Sunday, June 07, 2009

Michel Bauwens - Going beyond Wilber’s enclosure of the Integral Commons

Another great article from Michel Bauwens of P2P Foundation - Going beyond Wilber’s enclosure of the Integral Commons. Integral theory and the integral movement needs to be an open system, not an insular self-referential system (which is how it seems to me at present).

Going beyond Wilber’s enclosure of the Integral Commons

photo of Michel Bauwens
Michel Bauwens
5th June 2009

Citation from Daniel Gustav Anderson:

By “after Wilber” I mean that the sun has set on Wilber’s project in a number of ways, at least as a practical and intellectual project. It may carry on as a religious institution, which is beyond my concern for it. The “Wyatt Earp” episode should have made this obvious to anyone concerned why this is so, if it wasn’t clear to them before this.

Michel Bauwens:

If you’d ask me to describe the ‘epistemological’ (i.e. form of knowledge) status of P2P Theory, then I would say it’s an applied theory designed to develop a coherent set of concepts which can explain the emergence of peer to peer dynamics and its expressions, with an underlying emancipatory intent. But the method that I use to arrive at conclusions is itself an application of integral theory.

I have explained my take on this in the following article: Beyond Perspectives, Reductionisms and Layers, which appeared in Integral Review, Issue 1, 2005 (June), pp. 14-15.

In short, it’s a method that allows you to intergrate the various aspects of reality, both objective (things), inter-objective (their relationships), subjective (intentional realities) and intersubjective (shared cultures and worldviews). My own method derives from Wilber, but is also radically different because Wilber oversteps boundaries and uses flawed interpretations to arrive at a synthetic interpretation of reality that aims to become dominant.

I had the occasion to critique Ken Wilber’s work in two short articles:

* The Cult of Ken Wilber,

* A critique of SD/Integral,

However, it is the deconstruction by Jeff Meyerhoff in Bald Ambition that has destroyed the edifice as a project with scientific claims.

In the theoretical article that I will be citing below, an episode is mentioned, “the Wyatt Earp episode“, Wilber unfortunately broke down as a coherent thinker and became the leader of a kind of intellectual cult, that is terminally closed to criticism. It signalled that the edifice was beyond repair.

At the time of my break with the mothership for the reasons explained in my short critical pieces above, I called to divest the integral movement from the particular Wilberian’s interpretation, and called for a emancipatory integral theory, that would replace the neoliberal and neocon alignment of the Wilberian’s. However, despite the launch of an originally promising Open Integral blog, this failed to materialize. (however, I consider my own P2P Theory to be a candidate for such efforts, though it’s focus is limited to the P2P field)

Recently however, I discovered the work of Daniel Gustav Anderson in Integral World, which carries a lengthy interview of him by Erik Scott Thornquist, and points to two major essays laying the foundation for a ‘critical integral theory’. I am therefore, understandably exited about the belated discovery of Daniel’s work.

Daniel’s interview shows that the critique is very congruent with mine, though much more detailed and updated, and of course, he has worked out a coherent alternative, something I choose to forego, instead focusing on the P2P Theory, but as a means to the same end.

His bio says that he “is presently a graduate student in Cultural Studies at George Mason University. His interests include critical theory, ecology, and European and South Asian traditions of dialectical thinking.”

His two main and recommended essays are:

* “Of Syntheses and Surprises: Toward a Critical Integral Theory

* “Such a Body We Must Create: New Theses on Integral Micropolitics“,

Both of them have been published in Integral Review.


Unknown said...

I'm the first to admit that I'm a Wilber fanboi and will, 99 times out of a hundred, have an almost visceral rejection for any criticism of him that is in any way connected with Integral World, but it does have to be said that the Wilberian integral camp is becoming increasingly cut off from the rest of the integral movement.

Until recently, I've mostly written that off as being the fault of the community around Wilber, rather than being anything to do with the actual intentions of Wilber himself, but maybe I've been fooling myself to some extent.

I mean, so far all of the more valid criticisms of Wilberian integral, it seems to me, would have been more accurately directed at the community, not at anything Wilber has said or done publicly himself. I've been telling myself that Wilber is more interested in his writing and in moving his theories forward than in running the various organizations under the Integral Institute umbrella, so that the mistakes of the organization were somehow not really his mistakes specifically.

But now I'm starting to wonder how much of that has just been the naive fanboi in me talking.

I still think most of the criticisms of his actual theories (esp. coming from the Integral World camp) tend to miss the point of his work, but maybe I should be holding Wilber more responsible for the problems we're seeing in the community that surrounds him.

william harryman said...

Hey Grey,

I went through the same process - it was the Wyatt Earp episode that broke things open for me.

I have some serious issues with the Wilber cult, for lack of a better word, but there is much to admire in the theory he has built.

I would prefer a more open process of criticism and dialogue, but Wilber decided a few years ago that no one was developed enough to grasp, let alone critique, his ideas. That's when it started to get ugly.

I use his integral psychology a lot, and I still follow Integral Naked, but I am much more critical of his positions.

In the end, we all need to see Wilberian Integral as an object of awareness rather than being the subjective experience - we need to take a third-person perspective on his work.


Unknown said...

I actually didn't have a problem with the Wyatt Earpy thing. I tend to agree that a whole lot of his critics are coming from more of an orange intellectualism than a 2nd-tier perspective. Orange philosophers trying to bypass green and jump right into integral.

It's not that cut and dried, obviously, but so many of the Integral World folk just don't seem to get the big picture and so attack Wilber and his theories by picking apart this minor detail or that one. Or by projecting the faults of the community onto Wilber personally.

Anyway, the bottom line is that Wilber's shit stinks just like anybody else's, so we shouldn't hold him up on a pedestal. And a big "yes" to seeing Wilberian Integral as an object of awareness.


Mark Forman said...

Hi William and Grey.

What makes Bauwens post disappointing and ironic is that there clearly has been a sea change in the Integral movement over the past few years. People are increasingly "owning" Integral as theirs, and Wilber himself has been playing less and less of a public role (haven't you noticed?) I would say that the conference we ran was simply indicative of that. (And just to make the point, several of the "Integral Review" editorial staff where Bauwmen's citations come from attended and also presented). It was not intended, or nor did it function as, a Wilberian echo chamber, and considering a major portion of the broader Integral community was there, I think it is much more representative of where things are headed than 2nd hand notions of Wilberian cultism. Anderson even admits in his quote that he knows nothing 1st hand about any of the transpersonal schools where Wilber is taught. I wonder if he knows how critical many people in these places--CIIS, Naropa, etc.--actually are of Wilber? Many actively dislike him and his ideas. So there is no corporate conspiracy and indoctrination there. The idea that there is is kind of laughable--a one week visit would make this plain, how much actual (and perhaps even dysfunctional levels of) theoretical diversity there is in these communities. Not to mention the high amounts of postmodernist suspicion amongst the students and faculty toward top down values delivery. Really, up is down in what Anderson is saying in this regard.

I also wonder if he has ever met a large group of "Integral" folks either? You'll hear a huge diversity of opinion on these topics amongst them.

Related to this, here's our response to Frank Visser which addresses many of these points.

Anyhow, since that time, things appear to be moving further forward in the direction of a robustly diverse and actively engaged Integral community. Books that apply Integral to specific fields are out or on their way. Critical texts that deal with theory--such as Steve McIntosh's and Mark Edward's upcoming book--are also here or are on the way. People at many universities around the world are working with Integral theory. Please go take a look at Sean Esbjorn Hargen's Integral Research website. It has the list of pretty much everything that has been done and that is currently coming down the pike in this domain.

Things could sink or swim, who knows? It is very much a process. But there is a serious good faith effort being made by many excellent scholars to turn Integral into something more than a one man show. It already is, and arguably never was.

Finally, as we mentioned in the Visser article, we didn't turn one Wilber critic away who responded to our conference call for papers. If Bauwmen or Anderson would like to present, we'll give them a spot for sure.

Mark Forman, PhD

Unknown said...

As far as academia goes, yeah, I'd have to agree with you... in part because I'm not an academic and so don't have much relevant first-hand experience to go on, but also because what you say matches up with what I have seen and heard.

I guess I was mostly thinking of the Integral Life side of things, so the more public, "mainstream", commercial face of Wilberian Integral. The side that most of us laypeople see. That segment of the community seems to me to be stagnating and collapsing in on itself to some extent.

I'd like to see some of the debate that's apparently going on in academia reflected on Integral Life, too. It might inject more energy into the community there and give a more open impulse to that side of the integral movement.