Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Evergreen Sustainability of Utopia

If the evidence of the origin and nature of the Great Enrichment is so compelling—indeed, we in the Advanced Sector enjoy its historically unprecedented benefits every day—why then does its antithesis, socialism, continue to compel such widespread allegiance that many of us seek to dismantle the American system that is its highest expression?
I asked this of the eminent author and economist Deirdre McCloskey at a recent public forum in London, and somewhat to my surprise she admitted she could not answer the question.

And yet McCloskey is perhaps better prepared to do so than any living economist that I’ve encountered, now that Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek are no longer with us.

She prominently established the foundation for a satisfactory answer to this important question in the first two books of her soon-to-be-completed Bourgeois Era trilogy.  Particularly in the second book, Bourgeois Dignity, she demolishes every theory of the right and the left about the factors that created this massive shift in the trajectory of human political economy, and points out that it occurred because of a singular change in the collective inner consciousness of human beings in Holland and England during the seventeenth century.

Now, McCloskey doesn’t actually say “singular shift in the collective inner consciousness”; what she does assert is that there was a discernible and decisive shift in the rhetoric of social value. 

. . . three centuries ago in places like Holland and England the talk and thought about the middle class began to alter.  Ordinary conversation about innovation and markets became more approving.  The high theorists were emboldened to rethink their prejudice against the bourgeoisie, a prejudice by then millennia old.  . . . The North Sea talk at length radically altered the local economy and politics and rhetoric.  In northwestern Europe around 1700 the general opinion shifted in favor of the bourgeoisie, and especially in favor of its marketing and innovating.  The shift was sudden as these things go.  In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries a great shift occurred in what Alexis de Tocqueville called “habits of the mind”—or more exactly, habits of the lip.  People stopped sneering at market innovativeness and other bourgeois virtues exercised far from the traditional places of honor in the Basilica of St. Peter or the Palace of Versailles or the gory ground of the First Battle of Breitenfeld.[1]

It’s a shame that, in the very beginning of her insightful argument, she pulls back from examining the habits of the mind whose transformation resulted in those “habits of the lip.”  Rhetoric, after all, is a product of inner consciousness and perspective.  Talk is the crystallization of thought seeking social viability.  That people “stopped sneering” happened for a reason, and McCloskey’s argument would be more deeply served by examining and applying that reason.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

What Is "Integral"?

Over the course of the past two years I have begun paddling to more islands in the integral archipelago.  It started with conversations with Jeff Salzman at the Integral Institute’s Daily Evolver, morphed into a year-long dialogue with Layman Pascal on integral politics on the Institute’s web site, went on to a reconnection with my old Log Cabin colleague Rich Tafel, now a senior fellow at Steve McIntosh’s Institute for Cultural Evolution, and finally leading to a handful of Facebook pages dedicated to various integral expressions.

I have been highly critical of a lot of stuff that I have read in many of these encounters, much of it based on my sense that there is a lack of intellectual and spiritual rigor in so much of what we are moved to say and communicate.  Now I don’t like being critical—and I choose to notice the arrogance that much of my response seems to come from—mostly because I fancy myself a lover not a fighter.  Still, something within compels me to keep diving ever deeper into this transpersonal realm, and to share what I discover with other inhabitants of the archipelago.

One source of discord might be a disagreement on exactly what “integral” is.  If we all mean slightly different things, then we fail to have a useful dialogue if at the same time we assume that we have a common meaning for the word.  We simply talk past one another and, if we’re not careful, assume something’s wrong with that other guy who just won’t get what I’m saying when in fact he’s thinking something slightly different.

The main sources of divergence seem to be from various Wilberians and Gravesians seeking to interpret Wilber's and Graves' work.  It’s too bad Wilber went whole hog into Spiral Dynamics and then abruptly pulled back and recast the color scheme.  Further complicating the picture was Don Beck’s development of Spiral Dynamics Integral and the break with Christopher Cowan.  Also, since Spiral Dynamics concentrates on the vMemes, or the values line of development, it is not strictly speaking an integral model, which of course Beck sought to address with SDi.

Further aggravating the situation is the complication offered by the various iterations of Wilber’s map-making, of which at least five have been identified by Wilber.  From Sex, Ecology, Spirituality through Integral Psychology, Wilber has offered slightly differing versions of the stages of the spectrum of consciousness, aka the Spiral.  It was his adoption of Graves’ notion of “the momentous leap” from the personal to the transpersonal waves that introduced much of the variance of understanding among the integralites of what exactly lay on the far side of the leap.

Indeed, he originally adopted the term “integral” from Jean Gebser’s classifications of the waves of collective consciousness extensively chronicled in The Ever Present Origin.  Gebser called the inchoate transrational emergence he detected back in the 1930s the “integral/aperspectival” wave.  By that he meant that, contra the rational (orange) individuation stage which was characterized by the development of inner space that permitted self-reflection (individual self-conceptualization) and thus recognition of perspective itself, the awareness of perspective-taking as an activity of being was now arising among humans.