A friend of mine introduced me to an article written by Robb Smith, CEO of Integral Life, titled The Great Divide: Trump, Populism and the Rise of a Post-Scarcity World, the other day.
Over the years, I have read articles written by those in the Integral Community on the topic of contemporary politics with much dissatisfaction primarily due to the virtually complete lack of awareness of the reality of deeper dimensions of politics—or what Peter Dale Scott calls “deep politics”. The way they refuse to acknowledge that reality could well be compared to an attitude that attempts to understand human psyche without acknowledging the existence of the unconscious—the situation where the psychotherapist pays attention exclusively to what the client utters without directing any attention to the underlying psychological dynamics. Indeed, the way they approach the topic is so shallow that it becomes quite ironic that the authors so proudly proclaim that they are presenting based on the integral perspective which is supposed to embrace more information than any other approach.
However, what is more problematic is that these articles essentially serve to damage the status of the integral approach as they basically serve as the exemplars of integral approach in the eyes of many. Despite their claim to embrace more information than any other approach in existence, those exemplars are actually embracing only what is on the surface of reality. In the still early phase of the movement, the very fact that such narratives are embraced exemplars of integral analysis of politics—or at least without much difficulty—in the community can cause serious damage to the value of the approach per se by creating the perception in those who are reasonably well informed that what qualifies as integral analysis is basically nothing more than an assemblage of various conventional perspectives, circulated by mainstream media outlets, according to the orthodox narrative of integral philosophy, the narrative which I think is uncritically embraced as given.
Under such circumstance, it becomes critically important to recognize how the approach is narrowed by means of blind adherence to the ideological tents of the Integral Philosophy on the part of thinkers in the community. Such an understanding would enable us to utilize integral approach in a more integrative way.
Here, utilizing the above article by Robb Smith as a sample, I have picked up some of the problematic tendencies of the so-called integrally informed analysis, which are shared by numerous others in the community:
- The confusion of contents and structure: People’s apparent adherence to an ideology (in this case, “nationalists” and “globalists”) are confused with the level of their psychological maturity (the structures of consciousness). In reality, each ideology can be held from different structures—so there are Conformists who are “nationalists” and “globalists”, and there are Achievers who are “nationalists” and “globalists”. In the article, no such distinction is made so that the argument ends up proclaiming that those who hold supposedly more evolved ideologies are structurally more developed as well. The very essence of developmental approach is “why” or “how” people are holding specific stance. Nevertheless, despite its heavy reliance on the approach, it is completely ignored.
- Distortion of the subject matter: The main part of the essay is the comparison of the two stances that constitute the majority of the world population which the author calls “nationalists” (operating from ethno-centric stance) and “globalists” (operating from world-centric stance). However, the author represents each of these stances in highly arbitrary ways based on the orthodoxy that the globalists are aiming to enhance the welfare of the humanity and the nationalists are aiming to enhance the welfare of the immediate community to which they belong at the price of the rest of humanity. In other words, despite the all the qualifications in the essay, the author essentially believes that the globalists are more evolved psychologically than the nationalists because I would assume the author believes that the embrace of globalism proves that the individual is operating from the world-centric stance and the embrace of nationalism proves that the individual is operating from ethno-centric stance. Throughout the essay, the author does not raise the question if the very characterization is actually accurate. Given that the globalist ideology is often upheld by such entities as multinational corporations which are essentially motivated to enhance welfare of small number of their stakeholders (e.g., shareholders) by means of gaining access to the market of the world—and that the nationalist ideology is often upheld in response to such tendency—one would expect that any integrally informed analysis delves into the deeper dynamics that exist beneath ideological conflicts in contemporary society. Quite disappointingly, there is no sign of such an insight in the essay.
- Lack of self-reflexivity: Very frequently, so-called integrally-informed commentary such as this is itself trapped by the conformist thinking which it so eagerly criticizes. For example, in this article, the two different ideological stances are simplistically categorized into the preexisting categories (in this case, “more developed” and “less developed”) according to the apparent values that they adhere to. In other words, the author simply takes for granted that the very procedure that it is using is correct or that the way he is using the framework is correct.
For example, as I noted above, the apparent value of the ideology that is held by individual is not directly reflective of the level of cognitive complexity of the individual. However, devoid of such basic awareness, it appears that the author simply and blindly follows the procedure to categorize the two stances solely on the surface contents that are upheld by each. Ironically, in a way that is quite similar to how the conformists think—whom they so passionately criticize—the integrally informed thinkers appear to be trapped by the orthodoxy of the community themselves. That is, on the topic of politics, so-called integrally informed people themselves are also trapped in an automatic mode that does not exercise critical spirit toward how they are framing the situation.
- Ignorance on the nature of transnational entities: The article also typically exemplifies the pervasive ignorance of the nature of the super-government agencies (power structures) that are assigned to oversee the global activities. As exemplified by the negotiation process of TPP, where democratically elected politicians have not been granted full access to the information that pertains to the nature of the treaty, those transnational entities, which are naively celebrated by the integral community as the indication of the emergence of transnational entities, are basically undemocratically elected entities usually under the control of multinational corporations.
- Distortion of world-centrism: If the Integral Community is truly committed to promoting world-centrism as it so claims, then, it should devote much more energy in critically analyzing how various ideologies based on world-centrism—which usually takes the form of globalism—is hijacked to promote the interest of select group of people today—rather than the entire humanity as the very word world-centrism suggests.
Once an ideology is created and disseminated to the community at large, however noble it is in its original conception, it is intrinsically prone to be hijacked by basically any group of people to promote its own interests. Any integral analysis needs to pay careful attention to how any ideology is consumed and used in the community to promote whose interest instead of simply looking at the apparent logic and value it is adhering to. And it is particularly in this respect, I believe, the authors in Integral Community have failed consistently since the inception of the community. Indeed, to my knowledge, the Integral Community has never produced an analysis of the power structures that take advantage of the dissemination of various globalism-based narratives by pointing out specific names of individuals, organizations, or industries—even though it is quite eager to name names only when some celebrity figures are professing support to it. Unlike many investigative journalists who are willing to explore the deeper dimensions of the contemporary politics by elucidating the underlying power structures sometimes by naming names, authors in Integral Community consistently avoid such approach and instead stay at the far distance from reality contriving various stories which would rationalize whatever is happening as the sign of cosmic evolution (I would think this overall tendency to escape into evolutionary ideology is likely caused by the phobia and that is widely shared by the community).
- Ignorance of power issues: In the latter half of the article, the author discusses about some of the negative impacts of the current technological advances, such as Artificial Intelligence, will likely make calling attention to the possibility that it will disproportionately benefit capitalists, instead of ordinary labors, further empowering the former financially and politically which then will further widen the gap between haves and have-nots. As far as I can recall, this is probably only time I saw a decent criticism on Orange vMeme raised by a writer in Integral Community. While the community has been so eager to criticize Green vMeme, it has always been very reluctant to voice criticisms toward Orange vMeme.
Not surprisingly, though, Robb’s criticism toward Orange vMeme is quite mild as it does not even slightly mention the fact that the concentration of power and wealth in the extremely small number of people (“the one percent”), which has been taking place over the past century with accelerated speed, is the product of aggressive strategy implemented by the community of the haves through such measures as systematic lobbying activities, sponsoring of politicians, control of media, control of banking system, and so on. As a matter of fact, based on the article, the reader is left with the impression that all the changes that have led to the concentration of wealth is basically the result of natural process of collective evolution where no willful (“malicious”) intentions were exercised by anyone in particular.
While people are willing to acknowledge that individuals are quite prone to lie to themselves and others when they are discussing on the topic of individual psychology—Integral Psychology clearly acknowledges that it is extremely difficult for us to be genuinely authentic to ourselves and acknowledge and accept what we are feeling— on the topic of politics, most of the authors become extremely reluctant to acknowledge that there are likely hidden goals that are pursued by various stakeholders (especially more powerful ones) concealed beneath pleasant discourses that fills the public spheres.
Consequently, because the essay completely fails to imagine that there are actually forces who is aiming to concentrate more and more power and wealth in THEIR hands—by the way, it is quite perplexing to read an essay written by someone who claims to be an experienced business person that is so naïve in its outlook of society as one of the core themes of strategy in corporate spheres is to enhance and enlarge the power and control over the competitors and industry and society—it completely ignores the possibility that what is required may actually be the integrally-informed analysis and exposure of those forces which some say have virtually taken over the political and economic spheres of our society, instead of some kind of well-intentioned social innovations as the author seems to be advocating.
- Misguided paternalism: What is probably most annoying is that the article, while it purports to blame Globalists for the Great Divide that plagues today’s society, it actually carefully strokes its pride by essentially saying that it is up to more evolved Globalists to save the humanity by building the future where less evolved Nationalists/Tribalists too can embrace. Even if it is the case the more psychologically developed individuals can take Greater responsibility in shaping the future, it is doubtful that those who so naively embrace Globalism in the age where that ideology can be—and I think actually is—hijacked to promote the interests of the One Percent is in a position to do any real Good to the welfare of the whole humanity…
In the hands of authors such as Robb Smith, it would appear, Integral Philosophy seems have been distorted into an ideology that endows people with specific ideology with a paternalistic sense of pride and superiority...
Robb Smith states that the article deserves a book-length treatment in order to fully unpack what it is attempting to say. However, what is presented here basically rehash of the party line narrative with a small number of minor twists. Further enhancement of the argument will not likely provide any more substantially valuable insight to the reader.
The basic failure to understand the issues surrounding the ideology of Globalism seems to fatally compromising the argument at the fundamental level. Unless the author re-examine the basic assumptions of the article, I am afraid that it will not offer anything valuable to Integral Community other than to deepen the illusion of people that this kind of simplistic analysis would suffice as an integrally-informed analysis…