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Integral Politics:
Theoretical and User-friendly version
Working Definition: (Mark Gerzon)


Integral politics is:
1. A transpartisan (post-liberal/conservative) commitment,
2. To learning and practicing,
3. A kind of civic engagement and governance,
4. That fosters the development of the whole self,
5. And the whole community.

6. Beyond respecting “the will of the people”, (e.g. democratic engagement),
7. Integral politics engages all interests and perspectives
8. To co-create/bring out/foster the healthiest highest values and actions.


Integral Politics is a transpartisan (post-liberal/conservative) commitment, to learning and practicing, a kind of civic engagement and governance, that fosters the development of the whole self, and the whole community. 

Beyond respecting “the will of the people”, (e.g. democratic engagement), Integral Politics engages all interests and perspectives to co-create/bring out/foster the healthiest highest values and actions.

Assumption about the “the good life”:


The “good life” occurs firstly when an individual/community is able to strike a balance between the four-quadrants at any given wave of being. Secondly, the good life offers the conditions that foster growth: The individual/community is provided with the support and challenge necessary for transcending one wave of being and stabilizing a more complex one. This dual process can be summarized as integrating and then developing. Thus the “good life” is when conditions for both can be met.

The good life occurs when conditions are met for both horizontal health and vertical transformation.


Everyone should have the opportunity to achieve his/her potential.

Assumptions about Human Nature:


Human consciousness aspires towards ever-greater degrees of complexification (deeper wisdom and wider compassion).  This unfolding proceeds, however, according to the parameters/constraints of human development. Under optimal conditions, we creatively engage the challenging constraints of development in a process of self-transcendence.  Thus, human nature proceeds along the lines of wider identification (egocentric, ethnocentric, sociocentric, worldcentric etc.).


Human nature is a process of growth to goodness in the direction of capturing our original goodness.  However, that original goodness is not found in childhood or our collective past but rather is our True Self, which is only found outside of the time-space continuum. 

Assumptions about Social Causation (interior or exterior):


Recognizes the interior and exterior dimensions of human existence and, therefore, of political subjectivity.   The human condition is molded by external and internal factors.  Thus, the solution to any political/community problem will involve both interior (subjective and intersubjective) and exterior (behavioral and socio/political systems) dimensions. 

Both interior and exterior development must be supported, if integral solutions are to be reached.

(For Ken, this unification of internal and external causation is the 1st phase of an Integral Politics. TOE)


A homeless person is neither a lazy person nor a complete victim of the “system.” Their situation is a result of both their subjective qualities and the infrastructure of their communities.

We are never simply “blank slates” or “fallen from grace.”

Assumptions about Unit of Analysis (individual or collective):


Both the individual (freedom) and the collective (order) unit need to be considered when analyzing social and political situations. 

Coupled with the distinction between the political Left (exterior causation) and Right (interior causation), this assumption creates the following combinations: free Right (e.g. economic libertarians), order Right (e.g. traditional conservative), free Left (e.g. classic liberal), and order Left (e.g. green liberal).

It is the goal of IP to create a participatory democracy that allows individuals to be the authors of collective laws, which in turn regulate their behavior. (TOE ? Ken, how does the IP version differ from existing democracy in this sense? KS) 


The liberal emphasis on individuals and the conservative emphasis on the community needs to be synthesized in an “individual-in-community” approach.

Ideological camps within the two main political orientations (the Left and the Right) tend to either solely focus on the individual or the community. 

There is a recursive loop between the individual and the collective.

Assumptions about Development:


There is ample cross-cultural evidence in developmental psychology, sociology, and anthropology that makes it clear that psychological development proceeds through many deep structures.

Given that human nature is grounded in a developmental process that continues throughout adulthood, it is essential that politics recognize this and incorporate a developmental model into its political understanding. 

Only by doing this, in conjunction with the distinctions of interior/exterior and free/order, can the full spectrum of political ideologies be mapped out into a coherent framework that allows for an integral politics to emerge.

Also, once development is acknowledged to occur in both the exterior and interior domains, one arrives at the Prime Directive: which seeks to secure the health of the entire spiral without privileging any one level.

(Inclusion of developmental framework within a political sensibility represents the 2nd  phase of an Integral Politics according to Ken. TOE)

In second tier politics, resources are made available for the individual/community to take responsibility for his/her/its development.

By recognizing developmental levels an Integral Politics can locate the level (egocentric, ethnocentric/membership, or worldcentric/universalistic) from which different ideologies emerge.  Also, each level can take on different content.  For example, you can have two political camps grounded in membership with very different results: nationalism vs. racism.

This raises the important distinction between healthy development and pathologies that occur when development has been thwarted.

Both conservatives and liberals will benefit from an understanding of development. Conservatives only acknowledge levels up to their own, while Liberals deny levels all together. Both conservatives and liberals need to see the full spiral.

In addition, there are two factors that accompany the acknowledgement of development.  The first one is the direction of change.  Do political ideologies champion a return-to-goodness (regressive), maintain the status quo (stationary), or to move individuals/communities from one level of development to the next (progressive).

The second factor is how change is to be achieved.  It can be achieved through negation (only proposing what not to do) or affirmation (proposing how things should be). Also, change can be arrested by cynicism.  Integral Politics embraces a synthesis of negation and affirmation (e.g. “critical positivism” or “critical dialectics”).

Also, there are two types of freedoms (negative, positive).


Psychological development up to and through adulthood is uncontestable.

An Integral Politics grounds itself in psychology.

Integral Politics is a product of seeing how all political orientations are pieces in a larger picture.

Intrinsic equality is recognized between different stages in an evolutionary model of human development. 

There are many different and often conflicting values, interests and needs in our society which correspond not only to race/gender/ethnicity, but also according to “waves” of consciousness ? “passages” of development.

Many political camps are situated within different psychological worldviews.  It is important to recognize what those worldviews are.

A single worldview can give rise to a number of political ideologies ? some good some bad.

Both conservatives and liberals need to see the full spectrum of human possiblities.

Political agendas foster change by being either regressive, stationary, or progressive.

Change has generally been achieved by either being critical or prescriptive. Integral Politics combines these two approaches. 

Assumptions about Rights (Sean’s reflections):


There are three core rights that must be simultaneously honored.  These are equality (ground value), freedom (intrinsic value), and responsibility (extrinsic value). Each of these rights/values has both agency and communion components. 

These three core rights need to be held in creative tension with one another. To overemphasize one or two of them without the other will lead to pathology as will only emphasizing just the agentic dimension (which is often the case with ground and intrinsic value) or the community dimension (which often occurs with extrinsic value). 

Ground value: every individual and community is equal to any other individual/community because we are all manifestations of Spirit.  Thus every level of being is of equal value to all others.

Intrinsic value: the more autonomous an individual or community is the more freedom it has.  Thus the higher more complex waves of being are more valuable because they contain greater degrees of freedom.  Also, the more freedom that exists the more responsibility that is awarded because one is accountable to more levels of complexity.

Extrinsic value: the more fundamental a wave of being is, the more valuable it is to the overall spiral.  For example, we have more responsibility to government (blue) than business (orange) than multiculturalist (green) than the ecosystem (yellow) etc.  That doesn’t mean we can’t work on all of these responsibilities side by side, it is rather recognition that if you are not responsible to government you will not be in a position to be responsible to the ecosystem. 


There are three core rights for every individual and community: equality, freedom, and responsibility.

Liberals have often supported equality and freedom at the expense of responsibility, whereas conservatives have often over emphasized responsibility over the others.  All three need to honored.

The overarching value is the Prime Directive, which seeks to secure the health of the entire spiral without privileging any one level.

Not only do we have a right to be free; we have the right to be responsible.  The right to responsibility accompanies the right to freedom.  No longer can they be seen as separate.

Responsibility is not an obligation; it is a right that is earned by developing more autonomy.  In fact equality can only be secured by developing more freedoms and living up to the responsibilities that accompany those freedoms.

Assumptions about Governance: 


Promotes the principle and practice (praxis) of the Prime Directive: 

“One of the main conclusions of an all-quadrant, all-level approach is that each meme- each level of consciousness and wave of existence-is, in its healthy form, an absolutely necessary and desirable element of the overall spiral, of the overall spectrum of consciousness. …The health of the entire spiral is the prime directive, not preferential treatment for any one level.” (Wilber, TOE, 56)

Where possible, encourages de-centralized self-governance.

Context, context, context.

Integral Politics is largely (though not exclusively) a politics of management.

Cultural third way (Drexel S.)
* Hard for liberals. Looks like myth and magic.
* Post-enlightenment is not anti-enlightenment. 
* Partial but true.
* De-centralized and integrated governance.

“Switching from elitism, which defines leadership too narrowly, to extreme anti-elitism, which makes it universal, does not solve the problem.” (Gerzon, 20)

“The leadership crisis of our time results in part because we cut reality in half.  Our culture rewards the external at the expense of the internal. …Our highly integrated world requires integral leaders who recognize this new reality, and who are willing to deal with its external (socio-political) and internal (psycho-spiritual) consequences.” (Gerzon, 24/29)


Support and challenge for people from all walks of life who present differing needs in relation to their communities, their health and their growth.

Wise decision making designed to meet people where they are. 

Inspiring vision of the future that calls upon us to revise our perceptions of humanity to accommodate the 21st century. 

If we are honest with ourselves, we will know that benevolent, informed and skillful leadership is not necessarily ‘elitist’, rather, it is indispensable to democratic politics.

I-Politics asks the following questions:

What does ‘post-liberal/post-enlightenment responsibility in relation to the governance of the whole’ look like?

How can post-conservative, subjective development be described?

What sorts of institutions encourage thinking that broadens people’s perspectives? 

How to cultivate widening circles of empathy and responsibility?

How to grapple with the ways in which second tier politics is not democratic?  In what ways is it/is it not?

How do we know that what we are doing is for the good of the whole?

How do we honor all POV’s while at the same time recognizing that some are more caring and compassionate than others?

SECOND TIER LEADERS: wise-people/interventionists/ wizards/second-tier 

Are the Architects of the Yoga of Politics. 

The representatives of meaning/skillful means. 

Balance the I (subjective), We (intersubjective), and It (objective).

Formulate values in a yellow form. Help to get yellows to recognize yellow.

Since most adults have the capacity for yellow cognition, (although they may be morally blue or even red) Second Tier leaders get them to THINK in an integral fashion, light up the yellow in most adults. Light up Integral capacity.

Are world-centric (as opposed to ego-, ethnocentric).

Know you have to see everything before you can see anything.

Quality of inner life is as important as achievement in outer life. (Gerzon, 33)

Realize that “the fixation to pluralistic relativism and the green meme in general needs to be relaxed, the result is not an abandonment of the green meme, but an enrichment of it.” (p.24?)

Recognizes the importance of self-reflexivity ? ongoing commitment to TL, recognition of one’s partiality, a politics of humility, remain receptive and open to difference, draws on the wisdom of the green meme.

Capable of taking wise (skillful) action in honoring the prime directive.

Recognizes that the pathway to greater health in the polis is therapeutic rather than moral.

Recognize that the human psyche is complex beyond our current comprehension.
Has an implicit spiritual guidance but is not driven to preach (or issue moral mandates) from this place/source. Furthermore, “What do I believe?” is not a question a leader can ask once, and then stop. (Gerzon, 25)

Scan for what’s happening that’s working, not just for what’s NOT working.

“Only when leadership is about the full entire spectrum of human experience ? intrapersonal, interpersonal, social and political ? can it develop fully. (Gerzon, 24)  Leaders who function well only within their own religious, ethnic, economic or cultural and/or ideological group will be effective only until that subgroup encounters another.  Then they will be lost. (Gerzon, 26)

“In this brave new world, new forms of leadership are emerging, not because someone writes a book about the, or starts a leaderships training course, but because the evolution of civilization requires them.  Leadership today must be informed by an awareness of at least four profound historical shifts that have directly and indirectly transformed the world:

* From nation-state to global village: leadership across cultures.
* From knowing to learning: leadership in an information age.
* From solo to team: leadership amidst complexity.
* From external to integral: leadership with integrity.
(Gerzon, 26)

“A leader who learns has no choice but to lead differently from one who “knows.”  A learner will value different organizational structures and styles; will encourage dialogue as well as debate; will reward innovation over tradition, creativity over obedience; and will inspire others to become learners, and leaders, as well.” (Gerzon, 31)

“An integral leader flourishes in a world where the walls are coming down and the ”sides” are becoming interwoven, both in cyberspace and in civic space, into internets and world wide webs operating on a more planetary level than ever before.”  (Gerzon, 35)

“Integral leadership refers not to a specific, narrow trainable style of leadership which can be “achieved” or “possessed,” but to a way of thinking and being in the world that continues to unfold. While it can be observed and its characteristics and strategy defined, integral leadership is more than that.  It is a practical and spiritual

Discipline for becoming more conscious of one’s beliefs and of translating them into a way of being, serving, and acting.” (Gerzon, 35)

Instead of knowing what her “side” wants, the integral leader, knows herself.

Instead of focussing on his story, the integral leader focuses on the larger story.  Instead of empowering his/her side, the integral leader engages all key players. (Gerzon, 39)

Integral Politics Allows Us To:

Analyze pathologies and offer remedies in a more comprehensive way.

I-I Politics creates a shared framework for how to talk together about complex issues (like globalization). ALAQ can hold the complexity and help stakeholders to see each other.

Cautionary Points

On self-governance: The concession to the anti-federalists upon ratification of the constitution was the bill of rights. Founders assumed corruption ? noble ideas but ‘just in case’.  Also, what happens if the nation is divided along lines like abortion, etc.? [1]

Instead of transcending and including democracy, integral governance emerges as a new form of elitism.

Leaders can overlook the lessons of self-governance.

Integral leaders get caught in labeling (or seeing people as a means to an end.)

What can we say about the cult of personality surrounding leadership in US today?  How to remedy this through Integral Politics?

How does I-Politics hope to envigorate, enliven the existing political arena?  What is the promise of Integral politics?

How would an Integral candidate run for office?  Or is it more appropriate now to talk about candidates being influenced by an integral vision?

How does the recognition of difference/different needs differ from ‘special interest’ politics, voting block politics, or a politics that strategizes to meet demographic needs.  What does it look like on the front lines when development is added in the mix? Is it a back-end or front end phenomenon? (Implicit/explicit?)

Themes in Political Theory Break-Out Group

GOAL:  To draw out/explicate a developmental/ALAQ  Political Theory

1.  TL self-reflexivity re. political subjectivity helps us see how we are partial.
Integral political theory ? a delicate emergence - points us in the direction of what is true (in spite of partiality).

2. Addressed the importance of waking existing yellow leadership to itself. (Drexel’s guidance to the Democratic party/candidates).

3. Addressed the importance of finessing a developmental understanding within political theory.  Doesn’t exist for us now.

4. Possible to look at development not in terms of aptitudes, but in terms of needs.  “Needs” presents a more accessible language.  Needs, however, must be recognized as both external and internal ? political/economic health has exterior and interior dimensions.

5. Yellow leaderships has responsibilities that should be made explicit.  Leadership should be accountable to certain standards of being/conduct.  While no one should be expected to be perfect, a set of principles could be drafted against which leadership is ‘checked’, (e.g. ongoing commitment to learn from others and unlearn the self, etc.).

Karin’s summary requested by  Gregory Wilpert:

Using an admittedly American frame of reference, Karin tried to summarize/organize Saturday morning’s discussion in the following way:

Ideals - Practices - Institutions

1. IDEALS: An Integral “Constitution” would transcend and include the existing U.S. Constitution. It would serve as the visionary touchstone for the ideals of an Integral approach to governance and citizenship.  Importantly, it would gesture towards a new vision of human nature ? a new ‘state of nature narrative’, so to speak.  It might include reference to interiority/responsibility, the principled guidelines of integral leaders, (ongoing recognition of partiality, ethical management with meaning, etc.), a spirited commitment to the prime directive, (e.g. third tier), etc. [2]

2. PRACTICE: Leaders(hip)
In many respects, an Integral vision of politics cannot exist without a well-understood and viable definition of the integral leader. The introduction of a hierarchical/developmental understanding in politics implies that an effective and visionary governance places a significant responsibility on the individual(s) authorized to call the important shots.  Leaders are not only intrinsically equal to those they govern, they are also exceptional in relation to others.  They represent a highly developed way of being in the world ? the capacity to hold contradiction, to make skillful decisions, to exercise an incisive mind, and to do so with humility and love, ever aware that there are far greater heights than the ones s/he has reached her/himself.
One step towards this definition considers: 
* What AQAL questions do leaders ask when addressing a social/political issue? 
* How does s/he exercise skillful means in governance?
* How well does s/he know the semiotics of core technologies?
* For many more, see leadership section above including quotes from “Democracy Toolbox” ? Mark Gerzon.

3. INSTITUTIONS:  Structures
Integral institutions can exist on community, local, regional, state, etc.  Ideally, institutions inform leadership and leadership informs institutions. There is an emphasis on self-governance

(At the very least, it is interesting to think about how to create an ALAQ form of ‘checks and balances’ as applied to political issues.)

The Six Main Political Platforms (Historically)

1. Libertarianism (UL)
2. Anarchism (UR)
3. State Socialism (LR) 
4. Fascism (LL)
5. Liberalism/Neo-liberalism (R)
6. Conservatism/Neo-conservatism (L)

All of these have a green (ecological) version

Coming soon to a community/government near you: 7. Integral Politics

Don Beck’s 12 Postulates
(Stages of Social Development: The Cultural Dynamics that Spark Violence, Spread Prosperity, and Shape Globalization - The Twelve Postulates)

1. Reframe globalization issues around value system codes rather than behavioral stereotypes.
2. Create vital signs monitors to track deeper currents and critical indicators.
3. Focus on the future as more significant than the past in shaping the present.
4. Search for the new intelligence’s that appear around chaos and within crucibles.
5. Identify the superordinate goals that transcend other priorities and agendas.
6. Facilitate and honor the inevitable steps, stages and waves in human emergence.
7. Mobilize all available resources (quadrants/levels) and focus them like laser beams.
8. Contain destructive conflicts while respecting the essential cycles of change.
9. Promote power differentiation through appropriate, stratified stages and layers.
10. Resolve major paradoxes by implementing creative win:win:win solutions
11. Integrate the body, mind, soul, and spirit in enriching the human experience.
12. Nourish and replenish the natural habitat so that all life forms may flourish.

[1] Note that in America, the debates between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists were an earlier incarnation of the issue of self-governance. Many tributaries contributed to the ‘victory’ of the Federalists, but a major one, of course, was the over-riding importance of unifying the nation (militarily, morally, etc.) at a time when gross upheaval was still current in memory. Although we may believe we have ‘outgrown’ some of these earlier needs (the U.S. is now the world’s ‘strongest’ nation ­ militarily) we may want to keep in mind the value of the Federalist’s positions.  We should be sure we can account for what we might lose with greater regional self-governance, (e.g. how would the supreme court be effected, if at all, by an Integral Political Theory?) 
[2] Ken has correctly pointed out that a new “Constitution” is probably not what’s in order ­ at least not for a long while, I would say.  For my own purposes, I was thinking of the importance of some sort of document that speaks to the ideals, vision and basic principles of an integral approach to politics.

I-Pol October 2002 Meeting Note (partial) - Posted on this site: 29 Sep 2002