Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Holistic Liberation

I have wondered whether my vision of holistic "radicalism" is a bit too fringey. It is constructed out of the various ideas of Marxism, pacifism, anarchism, radical feminism, social ecology, sexual liberation, left communitarianism, and religious communalism. Being raised fundamentalist gave me a peculiar allergy to liberalism and so I am actually more comfortable with the "hard left" subculture than with typical liberals.

So, if I repackaged the vision to be "holistic liberation" do I gain a greater marketability? If I ever write my visionary pamphlet or book-length exposition, would calling it liberation rather than radicalism mean that some liberal publisher with a bigger marketing budget will option it?

I am only even thinking about loosening my emphasis on radicalism due to both my current psychological and occupational conditions. I was the classic angry young man, but with a deep well of depression in my twenties. This well of discontent actually made it impossible for me to hold a job for any length of time. My record up until 2004 was 1.5 years at any job. I have held a position with my current company for 2.5 years. Not much to crow about at the age of 42!

I was cured of depression over 8 years ago. That made it possible for me to settle into a job, even like my present one, which is so far afield of my social and spiritual interests that I can't believe it. I keep expecting that one day I'll go back to pursuing my philosophy career.

So, what sort of radical holds a regular job and isn't constantly angry? What sort of radical even entertains the idea of trading in confontational radicalism for warm, fuzzy liberation?

peace - Charley

Posted at 07:58 pm by charley63
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Friday, April 07, 2006
A Man with a Plan

It has been months since I posted anything here. I intend to get serious about this page again.

I know, I've said it before.

My current plan is to post a recap of "Holistic Liberation" as I am calling my vision of social & spiritual change.

One important new refinement involves looking at things from an "integral" perspective, inspired by Ken Wilber. I do have significant differences with Wilber, but they're in the vein of my differences from "Liberating Theory", the differences lead me to improve my theory and offer suggestions to refine Wilber's work.

Once I have finished the recap and refinement postings, I intend to begin a cycle of postings that will take me through the eight sub-systems of liberation and then through a series of 28 postings on the 'interactions' of the eight sub-systems, e.g., how the sub-system of gender interacts with non-violence, etc.

That's a total of at least 32 postings taking at least that many days.

If you are reading this, you can hold me accountable to this plan by commenting which triggers an email to me.

peace - Charley

Posted at 07:09 pm by charley63
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Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Holistic Liberation Recap

(OK, so I didn't do this when I said I would. I will be getting a new PC this weekend and hope that will allow me more time to do this project.)

I want to begin with a vision of a world liberated from suffering. There are many dimensions to suffering - emotional, social, economic, physical - just to name a few.

My "Towards a Holistic Radicalism" blog entry from 5/1/04 covers the broad outlines of a vision of liberation from socially caused and perpetuated suffering. The eight categories of suffering I identify there are: political, military, economic, ecological, gender, sexual, religious, and racial.

I chose these eight categories because of my study and reflection on the social movements of history, such as anti-racism, feminism, anarchism, pacifism, socialism, etc.

Many of these causes have generated a theory or vision that tries to claim that one of these causes is the key struggle for a radical revolution. The most famous may be Marxism, whereby some Marxists hold that fighting capitalism is the only social struggle that can revolutionize the world. Anti-racist struggles have generated radical visions such as Black Nationalism or Pan-Africanisms. Feminism begat Radical Feminism. Pacifism begat Radical Pacifism. Anti-tyranny struggles generated anarchism. And so on.

Holistic liberation tries to synthesize all of these visions into a vision that speaks to as many of the key struggles as possible. The eight categories of social struggle are vitally important to the future of human liberation.

My next entry will look into the refinements I have gleaned from my readings of Ken Wilber. Hopefully it won't be over a month before I write it.

peace - Charley

Posted at 04:27 pm by charley63
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Saturday, June 17, 2006
Holistic Liberation and Integral Thought

(Ok, never got that extra computer. Still hope to do so in the next few weeks.)

The sources of a holistic liberatory vision are wide-ranging and can potentially include all truth. However, for the most part I have discussed liberation in political or social terms.

Several years ago, a friend tried to interest me in the work of Ken Wilber, who has been working on a synthesis of Western thought and Eastern spirituality. For a summary of his theory, I recommend "From the Great Chain of Being to Postmodernism in Three Easy Steps" which is linked to this page: http://www.kenwilber.com/professional/writings/index.html.

The key framework for Wilber begins with identifying four categories or 'quadrants' that functionally classify all of reality. They are the individual interior (thought, feeling experience), collective interior, individual exterior, and the collective exterior. Another labeling could be: private experience, bodily conditions, cultural relations, institutional relations. No labels seem to be truly universal, but I hope the general gist is apparent.

(Note: I copied this image from <http://wilber.shambhala.com/images/book_images/cowokev8_fig2.gif

What I find useful in this "all quadrant" breakdown is that it helps me to think through what is strictly political from the cultural and also the psychological. I would caution myself that making these distinctions too rigidly is unhelpful, but it helps to keep some sort of framework in mind as an aid to thinking broadly. In technical terms, the quadrant model is a 'hueristic'.

There is room for overlaps, such as between biophysical and exterior collective in the idea of ecosystem. Similarly, between interior individual and cultural domains we could identify a 'community' quadrant.

The importance of the all-quadrant perspective is that it encourages me to expand beyond my typical focus on political/institutional aspects of liberation. It gets me to think about the role of personal experience versus just thinking about the institutional problems of capitalism or authoritarian states.

A second powerful idea I gleaned from Wilber is his suggestion that what classical mysticism saw as a timeless "Chain of Being" was actually a historical process. He shows that useful understandings of history arise when we apply the insights of developmental psychology to whole cultures. In the area of politics for example, Wilber identifies a chain of evolution comprising cheiftains, monarchies, empires, and democracies.

This idea does have to be tested and fleshed out by actually analyzing the history of these cultures to see how they actually developed. For the most part, Wilber's followers have focused on personal spiritual enlightenment and have not done much with his theory of history.

My own hope is that I can test and refine his theory of history in the political/institutional quadrant. Also, by applying the four quadrants to my current scheme of holistic liberation, I hope to advance my understanding of the personal and cultural dimensions of liberation.

peace - Charley

Posted at 12:33 pm by charley63
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Monday, August 14, 2006
Why Eight Systems of Social Struggle?

As my readers are aware, my 8 systems of social struggle are loosely based on the four "spheres" of Liberating Theory. LT identified four spheres of society: economics, kinship, politics, and community. I expanded the list of four to include the concerns of social movements that I felt weren't sufficiently represented by the Big Four. Namely, Peace, Sexuality, Ecology, and Religion. 

Some of the New Four are easily linked with the original Big Four. Peace is part of Politics, Sexuality is part of Kinship, and Religion is part of community. However, the interrelationship gets really murky for the last two is Ecology part of Economics, or vice-versa.

After straining too many brain cells over ecological economic macrosystems, I have decided that there is no way to simply dovetail the two systems of ecology and economics. In fact, this points up that what matters is not "spheres" in the sense of discretely defined domains of life, but rather that all of these systems and sub-systems are interwoven into a dynamic and overarching eco-social whole.

So, just to recap, there are eight systems of social struggle in my vision of holistic liberation:

1) Ecology - 2) Economics - 3) Kinship - 4) Sexuality - 5) Ethnic/Culture - 6) Religion/Spirituality 7) Politics & 8) Peace.

peace - Charley

Posted at 06:29 pm by charley63
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Holistic Liberation Inventory

Here's a first pass at an inventory of the 8 systems in terms of the four quadrants. In Wilberian terminology the four quadrants are: Upper Left or UL - interior individual; Upper Right or UR - exterior individual; Lower Left or LL - interior collective; and Lower Right or LR - exterior collective:

UL Feelings of belonging to or alienation from a racial group
UR physical characteristics that identify one with a racial group
LL cultural practices and traditions of one's racial group
LR institutions and power-relations bearing on racial identity


UL ultimate convictions; intentions to improve thoughts & feelings
UR yoga, private rituals
LL shared convictions, traditions about ultimate matters
LR Structures and institutions perpetuating shared orientations on ultimate matters


UL sense of compentence, work experience, skill-sets
UR physical activity of labor
LR workplace culture, status hierarchies
LL wealth distribution, managerial systems


UL felt connection to nature, ethical assessment of natural value
UR bodily condition, consumption habits, reproduction practices
LL traditions and shared attitudes toward nature
LR systems of resource acquisition and consumption, habitat integrity


UL male/female identity
UR physical gender
LR attitudes and gender role traditions
LL institutionalized gender role conditions


UL orientation, feelings about sex
UR sexual health, body practices (nudity)
LL shared sexual attitudes
LR institutionalized sexual contracts


UL attitudes toward authority and dissent
UR evolutionary tendencies to dominance hierarchies
LL traditions of political valuation statism vs. anti-statism
LR concrete governmental institutions


UL - Personal attitudes and convictions towards violence & revenge
UR - Biopsychological components of violence or violence-inhibition
LL - Social/Cultural norms of violence, revenge, and defense
LR - institutional of violence management - police/military

My next step is to think about each system in terms of the developmental stages that each has gone through in human history, especially just before modern times.


peace - Charley


Posted at 06:40 pm by charley63
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Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Charting Systemic Struggles

I've written very little for several months. I want to resume by going through the eight distinct modes of social struggle that I've identified, in turn. Since I maintain that no one social struggle is more important than any other, I could start anywhere in the set and begin my exposition. Just to test this apparent symmetry, I will go in alphabetical order.

This assumes that each struggle can be given a simple name. Not so easy, but for this exercise, I will use the following labels: Community, Ecosystem, Ethnicity, Gender, Industry, Polity, Sexuality, & Security.

Posted at 11:10 pm by charley63
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Thursday, December 28, 2006
Communities in Contestation

To think of community from the standpoint of social struggle may seem a bit strange at first. We think of community as an subset of society that has acheived a level of internal cohesion. However, communities are also sites of struggle and conflict, both internal and external.

Political concerns would mostly focus on external conflicts. Such conflicts can be between communities or between other social forces and communities.  An assumption here will be that everyone participates in a community. For some, this is constructed by personal choices, for others it may be the community of one's birthplace. In this connection, we won't consider racial communities, as we will cover them in our consideration of ethnicity.

Of key interest here is religious communities. While some of the self-selected communities we mentioned above can be religious or focused on a spirituality, most religious communities place the source of their identity above personal choice. This is most strong in communities such as the Catholic church, which claims divine authority. However, we are also interested in communities that do not fall into the classic understanding of religion, such as humanists. In order to treat such non-religious communities as categorical equals to typically religious communities, we will classify these communities under the rubric of "communities of ultimacy." For humanists, human reason is the ultimate source of value. For Catholics, Christ's authority is the ultimate source.

The example of humanism and Catholicism should bring to mind the question of inter-community conflict. Humanists and Catholics often regard themselves as in conflict. Various issues arise here, abortion, same-sex intimacy, biblical authority, religious doctrines, etc. The goal of our vision of radical liberation is to propose ways of approaching conflicts between communities in order to promote intercommunal cooperation in the struggles for social liberation. The radical liberation vision being constructed here depends on such cooperation.

However, it is obvious in the case of Catholicism that some aspects of present-day Catholicism militate against cooperation with this sweeping vision of liberation. Abortion is considered a basic right among progressive activists, but a mortal sin by official Catholic teaching. This suggests that another line of radical liberation work will be internal to communities. We already know that movements against capitalism, for example, have expressed themselves within Catholicism, such as the Catholic Worker movement in the USA and Liberation Theology in Latin America.

To flesh out our radical vision of community, I want to next examine the "quadrants" of our holistic inventory. In an earlier posting we identified community under the heading of "Spirituality/Relgion" and proposed the following quadrant components of community:

UL ultimate convictions; intentions to improve thoughts & feelings
UR yoga, private rituals
LL shared convictions, traditions about ultimate matters
LR Structures and institutions perpetuating shared orientations on ultimate matters

It occurs to me that it might be useful to contrast two sets of four components - pathological versus transformative. Beginning with the LL shared convictions and traditions, we can think of how many religions have anti-liberative convictions, such as a prophesied divine fiery destruction of the earth. A transformative alternative conviction could be the panentheistic/pantheistic view that God is fully present within nature. In the LR quadrant of structures and institutions, we can project a clear contrast between hierarhical and egalitarian practices. A religion that shifted from a punishing to a nurturing theology will have profound impacts on the UL quadrant of personal spirituality. It will also impact the understanding of the physical body and propose rituals that honor the body and nature.

Communities that adopt a radical liberation vision will do so because some of their members begin to advocate such a vision within the existing institutions. Many times the distance between where the community is and where radical liberation would take it are extreme. Nevertheless, such struggles are necessary if radical liberation is too succeed in religious societies like the USA or Africa.

Posted at 12:12 am by charley63
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Charting the Stages of Social Struggle

As I was reading Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon by Daniel Dennett, I was struck by how his approach to religion depended on a basic distinction between folk religion and organized religion. This put me in mind of Wilber's stages of development and my own attempt to use a similar construct to illuminate the direction of history and social struggle. I realized that I ended my last entry on community without reference to the idea of historical stages.

I want to begin from within each area of social struggle and develop the stages of that specific struggle. When we are done with that stepwise process, we can asses whether there is some sort of overarching unity between the stages of each system.

I will start with a general scheme of stages that is basically chronological. To think about radical liberation, we need to project a future that is different from our present. This suggests two stages immediately, which I will dub the modern and postmodern (though not endorsing "postmodernism"). To clearly delineate the present, we need a usable construct of the past, hence the premodern. In order to round out the  scheme I will also examine the far future and the far past. So my elaboration of the stages of social struggle will look for the basic contours of 5 eras or stages: 1) The distant past, 2) the premodern, 3) the modern present 4) the postmodern future & and 5) the distant future.

Some will argue that we are already in the postmodern era, and I will test that possibility. I am inclined to think that the postmodern is still largely an emergent formation within modernity, not yet a fully mature stage of society.

I also would stress that while I may seem to be trying to do history, I am more specifically trying to elaborate social evolution in the case of the society with which I am most familiar, Western civilization. I am not attempting to construct the evolution of Islamic or Asian societies at this point. I do take such societies into account further on below.

To begin constructing our stages for community I would review the schemes most verified in the social sciences, namely, Piagetian cognitive theory and Kohlbergian moral theory. I will also have recourse to Eriksonian personality theory, Fowler's stages of faith theory, and finally Marxism's stages of economic modes of production.

Here are quick thumbnails of these theories:

1) Sensorimotor
2) Preoperational
3) Concrete Operational (conop)
4) Formal Operational (formop)
5) Post-Formal Operational (this last stage is significantly controversial)

1) Obedience/Punishment
2) Self-interest
3) Interpersonal accord/conformity
4) Authority/Orderliness
5) Social contract
6) Universal Ethical

Erikson Psychosocial:
1) Trust vs. Mistrust
2) Initiative vs. Guilt
3) Industry vs. Inferiority
4) Identity vs. Role Confusion
5) Intimacy vs. Isolation
6) Generativity vs. Stagnation
7) Integrity vs. Despair

1) Intuitive-Projective
2) Mythic-literal
3) Synthetic-conventional
4) Individuative-reflective
5) Conjunctive
6) Universalizing

Marxism/Modes of production:
1) Foraging
2) Asiatic
3) Slavery
4) Feudal
5) Capitalist
6) Socialist
7) Communist

An obvious concern arising from this list is that some lists are longer than our desired 5 stages. How do we choose which ones will apply? The table below will correlate the five theories:

 Piaget Kohlberg
 Sensorimotor  Obedience Trust/ Mistrust
 Intuitive- projectiveAsiatic
 Self-interest Initiative/ Guilt
Mythic- literal
 Conop  Interpersonal accord/conformity
 Industry/ Inferiority  Synthetic- conventionalFeudal
 Formop  Authority/Order  Identity/ Role Confusion
 Individuative- reflectiveCapitalist
 Postformal Social contract
Intimacy/ Isolation
   Universal Ethic
Generativity/ Stagnation

The question of which stage scheme we will use for our visionary elaboration turns on taking the Marxist stage of capitalism as somehow indicative of the present, whereas the others are largely private and interior categories. With capitalism as our present baseline, we can turn to Fowler's stages for our assesment of community/religion development. This raises an immediate difficulty for Wilber's theory. He identifies our society as largely the development of the synthetic-conventional out of the mythic-literal. Wilber actually doesn't use Fowler's stages but rather distinguishes between mythic-membership and mythic-rational, which bifurcates Fowler's mythic stage. Wilber actually has as many as 12 stages in his theory.

Our aim is a little more modest, we want 5 stages that correspond to the far past, premodern, modern present, postmodern, and distant future. Another way to get at a useful scheme is to take Marxism seriously again and to look at actual history to mark the stages between the modes of production. The origins of capitalism are complex, but capitalism seems clearly discernable by the mid-1600s. This is also the era when the scientific revolution took hold.

So the boundary between the modern and premodern is roughly the 1600s. What does this suggest for community/religion? The 1600s were the era just after the protestant reformation shook European religious culture. In a sense we can identify the Reformation as a precursor of modern religion, setting the stage for modernism in much the same way that mercantilism set the stage for capitalism.

Taking a look at Christian history, the dominant religion of the premodern (and to some extent the modern) era, the common historical breakdown is primitive/apostolic, conciliar/catholic, reformation, and modern era. This gives us an idea of religious stages along this line: 1) Distant past - Catholic; 2) Premodern - Protestant; 3) Modern - Enlightenment. This scheme now gives us a basis to project the future of religion and community. Returning to our table of developmental theories, we see that capitalism corresponds to the Enlightenment. If so, perhaps socialism corresponds to the religious future? We will address socialism more directly in our consideration of economics.

For now, we can consider that in Marxism what signals the death of capitalism is the collapse of nation-states and their replacement by the international workers' revolution. If we apply this analogically to the Enlightenment, which was nationalistic and rationalistic, we can project a religious future that will also reject the modern nation and its biases in favor of a global synthesis of religious values. This is already prefigured in late modern religious movements such as liberal theology, Unitarian-Universalism, humanism, and even somewhat oddly Bahaism.

Fowler identifies the faith stage that succeeds the individuative (protestant) as conjunctive. He describes it as catching a vision of the world re-sacralized, but still intimidating. Paradoxical, ecstatic, but cautious. For purposes of our visionary construction, this future stage of religion can be designated as globalizing.

That leaves us with framing the analogue of "communism." Marx's visionary projections foresaw a vaguely defined era when the division of labor was abolished and labor was free and creative, not constrained by scarcity or necessity. Such a fulsome vision can be projected in the religious field by the term universalism.

However, I am not satisfied with the sequence we have generated, as it is even more tightly bound to Christianity than I deem helpful. To what do the terms catholic or protestant refer when examining Islam or Buddhism? For catholicism, I will use the less restricted term "traditional". For protestant, I will use "reformist." To complete our post-Christian rethinking, I will replace Enlightenment (which clashes with Buddhist usages of the term) with "progressive". The sequence which I will elaborate in my next posting on community will be as follows:

1) Traditional
2) Reformist
3) Progressive
4) Globalizing
5) Universalist

In my next post, I will trace the features of communities and religions in terms of the four quadrants (and sub-quadrants).

Posted at 09:08 pm by charley63
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Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Another Attempt at Labeling the Stages of Religion

I have decided that the scheme I came up with last posting is still not quite what I need. Here is a revision:

1) Traditional
2) Reformist
3) Liberal
4) Progressive
5) Universalist

The main change I made was to discard "globalizing," insert "liberal" at stage 3, and move progressive up to stage 4. This fits better the actual history that I have in mind.

It's a bit late to go into why I made this shift in detail, but I hope to do so soon.

peace! Charley

Posted at 12:44 am by charley63
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