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On Integral Politics
I am not sure the Daily Evolver, which is hosted by Jeff Salzman, is officially associated with Integral Institute. Given the general lack of statement on the current global politics coming from the Integral Community, though, I am finding the opinions expressed by Mr. Salzman quite interesting and in many ways quite representative of the perspective on politics shared by many integral thinkers today.
In my opinion, what characterizes the political perspective commonly shared by those in the Integral Community is, more than anything else, the lack of attention to what Peter Dale Scott calls “deep politics.” Virtually all the statements expressed by the members of the Integral Community are characterized by the systematic inattention to this aspect of politics. Instead, what is proposed as the integrative or comprehensive view consists almost exclusively of the materials drawn from the conventional media outlets. In other words, essentially all the resources Integral Politics currently uses exclude what is socially repressed or suppressed—or what is simply considered to be risky to talk about in the public.
And I think that this is one of the core reasons why Integral Community is having difficulty making itself truly relevant in the contemporary society—especially to those who have keen awareness to what is happening in the world.
Despite the fact the Integral Community has made tremendous contributions to the field of psychology and spirituality by integrating the conventional and unconventional, or “the daylight view” and “the night view”, to form a more comprehensive framework to view the psyche, when it come to politics, the community remains extremely reticent and timid in even acknowledging any reality that can conventionally be regarded as too provocative. In other words, with regards to the field of politics, the perspective appears highly myopic as though its center of gravity fully remains in the conventional stages despite the apparent sophistication in its expressed intention to respect various perspectives. Such developmental paralysis become quite apparent when we compare it with what other integral scholars such as David Ray Griffin have done in response to the epoch-making crisis which we are witnessing unfolding everyday over the past decades.
For example, listen to the audio sample posted on the Daily Evolver such as:
Undoubtedly, this kind of Integral analysis is an entertaining narrative. However, it also dilutes the contemporary reality by reducing every concrete dynamics—such as those exerted by various political entities that exert controls and influences on how the power structure works often through ill-intentioned methods as we can clearly see in the numerous recent reports on the various surveillance activities of NSA—into a simplistic narrative consisting of its uniquely abstracted—thus harmless—concepts.
Almost always, so-called “integral” analyses or narratives arrive at the soothing pre-established conclusion that everything will work out fine in the end through the process of evolution that unfolds “dialectically”... To me, though, this sounds like saying that we don’t have to worry about anything too much because everything can be seen as playing (roles that are necessary or justifiable in the context of the overall historical process. Moreover, it is sometimes asserted that integral thinkers should be able to remain optimistic by means of the near-blind trust that everything will work out fine in the end as though that would constitute the sign of “integral consciousness”.
In my opinion, this is exactly where the danger of so-called “evolutionary narrative” becomes apparent—namely, it dulls the critical awareness toward the contemporary reality by covertly encouraging flight into an optimistic evolutionary narrative. And furthermore, I have a sense that the willingness to hold such an evolutionary stance seems to be taken as an indication of psychological maturity—at least in the minds of many “integralists” who uphold the evolutionary view.
As the research team at Lectica, Inc. (2010) shows in the article, On the Development of Reasoning in the Domain of Integral Theory and Practice: Some Preliminary Findings (http://integraltheoryconference.org/sites/default/files/Stein%20&%20Heikkinen_ITC%202010.pdf), integral theory can be embraced from various levels of maturity. That is, contrary to the widely held assumption, the fact that one can appreciate or embrace integral theory is no indication that one is at the level of maturity called Vision Logic.
And more than anywhere else, the overall immaturity—or myopia—of the current Integral Community is most apparent in the domain of politics. By entrapping one’s own thinking under the spell of the excessively simplified evolutionary narrative, the discipline of Integral Politics seems to have been ensconced in the state of soothing self-contentment.
Having studied Integral Theory for nearly three decades, I am sure that the discipline of Integral Politics is not destined to remain at the current stage of development. Rather, the theory, by virtue of its very orientation to keep open to the new information, it is a matter of time that the current stasis will be disrupted to give rise to much more comprehensive view on the politics.
Besides, the current life conditions of the 21 century world will not probably allow the discipline to remain simply as that produces soothing optimistic narrative. As the information technology develops to disclose previously hidden dimensions of politics called deep politics, even to the mainstream audiences who are relatively well-informed, the current orientation of the disciple to disregard unwillingness deep politics will likely be simply ridiculed.
So, in the end, there is still a good chance for the development of the disciple. The issue is how quickly the disciple can change itself—before it becomes completely outdated.
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