At the recent 5-day Integral Institute seminar on Integral Business Leadership,
Ken Wilber was asked, by a senior Zen teacher, What do you think of the Republican convention?
Ken responded by giving an overview of what a truly integral politics might look like, and used that to compare and contrast with the Democratic and Republican conventions, both of which are less-than-integral. We think that this twenty-minute summary is brilliant, insightful, deadly serious, and wickedly funny, all at once. But by all accounts it is an extraordinary account of why all politics today are considerably less-than-integral, along with certain features that almost certainly would have to be included in the future in any truly integral politics.
In this synopsis, Ken focuses on three items that all political theories have attempted to address but none have managed to fully integrate. These are the tension between (1) the individual and the collective; (2) the source of the cause of human suffering: is the individual primarily to blame or is the society primarily to blame?; and (3) the different levels of development that the different political parties tend to represent: any truly integral politics would include and represent all of them, and yet how on earth do you do that?
Due to time considerations, Ken did not discuss two other equally important ingredients in any integral politics. One. In representational democracies, people have a right to be at whatever stage of development they are at, and generally speaking, within free speech, a right to express the values of whatever stage they are at. Traditional-fundamentalist (blue) has a right to be traditional, modernist (orange) has a right to be modernist, postmodernist (green) has a right to be postmodernist, and so on. This is generally modified in practice, to the extent that the center of gravity of a culture will tend to impose its values on others, especially if they are first-tier (or less-than-integral) values. Nonetheless, in democratic societies, theres a general background understanding that people have a right to be, and a right to express, whatever stage they are or whatever belief system they possess.
Two. They do not, however, have a right to act on those beliefs. This is generally handled in representative democracies by a separation of public and private, and by a similar if more specific principle of the separation of church and state. This means that, for example, in the privacy of my blue-meme mind, I am free to believe that Jesus Christ is my personal savior and that nobody achieves salvation without a belief in Jesus. In public behavior, however, I am not allowed to burn at the stake somebody who disagrees with me. In terms of integral psychology, this means in the interior of an individual (i.e., the upper left), the person can believe whatever they like; but in their public behavior (i.e., the upper right), they must behave according to laws drawn from a worldcentric or higher level of development (lower left), or else they are charged with civil or criminal behavior and removed from society if necessary (lower right).
This separation of church and state, or more generally what Max Weber called the differentiation of the values spheres, is one of the great and enduring contributions of the Western enlightenment, a contribution almost entirely misunderstood by extreme postmodernists, who in fact are operating under its protection while bitterly condemning it.
(The most common version of this is the aggressive attempt to reduce I and It to We, or the attempt to reduce art and science to a social construction, which can therefore be deconstructed. As it turns out, this reductionism presumes precisely what it denies, but then, deconstructive postmodernism has been little without its performative contradictions.)
A truly integral politics exists nowhere on the planet at this time, principally because not enough individuals have emerged at the integral levels of consciousness, and hence no governments anywhere have integral representatives as members (except rarely and by accident). Its principal challenge is to create some form of governance that allows each stage to be itself within the constraints of not harming others (i.e., to let red be red, and blue be blue, and orange be orange, and green be green, etcprecisely because, as we saw, this is a right in virtually all free societies), and yet to govern from the highest, widest, deepest, and most encompassing levels of development emerged to date (starting at yellow). Most representative democracies do this anyway, except their center of gravity is not yet fully integral, and they do it implicitly, not explicitly.
For a further discussion of Integral politics that includes all five factors, please see
Theory of Everything, where, in a series of endnotes,
Ken pursues these issues. Much fuller presentations of integral
politics are now being posted by various scholars at IntegralUniversity.org,
set to launch in late October, so please come join us at that
time if youre interested in this or virtually any other
Integral topic. With some 25 fully operational websites
all hooked together through Integral Commons, we would love to
have you join what will be the worlds largest Integral learning