An Integral Take on Power, Revised

In this version, my second and final one, I have included items from Robb Smith’s “Evolution of Power” ( Whereas my model focused on the development of power in the individual, Robb charted power’s evolution in the collective quadrants. Combining the two in this scheme gives us, I believe, a more complete integral picture. Robb’s items appear in boldface.

At Stage 0, Infrared, an infant has the power to influence the behavior of parents or other adults that may be in the vicinity by crying, screaming, and other behaviors.

At Stage 1, Magenta, a toddler has an increasing capacity to manipulate physical objects including its own body parts. Stage 1 societies have the power to protect their survival by hunting and gathering and warfare.

At Stage 2, Red, a person starts to acquire language as an instrument of power. They also have the power to act on their egocentric aggressive and sexual impulses — violence, rape, and killing. The tribe or its leader(s) have the power to expel — exile or execute — members who violate the norms of their society.

At Stage 3, Amber, the individual has the power to control their impulses and conform to the rules and roles of the religious community, kingdom, empire, or nation state. The governing authority has the power to sanction, to sit in judgment of transgressions against the norms and laws and impose punishments.

At Stage 4, Orange, adults have the power to use freedom, reason, education, property, money, social connections, the law, and industrial technology to achieve fulfillment of their life goals. In democratic societies the power to contract is protected by the state to ensure citizens can participate freely in a capitalist or socialist economic system.

At Stage 5, Green, a person has the power to use advanced informational technology to work toward advancing the values of equality, social justice, multiculturalism, environmentalism, and global peace. This is sometimes called the power to convene, to use social media platforms to create or join virtual communities that share a person’s beliefs and values. Such “tribes” are often committed to political action along a left-right axis, which may be inspired by propaganda, disinformation, and appeals to emotion. This power is implicated in the state’s efforts to regulate social media platforms, protect privacy, create propaganda, and operate surveillance programs on individuals and groups.

At Stage 6, Turquoise, a person has the power to use an Integral world view, combined with deep spiritual insight to promote a holistic, inclusive, and compassionate approach to problems that humans face in all four quadrants: mental health, cultural conflicts, medical problems, and system dysfunctions of all kinds: economic, political, environmental, etc. The power to integrate involves showing leaders and influencers how disparate ideologies and value systems can be synthesized at a higher, more inclusive perspective where win-lose polarities in politics, business, and culture are transformed into win-win outcomes.

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I’m loving this project so far, Charles. Particularly because it really helps us unpack all of the hidden and not-so-hidden meanings of that word, “power”, which really does play very differently from stage to stage, quadrant to quadrant, perhaps even developmental line to developmental line.

Thinking out loud here, but we might continue the analysis by looking at how power plays out in our LR “doings together”, and how that expresses and supports power dynamics in our LL “being together”, from one stage to the next. We might also look at the UR (doing) actions, behaviors, and strategies that correlate with both internalized power dynamics in the UL (being), as well as how those individual behaviors aggregate into the LR structures of power we just mentioned.

We could also take an extra step and look at each of those quadrants from 1st-person and 3rd-person, which would reveal something like the 8 zones of power.

Finally, we might take a look at the different kinds of power that may associate with our lines of development — cognitive power, kinesthetic power, spiritual power, moral power, interpersonal power, etc.

And then, if we want to put a cherry on top, we could then apply this comprehensive integral inventory of power to the real-world power dynamics that are playing out every day around us. This would be a key contribution from Integral, I think, because while it remains cautious of power and its potential to be abused, it is not itself allergic to power, but rather wishes to transmute early-stage power that may no longer be appropriate for our society into later-stage power that is required to manage complexity and reduce suffering for the greatest number of people (while still being able to draw upon those early-stage expressions of power when necessary, because all of those earlier stages are still alive within us).

This is the sort of “integral critical theory” that would very much be worth the time and effort, I think!

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Cool ideas. Going forward, we might have to revisit the definition of ‘power.’ The definition I began with was rather narrow, cast in terms of an individual’s power to make something happen in the world, mostly in the exterior quadrants. I’m not sure the project can be expanded as far as you suggest, e.g. to all lines, but a closer look at the LL and LR as well as quadrants and zones is certainly worth a shot.

What do you think of my notion that power, as I have defined it, might be seen as an independent line of development? Perhaps that is already implied in Robb’s and my models.

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Hello Charles and Corey,

It would’ve been kind and generous of you to give criticism to my post instead of just disregarding anything expressed. Apparently, I don’t fit into the “tribal integral qualifications” to even be given a glance! Thank you, for your Non-time…


Tut tut, Brian. Get over yourself. You make good points in your post, e.g. your brief critique of capitalism, which I am sure almost all integral thinkers agree with. However, your comments are on a different page from the one Corey, Robb Smith, and I are using. There we are attempting a very specific integral analysis of power using the basic elements of Integral Theory: quadrants, levels, and lines. To engage with us, which I invite you to do, you will need to plug into the same framework.

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Thanks for your response, Charlie!

Your response lack’s compassion! I’m okay with criticism yet you’re response is arrogant! Show me any of my posts that are arrogant and I will submit!

I’ve reached the “wall of Integral Life!” Thank you for the opportunity to interact with interesting people from a wide spectrum of life experiences!