Four Magisteria

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= "the four magisteria: science, industry (also called technomics or economics), culture, and politics". [1]; Robert Conan Ryan proposes to add a fifth, a commons magisterium.


Robert Conan Ryan:

"The commons, as an organizational form, existed historically in the cultural sphere ... this cultural sphere faced a changeover from religious authorities to public arts and discourses during the industrial era.

Commons historically were extremely localized. They were community places such as pastures, or community services such as volunteer mutual aid groups. Religious organizations were the dominant commons based structures .until the scientific revolution.

Science and business (Technomics-see below) have since legitimated some global forms of the commons during the industrial Era. However, they subjugated these commons to their own Magisterial powers and authorities. Science commons also became captured by, and shaped by, academic institutions with national interests (political authorities).

.. to create liberated commons, they must have their own magisterial powers. 

I claim that culture already does this but culture has its back up against the wall. It is becoming the weakest of Four Major Magisteria, with the least influence or independence.

If we created a global civic commons system of nongovernmental organizations, it would need to avoid surrendering its powers to existing political, industrial, and scientific institutions, or else become trapped in the Max Weber Iron Cage of rationality." (

A Proposed Fifth Magisterium of the Commons, covering the informational commons and the Environment

Robert Conan Ryan:


"Neither science nor technology can provide the answers to the correct human limits and environmental limits One of my conclusions, in my historical analysis, is that we need a fifth Magesteria: the environmental magisteria, a set of institutions with special powers to balance the others.

We therefore need international organizations that can actually block environmental exploitation and manage resources with more independence from the other magistetia powers.

The other conclusion: strengthening the powers of the cultural commons to develop better ways of living for their own sake , rather than for the sake of business .

By strengthening the cultural commons and adding a true environmental Magisteria to our world system, we could solve many institutional problems that otherwise seem unsolvable." (


What is our world system today, and how can we make dep changes to it>?

Habermas proposed there were three major "spheres" in contemporary society: state, private, and public. In his formulation, these were all institutional spheres, none of them were true voids of power. The private sphere uses the rhetoric of autonomy, but private institutions quickly rose to extreme power in such a void. Public institutions claimed to be free and open, but major media and cultural institutions quickly seized that power as well. In other words, all three of Habermas' spheres are, today, controlled by massive organizations that organize humans for purposes other than the interest of the people.

I have several addendums to this perspective.

First, that he passed over science. Science is a "sphere" of its own, with its own institutions and authority. A system of global institutions exists to promote science independently of these others. For this reason I add Pierre Bourdieu's conception of the academic sphere or academic capital, but I call it simply "science".

Second, that he should call these "Spheres" as this is scientifically vague. I use the term Magisteria instead, because of the work of Stephen Jay Gould, one of the great modern interpreters of evolutionary theory and leading anthropological theorists. Because the concept is so well expressed in the original text,

I will reproduce a long quote here:

"Humani Generis [is a Papal Edict of Pope Piux XII that] focuses on the magisterium (or teaching authority) of the Church — a word derived not from any concept of majesty or awe but from the different notion of teaching, for magister is Latin for “teacher”. We may, I think, adopt this word and concept to express the central point of this essay and the principled resolution of supposed “conflict” or “warfare” between science and religion. No such conflict should exist because each subject has a legitimate magisterium, or domain of teaching authority — and these magisteria do not overlap (the principle that I would like to designate as NOMA, or “nonoverlapping magisteria”).

  • The net of science covers the empirical universe: what is it made of (fact) and why does it work this way (theory).
  • The net of religion extends over questions of moral meaning and value.

These two magisteria do not overlap, nor do they encompass all inquiry (consider, for starters, the magisterium of art and the meaning of beauty). To cite the arch cliches, we get the age of rocks, and religion retains the rock of ages; we study how the heavens go, and they determine how to go to heaven. This resolution might remain all neat and clean if the nonoverlapping magisteria (NOMA) of science and religion were separated by an extensive no man’s land. But, in fact, the two magisteria bump right up against each other, interdigitating in wondrously complex ways along their joint border. Many of our deepest questions call upon aspects of both for different parts of a full answer — and the sorting of legitimate domains can become quite complex and difficult. To cite just two broad questions involving both evolutionary facts and moral arguments: Since evolution made us the only earthly creatures with advanced consciousness, what responsibilities are so entailed for our relations with other species? What do our genealogical ties with other organisms imply about the meaning of human life?"

In short, the Great Magisteria that I propose are global institutional fields that manage separable kinds of facts. It is their ability to validate and promote facts of a unique kind that is their strength. These Magisteria have some influence on each other - Science informs the boundaries of what I call "culture" (its components include such things of the "public sphere" as religion/media/art/local history) and vice versa. However, science has a virtual monopoly on creating and teaching scientific facts, whereas culture has a virtual monopoly on creating and teaching cultural facts (art, religion, and local history are several subtypes of cultural fact-making institutions, each with their own minor jursidictional powers, but heavily overlapping and this one Cultural Magisteria).

In the modern world system, there exists a cosmopolitan society that dominates local (civilization or lower) societies, and that cosmopolitan society manages the de facto norms for interpreting four separate canons of facts: science (empirical production), culture (public discourses), politics(state discourses), and industry (private/pragmatic production). I provide these various parenthetical notes because there are many different theories in social science that use different terminology, and these things should be synthesized into a single framework, eventually.

Third, i argue that the future of the global system lies in the formation of a Fifth Great Magisteria that I now refer to as the Commons Magisteria. This Magisteria has two components: the informational commons (immaterial) and the environmental commons (material). Neither of these commons components should be designed so as to be captured by mega-sized organizations with their own interests separable form the global citizen. They should have their own "institutional logics" rather than work strictly in the service of others. This is why I have argued so vehemently agsint the "p2p left" flatlanders who want to subjugate all Magisteria to the state (of authoritarian design, especially); and also why I argue so vehemently against the right, who want to subjugate all Magisteria to either the industry(economic) or cultural (religious) institutions, and why I am deeply concerned about the singularists who want to subjugate all Magisteria to an ultimate science (the a.i. singularity).

I believe that with partnership from people like Michel Bauwens, I can help formulate a new vision of a 5-Magisteria world in the 21st century that is exactly OPPOSITE of singularism or perpetual toxic forms of Magisterial expansion and imperial growth. My purpose is to restore balance to society that has rarely been seen in the age of civilization since large organizations first appeared, taking special note that a 5 point system, with one of the points being strictly in the interests of the global citizen, would be far more stable and sustainable than anything yet formulated by humanity.

My goal is to achieve this formulation by working within the mainstream of all traditions, rather than proposing some radical logic or viewpoint that immediately offends any other major tradition. I think this approach is exactly what is wrong with radicals: they don't know how to win the argument and accept true pluralism. Yet, all the sociological footwork form great scholars exists to achieve this, we just need to turn a corner and complete the argument." (

Metamodernism as the next step for the Magisterium of Culture ?

Robert Conan Ryan:

"The cultural magisteria (global network of cultural power structure) has not changed or disappeared (although it has been regulated to the lowest position of the four great magisteria). Its a structure of global cultural institutions. but it used to be religious in its focus. the network is still there.... Its PARADIGM changed.

Indeed, the paradigm changes in revolutionary waves ... phases.

The religious principles were downgraded since the "liberal" or also called "enlightenment" cultural paradigm shift of the late 1700s. Remember, a Magisteria is the highest level of institutional logic. After the Enlightenment, gone were the religious interpretations of meaning at the international level of fact.

Liberal(humanitarian) logic replaced it. Global institutions braced a human-centric ethic, rather than a god-centric ethic.

Then came a rational centric ethic, in modernity (roughly 1860-1940)

Since then, culture on the international level to a postmodern swerve (1940-2020)

Now we are realizing that we lost as much as we gained, and are searching for a metamodern ethic (at the level of global institiutions- at the level of actual leading organizations that tell us how to live)that transcends but includes all the others." (

The Sixth Paradigm

Robert Conan Ryan:

"Excerpts from my book (rough draft):

In this excerpt, I talk about the enlightenment and first industrial revolution from a new perspective. I argue that modernity emerged when science and technomics became separate institutional authorities from culture (religious/artistic/ethno-national authorities, most especially) and from politics (state/military/judicial authorities). I refer to these as the four magisteria: science, industry (aslo called technomics or economics), culture, and politics.

Historical cycles have been observed since the dawn of civilization. Yet, the cycles of local civilizations have only recent converged into one world system. Prior to the Industrial Era, science and industry both lacked institutional independence from culture or politics. Thus, the waves of history were dominated by the interplay of civilization-level cultural and political institutions. Shortly after their inception, science and technomic institutions became globalized authorities.

For example, France took up the Metric system in 1799, but the global scientific community did so shortly thereafter. Not long after England established limited liability corporations, independent of the powers of Parliament, the rest of the world followed suit. Thus, revolutionary changes in science and technomic institutions tend to be swift and global.

In contrast, wavy patterns in cultural and political history were found everywhere, but prior to the Enlightenment were only synchronized at the level of "civilizations" that recognized the same standard institutions. For example, feudal powers rose and fell based on cycles in regional hearths. After the rise of science and technomics, humanity slowly but inevitably pushed the globalization and formalization of cultural and political thought, thereby leading towards global institutional syncronicity. Thus, we can define the Industrial Era (1690s- present) in terms of the establishment of a "Four Magesteria" knowledge system.

The scientific "revolution" did not begin with universities. Universities predated the official recognition of science in Europe as an independent "Magisteria" - i.e., the highest level of institution in human society with its own leadership and authority. many colleges existed in Medievial Europe, dating roughly about 1100 onwards. But the scientific magisteria became separate from the doctrines of religion (culture) or politics (the day-to-day concerns of the aristocracy) when the British and French royal academies of sciences formed in 1662 and 1666, respectively.....As an interesting aside, the British society referred to their newly legitimized scientific journal papers as "transactions", whereas the French called them "memoires". The true purpose of these journals were to establish scientific facts that had the same authority in society as religious or political facts. The scientific Magisteria entered its growth phase when the French, during their own political and cultural revolution, established the metric system as its objective standard for scientific measures (1799).

I refer to the fourth Magisteria as the "Industrial Magisteria". It "objectifies" and standardized the value of business economic trade, and also technologies themselves, acting with strong independence from the other three institutional authorities. I merge technology and economics into a single magisteria because they are currently inseparable value systems and institutional structures. There is a future possibility of this changing. For example, technology could become entangled with scientific authority moreso, if we were to restructure our isntitutions such that technological value and progress was overseen moreso by scientific planning and expertise than by financial institutions. Indeed, this is a strong possibility if we objectify value using physics instead of subjective market approaches.

Technomic (industrial)institutions gained official independence only slightly later than science. In roughly the 1690s, England debuted the Bank of England, the insurance Society of Lloyd's [of London], and the London Exchange. The latter two began in British coffee houses but rapidly rose to formal institutions. Prior to the legitimation of financial institutions, the management of business and technology was mostly in the hands of guilds, who operated under a joint religious (cultural) and political (aristocratically justified and titled) authority that recognized production "goods" as literal "moral" goods. For example, the Worshipful Society of Grocers, a London guild, was responsible for asserting that its grocery practices were good and proper in the eyes of god and the crown, not just in the eyes of trade partners. (to this day, some conservative-voting British people still converse about the propriety of a type of food, such as "proper" British fish and chips, in the sense that Guilds meant!)

Industrial magisterial powers took the sense of cultural and political propriety out of the valuation of business and technology to create what we often refer to in common parlance as "capitalism" - i.e. the abstraction of value based on finance. However, I object to this slang definition because "Capitalism" can refer to a range of phenomena; this is because even communist societies in the 20th century used technomic abstractions and authorities to manage value by technomic authority - indeed, many varieties of technomic authority were tried and tested in the 1800s, some of them "anti-capitalistic" and yet also based on financial facts with independence from the other Magisteria. It is more clear to argue that technomic magisterial powers are rarely challenged in the modern world, since the invention of legally authoritative stock markets, central banks, and insurance companies that establish financial facts independently of other institutions. Financial facts anchor the value of objects across time to mathematical rules and accounting systems. Business can thereby objectify the value of both old investments and nacsent technologies still under development. Technomic authority became all-pervasive in the global economy -- that is, beyond financial markets -- with the formal recognition of corporate limited liability in the early 1800s. The degree of magisterial independence differs by country and culture, but multinational corporations dominate the global business landscape. Nearly 80% of all assets in the world are managed by technomic institutions with strong indepedence -- and limited liability, and financial facts, often prevail over facts formed by other magisteria.

During the Industrial Era, cycles in innovation are caused by major institutional changes in each of the Four Magesteria. Although they have independent powers (authority), the primacy of science tends to shape waves in the other three. Thus, once scientific facts are established, the other three magisteria begin revision of their own facts. Most especially, culture has become entrained to the "public sphere" of ideas instead of religious prophecy, and the public sphere showed a preference towards "secularist" arts and societies grounded somewhat by public understandings of science. Technomics is second in prominence because formal business organizations are the primary source of modern wealth; however, because of the dominant role of technology for modern militaries, changes in modern politics became tightly temporally locked into changes of technology and bureaucracy.

Still, each magisteria maintains sufficient institutional divisions, and domains of knowledge, to prevent some totalizing scientific authority from engulfing them all (although some radicals would argue this "scientocracy" would be a positive step for humanity). Incremental revisions to domain-specific knowledge persists until enough motive exists to challenge the fundamental principles and structure of major institutions. Rival ideas emerge that force institutional revolutions to take place in semi-regular intervals. When taking an aggregated sample of the key evolutionary events in the world system, we can see a pattern of waves at roughly 50 (technomic/political) and 80 year (science/cultural) intervals. 1660-1770 = Enlightenment (pre-Industrial period). During this period, seed forms and early prototypes for the first paradigms of the Industrial Era are established. However, local civilizations are still entrained to the culture / politics axis. At the end of this incubation period, we see 4 clearly delineated types of institutions and the emergence of global long waves that entrain to the leading world institutions (most of which are located in the West).

This is a condensed version of the timing of the four Great Waves, and how they are generated within four separate magesteria. the complete version explains each one independently and gives more precise dating for each. Thus, take these dates as a convenient and incomplete simplification for the moment. Note also that prototypes and early ideas always occur, but these dates are rough estimations of when institutional upheaval, and wave upswings from the trough, take place." (


Industry/politics science/ culture

  • 1770-1820 1st 1780-1860 1st (liberal)
  • 1820-1870 2nd 1860-1940 2nd (modern)
  • 1870-1920 3rd 1940-2020 3rd (postmodern)
  • 1920-1970 4th 2020-2100 4th (metamodern)
  • 1970-2020 5th
  • 2020-2070 6th