Sunday, February 27, 2011

Integral political economy

As a follow up to the progressive economics post consider Ray Harris' 2 essays, "Left, right or just plain wrong" and "Thoughts toward an integral political economy." In the first Harris is critical of the lack of challenge in the integral community toward the existing and unjust economic paradigm controlling much of the world's weath. Both essays were written in 2004, long before trademarked integral's support of this system in "conscious capitalism," so instead of a needed critique they've gone even farther in the wrong direction. Hence Harris' critique is more relevant than ever. The second essay is even better, as it focused on his positive vision. A vision much like we've seen in progressive economics, but informed with an integral perspective. For these views he was ostracized from trademarked integral and branded a mean green meme. I'd say he was more like a healthy turquoise that wasn't recognized through a capitalistic lens. The whole "mean green meme" meme is itself an unconscious pathological denial of all the implications Ray points out projected onto the messenger. Talk about the need for some serious shadow work.

These 2 essays really should be the intergraal  economic manifesto. An aside on the term intergraal. I used it in the old Gaia forum but cannot find it in the old posts. I use it as a term for the alter-integral movement, i.e., not the trademarked variety. Inter highlights the connective nature of the between, between the one and many, between the inside and outside, what shows relation and interdependence instead of self-isolation and rampant individualism. Graal is the Old French spelling of grail, and in this case symbolizes that positive vision we aspire to and consciously work toward, such as Harris' vision above. Hail intergraal!

Here are some excerpts from Harris' essays. From "Left, right or just plain wrong":

"Will an integral political economy be capitalist in character or be a totally new configuration that transcends any previous political economy? Is the integral movement really challenging the cultural norms of society or is there a bias that accepts individualism and capitalism as a given?

"Isn’t it still true that the capitalist class profits by exploiting labour? What is Wilber’s position on the minimum wage in the US? Does an integral politics think that this is ethically acceptable? Will integral politics admit, as research seems to suggest, that worker owned and controlled enterprises are more efficient and naturally more integral places to work?

"Will Don Beck and other integral consultants advise their corporate clients to buy back shares and distribute them to workers and then set up a management system based on direct worker input? Will they advise their corporate clients to raise wages and to drop executive remuneration and share packages? Will they advise clients that the share market is simply an elaborate casino that extracts wealth from productive investment? Or will they simply hold a series of workshops that really don’t challenge a thing? Are the workshops designed to shift everyone in the organization up the spiral or do they merely tell managers how to better manage each vMeme to better maintain profits and therefore share price? To better exploit the working class?

"I agree with the prime directive. It states that the health of each level is vital to the health of the whole spectrum or spiral. It’s worth really contemplating because it forms the absolute foundation for integral ethics. It says that anyone who espouses integral theory is bound by the logic of that theory to act in such a way that the greatest good is accomplished for the greatest number across the greatest depth and span possible – a kind of expanded integral utilitarianism. Note that the prime directive does not say – the greatest good for the greatest span except where it affects my own country, lifestyle or personal ambitions and desires. You see that is what first tier is supposed to do. It mitigates the prime directive by putting in selfish exceptions.

"But what if the integral community is actually dodging the full political implications of the prime directive? What if it is excitedly looking into the integral future and ignoring some rather obvious and large ethical boulders in its path? For example, the class system inherent in capitalism where certain people benefit by exploiting the labour of others, like Indonesian clothing machinists or illegal Mexican farm labourers. Or do we just conveniently ignore this problem? Or do we create an integral rationalization or even argue that there is such a thing as integral capitalism? This is the argument that the best way to help poor people is to get rich and employ them. This is the trickle down effect. It’s a cornerstone of Republican tax theory. Remove tax to stimulate the economy to increase employment. Except it doesn’t answer the problem that the extra income is usually invested in the speculative stock market and that there has been a net flow from productive investment to speculative investment in the last five years. In other words it doesn’t go to jobs it goes to share portfolios. Or should we buy the neo-liberal economic propaganda lock, stock and barrel without critical examination and ignore the fact that the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer in relative terms?

"Is it okay to be somewhat complacent with the clear evidence that the current political economy of the planet directly contradicts the prime directive?"

From "Thoughts toward an integral political economy":

"Wealth is simply the amount of surplus one has. How one uses that surplus is a political decision. 

"One of the fundamental principles of an integral political economy is that a surplus created at one level of need is used to correct a deficit at the next level of need. The creation of the next surplus necessitates the change from one level of organization to the next. A deficit of a core need creates a devolutionary movement.

"A surplus of individualism creates the tension necessary to move to the next stage, the modification of a surplus of selfish individualism to meet newly understood deficit of systemic and meta-systemic needs. For example, the individual right to consumption is balanced against the need to protect the environment, an individual's rights are balanced against the rights of others, the developmental need of one is constrained by the developmental needs of many.

"The highest developmental stages (cognitive, moral, and values) all recognize a higher ethical imperative. Wilber and Beck (after Graves) have called this a shift to Second Tier. At this level individuals realize that the health of each level is better realized through the health of the whole spectrum. Wilber has termed this ethical imperative the prime directive, which he defines as the greatest depth for the greatest span.

"First Tier ethics are based on self-interest and are focused on a narrow 'identity' group. In an integral political economy the prime directive is translated thus. The best way to ensure a healthy society is to ensure that each level is able to secure its core need, develop a surplus, and transmute that surplus into an evolutionary movement to the next level.

"An integral political economy would recognize that both capitalism and socialism are essentially opposite sides of the same coin – the modernist revolution that created a rapid development and redistribution of surplus (aided by colonialist expansion). An integral political economy would therefore seek a fusion of the two movements to create the conditions required to facilitate the ethical redistribution of the surplus to best serve the evolutionary requirements of the whole spectrum. This would require a thorough examination of the benefits and limits of both movements.

"It may be that a true Second Tier society will have far more in common with the deep and radical democracy of Marxism's ideal state of communism than some in the Integral community will find it comfortable to admit."

Also recall what Christian Arnsperger said in "Integral Economics":

"It might—to take a hard and sensitive issue—show us that along certain lines of moral or psychodynamic development, Soviet Russia in the 1960s, or Cuba in the 1970s, was clearly superior to the United States of the 2000s in the sense that, for instance, Soviets and Cubans had developed a more communal attitude in some sectors of social life (though by no means in all…) and also that communist principles implied that basic social provisions, lodging, health care, etc., were to be provided freely to all citizens, regardless of their ability to purchase these things on markets—something the less evolved US mentality makes unthinkable.

1 comment:

  1. More from Harris' 2nd essay:

    An integral political economy therefore supports sustainable development.

    An integral political economy would promote ethical investment, and further help define what is ethical.

    An integral political economy would ensure the maintenance of the commons in order to support the evolutionary flow of all sections of society.

    An integral political economy will emphasize an ethical imperative that challenges the excessive accumulation of wealth for non-productive indulgence.

    An integral political economy would argue for the proper governance of the world financial system to ensure that prime directive is followed.

    An integral political economy recognizes that fair trade is an essential component of a just economic system.

    The aim of an integral political economy is to ensure that the political and economic system acts in a way to maximize the evolutionary impulse for the largest group feasible.

    An integral political economy must recognize the reality of power and the ruthless determination of those who wield it.

    An integral political economy joins all of those critics of the current way of measuring wealth. The method of measuring the GNP should be changed. I like the...GNH – gross national happiness.


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