Steve McIntosh’s Integral Politics: An insight into the political future of the planet

by editor

Steve McIntosh is an important figure in the sphere of Integral Thought. He is one of the first thinkers to make a proposal for a world federation constitution informed by Integral philosophy. Steve McIntosh deals at length about this “world federation” in his book Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution. An advocate, businessman and an integral theorist, Steve McIntosh’s breakthrough book proposes how the integral theory of Ken Wilber, Don Beck and other integral philosophers can be used for the welfare of the world by means of elevation of world consciousness from traditional, modernist or postmodernist to the integral level.

McIntosh believes that an integral worldview is more than a series of ideas or emerging trends in culture. It is, according to him, “a real, authentic social movement that transcended and included all the problems of the postmodern worldview and the countercultural scene. A new kind of cultural organism is beginning to emerge, one that has a life of its own, and I am beginning to see it with more clarity than ever.” This article will explore the good that would come of the application of integralism in world politics through which the political future of the planet can be changed for the better.

Integralism, to start with: Integralism did not sprout in a day. It had been simmering under the cultural trends of ages before it took a proper thought form. It is evident in the thought patterns of philosophers like Hegel, Baldwin, Sri Aurobindo, Teilhard de Chardin, Maslow and others before it was taken up by Don Beck or Ken Wilber. To quote McIntosh’s interviewer Carter Phipps from the EnlightenNext Magazine, “Integralism or evolution of culture and consciousness began as early as Descartes”, with his famous statement – “I think, therefore I am”. As McIntosh himself mentions in his book, “Wilber’s 21st century integral synthesis does for the internal universe what Descartes’ philosophy did for the external universe.”

Basically, integralism is all about a new level of consciousness that is worldcentric. The integral worldview recognizes that the evolution or stages in the development of human consciousness correspond to particular stages in human history. In other words, there are “structures in consciousness” – like mentioned by Don Beck in his Spiral Dynamics – which correlate to human history and are not creations of the mind of a sociologist or a philosopher, but “living systems of culture”. The evolution of human consciousness is represented by an upward double helix spiral structure that has passed through stages like – tribal, warrior, traditional, modernist, postmodernist and now, the integral. Each and every country in the world today has a dominating consciousness, which can be “modernist” or “postmodernist” or even the old, “warrior” type. In a country like the United States, according to social scientist Paul Ray, has about 50% of “modernist” thinking, while an Islamic country may still have “warrior” consciousness  lurking inside. The country and the culture’s behavior and worldview vary depending upon the dominant consciousness.

Steve McIntosh’s Integralism: Steve McIntosh believes in application of Integral Thought into politics. Though not a politician, he trusts that only integral thought can bring about the change the world is waiting for, addressing global concerns and establish peace, prosperity and justice.

Stages of consciousness and political structures:
In Spiral Dynamics, Don Beck mentions the eight levels of consciousness human mind has seen. Of the eight the first six belong to the first stage of development or first-tier, while the last two (the postmodernist and the integral) belong to the second stage or second-tier thinking. Based on this, McIntosh claims that each and every stage of consciousness has/had a corresponding political structure that stabilized and authenticated or even instigated that level of consciousness. Dividing consciousness levels into six major divisions, “tribal, warrior, traditional, modern, postmodern and integral”, McIntosh says that political form of authority/organization of the stage enhanced and controlled the stage.

For instance, in “tribal” stage, there is a tribe which is controlled by a chief. In the “warrior” stage, though people together like a tribe, they carry “warrior” instincts of conquests, war and pride and were also in the early stages of empire building. The “traditional” consciousness had a feudal political set up, wherein everyone was under one moral order or authority. “Modern” thinking set in with democratic and multi-ethnic nations. Though “postmodern” thinking is prevalent in social democracies, the whole world is still “modernist” with regard to politics. As McIntosh puts it, “modernism” is still the “de facto system of global politics today”. If one notices closely, all these stages of development had a political system to support it and also “included”, yet “transcended” the previous level of consciousness. With Integralism now gaining prominence, McIntosh and other Integral thinkers believe that the Integral era has arrived and hence the setting up of  a “world federation” is essential in the near future.

But how will the Integral political era begin? Does it need to be instigated by external factors like world wars (which established the United Nations)? The answer is no. Catastrophes or traumatic situations need not occur in the form of wars, but even in issues related to global warming, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, genocides, pandemics etc. With every issue becoming global day after day and every small thing having repercussions all over the world, the need for a worldcentric view and establishment of a world federation is important.

Integral World Federation: In his book,  Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution, McIntosh talks about the need for creation of a world federation, a sort of an Integral World Government that would address issues and achieve key goals of providing “international cooperation on environmental regulations, democratizing the rules of the global economy, providing enforceable human rights, and eventually bringing greater peace, justice, and prosperity.” (In an interview to ‘What is Enlightenment’ magazine). In short, such an Integral World Government will be a form of federal union among modern democratic nations. The European Union has achieved this only to a partial extent.

Integral Politics – How is it different from Left and Right? According to McIntosh, “It’s actually a blind spot in the media to have a political discourse that’s framed by the left-right paradigm. It’s a worn-out category that needs to be discarded.” He believes that Integral Politics transcends the Left and the Right, by offering new political insights into issues that the world is not able to tackle. The holistic view of Integralism shows how certain historical stages of development are active and influential in the world and what needs to be done to help people grow out of first-tier levels of consciousness (mentioned in Spiral Dynamics by Don Beck).

But beyond the Right and Left, there is something called nationalism. How will the whole world agree to give their national autonomy to a global governing body? If there is dislike of a world federation, it is, according to McIntosh, a problem due to “uneven development of consciousness and cultures across the world”. Since the world comprises of pre-democratic, democratic, traditional and modernist countries, it would take time and space for such a world federation to be born.

Integral Politics and global issues:
Integral Politics will address issues in the integral way, taking into consideration the root of the problem, based on the spiral growth of human development. McIntosh in his interview to the EnlightenNext magazine opines that Integral Politics is not about creating “peaceniks” but about developing a consciousness that distinguishes between what is worth fighting for and what is not.

For instance, McIntosh recommends handling Islamic radicalism with a soft hand. He says that the Islam was once the conqueror race which was on top of the world. Basic problem with the Islamic radicals is the lack of this pride. They still live in “warrior” consciousness and lack of lost pride makes them want to conquer and establish themselves in the world. McIntosh opines, “People in Islam feel disgraced, deeply wounded, and ashamed that they find themselves in what’s unmistakably a backward stage of history and civilization. They have a great sense of pride about the fact that Islam was once the leading culture in the world. It was once great and they know that it could be great again. So the forces that are creating radicalism are this feeling of being stuck, this feeling of having failed, this feeling of disgrace.” To restore balance, the “warrior” needs respect and regard. This can be done by helping the positive voices in Islam to become audible. Another way, prescribed by McIntosh is, “the other thing we could do is to recognize how important dignity is to the Islamic world and give them back some of that dignity. For example, we could pay for a memorial in downtown Tehran that memorializes our shame at the CIA’s political manipulation of the Iranian government. We can atone for those sins, help heal that little bit of history, and thereby become more moral ourselves.”

McIntosh believes that Integral Politics is the next political structure of the planet. But one cannot assertively say that it has come of age as several world nations (at least Islamic and developing countries) need to wake up the integral way of life. When the upward shift in consciousness happens, world-governing bodies will be a possibility, without disruptions like nationalism, terrorism or war-culture. Such a world will also have the moral superiority of democracy and a modernist attitude toward life.

Reference Links:

1. Steve McIntosh’s interview on Integral Politics with Carter Phipps of EnlightenNext magazine

2. Steve McIntosh Biography and Professional information

3. World Federation -  A Transcendent Vision of Integral Consciousness by Steve McIntosh.

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