«Annick Hedlund-de Witt Worldviews and the transformation to sustainable societies An exploration of the cultural and psychological dimensions of our ...»
women, minorities, nature) appears to be a central cause of the postmodern movement and worldview (Hacking, 1999). Postmodernism is therefore also characterized by the acceptance of difference and the celebration of heterogeneity and pluralism. Moreover, several authors (e.g. Benedikter & Molz, 2011; Butler, 2002; Inglehart, 1997; Inglehart & Welzel, 2005; Tarnas, 1991; Wilber, 1995) have linked the philosophical and intellectual orientations of the postmodern intelligentsia with the wide-spread emergence of values and orientations that reflect a similar commitment to relativism, pluralism, diversity, other forms of knowing, a generally critical attitude towards the modern, Western worldview (e.g. the notion of progress, science and technology), and an emphasis on emancipation of marginalized groups as coming to expression in the new social movements of the post-sixties era (e.g. multiculturalism, gay rights, peace, environmentalism, anti-nuclear activism, animal welfare). These orientations are also understood as giving expression to the rise of ‘postmaterialist’ or ‘self-expression’ values (Inglehart, 1990, 1997, 2008). Thus, when referring to a postmodern worldview, I am speaking in a broad and generic way to a worldview that appears to be associated with a more widespread, popular understanding of the philosophical ideas of the literary, artistic, and academic postmodern movements.
256 categories and duality of self and world, and humanity and nature that the postmodern worldview tends to be critical of. The statement “The world can only be changed by first changing oneself within” appears to refer to the idealism and internalization that many authors have found to be characteristic for the postmodern worldview (see e.g. Campbell, 2010). This postmodern worldview also appears to come to expression in the commitment to pro-environmental attitudes and sustainable lifestyles that the Inner growth and Contemporary spirituality factors tend to be correlated with. However, while both these factors seem to display a postmodern worldview, in certain respects they may also understood to be signifying the transition between the postmodern and integrative worldview. I will now discuss how I conceptualize that transition and clarify the continuities as well as differences between these two worldviews, based on both observations of others as well as on my own data.
8.2.2 An emerging integrative worldview: Dialectical development?
In this section, I argue 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. As I will argue below, some authors identify contemporary spirituality as corresponding to the postmodern worldview, while others emphasize its integrative tendencies and/or potential. It appears, as I have demonstrated in chapter six, that this cultural movement manifests in distinct ways, that is, in more ‘de-differentiative’ and more integrative strands. Perhaps the complex dynamics manifesting in the culture of contemporary spirituality can be understood as demonstrating the dialectical developmental process. As Habermas (1976) emphasized in his perspective of the ‘dialectic of progress,’ every new worldview and social formation is a response to the problems, limitations, and challenges of its time, and in particular the problems and limitations of its preceding worldview. In this understanding, worldviews thus profoundly build forth on—and are thus indebted too—the worldviews before them, while simultaneously overcoming some of their predecessors greatest limitations, in that process generating their own shortcomings and pitfalls. The culture of contemporary spirituality could thus potentially be interpreted as evolving in its responses to the challenges it is confronted with, resulting in a 257 gradual—and likely fairly messy and complex—process of transitioning from one worldview to another.
In addition to for example Inglehart, who observed the emergence of flexible forms of spirituality and spiritual concerns in postmodern societies (Inglehart, 1997; Inglehart & Welzel, 2005), Campbell (2010) describes the contemporary spiritual and postmodern movements as corresponding responses to
Modernity. In his words:
Highlighting their similarities, Campbell points at their common origin in the counter-cultural youth movement of the1960’s, their apocalyptic mood proclaiming the advent of a new historical period, and their criticism of modernity: “Both reject the idea of historical progress, faith in science and technology, materialism, empiricism, determinism, rationalism, and reductionism. In addition, both reject virtually all dualities, especially that of subject-object and mankind-nature” (p. 10). Their scientific positions can be characterized by “a break with Newtonian determinism, Cartesian dualism, and representational epistemology” (Steven Best, in Campbell, 2010, p.14).
Moreover, according to Campbell, both tend to be critical of Western values and the Western worldview more generally, and emphasize the rights and merits of other cultures and other ways of being, “celebrating difference, along 87 Although Campbell (2010) does not clearly define the postmodern movement he analyzes, his descriptions generally resonate with the definition of a postmodern worldview as outlined in section 8.2.1. However, from his descriptions it may be concluded that he is using a slightly more narrow definition than I do, referring principally to the (philosophical) ideas of the literary, artistic, and academic postmodern movements, while to a somewhat lesser extent referring to the more widespread, popular understanding of such ideas, for example those associated with the emergence of post-material and self-expression values as observed in the World Values Survey.
258 with particularity, diversity, variety, plurality, and uniqueness” (p.10). Although both are eclectic in their styles, in the postmodern movement this primarily tends to manifest conceptually and intellectually, while in the New Age it tends to be of a more spiritual nature. Additionally, both movements show concerns with issues of identity and tend to locate the causes of socio-economic and political problems in interiors and (inter)subjectivity, thus seeing (social) change as resulting from a change in consciousness (New Age) or a change in discourse (postmodern). Socio-politically, they can both be characterized by idealism, humanism, and ethical and political relativism (Campbell, 2010). Even the apparent distinction in ontology between the two movements (e.g. antiessentialism versus foundationalism), reveals, according to Campbell (2010),
important similarities in worldview:
In the […] context of most postmodernist debates there is a fierce rejection of `essentialism’ and `foundationalism’ or the idea that there might be a reality independent of such linguistic `construction’. This would appear to mark a major difference with the New Age position since this is most obviously foundationalist in the sense that there is a belief in an underlying reality—in this case an essentially spiritual reality—that is independent of all language and culture. However what is crucial is that New Agers also believe that the reality of what is taken to be the everyday world is largely a cultural `construct’ that serves to imprison and restrain people, thereby preventing them from becoming their `true selves’. Hence they too believe that this imposed and `false’ reality can be `deconstructed’ and consequently emphasize the role that changes in attitudes and beliefs, as well as in the use of language, can play in achieving this goal (p. 21).
Thus, according to Campbell, the postmodern and contemporary spiritual worldviews are in many ways closely related phenomena.
Simultaneously, Campbell argues that the culture of contemporary spirituality has tended to follow its ideas through in their logical conclusions, resulting in metaphysics of a (generally immanent and all-pervasive) spirituality reality, while the postmodern movement has not (generally characterized by an antiessentialism and even nihilism).88 For Campbell, the contemporary spiritual worldview thus appears to be a subsequent step in the process of cultural change (he also refers to the postmodern worldview as an ‘arrested’ form of the New Age), thereby suggesting that in a process of dialectically developing worldviews the contemporary spiritual worldview might be a later development, subsequent, and perhaps in response to, the postmodern worldview. Perhaps another way of understanding this is that while the postmodern worldview has tended to emphasize the process of deconstruction (e.g. Butler, 2002; Hacking, 1999), the contemporary spiritual impulse has been focussed on the re-construction of worldview following in its wake. Also for example political scientist Liftin (2009) describes the contemporary, spiritually inspired, global eco-village movement as a form of ‘constructive postmodernism’ (see also Griffin, 1992; Wilber, 2000). In the interview-studies in chapter seven I also observed that participants explicitly reflected on this process of the (de- and) reconstruction of their worldviews.
However, while Campbell discusses the New Age as a somewhat coherent whole, in my own data (as well as in much of the sociological literature, as discussed in chapter six) important distinctions can be observed in different expressions of contemporary spirituality, which may actually indicate differences in worldview. In fact, the culture of contemporary spirituality may be most accurately understood to envelop (notably, but not exclusively) both postmodern and integrative worldviews—that is, there appear to be more postmodern and more integrative strands within the culture of contemporary spirituality. The 88 In Campbell’s words (2010): “Postmodernity can be seen as the New Age worldview shorn of its underlying metaphysics. This would then account for the fact that many postmodern writers, although extremely critical of modernist orthodoxy, are unable to offer any coherent alternative in its place. […] In addition, in the absence of any metaphysical underpinning, the postmodernist stance tends to be `playful’ or `ironic’, lacking that serious commitment evident in the New Age movement. In this sense postmodernism can be seen as an `arrested' form of the New Age worldview, one that has not followed the logic of the rationalisation of contemporary cultural development through to its natural conclusion. […] But then, given that the New Age movement is a genuinely widespread and large-scale socio-cultural movement, while postmodernity, even when viewed as a sub-culture, is largely confined to a relatively small number of academics and intellectuals, it does seem appropriate to see the latter as part of the former. In other words, the foregoing analysis leads to the conclusion […] that the post-modern movement itself should be understood as an aspect of the New Age movement” (p. 22).
260 emergence of the integrative worldview can potentially be understood as a response to some of the shortcomings or pitfalls of the culture of contemporary spirituality as observed in chapter six, such as its potential irrationalism, the lack of adequate integration of modern achievements (e.g. science and technology), and, related to that, its sometimes ‘too counter-cultural’ or ‘too socially deviant’ profile, which appears to marginalize its impact. That is, while Campbell has argued that contemporary spirituality and postmodernism “both reject the idea of historical progress, faith in science and technology, materialism, empiricism, determinism, rationalism, and reductionism,” the integrative worldview, as described in notably chapter seven clearly distinguishes itself from this profile.
This comes to expression in the aspiration to “reconcile spirituality and rationality, transcendence and secularism, as well as ‘realism’ and ‘nominalism” (Benedikter & Molz, 2011, p. 19; see also Esbjörn-Hargens & Wilber, 2006). 89 Thus, it appears that while there are strands of contemporary spirituality that reject the idea of historical progress, faith in science and technology, materialism, and empiricism (and thus can perhaps be seen as a more postmodern strand of contemporary spirituality), there are also strands that explicitly attempt at an integration of certain key insights and achievements of modernity (such as aspects of science, a wise and reflexive use of technology, the notion of development) with more spiritually inspired insights and assumptions—and thus can perhaps be seen as a more integrative strand of contemporary spirituality.
In the interview-data reported in chapter seven this becomes particularly clear in an epistemology emphasizing the integration of multiple modes of knowing, including science and spirituality, rather than the prioritization of one over the other.90 This attempt also comes to expression in the 89 Similarly, Hanegraaff (1996) has emphasized that within contemporary spirituality there tends to be a belief “that there is a ‘third option’ which rejects neither religion and spirituality nor science and rationality, but combines them in a higher synthesis,” attempting to formulate answers to the limitations of both faith and reason (p. 517). And as multiple other scholars (Dawson, 1998; Heelas, 1996; B. Taylor, 2010) have argued, contemporary spirituality tends to be compatible with science, as well as being highly congenial with the ethos of contemporary society and the new social order emerging around us.