Integral Manifesto Pt V(4) The Shape of Human Action/ Shape Shifting Through Time

Modeling the Sphere of Human Action provides a compelling way to re-interpret the various constellations of human actions, thought of as cultural stages in the Spiral Dynamics model. Consider the following diagram from

Stratified Democracy

The above is an illustration of “Stratified Democracy” and the “emergence of governmental structures over time” based on a quantitative description of the assumed distribution of thinking throughout the world population over time. The descriptions under the heading “political systems and power distribution ratios” can be seen as ranges of geo-social spatial values. From the perspective of this series, each of the “colors” are considered to be “spheres of authority” in the  realm of Human Action. “Purple” for example, while considered by the Globals Values Network,  to be a level in the evolution of cultures, this series considers “purple” to be one of a constellation of forms that constitute the totality of Human Action. Each constellation arises from its own set of geo-social spatial, technological and economic dynamics, and therefore can be seen, when the relative scales of its natural units are plotted in the Sphere of Human Action, to have a unique natural shape. The entire constellation of forms, is evolutionary in the sense of  generating “ecologically adaptive forms” — each subsystem must be both internally adaptive with respect to the three  domains of human action, to maintain its structure, and also have the capacity to adapt into the system that is the whole of Human Action.

We can map these different subsystems as hypothetical shapes in the Sphere of Human Action as follows:

Constellation of Human ActionIt is important to note that what is being portrayed is the relative scale among units — there are no absolute “values” to consider. If we look at the temporal narrative procided by Spiral Dynamics, wherein the arrow of time goes from beige, to purple, red, blue, organe, green and then yellow, you will note that in this particular hypothetical illustration, I have allowed t-units to scale increasingly throughout “time.” This would be consistent with the rise of the types and reach of various technologies, including languages and knowledges, from tool making nomadic families, through the agricultural civilizations, the great civilizations of the Renaissance, the agricultural and industrial revolutions, and on to today. Through “time” however, both e-units and g-units are in flux,  with e-units intially out-pacing g-units, until the “orange” phase, where the introduction of representative democracy gives rise to both opening of geo-social space and the industrial revolution enables a  significant redistibution of wealth, creating the middle class. At “green” t-units soar, completely outpacing and therefore supporting mutually re-inforcing forces between -e-units and g-units. This is the period of the digital revolution and information technologies, as well as significant advances in scientific technologies (including medicine), associated with t-units, the emergence of the pluralistic society,  associated with g-units, and the enormous accumulation wealth on a global scale, associated with e-units.

We can map the trajectory of g-units, e-units, and t-units directly onto the diagram of the waves of values in the following manner:

Strat&FlowThis provides us with a hypothetical picture of the relationship between the interaction between the natural units of Human Action, and the various types and reach of the subsytems supported in the Constellation that is the whole of Human Action. Here it is important to note, that g-units fall between beige and blue periods, not because there are fewer forms (there are actually more forms of collectivities) but because greater and greater numbers of people are aggregated into and constrained by collective identities. In earlier periods, “red” seems to be a dominant “form” –having broad reach– but it actually represent a great number of discontinuous tribes and bands of people, each with their own particular “shape” of action, lumped together as a single “meme”. This is an unfortunate error in the values-memes scenario, where lack of understanding about the distinctions between indigenous, nomadic, agricultural, and strongly place-based groups, tribes, bands… has led to a conflation of their uniqueness into a single “type”.

The dotted lines represent a hypothetical future scenario of what might be the case following very recent events. It is a scenario wherein through investment in technologies (rapid rise in t-units) e-units will be able to recover without sacrificing the proliferation of new actor-roles (represented by continual rise in g-units).

What about the normative aspects of the Sphere of Human Action? Consider the following diagram:

res_robIt illustrates how overall “movement” toward the lower right, is associated with periods of increasing “robustness” in Human Action. These are periods where connectivities and loyalties are aggregated and reified, there is a sense of assurance and stability in familiar forms of engagement and exchange, primary cultures become hegemonic and increasingly cooperative at the expense of periferal cultures who experience decreasing opportunities to appear as actors on the global stage. There is a sense of overall coherence and inevitability to the system, a sense that development is in one direction only– along the same trajectory taken by the primary powers. These are the periods in which “global managers” — attempt to optimize their gains. We shall see in later posts, that an over-reliance on optimization resulting from a over-maximized robust system, actually creates the conditions for the system’s eventual demise. On the other hand, overall “movement” toward the upper left is associated with periods of increasing “resilience” — the ability of the system to adapt to shock and surprise, because of its variability. Robust systems are predictable, but resilience systems have more alternative resources to deal with unpredictable events. Transformation towards the upper left– towards increased resilience– entails increased discontinuities, inventiveness, innovation and novelty of forms– associated ecologically with long-term resilience to collapse; yet from a normative standpoint, these are times of uncertainty.

A naturalized evolution of the cultural memes would see the emergence and dynamics between subsystems– spheres of appearances of human action– as part of an overall constellation or ecology of types, which contribute both robust dynamics and resilience dynamics to the Sphere of Human Action. Systems such as Spiral Dynamics emphasize the robustness of the system — based primarily in the absolutely robust notions of mainstream integral theory– and fail to incorporate the equally important– perhaps the more critically important– notion of resilience dynamics. From the standpoint of evolution, whose over-arching dynamics tend toward variation of form, resilience, rather than robustness, can be seen to be the correct evolutionary imperative– not a series of nested sets that sum up to one single optimized form. Indeed,  Buzz Holling, the founder of Resilience Theory, made just this statement: That from the view of evolution, variety, is more important than stability or equilibria.

The supposed “pull” of the teleological imperative in iSD, relies exclusively on the role of top-down, integrating dynamics; and fails to incorporate the crucial roles of bottom-up dynamics that proceed at different scales and are never completely transcended, because they are always operating toward the direction of resilience. This is the most salient feature of the last generation. The exclusive focus on optimization of Human Action (as well as optimization in eco-system management)– forces that, as we shall later define them, are associated with a single type strategy– has led to the conditions of environmental crises, world financial crises, proliferation of terrorist acts, and global instability. The normative desire humans have for rationally coherent, theoretically robust world, carries with it a dire warning: “Be careful what you wish for!”

Finally, we can adopt the principles of the natural units of Human Action, to the many worlds described by James Rosenau, by assigning relative scale values to each of the worlds as summarized in the following table:

economic technological
Insular Local + (-) (-)
Resistant Local (-) (-) (-)
Exclusionary Local + (-) +
Affirmative Local + + +
Affirmative Global (-) + +
Resistant Global + (-)/+  * (-)/+  *
Specialized Global + (-)/+  ** (-)/+  **
Territorial Global (-) (-) +

This table demonstrates that each Rosenau’s worlds, has a particular “shape” in the sphere of human action, if we mapped it according to the relative scales assigned above. For Insular Locals, g-units scale greater than both e -units and t-units; Resistant Locals are “adverse” to growth in any direction; Exclusionary Locals affirm increasing scale in both the geosocial and technological direction, but resist movement in the e-unit direction.;Affirmative Locals are comfortable facilitation all scales of Human Action, they  affirm growth of e-units and t-units and forego scalar increase of g-units… and so on.  If we compare this matrix of worlds with thee diagram illustrating the direction of robustness versus resilience, it is easy to see that the model of the Sphere of Human Action suggests that future scenarios based on the worldview of Affirmative Globals are not sustainable, because although they maximizes the conditions of robustness,they fail the test of resilience. While a futures scenario based on the worldview of either  Exclusionary or Affirmative Locals would be sustainable, because of the resilience that would be provided; but living in a Exclusionary World entails so much discontinuity, that it is probably unimaginable with respect to human nature. We will return to various futures in latter posts of this series.


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