Monday, November 8, 2010

Constructive and deconstructive postmodernism

Continuing the theme from the postformal enaction post, Hampson in his Integral Review article “Integral re-view postmodernism” (link in previous post) discussed how Wilber distinguishes construction and deconstructive postmodernism. The latter is a lower level of postformal development (green) while the former is a higher postformal development (teal and above). Aside from Hampson questioning the validity of deconstruction as relativistic he also questions this placement and suggests that perhaps they are both sides of the same postformal coin (level).

In this regard Mark Edwards (2010) says this:

“I regard integral metastudies as a counterpart to the more typical forms of decentering and deconstructing postmodernism which seeks to identify and give voice to the personal story, the local history, the grounded experience, and the marginalized instance. These two postmodern activities are fundamentally different and provide critical counterpoints for each other’s development. Decentering, pluralist postmodern research is not something I believe is to be integrated within an integral metastudies. Decentering postmodernism and integrative postmodernism are complementary forms of knowledge building. Where integral postmodernism develops abstractions, decentering postmoderism develops grounded stories. Where integral postmodernism creates imaginative generalized frameworks, decentering postmodernism creates particular narratives and personalized accounts of human experience.

“This is not a developmental modernism versus postmodernism battle. It is an ongoing complementarity (e.g., Plato and Aristotle). An integral metastudies should not be seen as a rational project of integrating every perspective, concept, paradigm, or cultural tradition within its domain. There must be some things that, by definition, lie outside of its capacities to accommodate and explain. Consequently, an integral metastudies needs a decentering postmodernism that it cannot integrate, that lies outside of its scientific and systematic purview, which continually challenges it and is critical of its generalizations, abstractions, and universalizings. The decentering form of particularizing postmodernism is not something that integral metatheory can locate or neatly categorize somewhere within its general frameworks. Decentering postmodernism will always provide a source of critical insight and substantive opposition to the generalizing goals of an integral metastudies. In the same way that postmodernism often misunderstands integrative approaches as just some form of scientific monism, there is a danger that integral researchers can misrepresent the decentering and localizing concerns of postmodernism as simple relativism” (408 - 09).

Recent work on metatheory suggests that postmodern decentering is itself a form of metatheory, a compliment to the more constructive kind. For example in the special Integral Review issue on metatheory Steven Wallis (2010) says:
"It may be noted that six of our authors describe metatheory as making implicit assumptions explicit analysis of assumptions analysis of underlying structure, and the analysis of structure. These are essentially deconstructive approaches.

"In contrast to this deconstructive approach, metatheory may also be understood to integrate multiple theories. The two approaches may be inseparable as one cannot combine integrate two theories without also integrating the assumptions, structures, and concepts of those theories. In short, metatheory (as the study of theory) may be conducted in at least two ways. It may be integrative (where multiple theories are combined). It may be deconstructive (where theories are parsed into their constituent components for analysis and/or recombination). Either way, the process leads to the creation of a metatheory, metatheorum, or a 'theory of theory'” (78).

In the same issue of IR Latha Poonamallee sees Advaita non-dualism as one of the deconstructive metatheories. She says in "Advaita (non-dualism) as metatheory":

"Another school of thought takes the position that examining metatheory as a constellation of ontological, epistemological, and methodological assumptions is a useful one. This paper is more aligned with the latter view that an examination of the underlying assumptions about theorizing can increase 'theoretical consciousness'and provide an alternate framework for inquiry” (190).

I will have more to say about nondualism as a legitimate metatheory in itself later, which disagrees with using such traditional notions of nondualism because they retain metaphysical elements.

Edwards, M. G. (2010) ‘Of Elephants and Butterflies: An Integral Metatheory for Organizational Transformation, in Integral Theory in Action: Applied, Theoretical, and Critical Perspectives on the AQAL Model, Esbjörn-Hargens, S. (Ed.) Albany, NY: SUNY Press, pp.385-412.

Wallis, S. (2010) "Toward a science of metatheory," Integral Review 6:3, July.


  1. Here's some more from Hampson's article:

    "Wilber uses the term deconstructive postmodernism and strongly associates it with AQAL’s Green vMeme—described by Wilber as the green meme, level, stage or wave, alongside the similarly strong associations of pluralism and relativism.... In this vignette, constructive is the hero, one associated with bright, hopeful promise; whilst deconstructive is the villain, associated with nihilism, rancidity and vulgarity....constructive postmodernism is the next holarchical level after deconstructive postmodernism" (129).

    "Notions of construction and deconstruction as necessary adversaries can appropriately be seen to stem from an either/or mindset. Thinking dialectically, their relationship can fruitfully be rather understood as complexly interpenetrating. Deconstructive and reconstructive postmodernisms share one genealogy which itself has a dialectical underpinning" (151).

    Also recall Catherine Keller's comments in Process and Difference (SUNY, 2002) about David Ray Griffin's distinctions of these two streams, much of which Wilber vomits verbatim.

    "I will suggest that his [Griffin's] analysis suffers from a fallacy of misplaced opposition....he has mounted the argument against a deconstruction of his own invention.... Reconstructive postmodernism depends on deconstruction as much as much as deconstruction depends on the speculative schemes it deconstructs" (3-4).

    In this book there is also a chapter by Gare on the genealogy of the 2 streams, much of which Hampson investigates.

  2. Hampson explores Gare on p. 120, where there is a split in Shelling's dual interpretations of Hegel. Cosmological pomo came from Shelling's alignment with Hegel and poststructuralism came more from his criticism of Hegel. Notable luminaries of the former were Bergson and Whitehead via Pierce and of the latter Heidegger, Foucault and Derrida.

    Recall an earlier thread on postformal enaction and the debate between Hegel's kind of dialectic in the MHC and how other pomos question its validity. How can they both be right? And wrong? Both and neither?

  3. Also check out this article by Luis Pedraja, "Whitehead, deconstruction of postmodernism." Here are a few relevant excerpts:

    "I am also breaking ranks with those, like Griffin, who place Whitehead in direct contrast to postmodern deconstructionists.... While Griffin’s interpretation of Whitehead merits serious consideration, it still attempts to salvage a 'centeredness' which is difficult to maintain in Whitehead’s philosophy....we also must recognize that Whitehead’s critique of modernism radically deconstructs the possibility of an unbiased, axiomatic center that can be abstracted from the whole. This does not mean that Whitehead advocates a radical relativism or a denial of freedom like some advocates of deconstruction. But neither does Derrida’s philosophy in its basic presuppositions advocate a radical relativism and a denial of freedom as some of his interpreters propose.

  4. Quotes from Gare, A. “The roots of postmodernism: Schelling, process philosophy and poststructuralism.” Process and Difference (Albany: SUNY press, 2002)

    “Schelling's earlier work was a major influence on process philosophy and his later work was a major influence on the poststructuralists” (33).

    If we were to give credence to this notion of “later” thought in one's oeuvre as being more “developmental” in a transcend and include fashion then we might be ironically prone to see pomo as the higher level here. But continuing in the Obama theme of balance recall from Pedraja that each camp tended to emphasize one aspect of this divide while ignoring the other. Schelling himself though appeared to combine both aspects in a “nondual” embrace. For example:

    “Transcendental philosophy therefore needs to be complimented by a philosophy of nature.... Schelling later pointed out that his philosophy was neither materialist nor spiritualist, neither realist nor idealist; it contained within itself these oppositions. And he affirmed the priority of the philosophy of nature over transcendental idealism” (34)


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