Post-modernism and beyond; Wilber, DeLanda and new ways of integrating

The more I read into the topics for my thesis, the more a general trend keeps coming up: we’re moving beyond the dominant ideology of relativism, and into bigger-picture seeking modes of thought. Or in other words, after losing ourselves in the postmodern world, we’re finally seeing if there is a deeper, more inclusive perspective. In order for it to work, it would have to reconcile complexity with generality. The daring theme is this: That there is a perennial, or bigger picture to human societies as a whole. We can have a macroscopic theory that evolves to include the microscopic, without suppressing its relative truths. 

Thinkers such as Deleuze, Manuel DeLanda and Ken Wilber are pioneering this new frontier. It’s a world of heterogenous “streams”, “assemblies” and “waves,” instead of reductionist “frameworks” or ideological. Ken Wilber, in particular, is first and foremost a philosopher, developing his own models which attempt to include the many facets and dimensions of reality; macroscopic and microscopic, without losing or diminishing. Instead, he argues, deeper meaning is discovered through acknowledging levels of reality. Developmental psychology, sociology and spirituality are all a part of a diverse and complex spectrum, measurable nonetheless. Everybody is right, but only partially. There are levels to truth, and as we continue to evolve, our knowledge of truth, of ultimate reality evolves as well.

Being a philosopher, some may argue he has the tendency to go off on metaphysical tangents, or develop models that are too boxy for an organic society. This may have partial truth to it, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t some great insight in Wilber’s work that will be hard pressed to find elsewhere. His models may be a bit restrictive, ultimately, but they point the way, roadmaps in a journey to greater and greater perspectives. In that sense, it is our responsibility as much as Wilber’s to see his work accurately, and help evolve it with our own insights. It’s a communal project. 

Another thinker, Manuel Delanda, has taken a different path to seeking a world beyond the post-modern. He has stripped the notion of a “framework” bare, leaving nothing but a complex, heterogenous world where cities are seen like exoskeletons, the flow of people like rivers and streams, and the direction of a society more dependent on the diverse and non-linear variables that make up the world. He attempts to inverse our approach: See it from the bottom-up! Enough with the top down (as it has often been misleading). Instead of homogenous paradigms, we have “assemblages” of people who have general belief systems, but are always meandering, spilling through the cracks, and porous with counter-ideologies. Quite complicated! Nevertheless, Delanda attempts to see such a world scientifically, arguing that the social sciences can evolve into a new paradigm with “Assemblage Theory.” 

The good news is, we have progressive, paradigm-makers like Ken Wilber who actually cultivate new systems of thinking about, well, virtually everything. We also have thinkers such as DeLanda who break down the current paradigm (postmodernism), and use its truths to take the next step.

These aren’t the only thinkers, of course. There are a wide variety of theorists and practitioners who are attempting to see beyond the paradigm of relativism. There are branches and varieties of Deleuzians (Like DeLanda), Integral theorists, (MacIntosh, Vissor, etc), transpersonal psychologists, sociologists, and today, the development of the “meme” theory. Now, the integral question in all this would be: is there a connection between all of these ideas? As much as we can see from here, yes. The idea is quite clear: all of who and what we are, is not our relative culture and belief system, no, it goes further than that. Beneath our differences lie greater similarities and we now have the technology, and the capability to grow into that integrating paradigm. I don’t believe the majority of these new thinkers and theorists posit some ultimate paradigm, but they’re at least trying to make sense of all the complexity, with emerging fields like cultural evolution. Despite their shortcomings, and in some cases, vagueness, these attempts will not be in vain, as their endeavors are already deepening our understanding.

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3 thoughts on “Post-modernism and beyond; Wilber, DeLanda and new ways of integrating

  1. Nice! I went off on a strong philosophy tangent recently after working through Wilber’s SES. Various explorations from that lead me to Deleuze, and also to Alfred North Whitehead and his suggestions of a “process philosophy”, which I absolutely love. Whilst I have read a bit on Deleuze’s general ideas, I haven’t yet read any of his books, or a book on him. I was wondering whether you have any recommendations? I really just want to get a basic grasp of Deleuze’s approaches and insights, not necessarily a full philosophical inquiry. I nearly bought What is Philosophy? not long back, but I’ve also heard great things about DeLanda’s books. I’m currently working through this pdf which talks about Deleuze and Whitehead’s shared insights – http://www.shaviro.com/Othertexts/DeleuzeWhitehead.pdf Great stuff!

    I guess the post-relativist challenge is: how can we respect both the partness and wholeness of each element around us – understanding its relative influences and contexts, whilst also respecting its emergent autonomy? A rather big question :-) At the moment I think introducing people to a relativist/deconstructionist style approach is still an important first step on the way to a more integral approach. In other words, following the general process of learning itself: fusion, differentiation, integration (IAO, life death rebirth etc etc)

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