Beyond the Nation-State: Globalism, Plutocracy, and the Integral World Federation

Ken Wilber Perspectives, Politics, The Ken Show, Video 20 Comments

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Ken and Corey explore how today’s transnational challenges and realities may be hastening humanity’s eventual growth toward increasingly inclusive and global forms of governance, what government might look like at the level of the global holon, and how we might actually be able to get there from here.

In the previous episode of The Ken Show, The Major and Minor Scales of Integral Politics, Ken makes the following observation:

“Right now government is confined to national native nation states. That’s the fundamentally highest form of real government that we have. The market on the other hand, it’s the free market, and then we try to curtail it with certain moral sanctions, no slavery, no trafficking, that kind of stuff. But otherwise the market tends to be very competitive and aggressive in that sense. And the problem is, the market is now global, the governments are national. And we don’t have a balance there, and that’s producing some disasters.

We really don’t have a government that can match the size of the market and therefore [be able to] oversee the market in very limited but important ways. So that’s an issue. And so now we have nation states hung in this global competitive free market. And anything that a nation state does, like help the environment — but if it does so it’ll cost it hugely in terms of economic competitiveness. We have a market that’s actually driving us into more and more externalities, more and more environmental destruction, and we don’t have anything to counterbalance that. And that’s a nightmare. So this is a real important issue that we have to keep in mind as we’re thinking about ways to move forward integrally.” —Ken Wilber

And in a passage from Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, Ken says:

“The global nature of this transformation is now being driven, particularly in its technological-economic base, by three interrelated factors: (1) the necessity to protect the ‘global commons,’ the common biosphere that belongs to no nation, no tribe, no creed, no race; (2) the necessity to regulate the world financial system, which no longer responds to national borders; (3) the necessity to maintain a modicum of international peace and security, which is now not so much a matter of major war between any two nations, but between a ‘new order’ of loosely federated nations and renegade regimes threatening world peace.

The point is that all three of those concerns no longer respond to actions taken merely on the part of individual nations. Not one of those problems can be solved on a national level. They are literally transnational crises demanding transnational, worldcentric responses. And exactly how to negotiate this difficult transition, with nations voluntarily surrendering some of their sovereignty for the global betterment—therein precisely is the extremely difficult nature of this ‘postnational’ global transition.” —Ken Wilber

So here is the crux of the problem: our economic systems have gone transnational, while our current governing regulators remain stuck at the national level. Which means there is a governance vacuum at the level of the transnational holon — and since nature abhors a vacuum, that space where a global regulator should be ends up getting filled by corporate interests and agendas, resulting in the corporate plutocracy we have today.

Today’s “globalism” is hamstrung by the fact that there is no real global regulator to set and enforce policy. It’s an international globalism, enacted at the level of the nation-state, not a genuine transnational globalism enacted at the level of the global holon. It is, therefore, a globalism that is influenced and in many ways governed by plutocratic interests, and very limited when it comes to regulating the global market, precisely because it is trying to enforce those regulations from a lower holonic level.

At while is a lot to criticize about the current state of globalism, even this weak, flatland globalism has produced some amazing results over the last 60 years or so, having pulled more people out of poverty across the entire world than any other force in history, with far less bloodshed. It’s created some major problems regionally, of course, which should not be neglected, but we probably don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater here.

So what is the solution? According to Ken, it is not to toss out globalism entirely, but rather to create a bigger, better, and far more effective globalism — one that can remain uncontaminated by corporate interests, and one that supersedes the nation state, while also remaining aligned with the interests of its constituent nation-states. Watch as Ken explores what this global holon might look like, and how we might get there from here.

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Ken Wilber

About Ken Wilber

Ken Wilber is a preeminent scholar of the Integral stage of human development. He is an internationally acknowledged leader, founder of Integral Institute, and co-founder of Integral Life. Ken is the originator of arguably the first truly comprehensive or integrative world philosophy, aptly named “Integral Theory”.

Corey deVos

About Corey deVos

Corey W. deVos is the proverbial "man behind the curtain". He is Editor-in-Chief of Integral Life, as well as Managing Editor of KenWilber.com. He has worked for Integral Institute/Integal Life since Spring of 2003, and has been a student of integral theory and practice since 1996.

Notable Replies

  1. Coda says:

    I’ve been interested in bioregionalism and it’s potential to help build a healthier global system.

    At first glance it appears smaller than nationalism, as most bioregions contain smaller areas of land than the nations that contain them, but I think it’s bigger than nationalism within the human psyche, with a globally unifying underlying principle. If bioregionalism becomes the dominant form of cultural and political organization, then the focus on how the land shapes our minds and vice versa becomes a common thread among all bioregions. That thread builds the foundation for coordination among bioregions (assemblies, associations, coalitions, etc.) on a global level.

    The folks that I know who are promoting bioregionalism, tend to focus on cultivating and highlighting the cultural identity of the bioregion as a way of unifying groups and individuals around the common ground (literal and figurative) that exists. That common ground forms the foundation of working together towards economic, social, and political structures and changes.

    I like it because it offers a group identity that’s based on probable common experiences of individuals that come from living in and interacting with the bioregion’s features, with the understanding that the environmental features significantly influence the experience (rather than an adopted socialized identity and prescribed values which claim intrinsic superiority, as is common in nationalism). It seems like a necessary green component of an integral system (which replaces or supercedes nationalism). My instincts are saying that once this group/identity component is established, the individual/behavioral aspects will begin to be enacted. The cooperatives or corporations based on bioregional values and goals might coalesce and coordinate to compete with and even overrule corporate interests.

    From my perspective, it fits the described requirements: resists corporate interests by prioritizing each bioregion’s environmental interests, supercedes the nation state through the creation of local and global cultural identities which fit better with an individual’s self-identity due to its basis on common personal experiences, and aligned with the interests of the constituent nation states because the nation state’s interests consist of the sum of bioregional interests that are contained within it.

    An example of how bioregionalism can produce coordination similar to globalism: the World Cup (globalist) versus the World Football Cup (bioregionalist)

    Is anyone else familiar with bioregionalism? Is it possible that it’s a necessary component of retooling our social, economic, and political systems to be more integral?

  2. When I watched the segment on Integral Politics and heard Ken discuss the need for a transnational global overseer of nation-states and their decision-making around market/economic issues, decisions that can have far-ranging deleterious side-effects, I resonated strongly with this.

    To ground the idea of this need in a specific example that is just right around the corner, consider Brazil (again).

    President-elect Jair Bolsonaro takes office in January. More than just a far-right nationalist or illiberal populist, he is an authoritarian and in the words of Noam Chomsky, “…the most malicious and vicious creature of the current range of pretty ugly characters that we see around the world.” (in interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now). Without even considering Bolsonaro’s racist, homophobic, and misogynistic views; or his affinity for military dictatorships, brutality and torture; and his vow to destroy/imprison his political opponents, Bolsonaro’s economic goals present “a potential disaster for the world.” (Chomsky)

    He plans to open the Amazon to his agribusiness supporters, thus furthering the destruction of an ecological system that the entire world is dependent upon for helping with cleaning the air. Brazil being rich in natural resources, gold aplenty for example, Bolsonaro has also vowed to open the country to investors, which on the surface doesn’t sound like a totally bad idea, except as Chomsky states it, “…the stock market will be able to rob freely.” This is an example on the horizon of what was stated in the initiating post here, nationalism not curtailing plutocracy, but reinforcing it, ceding (governance) territory to plutocratic interests (in the case of Brazil, most likely to big agribusiness, big mining, big timber).

    “Opening the Amazon to further exploitation will be another serious blow at the prospects of survival of organized human society.” (Chomsky)

    And speaking of the survival of humans, Bolsonaro’s take on the indigenous people who live in the rainforest is that “they don’t deserve a square centimeter of land.” Some of these tribes are as small as a dozen people, still wearing G-strings and hunting with spears and bows and arrows.

    The world builds monuments, parks, and museums to protect and study the ancient ruins and artifacts of humanity’s ancestral history, and yet, will we allow the sacrifice of these Amazonian tribal people, some still living at the magical stage of development? These people are first and foremost living flesh-and-blood humans, and they are also flesh-and-blood examples of humanity’s cultural history, and in my opinion, should be considered living world treasures to be protected. But Bolsonaro’s election suggests we can look forward to the “virtual genocide” of the indigenous population, according to Chomsky. While there are NGOs and advocacy groups trying to protect the Amazonian tribes, and while past Brazilian leadership has also presented challenges, advocacy groups haven’t encountered a Brazilian leader who is as antagonistic towards indigenous people as Bolsonara presents himself to be.

    Everything in the manifest world is inter-connected, in my opinion, not just markets/economies, but ecological systems and people too. That there isn’t some kind of global body-politic that serves as overseer/regulator of the exchanges between nation-states, and between nations and corporate interests, and that turns a sharp eye to the effects of these exchanges on the Whole, seems not only unintelligent to me, but also immoral. The world needs a very smart, empowered, embodied Conscience as a global overseer/regulator might provide; we needed it yesterday.

    While I do believe in evolutionary leaps in a positive direction, given the degradation of democracy throughout the world and the continuing sweep of far-right nationalism and anti-globalism, I’m not holding my breath on this one. But as Ken says, it’s important to keep it in mind as integralism moves forward. Without sacrificing attention on happenings in the USA, I think it’s important that we attune more and more to global issues, period.

  3. ksv says:

    I’d say that yes, the need for global governance to balance a globalized economy is a crying need. But I’d also say that we have been slowly evolving in that direction for much of the last century. The League of Nations after WWI didn’t get very far, but then the very horrors of the 30s and WWII gave the push for the creation of the United Nations in 1947, along with the Bretton Woods financial institutions. While there is indeed a lot to criticize in the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization et. al., these are movements toward a world federation.

    For the very reasons you cite in your post, Corey, I have been watching the European Union experiment with great interest. It is indeed a major push toward a next emergent level, transcending while including the sovereign nation-states of Europe. They are struggling with this but so far hanging on. I find it most interesting that the very part of the world that created the sovereign nation-state, i.e. western Europe, and then spread it all around the rest of the world via colonialism, is now making tentative steps toward transcending its own creation.

    Let us remember that sovereign nation-states were the result of the 30 Years War in Europe; part of the crucible out of which the Modern world order arose out of the Medieval. We are now in the midst of a process that looks like it is pushing into the next phase. Which we all fondly hope and expect will be something second tier.

    This is kind of rambling, but my general point is that the evolution of the next phase of governance has already begun, and indeed has been in progress for a while now. What the new world order in terms of governance might become, I have no idea, though; my interests and engagements lie mostly in the UL.

    Any ideas from any of you LR quadrant savants? What might a second-tier, teal world governance look like?

  4. A couple of thoughts: simplistically, foreign aid is the poor people of rich countries giving to the rich people of poor countries. Unless the poor countries have an infrastructure that allows for foreign aid to help its development the money simply goes round and around the world’s rich.
    As to the EU, Brexit has shown how fragile progress is. Anecdotally, the reason people in the UK voted to leave the EU was because they didn’t like unelected bodies telling them how to run their country. The governance of the EU and the economics of the EU needed change: Germany was fiscally doing to Greece and Portugal what the EU was set up to prevent. i.e. the autonomy retained by the individual states compounded by an unelected governing body allowed the powerful states to behave in a way that is contrary to the rational for the EU.

  5. Hi Corey, For some reason I couldn’t access parts 2 & 3 so I don’t know if Ken gave any concrete examples of initiatives, eg. the Simultaneous Policy (Simpol) campaign www.simpol.org, which are designed to do exactly what the two of you were talking about: i.e. how to transcend and yet include nation-states within a higher, cooperative form of global governance. Ken himself commented favourably on my new book, The Simpol Solution, as did Noam Chomsky, David Sloan Wilson, Ervin Laszlo and many others. My intention, here, is not to blow my own trumpet, but rather to ask: Shouldn’t Integral be moving on from its ‘safe place’ in the field of analysis to adding some intelligent discussion of practical, real-life initiatives, including their merits/de-merits?

Continue the discussion at community.integrallife.com

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