Notes from the Field: London Integral Salon Notes from the Field January 18, 2009 A Dialogue and Discussion on Integral Politics With John Bunzl and Victor Anderson, Facilitated by Michael Herrick

Dave Pendle


andersonThe dialogue was constructed around a series questions to explore the existence and potential nature of Integral Politics. This summary only attempts to cover those points raised in the dialogue not the ensuing discussion. These notes are an effort to capture the flavour of the contributions of the invited speakers during the course of the evening.

Does Barack Obama show signs of being integral and what might we expect from his administration?

VA Obama’s ability to appeal to religious as well as Democratic Party constituencies, using a powerful rhetoric, which was evocative of the civil rights movement, could be taken as an example of an instinctive integrative approach.

john BunzlJB The Holon of the nation state is nearing the end of its useful life and the consequence of this is the deep uncertainty chaos caused by a crisis in political legitimation arising within all quadrants. The current systems do not possess the sophistication necessary to respond to the complexity of globalization and the acceleration in adverse trends suggesting that Obama, despite signs of personal integral development, will be unlikely to make the large difference expected of him. Most solutions to the problem are constrained by the pathology of the nation state. However a mixed ethnicity president might be sympathetic to the required level of unprecedented global international cooperation capable of addressing the issues.

How might the integral (AQAL) model inform an integral politics?

JB The above mentioned crisis of legitimation is due to the inability of current worldviews to command allegiance. This is what is leading to the breakdown in the populace’s engagement in the political sphere, e.g. voter apathy. The only solution appears to be an unprecedented model such as an integral politic, which is a much needed corrective, to the current over emphasis on the exterior quadrants and the need to take on the dimension of the individual and culture.

VA The memes provide a useful way of looking at politics. However there is a difficulty about them, which is crucial at present: the boundary between Green and Yellow. Movements which are not at all relativist, such as the US civil rights movement, feminism and most of the environmental movement are getting described as “Green” when the politics they represent can much more justifiably be regarded as “Yellow”.

JB There generally seems to be a lot of vagueness around what the functioning yellow meme looks like. Ken Wilber suggests that only a Turquoise level of development can bring about the necessary transformation and cites the following as an example of a turquoise system ‘A non-coerced federation of free nation states who do not dictate but facilitate the evolution of other states through fair economic frameworks regulating cross-border emissions, etc.

How are left and right wing political parties related to an emphasis on the “interior” or “exterior “?

Here a discussion ensued regarding the broad characterisation of right wing politics as having greater emphasis on the individual and interior and left wing politics placing greater emphasis on the collective and exterior, especially in terms of their principles and justifications of how and why people should or would behave. Broadly it is claimed that the right emphasises personal responsibility and the left blames the system.

VA The reality is more complex: much of the Left has focused on personal responsibility and interiority, e.g. the part of it that was based in Christianity and aesthetic movements, and on the idea of “the personal is political”. There has been a long period, roughly 1917 to 1967, in which this aspect of the Left has been less visible than it has been both before and after. Where the Right emphasises personal responsibility, it is usually at a Blue or Orange level rather than anything Integral. The attempt to use a simplistic inner/outer analysis in order to position Integral as mid-way between Democrats and Republicans misses out on more sophisticated uses, which could be made of Integral ideas.

JB Party political manifestos these days are barely distinguishable from one another because of the influence of global markets and the need for all nations to maintain their international competitiveness. Nation states are now in effect subjugated to the role of a PLC seeking inward investment from free-moving global corporations and investors. Any nation being as bold as to politically buck the market would soon see essential business placed within other more market friendly nation states. So the room within the political sphere to offer original visionary and different by political parties is now severely restricted by global competition and the free-movement of capital.

VA This was very true up until the most recent economic crisis, which puts more radical responses to the world economy back on the political agenda. This is evidenced in the sharp reverse in rhetoric articulated by Nicolas Sarkozy. Prior to the global downturn Sarkozy was a trenchant advocate of free markets, but since the crisis he is now very vigorously promoting the opposite message of heavy government interventionism. Neoliberalism was a deliberate political strategy for deregulating the world economy—it can be reversed.

Is it possible to be an “integral politician”?

VA It is possible but difficult. Victor’s own experience of seeking integrated solutions when active in the GLA Assembly often meant getting too ‘close’ to the other parties and risking being criticised by fellow party members. The media are always seeking clear cut, simplistic, often polarized answers and avoid the complex and unduly influence the emergence of anything integral. Integral politicians are likely to be in the minority having no control of the political agenda, which makes it very hard to wield substantial influence.

JB If a politician is a party politician they by definition could not be integral. The problem with the parties is that they are ‘pathologically alienated from one another and they are pathologically fused with the nation-state system of which they’re inescapably a part’. Hence, an integral politician in the global age would not lead a political party but would have created an organization based on a quite different political methodology which transcends political parties and nation-states: something that is, in short, unprecedented (unprecedented emergence).

VA In the GLA, whilst pursuing a Green agenda, seeking and creating cross party cooperation was his modus operandi; however he fell into difficulties over this when some Green Party colleagues felt he became too cooperative with Ken Livingstone.

How can ‘unified visions’, such as world government for example, gain traction in a pluralistic world?

JB Does not envision a unitary worldwide bureaucratic structure that bears any resemblance to current governance structures, at current levels of development it would next to impossible to get the levels of cooperation right.

VA The opportunities for enhanced levels for cooperation are increasing, witness the recognition that the G7 had to be expanded to the G20 to address the economic crisis. This indicates a chance to make change more all-encompassing. The fact new nations are on board mean the possibility of global change improved.

JB To achieve the kind of international cooperation required, people or individuals within these systems need to disidentify and move apart from those systems as if they were moving beyond the system to create a movement towards integralism.


The meeting concluded with a wide ranging general discussion regarding many of the points raised in the formal question and answer format of part of the meeting. The final comment to the group observed that much of the preceding proceedings had been structure, process and model orientated and thus heavily ‘masculine’ in it’s emphasis, followed by a passionate plea for more sift power in discussion of this type and within politics itself.

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Dave Pendle is a long term student of Andrew Cohen and volunteer for EnlightenNext, the organisation Cohen founded. He works advising youth homelessness organisations around the UK. This article was completed with the assistance of John Bunzl and Victor Anderson