The Rise of the Cosmopolitan: Four Steps to Build a Better Democracy

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Longtime friends and colleagues Jack Crittenden and Ken Wilber explore a higher-order thought process known as dialectical dialogue, a powerful tool to help bridge the enormous gulf that exists between the many conflicting and entrenched perspectives, values, and ideologies found in modern politics.

Climate change, wealth inequality, political polarization, war and terrorism—these are just some of the greatest (and most argued) problems of the 21st century. These are truly global problems, which can only be addressed from a global perspective. Anything less will only make them worse.

However, this global perspective is itself the product of psychological growth and development over a person’s lifetime, growing through ego-centric (“me”), ethnocentric (“us”), and world-centric (“all of us”) stages of development.

Meanwhile, something like 70% of the planet remains at an ethnocentric, pre-rational, “us vs. them” stage of consciousness (or lower), resulting in all flavors of nationalism, religious fundamentalism, racism, absolutism, etc.

In other words, the majority of the people in the world are simply not equipped to solve the greatest problems of our time, making it all but impossible for the imagination, innovation, and political will we so profoundly need to find any kind of traction.

So, underpinning all of these enormously complex problems is an even more difficult problem: how to accelerate people’s growth through these stages of psychological maturity, so that more of us are able to even see the world’s big problems, let alone try to solve them.

Fortunately, there do seem to be a handful of approaches that can help facilitate growth and development to higher orders of reason and problem solving. One is meditation, a 1st-person approach that, according to researchers like Robert Kegan, has proven to be very effective in helping people transform at an accelerated rate.

And now, thanks to Jack Crittenden, we have another approach that looks just as promising: a 2nd-person approach known as dialectical dialogue—a higher-order process that “transcends but embraces and integrates difference and ambiguity. It permits those using it to expand their perspectives, their worldviews, and even their identities to cosmopolitan or worldwide proportions.” Jack explores this approach in his recent book, Wide as the World: Cosmopolitan Identity, Integral Politics, and Democratic Dialogue.

Using the dialectical dialogue process, we may be able to improve our political and socio-economic systems in such a way that allows people to be whoever they are, at whatever stage of development they find themselves, while also encouraging growth to the higher stages of psychological development. As the book description says, “when built in as part of the structures of democratic dialogue, dialectical thinking can help elected officials and ordinary citizens alike, from local meetings to global institutions, address and solve our most vexing problems.”

Written by Corey W. deVos
Image: Land of Plenty by Bo Bartlett [view gallery]

Jack Crittenden

About Jack Crittenden

In 1976 Jack Crittenden and Ken Wilber started ReVision, a journal of knowledge and consciousness. Several decades later Jack, as a founding member, helped Ken start the Integral Institute, and he currently serves on its Board of Directors. In between Jack earned a doctorate from Oxford University in political theory, which he has been teaching for over 25 years at Arizona State University.

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”.

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