Integral Politics: The need for and purpose of an Integral Government – Part I

by editor

To meet global problems and find respite in a worldcentric politics, Integral Government should be established in replacement of the exiting democracies and totalitarian states. But before we contemplate on what is an Integral Government and how should it be, we need to analyze on why the existing governments may not rise up to face our current problems. Henry Augustine analyzes the issue in depth in his ground-breaking essay, “Integral Politics: An Introduction to Integral Government”. Drawing inspiration from Augustine’s essay, this article will ruminate, in two parts, on why the current governments are not good enough to face current crises and why our political set ups need a radical change.

Existing Political Models and the Rational-Legal Systems: Augustine calls the existing political models as the “rational-legal” form of governments which operate by the dictum of democracy, to ensure proper justice in the society.

The Purpose of Government: Before we proceed to analyze why change is imperative in global politics, we need to analyze what is the purpose of government and whether our current political models fit the bill. Government, as a system, was born when people wished to end the state of “nature marking the course of social affairs”. That is, people formulated a government to end chaos, annihilate the animal instinct in us and thereby, to control the society for its betterment. In a way, Augustine opines that government was formed to “repress the collective id”. In other words, government exists to maintain justice within the society, at least that is what many think. If establishing “justice” is considered to be the sole purpose of government, then question needs to be raised on what is justice and how it should be maintained.

The Question of Justice: According to Augustine, many consider justice as an attempt to maintain fairness within society. But the current governments believe that they exist to punish those who need to be punished. This is a “negative” notion of governance as one cannot be sure as to whether one can eliminate all the “unfair” elements in the society. To avoid confusion, we can take a look at Plato’s thoughts on the purpose of government. Plato opines that government exists to maintain “harmony and balance” in the society. It is not there to maintain fairness as the “fairness” and “unfairness” are relative to the individual in charge of the justice. Owing to this relativity, the meaning of justice may vary and hence a government may fail to ensure proper “justice” – a justice that pleases everyone in the society.

What else is the purpose of governance? According to Augustine, and to many, government exists to help people evolve and better themselves. In Plato’s analogy, the government is like a doctor who helps people develop and grow into better beings. A government, in such terms, should aid in “the most efficient evolution of the human species.” If a government is for betterment of human species, let us now analyze how much our current governments have achieved this and how do we measure the quality of a government.

The Quality of a Government: In the rational-legal model, the quality of a government depends on the people in charge of it. In other terms, quality is directly related to the kind of ideologies the politicians who run the government believe in. This means, as Augustine puts it, “A government consisting of primarily Amber politicians will not be nearly as effective, based on our definition, as one that consists of primarily Green politicians.” Fundamental problems in philosophy can lead to problems in governance, issues and disputes between parties and a sort of democratic-anarchy. This can be explained the moral/ethical perspective on the question of abortion. While some (like consequentialists) may approve of abortion, others may disapprove of it as it is considered as the killing of a soul.

Similar to this is the issue of health care. While some politicians feel that public health care should be established to take care of the less fortunate, others opine that health care is a personal issue and hence can be privatized. All this point to the lack of knowledge and disagreement of ideologies, in other terms, pros and cons of policies implemented and not implemented. Now, the question is, can the current political system bring about a change in the mindset of people? Can it instigate a unified thought process that will agree with everyone and take a holistic approach to the problems prevalent in the society? Since an individual’s background, education and societal influence plays a significant role in the make-up of his mind, it is possible to “nurture” him in the right way. But, does the existing model have the potential to accomplish this?

The Question of Importance: To achieve a holistic approach to problems, government should know what is holistic. In other words, it should be able to prioritize and address issues in the right way, a way which would be a befitting solution to all and sundry. It should know what is important – building military base or educating its people or addressing the country’s health care needs. Addressing ongoing crises can be compared to cleaning a messy room. Augustine says that a government can take three stances in cleaning up the messy room (aka world) – 1. We can convince ourselves that there is no point in cleaning up the mess as it is too much to do, 2. We can convince ourselves that cleaning is possible, but only to a certain extent, 3. We can acknowledge that it is possible to clear the human problems if we take a systematic approach. All of us, in the Orange and Green color range of Spiral Dynamics,  will agree to the last stance. But, again,  there is this question of importance. Which societal problem/need is important? What problems of humanity need to be addressed immediately? Is it world hunger or global warming? Which takes precedence over the other? The answer cannot be a black-and-white response, but a holistic one. Both need to be addressed, but one cannot wait for the other. If you decide to save the planet first, you will be doing it at the expense of half the population inhabiting it who will eventually die of hunger. If feed the hungry first and ignore global warming, you will end up destroying the planet and thereby, destroying all the work you did to save its populace. So, what is needed is a government that can address all the needs, simultaneously. That is, a  government that is based on holisticity, not linearity. A governance that operates as a world-state to address global issues in a systematic, beneficial way.

Is the current Rational-Legal Government good enough to handle global issues and work toward the betterment of the human species? What are the problems that devour the human kind and why is not the existing political system still not able to find solutions for them? We will look into this in the Part II of the article.

Reference Links

1. Integral Politics: An Introduction to Integral Government by Henry Augustine

2. Integral Politics: An introduction to Integral Economy by Henry Augustine

3.  Henry Augustine’s Integral Politics: A Brief Outline of and Introduction to the Integral Era

4. Greg Wilpert: Dimensions of Integral Politics

5. Ken Wilber: Some Thoughts on Integral Politics

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