«Annick Hedlund-de Witt Worldviews and the transformation to sustainable societies An exploration of the cultural and psychological dimensions of our ...»
However, while I feel that the IWF holds the potential to empower individuals and organizations to work with the crucial but oft-overlooked interior realities of worldviews and their complex interrelations more effectively, the IWF is explicitly intended as a tentative, orienting heuristic that can advance our investigation and understanding of worldviews and their dynamics, rather than as a rigid or reified model with which to categorize and label people, stakeholders, or organizations. Indeed, the real-world empirical terrain of our contemporary social landscape is highly complex and messy, and is not readily disclosed in a comprehensive manner by any conceptual framework. Rather than aiming to fully describe, explain, or predict this complexity, the IWF aspires to highlight its most salient patterns— helping one to navigate it. As the saying goes, ‘the map is not the territory.’ Moreover, although I emphasize (an understanding of) worldviews as a critically important element in any sustainability or climate change policy, strategy, and communication, I am aware that other dimensions of reality—behavioral, political, institutional, socio-economic, et cetera—deserve equal consideration.
To be sure, further research into the IWF is needed, both with respect to the framework itself as well as with respect to its concrete application in various contexts. Further empirical investigation and validation of the different worldview-aspects (e.g. ontology, epistemology, axiology) and their interrelationships are needed. For example, the extent to which the various aspects of each worldview (notably as disclosed through the different developmental trajectories described by developmental-structuralism, as displayed in figure 2) tend to ‘hang together’ or correlate within individuals or stakeholder groups remains to be empirically explored in a robust manner.
Furthermore, the development of a rigorous psychometric tool or survey (thereby building forth on some of the experiences and insights as generated in notably chapter four) that can obtain high degrees of validity and reliability is crucial for the further theoretical development of the IWF. In addition, there are many domains of further research that the IWF could fruitfully be applied in as an orienting heuristic. For example, the framework could be applied to explore 282 the scientific, public, and policy debates around climate change, using the IWF as a heuristic for analyzing and understanding the various voices and positions in these debates with a greater degree of nuance and depth. Such research projects will likely expose areas in the IWF that are in need of further theoretical development, leading to its refinement, augmenting the framework in an iterative manner, and demonstrating how and in which contexts it can be best applied.
Despite the aforementioned complexities and the arduous work of successfully applying the IWF within the contemporary context of disagreement and gridlock, I hope that this heuristic framework contributes to fostering greater self-reflexivity among policy-makers and communicators, greater understanding of the intricate dynamics within and between worldviews, and constructive communication and cooperation across various worldviewperspectives in service of sustainability and climate solutions.
283 284 Chapter 9Discussion, conclusions, future perspectives
So here we are. We need, in the next twenty-five years or so, to do something never done before. We need to consciously redesign the entire material basis of our civilization. The model we replace it with must be dramatically more ecologically sustainable, offer large increases in prosperity for everyone on the planet, and not only function in areas of chaos and corruption, but also help transform them. That alone is a task of heroic magnitude, but there’s an additional complication: we only get one shot. Change takes time, and time is what we don’t have. […]. Fail to act boldly enough and we may fail completely.
- Alex Steffen101 When it comes to the future, our task is not to foresee it, but rather to enable it to happen.
- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry102 101 In: Worldchanging: A Users Guide for the 21st Century (2006).
102 In: The Little Prince (1943).
9.1 Discussion: Concerns and recommendations for further research The approach taken in this study is interdisciplinary and integrative: theories from sociology, different strands of (and schools within) psychology, cultural studies, philosophy, and political science have been combined in an innovative manner. Although, in my eyes, such an approach is necessary for answering the complex research questions that have been asked, it also presents some challenges to the research design and analysis. The combination of macro level theories describing larger, socio-cultural changes in worldviews over time and contemporary, individual views, environmental attitudes, and sustainable lifestyles, required different time scales and paradigms of analysis. The combination of qualitative and quantitative methods added a further level of complexity. I will therefore now address the most salient considerations with respect to this dissertation as a whole: 1) the use of different theoretical and paradigmatic perspectives; 2) the use of a developmental perspective; 3) the relationship between individual and collective worldviews; 4) the worldview-bias of the researcher; 5) the use of a heuristic approach; 6) the choice to focus on certain worldviews at the expense of others; 7) the worldview-structures emerging from the survey.
9.2.1 Different theoretical and paradigmatic perspectives The usage of different theoretical perspectives (e.g. positive psychology, environmental psychology, history of ideas, sociology of the New Age, et cetera), and how these are related to each other deserves attention. As explained in the first chapter, the mixed methods research design that I use allows for eclecticism and pluralism, and is based on the idea that different—even conflicting— perspectives and theories are potentially useful in the research process (see e.g.
Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011; R. B. Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004;
Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998). I have thus chosen not to limit my theoretical approach to one theory, perspective, or even school of thought. In contrast, I have attempted to triangulate different theoretical perspectives and paradigms, guided by the conviction that a highly complex phenomenon like worldviews and its interface with goals and issues of sustainable development is more likely to be adequately understood through bringing together different theoretical and 286 disciplinary perspectives. An example of triangulation of theoretical perspectives is that of the role of integration and internalization as central to psychological development as emphasized by different schools of psychological thought including Self-Determination Theory (see e.g. Ryan, 1995; Ryan & Deci, 2000) and developmental-structuralism (see e.g. Cook-Greuter, 1999; Cook-Greuter, 2000; Kegan, 1982; Mc Adams, 1994). Moreover, Charles Taylor (1989), exploring the larger, historical and socio-cultural dimensions of evolving worldviews in the West (and whom I heavily rely on in notably chapter two and four), also emphasizes internalization as the central principle driving the ‘making of the modern identity.’103 Another example of this kind of coherence between different theoretical perspectives can be found in section 1.2.2, where I discuss the ways in which environmental psychology, positive psychology, and constructivist developmental psychology are compatible in terms of basic assumptions, understanding of human nature, and major concerns. To this can be added, as for example Marshall (2009) has argued, that Inglehart and Welzel’s (in this dissertation frequently invoked) revised modernization theory is based in a Maslowian understanding of human nature, and thus compatible with both positive and constructivist developmental psychology. Thus, despite the diverse range of theoretical perspectives used in this dissertation, a substantial coherence between them can be discerned. This coherence can at least partially be ascribed to a choice of theories and perspectives that invoke a notion of human development, a choice that I will discuss in more detail below.
103 In Taylor’s (1989) own words: “I have been following one strand of the internalization which has gone into making the modern identity. This took me from Plato through the inward turn of Augustine to the new stance of disengagement which Descartes inaugurates and Locke intensifies. To follow this development is to trace the constitution of one facet of the modern self. […] So we come to think that we ‘have’ selves as we have heads. But the very idea that we have or are ‘a self’, that human agency is essentially defined as ‘the self’, is a linguistic reflection of our modern understanding and the radical reflexivity it involves. […] To the extent that this form of self-exploration becomes central to our culture, another stance of radical reflexivity becomes of crucial importance to us alongside that of disengagement. It is different and in some ways antithetical to disengagement. Rather than objectifying our own nature and hence classifying it as irrelevant to our identity, it consists in exploring what we are in order to establish this identity, because the assumption behind modern selfexploration is that we don’t already know who we are” (pp. 177-178).
287 9.1.2 Use of a developmental perspective The developmental perspective and the idea of potential cultural evolution that is guiding the IWF and my understanding of worldview-dynamics in society is, of course, contentious. I concisely discuss the notion of development in chapter one (section 1.3.1), as well as some of its complexities and potential problems.
One of the risks of understanding the different worldviews and the dynamics between them in the context of a developmental perspective is that it may seem to suggest that one worldview is ‘better’ than another. As argued at several points in this dissertation, I explicitly warn against this interpretation. As I argue in section 1.3.1, development does not necessarily mean progress.
Moreover, I also emphasize the perspective of a ‘dialectic of progress,’ as articulated by Habermas (1976), that is, the idea that every worldview can be seen as both response to specific circumstances and challenges as well as bringing forth its own circumstances and challenges, its own potentials and pitfalls. This also implies that—even though the later stages of development tend to be associated with greater awareness, inner-directedness, freedom, and expanding care (P.
Marshall, 2009)—they are not univocally ‘better,’ morally or otherwise. Thus, despite the in my eyes warranted critiques of the notion of development, part and parcel of my understanding is a critical distancing from the ‘growth to goodness’ assumptions that have often plagued the discourse, and a concurrent differentiation between descriptive (or reconstructive) and normative (or evaluative) dimensions of development (see e.g. Stein, 2012; Van Haaften, 1997a, 1997b).104 In addition, I emphasize the different and to some extent complementary potentials of each worldview. For example, as Vonk (2011) has demonstrated, 104 As Van Haaften (1997a) argues: “… very often the term “development” is used evaluatively as well as descriptively. Theories of moral development, for example, usually take for granted that this process is a development for the good, that higher staged moral agents are in some sense “better” than they were at earlier stages. In such cases the implied development claim comprises two subclaims. It will always, minimally, contain a descriptive, or better, reconstructive claim, proposing some developmental pattern […]. Besides that, there is an evaluative claim, to the effect that the stages of that pattern are increasingly better in some respect.” However, “it should be clear that the reconstructive claim does not of itself imply any evaluation with regard to the reconstructed pattern” (p. 27). Of course, this does not mean that the ways stages are reconstructed by developmental theorists can claim to be free of their evaluative judgments, as, most likely, they will not.
288 traditional communities may adhere to and act from values such as community, stability, moderation, humility, and reflection, which in many cases encourage behavioral choices with a relatively low impact on the environment. Similarly, individuals and organizations with a more ideal-typically modern outlook may be inclined to support and invest in the needed scientific and technological advancement. Although both these worldviews tend to be less concerned with environmental issues per se (in comparison with more postmodern and integrative worldviews), the perspectives, views, and values that they tend to bring forth have important potentials in relation to sustainable development, which, in theory, can be strategically compelled to and synthesized with other sustainability solutions and perspectives. Also the work of Esbjörn-Hargens and Zimmerman (2009) is of interest in this context as they describe eight different ‘eco-selves’ (as a result of applying Susanne Cook-Greuter’s work on egodevelopment to ecological identities), which all have their own strengths and weaknesses: “They all have an environmental ethos appropriate to their worldview and the capacity to be ecologically destructive. One ecological self is not necessarily more environment friendly than another” (p. 227). Therefore, I argue for sustainability strategies that attempt to activate the potentials of each worldview, rather than attempt to change the worldviews of groups or individuals (in chapter eight this is referred to as a strategy of translation versus a strategy of transformation.) Lastly, I argue for a generally compassionate perspective in our attempts to understand differences in worldviews. Rather than interpreting one worldview to be ‘better’ than another one, worldviews should be understood in the context of their historical, cultural, and social-economic context and arising.