Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Integral Theory in Action: Applied, Theoretical, and Constructive Perspectives on the AQAL Model (Suny Series in Integral Theory),204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_.jpg

[FTC Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher
with no expectation of a positive review.]

SUNY Series in Integral Theory
Integral Theory in Action: Applied, Theoretical, and Constructive Perspectives on the AQAL Model
Edited by Sean Esbjorn-Hargins, forward by Roger Walsh, afterword by Ken Wilber
Paper, 457 pages, $29.95
Published: August, 2010

As an attendee of the 2010 Integral Theory Conference, I had access to all (well, most) of the lectures, papers, and presentations from the weekend. However, only 500 or so people could attend, which leaves a lot of others who would enjoy reading the papers.

I missed the 2008 conference, the first one - but now I can read 16 or so of the finest papers from 2008 in the new book from the SUNY Series in Integral Theory: Integral Theory in Action: Applied, Theoretical, and Constructive Perspectives on the AQAL Model. The volume is edited by Sean Esbjorn-Hargins, with a forward by Roger Walsh and an afterword by Ken Wilber.

Admittedly, I have seen several of these papers before - they have been passed around the integral community by attendees. Among those I had already seen (maybe a recommendation of their impact?):

Clint Fuhs: An Integral Map of Perspective Taking
Susanne Cook-Greuter: Second-Tier Gains and Challenges in Ego Development

I think I had also seen Elliott Ingersoll's An Integral Understanding of the Etiology of Depression, though I am not sure. By the way, Ingersoll, with co-author David Zeitler, has a new book on Integral Psychotherapy (also from the SUNY Integral series) that I will be reviewing here soon.

One paper that I had never seen before blew me away and sent me out on a book search for the original sources he had referenced. That paper was by Sam Mickey: Rhizomatic Contributions to Integral Ecology in Deleuze and Guattari.

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari wrote an excellent book called A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia in which they outline a view of history and culture that is rhizomic:
As a model for culture, the rhizome resists the organizational structure of the root-tree system which charts causality along chronological lines and looks for the originary source of "things" and looks towards the pinnacle or conclusion of those "things." "A rhizome, on the other hand, "ceaselessly established connections between semiotic chains, organizations of power, and circumstances relative to the arts, sciences, and social struggles." Rather than narrativize history and culture, the rhizome presents history and culture as a map or wide array of attractions and influences with no specific origin or genesis, for a "rhizome has no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo." The planar movement of the rhizome resists chronology and organization, instead favoring a nomadic system of growth and propagation. In this model, culture spreads like the surface of a body of water, spreading towards available spaces or trickling downwards towards new spaces through fissures and gaps, eroding what is in its way. The surface can be interrupted and moved, but these disturbances leave no trace, as the water is charged with pressure and potential to always seek its equilibrium, and thereby establish smooth space.[1]
In his paper, Mickey uses this model, which is ecological in its nature, to help delineate his perspective on integral ecology. The paper is great on its own merits, but I was particularly grateful for the introduction to the rhizome model.

Mark Edward's paper - Of Elephants and Butterflies: An Integral Metatheory for Organization Transformation - is also excellent. In this piece, he lays out the process he developed in trying to research and organize his PhD dissertation on constructing an integral metatheory, including how it can be applied to organization transformation.

He looks at several existing models of metatheoretical framework construction - metatriangulation (Lewis & Grimes), multiparadigm inquiry (Lewis & Kelemen), metatheorizing (Ritzer; Colomy), and traditional theory building (Wacker).

In his review work, he identified 24 integral lenses for identifying the processes of organization transformations. He then grouped these 24 into 6 categories:

1. Holarchical; 2. Bipolar; 3. Cyclical; 4. Relational; 5. Standpoints; and 6. Multiparadigm or Multimorphic.

You'll have to read the essay to learn more - this is good stuff and very relevant for anyone working with organizational development and transformation.

Other excellent essays:
  • Sean Esbjorn-Hargins provides a nice intro to integral theory
  • Theresa Silow on embodiment
  • Vanessa Fisher on beauty and female identity
  • Zach Stein on development differences in understanding integral theory
  • William Torbert, Ruet Livne-Tarandach, David McCallum, Aliki Nicolaides, and Elaine Herdman-Barker on "Developmental Action Inquiry"
This is an excellent collection - at nearly 450 pages, I'm sure that Sean had to leave some deserving works out of the book. But this is a great introduction to the use of integral theory, the model in practice.

Some may object that there are no papers critical of integral theory or seriously trying to revision the model, but that is not the point of this volume - Sean has a volume in the works that is focused on criticism and revision, so we simply need to be patient - the current volume is designed to show the many ways integral theory is being applied (a theme I think was continued in 2010). I look forward to seeing the collection that will emerge from the most recent conference.

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