that Ken regards Jurgen Habermas as the greatest living philosopher. It just so happens that Habermas is the leading philosopher of the Neo-Marxist Frankfurt school.
One of the disconnects I experienced during my visit to the US happened when I realised just how unaware some people were of the political arguments that had been occurring in the rest of the world. There is an assumption in the US that 'Communism' has been defeated and has been replaced by the 'naturally' superior 'free market' system. It made me realise with a jolt how much American society had been influenced by the propaganda of the Cold War era. Many Americans are simply ignorant about what Marx had actually said. Are you aware that Marx put forward a developmental system that argues that capitalism should replace feudal economies? Marx thought that capitalism was an advance over pre-modern economies. It's just that he also thought there were developmental stages beyond capitalism (and some orthodox Marxists have dismissed so-called 'communist' states as in fact being state capitalist societies and not true transitional 'socialist' societies, and that it is not possible to jump a society from an agrarian base to a socialist society - but perhaps I'm being too arcane).
It must also be remembered that Marx lived a generation before the great discoveries of the 'interior' unleashed by Freud's pioneering work. Marx died in 1883, many years before Freud published his most significant work – however his work did contain the insight that the exteriors can affect the interiors.
The reason I have been emphasising Marx recently is to provide an anti-dote to the superficial understanding of political economy that seems to underscore 'some' of the integral thinking coming from the US. I really do urge you to reread what Ken has to say because Ken does actually get it, at least theoretically - although I have to admit I think Ken has fallen down on the issue of praxis and some of his analysis of contemporary politics.
The problem with such statements as 'transcend and include' is that they can easily become platitudes.
The problem with such statements as 'transcend and include' is that they can easily become platitudes. They sound meaningful but remain meaningless until we detail what exactly should be transcended and what should be included.
Steve, I know you have included a list of the 'enduring' elements of each stage. But unfortunately this is where the real problem begins. I simply don't agree that they are 'enduring' at all. Interesting isn't it? The things you think should be included I think should be transcended. In fact I find your list to be somewhat odd and even confused. Let's have a look at your list (your words are in italics).
The value of the universal family of humanity (tribal); I don't understand how you manage to make this into a universal value. At this stage values are entirely ethnocentric. The idea of a universal family is a higher stage value - it's worldcentric. In my opinion the enduring component of this stage is affective ability, the ability to relate intimately to a small group, family, clan, peer group. The enduring value is emotional security.
The values of individual freedom and personal autonomy (warrior); Again, I think you've confused a whole bunch of things. This stage is about willpower and a form of juvenile narcissism. The warrior is not concerned with individual freedom and personal autonomy at all. Ever been in the army? Individuality is drilled out of you (for good reason). At this stage there is no individual in the proper sense. Instead there is a the discovery of ego and willpower – within the context of family or tribe. Ken correctly correlates this stage to the temper of a two year old – a two year old is totally dependent on her family. And a warrior is totally dependent on a rigid hierarchy. The enduring value is ego strength.
The values of decency, honesty, and respect for traditions (traditional); Again, these are far from my understanding. At this stage the tribe expands into a more complex society. The individual absorbs the values of the larger society. At this stage there are a complex set of rules and taboos. It is typical of this stage that these rules are seen as 'given' and immutable. God gives Moses the Ten Commandments or the King is an absolute authority. Ideas of what is decent, and the uses and limits of honesty, depend on the society. In Spartan society it was perfectly decent, even mandated, for older men to have sex with boys. Respect for the rules is often enforced at this stage – in other words, respect is not earned, but demanded. One is not expected to question the absolutes of the society. The enduring value of this stage is structure and organisational wisdom.
The values of progress, prosperity, and economic development (modernist); In highlighting these particular values you completely ignore the realities of history. Progress has always occurred. It is not peculiar to the modern era. It is the same with prosperity, which is relative. Are you suggesting that the Romans were not prosperous and had not made progress – are you aware of the inventiveness of Roman engineering? And I rather thought that the image of the Roman orgy and feast was the image par excellence of indulgent prosperity. And what of prosperity of the court of Louis XIV, the courts of the Moguls in India or the garden estates of the British ruling class? All of the things you mention characterise all stages – there has always been economic development and technological advance. What characterises this stage in particular is the triumph of reason which increased the speed at which things developed, thus expanding prosperity to more people. The enduring value of this stage is reason and the differentiation of the individual from society. The ability to reason leads to the ability to question the rules of the previous stage, which then releases enormous creativity that can be utilised in the arts or sciences. And I should add that many civilizations have experienced this stage – there have been a whole series of mini-renaissances. European modernism as such borrowed considerably from the Greek and Roman golden eras.
The values of multiculturalism, environmentalism, and egalitarianism (postmodern); I can only agree with inclusion of multiculturalism. Egalitarianism is a feature of the previous stage (remember liberté, egalité, fraternité) and environmentalism actually has its roots in post Darwinian naturalism – a modernist development. This stage is actually marked by the realisation that the world is full of mature individuals who can equally defend their worldviews. How exactly do a group of well formed and intelligent individuals co-operate without recourse to the previous techniques of force and appeal to supernatural sanction and ordained authority? The enduring value of this stage might be defined as free co-operation as an end in itself. This needs a little explanation. In earlier stages co-operation is achieved through coercion. Rules are followed but not questioned. The previous level introduces reason and the right to question society's norms. It is actually extreme individualism that leads to the breakdown of blue structures. This stage is about rediscovering norms as things of value in themselves, not because they are 'given'. At this stage 'we' decide that it is good to preserve life, not because God says so but because society functions better. Not everyone at this stage has fallen into the moral relativism trap, but the question of relative morals is an important part of the process of reaching 'commonly agreed' values - as distinct from imposed morals.
The value of the channel of evolution as a whole — the system through which individuals and societies develop (integral). This really makes no sense to me (and not because I'm just an unevolved green memer who just doesn't get second tier). What is 'the channel of evolution' as opposed to just development or evolution? It's actually just a nonsensical statement. This stage is marked by the appreciation of systems and meta-systems. The enduring value is system flexibility. At this stage it is understood that particular systems create their own worldviews and that particular worldviews achieve different results. System flexibility means that the individual or society is not stuck in any particular system and can rapidly identify, adapt and utilise the best system for the desired result (and not just Don's spiral system).
What I find interesting amongst some in the integral movement is a tendency to collapse turquoise into yellow and call the whole shebang second tier or integral. There is a substantive difference between yellow and turquoise. What exactly would a world look like that is based on universal holistic principles? The only thing I know to have even approached this level is the Findhorn community and it's 'network of light'.
The problem of values
It can be difficult to extract one's perspective from the values that have been normalised in one's cultural milieu.
Values are largely transitory, they are surface translations that should not be mistaken for the deeper currents.
It must also be remembered that values are the result of a complex AQAL process. In the above quotes Ken recognises the fundamental importance of the Marxist argument that the means of production determine human consciousness. It was this insight that led Marx to state that the dominant ideology of a society is the ideology of the ruling class. Steve, I don't think you realise just how much you have simply reified the ideology of the current corporate ruling class.
Another important determinant is culture. One of my complaints about the integral movement is that it repeats certain aspects of American culture as if they were universal. Well actually, it's not just my complaint – it's pretty much the complaint of the rest of the world (I recognise that some of the most trenchant critics of America are Americans themselves). I was actually quite startled at how ignorant some of the people I met were of the rest of the world, and how paltry international coverage was in the media, even the New York Times.
And unfortunately Steve I see your reply as being literally saturated with American cultural assumptions that are just simply not shared in Europe, Asia, India, South America, etc. I will exclude Australia because my country is actually fairly close culturally to America, albeit with important distinctions.
America assumes that many orange values are universal values. The cultural milieu exalts individual achievement, idolises 'free enterprise' and tends to think it invented democracy. America is not alone in national hubris and my point here is not to isolate America. The only reason I'm picking on America has to do with the obvious fact that the Integral movement is largely centred in America (I'm sure that if it had started in France I'd be talking about French hubris). My point is that the Integral movement sometimes fails to sufficiently think in truly international terms and to separate itself from national and sociocentric assumptions.
It can be difficult to extract one's perspective from the values that have been normalised in one's cultural milieu. We are often deeply embedded in the values of our family, our peers and our society. In fact this is precisely the struggle of green – to let go of all values in order to rationally and consciously reselect those that are truly valuable and universally accepted – and to tolerate a greater degree of idiosyncratic values (so long as they don't impose on other values).
This means that an individual within a largely orange culture who has not fully challenged the dominant value system will tend to interpret everything through an orange lens – because they cannot help but do so. It is actually not enough to read integral theory and have an intellectual appreciation of it. The individual must go through the long and often torturous process of questioning everything, of deconstructing and then reconstructing. It is precisely the skills learnt by deconstructing and reconstructing that opens one to the possibility of system flexibility, which involves an increasing ability and speed in deconstructing and reconstructing, in switching perspectives from first to second to third, to meta and back again.
Without this ability one is likely to nominate the transitory surface values of a particular worldview as being enduring.
Steve, where I think you make a significant mistake is in assuming that the modernist economy, as you define it, is the pinnacle, that it's features are superior and enduring. That is not an assumption, clearly, that I agree with, nor is it one that can be deduced from integral theory. In fact I reach quite a different conclusion.
For instance, you seem quite fond of meritocracy. There is no doubt that meritocracy is an advance on aristocracy, but there are a number of significant problems with meritocracy that suggest that it ought to be transcended. In a true meritocracy 'anyone' can become president of the US (Clinton had an ordinary middle-class upbringing) but not 'everyone' can. It's a simple structural numbers game – there are a limited number of top positions, so not everyone who can do the job will get to do the job. (If everyone succeeded at school and went on to college someone would still have to clean the toilets and remove the garbage). This is extremely wasteful of human talent in all sorts of fields. The ideal behind communism is to restructure society to better realise this 'alienated' potential, hence the slogan 'from each according to their ability, to each according to their need'. Meritocracies reward success, not necessarily talent. There are also a number of negative side effects to meritocracies. Alain de Botton has written a book called 'Status Anxiety' that shows how meritocracies drive anxiety levels up and cause excessive material consumption. Perhaps one of the prime objections to meritocratic systems is that they tend to create the prejudice of the successful. The reasoning goes like this: the reason people succeed is because of their talent, therefore if you fail (are a loser) it is because you don't have talent - those who succeed deserve to succeed and those who fail deserve to fail. Of course what this glosses over completely is the role of chance (and inheritance). In his television series based on the book, de Botton highlights the case of a woman begging on a highway in L.A. She had owned a house and had worked, was a mother, but a series of events toppled her. First she came home to find her husband in a coma, he later died, then she very soon after lost her job in a downsizing operation. She suddenly lost both her sources of income, and therefore, eventually her home, through no fault of her own. Why was she begging in a prosperous city like L.A. and being treated with contempt? She was doing the best she could to send her daughter to school. Meritocracies don't solve systemic problems and eliminate the 'success' prejudice that assumes she is poor because she is at fault somehow.
Don's argument is that green turns on and attacks orange and blue in a way that undermines the structural integrity of the Spiral.
Postmodernism is a specific philosophical movement associated with particular, mostly French, philosophers. If you read Ken you will see that he understands this. The significant names Ken mentions are Foucault, Derrida and Lyotard.
Yet despite this obvious fact Steve you manage to use the term postmodern to describe anything that comes after the modern era. In fact you rather grandly conflate philosophical postmodernism and leftism with the green meme into a rather poorly defined postmodern stage.
You see I don't agree that postmodernism is necessarily the same thing as green. If you understand green you will see that it is primarily communitarian as a response to the extremes of individualism. Postmodernism as a philosophical movement contains very strong orange elements and is simply called postmodernism because it seeks to go beyond some modernist assumptions. I would suggest that it is the orange component that deconstructs and the green that tries to reconstruct. Postmodernism is, in good part, an horizontal argument within orange.
Your use of the term postmodern stage also completely ignores the fact that there are other philosophical movements that are progressive and 'left' that are in disagreement with some of what the postmodernists say. Habermas and the German 'critical theory' movement is just one example. What you may not realise is that many of the arguments Ken raises in 'Boomeritis' have already been made by some of the 'left'. Orthodox Marxists tend to be very critical of what they label as bourgeois postmodernism.
When you understand this you understand that your whole argument simply collapses into a confused heap. Statements such as -“Integral politics thus needs to include all of postmodernism's concern for the little guy, its sense of outrage over exploitation and environmental degradation, and its general abhorrence of unsustainable selfishness in all its manifestations.” - simply become meaningless and absurd. I wasn't aware that Derrida or Foucault had a lot to say about environmental degradation or the 'little guy'.
How can you talk sensibly about postmodernism when you clearly do not understand what it is? And you wonder what has raised my ire?
Here's another howler.
“However, postmodernism's higher-level morality is itself not sustainable to the extent that it would destroy the vitality of the foundational systems of modernism and traditionalism on which it depends. Because postmodernism is in a rather permanent position of antithesis to modernism, it often lacks an adequate appreciation of the enduring genius of modernism — an appreciation that only truly emerges with integral consciousness.”
This has rapidly become an integral cliché. This is simply not true for either postmodernism as a philosophical movement or postmodernism as a stage. I actually tend to blame Don Beck for this fundamental error. The problem unfortunately is that whilst Ken does not actually make the same mistake he has failed to correct the error. It stems from conflation and confusion.
Don's argument is that green turns on and attacks orange and blue in a way that undermines the structural integrity of the spiral. Interestingly his partner in writing Spiral Dynamics, Chris Cowan, seems to disagree. This places Don's version, as far as I am concerned, in a state of doubt. This would be solved by subjecting Don's claims to independent verification through the normal peer review processes, in much the same way that Kohlberg's and Piaget's original ideas have been thoroughly examined and re-examined.
Ken seems to agree but also qualifies it in several ways. However, too many in the Integral and Spiral Dynamics community have glossed over the detail and turned this into a general attack on green – despite Ken's admonitions to the contrary.
The reality is that any subsequent level attacks the previous level as part of the process of differentiation. Each stage is therefore at a 'rather permanent stage of antithesis' to the previous stage. In fact we are in the rather contradictory position where some who claim to be yellow seem to be in a rather permanent stage of antithesis to green, despite the prime directive.
The simple fact is that most of the blue structures of Western society have been thoroughly challenged and undermined by orange. The secular nature of the enlightenment was a deliberate challenge to blue religious authority. The democratic revolutions directly challenged blue power structures. These movements caused far more disruption to the spiral than the comparatively minor 'culture wars' of the latter part of the 20th century – let's have some perspective folks.
And I will remind you gain of the importance of what Ken says above.
“…societal revolutions are often required to put the quadrants back in sync (more about this in a moment). Time, history, depth, and Eros are on the side of the newly rising culture, but the transition from the old paradigm to the new paradigm is usually less than pleasant.”
After the massive social disruptions of the last great transformative wave why are people stressing out about the 'cultural wars' of the last thirty years?
Today the biggest threat to existing blue values is still orange, orange has not completed it's job of deconstructing blue. Whilst conservatives in the US battle the liberals over values, the largely orange marketing industry plays glorious havoc with all values. I ask you, what the hell is postmodern about Gangsta rap and its misogynist message? What is postmodern about Brittney Spears mixing 'I want to have sex with you' into the background of a song preteens will buy? What is postmodern about Hollywood? What is postmodern about the advertising industry? The postmodernists have in fact analysed all of this and shown exactly how the marketing industry manipulates values and culture for profit. How exactly has postmodernism allowed this situation to occur, isn't postmodernism its greatest critic? What postmodern academic gave licence to PR specialists to spin doctor?
All of this is orange playing free with any and all values. In the orange world any value is exploitable. Remember the Mac ads that equated the Dalai Lama with Apple computers? Orange has done this all on its own – it has even distorted the postmodern argument to suit its own needs. Make no mistake, the marketing industry is clever and creative. They read and understood Derrida, they got into the whole semiotics thing with gusto and appropriated it to produce very sophisticated marketing campaigns. The left has actually been trying to draw attention to this problem but the marketing industry has even appropriated the protest and turned it to its advantage. Read Naomi Klein's 'No Logo' and about a hundred other books on the subject.
The real problem is orange tinged with red (narcissism), this is the main driving force destroying traditional values.
What Ken and Don have done is to exaggerate the influence of excessive relativism, link it to green and blame it for the amoral malaise affecting Western society.
And where are all the blue conservatives? In bed with business – religion as business and business as religion. What I'd like to see is the religious right suggest the banning advertising to children because of the way it affects their moral development. What's that you hear – deafening silence? And what's the reason the porn industry is doing so well? Because the liberals are soft on censorship or because major corporations have significant investment in porn?
I'll state it again – the major function of green is to consciously deconstruct values in order to reconstruct them as freely agreed principles. Green is actually a very moral stage. It is orange that is the most amoral. It is orange that tends to unconsciously and destructively deconstruct – green arises to repair the damage.
The lure of neo-conservatism
The danger for the integral movement lies in being lured into the conservative camp by failing to maintain a proper objective distance.
Neo-conservatism is a term properly applied to former members of the left who have reverted to a traditionally conservative position. There are some high profile Neocons associated with the American Enterprise Institute and The Project for the New American Century. Paul Wolfowitz being one name that springs to mind.
Another is an Australian historian called Keith Windschuttle. I mention this because Ken thinks highly of Keith and I sent Ken a copy of an Australian journal (Quadrant) featuring an major article by Keith. Keith was a Marxist who has now become the darling of the conservative movement in Australia. There has been a major debate in Australia caused by Keith's claims that leftist and postmodernist academics have distorted Australian history. Does this sound like a familiar refrain? I was interested in this debate because I am interested in any claim of distortion. I had no doubt that certain members of academia had distorted the facts to suit preconceived ideas. This is not a problem that is only confined to the left, in fact a good deal of modern Australian history was written to correct past conservative, 'romanticised' versions of white colonisation, versions that glossed over aboriginal massacres. What Keith was now arguing was that certain historians had exaggerated claims of massacres and he set about proving that these historians had misinterpreted or ignored important sources. If this was true then he was advancing our understanding and justly correcting the record. In the meantime the conservatives were having a field day attacking leftist, postmodern academics in the wake of Keith's criticisms. It really was a boots in affair.
Except that some of these leftist academics turned around and applied the same scrutiny to Keith's major work and found that he too had ignored evidence that did not support his thesis. He was guilty of doing the same thing he was criticizing the 'left' for.
In a recent exchange with Don Beck he strongly advised I read 'Civilization and its Enemies' by Lee Harris. I haven't got to the book just yet but I did a search on Lee Harris and found many of the themes in his essays on this website: (To read Lee Harris click here ). It's immediately clear where this site's politics lie. I've read most of Lee's material, some of it I can agree with and some of it I definitely disagree with. I didn't however, find his material all that earth shaking or significant. But that is not really the point.
One of the things I have noted about the complaint about green (postmodernism) being the root cause of the undermining of blue and orange values is that it is precisely the same argument that conservatives and neoconservatives make about progressives/liberals.
The danger for the integral movement lies in being lured into the conservative camp by failing to maintain a proper objective distance. I know I can be accused of being biased in favour of the left but I really am open to any convincing argument. It's just that I haven't been presented with many so far.
I am however, concerned that the integral movement will get caught up in the neoconservative movement. It is immediately attractive on a superficial level – former leftists espousing conservative ideas can have an integral ring to it. But it is equally possible that their reconversion might be based on false premises.
The integral movement needs to be careful of another factor. The previous levels resist the transformation to the next level. This means that orange will attack green in defence. This is what is behind the conservative attack on the progressive agenda. The danger here is that the good, and the evolutionary necessity, of green gets thwarted by a conservative backlash. The integral movement may be unwittingly aiding this process by unduly criticizing green. It must be remembered that we are only at the beginning stages of the green wave. The techno-industrial base, the political economy, is still at a peculiar mix of blue and orange. We really have not even begun to experience a green techno-industrial stage.
Spiral health will be aided by allowing green to do its evolutionary work.
I am also concerned that some people in the integral movement are still largely identified with orange values and have not really gone through green. Sure, they understand integral on a theoretical level, but they have not really thought it all through. Thus transitory orange values creep back in as 'enduring' values.
In this next section I want to answer some specific points.
The leading line of evolutionary development in human culture is morality.
I disagree. Ken has specifically stated that no one line can claim pre-eminence (Integral Psychology, CW Vol 4, pg 455).
But where modernist consciousness has failed to adequately develop, poverty and corruption are often the norm.
Hmm, and I suppose the US does not experience poverty and corruption? This statement is manifestly false and something of a slur on non-modernist societies.
It is therefore necessary to provide for a sustainable modernism that can serve as a channel of evolution for pre-modern consciousness — an economic system wherein individuals can decide what to produce and can accumulate reasonable amounts of private property.
If you followed my article on political economy you will see that I quite clearly argue that the core needs of all levels must be met. But we should not assume that the best way to do that is through the mechanism of the 'free' market.
Postmodern politics are the politics of protest.
This is so unbelievably ignorant of history that is just plain silly. Protest has always been in existence. It is not a particular feature of postmodernism. Let's begin with the eponymous Protestant movement, then to the enclosure riots of England, the protests of the suffragettes, the protests of the anti-slavery movement, the protests of the anti-child prostitution movement, the protests of the French revolutionaries, the protests of the civil rights movement, etc, etc, etc…. What you are doing here Steve, is simply repeating the conservative cliché that the left are, well, shrill and negative, that they only ever complain and never propose workable solutions.
But for integral politics to achieve its transcendent destiny, it must relinquish a certain degree of loyalty to the left… To the extent that leftist ideologies fail to acknowledge the legitimacy of these previous stages, they must be abandoned by an integral politics.
The politics of the left should only be abandoned if they are shown to be wrong.
For a healthy version of moderated modernism to thrive, individual economic freedom and entrepreneurial opportunities must be preserved. But this is not something that state-controlled economies have done well. In fact, Mr. Harris's obvious contempt for business reveals his ongoing loyalty to the politics of postmodernism — a loyalty that must be partially relinquished for integralism to be fully embraced. The whole point of the integral worldview is to move beyond the idea of “old paradigm bad, new paradigm good”— yet this is an important part of the identity of the left. This power-generating stance of antithesis served a useful function when postmodernism held the position at the cutting edge of evolution. However, now that this stage is maturing, as we are called to participate in the next great phase of human history, we need to move beyond the vilifications of modernism for which the left is famous.
This paragraph contains so many errors. It simply amounts to an ad hominem attack on the left. You have created your own straw man, your own fantasy 'left', your own half-baked characterisation, and then attacked it without actually addressing the specific arguments. No Steve, 'old paradigm bad, new paradigm good' is NOT an 'important part of the identity of the left'. And no, the left is NOT famous for 'the vilification of modernism.' The left is actually an important part of the modernist movement. In fact the left is so broad that it is a multi-level phenomenon.
You also make the classic mistake of equating the left with state-controlled economies. I'm sorry, but this is just plain ignorant. I said above that years of propaganda in the US have left many with the impression that Stalinist and Maoist 'communism' is what the left advocates. The reality is that as soon as the atrocities of these systems were exposed most of the left abandoned their support for them in droves and then became vocal critics. Significant sections of the left never supported them to begin with. You set up a false dichotomy – either 'command economies' or the 'free market'. There are many more options than that. In fact most nations favour 'mixed' economies.
And I am very amused at the statement 'when postmodernism held the position at the cutting edge'. Given that you conflate green and postmodernism I need to remind you that Ken has stated that the green wave has only been in existence for thirty years whereas the previous orange wave has been in existence for around three hundred. This can give us some perspective. The 'leading edge' is the 'leading edge' – in other words, the highest achieved level – which is actually well beyond yellow at this time. It ain't the Integral movement, despite it's narcissistic and self-inflated tendency to promote itself as the 'leading edge'. The point is that after only thirty years the green wave has only just begun to do its work. Talk to me in a hundred years when the average mix of the US is predominantly green – or do we magically skip the green wave altogether and simply promote orange as the new yellow?
Integral World Government
In the past year I have been working with the Australian Greens as the convenor of the Global Issues Group. One of the things we have been very concerned with is the state of the various global governance bodies, the UN, the WTO, the various multi-lateral organisations and agreements, NGO's, etc, etc. We have developed policies of reform and are working with interested parties on a number of fronts.
The Greens of course, are a global organisation. We are already 'doing' the difficult politics of global governance. In 2005 there will be a conference in Japan to establish an Asia-Pacific federation of Green parties. And in 2002 Australia hosted a global Greens conference.
Steve, I can't sign your petition because I think your model is problematic on a number of fronts – especially the tricameral structure. Certainly your response has not given me the confidence that you really understand the issues. I'm sorry, I know it's a harsh statement, but it's a frank and honest one.
Instead, I invite you to investigate what is already being done in this area – rather than start a new proposal. I suggest you sign on to some of those and work from within. You will find that many people working in this area are already integral and quite sophisticated thinkers – even if they've never heard of Ken's work or the Integral Institute.
Ray Harris July 2004