Category:Integral Theory

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Material about various integrative/integral, i.e. non-reductionist approaches, such as "Integral Theory" proper, metamodernism, transmodernism, macrohistory, etc ...

P2P Foundation Context

The P2P Theory approach was initially conceived as a further specialized development within the tradition of integral theory, and while I have never pushed this part of our intellectual identity, it was always present in the background, if only by using the non-reductionist AQAL (all quadrants, all levels, the hermeneutic approach proposed by Ken Wilber).

I explain what lies behind our heuristic approach here:

And also how we relate broadly to other subcurrents within the broad contemporary integral approaches, see:

This being said, there are a lot of the members of our research network that do not focus on this, but would instead using participatory forms of actor-network theory for example.

The full gamut of our theoretical inspirations is outlined in this overview of

To conclude, in my understanding, an integral approach is one that;

- respects the relative autonomy of the different fields, and looks for field specific laws,

- affirms that new levels of complexity cause the emergence of new properties and thus rejects reductionisms that try to explain the highly complex from the less complex,

- tries to formulate level-specific laws that relate the objective and subjective aspects, refusing to see any one aspect as a mere epiphenomena of the other,

- is subjective-objective in that it always relates the understanding of the objective, through the prism of a recognised individual perspective in general,

- and attempts to correlate explanations emanating from the various fields, in order to arrive at an integrative understanding; in this sense it is a hermeneutic discipline focusing on creating meaning.

Personally (Michel Bauwens), I feel the closest to Critical Realism as it attempts to blend both the objective approaches of modernity, but integrating the valid concerns of postmodern critics. My approach would be transmodern in that it attempts to salvage and integrate the best of indigenous, traditional, modern and postmodern approaches; the two first may be lacking in CR but are present in the participatory epistemologies of John Heron and Jorge Ferrer.

General Context

We do not restrict 'integral theory' to the approaches of Ken Wilber and the ulterior developments of this school of thought, but pay attention to full gamut of integral thinkers, before, during, and after this reconfiguration of the integral approach. So we would include names like Sorokin, Sarkar, Aurobindo, but especially Jean Gebser, and the further integration of Jean Gebser's thought by Peter Pogany for example. We also include Transmodernism (Irene Ateljevic) and Metamodernism (Hanzi Freinacht) based approaches. Macrohistory and macrohistorians would also be included, as would partipatory and integrative futures methododologies as those developed by Sohail Inayatullah or Jose Ramos.


"I outline, with the help especially but not exclusively of Bhaskar’s metacritique of western philosophy, from the Axial Age to today, four major biases in the West: analytical over dialectical, epistemology over ontology, presence over absence, and exterior over interior. After reading McGilchrist, it was clear how they corresponded to key characteristics of the left and right hemispheres: atomism over holism, representation over reality (or map over territory), explicit over implicit, and surface over depth – respectively."

- Paul Marshall, Metamodern Forum, April 2021

The missing bridge between Rationality and Meta-Rationality

"In the 1970s and 1980s, the best postmodern/poststructural thinkers presented meta-rational views, based on their thorough understanding of systematic rationality. This first generation of postmodern teachers had a complete “classical education” in the humanities; they mastered the Western intellectual tradition before coming to understand its limitations.

Deconstructive postmodernism, their critique of stage 4 modernism/systematicity/rationality, is the basis of the contemporary university humanities curriculum. This is a disaster. The critique is largely correct; but, as Kegan observed, to teach it to young adults is harmful. Few university students have consolidated rationality. Essentially none are ready to move beyond it. Pointing out its defects makes their developmental task more difficult.

You cannot understand what is wrong with rationalism until you are capable of being rational. You cannot go beyond rationality until after you can use it reliably. You cannot become meta to systems you do not appreciate and do not understand how to deploy. You cannot move from stage 3 to stage 5 without passing through stage 4."

- [1]

Lene Anderson distinguishes metamodernity from metamodernism:

"Metamodernity [ind-tra-mo-pomo] would say: traditional, hierarchic, authoritarian, feudal power structure appropriating modern narratives (communism & capitalism) using postmodern technology, i.e. power structure for smaller political entity applied on too large a society with global information access, which means that the power structure needs to apply massive amounts of violence to stay in control. Where power structure, group size, narratives, and communication technologies match each other i complexity, power can be distributed accordingly, and humans can enjoy freedom, responsibility, and overall an absence of violence."

Lene Anderson, intellectual-deep-web forum, June 2021

Jon Freeman on What To Think About Stages of Development?

""Our problems are not with stages, but with judgement and excess. Whatever the system, if the stages identified are real, then they exist because they have a contribution to make. They are not dispensable, so the error is to treat them as if they are. The error is in the judgement of a stage, not in the observance of its existence. Rejection is shadow-creation. Rejecting stages and stage theory wholesale does nothing to change their existence and expressions in reality. Such blanket rejection merely prevents people from understanding what is and thereby making better choices for themselves and society as a whole. At the same time, any stage can be expressed in a way that is unbalanced. Some people will behave in those ways. The solution is not to eliminate that stage (even assuming that were possible) or to exclude all people who are operating from that stage as if they are inferior or worthless. No competent system or model would work that way. Instead it would be seeking to help all stages to be expressed within healthy degrees of balance and to avoid extremes. In the same way any competent system or model and any sustainable way of living would recognise that since all stages reflect something that was needed by the system and none are dispensable, the task is to support a healthy balance of expression between the stages."

- Jon Freeman [2]

Key Resources

Key Articles

This is probably the most important article that describes the civilizational impasse we have reached at the moment:

Also a very important read:

"A reconciliation of oral myth with literate reason will be the hallmark of a new epistemic settlement. The ordered path of technological evolution toward higher states of “inclusive consciousness” and “mythic integration,” along the lines of what McLuhan had envisioned, would be open once again".

See also:

Key Books

* The Ever-Present Origin. Jean Gebser.

It's not enough to understand the evolution of socio-economic structures, we must also understand the cultural intersubjective and subjective mentalities that co-evolve with them. This is 'the' book, to understand the evolution of consciousness, in its archaic, magic, mythological and rational forms. Gebser sees how each mode of apprehending the world, has its generative phase, but also its 'deficient' or degenerative phase. The rational mode of consciousness becomes deficient when calculations dominate everything, and the whole can no longer be seen. Civilizational changes are also 'mutations of consciousness'.

* Rethinking the World. Peter Pogany. 2006.

If you have read Karatani to understand the evolution of socio-economic systems and Gebser for the attendant 'modes of consciousness', then we still have the task to integrate them. No one has done this so far, but Peter Pogany, a Hungarian-American trans-disciplinary researcher, who has also connected socio-economic structures in their thermo-dynamic realities. So this is basically a three-level history of the world (thermo-dynamic reality, socio-economic system, mode of apprehending the world). His second book is focused more explicitly on the current transition and is called Havoc. How does the global system evolve to finally take into account the planetary boundaries that determine the survival of any form of civilization? I recommend reading Havoc first, it's about 60 pages, and if you are hooked, you can go for the real meat, i.e. his first, more theoretical book. Pogany's theory of change is a theory of pulsation: from stable system, via chaotic transition, to new stable systems, and so on, forever.


See also our recommended reading list on P2P and Commons-related topics: What You Should Read To Understand the Commons

Key People

  • Irene Ateljevic, for her work on synthesizing transmodern approaches, see our article on Transmodernism

Key Podcasts

Key Themes

Pages in category "Integral Theory"

The following 154 pages are in this category, out of 154 total.