Integral Political Economy

Kevin BowmanArticle, Cognitive, Economics, Journal of Integral Theory & Practice, Money, Politics Leave a Comment

Originally published in 2010

An integral political-economic framework is developed first with a quadrant analysis of the economy. The analysis contains a novel separation by quadrant of the effects that either encourage or discourage economic development. It is then shown what quadrant aspects are recognized or emphasized by liberals and conservatives. A review of the Integral approach to capital then allows for the integration of the radical view. Political-economic understanding is then proposed as a learning line of development where conservative, liberal, or radical emphasis in agents is associated with their political-economic personality types. Distinctions are made between less and more mature versions of each type. Finally, an immature/mature fallacy is discovered where more mature views are often mistakenly reduced to less mature versions of that type by less mature views of another type.

This JITP article also includes a critique by Robert Scott, as well as a rejoinder by Kevin Bowman.


We are living in a unique time in economic history. The American and global economies have just been tested by a severe financial crisis, what analysts are calling the worse shock to our financial system since the Great Depression. The financial crisis only adds to other challenging concerns of the day—worries such as income inequality, global environmental degradation from our production processes, the controversies of international trade, and polarized political decision-making. Workers are also expressing the desire for more meaningful work.

These issues bring to our awareness the necessity to examine our economic institutions and their relations to the world. The Integral approach teaches us that as the limitations of existing societal structures become more evident, new, powerful opportunities arise for the evolution of our collective consciousness. And there is no better time than a crisis to focus the public attention and generate political will for a way forward. But, a delicate balance is needed. Institutions must widen opportunities to benefits from our expanding, information-age technologies. They also need to discourage exploitation of resources and curb the motive for the short-run gain of the relatively few. Yet, this needs to happen concurrently with expanding the benefits of wealth creation and without endangering our unprecedented level of current global development.

Without a map to simplify these complex issues, there exists an inherent danger that the bewilderment and exasperation from these problems may bring out our baser urges—our less mature tendencies, no matter whether our political leanings are conservative, liberal or radical. As such, I will use the main components of Ken Wilber’s AQAL model (1995), namely quadrants, levels, lines, states, and types, to develop an Integral framework for, and expanded understanding of, political economy. This framework is developed first with a quadrant analysis of the economy in section 1, which discusses the quadrants emphasized by conservatives and liberals and provides useful background information needed for non-economists. A review of the Integral approach to capital in section 2 then allows for the integration of the radical view in section 3. Distinctions are made in section 4 between less and more mature versions of conservative, liberal, and radical views. Political-economic understanding can then be proposed as a learning line of development, where conservative, liberal, and radical are personality types. An immature/mature fallacy, a new variant of Wilber’s pre/trans fallacy, is presented in section 5, where more mature views are often mistakenly reduced to less mature versions of that type by an immature view of another type. The inclusion of types within a line of development shows that fallacies related to vertical development can be more prevalent than previously recognized, and it demonstrates the importance of reconciling paradoxical partial truths of a given level for vertical development. Section 6 concludes that the integral political-economic framework can encourage a healthier political-economic discourse.

Kevin Bowman

About Kevin Bowman

Kevin J. Bowman teaches economics at the college level and has been teaching for over a decade at schools such as Augsburg College and Loyola University Chicago. He has developed a metatheoretical approach with interactive technologies for teaching standard and progressive economic theory and evidence. He served on the editorial advisory board of the Journal of Integral Theory and Practice. He's mostly taught undergraduate macroeconomics, microeconomics, international economics, and economic development with integral economics components. His publications are in three categories: endogenous economic growth, integral economics, and integral theory. Kevin has worked as an economist providing consulting services to firms involved in international trade disputes. He has also worked in consumer finance and as an community development planner.