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(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 III(3): Integral Politics? / Subjects as Actors

Books Discussed in this Section

Steve McIntosh (2007) Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution,  Continuum Books

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

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

McIntosh proposes a World Federation based on nation-states relinquishing their sovereignty and reinvesting in a higher, supernational organization empowered by a master lawmaking authority of a democratically enacted global constitution. The Federal level would have the power and the authority to mandate the subordinate governments with respect to their internal operations, especially with respect to human rights issues. Presumably, the master lawmaking authority would be composed of integral-consciousness level executive officers responsible for managing and coordinating operations in a tricameral structure, based on the US Constitution, which maintains a “balance of power” between branches — which McIntosh envisions as legislative, judicial, and executive. His legislative includes an economic house, a world senate, and a people’s house. His judicial branch includes a world federal court, a world citizenship court, and a global eco-environmental court. His executive branch includes a people’s, an economics, and a nations council. McIntosh claims that his proposed structure is firmly based in what Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry have identified “as the essential dynamics of evolution that are embodied in what they call the Cosmogenetic Principle. Because it appeals to McIntosh as the very basis of his work, the excerpt is woth quoting at length:

The Cosmogenetic Principle states that the evolution of the universe will be characterized by differentiation, autopoiesis, and communion throughout time and space and at every level of reality. These three terms — differentiation, autopoiesis, and communion– refer to the governing themes and the basal intentionality of all existence, and thus are beyond any simple one-line univocal definition. … Some synonyms for differentiation are diversity, complexity, variation, disparity, multi-form, nature, heterogeneity, articulation. Different words that point to the second feature are autopoiesis, subjectivity, self-manifestation, sentience, self-organization, dynamic centers of experience, presence, identity, inner principle of being, voice, interiority. And for the third feature, communion, interrelatedness, interdependence, kinship, mutuality, internal relatedness, reciprocity, complementarity, interconnectivity, and affiliation all point to the same dynamic of cosmic evolution.

These three features are not “logical” or “axiomatic” in that they are not deductions within some larger theoretical framework. They come from a post hoc evaluation of cosmic evolution; these three will undoubtedly be deepend and altered in the next era as future experience expands our present understanding.

The sequence of events in the universe becomes a story precisely because these events are themselves shaped by these central ordering tendencies– complexity, autopoiesis, and communion. These are the cosmological orderings fo the creative display of energy everywhere and at any time throughout the history of the universe.

I think this is a beautiful passage articulating deep insight into the dynamic display of the manifest universe, and I commend McIntosh for having highlighted this as a central sensibility in his work. Unfortunately, McIntosh’s analytic and autocratic tendencies– his intolerant and dominant temperament– doesn’t seem capable of truly honoring the vision of Swimme and Berry, who emphasize that these essential features are not logical or axiomatic … they are no deductions within some larger theoretical framework. Rather they are shaped by complexity, autopoiesis, and communion, which is on-going. McIntosh, on the other hand, wants to prescribe or prestate the very structures of interrelatedness, control what voices appear and what voices don’t appear, supress individual subjectivity of the larger populations, constrain the kinds of identities that self-commune, repressreciprocity throughtop-down authority, and remove the self-transformative potential of the dynamics through programmable and manageable structures that have no internal or external feedback loops to account for the kinds of  perpetual deepening and alteration that Berry and Swimme affirm.

Here is an alterative view that takes Swimme and Berry to heart:

Create a dynamic way for global governance architecture to evolve by designing phases of natural emergent properties of fully democratic and fully autopoietic actions of all participants.

Here is a brief scenario of the kinds of actions/ architecture one might employ:

  1. Phase one designed as an introductory, exploratory and exploitative phase. Everyone on the planet would get a chance to participate in this global governance movement. People and organizations would basically self-organize to create caucus-like activity of various forms to organize subordinate level participatory bodies. Participants could choose to identify “merely” as individual global citizens, or as member-participants in any of conventional or newly emerging local-to-global coalitions that would emerge to exploit the new openings in the spaces of global appearance, new ways to articulate and voice individual as well as collective identity.
    • Nationhood
    • Ethnicity
    • Religion
    • Gender
    • Particular NGO or coalition of NGO’s
    • Economic Class
    • Trade Union
    • Any other type of representative coalition imaginable.
  2. Phase two consists of a second-order coalition of major alignments around significatn concerns or causes, out of which would emerge the 100 or so subordinate government bodies. This is the phase of increasing connectedness and increasing (augmenting) the political capital of phase one. Rules for participation in such bodies would be articulated and constituted by these “originary” bodies of the emerging global federation, similar to the rold of the thirteen original states of the USA. For example, participants might be able to re-align every 4-6 years or only in 8 year cycles. It would be important to understand that larger insitutions need longer lead times to change, so the temporal scale on which such actions occur, may very well be longer in scale than on more local or subordinate levels. However, there must be feedback loops which “structcurally couple” the two scales, such that these feedback loops be of very short duration and of appropriate scale to “reach” individuals within the insitutional domain who themselves should retain the capacity to engage rapidly changing concerns of their constituents. Phase two would be a prolonged period, in which the subordinate bodies would create and experiment with virtual reality and scenarios of the kinds of global decisions that would be made, with respect to real-life situations, if in fact these bodies had power and authority to do so, as opposed to alternative arrangements of authority. These virtual decisions would not only “prime” the system and develop scenario training, but also the global community would get a chance to imagine the effects that various alliances and levels of participation have on both global, regional and local levels, with the definition her of “loca” as one’s local identity in whatever one consider’s one’slocal affiliation, which might, paradoxically, be a globalized collective.
  3. Phase three might consist of re-examining the role(s) of the existing power structure and the extent to which these authorities would agree to relinquish certain domains over to an actual governance authority. This is the phase of conservation. The branches of the global authority would arise with respect to those domains that are relinquished one by one, or in groups that themselves collate into Spheres of Authority, as it became increasingly clear what emergent coalitions would supercede them. There might be provisoinal rules as t how these domains or branches would regulate themselves, i.e. they would have to prove that participation was open to all through democratic processes, and be able to prove self-evidently porous to individual participation to an acceptable degree. Or, a fully or quasi-independent “judiciary” body might be designed to perform audits and functionary inspection, as well as other bodies or architectures employed at even higher levels.
  4. Phase four would initiate after a significant majority of participation or dissolution of other power structures gave way to the global governance process and its newly emerged Spheres of Authority. This is the coming-to-agestage in which the process tendws twoard creating static structures that are no longer functionally emergent from dynamic and open participation. This is the phase that requires rejuvination from lower order dynamics, to off-set the prolonger previous periods of building increasingly conservation higher order structures. It may require the subversion, replacement, or overthrow of higher order structures that are no longer vulnerable to the internal or external feedback loops of participation of all subjects; or structures that have grown “closed” to such participation, or have grown impervious to their appearance. Guarantees for innovation, continual opening of spaces for newly emerging identities to commune in dynamic displays of new kinds of interconnectedness, would be requisite to create phases five, six, seven… These are the periods of release of previous interconnections, emergence of new identities through new patterns of collectivities, and re-configuration toward novel stages of exploration and exploitation.

The promise and possibilty of this kind of approach– an approach which facilitates the co-creative processes of actual people as both subjectw within and actors of socio-political spaces, and who are equally as well regarded and engaged as collective authors of our socio-spatial geographies– may seem idealistic or unrealistic to some readers. In reality, there is no need to overdetermine this process, since I have merely reframed as a future scenario the very processes that are re-shaping socio-political spaces today and which are precisely those that are resulting from people taking up their rightful roles — as they always do– a reult of the opening of the spaces of appearance– and co-authoring the epochal transformations that are cocurring around the globe today. For those aligned with the current structures and whose wolrdview is predicated on the scalar assumptions that the new must come up and through the pre-dominance of existing structures (such as the nation state) in a nested and hierarchical way– a worldview that would surely miss the new transformations– will experience these transformations as disruptive and disturbing, as the cycle of transformation dismantles old realities in the wake of the new. THe nation-state is cracking– along with the socio-spatial scales that are overdetermined by it, as Sassen tells us

The national as a container of social process and power is cracked. This cracked casing opens up a geography of politics and civics that links subnational spaces.

Increasingly, it becomes more problematic to fixate on the national as the primary unit of socio-spatial action, and the typical scalar assumptions from national to supranational to global that are built-up from it. This is not news to the global corporations and global financial organizations that have long ago deconstructed the nation-statefrom their lexicon of operational power, while simultaneously re-enforcing the notion of nation-stateand geopolitics as usual for its efficaciousness in power broking. With both positive and negative effects– many of which are enacted on global proportions– global strategic economic operations along with global capital, have carved a worldwide grid to accommodate millions of non-local actors who comfortably navigate and simultaneously create emerging socio-spatial geographies. Saskia Sassen describes two distinct types of “traffic” operating through this worldwide grid:

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 grod 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.

It is not only the transmigration of capital that takes place in this global grid but also that of people, both rich– i.e. the new transnational profession workforce– and poor- i.e. most migrant workers; and it is a space for the transmigration of cultural forms, for the re-territorialization of the “local” subcultures.

 Is this worldwide grid a relevant opening for human action? Is it, as Sassen asks, “also a space for new politics, one going beyond the politics of culture and identity while likely to remain embedded in it?”

One of the most radical forms assumed today by the linkage of people to territory is the loosening of identities from their traditional sources, such as the nation or the village. The unmooring in the process of identity formation engenders new notions of community of membership and of entitlement.

The forces of transformation of the local and the global are both to-down with respect to strategic operations of corporation and financial organizations, as well as bottom-up with respect to local actors and emerging socio-spatial geographies that operate at global levels. And like all other geographies that have come before them, they do not point to any fixed or absolute grid that somehow exists “out there in reality”, due to a type of “force major”, but are geographies of identity and mind, or in other words, they are co-created values arising in emerging socio-spatial geographies. As such they are complex human processesthat are at once impervious and porous to ever-changing degrees. Sassen creates the neologism “glocality” to describe the new framework of socio-spatial action, wherein the local is no longer nested exclusively within the global by an impenetrable rule of scalar relations, rather the appearance of the global in locality after locality — across scales — means that the global is becoming locally distributed. In other words, the space of the appearance of the global is becoming increasingly localized.

Simultaneous decentralized access can help local actors have a sense of participation in struggles that are not necessarily global, but are, rather, globally distributed in that they recur in locality after locality.

[Whereas] … much of the conceptualization of the local in the social sciences has assumed physical/ geographic proximity and thereby a sharply defined territorial boundedness, with the associated implication of closure, … [and] a strong tendency to conceive of the local as part of a hierarchy of nested scales …

To a very large extent these conceptualizations hold for most of the instantiations of the local today, more specifically, for most of the actual practices and formations likely to constitute the local in most of the world. But there are also conditions today that contribute to destabilize these practices and formations and hence invite a reconceptualization of the local that can accommodate a set of instances that diverge from dominant patterns. Key among these current conditions are globalization and/ or globality as consitutive not only of cross-border institutional spaces, but also of powerful imaginaries enabling aspirations to transboundary political practice even when the actos involved are basically localized.

 What is therefore needed from a conceptualized Integral Politics, are just these kinds of “powerful imaginaries” that “enable aspirations to transboundary political practice”– we need conceptual designs that do not merely rationally accommodate the steamy emergence of transformation through convenient categories of scale, since as Sassen and her students demonstrate, “diverse types of research and theorization … show that confining characteristics and locations of that epochal transformation to the self-evident scale of the global and to self-evident supranational institutions is profoundly inadequate.” Rather we need an Integral Politics that is less concerned with shaping the future into known categories and frameworks, and more capable of a kind of midwifery through what Sassen calls for as “an expansion of the analytic terrain and interpretive tools for studying the global”:

… the significant dislocations we are living through signal the need for new concepts and framings. … It is a pattern that breaks with the typical approach in the literature, which has been to start with the self-evident scale of the global, … That approach has made important contributions, but is ultimately a partial view of the larger transformation.

In sharp contrast to the prevailing scholarship, the starting point… is a thick, complex, messy environment where the global needs to be detected, decoded, discovered, and then constructed as an object of study. This type of approach asks what it is we are trying to name with the term globalization. Each recognizes that we are living through a transformation that, though partial, is epochal.

Integral Manifesto Pt I(6): Three Cautionary Tales of Scale/ Geographies

Books Discussed in this Section

The limits to scale?  Methodological reflections on scalar structuration, Neil Brenner 2001. Progress in Human Geography 25, 4 pp. 591-614 / retrieved from

Saskia Sassen (2004), Local Actors in Global Politics. Retrieved from


In his paper on conceptual analysis of sociospatial scale, Neil Brenner explores “the methodological danger” of “blunting the concept of geographical scale as it has been blended unreflexively into other core geographical concepts such as place, locality, territory and space.”  Brenner believes that instead of merely identifying the limits to scale as, for example, a “mere social construction”, a more sustained and constructive exploration of how processes of scalar structuration are relationally intertwined may build what he terms “theoretical vocabularies” which might help decode the main dynamics and contours of the “extraordinary hypercomplexity” of social and political spaces. Brenner’s motivation is the liberation of the  political economy from hegemonic versions of scalar analysis, in ways that have the capacity to “mobilize geographical scale in strategic, often highly creative ways.”

Two distinct meanings of “politics of scale” emerge through his analysis– one, the singular and more conventional meaning, is that of the kinds of scalar relations we “see” in the political arena. The objects of this conventional meaning of “the politics of scale” are peoples, regions, nations, territories, economies, and the like. The objects of inquiry related to the second, plural meaning of “the politics of scale” are the scalar relations themselves– how they underly, overlay and/or overdetermine the political discourse. Brenner makes the distinction as follows:

The singular meaning of the phrase “politics of scale” can then be redscribed through Jonas’ notion of the ‘scale politics of spatiality,’ provided the distinctively scalar content of the sociospatial practices in question is not presupposed but is investigated explicitly. … I would propose to redescribe the plural connotation of the ‘politics of scale’– which … arguably denotes the core analytical focus for any systematic account of scale production and scale transformation– as a politics of scalar structuration or, more simply, as a politics of scaling.

To this end, Brenner identifies eleven methodological hypotheses to serve as starting points for the investigation of scalar structuration, namely

  1. Scalar structuration is a dimension of sociospatial process.
  2. Processes of scalar structuration are constituted and continually reworked through everyday social routines and struggles.
  3. Processes of scalar structuration are dialectically intertwined with other forsm of sociospatial structuration.
  4. There are multiple forms and patterns of scalar structuration.
  5. Scales evolve relationally within tangled hierarchies and dispersed interscalar networks.
  6. There are multiple spatialities of scale.
  7. Scalar hierarchies constitute mosaics not pyramids.
  8. Processes of scalar structuration generate contextually specific causal effects.
  9. Processes of scalar structuration may crystallize into scalar fixes.
  10. Established scalar fixes may constrain the subsequent evolution of scalar configurations.
  11. Processes of scalar structuration consitute geographies and choreographies of social power.

It is important to note from this list, that “processes of scalar structuration” are both epistemic processes as well as processes endemic to human action that occur in geosocial, political, and intersubjective spaces. There is not always a clear or unidirectional causal relationship between these two arenas of scalar structuration. However, it is generally the case that structures that are generated primarily from epistemic processes (theories, models) are too conveniently neatly defined to serve us in trying to understand the more complex and entangled processes in the other arenas. As Brenner himself explains:

Processes of scalar structuration do not produce a single nested scalar hierarchy, an absolute pyramid of neatly interlocking scales, but are better understood as a mosaic of unevenly superimposed and densely interlayered scalar geometries. For, as Allen, Massey, and Cochrane indicate, ‘… different kinds of social process have very different geographies and they do not all fit neatly into the same set of nested hierarchies.’ Hence the meaning of scalar terms such as global, national, regional, and urban will differ qualitatively depending upong the historically and contextually specific scalar partitionings of the sociospatialprocess in question. In this context we can also speak of a “kaleidoscope effect” in which the organization of scalar patterns changes qualitatively according to the perspective from which they are perceived and/or acted upon.

In situations where the process is not suppressed, as in pre-modern times, scalar relations of the geo-sociospatial grow organically from their precursors: the cohering forms of social collectives engaging their collective environment. These forms have varied across time and give rise to the ranges of cultures and the shared recognition of their membership as well as shared perceptions of the outlying boundaries of non-membership. When the scales of geo-sociospatial spaces that frame human action are enforced from the outside as a result of foreign conquest, occupation or colonialism, the superimposed scalar frameworks conflict with the preexisting forms of social collectives, and both forms become increasingly incoherent and unstable. The insistence of nation state sovereignty as a fundamental unit of geo-sociospatial scale, with respect to collectives that have rich histories of sociospatial coherence outside of the concept of nationhood, and more importantly with respect for the historical development of disempowered cultures, must be regarded as one of the major sources– if not the major source– of instability in the world today. Geo-sociospatial scales that rely on inclusivist hierarchic relationships based on the notion of the nation state, and a power structure that scales from the national, to the multi-national, transnational and global through a nested and impervious hierarchy, serves only to reinforce and re-embed the old assumptions of geo-sociospatial scales that were never appropriate for non-Western subcultures in the first place, and no longer adequate for adapting to emergent human realities. As early as 2004, Saskia Sassen was writing about “the possibility of escaping nested hierarchies of scales” and of subjects who can “directly access other such local actors whether in the same country or across borders.

That this situation is beginning to crack can be interpreted as an important time of transformative potential on the stage of human action, in which again organic dynamics are creating new and newly coherent forms of socio-spatial connectedness. The new forms emerge in response for the need for subjects to create collective identities that are meaningful and meaning-making in their lives. Sassen writes:

A key nexus in this configuration is that the weakening of the exclusive formal authority of states over national territory facilitates the ascendence of sub- and transnational spaces and actors in politico-civic processes. … Among these are spaces … that have evolved as novel types in the context of globalization and the new Information & CommunicationTechnologies (ICT’s). The loss of power at the national level produces the possibility of new forms of power and politics at the sub-national and at the supra-national level. The national as a container of social process and power is cracked. … This cracked casing opens up a geography of politics and civics that link subnational spaces.

This feature of our modern human condition is being increasingly well documented. As actors in this transformation, subjects are reclaiming the space of appearance, the capacity to show up as subjects, as well as the capacity to completely redefine what it means to be an actor. In her paper, Local Actors and Global Politics, Sassen profiles these emergent developments in this way

Globalization and the new ICT’s have enabled a variety of local political actors to enter international arenas once exclusive to national states. A key question … is the ways in which … localized actors and struggles can be constitutive of new types of global politics and subjectivities. The argument is that local, including geographically immobile and resource-poo, actors can contribute to the formation of global dominance or virtual public spheres and thereby to a type of local political subjectivity that needs to be distinguished from what we would usually consider local. … The result has been that particular instantiations of the local can actually be constituted at multiple scales and thereby construct global formations that tend toward lateralization and horizontal networks rather than the certical and hierarchical forms typical of major global actors, such as the IMF and WTO. … These developments contribute to distinct kinds of political practices and subjectivities … and have enabled local actors to become part of global netowkrs. … people experience themselves as part of global non-state networks as they live their daily lives. They enact some version of the global in the micro-spaces of daily life rather than on some putative global stage.

From this analysis it seems to me not only relevant but crucial to acknowledge that one of the components of any systematic analysis involving scalar relations must simultaneously relativize the components and conditions of “fixed grid” as a frame of reference, as well as the perspectives from which — and within which– they are perceived and/or acted upon. Finally then, this question of perspectives and perceptions– the simultaneous participation of the subject(s) as objects of (subject to) inquiry and also as the subject(s) of the variables in play– throws back our inquiry onto the nature of subjects and subjectivity itself

An Integral Manifesto Part I(1) : Labor Work

Books Discussed in this Section

Hannah Arendt (1958) The Human Condition The University of Chicago Press, Chicago


People operate on unexamined assumptions most of the time. If you want to get a quick list of these assumptions, just write down the bumper stickers you see.  If we relied only on what knowledge we could gather directly, we would live deep in the Great Mystery – the ur-ground of reality. Though some knowledge may be the prerogative of the few, there is no knowledge without the some, for knowledge is a condition of human plurality. I don’t personally know that the solar system exists in such and such a way—I share that it does, in a way that makes meaning. Knowledge, unlike experience is communal.

Since experience is unique and personal, and knowledge is shared and communal, it may be impossible to “verify” shared assumptions other than by their share-ability (i.e. acceptance by a community of the adequate); and perhaps also by their utility—I find that if I make the correct mathematical equations, I know how much money I can earn at the bank. However, examining such assumptions can be a liberating experience, especially when one has been visitedby doubts.

During this election year, I had come to doubt a familiar assumption of my generation: that one should “Think Globally and Act Locally”. Unexamined, it makes perfect sense. Subjected to a critical inquiry however, this prescription quickly became problematic. Because I don’t want to disappoint you at the end, I will admit this up front: Perhaps I should have left well enough alone, because my attempt to silence my doubts, only fueled them with bigger questions. Perhaps I merely journeyed toward the depths of the Great Mystery in equal and opposite altitudes as Icarus’ flight toward the sun. His wings fried, my ballast burst. Despite this affiliation, I trust you might see a difference in the final act, as he felled himself irrevocably into the sea, yet I have since come up for air.

Section I : The Life of Human Action

Vita active

When the Greek philosophers of antiquity contemplated the human condition, they distinguished the vita active  from the vita contemplative – the life of action from the life of contemplation. For these Greek philosophers, there was no continuum between the two—they seemed distinct in every way—as if the two were separate realms that humans might inhabit. Surely, not all people had access to both realms—for there were people, unlike the philosophers themselves who were men almost exclusively of the vita contemplative—who hardly thought at all.

Within the vita active,  Hannah Arendt identifies three further distinctions as the fundamental human activities labor, work, and action. She writes

Labor is the activity which corresponds to the biological process of the human body, whose spontaneous growth, metabolism, and eventual decay are bound to the vital necessities produced and fed into the life process by labor. The human condition of labor is life itself.

Action, the only activity that goes on directly between men without the intermediary of things or matter, corresponds to the human condition of plurality, to the fact that men, not Man, live on the earth and inhabit the world. While all aspects of the human condition are somehow related to politics, this plurality is specifically the condition—not only the condition sine qua non, but the condition per quam­­—of all political life. … Plurality is the condition of human action because we are all the same, that is human, in such a way that nobody is ever the same as anyone else who ever lived, lives, or will live.

Work is the activity which corresponds to the unnaturalness of human existence, which is not imbedded in, and whose mortality is not compensated by, the species’ ever-recurring life-cycle. Work provides an “artificial” world of things, distinctly difference from all natural surrounding. Within its borders each individual life is housed, while this world itself is meant to outlast and transcend them all. The human condition of work is worldliness.

Arendt considered these fundamental human activities to be both distinct and discontinuous. To enter the world of either work or action, men first must free themselves from the necessities of labor. The organization of the family and community were two crucial steps in the evolution of human action—these small social groups created excess human capacity such that  men “of family and property” could escape the merely biological and cyclical patterns of living. While men labored both to keep themselves alive and to reproduce themselves, the cyclical patterned of both life and death in the process held little promise of starting something new, or a completely new beginning.  In labor, man shared his destiny with slaves and beasts of burden. The possibility for action—to create and make anew—presented itself only with this first prerequisite of freedom—the escape from the cycles of labor into new possibilities of human activity.

Once freed from mere laboring, men were eager to pursue other types of human activity. Those of the merchant class, the artisans and craftsmen engaged the world through work. For these men, the world and its worldliness mediated all their interactions, and set the stage for the notions of “exchange rates” and “transactions.” Of the men who had liberated themselves from a life of labor,  Aristotle considered these the less free. These “men of work” had escaped “living conditions” yet remained tied to “worldly conditions,” whose outcomes rose and fell according to patterns of production and acquisition.

On the difference between labor and work,  Arendt writes: “Labor assures not only individual survival, but the life of the species. Work and its product, the human artifact, bestow a measure of permanence and durability upon the futility of mortal life and the fleeting character of human time.”

The end-products of labor and work can at times be strikingly similar. It is the motivation or driving force within the individual that defines them . If I am producing  paintings to make a living, I am still laboring, regardless of my skill. If, on the other hand, I am painting in pursuit of a kind of “immortality” project – to make a lasting impression—then I am working, regardless of how much or how little money or comfort I derive from the activity. In one case I tune into to certain kinds of feedback from my efforts—how much certain styles sell for, what is in popular demand—and tune out other kinds of feedback – what kinds of art I might really love to b doing, for example. In the other case, the situation is reversed—I ignore what is popular and profitable, and tune into a more private, radically creative urge. We intuitively make this distinction when we judge works of art. We intuitively make this distinction when we judge entrepreneurs by their visionary capacity versus their salesmanship. Marx understood the importance of this distinction in his critique of capital systems of production—when work is reduced to labor,  men are somehow reduced too—the principle of alienation and disenfranchisement.

Collective Behavior, Collaborative Work

In this series, I propose adapting Arendt’s tri-fold division of labor, work and action to the pluralistic dimensions of human activity, and in doing so consider three spheres of the vitae activae:  collective behavior, collaborative work and political action.  Wherever and whenever men and women labor we see collective behavior. We see collective behavior through systems analysis of the type that are easily reproduced in computer programs and actuarial studies.  The nature of the collective in collective behavior is a multiplier, an issue of quantities and statistics and their relative quantitative together, we see collective changes in time.

The collective nature of labor means the loss of individuation of the person, bringing men together to labor as though they were one. The collective  nature of labor is a kind of super-organism—it is the collectively accumulated activity of individuals, each alone with his body, “facing the naked necessity to keep himself alive. Therefore, collective labor is essentially anti-political,  (“This unitedness of many into one is basically antipolitical; it is the very opposite of the togetherness prevailing in political or commercial communities…” and the values of the collective are entirely social. Arendt  writes:

But this “collective nature of labor, “ far from establishing a recognizable, identifiable reality for each member of the labor gang, requires on the contrary the actual loss of all awareness of individuality and identity; and it is for this reason that all those “values” which derive from laboring, beyond its obvious function in the life process, are entirely ‘social’ and essentially not different from the additional pleasure derived from eating and drinking in company.

Until the modern age, the notion of collective work was rare, and may have been impossible to conceive. Prior to the modern age the notion of work applied to the independent artisan or merchant—the captains of industry, the great leaders and visionaries craftsmen, architects and artists.  These are individuals, like Plato’s philosopher king, who are very often either exempted from the norms of society, or expelled from the Republic. They are significant in their individualization and their engagement with the world and its worldliness –  the maestros and geniuses– persons of significant achievement or masterpiece often garnered through a life lived at the expense of others.  Only recently, and due in a large part to the enormous scale of modern-day undertakings, the creative and aesthetic impulses in man have come to produce great collaborative work.

Unlike the quantitative nature of collective labor, the nature of collaborative work is qualitative. Where people labor together they become a “mass”—a kind of organism without individuation. The notion that “all men are created equal” is more apt to describe the laboring masses, than men of work or action.   The collaborative group, on the other hand, sorts participants by the quality of their workmanship and their talent  with respect to the world—the  project at hand. However,  just like the labor collective, the collaborative group needs individuals  unlike themselves, to lead them into the public eye, and to represent them there. In other words, collaborative groups themselves lack men of public action.

The convictions of collaborative enterprise are not the convictions of the company of laborers which is to make life easier or more secure, along with the belief that life itself is the highest good. The conviction of the collaborative group is not merely the completion of the project at hand, but the lastingness or endurance of the work, which ultimately is the only way to gauge its merit. The conviction of collaborative enterprise is a kind of collective remembrance of a people’s history—an enduring record of “where we are, where we are going, and where we have been.”  These convictions do not preclude a political way of life per se (as do those of  labor)—but it lacks the central  conviction of a political way of life—the who of “who we are”—and therefore remains unpolitical.  Only collective action maintains the conviction of the who of “who we are” – and to which we now turn.