Thursday, September 27, 2012

John Bunzl - Discovering an Integral Civic Consciousness in a Global Age

This Integral Post from Integral Life - an article by John Bunzl that originally appeared in the Journal of Integral Theory and Practice - takes an interesting look at the relative absence of an "integral civic consciousness" in the current cultural landscape. This becomes an especially relevant issue in light of Terry Patten's project to collect all integrally-informed Obama supporters into one donation block (Integral Obama), essentially creating another "special interest group" that by contributing money hopes to have access to the president in some small way. This is how the game is played, of course.

Patten received a lot blowback on this initiative. He ended up having to post a justification for his project. If it seems challenging to get liberals all on the same page to support a small selection of important issues, rather than their own pet issues, getting the integral community (such as it is) together into one voice is about as likely as herding cats.

Personally, I do not see ANY likelihood of an integral or worldcentric global governance in the near future of human life on this planet. Perhaps that is why there is no civic efforts in that direction - because it is not a realistic ideal, even if Ken Wilber and others (Wilber, 2000; McIntosh, 2007; Stewart, 2000) have said that such governance is our species' only hope of survival.

With that bit of context, here is Bunzl's article.

Discovering an Integral Civic Consciousness in a Global Age

September 18th, 2012
This essay was originally published in the March 2012 issue of the Journal of Integral Theory and Practice. Click here to purchase the full issue.
  This article asks why, in an age of global crisis, global governance still remains a low priority for the integral community. It posits a civic line of development, suggesting only those possessing a worldcentric level of civic awareness can fully comprehend global problems and the need for binding global governance. I argue that modern (orange altitude), postmodern (green altitude), and even low vision-logic (teal altitude) worldviews still see global problems nationcentrically rather than worldcentrically. I explore this limitation in light of destructive international competition; a key and potentially catastrophic phenomenon that, it is argued, shows why only a worldcentric, late vision-logic (turquoise altitude) civic consciousness can disclose solutions to the global crisis. Ways in which green and teal altitude split off these realities are suggested, providing clues to how turquoise civic consciousness may be accessed and how the integral community may thus play a fuller, more effective role in global transformation.

Civics entails the rights and duties of citizenship and the role citizens have in establishing, shaping, and overseeing government at any level (Altinay, 2010). Civics is founded on citizens’ perception that governance is actually necessary; that it is functionally required to solve societal, environmental or economic problems at a particular level, be it local, national, or global.

If, for example, a citizen could not perceive national-scale problems, or mistook them as being of a merely local nature, she would see no need for national governance at all. Her civic consciousness would be merely local or ethnocentric. Such a citizen would recognize only their local authority or tribe as functionally required and would likely see any higher levels of government as superfluous, wasteful and suspicious. Those at orange altitude or higher, on the other hand, recognize national government to be required in addition to local governance. Their depth of civic consciousness thus has two levels. Yet, in an age when our problems are increasingly global and threaten our civilized survival, it is notable that very few citizens see any need for a third level, that being global governance. Indeed, for the vast majority of people, including those up to teal altitude, civic consciousness remains, as I will be arguing, at best nationcentric. The emphasis on global civics indicates that global problems must first be perceived as such; a worldcentric perception that indicates that merely technical solutions or national (or local) politics cannot suffice. Instead, a vertical transformation toward a form of binding global governance is necessary.

I distinguish the civic from the political line of development in the Lower-Right (LR) quadrant by noting that civics is fundamentally about the perception, by citizens, of a need for governance. Politics, on the other hand, is what happens after governance (or formal government) has been established. Civics, in that sense, is prior to politics.

The Civic Holarchy

Like all lines of development, the proposed civic line tetra-evolves and manifests in all four quadrants. Civic holons are most obvious in the LR quadrant, in what I will be referring to as “the civic holarchy.” This is the holarchy of our institutions of governance that has evolved and bonded together human societies from the earliest hunter-gatherer bands, through to Middle-Age city and small-states, and up to present-day institutions of national and global governance (Wilber, 2000; Wright, 2001).

Across a wide variety of cultures, the civic holarchy typically comprises, in the LR, the following levels: Local Authority → State → Nation-state. That is, the smallest civic holon is generally a local authority of some kind; an authority that determines local taxes and regulations. In some countries, local authorities form the parts that make up the larger whole of a state; an intermediate level of government which is itself part of a larger nation-state. In other countries, local authorities directly form the parts of the nation-state. In either case, each is a whole/part and each subsequent level transcends and includes its predecessor.

I end the civic holarchy with nation-states because although there may be many supra-national institutions of governance, such as the European Union, the United Nations (UN), and others, these institutions remain, for reasons elucidated later, heavily influenced by nation-states and their differing national interests. It is thus nation-states that today remain the key class of actors on the world stage, the most senior level in the civic holarchy.

Democracy and civics are closely intertwined wherever individuals have a legally binding vote. Thus, in democratic countries, individual citizens can be said to represent the Upper-Right (UR) quadrant correlate of civic holons at each level. Meanwhile the civic consciousness of an individual citizen represents the Upper-Left (UL) quadrant correlate. Similarly, the civic culture of a society will manifest in the Lower-Left (LL) quadrant and will be reflected by its institutions of governance in the LR. This is not to suggest an absence of civic consciousness in non-democratic nations; only that it is not mediated by democracy.
Read the whole article.
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