«Annick Hedlund-de Witt Worldviews and the transformation to sustainable societies An exploration of the cultural and psychological dimensions of our ...»
A related problem concerns the question whether we can find one domain so fundamental that it constitutes the basis for all others. One might think here of a domain of worldviews, the (usually tradition-based and hence societal) ways individuals experience themselves in the surrounding world. Worldviews then would encompass all further analytically distinguishable domains and dimensions, such as morality and moral reasoning. For instance, Kohlberg has argued that his theory of hard structural stages of moral judgment concerns only one aspect of the (soft structural) development of worldviews. […] From a narrative point of view, the way people conceptualize themselves as members of the world (i.e., their worldview) is fundamental and influences the ways domains (and dimensions) are conceptualized. However, the various developmental dimensions can be reconstructed differently by different theorists. It is thus better to say, not that worldviews constitute some kind of “master dimension,” but that the coordination of the developmental dimensions in individuals or collectives is realized in their worldviews (Oser & Gmunder, 1991). (pp. 97-98) 9.1.4 Worldview-bias of the researcher Another point of concern could be the potential ‘worldview-bias’ in this research.
My research worldview as described in chapter one could be characterized as an integrative worldview, which has also been studied and portrayed in notably chapter seven. From a more conventional perspective on the philosophy and practice of science this could be seen as problematic, as this intimacy with the studied material (in this case, worldview) would be considered to deteriorate the necessary distance and therefore decrease the objectivity of the study. Although this indeed could be the case, from a more constructionist or pragmatist research-perspective, a certain worldview-bias is inevitable and the correct way to mitigate it is to engage in a reflexive process in which the bias is made explicit through articulating one’s basic assumptions or research worldview (see e.g.
295 Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011). Hedlund (2008) describes this as the necessary—and potentially transformative—process of ‘researching the researcher.’ In the research paradigm of integral research such first-person research is deemed essential for optimizing the research process (see e.g.
Esbjörn-Hargens, 2006; Esbjörn-Hargens & Wilber, 2006; Hedlund, 2008, 2010), and also for example Charles Taylor (1989) emphasizes the importance of such ‘radical reflexivity.’107 Moreover, especially when studying complex and sensitive human interiors that do not always readily disclose themselves—such as worldviews—intimacy with the studied material may be an advantage or even prerequisite for adequate disclosure (Tarnas, 2007). Most likely, this ‘worldview-bias’ will thus have had both positive and negative effects. On the one hand it has allowed me to potentially better understand and appreciate the deeper meanings and assumptions that interviewee’s were attempting to share with me, and I also may have more easily won their trust to do so (as most individuals experience it to be easier to disclose intimate aspects of themselves with like-minded others than with alien others). Simultaneously however, I may have been more inclined to ‘think to know’ what the interview-participants intended to say, while in fact re-interpreting statements through my own frame of assumptions, or be tempted to view their disclosures too positively and uncritically. I have attempted to mitigate these potential negative biases in the following ways: 1) I have explicated my own research worldview and assumptions; 2) I have audio-recorded, verbatim transcribed, and memberchecked every single interview conducted; 3) throughout the results of chapters five and seven I use interview-quotations abundantly in order to allow the voice of the interviewee’s self to come through; 4) I have checked my interpretations of the interviews (e.g. as embodied in the results-sections of chapters six and seven) with multiple interview-participants from both studies, explicitly inviting them to correct any misinterpretations, missing themes, et cetera; 5) particularly in chapter seven I have attempted to include different, generally critical
9.1.5 Focus on certain worldviews at the expense of others Since the notion of worldview frequently invokes a global perspective on diverging, cultural worldviews, it is important to note that the sphere of research is limited to the West, both in the actual data-collection (which took place in both the Netherlands and North-America) as well as in the theoretical frameworks that I have primarily relied on. The theoretical frame and understanding of traditional, modern, and postmodern worldviews clearly takes modernity as reference point, and could thereby be argued to be ‘Eurocentric.’ However, it would be hard to argue that our contemporary world is not primarily influenced by, and thus has to be understood in terms of, modernity (see e.g. Giddens, 2009; C. Taylor, 1989). Moreover, as the results of the WVS demonstrate, these ‘Western’ societal and worldview-dynamics appear to be not only significant for the postindustrial(izing) world in Europe and Northern America, but also for the direction of (worldview-)development they may indicate for many economically quickly advancing societies in the rest of the world (Hallman et al., 2008; Inglehart & Welzel, 2005). Nonetheless, the insights and heuristic framework as presently developed need further testing and refinement in non-Western countries and cultures, and will likely need to be adapted in light of the insights emerging in these contexts.
Additionally, in general this dissertation focuses in more detail on the postmodern and newly emerging integrative worldviews than on the modern and traditional worldviews. This is so, because I was interested in the worldviews that appeared to have the greatest potential in terms of initiating and supporting social-cultural change in the direction of more sustainable societies. However, some authors debate the relevance of selective groups as the ones studied in chapters five, six, and seven. The low generalizability of the results is then argued to be a major limitation. In response to this criticism, qualitative and ethnographic researchers (e.g. Charmaz, 2006; Creswell, 1998; Seidman, 2006;
Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998) argue that the aim of such research is not to sketch 297 a picture that is generalizable towards the larger population, but to generate indepth insight into, and rich descriptive detail of, the views of particular groups— in this case worldviews that have considerable potential for goals and issues of sustainable development. Through these studies, different sustainable potentials and pathways are highlighted and investigated—notably the three pathways to a sense of environmental responsibility in chapter five, the sustainable potentials as articulated in chapter six, and the ‘sustainable social imaginary’ in chapter seven. However, a focus on these worldviews is not meant to suggest that this is the worldview other individuals should aspire to. Rather, as explicated in chapter eight, insight in the differences between worldviews can empower one to become more reflexive of one’s own worldview-position (that is, enhance one’s cultural and psychological self-reflexivity) as well as of the assumptions undergirding the policies and solutions one is advocating (that is, enhance one’s policy-reflexivity). Moreover, such insight will also facilitate a deeper—and thereby hopefully more empathic—understanding of the positions of other individuals and organizations, as well as of larger worldview-dynamics operating in society.
9.1.6 Heuristic approach An important consideration is the heuristic nature of the IWF. Of course, there are well-known dangers attached to the use of ideal-typical, heuristic approaches, not the least of which is that of tautology (see e.g. Michael, 2002).
Heuristic approaches have advantages as well as disadvantages. They “guide or impel us in certain directions. By doing so they tend to divert our attention from information beyond the channels they cleave, and so choke off possibilities” (Saler, in B. Taylor, 2010, p. 2). However, while heuristics might lead us to ignore or oversee important phenomena or dynamics, they simultaneously help us to focus analytic attention and yield insight. Such an approach therefore allows for the crystallization of each worldview, as well as synthesis with existing (inter)disciplinary empirical and theoretical research into worldviews. Especially in the context of attempting to understand a phenomenon as multifaceted, farreaching, and intangible as worldviews, I consider the use of such a heuristic framework to be well justified. In this dissertation, I iteratively develop a new worldview-theory and heuristic, using a ‘grounded theory’ approach (see e.g.
298 Charmaz, 2006). That is, I started with laying the conceptual foundation for this theory or framework, basing myself on an extensive exploration of the concept of worldview as understood by philosophers throughout the ages in chapter two.
Subsequently I both expanded on and evolved this framework, in interaction and confrontation both with other worldview-approaches and measures (chapter three), empirical, representative quantitative data generated in the Netherlands (chapter four), the sociological literature (chapter six), and interview-studies with selected individuals in both North-America and the Netherlands (chapters five and seven). Additionally, the three main worldview-structures as embodied in the five factors as found in chapter four—that is, a more traditional, modern, and postmodern worldview—were generated on the basis of a factor-analysis (grounded theory style) and thus not a priori introduced or theoretically imposed. That is, the Likert-type items for the survey were developed using the five different worldview-aspects (ontology, epistemology, et cetera) as heuristic in order to structure this enterprise, while the notion of a traditional, modern, and postmodern worldview was not used at this point (see section 4.3.2). It is therefore noteworthy that these three worldview-structures—however partially portrayed—emerged from the factor-analysis despite that these worldviews were not introduced at this point. Moreover, their resonance with many conceptual and empirical understandings in notably philosophy and sociology is striking, as I argue particularly in section 8.2.1. Nonetheless, further research empirically verifying and refining the general contours of the IWF is of utmost importance in this stage of theory-development.
9.1.7 Worldviews emerging from the survey There are several limitations with respect to the survey of chapter four. This survey was partially a response to the generally much more narrowly focused existing measures as discussed in chapter three (e.g. the New Environmental Paradigm). The results of the survey show that a more comprehensive and systematic worldview-approach as supported with the five aspects of the IWF is useful, and that environmental attitudes and sustainable behaviors indeed can be understood in terms of larger, social-cultural worldview-dynamics in society.
However, the survey-results simultaneously show that an even more comprehensive approach is asked for. This becomes particularly clear when 299 reflecting on the different worldview-structures as emerging through the factoranalysis. The understanding of notably the traditional and the modern worldviews appears to be partial and sketchy: somewhat limited insight is gained in what these worldview-structures consist of in a more wide-ranging sense.
Both in-depth ethnographic studies as well as more comprehensive surveyresearch into particularly these worldviews would be useful. The different worldview-structures as described in table 14 could be used as heuristic for developing survey-research that aspires to consistently map and portray the different worldview-structures existing in the contemporary West (and beyond).
Moreover, such surveys should explicitly explore and probe for the sustainable potentials of each worldview. Currently, unfortunately, the results seem to indicate considerable sustainable potentials for certain worldviews, while depicting fairly unsustainable attitudes and behaviors across the board for others. Perhaps, such a more comprehensive approach would reveal sustainable potentials that have now been overlooked due to the way the behavioral questions were formulated.
It is also unclear to what extent the Inner growth factor as emerging from the data-analysis presented in chapter four can be adequately understood as ‘postmodern.’ This factor is clearly ‘post-material’ in its understanding of reality and its basic value-orientations, and is in that sense unmistakably associated with a postmodern worldview-structure. At the same time, however, many statements that characterize this factor articulate a notion of development (albeit personal rather than historical or social) as central to its ontology and axiology, and in addition reflect the kind of ‘both/and attitude’ that appears to be characteristic for the integrative worldview (see e.g. Cook-Greuter, 1999; CookGreuter, 2000; Kegan, 1982, 1994). Future research should therefore test and substantiate (or reject) the qualitative differences between a more postmodern and integrative worldview, for example using the continuities and differences between these two worldviews as discussed in section 8.2.2. Overall, it thus seems opportune to develop a survey that comprehensively and systematically uses the four ideal-typical worldviews and the five worldview-aspects to explore, refine, and test our insights with respect to these major worldview-structures (as summarized in table 14) and their interface with goals and issues of sustainable development.
9.2 Conclusions: An overview of outcomes After having discussed the most salient theoretical and methodological limitations and considerations of this study, I will now revisit, and attempt to answer, the five research questions as formulated in the introduction. In this I will build forth on the expanded articulation and understanding of the IWF as presented in chapter eight, in which I reflected on my results as generated through the studies of chapters four, five, six, and seven, and synthesized it with research and theoretical perspectives from notably sociology and developmental
psychology. The five research questions were formulated as follows: