Earlier I outlined a bit of what my problems are with the standard line of what an “integral politic” looks like from the perspective of many of the foremost thinkers of integral theory.  Before moving forward I want to ensure that I’m being entirely clear: though I used Corey deVos’ recent post on Holons.com as the subject of my criticism, my critique is neither personal against Corey (who I do not know at all and who seems, from his response to my first installment, to be quite intelligent and decent) nor confined to his article whatsoever.  His piece argues for and follows the same logic as many, if not all, of the visions of an integral politic that I’ve seen from the field and my disagreement is with all of them.  A little more than a month ago I downloaded and read the excerpt from Ken Wilber’s upcoming publication in which he outlines very similar ideas, and it has been my intention ever since (well, actually since way before hand, but the motivation started up after reading Wilber’s piece) to add my contributions to this conversation.  

For starters though, lets make sure that we all agree with what the standard idea of integral politics gets right.  Most importantly, integral theory- Second Tier, Teal & Turquoise Altitude perspectives- quite rightly recognizes the importance (and relative truth) of all stages of development.  This extends to the political arena.  However, as I quoted Ken Wilber saying in the first Part of this (and as I will probably refer to often throughout) Integral politics is one of the most seriously difficult issues to ponder.  This fact is easily demonstrated.  For instance, when we notice a society or nation which engages in some horrific culture of  human oppressions (be that sexist values, institutionalized homophobia or xenophobia, genocide, etc) we would be foolish to ignore or even justify such violence and bigotry by comfortably declaring from afar “that’s just the stage of development they are at.”  This is obviously post-modern little narrative-ism, and is at best the unhealthy relativism of the Green meme.  Taken to an even further extreme, we must recognize that the last half of the Twentieth Century and the beginning of the Twenty-First Century has seen, for the first time in all of history, the development and proliferation of weapons so powerful- capable of literally destroying the entire planet- that are in the hands, or at least the reach, of individuals and State’s who’s world-view rests in dangerously narcissistic, often magical or mythical based, short-sighted, pre-rational perspectives.  This is and must be recognized as wholly unacceptable.  Along these same lines, the Industrialization of the so-called “Western countries” over the past 150 or so years has brought the planet to the brink of environment collapse, also unprecedented in known history.  No scientific model exists which sees room for the further industrialization of the second wave of nations (China, India, Brazil) who are now on the precipice of a paradigm shift into Orange/Orange-Green’s highest economic conclusion (i.e., liberal capitalism).  I’ll speak further on the limitations of the “greening” of our technologies in Part 3 of this ramble.

So we’ve hardly touched the surface and already we’re bogged-down in a confounding challenge to an integral politic: the recognition of the value, worth, and necessity of all stages of development juxtaposed against the often horrific, oppressive, and destructive capacities of the First Tier Altitudes.  Coupled with the unprecedented capacities of destruction (through unsound environmental practices and military weapons, among others) now available to pre-rational individuals and societies, it is no wonder that many would arrive at the conclusion that those who demonstrate an advanced awareness and consciousness should have some sort of influential seat at the political table.  I hope to be able to show that this is precisely the wrong conclusion.

I notice that recently Ken Wilber posted on his blog a segment from his 1999 book The Marriage of Sense and Soul in which he offers us “Some Thoughts on Integral Politics”.  As others have pointed out, it is somewhat surprising how incredibly U.S.-centric these musings are; not only that, it is obvious that Ken is paying little attention to the long-view of political history, identifying problems and offering solutions that are not only U.S.-specific but also seeking to figure out that best way to manage the U.S. State only within the confines of liberal capitalism and it’s electoral system of ‘representative democracy’.  Of course, there is a time and place for such a conversation- after all, the here and now is a U.S. State of liberal capitalism.  Within this context, I think Ken is fairly on the mark with his assessment of the American liberal and conservative elements (i.e., the liberal’s exterior quadrant vantage versus the conservative’s interior quadrant vantage, as well as his assessment of the conservative’s relatively healthy lower Altitude versus the liberal’s unhealthy higher Altitude).

One of the problems I have with this approach is its failure to try and place liberal capitalism (sometimes called neo-liberalism or neo-conservative-ism) into a larger historical context.  Likewise, this approach fails to ask questions or challenge assumptions to power-relationships: between individuals, societies, wealth, labor, institutions, and the like.  This is not a-typical, but is somewhat disappointing coming from a mind that is clearly capable of incredible reflection and analysis.

I have two opinions about the source of this failure (which by no means is limited to Ken’s writings about an integral politic, or to integral political thinking in general).  First, in setting-out to address the problems of the modern political world, there is of course a certain pragmatism to addressing the immediate weaknesses and failings of the system with attempts to reform, to transcend and include, the system itself as it is.  For what it is, this is fair enough.  My hope though is to show that what it is is not enough; not for solving our current crisis’ and problems.  This approach may help solve the immediate problems of the day (which certainly needs to happen) but fails to address the more long-term problems of power, wealth, security, freedom and liberation (in all these I’m referring to both the individual and collective forms).

Second, most if not all of the preeminent thinkers from anti-capitalist perspectives have identified the inherently non-revolutionary nature of individuals who reside in the upper economic and social classes (I’ll get to why and what form of revolution I think is necessary in Part 3 of this inquiry).  There are of course plenty examples through history of so-called class traitors who are recognized to have transcended their immediate security and comfort and privilege in order to advocate- sometimes quite passionately- for an end to the very system which provided them with their privilege and (economic) security (ironically, it is often their upper class standing which provided these individuals with the education and the means to study human nature and history and come to the conclusion that the class system is abhorrent).

So a truly integral politic must be capable of allowing and even nurturing the most healthy manifestations of each developmental stage, and must do so by integrating both the interior and exterior quadrants of human experience.  I hope to be able to show that this is most successfully accomplished by the principles of libertarian-socialism (note: while I do not necessarily agree with the entirety of this link, or its author’s overall conclusions, I find it nonetheless to be a very decent introduction to the idea of libertarian-socialism, especially for those wholly unfamiliar with the term).  Further, I hope to be able to show that a truly Second-Tier consciousness must hold the values and goals of this politic in order to remain consistent with the spiritual and intellectual claims that arise from it.  

For, with all the talk from integral thinkers about an “enlightened leadership” I find it curious that such enlightenment would fail to recognize the horror and folly (the destructive, unhealthy tendencies) of a system of dominator hierarchies which justifies and perpetuates such leadership roles.  In Part 3 I (hopefully) will conclude with just what I mean by libertarian-socialism and how I believe it is a truly integral, Second-Tier politic.  I will also try to put this perspective against what is typical (and quite often inaccurate) from many of the leading thinkers in the field.  As well, I will use this politic to place into context much of what has so far been embraced by integral thinkers (most often, the acceptance and even embracing of dominator hierarchies).

Post script: do to technical troubles, a good portion of the ending of this piece was lost just after I published it- I have patched together a quick fix but will have to re-hash much of it out in the third installment, which I promise to get out sooner rather than later).