As some of you know, I am boycotting the Integral Conference because of I-I's unabashed promulgation of global capitalism. (See for example our prevous discussion on Integral Capitalism.) In that regard see Daniel Gustav Anderson’s “Sweet science: A proposal for integral macropolitics,” Integral Review, 6:1, March 2010, pp. 10 - 62. An excerpt:


“I will retell Wilber’s ontology…in order to demonstrate the political significance…which coincide with the particular social regime (or in Wilber’s terms, the “telos”) it expresses, integrated global capital (Guattari, 2000). My purpose is not to explicate the flaws in Wilber’s logic or demonstrate his misreadings of particular texts; such exegesis has been taken up elsewhere; it is instead to suggest ways in which Wilber’s holarchy flickers or mechanically reproduces in the field of metaphysics and spiritual aspiration the social and political structures of late capital, which are not integral at all. Further, because Wilber’s holonography reproduces the present political order and forecloses any legitimized means of transforming its problematic terms of exchange, the unevenness of its development (as I will show), one may plausibly claim that it is not a transformative model but a conservative one in the last analysis, where conservatism is understood as an attempt to maintain the status quo for its own sake” (23-4).

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I also posted this on the Santa Rosa Integral Salon Yahoo group, where Sean Hargans in a member. Here are some responses:

Sean Hargens:

For what it is worth - ITC explicitly welcomes these kinds of critiques and engagements. While II is a partner in the event it is primarily a JFKU event. It is a shame to me to think that someone with an interesting view on II's complacency with global capitalism would not come and engage people at the conference around this issue. Furthermore, such a position of boycott risks being an exemplar of what it rails against by sitting on the sidelines and not changing the status quo. To me it is like refusing to participate in the political process because you don't like the incumbent. I totally respect your position AND I hope you come and engage.

Alex Rollin:

Unfortunately it is the continued responsibility of the critics to venture into the soiled coliseums of "Integral's" already-assumed victors. I find life on the 'outside' to be just fine. It is a shame, true, but it is only minor for the world outside is so much larger and more interesting.

“It’s no longer possible for a country to collapse in isolation. Now we all collapse. The only path to stability is to equalize the consumption rates of the first and developing world. Our dream is no longer possible in the new world.” - Jared Diamond, March 2010

Sean Hargens:

That is an interesting position and I feel it is ITC's responsibility to make sure critics and a wide range of perspectives feels welcome and comes and participates. I'm not interested in Ken Wilber or Integral Institute; I'm interested in Integral Theory!


Sean: I believe your sincerity. However not participating in, or even boycotting the conference is not at all like refusing to engage the political process if I don't like the incumbent. What it is like is not contributing to the campaign of the incumbent if I don't like him and engaging the political process by criticizing him outside of his own campaign and spin. I know the conference is a joint JFKU and I-I event, but I don't want my money going to I-I at all, not one cent. And by associating the event with I-I you at least tacitly support its political-economic policies. If you truly want to make it a broader, integral conference why associate with I-I at all?
Alex Rollin:

Delightful, couldn't have said it better. At some point "institutionally-minded" folks will figure out that the messiness of a distributed approach is mandatory for respecting self-determination.
Remember this from the Integral Capitalism thread:

See David Loy's essay "Can corporations become enlightened?" in The Great Awakening: A Buddhist Social Theory, Wisdom Publications 2003. An excerpt:

The system has attained a life of its own. We all participate in this process…yet with little or no sense of moral responsibility for what happens, because such responsibility has been diffused so completely that it is lost in the impersonality of the corporate economic system.

One might argue…that there are good corporations….The same argument can be made for slavery, there were some good slave owners…. This does not refute the fact that slavery was intolerable…. And it is just as intolerable that today the earth's limited resources are being allocated primarily according to what is profitable to transnational corporations.

My Buddhist conclusion is that transnational corporations are defective economic institutions due to the basic way they are structured…. It is difficult to see how…they can be simply patched up to make them better vehicles for our economic needs. We need to consider whether it is possible to reform them in some fundamental way…or whether they should be replaced by other economic and political institutions (100-01).
Sean Hargens:

These are great points and exchanges.

To Alex - I would be careful to use big boxes like "institutionally-minded" as it engenders an us/them dynamic. I for example occupy both institutional and messy-distributed contexts and can appreciate the value and limits of both. For me it isn't about either side of that binary eventually figuring out how misguided their orientation is. Rather how can we communicate with each other such that we invite the other into deeper engagement. I hope I have done that here.

To Theurj - Thanks for feeling my sincerity. And I see how my analogy fails to capture some important aspects of your position. It is worth noting that II doesn't get a penny of your money for going to the conference. So in this sense your response needs to be reframed. The conference pays for itself and uses money to give scholarships to overseas students and other deserving people, to pay for the Best Paper Awards, and whatever revenue is left over goes into a fund to seed the next conference. II doesn't get any money at all. Also it seems a bit of a stretch to say that II has "political-economic policies". I'm clear what you have in mind as being II here. It feels like you equate KW with II in a 1:1 fashion but that is not an accurate view. I have many reasons for linking the conference to JFKU and II - and I fully support other non-II sponsored integral events. The more the merrier.


Thanks for the clarification Sean. It is true I equate II with KW. As to whether that is fair or accurate we can debate another time. I was pleased to learn though that no money goes to either. Given that I might reconsider my boycott.
Sean replied: "I'm glad that the additional information has you reconsidering attending - your critique and ideas are important to have at this gathering - to get others to see links between power/politics/truth etc. These kinds of engagements are not only welcomed at the conference but invited and encouraged. Mark Forman and I are both very committed to engendering such a climate of engagement and reflection. Contributions like yours to the process are crucial."

As I told Sean, I believe his sincerity. And yet it is blinded by unconscious presuppositions inherent to its lifeworld meme. (As are we all.) For example, at work my boss always tells me he has an open door policy and that we can share anything with him. He is open to feedback and new ideas. And yet when I present new ideas, ideas that challenge the established corporate culture, I am given a courteous yet curt "thank you, I'll consider it" but the idea is immediately forgotten and never acted upon. And I suppose I can understand that because the culture is a certain way, highly influenced by the usual capitalist meme, with its top-down management political and profit is prime economic structure. My more social-democratic ideas just don't register.

And so it is with II's (and not just Wilber's) adherence to "conscious capitalism." The IL discussion that started our own "conscious capitalism" thread made it apparent that it's not just Wilber but II in general that is attached to this notion. And that is a general belief that capitalism can be redeemed, can be changed to make it more humane, less exploitative. And especially that the basic idea of profit is good for all with its invisible hand promoting the good of all through enlightened self interest. As we explored in our thread this premise is what might have been, to be generous, a necessary step on our road from feudalism. But it still has inherent assumptions like invisible hands and self interest that can be truly socially just.

And this is highly debatable. We've made the case that perhaps it's a transition step toward democracy, not only in political but in economic structures. And democratic businesses seem the way to go in this regard. They are still businesses engaged in markets but the very idea of profit is recontextualized. Yes the worker still makes money, still makes a living, and not all workers produce or perform equally so some are rewarded better than others, including top management. And yet profit is transformed into surplus and surplus is redistributed more equitably to more social goods. The very idea that a particular person should accumulate wealth (profit), and that everyone can be wealthy, just isn't supported in a sustainable economy.

So while Sean (and perhaps even II) is open to hearing this argument it's like my boss at work. Perhaps it's an openness that is sincere but it seems it's within a general meme that doesn't really accept the premise that profit and self interest are no longer adequate ways to approach current political-economic ways of being in the world.
I'm still not sure wether it is possible to 'improve' capitalism into a green, sustainable, friendly looking Version 2.0. How is this not putting lipstick on a pig? The problem is that this system produces a few incredibly rich winners, and masses of empoverished creatures on the other side. From my ongoing literature study, I doubt that in todays system, there is room for other political goals than economic growth and further accumulation of wealth. Everything else would feel idealistic, and utopian. And this has become problematic after Auschwitz. I always come back to this WW2 Karma. There's no way going forward without solving at least some of these problems, methinks.

Of course I am not saying that everyone shoudl be equally rich. That would be outright stupid. For example I think it's a mistake that there is this Bailout of Billions of Euros to Greece from the Euro Central Bank. I think Greece should go back to its old currency, so that the inflation could regulate itself, and then afterwards change back to the Euro. Like a Doctor would isolate a sick person until the Virus is gone and only then cancel the quarantine. The way it is done now, I am afraid that the Euro is going down and taking the whole continent with it. This bailout is not even legally correct: it explicitly prehibited in the Lissabon treaty. Ah WTF. What crazy times are these anyway?

Recall that our “integral capitalism” thread started with a reference to the Integral Life page on conscious capitalism. It’s title is “Like it or not you’re a capitalist” and it is introduced with these words: “If you shop, have a job, or own any investments, you're a capitalist. But are you a conscious capitalist?”

For one this presumes that if you engage in markets and business or exchange money you are a capitalist, which is an erroneous and revealing assumption. Cannot one do all those things without engaging in capitalism? One most certainly can. Just because money or “capital” in involved doesn’t make it capitalism. The latter is a specific economic system defined as follows from

“An economic system based on a free market, open competition, profit motive and private ownership of the means of production. Capitalism encourages private investment and business, compared to a government-controlled economy. Investors in these private companies (i.e. shareholders) also own the firms and are known as capitalists.

“In such a system, individuals and firms have the right to own and use wealth to earn income and to sell and purchase labor for wages with little or no government control. The function of regulating the economy is then achieved mainly through the operation of market forces where prices and profit dictate where and how resources are used and allocated. The U.S. is a capitalistic system.”

So what do the Integral Life assumptions reveal?

I'm reminded of one of the issues in the Kagan SC nomination, this notion of consensus between liberals and conservatives. This premise presumes that they are both legitimate ideas of equal worth, complexity and development that just need some balancing and integration. But is the presumption accurate? I think not. I agree with Wilber's general idea that the liberal worldview is a higher development than the conservative. Granted they are exceptions and contextual caveats but it's valid as a generalizing orientation. And I also agree with Wilber that worldviews are what he calls transitional structures, i.e., that as they progress they replace the previous structure. For example, in moral development one does not simultaneously hold an egocentric and worldcentric morality, and they are not balanced or integrated. The latter replaces the former. And so it is with worldviews.

So we not only have to not balance or integrate conservative with the liberal worldviews, we do not have to balance or integrate capitalism with socially and democratically run economic markets. It's not a mix-and-match, pick-as-you-choose elements from capitalism to balance with more equitable ideas from a more developed worldview-marketplace. Such "consensus" has the same assumptions of an equal and complementary relation between capitalism and social democracy as there is between conservative and liberal worldviews. Wilber is lacking in theoretical consistency on his defense (and definition) of capitalism and it has severe real-life consequences for society by continuing the inequities of a system that has outgrown any usefulness it might have had.
Another assumption from the Integral Life piece is the following:

“You believe that ‘capitalism’ can and will evolve as the consciousness of the people composing it evolve.”

This is the consciousness in “conscious” capitalism. But again, this assumes that a higher consciousness, presumably “integral” consciousness, will continue to express through a lower socio-economic system. That somehow the latter can be redeemed it we just think about it differently. It also presumes that this integral consciousness has somehow balanced and integrated the prior liberal and conservative worldviews in a higher synthesis. But recall the liberal or progressive worldview was not a balance or integration of the conservative but its replacement. And if there is such a thing as an integral worldview it too is not an integration of liberal and conservative worldviews but their replacement.

Given that the integral view, as expressed in this article (and videos), tries to balance and integrate capitalism with a so-called higher consciousness it reveals a few things. It is antithetical to its own principles of the transcend-and-replace nature of transitional structures. If fact by tying the transcend-and-include nature of “basic” structures to worldviews and socio-economic systems it regresses to the type of egoic-rational basic cognitive structure that cannot make this very distinction. It lends further support that integral conscious capitalism really is not so much an evolved worldview but more of a conservative, capitalist, Republican socio-economic view dressed up in newer, more glamorous clothing-rationalizations. It’s a view that has yet to go through the so-called “green” progressive worldview with its social and democratically run markets
I also want to offer John Mackey's statement on conscious capitalism, as he is often held as the exemplar of integral capitalism. Further commentary to follow.
Putting aside for the moment criticism of the idealistic notions of the kind of capitalism Mackey espouses, Chomsky says that laissez-faire capitalism is

“an ideal case that would never be tried by any state or other social structure that has control over its own fate. The existing societies are all state capitalist, with varying degrees of state intervention in the economy and social life.”

What does he prefer instead?

“The really preferred doctrine (at least by me) would be economic democracy, that is, control over workplaces and other economic institutions by participants and communities. There are many such proposals, and some have been implemented. It also has a rich history of popular support.”

When asked about capitalism in general he responded:

“I doubt that capitalism would be a good idea, but it won’t come to the test. The business world would never allow it, just as in the past. They have always demanded a powerful nanny state — for themselves. There are fundamental inefficiencies in market systems even in narrow capitalist terms, and a lot more wrong (a value judgment) in the kinds of values they foster. The US version of state capitalism happens to be particularly cruel.”

Mackey seems oblivious that the ruling form of capitalism is state capitalism, and such corporate control of government will not be changed by a few sincere but naïve idealistic capitalists like him promoting positive change by example. He will not even be noticed by the power elite until and unless he starts to cost them one penny in profit; then he will be crushed. In the meantime such power brokers no doubt silently nod in approval while he promotes capitalism in general, as it keeps the masses from appropriately directing their anger at the iniquitous system that is creating their turmoil.
Following is more of Chomsky on state capitalism:

“The immediate origins of the current meltdown lie in the collapse of the housing bubble….But the roots are deeper. In part they lie in the triumph of financial liberalisation in the past 30 years – that is, freeing the markets as much as possible from government regulation….the narrow sectors that reaped enormous profits from liberalisation are calling for massive state intervention to rescue collapsing financial institutions.

“Such interventionism is a regular feature of state capitalism, though the scale today is unusual. A study by international economists Winfried Ruigrok and Rob van Tulder 15 years ago found that at least 20 companies in the Fortune 100 would not have survived if they had not been saved by their respective governments, and that many of the rest gained substantially by demanding that governments “socialise their losses,” as in today’s taxpayer-financed bailout. Such government intervention “has been the rule rather than the exception over the past two centuries”, they conclude.

“In a functioning democratic society, a political campaign would address such fundamental issues, looking into root causes and cures, and proposing the means by which people suffering the consequences can take effective control.

“The financial market “underprices risk” and is “systematically inefficient”, as economists John Eatwell and Lance Taylor wrote a decade ago, warning of the extreme dangers of financial liberalisation and reviewing the substantial costs already incurred – and proposing solutions, which have been ignored. One factor is failure to calculate the costs to those who do not participate in transactions. These “externalities” can be huge. Ignoring systemic risk leads to more risk-taking than would take place in an efficient economy, even by the narrowest measures.

“The task of financial institutions is to take risks and, if well-managed, to ensure that potential losses to themselves will be covered. The emphasis is on “to themselves”. Under state capitalist rules, it is not their business to consider the cost to others – the “externalities” of decent survival – if their practices lead to financial crisis, as they regularly do.

“Financial liberalisation has effects well beyond the economy. It has long been understood that it is a powerful weapon against democracy. Free capital movement creates what some have called a “virtual parliament” of investors and lenders, who closely monitor government programmes and “vote” against them if they are considered irrational: for the benefit of people, rather than concentrated private power. Investors and lenders can “vote” by capital flight, attacks on currencies and other devices offered by financial liberalisation.”
I find Chomsyk's perspective to be helpful to understand what's going on in the economic and not-economic world. I have only begun to get a grasp on this difficult problem, but I already understand that it's a lot about management of attention - most people never grasp what's going on, and that's part of why the system works as well as it does.

Phillipp Goodchild in "Theology of Money" (yes i mentioned this before) distinguishes flatland-economy from the creation of social capital and enhanced experiences through economic behavior. In other words, he believes that there is a "morally right" way to deal with capitalism - in such a way that "It [becomes] a question of orienting economic behavior towards that which is taken as mattering rather than allowing economic behavior to determine what matters."

That is to say that the economy should serve the public will rather than dictating it. This is all pretty close to Habermases "Colonization of the Lifeworld".

Goodchild gives another example: It seem to matter a lot in economic circles to "save time" because time is money. But what is to be done with the time that is set free by e.g. upgraded production mechanisms? It is usually reinvested to search for more opportunites to save even more time. Thus, "If the Outcome of time is held as more significant than the experience, then to make efficiency gains, the quality of time may be downgraded by eliminating all that is superflous and inefficient in relation to production. As a result, more time is spent on less significant experience, and the time that is spent is downgraded in quality." The Snake bites its tail, and the inhuman industrial machine of modernity reproduces an multiplies its own drawbacks, moving on like a unstoppable steam engine, or an undead army of mindless zombies flooding the shopping malls, consuming for consuming's sake. Forever and ever, Amen.


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