Disambiguating Post-Progressive Integralism

shadows of the future

Metamodernism.  Emergentism.  Integralism. 

These can be useful terms occasionally but they are also quite dubious merely by virtue of the fact that they resemble the names of conformist ideologies that people could join.  Why do we think they are any different than Communism, Capitalism, Islamism, Nationalism?  Our hope is that the real difference comes from our people.  The overlapping Emerge communities are (fingers crossed!) operating primarily from a post-conformist, post-formal, trans-belief sensibility.

Yet there is another problem.  Words can get mixed up and conceal opposed meanings.  Did you know that integralism is a fringe Catholic doctrine of post-progressive theocracy that is gaining sway among "far Right" intellectuals who are instinctively troubled by the dispiriting effects of liberal society?

I half-joked in my concluding essay in Dispatches from A Time Between Worlds that Ken Wilber's version of integral theory should be considered as first-wave metamodern theology.  That's a fun and possibly useful way to think about things.  However, there is a big difference between that kind of sly framing and the notion -- regaining social prominence -- that we must solve the structural problems of late modernity with an illiberal integration of church & state.

Wilber actually could be useful here.  One of his famous thought memes is the pre/trans fallacy.  It points to the common conflation of pre-conventional and post-conventional sensibilities.  Since they are both critiquing the same hegemonic condition it is easy to get them mixed up. 

The defiant illiberalism of quasi-Catholic integralist philosophy correctly noticed that there are tremendous social problems embedded in the type of liberal institutions that have come to predominate at the national and planetary scale. 

There are obviously accumulating and accelerating dangers associated with contemporary political, economic and military systems that often express themselves downstream as dehumanizing, reactive and meaningless variants of pseudo-progressive values.  And it is certainly true that traditional culture codes (and the lifeworlds upon which they depend) have been savagely disrupted and undermined by the cold machinery of corporatist globalism and its narrow notions of progress.

The solution, however, is not a return to premodern theocracy. 

Emergent metamodern thinkers are certainly sympathetic to the idea that we need a reconciliation between the fragmented realms of science, spirit, art, community, economy & health -- but that does not look the same as a regression toward an institutionalized indistinction between these crucial domains.

Philosophers like Habermas have suggested that the critical separation of cultural value spheres (e.g. art, religion, politics, science, jurisprudence) is the essential and ongoing task of modernity.  To be metamodern, integrative, Game B, etc. requires us to transcend and include the gifts of modern liberal civilization. 

We want a coordinated integration of our various cultural "muscle systems" but we do not want those muscles simply bunched up into a single inchoate mass. 

Those represent two dramatically different solutions to the problem of fragmentation.

So when you hear about integralism keep in mind that the word could be metamodern or fascistic.  People can mean very different things with the same terminology.  So we must do our best to embody a clarified understanding of the difference between regressive and transformational solutions to the metacrisis -- because both will be in play across the cultural landscape of the planet.

The future has a shadow.  
Words by Layman Pascal
Layman Pascal was incarnated on a remote island in the Pacific Northwest. He used to be a meditation teacher, yoga instructor & public speaker — but he's feeling much better now.