INTRODUCTORY DISCUSSION OF
Integral is a term used for efforts to
synthesize and incorporate all meaningful, applicable dimensions into every
endeavor, whether theory, policy, or practice. As integral efforts do this,
they also address further development or evolution of individual and collective
levels. Integral approaches aim at the further development of individual
and communal consciousness in order to support ever more balanced and healthy
developments in personal, cultural, and social-political life. As a developmental,
systemic approach, it recognizes the interrelationships, underlying mechanisms,
and processes in interactions of all kinds. These include political, psychological,
social, economic, and ecological interactions and issues ? all human endeavors.
Pascal, largely considered
as the last homo universalis, noted that it is as impossible to
know the parts without knowing the whole, as it is to know the whole without
knowing the individual parts. However, his perception does not represent
a quest for unlimited knowledge, but enfolds the recognition that while
knowledge will always be limited, nonetheless actions will always be required. The integral aproach recognizes this perception as
fundamental, and believes that honoring, including and appropriately weighing
more available truths relevant to a context can lead to more skillful means
being employed in that context. These means are informed by the further
perception from “the logic of the heart” that it is up to every person
on earth to make life the best it can be for every other person on earth
--but that this can be done only one step at a time. Such an approach will
gain for its participants the deeper thinking, assumptions, and consciousness
than those which created problems, and thereby a qualitatively greater
capacity to adequately address those problems.
The modern version of this approach is being pioneered by individuals whose writing you will
find linked from this portal, and includes catalysts Ken
Wilber and Dr
Ken Wilber's Integral Model, called All
Quadrants All Levels (AQAL), provides a tool to identify and describe
the dimensions that integral thinking always includes. This model is useful
for conceiving integral approaches. The following is an overview of the
basic AQAL features
These were synthesized from a huge body of historical,
philosophical, and current human knowledge and formulated by Wilber into
a systematic framework to help people recognize the essential areas of
attention for any endeavor to be effective and contribute to the healthiest
and highest good of all affected. This method can serve as a map of the
territory that needs to be covered whether an effort is focused on politics,
education, health, economics, ecology, human relations, personal development
--any human endeavor or challenge.
Some introductory graphics
1. The first graphic below is a very basic
illustration of the first way Wilber’s integral approach examines things.
The circle reminds us that we are considering a whole, and the four
sections are a map of the dimensions or aspects comprising it. The whole could be
an individual or some other organism, an effort itself, an organization
or institution, perhaps a society, or even a public crisis. Such wholes
are always part of something larger in their environment, which also gets
attention in an integral approach. This graphic illustrates a broad, general
map to consider only one whole thing at a time. Complex situations
need an array of maps such as this one, and others, in order to be integrally
understood and worked on.
Two patterns are apparent in these four quadrants.
The horizontal line produces the first pattern: the upper quadrants refer to individual aspects, and the
lower quadrants refer
to collective aspects. The vertical line yields the second pattern:
the left-side quadrants refer to interior "invisible" aspects, and
the right-side quadrants refer to exterior, "visible" aspects. This
is called All Quadrants because all these dimensions are considered
in an integral approach.
2. The second graphic conveys the all
levels examination. While considering all the quadrants, the integral
approach also considers all the layers of development that have brought
the subject to the present time, and considers the current and potential
future stages of development. The graphic conveys that there are multiple
levels to consider, with the reminder that different levels of development
may apply to different quadrants within the whole being addressed.
Depending on the subject and the scale of attention
to it (and multiple scales may be very important to include), levels of
development can refer to stages within an individual’s life-span just as
it can refer to stages of cultural and social development over a much longer
period of time. This is called All Levels because all are considered
in an integral approach.
Politics has a much broader meaning than the conventional
connotations that include political parties and governments. It broadly
denotes the ways all people live and work together. It includes any scale,
from individual, to local to global, and includes not only political but
also public and private social, educational, economic, and health institutions.
Endeavors intended to inform policy and ways of relating are also political,
such as fundamental research on motivation, communication, institutional
IS INTEGRAL POLITICS?
Integral Politics (IP) is a boundary-spanning
commitment to ongoing learning and new practices, a kind of civic engagement
and governance that fosters the development of the whole self, the whole
community, the whole society, the whole planet.
is characterized by two major features:
(1) It is concerned that all peopleand
societies have the opportunity to develop to their fullest capacity, freedom,
equality, and responsibility to the extent they are able, for their own
sake, that of others, and the planet. Everyone should have the opportunity
to achieve their potential: the essential well-being of some should not
be sacrificed for the casual well-being of others.
(2) Integral politics employs systemic, integrative
thinking and recognizes that politics does not exist in a vacuum, but
is intimately involved in every public concern on every scale. It involves
an enlivening of concepts from their stasis, to more accurately and proportionately
respond to the challenges at hand. Whatever conceptual frameworks are adopted
must be rigorously tested in the crucible of experience. Integral politics
is about engaging this process of discovery of truth; it is not about asserting
an integral political vision could try to integrate the good intuitions
of as well leftist as rightist politics, and to avoid their limitations.
From right we could conserve its emphasis on personal responsibility and
subjective values, from left the fact that structures and institutions
are important and have to be adapted towards more justice and compassion.
On the other hand, we have to avoid the rightist tendency of installing
of too many hierarchies and central regulation, and the leftist tendency
towards materialism and short term visions. Integral political thinking can provide comprehensive,
long-range perspectives that are not embedded in current contexts. It reflects
a dynamic systems approach that articulates the necessity of connections
between various scales of public dialogue and deliberation, to foster the
continuous bi-directional information flow through all levels of the system.
IP can propose specific methods and processes for this to take place from
the scale of the local to the global, and make commentary where it is absent
As such, political interests and issues include
(but are not limited to): individual and corporate statuses and status
frameworks that regulate public affairs; procedures of inclusion into and
exclusion from these statuses and status frameworks; public decision-making;
public acceptance (or rejection) of public decisions; social control and
social cohesion; social norms (including laws); authority (including leadership);
political socialization, enculturation and formal education; ethics and
morals; conflict and dispute-resolution (i.e. the processes of integrative
discussion, leading to an integrative view rather than to divergent positions
between which a choice has to be made); this means respectful dialogical
processes that do not objectify any party; educational issues preparing
people to interact on an integrative mode; progressively replacing coercion
by consensus; economics related to such an approach; etc.
WHAT INTEGRAL REQUIRES
Integral thinking is using all our capacities
in creative tension with one another in order to grow into integral discernment
towards addressing today’s complexity. This means we need to both educate
and further develop ourselves, as follows.
(1) First, at minimum, we need some framework
to describe the stages of development through which human beings,
organizations, institutions, and societies can grow. Without this, we can
make at least two common mistakes. One mistake is assuming people will
operate the same way as they face situations. The other mistake is condemning
the views of others as simply wrong, instead of correctly acknowledging
that their positions and reactions reveal a part of an eventual integral
(2) Next, we need to be able to grasp the complexity
of situations by understanding individual and collective dynamics.
At minimum, this requires using at least general understandings of developmental
stages to come to grips with the interior motivations, intentions, and
worldviews of individuals and their choices of behavior, and how cultural
worldviews, norms, and societal ways of relating govern, influence, and
limit the choices available to individuals and collectives. In other words,
we must understand the dynamic interplay of influences wielded by the four
quadrants. This means there are no simple answers and a certain amount
of general knowledge, mentioned here, must be employed to understand and
affect these dynamic systems.
(3) Thirdly, recognition of this complexity requires
the development of processual approaches to develop integral solutions to address it. Simplistic either/or thinking not only polarizes situations
into win-lose debates, it also denies inherent complexity. Only by developing
new processes can such dualistic approaches be replaced. Our modern societies
are not accustomed to processual approaches, and this may constitute the
largest implementation challenge for integral thought.
(4) Finally, the foregoing elements point to a
capacity of each person or group that wants to employ integral thinking.
In addition to the awareness that our interpretations reflect our perspectives
as observers of a situation as well as the situation itself, we must contextualize
our preferred perspectives so that we can consider all relevant diverse
perspectives, life experiences, and needs. This meta-perspective is mandatory
for the design of effective, inclusive, transparent, and accountable integral
processes. It is the essential hallmark of integral thinking.
27 Sep 2002 and launched 6 Dec 2002 - This version 15 Feb 2003, an
integration from contributions by members of the Postconventional Politics