What is the Problem with Progressivism?

Ken Wilber and Bert Parlee take a close and critical look at the state of political progressivism today, and how we might be able to restore sanity and balance to this wing of political thought and discourse.

In many ways, an integral application to politics is inherently progressive, because integral systems are inherently transformative. But it is by and large a different kind of progressivism than what we commonly see in the political arena today:

It is a progressivism that is not hostile to conservatism, for example, because it consciously seeks to manage and integrate that polarity.

It is a progressivism that is capable of preserving the systems and institutions that work, which is itself a conservative impulse, even while creating new systems that can deliver the greatest amount of interior and exterior liberation to the greatest number of people.

It is a progressivism that fully integrates the wisdoms of the green stage of development — its insights into power structures and social justice, its resistance to abusive dominator hierarchies, its emphasis on empathy, emotional intelligence, environmental concerns, healthy pluralism, etc. – but also transcends the limitations of the green stage.

In other words, in most ways integral is not “anti-woke”, it is “post-woke”. And from a post-woke point of view, we can see how much that passes for green “wokeness” these days has actually been hijacked by amber ethnocentrism, which is responsible for the collapse of pluralism, the regression to inflexible and absolutist “us-versus-them” thinking, and a growing intolerance for other points of view that we see in many progressive communities today.

It’s understandable how we got here — not only are the usual interior dynamics of growth, development, and shadow at play, but those interior dynamics are also compounded by the exterior pressures of attention economies, algorithm-driven social media, and the new patterns of autopoietic self-organization that have emerged from these social media platforms — patterns that are pushing us away from each other, and toward any number of extreme views. This is what inevitably happens when the entire spiral of development is unleashed onto postmodern communication platforms that immediately flatten depth, fragment our shared reality, and make us increasingly distrustful of one another. It is a mismatch of operating systems – our interior developmental OS “in here”, versus the exterior operating systems the majority of our civilization is currently running on “out there”.

The question is, where do we go from here? How do we go about updating both our interior and exterior operating systems, which are some of the primary goals of a genuinely integral progressivism?

Watch as Ken and Bert explore the many faults and fractures of political progressivism today, as they simultaneously call for more integral forms of progressive thought that are actually capable of meeting the increasingly complex life conditions we are all facing. Notice how Ken and Bert’s criticisms are not coming from an overall dislike or allergy to progressivism, or even to the green attitude itself, but are rather intended as a form of “tough love” to help restore sanity to our political leading edge so that civilization itself can continue to flourish, instead of eating itself from the inside out.

But can the proud Uberprogessive Integral Community absorb and integrate this beyond an intellectual thought?

One key point that Ken and Bert whiff on is conflating liberal with Left. Today’s left is anti Liberal. Need to update lingo for accuracy. Today’s conservatives are the only remaining Liberals, but not saying all conservatives are liberals.
Second whiff is the foundational difference between today’s conservative and Leftists which I will leave for readers to ponder.

I personally think this is as reductionistic as saying “Today’s right is all Qanon”. Yes, both our political parties have an issue with extremism. Yes, I am hoping that conversations like these can help heal the divide, and get more people to lean toward more, better, deeper agreement, and more wiling to criticize their own ideological factions.

“can the proud Uberprogessive Integral Community absorb and integrate this beyond an intellectual though”

I mean, I’m the one you direct many of your ongoing criticisms at, and yet I’m the one who wrote the piece above, so I guess yes? :rofl:


Excellent to hear! Integrate beyond conceptual thinking will be interesting to see.

Also a bit surprised at Ken’s statement “black conservatives” as Teal reaching down. That’s going to be a butt load of integrating to fold some strong Republicans like Sowell, McWhorter, maybe Condi Rice into the Integral realm. And aside from their Identity merit badges they’re hardly different than the other top Republican thinkers.

You might like this :slight_smile:

In my estimation Coleman is a very good caster/journalist - in the very best sense - but nowhere in the same league as the aforementioned conservative thinkers. He’s probably excellent with a younger than myself demographic.

For recent/current affairs I tend to go to what I consider much more rigorous in-depth multi-systematic discussions with John Anderson, Hoover Institute, Glenn Loury, John McWhorter, Jordan Peterson as well as a bit of American Enterprise Institute, Cato Institute, Brookings.

The daily news (aka Amygdala Hijack Adrenal Response outlets) like CNN, Fox, MSNBC, et al give a sense as to what is trending with and being seen by the public.

If you want a very “noise free” assessment of Left and Right, Peterson and Murray have an excellent discussion on just this topic. And there is some critique of the Right, so you might find some spear tip references for future use :slight_smile:

Here are a few things to consider:

Have we defined “progress” as different from “change”?
Change just happens as part of the natural course of the Universe. Progress implies the change is for the better. Progress that was needed in the 1970’s may or may not be the same as progress that is needed in the 2020’s.

We also have to define conservativism, particularly as opposed to stupidity or any number of similar unfavorable trends we see in the current populist conservativism.

Yes, I understand what I did there - and I argue that progress for progressives in the 2020’s would be a willingness to boldly confront unfavorable trends rather than what it has been for the past 20 years, which to me is passive aggressiveness. Problems are not dealt with directly, and it morphs into the current cancel culture where a few whispers here and there to the right influencers and you are suddenly under threat of being cancelled. Sometimes for legitimate reasons, but also for unproven allegations without any opportunity to defend. The only celebrities and normal people that I know of who have beat back being cancelled are people who are willing to take the IDGAF attitude and go more boldly into offensive content (like several comedians) or viscously attack (like Trump).

What we have devolved to is that the most successful way to navigate extreme political correct culture is to adopt the complete opposite. I don’t see this as progress, but the opposite.

The problem with progress and progressivism is when it simply is using yesterdays standard for progress today, but steadily more and more extreme. Cleaning up a dirty house is progress, but if it continues past a point of absurdity it becomes the opposite. Once the house is clean, at that time progress then has to change to something else besides cleaning.

Also important is that progress at it’s best is not reactionary. Progress when it works best is seeing a goal and determining how to move towards it rather than just moving in reaction to what another does. I see the current trend on both the right and the left as reactionary, with neither side really being able to express what progress will look like 20 years down the road. In the 1970’s the vision of progress was equality. Sometime in the 1990’s the vision got hijacked to politeness and being politically correct.

I think where Integral is not really working as a movement is it’s inability to express itself in terms of a vision in 20 to fifty years, much less how to actually get there. Integral theory seems to be mostly descriptive. This is fine, as long as that’s all it wants to be. Like a kind of dictionary. Dictionaries are great books and completely necessary, but a dictionary isn’t a manual nor a platform or anything else that will show people how to actually do anything.

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Not often I agree completely with Mr. Bennett, but this is a very succinct description of the Integral Movement dilemma.
After the transition (transformation if you will) from Integral 1.0’s mapping of reality into Integral 2.0’s self proclaimed projection of “higher altitudes”, the Integral Movement seems to have simply morphed into a philosophical foot race to the Left attempting to outrun every other Leftist ideology.
The dictionary was great, in my layman’s view. The projection into a collectivist nirvana seems to fit more with what cogs in the ever expanding apparatchik would benefit from.
From what I can see the only “action” the Integral Movement takes or plans to take is to simple join Far Left political organizations in order to inculcate with disenfranchisement primarily young Americans.

Ray hits another home run. This political correctness transforming into Woke-ism (Identity Marxism) requires an unfathomably powerful authoritarian state apparatchik in order to concoct the mandates and then brutally enforce across the citizenry.

Key here is that Progressives have become authoritarians. They are the most illiberal, intolerant, tyrannical demographic in the US today. Progressives “don’t listen” to the humanity they claim to be helping.