What is the Problem with Progressivism?

Ken WilberCognitive, Conversations, Perspectives, Politics, Values

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Ken Wilber and Bert Parlee take a close and critical look at the state of political progressivism today, and how we might be able to restore sanity and balance to this wing of political thought and discourse.

In many ways, an integral application to politics is inherently progressive, because integral systems are inherently transformative. But it is by and large a different kind of progressivism than what we commonly see in the political arena today:

It is a progressivism that is not hostile to conservatism, for example, because it consciously seeks to manage and integrate that polarity.

It is a progressivism that is capable of preserving the systems and institutions that work, which is itself a conservative impulse, even while creating new systems that can deliver the greatest amount of interior and exterior liberation to the greatest number of people.

It is a progressivism that fully integrates the wisdoms of the green stage of development — its insights into power structures and social justice, its resistance to abusive dominator hierarchies, its emphasis on empathy, emotional intelligence, environmental concerns, healthy pluralism, etc. – but also transcends the limitations of the green stage.

In other words, in most ways integral is not “anti-woke”, it is “post-woke”. And from a post-woke point of view, we can see how much that passes for green “wokeness” these days has actually been hijacked by amber ethnocentrism, which is responsible for the collapse of pluralism, the regression to inflexible and absolutist “us-versus-them” thinking, and a growing intolerance for other points of view that we see in many progressive communities today.

It’s understandable how we got here — not only are the usual interior dynamics of growth, development, and shadow at play, but those interior dynamics are also compounded by the exterior pressures of attention economies, algorithm-driven social media, and the new patterns of autopoietic self-organization that have emerged from these social media platforms — patterns that are pushing us away from each other, and toward any number of extreme views. This is what inevitably happens when the entire spiral of development is unleashed onto postmodern communication platforms that immediately flatten depth, fragment our shared reality, and make us increasingly distrustful of one another. It is a mismatch of operating systems – our interior developmental OS “in here”, versus the exterior operating systems the majority of our civilization is currently running on “out there”.

The question is, where do we go from here? How do we go about updating both our interior and exterior operating systems, which are some of the primary goals of a genuinely integral progressivism?

Watch as Ken and Bert explore the many faults and fractures of political progressivism today, as they simultaneously call for more integral forms of progressive thought that are actually capable of meeting the increasingly complex life conditions we are all facing today. Notice how Ken and Bert’s criticisms are not coming from an overall dislike or allergy to progressivism, or even to the green attitude itself, but are rather intended as a form of “tough love” to help restore sanity to our political leading edge so that civilization itself can continue to flourish, instead of eating itself from the inside out.

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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”.

Bert Parlee

About Bert Parlee

Bert Parlee, PhD serves as senior advisor at STAGEN in Dallas, complementing a private practice as Executive Coach, Leadership Trainer, OD Consultant and Mediator. His areas of expertise are training individuals, teams and organizations on how to bridge opposing perspectives, principles and worldviews, and thus to communicate more effectively in situations of difference, disagreement and conflict.