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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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In my eyes, the greater complexity and comprehensiveness that in certain respects can be said to be visible in the evolution of worldviews is—just like the expansion and increasing sophistication of many of our scientific understandings—possible only because the newly emerging worldviews are ‘standing on the shoulders of the giants’ before them. The integrative worldview would not have been possible without the accomplishments and insights of the postmodern worldview, while the postmodern worldview would not have been possible without the accomplishments and insights of the modern worldview— and so on. Also Inglehart and Welzel (2005) emphasize, on the basis of the WVS 289 data, that cultural development largely manifests as intergenerational value shifts (and through intergenerational population replacement), and needs to be

understood in the context of the circumstances individuals grew up in:

To a large extent, culture is transmitted from one generation to the next.

But people’s basic values reflect not only what they are taught, but also their firsthand experiences. During the past half century, socioeconomic development has been changing people’s formative experiences profoundly and with unprecedented speed. Economic growth, rising levels of education and information, and diversifying human interactions increase people’s material, cognitive, and social resources, making them materially, intellectually, and socially more independent. Rising levels of existential security and autonomy change people’s firsthand experiences fundamentally, leading them to emphasize goals that were previously given lower priority, including the pursuit of freedom (p. 2).

According to this perspective, emergent worldviews thus truly ‘stand on the shoulders of the giants’ before them. As sociologists tend to stress, the modern worldview arose as a response to the limitations and pressing confinement of more traditional lifestyles and worldviews, thereby generally supporting a break away from more dogmatic interpretations of (religious) life and one’s role in society (e.g. Edgar, 2008b; Giddens, 2009). As argued in chapter two, the revolution in thinking that coincided with the coinage of the concept of Weltanschauung by Kant, can be understood as a transition from an ontically imposed order to a self-created order. By demystifying (or, in the words of Weber, ‘disenchanting’) the cosmos as a setter of ends and understanding it mechanistically and functionally as a domain of possible means, humans gained in independence (1989, pp. 192-193). Thus, the modern worldview, while on the one hand building forth on the achievements of the traditional worldview, also goes beyond it, in an attempt to overcome some of its greatest limitations.

The postmodern worldview should be understood in a similar fashion.

While the disenchantment of the world and the individuated self brought a new freedom and independence, and many new possibilities and victories that the 290 Romantics and postmoderns alike are deeply indebted to and a product of, they in their turn emphasized the ways this disengaged reason alienated humans from the larger nature (due to the sharp dualism between humanity and nature, subject and object that it created), as well as from other sources of knowing, such as moral, emotional, spiritual, and imaginative participation in nature (Tarnas, 1991; C. Taylor, 1989). In many ways, the postmodern worldview, while building forth on many of the modern worldview’s achievements, is thus also particularly critical of modernity’s shortcomings, and attempts to formulate answers to its most significant problems.105 In a similar fashion, the integrative worldview may be understood to build forth on the postmodern worldview’s most important achievements and insights, such as its emphasis on a plurality of perspectives and different modes of knowing, its post-material values and concerns, and the liberation and emancipation that can be gained through exposing the constructed nature and power interests informing modernity’s overarching meta-narratives, notably that of ‘science’ and of ‘ progress.’ Simultaneously, the integrative worldview appears to attempt to respond to the postmodern worldview’s most poignant shortcomings—such as its nihilism, hyperrelativism (or even anti-realism), lack of overarching frameworks, fragmentation, and its opposition to modernity—and overcome its limitations in an attempt to formulate more adequate answers to the problems of our time, as I 105 It seems that worldviews are often particularly critical towards their directly preceding worldview (e.g. the postmodern towards the modern worldview, the modern towards the traditional worldview, and the integrative towards the postmodern worldview), possibly because it is their predecessor’s limitations and challenges that they primarily respond too and need to overcome. This may result in them going ‘too far’ in jettisoning elements of their predecessor(s), creating the polarizations and paradigm wars that are so characteristic of our contemporary cultural landscape. This is where, perhaps, the distinction between enduring and transitional elements of worldviews as suggested by Wilber (2000) is useful. Enduring structures are the elements of a worldview that, upon their emergence, persist in the developmental process, despite being subsumed and synthesized by a later worldview.





Conversely, transitional structures are the worldview-elements that are phase-specific and thus are largely negated and replaced by later, subsequent structures in the developmental

trajectory of emergent worldviews. Van Haaften (1997a) speaks of ‘inclusion’ in this context:

“what is characteristic of the new stage comprises what is characteristic of the prior one, in such a way that what is characteristic of the former stage is retained but changed by its being integrated in the new stage” (p. 23).

291 have argued at different points in this dissertation (e.g. in section 8.2.2, see also Benedikter & Molz, 2011; Wilber, 2000).

Viewing the dialectical development of worldviews in this fashion, acknowledging how profoundly worldviews build forth on—and are thus indebted to—the worldviews before them, while simultaneously generating both their own potentials and pitfalls, lays the basis for a compassionate understanding of the different worldview-structures. As Kegan (1982) has argued, such “a developmental perspective naturally equips one to see the present in the context both of its antecedents and potential future, so that every phenomenon gets looked at not only in terms of its limits but its strengths” (p.

30). Moreover, as De Mul and Korthals (1997) argued, potentially, developmental theories, rather than being negatively disciplinary and oppressive, can be seen as “a means of liberation” (p. 254), helping to reveal the general underlying paths of development through which individuals, in their unique ways, move towards the fulfillment of their potentials, generally leading to greater awareness, internal freedom, overall well-being, and an ability to cope with the complexities of life in the twenty-first century (see e.g. Cook-Greuter, 1999; Cook-Greuter, 2000; Kegan, 1982, 1994).

9.1.3 Relationship between individual and collective worldviews Another important consideration is the relationship between individual and collective worldviews and development. In this dissertation, I have primarily investigated worldviews as they manifest collectively. That is, I have used different methods and approaches—from an exploration in the history of ideas (chapter 2), a quantitative representative survey (chapter 4), to interview studies (chapters 5 and 7)—which all focus on the common patterns as found in collectively held worldviews.

However, as multiple theorists have argued, the intersubjective or collective (cultural) worldview-structures can be correlated with and should be understood in direct relation to the subjective (psychological) structures of the individual. For example, Jürgen Habermas (1976) has drawn explicit homologies between collective socio-cultural evolution (phylogeny) and individual, psychological development (ontogeny). He observed that various stages of individual development undergird historical-structural transformations 292 in the social domain (e.g., in moral, legal, and political systems). Also Ken Wilber (2000) has forged a detailed synthesis of the major developmental psychological and cultural trajectories. Both these theorists have emphasized the dialectical-developmental logic that seems to underpin these individual and collective structures of understanding and enacting reality, and both emphasize

the centrality of the insights of the Neo-Piagetian developmentalstructuralists.106 In the words of Habermas (1976):

–  –  –

106 Both Wilber’s and Habermas’ theory of cultural development is thus primarily grounded in the work of the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget (1896-1980) and his followers. In the wake of the early pioneers in the field of psychology, Piaget employed empirical methods to observe and code the patterning of diverse capacities for thought and action, observed as human beings develop from infancy to adulthood. In this way, he rationally reconstructed the conditions for the possibility of various cognitive skills, and designated several stages that he saw as fundamental epistemological structures through which aspects of the world are cognized and disclosed. Over the course of his career, Piaget amassed a copious body of evidence for his developmental theory—known as genetic epistemology (referring to the origins or genesis of knowledge, not genetics in the biological sense of genes)—essentially pioneering the field of developmental-structuralism and inspiring many researchers to further probe, test, and expand on his model. This neo-Piagetian stream of developmental-structuralism has subjected Piaget’s model to careful scrutiny, and the model has stood the tests of time and demonstrated both its scientific validity and cross-cultural universality (Gardiner & Kosmitzki, 2004). Moreover, researchers in the neo-Piagetian tradition have found evidence for cognitive development beyond the level of formal (abstract, rational) operations—that is, various levels of post-formal (systemic, dialectical) thinking (Commons, Richards, & Armon, 1984; Kegan, 1994; Rose & Fischer, 2009). Additionally, various researchers have used a broadly Piagetian developmental-structural approach to delineate stage models in a number of domains or lines such as cognition (Commons et al., 1984; Rose & Fischer, 2009), consciousness (Kegan, 1982, 1994, 2001), ego-identity (Cook-Greuter, 1999, 2000, 2002;

Loevinger, 1977, 1987), and morality (Kohlberg, 1984). Thus, from a summative point of view, developmental-structural psychology demonstrates that individual development is characterized by discrete, invariant, and hierarchically structured stages in domains such as cognition, ego-identity, and moral reasoning that must be navigated in the process of learning.

293 evolution of moral and legal representations. The ontogenetic models are certainly better analyzed and corroborated than their social-evolutionary counterparts. But it should not surprise us that there are homologous structures of consciousness in the history of the species, if we consider that linguistically established intersubjectivity of understanding marks that innovation in the history of the species which first made possible the level of sociocultural learning. At this level, the reproduction of society and the socialization of its members are two aspects of the same process;

they are dependent on the same structures (p. 99).

In the context of future research it could therefore be fruitful to explore whether and in what ways the body of knowledge coming forth through a wide range of theories of individual psychological development could be used to advance our understanding of worldviews. In such studies, one could potentially inform and refine the IWF by tentatively using the pool of cross-cultural evidence in (neo-)Piagetian research, using their empirically grounded theorizing to disclose various aspects of each worldview. For example, models of cognitive development may be used to facilitate the disclosure of the epistemological aspect of worldviews (e.g., Rose & Fischer, 2009); Kohlberg’s (1984) model of moral development can potentially be used to undergird the further disclosure of the axiological aspect (see also Gilligan, 1982); while CookGreuter’s (1999, 2000) and Kegan’s (1982, 1994, 2001) models of human selfidentity may support the underpinnings of the anthropological aspect. The developmental trajectories described by these researchers may thus coincide with the ontological, epistemological, axiological, anthropological, and societal visionary aspects of each of the major worldviews, thus potentially facilitating the further analysis and portrayal of the major worldviews in the IWF.

However, this perspective poses the question whether there is a domain so fundamental that it constitutes the basis for all others. Even though in my understanding worldviews are fundamental, comprehensive, overarching structures, thereby potentially integrating multiple domains and dimensions of development, it is questionable—and in the context of this dissertation certainly not defendable—whether they constitute a basis for all others. Instead, as it is sometimes conceptualized, rather than seeing worldviews as the fundamental 294 basis for all the different domains and dimensions of human development, worldviews may have a synthesizing and coordinating role between these

different dimensions and domains. In the words of Korthals (1997):



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