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«Annick Hedlund-de Witt Worldviews and the transformation to sustainable societies An exploration of the cultural and psychological dimensions of our ...»

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8.2 An expanded understanding and articulation of the Integrative Worldview Framework (IWF) In this section I aim to provide an overview of the predominant worldviews in the contemporary West, by introducing an expanded understanding and articulation of the IWF. I will first reflect on my empirical results (of notably chapters four, five, six, and seven) in the light of this framework and the observations of notably sociologists. Subsequently, I will offer the perspective that the culture of contemporary spirituality (as explored in chapter six) can potentially be understood as transition between a more postmodern and a more integrative worldview, displaying a process of dialectical development. I finish with articulating some general principles for the ethical and effective usage of this heuristic framework.

8.2.1 Major worldviews in the West: Traditional, modern, and postmodern As reported in chapter four, a large representative survey conducted in the Netherlands resulted in five worldview-factors that clustered into three distinct groups (in terms of the factors themselves as well as the attitudes and lifestyles they tended to correlate with), which can potentially be understood as provisionally displaying three distinct worldview-structures: a more traditional, a more modern, and a more postmodern worldview. These results are in alignment with empirical research and theory in both sociology and developmental psychology, which posit at least three worldview structures, or in the words of Taylor, “families of views” that are understood to be predominant in the West.

As, for example, Taylor (1989) argues in his seminal work Sources of the Self, our contemporary cultural landscape is characterized by a profound tension between an Enlightenment-inspired, instrumental, disengaged, objectified understanding 250 of reality (or modern worldview) and a post-Romantic, expressive cultural current that sees nature as inner source (postmodern worldview). Next to that, he refers to a theistic or traditional worldview. Also the quantitative, longitudinal, and cross-cultural research of the World Values Survey (WVS) demonstrates substantial different tendencies in terms of value orientations between residents in traditional, modern (or industrial), and postmodern (post-industrial) societies (Inglehart, 1997; Inglehart & Welzel, 2005). The social scientific climate

researcher O’Brien (2009) articulates these value differences as follows:

Traditional worldviews may, for example, place a greater emphasis on the set of values associated with conservation, which include tradition, security, and conformity. Modern worldviews may place emphasis on values associated with self-enhancement, such as power, achievement, and hedonism. Values linked to openness to change, such as stimulation and self-direction, may bridge both modern and postmodern worldviews. Finally a postmodern worldview may emphasize values that focus on selftranscendence, such as universalism and benevolence (pp. 168While the terms traditional, modern, and postmodern are used to refer to a variety of different and sometimes divergent phenomena in an assortment of distinct contexts, I adopt these terms for a number of reasons. First, they are broad, widely used constructs that capture the general thrust of the historicaldevelopmental trajectory of cultural epochs and worldviews in the West, as described by numerous philosophers of Western thought, historians, and social scientists (see e.g. Bhaskar, 2008 (1975); Dawson, 1998; Giddens, 2009;

Habermas, 1976, 1987; Hartwig, 2011; Inglehart, 1997; Klukhuhn, 2007; Tarnas, 1991; C. Taylor, 1989; Wilber, 1995). Thus, they appear to be apt terms to be deployed for conceptualizing the deep structures of worldviews in a wideranging manner, generically linking the individual and collective, as well as integrating multiple, domain-specific theories. Moreover, because these terms appear to be fairly common, they seem to have widespread cultural caché and be graspable in a relatively intuitive manner. Needless to say, understanding 251 worldviews in terms of such a high-level framework is necessarily based in a sweeping generalization of the complexities and ambiguities of reality.

Nevertheless, in my eyes, such simplification is justified by its heuristic value of offering a kind of generalized orienting framework that can ideal-typically structure research and analysis. The construction of such ideal-typical worldviews can serve as a method of investigation that supports the researcher to learn about worldviews by comparing a rationally and logically constructed ideal-type with reality (G. Marshall, 1998).

In table 14 I tentatively depict this expanded, heuristic framework, which delineates traditional, modern, postmodern, and integrative worldviews, using the five worldview-aspects as organizing scheme. This depiction is explicitly of an ideal-typical nature, aimed at providing a very general, broad, and tentative overview of the primary assumptions, themes, and concerns of each of these worldviews, as well as provisionally suggesting the larger developmental trajectory that they may display. Although this framework builds on my own findings as well as other (empirical) research, notably the correlations between the different trajectories as well as between the different trajectories and the worldview-aspects is still in many ways of a tentative, hypothetical nature, and in need of further research, refinement, and verification. Moreover, the depiction of the integrative worldview is based on a limited data pool and is therefore currently still theoretical and speculative. The IWF, in its current form, is thus primarily a heuristic that can be used for generating understanding, reflexive inquiry, and communicative action.





In this understanding, traditional worldviews tend to be characterized by a religious or metaphysical monism, in the sense that the religious sphere is not differentiated from the secular sphere, and metaphysics not from science (see e.g. Campbell, 2007; Habermas, 1987). The religious or metaphysical understanding of reality thus answers the great questions in life, and religious authority (e.g. religious scripture or doctrine) is generally heavily relied on (Inglehart & Welzel, 2005; Welzel et al., 2003). As discussed in chapter two, Taylor (1989) speaks of a substantive rationality in this context, referring to the notion that whether an idea is seen as reasonable or rational depends on its substance or content, rather than on the procedure of how the idea was arrived at or argued for (which is the ‘procedural rationality’ that became prominent in 252 the Enlightenment). In this worldview, a transcendent God tends to be seen as separate from the profane world, thus pointing at a fundamental ontological dualism (see e.g. Campbell, 2007). Although religious perspectives can frequently be understood in terms of a more ideal-typically traditional worldview, it is important to note that they can be enacted in highly diverse ways, such as more traditional, modern, postmodern, and integrative ones (see e.g. Fowler, 1981; Marion, 2000). Generally speaking, traditional worldviews appear to be characterized by a much greater emphasis on family and community, especially in contrast with the more individualistic modern worldview (Edgar, 2008b; Sztompka, 1993). As for example Vonk (2011) describes, traditional religious communities are frequently guided by values such as the importance of religious life, moderation, community, obedience, submission, discipline, solidarity, conformity, devotion, respect for tradition, humility, and frugality.

One can see these themes back in several of the items that characterize the ‘Traditional God’ factor as found in chapter four. For example, the statement ‘God stands far above life on earth’ points at a strong ontological dualism between the divine and the human sphere. The statement ‘The human being is the only being on earth with consciousness’ seems to indicate a profound humannature dualism (conscious humanity versus unconscious matter/nature), which has frequently been argued to be one of the core-beliefs that led to the largescale environmental destruction that is so characteristic of contemporary society (see e.g. White, 1967). The consistent rejection of the statement ‘It is pure coincidence that human life has developed on earth’ points at the belief of the universe as a purposively constructed whole—generally a creation of God (see e.g. McFague, 2008; Vonk, 2011; Wardekker et al., 2009). Simultaneously, the statement ‘What people call ‘God’ does not only exist above, but also here in the world around us’ seems to indicate that potentially religious beliefs are changing into a somewhat more immanent and less dualistic direction, as for example Campbell (2007) has argued. This idea may also result in the necessary ‘creation care’ and may thus contribute to an overall sense of environmental concern and 253 stewardship.85 Modernity and the modern worldview are typically placed in contrast to traditional or pre-industrial societies and mindsets. According to Sztompka (1993), the idea of modernity refers to

–  –  –

One of the most central aspirations of modernity—whether seen as a cultural/historical epoch or as worldview—is to emancipate humanity from the superstitions and unquestioned, generally religious, authorities and overarching frameworks of meaning of the past, thereby demonstrating a fundamental shift in epistemology (e.g. in line with the secularization of authority as observed in the WVS, as well as with, for example, the analysis in chapter two of the transition in the Enlightenment from a worldview based on an ‘ontic order of meaning’ to a self-constructed order of meaning, or in Taylor’s (1989) terms a ‘procedural rationality’). Moreover, the Enlightenment entailed a revision of the historical understanding of the present: while the understanding of time and history in the Christian middle ages and Renaissance was shaped by the expectation of the imminent end of the world, the more secular Enlightenment presupposes that history will unfold into an open, possibly limitless future (Edgar, 2008b).

Another central concept frequently used to describe modernity is rationalization—that is, the organization of social and economic life according to 85 Interesting in this context is that while studies have found a negative relation between Christian beliefs and pro-environmental attitudes, this relation is often small and may be due to political and moral conservatism rather than religion itself (Wardekker et al., 2009).

Schultz et al (2000) found that respondents expressing more literal beliefs in the Bible scored lower on ecocentric environmental concerns, but higher on anthropocentric environmental concerns.

254 the most instrumentally efficient means of achieving certain goals, and on the basis of technical knowledge (Giddens, 2009), as also articulated in chapter two.

Max Weber used the term disenchantment to describe the way in which scientific thinking and rationalization had swept away the forces of sentimentality, superstition, and given orders of meaning from the past (C. Taylor, 1989).

One can see several of these typically ‘modern’ themes back in the modern worldview-factors of Secular materialism and Focus on money, as well as in the Technological optimism-factor they tend to correlate with: from the affirmation of science and technology (‘Science is the only source of trustworthy knowledge,’ ‘Through the development of science and technology, environmental problems will be solved by themselves’), the focus on and celebration of the individual (‘The most important thing in my life is that I enjoy myself and am happy myself,’ ‘I believe the human being is by nature, that is to say in his core, good,’ ‘Everybody needs to take care of oneself and stand up for oneself’), the break with imposed frameworks of meaning (‘The suffering that happens to people does not have any meaning’), the dualism between body and mind (‘I don’t think body and mind are closely connected’), the instrumentalization of nature (‘Nature has value only because the human being is able to use and enjoy her,’ ‘By mastering nature, the human being can find freedom’) and the emphasis on economic rationality (‘The more money I can spend, the higher the quality of my life,’ ‘In these economically difficult times, environmental requirements should not become obstacles to economic growth.’) The concept of a postmodern worldview is complex and somewhat ambiguous, especially as the terms ‘postmodern’ and ‘postmodernism’ generally are used to refer to three different but related phenomena: postmodern art and culture, postmodern theory, and the postmodern historical situation or era (see e.g. Bentz & Shapiro, 1998; Bertens & Natoli, 2002; Butler, 2002). What these three different phenomena have in common is the centrality of the idea that there is no ‘objective reality’ to represent or an independent (Cartesian) self to express, thereby rejecting modernity’s realist epistemology and the Enlightenment project built upon it (Butler, 2002). This tends to be accompanied by an emphasis on other modes of knowing—including moral, emotional, intuitive, and artistic ones—and other logics than purely rational ones. In this view, knowledge is not simply representing reality, but 255 ‘constructing’ it, thereby reflecting the temporary power of social classes, ethnic groups, and genders in a struggle over the definition and constitution of reality.

The liberation and emancipation of repressed and marginalized ‘others’ (e.g.



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