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

Integral politics

Already in his early book Up from Eden (1981), Wilber observed that the familiar Left Wing / Right Wing political spectrum could be understood as two opposite but complementary ways of explaining human misery.

Left Wing theorists tend to explain human misery by outer causes: the structure of society, mechanisms of oppression, capitalism and imperialsm, unequal opportunities in education for the lower classes, etc. Right Wing theorists point to inner causes: laziness, lack of character and effort, the incomplete use of human talent and capacities. In the Left Wing worldview, people live in misery because they did not have equal chances in life; in the Right Wing view they do because they just did not try hard enough.

In the American political landscape, the Democrats are the Left Wing party; the Republicans represent the Right Wing party. Leftists tend to stress the value of free thought, and material wellfare, rightists praise family life, often in a conventional-religious setting.

In Holland, this spectrum as a whole seems to have moved to the Left: the Dutch Right is called liberal and conservative; the Dutch Left is called socialist (which seems non-existent in the US). Family values and religion are stressed by the Christian Democratic middle party. What is interesting about the Dutch political landscape, is the existence of a non-religious middle party, called Democrats '66, who try to integrate both Left Wing and Right Wing ideas in a Third Way.

To this familiar division of Left and Right, Wilber adds the idea of development. The conservative Republicans represent his mythic-membership stage of human development, in which one's relationship to common religious values is central. The liberal Democrats represent a higher stage of development: the rational-egoic stage, which stresses independent thinking and freedom (and, unfortunately, also materialism). In Wilbers opinion, the liberal position is deeply ambiguous, because although it is itself the product of development, it often denies the possibility of human development, as a result of its outward orientation.

The ideal combination of Left Wind and Right Wing elements would include both the centrality of spiritual values (no longer constrained by mythical religion, but inspired by mystical spirituality) and the acknowledgement of the process of human development. It can be characterized as a mystical humanisme, a mystical marxism, or a liberal mysticism.

A third political dimension is the degree in which individual freedom or the larger structure of society is seen as primary. This leads to a Four Quadrant view of politics, encompassing the Free Left (Upper Right), Order Left (Lower Right), Free Right (Upper Left) and Order Right (Lower Left) movembent. For an explanation of the Four Quadrants, click here.

See also: "Dimensions of Integral Politics", an essay by Greg Wilpert.

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