In the highest peak of meta-physical moments reported by human experience is described a world of completely intangible wholeness and perfection.  Not much beyond an awe-inspiring unfolding of pure beauty and splendor exists in the realm of pure knowing, of the moment of I-Am-I, where language fails as we admit to everything and nothing with declarations of “I Am God” or “I Am Nothing” in our only possible notion of relaying such a wonder to the skeptics who ask.  And it is from this experience, and the knowledge of it, that many people have come to develop and embrace an integral theory which seeks to recognize this Great Web of Existence and put-forth a way of being, in this world, which allows for the most Wholeistic and authentic Self to be and develop.

Arguably, at least part of the purpose for developing such a theory- in Ken Wilber’s words, a true Theory of Everything, is to create a space, a dialogue both internal and external, where each and every one of us may find a home for our own beliefs, understandings, and experiences, and place them into the larger context of human experience and thought, and hopefully, begin to find ourselves transcending the altitudes that we can find ourselves often stuck languishing in.  In this way, integral theory itself can be seen, at least to some degree, to be a sincere attempt to help push (or pull, enable, drag, allow for) the highest development of each person on the planet in all the endeavors for which were made possible by the act of our birth.

Yet, curiously enough, it would seem that often the very language of integral itself is enough to turn many (if not most) people away and close them off to the exploration and acceptance of much of what an integral life has to offer.  The first paragraph above is enough to disinterest untold millions, perhaps billions, of people.  While it is true that a person at one particular stage of development will often be simply unable to understand or accept some descriptions of the Kosmos (religious Red can’t hear Orange science, Orange science often despises Green’s beginnings of a post-rational world, etc) it would seems that Second-Tier, integral perspectives are meant less to describe or preach for the world what a Wholeistic, integral universe looks like than to create a space where each of us may be best suited to develop and grow, to evolve, to such an understanding in our own natural progression.  If approached from this view, the material concerns of life- at any stage of development- begin to jump front and center at our collective impediment to growth.  It is here, among other places, that we arrive at what has sometimes been called the social question; namely, how do humans best come together in a manner, socially and externally, which allows for and provides for the greatest degree of individual, subjective happiness and health.

I am not meaning to elevate the exterior over the interior.  But what I am meaning to draw attention to is the interconnectedness of both spheres, and to note that while our internal spheres are quite capable of overcoming the seeming limitations placed on us from outside forces, it is nonetheless obvious that external limitations can and do have a dramatic effect on the individual’s ability to focus the time, energy, and intention often necessary (and certainly beneficial) to these deeper explorations of human life.

All of which leads many of us to wonder: what is an integral politic? what does (or would) such a thing look like, not only in theory but also in daily practice?  It is towards this question, one that I personally find under-appreciated and under-developed by many integral thinkers and those drawn to the discipline, that I turn much of my attention to.  Of course, there are countless ways in which an integral politic may be seen to manifest itself and and equal number of  ways which we may go about encouraging and developing such an idea and its practice.  But, as with all things, relativism must give way to a recognition that some things are more direct, more effective, and more to the point; some points are simply better, more efficient, or more root than others.  My central concern here is in the overall tact, the “big picture” of where an integral politic comes from and where it’s going.  While Wilber and others have made incredibly important observations and contributions to the development of a politic that is truly from a higher-consciousness, I feel that some of the conclusions that they have arrived at are lacking.  I will try to address some of the reasons I believe for this shortfall later on.

In Part 1 of this exploration, I noted a few of my main concerns and disagreements with the standard stab of what an “integral politic” looks like from the point of view of many in the field of integral theory.  In Part 2, I mentioned (very) briefly some of the key concepts from integral theory that we must be sure to put front and center here, because they are concepts that have seldom managed to make it to the conversation, especially amongst political and social theorists.  Now I’d like to try to explain why it is that I believe a second-tier, integral politic is best expressed through the ideas of libertarian-socialism.  To do this, I’m going to start by stepping back to look at the really big picture.

 

The Cause of Human Suffering?

If we take a moment to step back and wonder what all this talk about “politics” and “government” and “social systems” is all about, we might say that it is in fact all about everything.  It is about all of us, in whatever country we live but also all over the world; but then also it is about you or me, personally.  I am often astounded by some of those who embrace integral when I hear or read statements such as “I’m not interested in politics” or “I’m not political”; even more absurd, it’s not difficult to find those who somehow hold that their own individual “spiritual” pursuits are somehow of the only real import and meaning, and that all else is in fact of a “lessor” degree of meaning.  These perspectives strike me to be entirely void of the very “spirituality” and “oneness” that they claim to strive for or embody.  If there is truth to the Great Chain of Being, to I-Am-I, to the sheerly perfect chaotic order of the Kosmos (and I’d say of course there is), than it’s not hard in any way to see that my survival, and my maturation and evolution is explicitly intertwined with that of my neighbors, and with that of everyone else in my country and my hemisphere and in fact the planet.  Sooner or later we must arrive at the idea that any one person’s want and oppresssion and suffering- no matter the source, interior or exterior- is my own too; and that my own is that of future generations as well.

The leading integral thinkers are very right in pointing out that a truly integral politic is, well, integral in that it does not place more emphasis on interior and individual causes of human suffering than on exterior and social causes.  Wilber has also written, quite correctly, about the conservative, political right’s strong stance from a Red, mythical, traditional vantage which places suffering and its cure almost entirely on the individual and the political left’s typical orange to green place which sees suffering as a social failure, cured by mostly external interventions and solutions.

It would be impossible for me to claim that many of the leading thinkers from the far left, socialists, anarchists, and the like, have not fallen into the trap of blaming entirely external forces for the plight of the human condition.  But there are also many who do (and have) recognized the interconnection of these two forces, the internal and external aspects of human existence, and seen the ways in which both compliment as well as drag down one another.  The paradox could hardly seem to be understated, as we are so much, in so many ways a product of our environment; our culture, our families, our class, our religion.  Nonetheless, this does not cover-up our individual capacities and responsibilities.  About the manner in which the anarchist should approach this issue (note: throughout I will use the terms “anarchism” and “libertarian-socialism” interchangeably; as well, at this early stage I should be sure to note that the anti-authoritarian left has for well over 150 years been full of conflicting ideas and notions- such inconsistency should not be used to discredit the point of one author or another referred to here, but rather the specific example that I use should be taken at face value to reflect precisely the point in which I am making and can often be seen as my particular endorsement or agreement with one notion over another), Rudolf Rocker had this to say:

(Anarchism is not) a fixed, self-enclosed social system but rather a definite trend in the historic development of mankind, which, in contrast with the intellectual guardianship of all clerical and governmental institutions, strives for the free unhindered unfolding of all the individual and social forces in life.  Even freedom is only a relative, not an absolute concept, since it tends constantly to become broader and to affect wider circles in more manifold ways.  For the anarchist, freedom is not an abstract philosophical concept, but the vital concrete possibility for every human being to bring to full development all the powers, capacities, and talents with which nature has endowed him, and turn them to social account.  The less this natural development of man is influenced by ecclesiastical or political guardianship, the more efficient and harmonious will human personality become… (Anarchosyndicalism, reprinted in Chomsky, For  Reasons of State)

If we substitute some of the more politically-weighted words here Rocker’s statement almost becomes a declaration of all integral thought (“Integral is not a fixed, self-enclosed theory but rather a definite trend in the historic development of mankind…. etc) and I think we could do well to consider the importance of how his “anarchism” must therefore be placed into the context of integral theory.  Getting back to politics and social theory though: in regards to the above, Noam Chomsky had this to say:

One might ask what value there is in studying a “definite trend in the historic development of mankind” that does not articulate a specific and detailed social theory.  Indeed, many commentators dismiss anarchism as utopian, formless, primitive, or otherwise incompatible with the realities of a complex society.  One might, however, argue rather differently: that at every stage of history our concern must be to dismantle those forms of authority and oppression that survive from an era when they might have been justified in terms of the need for security or survival or economic development, but that now contribute to- rather than alleviate- material and cultural deficit.  

From an integral perspective, I find both the above quotes to be quite interesting.  As Chomsky notes, criticisms of anarchism’s “primitiveness” (not to be confused here with the primitivist school of neo-anarchism as espoused by Zerzan and other aspects of the so-called “green anarchist” movement, a perversion of the idea in my opinion) I can’t help but see a clear example of conventional thinking falling victim to the classic pre/trans fallacy.  But a careful reading of libertarian-socialist thought finds not a desire to subvert the conventional norms with pre-conventional solutions, but precisely the opposite: a desire for society to transcend and include the current state of our technology, our economic models, and our social relationships.

Likewise, many integral thinkers today who may not be familiar with much of the libertarian-left’s written history may find cause to smile at some of the ideas espoused by early anarchist thinker Michael Bakunin when he described his personal politic and understanding of anarchism this way:

I am a fantastic lover of liberty, considering it as the unique condition under which intelligence, dignity and human happiness can develop and grow; not the purely formal liberty conceded, measured out and regulated by the State, an eternal lie which in reality represents nothing more than the privilege of some founded on the slavery of the rest; not the individualistic, egoistic, shabby, and fictitious liberty extolled by the schools… of bourgeois liberalism, which considers the would-be rights of all men, represented by the State which limits the rights of each- an idea that leads inevitably to the reduction of the rights of each to zero.  No, I mean the only kind of liberty that is worthy of the name, liberty that consists in the full development of all the material, intellectual, and moral powers that are latent in each person; liberty that recognizes no restrictions other than those determined by the laws of our own individual nature, which cannot properly be regarded as restrictions since these laws are not imposed by any outside legislator beside or above us, but are immanent and inherent, forming the very basis of our material, intellectual and moral being- they do not limit us but are the real and immediate conditions of our freedom.  (La Commune  de Paris et la notion de l’etat, reprinted in Guerin, Anarchism)

Ok, so maybe Bakunin wasn’t the most eloquent writer.  But I for one read an incredibly important (and early- this was written in the 1800s) Teal perspective in the above.  Now, I’m not saying that Bakunin was necessarily firmly grounded in the Teal perspective- but certainly aspects of himself were there.  Though self-identified as an “atheist” (as most anarchists have historically, because of their rejection of the authority of the church and religious institutions) in the above passage Bakunin is urging that each and every person be allowed the liberty of social freedom as an inseparable end of developing and existing in a state of individual liberty; tying our individual Self to that of others, and recognizing nature, the Kosmos, as the only legitimate authority which we are obliged to yield to.

 

Integral Gets In Bed With Big Business, And In Doing So Embraces Dominator Hierarchies?

Admittedly, though I do try (with varying degrees of success) to follow my own Integral Life Plan, I do not have huge amounts of time and energy devoted to following closely all of the literature and developments within the field.  But in the cursory glances I do manage to take, I am often overwhelmed by the degree with which integral thinkers have embraced Big Business, even going as far as to consider it as some sort of possible savior for the often dire world we find ourselves a part of.  Now, I am not anti-business, nor do I personally find the root ideas of libertarian-socialism to be such (though many of my fellow “anarchists” have).  Personally, I see the necessary technological, medical, and agricultural innovations needed at this moment in time to be a very necessary contribution from today’s leading-edge corporations and institutions.  But the socio-economic ordering of capitalism (whether “free market” capitalism as espoused by the West or State-run capitalism, i.e., “communism” as espoused by the likes of China, Cuba, and the former U.S.S.R.) is at its very root, by its very definition, a social order of human exploitation- of systematic dominator hierarchies.  The “non-traditional” in-roads made by so-called “progressive”, “green”, or otherwise more “integral”-styled corporations and institutions, while a relatively welcome development, are nonetheless far from what I would consider to be truly “integral”.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is precisely the acceptance of- or the failure to recognize- the inherently unhealthy, domination-driven pathology of such relational constructs that an integral politic must be capable of confronting and putting in its rightful place- squarely in the First-Tier of human consciousness.

While I think it’s fair to note that CEO’s, businesses, and institutions which attempt to embrace integral concepts are desirable, it seems folly to me to see this as much more than window-dressing.  In fact, anti-capitalist thinkers have long noted that such “green” or “progressive” aspects of capitalism do in fact as much harm as good (I’m not interested here- or elsewhere, for that matter- in exploring whether or not such things are “more harmful”, “somewhat harmful”, or relatively “less harmful though nonetheless harmful” than more conventional capitalist models) in that they offer us a degree of “see, we’re getting better and we embrace a sustainable, Wholeistic world” while covering-up for the fact that they are nonetheless institutions which function largely or entirely on the notion of gain and accumulation for some on the backs of others- at the exploitation of labor, the economic and social domination– of others.

To be clear, I am not espousing a vision for an eventual utopian world in which everyone gets paid the same, in which all “leadership” is frowned upon, and in which the exemplary talents of some are not recognized for the sake of some sort of relativistic “equality” (again, a stance taken by many so-called “anarchists”).  But I find the institutionalized authority and power of some over that of the greater whole of society to be, well, not only morally repugnant, but at it’s base little more than the most “sacred” and entrenched pathology of human history- the acceptance of dominator hierarchies which serves men over women, rich over poor, whites over coloreds, North and West over South and East, not to mention straights over LGBTs, popular over minority and ultimately some over most.

 

A Word (Or Two) On Electoralism

Many self-identified anarchists and other anti-authoritarians have put a great deal of effort into debating the system of elections and their proper place (useful? antiquated? a lie?).  Personally, I find such a conversation to be neither here nor there.  Boycott elections, symbolically participate, actively take part- in the end, none of these actions will have much effect on the overall system of domination hierarchies which uses representational democracy as its methodology of governance.  I will say, however, that I believe many integral thinkers are often under-read on many of the tremendous arguments put-forth by anti-authoritarian revolutionaries as to how little governmental elections actually mean.  Of course, one candidate or another is bound to win, so long as this system is in place, and there are some notable differences in the manner with which they would go about their task (as City Councilor, Mayor, Governor, Senator, President, etc).  Often it is quite true that one or the other candidate will represent the values of a higher Altitude of being, and for what it is, such a candidate is probably more worthy of our support.

However, relativistic differences in how to perform the exploitation of people and the planet seems hardly worth investing much time or effort in, from my perspective.  When speaking on this topic, Wilber and others have often noted the “problem” of electing a candidate of higher values in the context of a country in which much of the population resides in lower Altitudes.  This “problem” is quite troubling to me, but not for the same reasons.  The manner in which many integral thinkers lament the lack of an “integral vanguard” which could be allowed to benevolently preside over the endeavors of human life is more than troubling.  Such arguments of a “morally superior”, highly developed consciousness to be “allowed” to place itself in a position of “leadership” and “authority” (i.e., domination) over the many has been the claim to legitimacy for all figures of authority, wealth and power throughout human history.  This line of thinking strikes me as entirely narcissistic, self-aggrandizing, and in many ways dismissive of the true potential of human spirit and nature; it is the single least “integral” thing I’ve witnessed from otherwise incredibly visionary and revolutionary thinkers.  While in the playground of my mind I may take comfort in thinking things like “if I were in charge, I’d do away with this and implement that” the reality is that no one needs me, or any other institutionalized power, to tell them what to do or not do.  All people carry the inherent tendency to not only survive but to evolve and progress into increasingly Wholeistic and integral forms of being; when the material wants of life are increasingly satisfied and when the outside constraints of unhealthy, pathological systems and dominator hierarchies are eased and finally done away with, I belief we have little reason to doubt that the people themselves are quite well suited for running the affairs of their lives, both individually and socially.

The solution then is not in electing leaders of higher and higher consciousness (though, doing so along the way isn’t necessarily horrible).  I believe the greatest degree of human growth and maturation is achieved by the systematic development of institutions as well as social space where regular, everyday people can find the space and authority to act on their own behalf, as well as that of their larger community.  The arbitrary authority and power of some over others can and must be challenged and done away with through the continued empowerment and participation of each individual within the social spheres.  This is not at the neglect of the same for the internal realms, but along side and complimentary to it.

 

Huge Shifts 

As most integral thinkers have noted, the shift from First to Second-Tier consciousness is a huge one; far greater in scope and depth than shifts that remain within a given Tier.  For this, we should expect the systematic social orderings of First and Second Tier to look revolutionarily different.  Why then, I wonder, do so many integral thinkers embrace, as “integral”, what amount to minuet changes in the basic social order?  Electing one “type” of person to preside over an unhealthy and incomplete (not to mention inherently destructive and unsustainable) system hardly seems to me to embody the leap from Green upwards.  Likewise, I fail to see the R/Evolutionary (as it is sometimes written) nature of using the same system of exploitation and wage slavery, but under the guise of being “less exploitive” or “less environmentally unsound”.  

From the vantage of most libertarian-socialist thinkers, much of what is “integral” is almost universally written-off as New Age, um, crap.  Partially this stems from the anarchists’ historical rejection of religion and church.  But also, there is a component of the class divide here at play that I would be wrong to ignore here.  Many, in fact most (though of course not all) who undertake “New Age” beliefs or truly integral ideas (Wilber has written quite eloquently, numerous times, about the important differences between the two, so I won’t bother getting into that here) are in fact from the middle to upper classes.  As near as I can tell, this seems to hold true of most of the leading thinkers in the field (whether or not their class standing is familial or accomplished through the success of their own work).  While many anarchist thinkers today do allow for the notion of “class-traitors” (those whose own upper class comforts and securities would be lost with the end of a class-based society), there is nonetheless a recognition that the lower and middle classes are the ones best poised to carry out what is known as the “final revolution” (the end of the State and institutionalized power-disparities).

I think it will be important over time for many integral thinkers to stare their relative privilege and (economic) freedom in the face.  This can be hard; the seductive powers of privilege (economic, racial, sexual) are hard to under-state.  But it must be done, I think, if we are to take the side of freedom (in all it’s interpretations), justice, equality, and the Sacred over that of vanity, injustice, and human suffering.  If “liberation” has led us on a path to enlightenment, than I should hope that it is the liberation of all, not just the Self or the some, who we recognize need liberating.

Perhaps the biggest challenge to an integral politic is the acceptance and allowance of world-views which are inherently unjust and of a lower consciousness than that of the integral.  I have a hard time with the idea that we should just “allow” explicitly violent and dangerous ideas- Nazism, for one- on the basis of “that’s just the stage they’re at”.  Likewise, even if we pretended that all of America (or Europe, or where ever) were to have a huge shift in consciousness and develop further and further into a truly integrally-based society, it hardly would make sense to me for such a society to sit back as a society such as Iran or North Korea (or who ever) develop monstrous weapons that are not only capable of, but perhaps intended to wipe whole segments of the earth’s population off the map (and no, it is not lost on me that this might be precisely what the people of the world say as they look to the United States of the today or even the past hundred years).

Towards this, I have two general thoughts.  The first is that, in the classic political analogy, I believe that as one and then two and then three communities (States, countries, etc) begin to develop more and more integral populations and likewise begin to shed the systems of domination and exploitation exemplified in the old ways, so then will a ripple-effect of this social, and consciousness, revolution begin to spread.  A rising tide lifts all boats, after all.  We can hope for and expect that the spread of both integral and anarchist ideas will quite likely lead to (or be a part of) a much larger evolutionary shift that will leave no corner of the globe untouched.  For those individuals and cultures that simply “aren’t there yet”, where they “are” needs to be allowed and nurtured to develop into its own higher potential.  But just as a psychiatrist doesn’t leave a patient as “cured” when they still posses dangerously destructive behaviors or a doctor doesn’t ignore a cancer as “just doing what the body does” we must be resolute in our moral and ethical intolerance of pathological, dangerous and destructive world-views.  As our own collective morale develops over time I believe it will be important for us to come together, in community groups as well as regional and even global bodies of directly representational and democratic federations, in order to best articulate and agree upon the what and who (and perhaps even why and how) of unacceptable human behavior on the national and global levels.

 

Well, That Was Certainly My Longest Blog-Post Ever

The above is more or less a draft sketch for a topic that I hope to eventually expand upon and detail in book form.  Many important aspects, both of integral theory and libertarian-left politics, have been left un-touched or hardly given their do.  But I think the most important thing I’d like to contribute to this conversation- from both the integral and the anarchist ends of the spectrum- is the inherent symbiosis I believe both schools of thought are a part of.  I arrived at my own politic (libertarian-socialism) through my experiences and pursuit of integral theory.  I have not only been amazed at how few others have reached the same political conclusions that I have, but I have been disheartened to see what I consider to be incredibly unhealthy and destructive systems embraced as “integral”.

Likewise, I think that the school of libertarian-socialist thought embodied by anarchists, anarcho-communists, anti-authoritarians, and other “revolutionary” thinkers could be greatly enriched and matured by a more integral and integrative approach.  As un-ready as I was to learn about integral’s ideas of a “politic”, I have been equally surprised by many of the incomplete and confused notions and tactics espoused by people who otherwise seem to embrace an entirely integral idea; namely, the attempts at creating a world in which all of humanity is free to pursue and obtain their highest human potential.

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