Is Metamodernism Integral? Is Integral Metamodern?

Brendan Graham Dempsey is a writer whose work focuses on the meaning crisis and the nature of spirituality in metamodernity. Brendan is also very active in the Metamodern community, which many people recognize as an “integrally-adjacent” constellation of hearts and minds that are trying to usher in a more meaningful and fulfilling way to participate with humanity’s unfolding — not just to navigate the extreme complexity of our times, but also striving to find another kind of simplicity on the other side of all that complexity.

Sound familiar? Metamodernism and the integral paradigm share a lot in common, yet also differ in important ways. To what degree should these terms be conflated or kept apart? What unites them, and what constitute the meaningful distinctions? What role do things like sensibility, generation, emphasis, and epistemology play?

This gathering provided an opportunity to dig into this topic. To this end, metamodern thinker Brendan Graham Dempsey offers some history and a bit of compare/contrast perspectives on the topic.

So is metamodernism integral? Is integral metamodern? Watch this discussion with Brendan Dempsey, and let us know what you think!

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On the one hand, I prefer academic theories. On the other hand, as Brendan notes in this video, the academy continues to be thoroughly steeped in postmodernism, which for me feels like an intellectual and spiritual deadend. So I’ve gotten involved with Integral and many of the other communities mentioned in this talk.

The metamodernism of Jason Ananda Josephson Storm provides a core academic framework that can address the definitional question in the headline to this thread. To summarize that framework in a very compressed way - don’t argue about essentialist definitions of terms. There is no “real” integral or “real” metamodernism, so arguing if one is really the other is a fundamentally empty exercise. A more fruitful approach is to ask, where did these ideas come from? What led to these conceptualizations? What generative processes create and sustain them? The general suspicion of essentialist definitions is a valuable carryover from postmodernism. The focus on generativity and reconstruction is a shared emphasis across many of the integral and metamodern communities.

On the topic of stage theory abuse - yes, it gets abused a lot. But again, where does this come from? The modern-postmodern-metamodern sequence (or go with orange-green-teal if you prefer) appears to be a periodization of Western cultural history for the past 100 or so. Fair enough. Coherent historical narratives require organizing simplifications and periodizations, and there is no avoiding that. The problem comes in when organizing ideas like these get reified and treated like systems with agency of their own. Nope. “Metamodernism” as such is not trying to do anything. Various people associated with metamodern theorizing are in fact trying to things, but they are not all trying to do the same things. Some of them are however doing generically similar things, which makes generalizations about the metamodern movement useful, as long as we all remember how contingent and artificial such generalizations unavoidably are. AQAL can likely sort out this reification problem by quadrant, but I’ll let others have a turn with that.

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My thanks to Nomali Perera and Brendan Graham Dempsey for sharing their exploration of their current understandings of “integral” and “metamodern.”
Some might observe each of these two flavors of “hopium” does not place much attention on current global affairs.
UN Sec-Gen Antonio Guterres (press conference - on climate, 27 July 2023) said:
Humanity is in the hotseat.
Today, the World Meteorological Organization and the European Commission’s Copernicus Climate Change Service are releasing official data that confirms that July 2023 is set to be the hottest month ever recorded in human history.
We don’t have to wait for the end of the month to know this. Short of a mini-Ice Age over the next days, July 2023 will shatter records across the board.
According to the data released today, July has already seen the hottest three-week period ever recorded; the three hottest days on record; and the highest-ever ocean temperatures for this time of year.
The consequences are clear and they are tragic: children swept away by monsoon rains; families running from the flames; workers collapsing in scorching heat.
For vast parts of North America, Asia, Africa and Europe – it is a cruel summer.
For the entire planet, it is a disaster.
And for scientists, it is unequivocal – humans are to blame.
All this is entirely consistent with predictions and repeated warnings.
The only surprise is the speed of the change.
Climate change is here. It is terrifying. And it is just the beginning.
The era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived.
The Sec-Gen continues to detail what’s happening in current living conditions for people facing extreme weather, diminishing water and food supplies, and uncertain futures!
Spirituality is simply loving life in everybody, as I love the life I am being graced to inhabit.
Spirituality involves a change from self (individual or collective, “integral” or “metamodern” or “postmodern”, “modern” or “traditional”) to the very HEART of ALL LIVING BEINGS.
Plato’s Allegory of the Cave: Sun (Heart-Intellect/Spiritus-Pneuma/Nous) outside the cave of space and time seeing all things, with various limited ways of seeing apparent things (soul-mind-body) inside the cave of space and time.
When somebody suffers, all of us suffer.
Time to change the economic and political operations now inflicting untold damage to life on our only shared planet.
We – all of us within our various Primal, Oriental, Semitic, Modern, Postmodern, and
Metamodern communities – must work with each other to create LIFE-CENTRED HEARTFUL INTEGRITY PACTS in which we are enabled to transform our current lives from my ego-centric “me” isolations, and our various ethno-socio-centric “us versus them” alienations, towards world-centric “all of us, altogether” cooperative harmonies to live well with each other with intra-generational and inter-generational equity, within our planet’s ecological matrices-thresholds, and with fair social allocations of our planet’s limited living capabilities-capacities, within everybody with everybody, and with all of this in tune with the Wholeness and Tripartite Unity of Nature.

Which leads to the interesting question, what really is the best way to navigate global affairs? Life-centered heartful integrity pacts sounds cool, but what exactly are those? Any how do they differ from Integral ideas or practices?

On the world affairs question, yes, that is one of my preoccupations. So what does Integral have to do what any of that? In a nutshell, Integral provides strong advocacy for human development on all levels. It’s hard to imagine any solution to climate change or any other pressing global problem that does not involve a lot of people getting a lot better educated and becoming more organized to work with one another across ethnic, cultural, national, and class lines. I’m not sure the study of Integral Theory itself is absolutely required for elevating global education and cooperation, but Integral Theory certainly provides useful support for these goals.

Hi Gerard,
While I don’t think this metamodernism/integral discussion was the right place for it, I too am interested in an Integral attention placed on global affairs, and if you scroll through the topics under the “Media” category, you’ll find all sorts of talks and writings on global issues, everything from the pandemic to immigration to the Israel-Palestine conflicts to the war in Ukraine to writings on China, and more. Most of these are through the Ken Show or the Integral Justice Warrior podcast, and there was also a series on climate change, a topic to which you have brought a lot of vital energy in this post of yours.

I also wanted to say that while I think Robert asked legitimate questions about your “life-centered heartful integrity pacts,” I kind of like that phrase. It reads almost like a personal centering device, a thumbnail philosophy or mantra of sorts for waking life.

Hello Robert and LaWanna,
I hope each of you is safe and well.
Thank you to each of you for your response to my post.
In 1972, the Club of Rome published the Limits to Growth report; in 1980, William Catton authored Overshoot; and, in 1987, the UN World Commission on Environment and Development released the Brundtlandt Report, Our Common Future.
Humanity has been informed repeatedly for over 50 years that operating with business-as-usual violates many ecological boundaries and intensifies many social crises.
Moreover, humanity has been advised to learn to live in sustainable ways so that our children and our children’s children can experience livable futures.
Today’s news feed in Australia features terrible scenes from Hawaii. OMG! Oh dear!
Why do we continue with trickle-down neoliberal economics which allows wealth to accumulate amongst the few, and leaves all others to grim lives with terrible futures?
Today I received the latest newsletter from r3.0.
In the past decade r3.0 have worked to make various sustainability standard setters, like ISSB, GRI, ESRS, EFRAG, UN SDG, UN SDPI, et al., become truly sustainable.
At present, however, there are no globally agreed sustainability standards.
It remains a free for all, as life on our planet becomes increasingly perilous in unsustainable living conditions.
In my view, neither metamodern nor integral people address in depth our current increasingly unsustainable business-as-usual economic and political operations.
Greta Thunberg does what she can to generate a livable future.
The European Union conducted a Beyond Growth conference in Brussels last May.
Marianne Williamson offers an Economic Bill of Rights, but she has limited political power.
If you are curious, I offer my own perspectives at Gerard Bruitzman -, From Only Economic Growth Counts in Our Work and Lives Towards Integrative Heart-Centred Thriveability (
Thank you for your time and attention.
I wish you well in difficult times.

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Hi Gerard,

Let me offer an alternative view on the metamodern, for starters. I’m currently working to plan an international conference with this person, who if you dig into her bio a bit, is a member of the Club of Rome. Hers is not exactly a fringe group. The education movement she represents is very well developed in the Nordic countries, and a bunch of us are working on growing it more in the US. (Anyone who wants to follow up with me on that, please DM me or we can start a new topic thread).

With respect to Integral, I’m reading an excellent book on Integral Education, Igniting Brilliance, by Willow Day. I’ll review that on another thread already begun. But I mention it here because it’s probably the most practical thing on Integral I have ever read, and because it aligns extremely well with Global Bildung. People the world over in the Bildung movement would relate very well to what the authors in the Day book are saying. I’m making it a personal mission to unpack Integral for parallel efforts in the metamodern and liminal spaces (and the other way around too - unpack other systems for Integral). Why? Big Tents win elections. There is nothing about this that is NOT designed to influence some party’s platform in a cycle or two. Ideally, both major parties.

If you have a more practical plan than that, please bring it to the table!

I wish you well too Gerard, and am glad for your voice here.

There is nothing you have said about climate, environmental issues, the unsustainability of current conditions, or the history of warnings around all that that I disagree with. Nor is “trickle-down neoliberal economics” an unfamiliar term to me. You ask why we continue with this economic system which “allows wealth to accumulate amongst the few, and leaves all others to grim lives with terrible futures?” I’m curious as to how you would answer that. I went in search of material on integral economics and found an article based on a book from 2010 (R. Lessem and A. Schieffer) that speaks somewhat to this question, I think. You’re probably familiar with it, but here’s the link to the article There’s probably more out there on an integral economics, but all in all, probably not a lot. I liked what I read in this article.

While I think the current economic system in the West, which is imposed on much of the rest of the world, is and is becoming more and more obscenely grotesque, I also see signs of change wanting to happen. In the U.S., among other things, there is a labor movement trying to revitalize itself and more and more unions are striking. Hollywood moguls have publicly stated that their position is to drag out the bargaining process with striking writers and actors until people are financially strapped enough that they start losing their apartments and houses, “a cruel but necessary evil,” said one of them. Those kinds of comments say it all, particularly in the context of there being a lack of housing in general and doubly a lack of affordable housing across the country, and this is particularly a problem in L.A. Heartless.

Are you familiar with the Integral Applied Metatheory project? If not, this might be a place where your involvement around the issue of sustainable living conditions–economic, environmental, etc.–might be welcomed. The more we work together, the more effective we are.

Hello Robert,
Thank you for your account of what you are working with in metamodern, and in integral circles.
I am familiar with Lena Rachel Andersen’s work, including her book Metamodernity: Meaning and Hope in a Complex World, and her Club of Rome book Bildung: Keep Growing.
She begins her preface in Bildung saying: “it is perhaps no big wonder that breath, spirit, consciousness are connected in the spiritual traditions and in different languages. …
It is a diabolic irony that through our very breath, humanity is now connected. Not through wisdom of the spirit, but through a virus; not though life, but through the risk of death.
While we have created technologies and economic infrastructures that connect us around the globe, we forgot to upgrade our understanding, our consciousness, our sense of responsibility, and our consciense; our spirit. We forgot to study, learn, and teach to everybody that which is at the core and forefront of human knowledge. We forgot to think, and we forgot to understand ourselves as connected around the globe and to protect life. We also forgot to see ourselves as a part of nature and to pay heed to the spiritual traditions that, different as they are, all tell us to treat Earth’s resources with humility and respect. We were poor stewards of the Earth we inherited; we are poor gardeners.”
What we need, according to Andersen, is … “all summed up in one German word: Bildung” (pp. 11-12).
Now let us try to understand who is seeing (child, student, adult, mature elder), how seeing is being done (in skills in individual-collective arts, in inter-personal relations, and in social contracts-disciplines), and what is being seen (in a skill, context, contract, discipline, organization, matrix, system), in various Primal Traditions (First Nations in Africa, Asia, Europe, Americas, Australia, Oceania), in various Oriental Traditions (Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism et al.), in various Semitic Traditions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam et al.), in various modern schools (focused on various sciences of measurement), in various postmodern schools (with various social justice and ecological critiques of various authoritarian knowledge claims), and in various metamodern and various integral schools (with various attempts to hold various knowledge claims altogether), ALTOGETHER.
Let us try to understand here the various who x how x what inhabitations we can share with each other, altogether, because, as Andersen affirms, our “breath, spirit, consciousness are connected in [our] spiritual traditions and in [our] different languages.”
If you are curious, let me invite you to see my paper at, From Only Economic Growth Counts in Our Work and Lives Towards Integrative Heart-Centred Thriveability.
Thank you for your time and attention.
Be Well.

Thanks Gerald.

For Integral readers who are familiar with Integral but not so much with metamodern thought or Bildung, I’m deep in the weeds in both Integral education and in metamodern education models. As far as I can tell, they are about 99% the same thing. Some common ideas between all these:

  • holistic
  • embodied
  • comprehensive
  • life-long
  • ethical
  • spiritual
  • communal

I could go on, but Integral education and bildung really seem to me to be mapping similar territory from different angles.

With respect to the economics question, because this is an Integral forum, lets use Integral terminology. To me, it’s really mostly about orange needing to get to teal. ASAP, from my POV. A very distinguished life coach pinned me down on a Zoom call a couple days ago and challenged me to reflect why I care so dang much about the orange-teal or green-teal transitions. On deep introspection, what I mostly came up with is 1) whatever fear I have that is holding me back isn’t holding me back nearly enough and 2) getting to teal on a mass level will basically fix a lot of the problems in the world. To put it as plainly as possible, second tier people just get it about not raping the environment to make a buck. But they also can pursue change programs in an organized, likely-to-succeed way. So I’m recruiting for club teal, and no apologies about that.

Hello LaWanna,
Thank you for your gracious response.
Why do we continue with an economic system which “allows wealth to accumulate amongst the few, and leaves all others (with) grim lives with terrible futures?”
Ronnie Lessem and Alex Schieffer have made their contributions in their version of “integral economics.” Lessem had connections with Don Beck and Spiral Dynamics.
Christian Arnsperger, in 2010, released Full-Spectrum Economics:
Toward an Inclusive and Emancipatory Social Science, which referred to integral models.
Robin Lincoln Wood has been busy in the past decade promoting Thriveability within Spiral Dynamics and Integral circles.
RLW’s former associates Ralph Thurm and Bill Baue continue to be busy at r3.0 trying to make “authentic sustainability” become true in actual practice. See forthcoming r3.0 conference and United Nations Sustainable Development Performance Indicators (SDPI).
WEAll, in Finland, Scotland, Wales, Iceland, New Zealand, and Canada, promotes wellbeing economies, which focus on selected wellbeing measures, but tend to neglect I-I enlightenment and I-Thou relations.
DEAL, in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Barcelona, et al., promotes Doughnut Economics, which involves living within ecological thresholds and with secure social floors. But DEAL, like WEAll, tends to neglect I-I enlightenment and I-Thou relations.
Recently, the European Commission conducted a Beyond Growth conference, 15-17 May 2023 - Beyond Growth 2023 Conference ( Again, not much on I-I enlightenment and I-Thou relations was to be seen.
If you are curious, let me invite you to see my work at in From Only Economic Growth Counts in Our Work and Lives Towards Integrative Heart-Centred Thriveability.
Thank you for your time and attention.
Be Well

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Hello Robert,
Let me offer some notes of caution.
What are the similarities and differences in various understandings of

  • holistic (who x how x what is being included in the current usage of “holistic”? excluded?)
  • embodied (who x how x what is being included in the current usage of “embodied”? excluded?)
  • comprehensive (who x how x what is being included in the current usage of “comprehensive”? excluded?)
  • life-long (who x how x what is being included in the current usage of “life-long”? excluded?)
  • ethical (who x how x what is being included in the current usage of “ethical”? excluded?)
  • spiritual (who x how x what is being included in the current usage of “spiritual”? excluded?)
  • communal (who x how x what is being included in the current usage of “communal”? excluded?)

Furthermore, I am one person who has decided not to use color terminology in my work to describe human development.

My preferred scale now is child-student conformist dependence, adult expert-achiever independence, and mature elder in various inter-independencies with varying degrees of capabilities in varying sets of skills in various (I-I) personal-collective arts, in various inter-personal (I-Thou) relations, and in various disciplinary (I-it) contracts and sciences.

I tend to see some conformist dependent usage of integral terminology, some competent expert-achiever usage of integral terminology, and some flexible inter-independent usage of integral terminology in which various lived dialectical developmentalisms actually become more fully alive!

Be Well.

I’m using orange-green-teal in this forum because that’s the local dialect. It’s a short hand that readers here understand. People at different development levels use cultural codes in different ways. So yes, there are different ways to understand and misunderstand integral.

As far as included/excluded, everybody is invited to the party (integral, bildung, metamodern, whatever).

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