The Major and Minor Scales of Integral Politics

Originally published at:

Ken Wilber and Corey deVos take an in-depth look at the “major and minor scales” of integral politics — an inventory of the most critical elements, polarities, and patterns of self-organization that are at play within all of the major political systems across the world, from the rise of civilization to today.

In one of the recent Integral LIfe videos on Integral Politics Wilber refers to his use, in Up from Eden (1981), of the terms “internalist” and “externalist” for the two basic political orientations. He adds that a short while after publication of this book Time magazine published a feature article using the same dichotomoy.

The suggestion here is that he was the first to introduce it and it ended up in a nation-wide publication shortly after he had published it.

I think I have located the article in the Times archive here, it was published in 1983:



However, the article seems to use these terms in a totally different context and meaning.

Wilber’s use of these terms is that externalists see the causes of suffering in the structures of society that oppress; and internatlists see these causes in character and individual effort to improve your lfe. (See Up from Eden , Chapter 19, “Republicans, Democrats and Mystics”)

This Times article covers the two different types of US foreign policy, and uses “externalist” for those who see the enemy abroad, while “internalists” see the enemy within the US borders.

Seems to me to be a totally different use of these terms. Especially in this quote, the meaning is completely opposite to Wilber’s intended use:

The externalists are usually but not always those in power and their supporters.
Internalists are almost always critics of those in power and of their policies.

In Wilber’s model, externalists are Democrats, who usualy oppose vested interests and internalists are Republicans, who usually believe in authority and individual effort.

Is this the correct Times article or is there any other?

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The Financial Sector hosts the real GREEN villains

Dear Ken, dear Corey,

I really enjoyed the clarity your discussion about the major and minor scales of politics gave me. Born in the 50ies the following quote was sheer delight to me:

“And there we are, with the generation of whateverism and pluralitis and boomeritis. The vacuum of values that is our culture. And since nature abhors a vacuum, in rushed the idiots. But an entire culture built on having no culture!”

…in rushed the financial sector and claims to produce value:
It is now assumed that anything that has a price has value.

In classical economics, ‘value’ is the result of productive activities. In earlier versions of economic thought, we have for instance Adam Smith’s theory of value based on the productivity of labour. In modern times, there are sectors that do not produce anything except moving existing assets around instead of creating new assets. This means: whenever a person pays a price it is assumed in modern economy that the exchanged item has value; thus confusing a subjective perception with an objective fact. This is Boomeritis too.
The sum of these subjective perceptions even finds their way into the composition of current GDP.

The mean green perspective of the financial sector attacks the healthy orange economy. This has devastating effects and reminds me of your Excerpt A:

“One of the easiest ways to get the sense of the important ideas that Marx was advancing is to look at more recent research on the relation of techno-economic modes of production (foraging, horticultural, herding, maritime, agrarian, industrial, informational) to cultural practices such as slavery, bright price, warfare, patrifocality, gender of prevailing deities and so on.”

In order to focus on the relation of the financial sector with today´s culture, read Mariana Mazzucato, “[The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global Economy]

Who really creates wealth in our world? And how do we decide the value of what they do? At the heart of today’s financial and economic crisis is a problem hiding in plain sight. In modern capitalism, value-extraction - the siphoning off of profits, from shareholders’ dividends to bankers’ bonuses - is rewarded more highly than value-creation: the productive process that drives a healthy economy and society.

We misidentify takers as makers, and have lost sight of what value really means. Once a central plank of economic thought, this concept of value - what it is, why it matters to us - is simply no longer discussed.”

Dear Corey and Ken,

I’ve become a member of Integral Life specifically for your videos (particularly on politics and integral developmental theories) and wanted to let you know that they bring me a lot of insight and that I enjoy watching them.

Ever since I’ve started to get acquainted with the work of Ken, I’ve felt that it would be great if more people would become aware of his theories. However, quite frankly, I think the books of Ken, as well as the content on this platform, are particularly accessible for a more intellectual audience.

With the attention span of most people nowadays, the length of the videos on this platform and the books are a barrier to access the theories. Also, background understanding (like an understanding of levels and quadrants) is necessary before the videos will make sense.

I think the detail of your discussions and Ken’s work is incredible and I enjoy every bit of it. However, to make integral theory scalable, it could be interesting to create short explainer animation videos to peak people’s interest. Then, when people start to understand the theory on surface level and excitement is generated, the video can refer to IntegralLife / Ken’s work for more detailed content.

This is an example of how this could be done - Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development:

I have some (limited) experience with video making and would be happy to explore what I can do (voluntarily of course). Would love to start with an explainer video on levels of growing up and altitude.

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