“MY SUSPICIOUS FRIEND," says the book, “as you have no doubt heard, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. We need to remember that co-creating a metamodern society is risky business."
This charming warning begins the famous Montesquieu 2.0
passage from Hanzi Frienacht's volume on metamodern politics, Nordic Ideology
(2019). And there is some terminology therein with which we should all be passably familiar. We need a decent amount of shared vocab to begin any attempt at metamodern political sensemaking.
It is easy to lose track of permutations in our field. The overlapping transformational, developmental and regenerative networks are always creating and mutating. EMERGE helps to establish our collective self-awareness by placing individuals, projects and upcoming events in front of each other. Part of that task requires ensuring that we have enough common vocabulary and shared conceptual referents.
That is an especially difficult problem in politics. Human political life is always contentious but the late modern epoch has exacerbated this problem. Today, we are putting a lot more pressure on our politics.
We have pressure from the anxieties of the metacrisis, the uncertainty of new consciousness & the radical potentials of our new bio-digital technologies. We have pressure from the displaced drives that formerly expressed themselves as orthodox religion. Our politics today, haunted by performative vanity, tribalism, racism and class exploitation, has become an arena of frayed nerves, ideological tensions & bureaucratic guerilla warfare.
At the same time, our “news media” has been revealed to us as a self-serving machine of stress-based engagement, misinformation, counter-misinformation and algorithmically automated exposure to complex situations over which the average person has almost no leverage whatsoever. That means that we are disoriented, disagreeable and differently informed when we come into our political sensemaking arenas. So how can we possibly do shared sensemaking at the leading-edge of the political domain?
One approach is to start mapping the clusters and factions that are emerging today. Joe Lightfoot has been working on this. He sees contemporary progressives (“woke"), social liberals (“elites"), national populists (“fascists"), classical liberals (“establishment"), holistic progressives (“fruitcakes") & independent populists (“crackpots").
Beyond mapping, we could try to encourage new transpartisan experiments. In the United States, we have recently seen Andrew Yang's Forward Party
and Bret Weinstein's Unity Party
. Both are alternatively inspiring and dubious. As are their analogs in many countries around the world.
Metamodern and integrative philosophy networks have seen ongoing debates between post-progressive centrists, the metaprogressive left, quasi-monarchist mystical metaconservatives, eco-socialist libertarians, panarchists, Bunzl's SIMPOL movement & the meta-ideological politics
of Ryan Nakade
and the Reconstitution
The sheer complexity of the problem of metamodern politics may be one of the reasons for a recent return to Hanzi's idiosyncratic oversimplification. Montesquieu 2.0
is a way of thinking straightforwardly about a plausible civic framework compatible with Inner Development Goals
and the emergent crisis of Planetary Boundaries
. Brandon Norgaard and others at the Enlightened Worldview Project
have been using this phraseology to convey the concept of a limited, interlocking set of social shifts necessary to stabilize a new political condition.
It is named after the original Baron of Montesquieu (1698-1755) who was a French social philosopher of anti-slavery, liberty and collective intelligence. He was a fierce diagnostician for the health of political institutions. Montesquieu's book The Spirit of Law
(highly influential on the philosopher-activists of the American and French Revolutions) introduced the justifiably praised concept of separation of powers
He argued that to avoid the collapse of the social field, we need to tease apart several interlocking forms of governance -- executive, judicial & legislative branches. None of these political bodies would be adequate on their own. And allowing them to fuse into a social authority would be dangerously regressive. They need to be adequately independent while constantly negotiating their cooperation with each other.
Montesquieu's approach helped fuel the enormous political progress of the last two centuries but it has the drawback of reinforcing a system of insufficient, representational, and majoritarian pseudo-democracy that is currently the dominant vehicle for the generator-functions of the metacrisis.
So Hanzi & co. propose taking this same thinking to the next level -- clarifying six complementary functions of metamodern politics. Each of them would likely be unstable and problematic on its own. Collectively they reinforce and stabilize each other as a common sociopolitical platform.
Here are the six aspects of Montesquieu 2.0Politics of Theory requires processes for generating, regenerating and updating our collective sensemaking narratives (“theory"). Diverse human beings cannot do politics without telling themselves a story. We need a purpose and shared worldspace in order to work together toward common improvements. But the coordinates of our coordination are changing. The history of paradigms and the ongoing complexity of the leading-edge civilization means that our politics must commit to the ongoing cultivation and intelligent re-establishment of shared stories. Democratization Politics involves the ongoing betterment and distribution of self-governance at all scales. The historical concept of democracy represents an improvement in distributed decision-making, public participation and collective intelligence. That revolution is ongoing and must be enhanced through smarter procedures for eliciting, compiling and enacting intelligence from many sources. Gemeinschaft Politics focuses on the shared spirit, the relational ethos, of a mutual culture. Gemeinschaft is a German word for community. Trust, fellowship and civic engagement are necessary -- organized around common efforts and satisfying forms of social play. Empirical Politics keeps our institutions anchored to our best approximation of objective facts. Unless our political climate and institutions are proactively attempting to gather, verify and analyze claims then society drifts toward collapse. Existential Politics pursues various inner development goals as the orienting virtue of our shared political culture. Existential depth, well-being, integrity, mental health & peak experiences provide the spiritual core of metamodern society. Emancipation Politics combats oppression and marginalization originating from self-interested groups and administrative bureaucracies. Institutions with power, no matter how necessary they might be, always creep toward increasing homogeneity, obedience and regulation. Against this we require a politics of liberty and antifragility that protects the legal and emotional freedom of citizens against excessive administrative norms and power-seeking factions.
Not bad. Obviously, this Montesquieu 2.0 framework may be challenged. Perhaps it is applicable only for already thriving first-world nations? Perhaps it is leaving out an equally necessary form of metamodern politics? But with a little stretching, pounding and tweaking it might be serviceable as a rough, simple & easily communicable approach to a topic that is always complex and contested.
At least we have this common vocabulary with which to begin arguing or agreeing.* BONUS *
If 6 is 2 many, try 3!
A social politics
subdivides into intersubjective (gemeinschaft) and interobjective (democratization) procedures. Sensemaking politics
subdivides into safeguarding facts (empirical) and communicating a narrativized framing (politics of theory). And a politics of agency
subdivides into the issue of sovereignty for individuals and groups relative to social forces and incentives (emancipation) and relative to human biopsychology (existential).
And if you come up with a superior simplification, let us know