Friday, October 5, 2018

Laske on the perils of developmental models

From the archive:

Some excerpts from Otto Laske’s article in the Aug/Nov ’13 issue of ILR follow. The first 2 paragraphs question the scientific or ‘objective’ facts claimed by developmentalists and see them more as a product of their unconscious societal biases. One of those biases is that very blindness in accepting the modernist (formal) premises of a pure objectivity apart from more subjective biases, as if science or math could get outside of context and determine the final ‘truth’ of things. Such a blindness then doesn’t even recognize the societal shifts necessary for personal transformation, instead assuming that it’s all a personal quest and responsibility, the very values inherent to that status quo, modernist and capitalist system that only accepts personal responsibility as legitimate via this formal and metaphysical logic. All we need do is get them to personally grow and send them back into the shark-pit of the capitalist workforce, as if they then have the personal power and will to overcome it.

Another example of that is the incessant obsession with classification in the 3rd paragraph, and that those classes are rigidly structured with clear dividing lines: you’re either in the classification or not. Laske doesn’t see this a representative of dialectical thinking but a continuation of formal logic. And this maintains the hierarchical status quo of business as usual, with the ‘leaders’ in charge as they should be. However once we ‘enlighten’ them with personal growth this will of course trickle down to the rest of us and make our lives better? Instead it reinforces the very formal and modernist notion of hierarchical business relationships in the first place and completely misses the P2P boat of the actual next phase of societal development.


“In this paper, I am taking a critical, socio-historical perspective on what is presented today as ‘factual’ insight into the structure of the development of adults, both social-emotional and cognitive. I intend to show that the scientific construct of ‘adult development’ is actually an affirmative codification of a historical situation [….] the higher intellectual faculties, often addressed as ‘reason’, are held in check by instrumentalist strategic designs and goals that individuals internally reproduce as their own, in most cases without realizing that many of these goals and designs are not beneficial for the quality of their life. In this perspective, ‘scientific’ information about adult development, while giving insight into the status quo of the individual simultaneously covers up the wounds of historical progress and the limits of the mental space reserved for individual development, and is thus a part of the affirmative culture by which present society reproduces itself in individuals.

“If as suggested adult developmental theory is not a neutral theory, but a codification of what historically has become of members of Western society, then it might be timely to begin thinking about what its social-emotional stages and cognitive phases really indicate in terms of people’s social existence, and to ask whether the human potential the theory espouses is more than what an individual can realize within its own limited mental space, in an ideal world, rather than supported by social reality at large. […]Are we doing harm to them by making them fit for society through coaching as was once said of psychoanalysis? How can we be ‘helpers’ if we are not guided by the utopia of restructuring social reality in terms of stopping or modifying the endless ‘progress’ we seem to be caught up in, which, ultimately, amounts to nothing (or very little) a soul can be nourished by? Can we actually give our clients critical resources that transcend optimal work performance by which the status quo is confirmed?”

“When trying to decode how cognitive development is conceived by adult-developmental theory, one usefully distinguishes between formal-logical and dialectical thinking. As long as we restrict cognitive development to formal logic, we are essentially endorsing the social status quo whose hallmark is classification up to the meta-systemic level of individuals’ life. Classifications easily develop into control schemes, which indeed is their main purpose. In a totally administered world such as we live in, such classification is of the highest value for suppressing any thought of what could be different. Classification assures us that everything is well and could not be otherwise.”

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