Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Ken Wilber: Thought as Passion, SUNY 2003Frank Visser, graduated as a psychologist of culture and religion, founded IntegralWorld in 1997. He worked as production manager for various publishing houses and as service manager for various internet companies and lives in Amsterdam. Books: Ken Wilber: Thought as Passion (SUNY, 2003), and The Corona Conspiracy: Combatting Disinformation about the Coronavirus (Kindle, 2020).


An Integral
Political Analysis of
the US 2008 Elections

And Some Further Comments

Frank Visser

Obama includes more of his opponent's viewpoints, then vice versa.

On the recently released Integral Life website, two video presentations on integral politics, or rather, integral political analysis, have been published, which deserve the widest attention. One might say, finally, the integral community has found a way to present integral concepts to a larger audience, but stripped of all meme-talk and self-congratulatory vocabulary.

These presentations, compiled (or just posted?) by Corey W. deVos and Clint Fuhs, can be found there:

  • A Tale of Four Americas: A Brief Summary of An Integral Approach to Politics (Video)
  • Obama and McCain: Seeing Through the Talking Points (Video)

Highly recommended!

The first presentation explains that, contrary to the common notion that America is internally divided between Republicans and Democrats, there are in fact four large sections in the US society:

  • Traditional Conservatives
  • Modern Conservatives
  • Modern Liberals
  • Post-Modern Liberals

Furthermore, political orientiations can be analysed along three dimensions:

  • Externalist vs. Internalist
  • Individualistic vs. Collectivistic
  • Progressive vs. Conservative

On the whole, one would expect the political Left to be externalist, collectivistic and progressive, whereas the political Right is internalist, individualistic and conservative. But the political landscape is much more varied and complicated, as this presentation shows.

The second presentation gives a speech analysis of the two acceptance speeches given by Obama and McCain, scoring their statements along integral dimensions of analysis. The numeric presentation given in the video presentation cries out for some graphic visualisations, given below:

Diagram 1

With this more visual presentation, it can be argued that Obama has a wider reach across the political spectrum, so could in theory appeal to more people and as a consequence win the coming elections.

Diagram 2

Likewise, both presidential candidates show elements of both three dimensions, but in all three dimensions, Obama includes more of his opponent's viewpoints, then vice versa.

Diagram 3

And thirdly, a vertical stage conception as given in the above diagram shows that rationality/modernity is the common ground between the two Conservative and Liberal worlds. (I am using the original Spiral Dynamics colors here).

some further comments

So what counts as progressive in one era, grows into a conservative force in later times.

Of course, these data are only tentative, and should not be understood as having any final scientific validity. One would like to know how the speeches were scored, if more then one person did the scoring, and if so, if there was agreement among these persons. And of course, the political orientication of the researchers would be a matter of interest as well.

From a more distant perspective, one would ask: does this analysis mean that the more integral a candidate, the more likely it is that he/she will win the elections? But can one really please everybody? Isn't politics about making choices that are mutually exclusive? (Cut taxes or raise them?).

What are the political implications of this analysis—if there any at all? Should there be a third party, a merger of Democrats and Republicans, a Third Way? Will that ever work in the US? Every third party will always weaken the one most close to itself (e.g. a Green party will weaken the Democrats and indirectly give support to a Republican victory). That is truly a political dead end. So where does that leave us? Will the elections just reflect whatever stage and typology is present in American citizens?

Also, how US-centric is this scheme? For example in The Netherlands, we have a strong middle party (largely Christian, but some have tried a third-way variety of sorts). What is more intruiging, in our country liberals are seen as conservatives (the socialists being the progressives). Apparently, what counts as progressive in one era, grows into a conservative force in later times. This has happened to all progressive initiatives in history: kingdoms vs. warlords, liberals ("Left") vs. kingdoms, socialists vs. liberals ("Right"), greens vs. socialists, and so on... That is something Wilber has noted as well, but to my knowledge he hasn't applied this yet to the American political landscape, especially in relation to the world at large, outside the US. We are still waiting for a Wilber publication on this topic that is informed enough to really have a gobal impact.

So, a good initiative indeed—long, long overdue, and hopefully the start of a serious integral political discourse.

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