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.

Integral Manifesto Pt V(3) The Shape of Human Action/ The Natural Units of Human Action

Like Max Plank reasons in Susskind’s imaginary narrative, I began to reason how the three domains of human action — geo-socio spatial, technological, and economic– could be conceptualized as “perfectly related natural units” of human action that could be dynamic operations in a complex system. I also realized that when natural units that are perfectly related are mapped as coordinates, they produce discrete shapes that morph dynamically, as variables are entered into their equation, as in cybernetic modeling. So, for example, the three sides of a right triangle are perfectly related, and therefore, as you vary one or two of the lengths of the sides, the other side(s) vary in a way that preserves the perfect equation: a(squared) times b(squared) = c(squared). I began to sample drawings that represented the shape of human action by scaling the three natural units in 3-dimensional coordinate space as in the following illustration:

shape of action

Questions flowed from envisioning the Shape of Human Action in this way.

  • What were the appropriate scales along the indivudal axes?
  • What is the meaning of increasing distance in the g direction?
  • What does increasing technological scale in the t direction represent?
  • What is happening in the “real” economy, with respect to the whole of human action, as it plots further along the e dimension?

Answering this question, meant assigning both values to the units, as well as meaning to a system whose purpose was to model real-world conditions and actual lived experience. I reaalized that the model had to map the kinds of distinctions and transformational dynamics that authors like Neil Brenner, Saskia Sassen and James Rosenau had written about the emerging epoch, as well as being able to contextualize the partial truths represented by other kinds of models like Spiral Dynamics. In other words, the natural units had to be multi-scalar, their values had to scale for fragmenting dynamics or discontinuities, as well as integrating dynamics or interconnectivities; these natural units had to provide for emerging identities, both upward and downward causalities, and the many worlds described by Rosenau, as well as the cultural levels– re-envisioned as speheres of influence– and their historical emergence as described by Spiral Dynamics. The solution was easy to see in their words; and so I define the natural units of the shape of human action as follows:

g-units scale “up” toward increasing discontinuity (less inter-connectivity)

e-units scale “up” toward increasing aggregation (greater inter-dependency)

t-units scale “up” toward incresing variability (more types, kinds, forms as well as greater reach)

In meaningful terms, increasing the value of g accounts for the opening of geosocial space, the emergence of new identities, the undoing of old connections and ties, the lossening of culturally embedded roles and expectations, the movement of peoples across previously impervious boundaries (both physical, social, and cultural), the shifting of power from the aggregated elites to the discontinuous and uncoordinated populous. From the standpoint of complexity theory, this is the condition for chaos and the emergence of novely. From a normative standing, increasing g-values represents the times when people feel uncertain and at risk of the unknown when more and more individuals “bump into” each other at the level of “raw” encounter, given that the old, familiar ways of characterizing and categorizing people are shattering. Society is perceived to be (and therefore reflexively, is) in a state of epochal flux and flow. In order for individuals to purposefully actualize or even reluctantly accomodate such shifting patterns of identity, the domain of g requires a capacity for forgetfulness and forgiveness, and the ability to begin anew.

On the other hand, increasing the value of e entails the aggregation of various human resources and capitals associated with labor and economies. The aggregation of human resources beginning, as Arendt claimed) with the division of labor inthe family, and the extension of hierachical laboring to communal laboring and finally collective labor, through the creating of inter-dependencies of all types along with powerful abstract mediators (currency, commoditites) that allow capital growth and accumulation at increasing hierarchical scales, from a share economy, to a barter system, to mafia-style commitments, and all levels of exchange economies– commodities, currency, securities. Along with increasing aggregation and interdependence, this domain of e requires a robust network of interconnections to function, so that proper amounts, value and order of exchanges can be adequately traced with sufficient guarantees for reciprocities and reliable “accounting” of events. The domain of e, in other words, requires sufficient capacity for memory and retribution.

In the domain of technology, increasing the value of t-units represents proliferation of technologies, with respect to both diversity of kind, and extent of reach– just as in the metaphor we assigned to technology previously, as the river both widening and branching at the same time. And just as the main channel of the river, current technologies tend to cut deep grooves of habit and stasis in the realm of human action; but also, like the ever-branching arms, technology continually breaks down old routes and breaks into new routes. Eventually arms can become major channels, drawing more and more “water” resulting in old channels drying up and becoming fossil evidence of bygone eras, or silt up until they are completely invisible.Unlike the other two domains, t can increase dynamics in both directions, through openings and the creation of new opportunities, as well as through the proliferation of old form to such extents as to create (temporary) closings. Because of its exploratory, inventive and uncertain nature, the domain of t requires sufficient capacity fo inquiry and exculpation. We can now begin to speak of the dynamics involved in the internal relations of these three domains. Whereas t relates to both  g and e through feedback and feed-forward loops, with the ability to increase and/or diminish momentum in the other domains, g and e themselves  alone might seem to be related as complimentaries , i.e. the more you have of one, the less you have of another– in which case it would make sense just to reduce them to one scale, with rising g-values representing movement in one direction, and rising e-values representing movement in the opposite direction. However, this would be too simplistic a model, since it may be the case (as I will argue in subsequent posts) that in the realm of human action, under certain conditions,  increasing g-values results in a geo-social “fabric” that can accomodate increasing e-values, and alternately, increasing e-values can result in conditions that allow for rapid increase in g-values. In other words, under certain condition, g-dynamics and e-dynamics may be nutually interferring, while under a different set of conditions they might in fact be mutually supporting. The difference in conditions might well turn out to be how technology is engaged as the third dynamic. We can represent these dynamics as a simple flow chart:

Flow Chart­_BG

It is important to recognize that the unit-values are performative, not ostensive units — in other words, the terms and their values represent not some thing but something going on: they are descriptive of activies such as adding or subtracting social ties, investing or liquidating money, connecting to a public utility grid or cutting the power line once and for all and high-tailing it to the backcountry. This willl become even more evident in the later posts on actor-network theory.

With this in mind, we can create logical formulations that represent the internal relations between the natural units as follows:

g=t/e     e=t/g      t=eg

The following are scenarios that give the reader a sense of the internal dynamics of this Sphere of Human Action:

  • As new openings in geo-social space emerge, and individual as sel as collectivies realize more degrees of freedom, technological innovation also increases with new kinds and forms of technologies being developed, and, as a result, economies become more distributed (e-units decrease). According to our formulations above, the conditions for this scenario would be where growth in technological scale lags behind growth in geo-social spatial scale, since for e to decrease where e=t/g, g-units would have to scale faster than t-units. In this case, there are counter-acting dynamics between g and e units.
  • A prolonged period of accumulation of capital in a global economy, along with a proliferation of technologies to support the globalization of finance, results in a “shrinking” worldspace, the hegemony of western economic values and techne, and the marginalization of indigenous peoples and subcultures. If g = t/e, then conditions for this scenario are when technological scale lags behind economic scale. Increasing the reach of technologies to individuals and subgroups, to an extent where t-units succeed in out-scaling e-units, allows for the proligerations of new geo-socio spaces, and the excelleration of new identities arriving onto and the propulsion of subcultures onto the global stage.
  • If t=eg, then the simultaneous growth and redistribution of capital resources (in its widest sense) creates a fertile condition for the exploration and invention of new ways (technes) of being. Alternately, envisioning new ways of being should create the condition in which both geo-social spaces and economic distribution can mutually support each other.

I believe the reader will find each of the above scenarios, accurate depictions of dynamics occuring in the world today.

Integral Manifesto Pt V(2) The Shape of Human Action/ Working from the Whole: A Process Methodology

Books Discussed in this Section

Eugene Gendlin (1997) A Process Model . University of Chicago

Christopher Alexander (2002) The Process of Creating Life (Book Two of The Nature of Order). The Center for Environmental Strucutre, Berkeley, Ca.  and PATTERNLANGUAGE.COM

Loenard Suskind (2006) Cosmic Landscape. Little, Brown & Co.  New York, Boston.

There are quite a number of studies that link aspects of human action with complexity theory. Each of them falls short of what is required of our new paradigm, since they are written from within a single disciplinary forte, and therefore limit themselves to just one of the domains of human action. Most of these attempts focus on economies and economic dynamics, but many are emerging from the social and technological arenas. Each attempt struggles to reconcile the two-fold character of human action — to reconcile the rational, mathematical, and linear aspects we can “collect” from the study of human action, with our non-rational (or irrational), nonlinear, paradoxical natures. For example, a completely robust model of the macroeconomy can be derived from rather conventional analyses and prove to be successful to some extent in predicting economic indicators– but it will fail to predict the outcomes of  real-world socio-political events. Similarly, rather straightforward narratives about technology can me modeled in theoretical terms, but the real-life associations between humans and non-humans always add surprises and unexpected events that do not fit the narrative. Recent trans-disciplinary attempts have begun to treat hybrid systems, such as socio-economic, socio-technological, socio-political economy, and the like. In these instances, more of the territory is brought into the picture, but none have achieved a comprehensive, holistic model. It seems to me that the mistake all of prior efforts share, is their attempt to build the whole by interweaving the parts. Rather, I am attempting to begin from a view of the whole, and to derive the parts. I have started with a basic model representing the whole of Human Action — the three inter-related domains of geo-social space, technology, and economy– a static model that might generate the system and its dynamics, and subsequently, to subsystems and all the relevant features of the particular, right down to what has been hypothesized as the limiting quantum of action– the subject-to-subject encounter.

The process of reasoning from an envisioned whole down to the particulars that are in need of unifying through a holistic theory, is called abduction. Abduction proceeds from a fundamental insight into the nature of the territory that needs explication, accompanied by a holistic vision as to the nature of the goal — in this case, a new paradigm of Human Action.  Abductive reasoning is guided not by conventional logics — although the end product must comply with them– but is steered by a clear, precise, and accurate implicit “gauge” inside the thinker, that continually measures the working out of the details as they proceed to deliminate their part of the whole. For me, felt images are primary material, then a feeling for the process dynamics of their operation, then the logical relations, and finally the evidence comes into play– evidence which conveys both positive and negative feedback as to whether a certain direction one has taken (among options presented) is on the right track– or not.

This process, of working from the whole implicit in one’s insight, toward the deep structures of a system model that “preserves the whole”, and then onto the subsystems and their structures and internal relations, is similar to the creative process Gendlin describes in his exegesis on Process Thinking. Gendlin relates the situation in which the “whole” of the process (the territory, the path, and the goal, as it were) is already implicitly known, and whose explication can be guided by a “bodily felt feeling”, or more precisely, the “felt implicit process” that is directing the explicit work. Gendlin has identified many details of his process thought, including steps such as the emergence of direct referents and felt shift, doubling, crossing, absent context and present context, and slotted rituals— all of which will seem familiar to theorists who have worked this way. Gendlin also defines categories of transition “objects” that bridge the implicit with the explicit. Gendlin’s primary argument says that although the implicit is in some sense “vague” because it is unformed, has not yet been given an explicit shape, it is nonetheless more whole and more precise because it is that against which we measure our working toward an appropriate explicit formulation.

Christopher Alexander describes this same kind of process methodology that works from the whole, with a sense of feeling-logics as its guide, in many different ways and at many different levels throughout his four-volume work The Nature of Order. His way of reflecting on the question of the whole process–“How in practice, can a person keep paying attention to the whole; how can one achieve successful differentiation and structure-enhancing transformations at every step of a living process?”– deeply engages the reader with his very beautiful writing

… wholeness and “deep structure” are enormously difficult to see. Especially in a complex, real-worl case, the task of finding the most structure-enhancing step available is therefore, in practice, extremely hard. Our current modes of perception are not always tuned to seeing whoeness in the world around us; and the exact definition of the structure of wholeness– the system of centers at all scales, with their attendan degrees of life and coherence– is cumbersome and hard to grasp when we try to grasp it by analytical means. yet in order to move forward, and to find aggreement in larger, communal projects, it is imperative that we do have a workable and practical method of seeing wholeness, and assessing the degree to which any proposed next step does increase the life and wholeness of any evolving structure. Otherwise there is no effective way of choosing the next step forward in any given process.

As to how this is to be done, Alexander writes

The living process can therefore be steered, kept on course toward the authentic whole, when the builder [of the model, ie.e the theoretician] consistently uses the emerging feeling of the whole as the origin of his insight, as the guiding light at the end of the tunnel by which he steers. I am suggesting that if the builder [theoretician] at each step of a living process, takes that step which contributes most to the feeling coming from the work, always cnooses that which has the more profound feeling, then this is tantamount– equivalent– to a natural process in which the step-wise forward-moving action is always goverend by the whole.

From which Alexander formulates an essential rule

In any living process, or any process of design or making, the way forward, the next step which is most structure-enhancing, is that step which most intensifies the feeling of the emerging whole.

From my own view of the Whole of Human Action , for all the internal relations (from a structural view) or alternately all the internal dynamics (from a process view) to “preserve the whole”, then there could be no externalized factor, no essential “unknown” that acted as a a kind of disparate part, or coupling mechanism. I therefore began to understand that in this whole system I was envisioning as Human Action, all structures must be co-creative, and all realtional dynamics must be internal to the system. In other words, the system, “Human Action” must operate “enactively” — a term coined by Varela and Thompson whose essential meaning is “to lay down the path by walking.”

This insight in turn, led me to realize that what I might achieve this dynamic and holistic model by representing the three domains of human action (the geo-socio spatial, technological and economic) as natural units of human action that were related to each other as in a perfect ly. Perfect relations are equations that require no outside information to solve their parts. Ohm’s Law (V=IR) for example, prescribes the perfect relations between voltage, resistance, and amperage– and constitutes all the dynamics of electric flow. In a perfect relation, all member-constants vary with each other is specific ways, but their holistic association never varies. Similarly, Einstein’s paradigmatic shift regarding space and time was intuiting their perfect relation, e=mc(squared).

It also began to occur to me that all newly emerging paradigmatic shifts bringing about holistic systems, might require the ability to bring the structural parts into perfect relation through a process methodology. Loenard Susskind wonderfully re-creates just this kind of ability in his imaginary narrative of Max Plank, working on the renormalization of the variables of length, mass and time, into the perfect relation whose pivotal missing link turned out to be not a variable at all, but the Plank constant. I will end this post with Susskind’s tale

Recently I made the most wonderful discovery of a completely new fundamental constant of nature. People are calling it my constant, Plank’s constant. I was sitting in my office thinking to myself: why is it that the fundmanetal constants like the speed of light, Newton’s gravitational constant, and my new constant have such awkward values? The speed of light is 2.99 x 108 meters per second. Newton’s constant is 6.7 x 1011 square meters per second-kilogram. And my constant is even worse, 6.626 x 10-34 kilogram-square meters per second. Why are they always so big or so small? life for a physicist would be so much easier if they were ordinary-size numbers.

Then it hit me! There are three basic units describing length, mass, and time: the meter, the kilogram, and second. There are also three fundamental constants. If I change the units, say, to centimeters, grams, and hours, the numerical values of all three constants will change. For example, the speed of light will get worse. It will become 1.08 x 1014 centimeters per hour. But if I use years for time and light-years for distance, then the speed of light will be exactly one, since light travels one light-year per year. Doesn’t that mean that I can invent some new units and make the three fundamental constants anything I want? I can even find units in which all three fundamental constants are equal to one! That will simplify so many formulas. I’ll call the new units natural units since they’re based on the constants of nature. Maybe, if I’m lucky, people will start calling them Plank units.

Integral Manifesto Pt V(1) The Shape of Human Action/Tales of Chaos and the Norm

Books Discussed in this Section

James Rosenau (2003) Distant Proximities: Dynamics Beyond Globalization, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.

Some observers,” Rosenau notes, “appear to share the recognition that the intellectual tools presently available to probe the pervasive uncertainty underlying our emergent epoch may not be sufficient to the task.”

Where earlier epochs were conceived more in terms of central tendencies and orderly patterns, the present epoch appears to derive its order from contrary trends and episodic patterns. Where the lives of individual and societes once tendend to move along linear and steady trjectories, now the movement seems nonlinear and eradic, with equilibria being momentarily and continuously punctuated by sudden acceleration or directional shifts.

Rosenau’s depiction of this challenge

Never mind that societies are increasingly less cohesive, and boundaries increasingly more porous; never mind that vast numbers of new actors are crowding the world stage; never mind that money moves instantaneously in cyberspace; never mind that the ripple effect of horrific, terrorist actions seem endless; and never mind that the feedback loops generated by societal breakdowns, proliferating actors , and boundary-spanning information are greatly intensifying the complexity of life at the outset of a new century– all such transformative dynamics may complicate the tasks of the analysis, but complexity theory tells us that they are not beyond comprehension, that they can be grasped.

drives his point that for understanding the nature of human action– that it will be necessary to incorporate new intellectual tools and undertake an approach within the framework of complexity theory. However Rosenay himself also cautions that the task of complexity theory is not prediction and control– we should recognize by now that those halycon days are bygone– but offers a heuristic framework which might “provide a basis for grasping and anticipating the general patterns within which specific events occur.”

Complexity theory might enable us to create figure-ground, internal-external, whole-part, and space-temporal references with respect to the various relations inherent in the dynamics of the system of human action, so we might anticipate variable trajectories on a metasystematic level. This is turn might allow us ample degree of freedom and choice in the realm of human affairs.

The story of human action, however, will never me merely a story of chaotic systems and their dynamic criticalities. It is also a consistent dynamic and purposeful effort toward the stable and normative, for the ability to live a coherent and meaningful life. This at first may seem at odds with the analytic approach of complexity theory– yet any adequate theory of human action must be able to bridge the chaotic attractors with our normative needs, keep the meaning-filled ends in sight of the dynamic means, while managing to  incorporate the operation of adaptive creativity and novelty born in chaos, that make such systems resilient to surprise and collapse (even at the expense of coherence an robustness), and simutaneously managing to incorporate the operations of interconnectedness and relatedness in normative systems that maintain their coherence and robustness (and by opposite measure, more vulnerable to surprise and the risk of collapse).

If we are to design such a framework of understanding and meaning, with multiple degrees of freedom– freedom of choice in the realm of human affairs, freedom among adaptive variables, freedom to connect and to unconnect interdependencies, freedom to tune in or to drop out, freedom to design one’s own individual identities, and freedom to adopt collective ones, freedom to participate in creative construction of stabilizing elements and, alternately, their creative destrucction– then we must be prepared not only to adopt novel paradigms of human action, but also be able to work through a cross-paradigmative approach– a challenge taken up in this series.

In such a paradigm, of human action– a paradigm that has the capacity to model the internal and external dynamics that account for the kinds of real world conditions and real life situations that we have been discussing– several crucial factors must be taken into account. At minimum, such a paradigm must be

  • Consistent with a natrualized evolution
  • Consistent with complexity theory
  • Adaptable to rapidly changing circumstances
  • Transfromable to completely new forms
  • Maintain coherence and robustness through change
  • Resilient to collapse inthe face of uncertainty and surprise
  • Incorporate multi-scalar operations
  • Provide for both globalizing and localizing dynamics
  • Guarantee the multiple freedoms mentioned above
  • Provide a way to interpret the past and anticipate future developments
  • Provide a useful conceptual tool for mitigating unfavorbale effects and facilitating favorable events in collective human action.
  • Provide a guide to re-envision normative judgments about collective human action

This is a challenging list. Still, most significantly for our purposes here, this paradigm of human action must act as a litmus test both for the originating inquiry of this series — What is the pivot point around which the local scales to the global? — as well as resonate with the fundamental hypothesis at the center of this series–The subject-to-subject encounter is the limiting quantum of Human Action. It may very well be the case that the second statement correctly answers the first question.

Integral Manifesto Pt IV(4) Open Sources, Sources of Openings/ The Many Worlds of Geosocial Space

Books Discussed in this Section

James Rosenau (2003) Distant Proximities: Dynamics Beyond Globalization, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.

The various voices in the previous sections have been developing the notion of multiscalar, multidimensional, as well as multi-directional globalizing forces at play. These forces are accountable for both large scale globalizing effects as well as the emergence of new microscales of openings along with a new generation of hybrid (local-global/ global-local) actors. We are beginning to realize that the global and the local are neither dichotomous terms nor opposite movements, but rather, are interrelated or entangled operations of a single epochal transformation. With forces at play that move simultaneously up, down and across the scales of human action, forces that amass greater interconnectivities and interdependencies while simultaneously shattering their old relationships and redistributing both their contexts and meanings, forces that simultaneously reinforce and challenge the power laws, continually shifting the tides of human agency in a constancy of flows– it is no wonder that the old templates of scalar anlayses no longer fit. One might argue that these old ways of looking at things, based in the hidden assumptions about order, hierarchy and optimization, actually undermine the conditions required for resilient action. This in turn might create a disconnect between the human-action systems and the ecological systems in with which they are entangled, mutually embedded and mutually enfolded. The various voices in the previous section have given us a strong sense of what is to follow; but none has achieved a more comprehensive description of the forces at play than James Rosenau. His insight and analyses are so critical to the understanding needed in the emerging epoch, that he is quoted at length in this section. A thorough understanding of what Rosenau calls “fragmegration” — the simultaneous process of fragmenting and integrating, provides the essential bridge to the further reaches of this manifesto.

Rosenau starts with a spatial oxymoron called “distant proximities” to account for a defining shift in geosocial space in the age of globalization and which highlights the inadequacies of previous terms. Rosenau says his distant proximities is the concept with which to organize the currents of world affairs.

Globalization is bringing peoples closer apart and places further together — John Rennie Short

His hope in this book is to introduce conceptual equipment beyond that of  globalization that can substantially clarify, enrich, and expand our grasp fo the course of events as the twenty-first century unfolds” …

[T]he best way to grasp world affairs today requires viewing them as endless series of distant proximities in which the forces pressing for greater globalization and those inducing greater locatlization interactively play themselves out. To do otherwise, to focus only on globalizing dynamics, ot only on localizing dynamics, is to risk overlooking what makes events unfold as they do.

One of the useful conceptual tools Rosenau gives us is the term “framegration” intended to “suggest the pervasive interaction between fragmenting and integrating dynamics that are unfolding at every scale of life.”

[T]he fragmegration label captures in a single word the large degree to which these rhythms consist of localizing, decentralizing, or fragmenting dynamics that are interactively and causally linked to globalizing, centralizing, and integrating dynamics.

Throughout his book, Rosenau uses informal testimony– anecdotes and statements from participant-observers who document these kinds of events as they unfold today, such as the following two examples:

I use the local and the global as prisms for looking at the same thing… [I]t would be wrong to think that you either work at one or the other, that the two are not constantly interpenetrating each other. … [W]hat we usually call the global, far from being something which, in a systematic fashion, rolls over everything, creating similarity, in fact works through mobilizing particular identities, and so on …

[G]lobalization and localization unite all spatial scales. There is little, and maybe nothing that is global that does not have some sort of a local manifestation. And each local manifestation changes the global context. place centeredness is the amalgam of global change and local identity. Every place reveals itself at a variety of scales. Local perceptions are shaped by global influences, the combination of which process local actions. These in turn are fuelled by local aspirations, many of which are the product of global images and expectations. All these local activities accumulated to create chaotic but global outcomes.

Rosenau also describes the way new identities emerge and collate in geosocial space through the processes of fragmegration, and the way different individuals respond to them, by recombining and redefining their own distant and proximate worlds, and constructing as well as choosing (or refusing) new roles as participant actors within these newly subjectively-relativized regions.

[A]s distant developments become ever more proximate, the emergent epoch enables people to develop new, more flexible constructions of themselves. Their orientations, practices and lives are still shaped by macro structures, but the latter are now more numerous and flexible than in the past, freeing (even forcing) people to shoulder greater autonomy and to evolve new identities and shifting allegiances.

[T]he values, identities, capacities, strategies, and interests of individuals are posited as pervasive variables that, as they vary remain constant, can aggregate into substantial consequences for macro structures and the interaction sequences through which they are linked to their collectivities.

In short, fragmegrative circumstances constitutete “a condition that promotes personal autonomy from socially embedded expectations and opens up the world to exploration and personal experimentation: we can, to an increasing degree, choose who we are … .”

The pace at which and extent to which individuals and collectives are capable and willing to adapt, accommodate, and incorporate new roles through their efforts at recombining aspects of the distant and the proximate, the local and the global, determines what kinds of “world”they come to occupy, the “world” they see themselves in as actors or non-actors — determines whether a local, global, or private world arises as their geo-social spatial reality. This is not to suggest that only imaginaries are at work in creating new social spaces and new actor- roles and new world-scapes. Rosenau identifies eleven modern developments that are catalyzing changes that “increasingly generate multiple equilibria” :

  1. Microelectronic Technologies
    • The rise of network forms of organization– particularly "all channel networks" in which every node can communicate with every other node– is one of the single most important effects of the information revolution for all realms, political, economic, social and military. It means that power is migrating to small, nonstate actors who can organize into sprawling networks more readily than can traditionally hierarchical nation-state actors. It means that conflicts will increasingly be waged by "networks" rather than by "hierarchies". it means that whoever masters the nettwork form stand to gain major advantages in the new epoch. Some actors, such as various terrorists and criminals, may have little difficulty forming highly networked, largely non-hierarchical organizations; but for other actors, such as professional militaries that must continue to uphold hierarchies at their core, the challenge will be to discover how to combine hierarchical and networked designs to increase their agility and flexibility for field operations.
  2. The Skill Revolution
    • [In short, the primacy of the skill revolution has resulted in the global stage becoming more dense with actors.] In earlier epochs, it was occupied mainly by states and their inter-governmental organizations, but in the emergent epoch the cast of characters has multiplied time and time again.
  3. The Organizational Explosion
    • If hierarchically structured states still dominated the course of events and were thereby able to contain and control the vibrant spread of horizontal networks, it is doubtful whether a new epoch would be emerging. For better or for worse– and given the vitality of the drug trade and crime syndicates, sometimes it is for the worse– the ever-greater salience of organizational networks is serving to restructure the underpinnings of world affairs.
  4. The Bifurcation of Global Structures
    • In effect, the bifurcation of global structures nas become institutionalized and, as a result, contributes to the weakening of states… by creating spaces for the formation or consolidation of collectivites in the multi-centric world and, thus, for the activation of individuals who have not previously had an outlet for their global or local orientations. This
  5. The Mobility Upheaval
    • Statistics for every form of travel reveal sharp and continuous growth, and the trend shows no sign of  letting up. Not only is tourism among the world’s largest industries, but the data on business travel also portray a continuing and growing flow of people around the world. And then thee are the migratory flows that are driven largely by a search for employment and involve mostly people from the developing world moving into the industrial and financial centers of the developed world. All of these flows have been facilitated by transportation technologies, particularly the jet aircraft that have– through reduced travel time and lowered airfares– had a profound impact on diverse institutions throughout the world.
  6. The Weakening of States and Territoriality
    • [The] very epoch of the nation-state is near its end. … It may well be that the emergent postnational order proves not to be a system of homogenous units (as with the current system of nation states) but a system based on relations between heterogenous units (some social movements, come interest groups, some professional bodies, some nongovernmental organizations, some armed constabularies, some judicial bodies).
  7. The Decentralization of Governments
    • [The] longer-term and worldwide process whereby authority is undergoing relocation in response to the skill revolution, the organizational explosion, and the mobility upheaval has hastened the decline and decentralization of national governments. In some instances this trend has resulted in vacuums of authority filled by criminal organizations or by undertainties regarding where the rule-making power lies; but more often than not local, provincial, or private authorities move into the vacuum and sustain the processes of governance.
  8. Authority Crises
    • With people increasingly skillful, with states weakened, and with other types of organizations proliferating, governments everyhwere are undergoing authority crises in which traditional conceptions of legitimacy are being replaced by performance criteria of legitimacy, thus fostering bureaucratic disarray, executive-legislative stalemate, and decisional paralysis that, in turn, enhance the readiness of individuals to employ their newly acquired skills on behalf of their perceived self-interests.
  9. Subgroupism
    • Subgroupism arises out of the deep affiliations that people develop toward associations, organizations, and subcultures with which they have been historically, professionally, economically, socially, or politically liked and to which they attach high priority. Subgroupism values te in-group over the out-group.
  10. The Globalization of National Economies
    • In contrast to the tendencies toward decentralization and subgroupism, the dynamics at work in the realm of economics are powerful sources of centralizing tendencies. … [For the most part] economic globalization in the last few decades has resulted in financiers, entrepreneurs, workers, and consumers now being deeply enmeshed in transnational networks that have superceded the traditional political jurisdiction of national scope.
  11. The Proliferation of Independence Issues
    • Whereas the political agenda used to consist of issues that governments could cope with on their own or through interstate bargaining, conventional issues are now being joined by challenges that their very nature do not fall exclusively within the jurisdiction of states and intergovernmental institutions. Six current challenges are illustrative: environmental pollution, currency crisis, the drug trade, terrorism, AIDS, and the flow of refugees.

If we place these phenomenon within our lexicon of human action, we find that six of them are primarily phenomena of geo-social space (bifurcation of global structures, mobility upheaval, weakening of states and territoriality, decentralization of governments, authority crises,  subgroupism)– all factors which tend toward decentralization and the opening of micro-spaces and emergence of new actors moving toward the shattering old connectivities and creating new localized roles; whereas the proliferation of independence issues is a factor of geo-social space where new localized actors emerge and move toward the creatin of  new globalized roles. Similarly, we can map the three factors, microelectronic technologies, the  skill revolution, and organizational explosion onto the technological domain of human action, and note that technologies facilitate movement in both directions– toward integration and globalization as well as fragmentaion and localization. Finally, the phenomenon of the globalization of national economies, is seen to be the defining movement in the economic domain of human action– a movement toward increasing aggregation, connectivity, consolidation, and globalization. These are important registers to remember about the particular dynamics in the three domains of human action– that the geo-social movement is toward opening and discontinuities, whereas the economic movement is toward consolidation and connectivities; while the technological domain remains a "neutral" — yet is a powerful multiplier that can as well  facilitator  or deter movements in either "direction."

The bulk of Rosenau’s book is dedicated to identifying and describing the world-scapes that emerge from these fragmegrative dynamics. Various Local Worlds are distinguished from several types of Global Worlds through the ways in which distances and proximities are conceptualized and placed into the context of one’s life. In Local Worlds, both local (in the contextualized sense) and localized (in the spatial sense) phenomena become "increasingly salient as sources or goals of the attitudes, behavior, or policies of individuals and collectives." In Rosenau’s scheme, differing conditions and varying dynamics in turn give rise to four types of Locals

The Insular Locals are distinguished by an exclusive concern with spatial proximities, with the geographically near-at-hand, with circumstances that can be directly encountered; the Resistant Locals and Exclusionary Locals contextualize proximity and allow for the spatially remote to be near-at-hand, but the Resistant Locals perceive the spatially remote as so threateningly close as to necessitate opposition, whereas the Exclusionary Locals are inclined to avoid the distant proximities they view as becoming too close.

[The fourth Local World] is occupied by persons who are neither isolated nor inclined to retreat in the face of globalizing dynamics. They are, rather, capable of absorbing external encroachments on their own terms without fearing their local world will loose its integrity. Indeed, by adapting the external inputs to local practices and norms without diminishing the distinctive feature of their world, the Affirmative Locals … can contribute to the integrative dimensions of fragmegration as much as they do to its divisive dimension.

In contrast to these Local Worlds, Rosenau describes four Global Worlds, three of which consist of persons “whose thoughts and actions are worldwide in scale and not confined to any territorially bounded space”

One of these is populated by Affirmative Globals, by elites, activists, and ordinary people who share positive inclinations toward the processes of globalization–especially toward those dynamics that foster and sustain a global marketplace– seeing them as moving humankind toward greater integration and prosperity.

In contrast, the Resistant Globals are no less worldwide in the scale of their orientations, but they, like their Local counterparts, regard one or more of the prevailing dynamics that sustain globalization as detrimental to the wel–being of peoples.

Similarly, the Specialized Globals are persons whose territorial orientations are not locally bounded but who are oriented toward only limited issues on the global agenda.

Roseanu alsod describes a fourth Global World, the Territorial Globals, "whose scale of thought and action is large but territorially bounded" and for whom foreign policy officials are the "quintessential examples."

Finally, to complete his inventory or world-scapes, Rosenau adds a brief exegesis of four Private Worlds,– the Alienated Cynics, Alienated Illegals, Circumstantial Passives and Turned-Out Passives– non of which include persons who authentically assume an actor-role in the realm of human action.

As a result of Rosenau’s inventory of the many worlds arising from the dynamics of fragmegration, we are left with the image of a densely overlapping and multi-dimensional, highly complex and multi-scalar, continually shifting field of world-sca;es, of which we are for the most part at a loss to grasp with familiar conceptual tools. How do we then design a future in response to both the positive phenomena we would like to facilitate, and the negative phenomena we would like to mitigate in this shifting field? How do we choose to meet future challenges? With what conceptual tools do we address such empirical complexity? With what normative judgments do we distinguish what are favorable or unfavorable phenomena, when faced with conditions we can neither prestate, much less predict, nor dynamics we can sufficiently model, nor the luxury of conventional wisdom, much less the traditional analytics of scale and the hidden assumptions about human action that have been outdated perhaps for decades now.

As Rosenau writes

The salience of such questions– and the uncertainty they generate– reflects the conviction that we are deeply immersed in an epochal transformation likely to foster a new worldview about the essential nature of human affairs … .

Integral Manifesto Pt IV(3) Open Sources, Sources of Openings/ Global Openings and the Space of Appearance

Books Discussed in this Section

Saskia Sassen (2007) Deciphering the Global, Routledge, NY

~ Anthony D’Andrea : Deciphering the Space and Scale of Global Nomadism – Subjectivity and Counterculture in the Global Age

~ Anne Bartlett : The City and the Self – The Emergence of New Political Subjects in London

The key to “deciphering the global” and its paradoxical character, one might argue, is in understanding how globalization dynamics differentially affect the three domains of human action. With respect to economies, globalization dynamics are conservative (increasingly resistent to change over time),  accumulative (enacting power laws that predominantly scale upwards both linearly and hierarchically). The perfect diagram of this kind of dynamics is the pyramid. With respect to technologies, globalization dynamics tend to be conservative, but distributive, enacting power laws that predominantly extend the breadth of their reach over time. The perfect diagram of this kind of dynamics is a river branching across wider and wider regions on its way to the sea. With respect to geo-social spaces, however, the dynamics are progressive (increasingly resistant to stasis over time) and discontinuous, enacting power laws that are nonlinear and dynamically critical. A diagram of this kind of dynamics would be a much more complex illustration, and might look like diagrams of autocatalytic sets.

At the critical edges of these nonlinear processes of geo-social space are novel openings and appearances– of “segments of self-marginalized subjects”: highly mobilized postmetropolitan individuals, individuals disaffected with mainstream society, global nomads, tourists of the new leisure class, new age pilgrom, migrant workers, countercultural expatriates, techno shamans, and numerous types of bohemians, and other variations of deterritorialized countercultures. D’Andrea points out that

… new forms of subjectivity and identity are being developed in a dialectic interplay with major global processes … In this sense, globalization refers to the sheer intensification of processes of  mobility, digitalization, multiculturalism, and reflexivity.

For D’Andrea, this process of cultural globalization and transformation also entails

… the dissolution and retooling of traditional and modern ways of life, along with the emergence of new forms of identity that are defined by their fluidic, deessentialized and reflexive nature.

Although extreme, these examples of completely de-localized gdo-social identities, contribute to the catalyzing of new spaces of appearances emerging on the global stage– appearances that are antithetical to stasis and conservation, as they thrive on permanent displacement and constant movement– actualized by and through the complex dynamics of globalizing cultures, wherein identities are formed primarily through geographical triangulation, across exotic locations and temporary or semi-permanent homeland bases– a pattern that, according to D’Andrea

… confirms the claim about the dialectic of mobility and moorings as key components of globalization… Overall, it is the moorings that enable movements. And it is the dialectic of mobility/ moorings that produces social complexity.

Although these self-marginalized subjects are enacting a crucial component of the processes of globalization, it is by no means clear that they are interested actors within the realm of human action. For the most part, these identities emerging at the far edges of geo-social space, are catalysts for the creation of alternatie social actor-identities on the global stage. Prominent among these emerging actors are politicized refugees, immigrants, and expatriates, who have incorporated the global stage as strategic terrain to practice their formal and informal political goals. On London streets, for example, journalist Anne Bartlett describes how

… refugees and immigrants build their own fowms of political meaning and act to redefine themselves as political subjects capable of making change…

Bartlee goes on the describe how the global comes to be enfolded into the urban landscape, as these deterritorialized global actors redefine the parameters of what it means to be political in urban centers today.

Changes, borne of disjunctures and contradictions between old and new migration flows, between competing ideologies of nation, region and tribe, and parity between formal and informal ways of doing politics, open up the political landscape and allow new modes of being political to emerge. Deciphering the global means getting into these spaces of contestation– into the cracks that are appearing in the political landscape and wathcing as new forms, new actors, and practices start to make themselves known.

Bartlett describes in detail the ways in which dynamics on the micro-level give rise to emerging identities as new global actors. She sees the city as the appropriate scale where multiple scales and actors can operate through local practices that are articulated with  what she terms global flows. Thesenew identities, she argues, do not emerge in a vacuum, but through the points of encounter between individuals whose very identities have become, in a sense, the locus of conflict– the kinds of boundaries that are driving such change.

The key to understanding boundaries in this repsect is not to think of them as territorial encasements but as lines of difference that emerge or fade. … by focussing on entities in the making, it is possible to see how particular conjunctions or disjunctions act to produce, stabilize, and enact certain kinds of spaces and possibilities of being.

In these spaces new kinds of political selves can be generated by direct face-to-face contact with the other. But here I argue that extended sets of relations generated through the use of the Internet and other technologies constitute a different yet equally important moment of production. With the exponential increase in email Internet and satellite phone traffic, there is a multiplier effect of possibilities and means through which political actors can constitute themselves vis-a-vis others. And these new possibilities for identification, counter-identification, hostility, and alliance create new tensions that do not just reside in the virtual sphere; they collide on the street to produce new ways to do politics and new ways of political actors to think of themselves. Microspaces of gateways for action open up, created by flows and dynamics no longer contained within territorial bounds.

Integral Manifesto Pt IV(2) Open Sources, Sources of Openings/Local Actors, Global Actions

Books Discussed in this Section

Bruno Latour (1993) We Have Never Been Modern, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Ma.

Saskia Sassen (2007) Deciphering the Global, Routledge, NY

~ Evalyn Tennant: Locating the Transnational Activists

While global institutions have superseded the local and the national at macro scales, both the national and the global at the same time, paradoxically, have become more porous to local actors in ways never before imagined, and for the most part made possible by the same technologies and processes that drive globalization at the macro level. Likewise, just as we have accounted for institutional globalization by importing an architecture of global scale based on inclusive nested hierarchies (of the local, the regional, the national, the international, the transnational) we have furthermore conceptualized the individual local actor– the very subject-actor who emerges in the early Greek polis — as embedded deep beneath the many layers of this global anachronism like a single pea smothered under the princess’ mountain of mattresses. Curiously though, just like the fabled pea, it seems that individual local actors do succeed in disturbing the princess’ sleep, through emergent multiscalar dynamics that are sufficiently porous to allow, accommodate, and even facilitate the opening of the space of appearance in a global context.

Saskia Sassen identifies three major assumptions, of space, scale and organization, that need to be revised in order to understand “Today’s social movements through [a] more complex analytic grid:” 1) the assumption that conflates the local and the national and considers local actors and movement dynamics as mere micro-instantiations of the national; 2) the assumption that represents people as embedded within local territorial contexts, and assumes that people’s access to the national or the global is mediated through nested scalar hierarhcies running through nation-states; 3) the assumption in which people are presented not only as embedded in particular, located social contexts, but also stuck there — immobilized– as well.

Local actors can entre the global arena collectively through NGO’s and other locally based organizations, but also, local actors can focus at the local level to address global conditions affecting their local conditions. Individual actors, as well, can act at the global level to press for change in their local affairs. In any case, the way we map local and global social movements either in the context of “the local in a global setting,” or “the global in a local setting.” requires new set of analytic distinctions about the roles of local collectives as well as individual subject-actors.

Likewise Evalyn Tennant contests what is today the prevalent analytic distinction in the study of social movement and activism… in questioning “whether national or transnational– is it analytically more productive to distinguish social movements in terms of face-to-face translocal mediated forms of interaction?” Her thesis is that contemporary movements of local actors can be more productively understood as the “translocal collection of distributed forms of locally organized collective action.”

Latour takes this contestation down to its very roots to what we have hypothesizing as the quantum unit of human action, namely the subject-to-subject engagement, by accusing the “modern interpretation of hierarchy and scale” of mistaking length of connection (within actor-networks) for difference in level:

… if we wander around IBM, if we follow the chains of command of the Red Army, if we inquire in the corridors of the Ministry of Education, if we study the process of seeling and buying a bar of soap, we never leave the local level. We are always in interaction with four or five people; the building superintendent always has his territory well staked out; the directors’ conversations sound just like those of the employees; as for the salespeople, they go on and on giving change and filing out their invoices. Could the macro-actors be made up of micro-actors? Could IBM be made up of a series of local interactions? The Red Army of an aggregate of conversations in the mess hall? The Ministry of Education of a mountain of pieces of paper? The world market of a host of local exchanges and arrangements?

Integral Manifesto Pt IV(1) Open Sources, Sources of Openings/ The Globotomized Nation

Books Discussed in this Section

Saskia Sassen (2004) Local Actors in Global Politics retrieved from

Saskia Sassen (2007) Deciphering the Global.Routledge, NY

Technology has played an enormous role in the modern digital age. The digital revolution and the invention of the Internet, continue to have tremendous effect on the scales of human action. The digitization of information and distribution of information technologies has expanded and accelerated collaborative action; the digitization of financial data has expanded and accelerated the capitalization of a single global economy. With respect to these two domains (technology and economy) the impact of the digital revolution seems to be the same, namely toward greater interconnectivity, greater interdependence of local actors at the same time toward their greater dependency on global processesas local actors themselves become defined by and dissolved into the omni-present, omni-potent global system of enormous scale.

As long as actors are envisioned as local units embedded within global phenomena such as the global economy and global industrial complex, then we will continue to see them as being operated on by these global dynamics.We might then further conceptualize local actors and their localities as embedded within the predominantly exclusive hierarchical relations that have been institutionalized through mobilization of resources on a global scale, by those centers of power who operate strategically on the global at the global level. As Sassen explains

The organizational side of the global economy materializes in a worldwide grid of strategic places, uppermost among which are major international business and financial centers. We can think of this global grid as constituting a new economic geography of centrality, one that cuts across national boundaries and increasingly across the old North-South divide. It has emerged as a transnational space for the formation of new claims by global capital but also by other types of actors. The most powerful of these new geographies of centrality at the inter-urban level bind the major institutional and financial business centers. The intensity of transactions among these cities, particularly through financial markets, transactions in services and investment, has increased sharply, and so have the orders of magnitude involved.

In order to account for this geometry of scale, we have imported the framework of the local, the regional, the national, the international and the transnational, into an architecture of global scale based on inclusive nested hierarchies. This simplistic architecture is challenged in several critical ways by the emergence of the global actors such as global corporations and multi-national organizations like the IMF. First, the notion of identity has become deterritorialized with the advent of the global manager whose allegiances fall along functional relations within a corporation or organization rather than with respect to either physical boundaries (such as the local or regional) or under the various political frameworks of the nation-state. Secondly, as power relations shift, the way we conceptualize power has undergone a dramatic shift from the notion that power accumulates up the hierarchy of scale through inclusively nested sets, from local representatives, to state, to nation, to international– to a new global reality wherein power relations are enacted if not more frequently, then surely with more import and causal effect, from global decision-making processes that are distributed down those same hierarchical scales. Decisions made at the global level, such as world financial agreements, world oil production, global technological innovation — have a greater and greater impact on the structure of everyday life than ever before. Although this has been true for most of the recent decades for what used to be the “minor state actors” on the global stage, the dynamics of globalization has also altered the power share relations among individual nation-states, such that the hegemony of “major actors” no longer insulates their citizens from the effects and counter-effects of global level operations. Sassen comments

This does not mean that the old hierarchies disappear but rather that novel scaling emerge alongside the old ones and that the former can trump the latter. Older hierarchies of scale constituted as part of the development of the nation-state continue to operate, but they do so in a far less exclusive field than they did in the recent past. This holds even when factoring in the hegemonic power of a few states, which meant and continues to mean that most national states were in practice not fully sovereign.

The most common reactions to thses processes of globalization, are the many current but not so modern and certainly not innovative, attempts to reinforce and re-concretize the old formulas of scalar hierarchies into a future Brave New Global World with a cretaintwist, in which the bodies of governance no longer rise from local common collectives– afterall, the assumption here is that they have already been supersededand displaced by globalization– but rather are institutionalized through power laws that scale along the same nested hierarchies, giving rise to supra-national global entities that are responsible for both ordering and ruling down the proverbial chain of command.

Fortunately, this is not the only trajectory of the current globalizing dynamics. With respect to the opening of geo-social spaces, something quite extraordinary and at first glance, paradoxical, is happening which “signals the need for new concepts and framings.” And while it remains the case that the role of the nation state is undergoing epochal transformation, this is also the case for the sub-national actor-collectives as well as the inter-national and supra-national — all of which for whom the global is not exclusively a power law, but more significantly, the global is the newly emerging shared space of appearance of multiple actors at multiple scales.

The time is indeed ripe for a major shift in how we conceptualize the emergent phenomena, in particular with respect to scalar relations and human action, since as Sassen notes “Existing theory is not enough to map today’s multiplication of practices and actors contributing to these rescalings.” On this point, it is worth quoting Sassen at length:

[The multiscalar character of various globalization processes] cannot easily be accommodated into older nested hierarchies of scale, which position everything that is supranational above the state in the scalar hierarchy and what is subnational beneath the state. In such hierarchies, the subnational needs to run through the national if it is to function globally. [Yet the] variety of multiscalar dynamics point to conditions that cannot be organized as a hierarchy, lst alone a nested hierarchy. This is a multiscalar system, operating across scales and not, as is so oftesaid, merely scaling upward because of communications capabilities. Alternative approaches that go beyond older scalar hierarchies, micro/macro analyses, and container categories such as nation-state are gaining traction. Here I would like to single out analyses that emphasize topological patterns rather than nested scalar hierarchies, actor networks rather than actors per se, and the disassembling of familiar, often nationalized arrangements and their reassembling into novel global and denationalized formations.

Studying the global, then, entails not only a focus on what is explicitly global in scale. It also calls for a focus on locally scaled practices and conditions articulated with global dynamics. 

Integral Manifesto Pt III(5) Integral Politics?/Evolution and Enfoldment: Towards a Naturalized Evolution

Development, as we know it, entails enfoldment. Ontogenesis entails enfoldment of structures along axes that are symmetric to species (radially, laterally, bi-radially, bi-laterally). The primary body structures are enfoldments of endoderm, mesoderm, and ectoderm tissues. Organs of the body, as well as organelles of the cells, are likewise enfolded structures. Developmental psychographs present pictures of the enfolded self– as self stages become subsumed, transcended and integrated into maturing forms. Even the very notion of a self, arising as a cognitive occasion in the theory of Cognitive Microgenesis, is an enfolded occasion. Furthermore, the self-system’s values and roles are present to the subject as a series  of innner and outer elements. Development entails enfoldment — but development also  entails change in an enduring individual along a trajectory from nascent potnetial to highest possible realized actual. This highest possible realized actual is a combination of borrowed constraints and unactualized new potentials in a dynamic dance of change from birth to the apex of an individual’s lifetime. Development then, is always already continuous within an enduring individual. No matter how far or how fast the changes occur, the individual herself does not get replaced by a new unit of being. Enduring identity is the hallmark of developmental change.

On the contrary, the hallmark of evolutionary change, is the emergence of completely novel forms. The history of evolution might be narrated as a continuum, but evolutionary forms emerge discretely– there are “identity” gaps, as it were. Recent attempts by integral theorists to posit a transcendently lurking identity “beneath, behind or beyond” evolution, a kind of semi-virtual being with a teleological imperative of its own — fail to address the sine qua non of “naturalized version” (i.e. an a- onto-theo-logical version) of evolution — that variability and novelty are more important than optimization and survival. An a- onto-theo-logical evolution tends toward increased diversity and creative emergence of novelty over deep time — periods of increasing diversity interspersed with extinction events. Time and again in throughout the historical record, evolution has shown that it does not proceed on the shoulders of prior forms in the way a developmental sequence does — the most evolutionary advanced species rarely become the founding families upon which new species advance after extinction cycles. We did not, for example, descend from the spetacular fishes of the Pre- Cambrian explosion, but from the lowly worms following the great Cambrian waves of extinction.

Integral Manifesto Pt III(4) Integral Politics?/ Co-Creating Values and the Spheres of Appearance

Rather than looking at the cultural memes as discrete stages in either human development or cultural evolution, consider the diversity of human collectivities as constellations — constellations of geo-sociospace, technologies, and economies–  interacting together within a greater dynamic whole– the realm of human action. At the micro scale, in the level of its own internal processes, any particular constellation could be seen as emerging through adaptive dynamics between the three-fold domains constituting human action, those we have identified as geo-sociospatial, technological and economic. From the macro level view, these micro level processes are seen to give way to discrete spheres of appearances(the collectives commonly referred to as “red” or “blue”, “orange”etc…) that emerge through micro-macro-level adaptive interactions within the whole of human action.

For example, at the micro level 1) each constellation creates specific kind of spaces of appearances for subjects to emerge as subjects, who share a specific array of geo-social spatial orientations; and 2) each constellation creates specific kinds of enduring technologies; and 3) each constellation creates specific kinds of economic systems in inter-action and exchange. Each micro-scale constellation can be thought of having a unique “shape” with repsect to coordinates that specify the geo-sociospatial, technological and economic dimensions that give the constellation its unique “collective action shape.”

Constellations may be internally robust at the micro level, but need to be adaptively suited to emerge as a sphere of appearance at the macro level, much the same way as as individual subjects emerge qua subjectsat the level of the polis. A constellation might be internally adaptive with respect to its own members — a necessary bu tnot sufficient condition for its emergence to the macro level; since for a constellation to emerge at the macro level, its internal dynamics must also have some pre-adaptive capacities to adapt to the macro-level environment– selection pressures that operated among all spheres inter-acting at the macro level.

At the meta level, viewing the whole that is all of collective human action, the individual spheres of appearance give way to a meta-level system, which itself might be considered to have a certain dynamic shape that fluctuates in time, determined by the particular array of geo-sociospatial, technological and economic dimensions that have aggregated from each of the spheres of appearances whose dynamics are sufficiently adapted to contribute at this level. Viewed in this way, collectivities, constellations, spheres of appearance, as well as the sum total realm of human action, are seen as autopoietic, dynamically adapative systems whose enfolded components are actors in a collective field which is an enfoldment of geo-sociospace, technologies, and economies. In later posts I will show that these aspects of that collective “field” arise from certain types of collective action logics operating in a dynamic adaptive system.