Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber

Bryan O'DohertyBryan O'Doherty is an entrepreneur, writer/blogger, husband and father of three. He grew up in Portland Oregon (US) and graduated from Portland State University with degrees in Architecture and Japanese. He currently lives in the Pacific Northwest. You can read more from him on his blog at


PANARCHY: The Integral Social Matrix

Bryan O'Doherty

In my previous paper [Panarchy: The Political Paradigm of an Integral Society] I introduced a vision of Panarchy as a potential Integral Political Paradigm. In this paper I want to explore that vision further and offer some brief examples of how I think such a society might emerge. I would also like to explore the proposed visions of other Integral Thinkers and contrast them to my own. In this way I hope to further encourage a meaningful dialog and root out the true nature of not only Integral Politics and Economics, but the most “healthy form” of Integral Society.


Previously I made the case that government (and by extension, politics) is a social pathology. I will briefly recap that argument here. My premise is that if individual man, as an independent holon, has basic moral value X, then the basic moral value of all men in society must also be X. Where this does not occur, pathology results. In concrete terms, if murder is immoral, then it must be immoral for all men, regardless of circumstance or “costume.” This idea has significant implications in terms of government. Because it implies that everything the government does is immoral, simply because of the means by which government operates, (i.e. via coercion).

I suspect that this problem creates a sort of cognitive dissonance in the mind of the developing centaur. As the worldview of the witness transcends orange and begins to integrate green into his or her framework, the hypocrisy of the state's stratified system of morality begins to become evident. Even if the witness does not articulate the feeling, or fails to attribute it to the state itself, none-the-less, by the time the pluralistic worldview is fully integrated into the consciousness of the witness, I would expect this to be the basis of a significant moral conflict with the means of the state. Thus we see that it is overwhelmingly the Green vMeme at the forefront of protestations against the wrongs of government; police violence, war, violations of civil liberties and privacy, as these are the most directly overt of the state's coercive actions.

However it must be remembered that the Green vMeme is not particularly anti-state. In fact I think there is a tendency by Green to want to use the government to enforce pluralism and egalitarianism on society, just as there is a tendency for Orange to want to use the government to further national corporate and economic interests, and a tendency for Blue to want to use government to further impose traditional values on society, etc.. That is the nature of 1st Tier politics as we know it. Each vMeme will attempt to use the machinery of government to enforce their worldview on society at the expense of all other vMemes. This is because, as we know and as SDi (Graves-Beck-Wilber) teaches us, all 1st Tier vMemes see their worldview as the only valid one.

Therefore, it is my position that an Integral society simply cannot follow this same pattern and take on the label “2nd Tier” with a straight face. An Integral Political Paradigm therefore must be non-political, it must be non-governmental, non-coercive, it must include all other vMemes in an integrated whole and must do so without alienating any of them. We must remove politics from the new paradigm completely so that what we have remaining is just society in it's purest form; an Integral Social Matrix. This is Panarchy.


Several integral thinkers have proposed models categorizing various modern political ideologies with respect to how they correspond to SDi. I would like to explore these and then offer my own model.

First let us look at the model proposed by Don Beck in “Stages of Social Development.” This has formed the basis for most integral thinking on politics and gives a very accurate, although I think incomplete, picture of 1st Tier ideologies.

I say incomplete simply because I think Beck's model lacks a couple of dimensions in my view. First it does not account for agentic/communal expressions of each stage/wave. Thus it leaves out many modern political ideologies. Secondly, it does not include a parallel developmental path for societies in a non-governmental (panarchic) framework. In other words, the model provided by Beck seems to assume that society cannot exist in the absence of government (or some other form of coercive order), that government is the only way for society to organize itself, when it fact that is not the case.

Below is my alternate model. Here each wave or stage has both an agentic and communal expression (I have used modern terms, i.e. “Dictatorship” which can include specific types such as “Monarchy” or “Feudal Empire”). Additionally each wave has a non-governmental, non-coercive (healthy) expression.

Some, such as Ray Harris for example, may be surprised that I have placed the libertarian political ideology in the “Green” wave. As Harris points out, libertarianism is somewhat of an American phenomenon (a culture that leans toward the agentic in any case). He notes that the American Integral community's disposition toward libertarianism “colours the integral movement with distinct Orange biases and prejudices.” (Harris, 2003)

In fact libertarianism's roots are not only found in America, but in late 19th century Austria and France, with the “Austrian Economists.” Men such as Fredric Bastiat, Jean-Baptist Say, Carl Menger, Ludwig Von Mises, and Friedrich Hayek are the forefathers of libertarian political ideology. These men and their ideas emerged at the same time as Marx, Engles, Proudhoun, and Bakunin. Both are in response to the 19th century horrors of the mean Orange vMeme, they are respectively agentic and communal expressions of the same Green stage/wave.

In the (LR) quadrant of AQAL one starts in Orange as a centrist Republican or Democrat (in the US), then one becomes a (Green) libertarian or socialist, and finally a (Yellow) anarchist (or simply a-political). But you know you have fully transcended into the Integral (LR) when one day having considered yourself an “anarcho-socialist” or an “anarcho-capitalist” you suddenly have the epiphany that it doesn't really matter if you are a socialist or a capitalist as long as you are anti-state (and thus anti-coercion) the two are simply different (but equally valid) expressions of the same wave. In a Panarchy, where voluntarism is the rule, socialist communes, and capitalist agora can exist peacefully side by side.

So while Harris is correct to point out that Marx's communism should not be ignored, he should also consider that not everyone wants to live in a commune, and thus there is nothing inherently “integral” about communism (nor about agorism). As he very astutely points out; “Politics is economics and economics is politics. The two cannot be separated.” (Harris, 2004). It would seem to me then, that an integral political economy would honor both communism and agorism, both communal and agentic expressions of economics as well as other modes, such a gift economies, simple barter, etc. as valid and worthy of a place in the overall framework.


I don't mean to single out Harris. In fact I think he and I are in agreement on a great many more things than not. I found his piece, “Is the Third Way Really Integral?” (Harris, 2003) to be a brilliant critique of the whole idea that 'third way' politics is somehow integral (hint: it's not). The whole 'third way' idea, was championed initially by Don Beck and Ken Wilber. The third way, claimed Beck, “is neither a centralist or compromise position, but an entirely new direction in national politics.” (Beck, 1999) To which Harris correctly responded, “no, bluntly. The 'third way' is simply a shift to the centre-right. [I would add, “or center-left depending on perspective”] It is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a transcendence and inclusion of a previous level. It is simply a horizontal juggling of policy priorities to capture the electoral middle ground.” (Harris, 2003). I couldn't agree more.

The folly of 'third way' thinking has led some integral thinkers to propose grand top-down schemes for 'Integral' world government. Steve McIntosh's “Integral World Federation” is one such scheme, and he even urges the integral community to sign “A Declaration of the Value of Global Governance,” (McIntosh, 2004). The only 'value' in global governance will be realized by the 'global governors' while the rest of us become even further enslaved.

McIntosh is not alone. H.B. Augustine's 'Integral World Government,' which he describes at length in his papers, “Integral Politics; An Introduction to Integral Government” and “Integral Politics; An Introduction to Integral Economy” literally had me pulling my hair out as I read them. Right off the bat he makes blatantly false assumptions about the purpose of government. According to Augustine “government emerged in the first place because humans wished to end the state of nature marking the course of social affairs. We can see that government began as a way to repress the animal-instinct causing humans to kill one another and to think only for themselves,” (Augustine, Nov. 2009).

We can almost be certain that was not the case at all. The historical record clearly shows that the first 'governments' were the result of one tribe conquering another, then another, then another, in an effort to gain access to resources (territory) and slaves. Regardless of the 'supposed' purpose of government recorded in the proclamations of various rulers throughout history, the actual purpose of government can be easily and plainly seen simply by looking at history through an a-perspectival lens (this means also dropping the ingrained assumption that government is inherently necessary for civil society at all).

Once this is done it is easy to see that government is simply a means of control; a tool which the various 1st tier vMemes have historically fought over to ensure that their worldview reigns supreme. Government has done nothing to repress the “animal instinct” that Augustine refers to (I know of no animal that kills its own kind on a scale similar to humans). In fact, government has historically made killing other people more efficient and in nearly all cases government sanctifies the act of killing other human beings either 'for the Great Leader!' (Red) or 'for the Motherland!' (Blue) or 'for Freedom!' (Orange) or 'to free the oppressed!' (Green). The justification is irrelevant to the victims.

Augustine then proposes a new purpose of government;

“Let us see the purpose of government as allowing for the most efficient evolution of the human species as possible. The purpose of government is to raise collective awareness. It is the mission of those fortunate enough to be at a relatively greater level of awareness to help those not so fortunate, who are at relatively lower levels of awareness, in order for them to experience the quality of living that the others exclusively have. ...Similarly, the purpose of government is to help humanity as much as possible. The appropriate question, then, is why does it seem government simply does not meet such a standard?” (Augustine, Nov. 2009).

In answer to that question I would urge Augustine to look at the means of government. Government is not a voluntary institution, entered into and maintained by the free will of the people. The ultimate means of government are propaganda (the mean green meme), coercion (the mean orange meme), force (the mean blue meme), and violence (the mean red meme). How can government help humanity, raise collective awareness, or aid in the efficient evolution of the species if it must resort to pathological means in order to do so? The important question Augustine must ask is how can government be integral at all if its means are rooted firmly in the 'mean' expressions of the 1st Tier?


Augustine's solution to the problems of 1st Tier governments is to institute a Global 2nd Tier government.

A world government is necessary for obvious intuitive reasons. The more globalized humanity becomes, the more interdependent it becomes. Because of this increasing global connectivity, humanity will eventually be required to form a means of organizing such potential harmony for the sake of achieving actual harmony. Rational-legal governments cannot comply with a world government because the former is 1st-tier, while the latter is 2nd-tier. A world government, by definition, is a global organization founded on holisticity—as opposed to something such as the United States, which, by definition, is a national organization founded on linearity. In order for humanity to achieve world governance—which is what will be imperative—it is necessary that we shed the old skin of rational-legal philosophy and incorporate the new layer that pertains to the Integral paradigm. (Agustine, Nov. 2009)

This is how the Mean Yellow Meme will be born. The lure of a Global Integral Utopia, a government inspired by 2nd Tier wisdom, will be too strong for many of those already conditioned to blindly accept the pathology of government. The MYM will be capable of using all of the tools of the 1st Tier governments; propaganda, coercion, force, and violence, in targeted ways that only an integral understanding of the world will allow. Through the use of current and upcoming integral technologies, a global government will be able to enslave humanity more efficiently and completely than ever before.

And who would lead us into this brave new world? According to Augustine; “In sum, we can conclude this initial specification on Integral government by seeing that it will consist not of politicians, but of leaders. These leaders will be clearly centered most on Turquoise morally, creatively, cognitively, sociably, intrapersonally, and communicatively.” (Augustine, Nov. 2009). And how do we identify these 'leaders?' By testing them along all quadrants, lines, levels and states of course. In short, according to Augustine, the Integral New World Order will be ruled by an Integral Celestial Bureaucracy. This leadership will organize the world into a hierarchy of pathology from 'world government' to 'world-state' to 'nation-state' to 'state' to 'county' to 'city' to 'community' in a top down structure so alienated from the individual it is difficult to imagine how a person could relate to it at all.

This is not Transcendence and Inclusion, it is Usurpation and Alienation. It is LR quadrant pathology that will lead to human misery on a stupefying scale.

To simply support the weight of such a stratified system would require tremendous resources. Resources that will have to be taken from the population through the only means available to government. Because of the friction that is naturally caused between the ruling vMeme and all the other vMemes that will be compelled to support it, tremendous effort by government will be required to keep the population in line. The overall effect will be a sort of soft tyranny; a dystopian world where the slave/citizens are all made tame and happy by careful manipulation of the sort only those with a clear understanding of Integral theory will be able to implement.

Is that the path the Integral community wants to go down? Because by making bedfellows with 'Third Way' politicians and the current centers of power, that is where the integral community is currently headed. The prospects are, in my opinion, both frightening and incredibly sad.

There is another way. There is a way for society to function and flourish without the need of governmental systems of control. An integral world should be a world where people can develop to their full potential free from state sanctioned violence, force, coercion, propaganda, or manipulation. By the time society's center of gravity has shifted from Green to Yellow we should finally be ready to cast off the shackles and free ourselves of the last vestiges of human slavery.

This is how Panarchy truly transcends/includes all other 1st Tier ideologies. Panarchy itself is nothing but a framework, an agreement that depends entirely on the will of those residing in it. In order to be sustained the Panarchy demands that the social center of gravity as a whole must be at integral. If this is not the case it will not form. But that is not to say that those who share a 2nd Tier worldview must wait. There is much we can, and indeed must do now to prepare for the next paradigm shift.


Ray Harris's words are worth repeating, “politics is economics and economics is politics. The two cannot be separated.” The key to preparing for the next paradigm shift is through economics. The more that people take control of their own economic destiny, the less power the current pathological order will have.

We can all do this now, today, by practicing Integral Economics. Integral Economics recognizes the validity and usefulness of various economic systems, from gift economies, to barter, cooperatives, to communes, to marketplaces (including black or underground markets, white or unregulated markets, and red or regulated markets). We are all most familiar with the traditional “red” or regulated market. This is what you participate in when you go to the grocer, or get paid by your employer, or file your taxes. This is the only economy recognized and authorized by the government, yet we all know of and have undoubtedly participated in other forms of exchange.

It is these 'other' forms of exchange, which SEK3 called 'the counter economy,' that must form the backbone of humanity's transcendence into a healthy integral society. It is our imperative, as the early adopters of the 2nd tier worldview to foster the healthy development and growth of counter-economics, so that as more people reach the integral worldview they will have the infrastructure to participate in a truly integral economic and social framework.

As much as is safely possible, the Integral Community should encourage the use of alternative forms of exchange; give and receive gifts, the gift of your produce, your services, or your knowledge will always be repaid ten fold either in similar gifts from others or in karma, establish local bartering networks, pay for goods and services in cash or in kind, and receive the same for your own goods and services. Volunteer your time or your money directly to the causes that move you. As much as possible keep your dealings out of the regulated marketplace, and reserve that as only a showpiece. Support the pathology of government as little as is possible, and if possible not at all. A strong and vibrant counter-economy will act as a social immune system, weakening the pathology of government until its continuance becomes untenable.


Let's assume we live in a country called “Greentopia.” Greentopia is a developed Social Democracy with a LR center of gravity at (you guessed it) Green, with a huge government consuming nearly 60% of its GDP, the economy is faltering. Greentopia's social pension, healthcare, education, environmental protection and welfare programs are running out of funding. The middle class is struggling under the burden of high taxation and underemployment, the population is growing older, and the birthrate is hovering at just above 1 child per household. Most of the wealthy Greentopians, hide their wealth in the nearby “Republic of Orange,” in order to avoid the progressive tax rates that would confiscate 90% of the true value of their estates. Greentopia is thus in crisis.

But Greentopia is also home to an increasingly larger population of people with an Integral worldview. Many of these people have formed networks among themselves using Greentopia's sophisticated communications systems, or simply by creating local p2p networks. These integral Greentopians are of all types; farmers, builders, lawyers, software engineers, nurses, doctors, etc., and they all participate in counter-economics with others in their networks. Trading or giving or receiving each-other's goods and services in whatever manner seems most appropriate to them, but always outside of Greentopia's highly taxed and regulated market.

These iGreentopians are able to buy and sell and give and receive their goods and services at drastically reduced cost than is typical in Greentopia. In addition, these iGreentopians find that the more they base their economic activity in the counter economy, the more time they have. Having lifted the burden of providing half of their productive effort to supporting the Greentopian government, they have time to volunteer, raise their own children or watch their neighbor's, care for their elderly family members, help the less fortunate, teach the ignorant, care for their local commons.

Over time, word of mouth spreads and the counter-economic networks multiply in number, size and complexity as more people are attracted by the variety, lower cost, and person to person relationships that counter-economics encourages. Greentopia's tax base shrivels and it's social programs fall apart.

But not all is lost. Because the integral counter-economy also provides the services that Greentopia can no longer afford. It simply does so in more efficient and diverse ways. The elderly return to the care of their adult children or the many volunteers who are moved to help them. Children are educated either at their homes, the home of a neighbor or at a variety of very affordable or even free schools run by volunteers. More and more aspects of the failing Greentopian government are taken over by the emerging counter-economy.

But the leaders of Greentopia are not going to let their government fall without a fight. They begin persecuting those who participate in the counter-economy. They harass and imprison many. But by then it is too late. The counter-economists have formed means for their own protection against theft and kidnapping. There are several companies offering insurance and protection services, and those who live in communes, also have formed protective alliances. Greentopia is so weakened by it's own limitations, and the counter-economy has become so strong that it can no longer afford to fight it's own citizens. As the Greentopian government falls, the Panarchy is born. From there it spreads across the world.

Will the future happen as I have described? Not exactly, no. I'm not smart enough to have all the specific answers, and that's not the point. The point is that the Integral Community has a clear moral imperative to change the nature of how society is organized and to remove from the LR quadrant the pathologies of the 1st tier orders. To do this does not require a massive centralized movement. All that is required is that individuals start to 'walk the integral walk.' Create the communities that you desire to live in. Foster the type of lifestyle that you know is right. Use available and upcoming communications technologies and organize your own integral networks and meshworks. There is no reason for us to wait until a new political paradigm is handed down to us. Working within the pathological system will only produce pathological results. We can create the new paradigm now in our own lives, through our own initiative. Integrate your daily personal economic activity with your worldview, with your external environment, with your spirit, and you will become a seed from which the Integral Social Matrix will emerge.


H.B. Augustine (2009) Integral Politics; An Introduction to Integral Government,

Don Beck (2000) The Stages of Social Development,

Ray Harris (2003) Is the Third Way Really Integral?,

Ray Harris (2004) Thoughts Towards an Integral Political Economy,

Steve McIntosh (2004) World Federation; A Transcendent Vision of Integral Consciousness,

Comment Form is loading comments...