«Annick Hedlund-de Witt Worldviews and the transformation to sustainable societies An exploration of the cultural and psychological dimensions of our ...»
Because I aim to explore and describe this worldview ethnographically, I approach it with an exploratory and open approach, rather than departing from a narrowly defined understanding of what an integrative worldview is. Hereby I build forth on the broad definition as offered by Benedikter and Molz (2011, who use the term "neo-integrative") of a worldview that attempts “to reconcile spirituality with rationality, with the goal of building a more balanced worldview at the heart of Western civilization than the ones we have had so far.” I choose the label integrative over terms like integral and integrated, as this worldview appears to be characterized by a central aspiration and concern to integrate different (and what are frequently perceived as opposing or even mutually exclusive) aspects or domains of reality, rather than necessarily perfectly succeeding at this. In other words, the term integrative—in contrast with integral and integrated—explicates that this worldview is characterized by the aspiration to integrate rather than the achievement of doing so, while simultaneously conceptualizing the project and process of integration as a moving target that is potentially never fully finished or fulfilled (e.g.
Next to using the term integrative in the context of this newly emerging worldview, I also use the term in the context of describing my methodology, which I refer to as an ‘integrative, mixed methods’ approach. This approach, as will be described in detail in section 1.5, is associated with integrative research worldviews and philosophies (such as pragmatism, critical realism, integral theory), which explicitly attempt to integrate and synthesize (post)positivism and social constructivism, and quantitative and qualitative research methods.
Third, I use the term in the context of the ‘Integrative Worldview Framework’ (IWF), which can be seen as an evolving worldview-theory and framework that runs as a common thread through this dissertation. I use the term integrative here because the IWF is directed toward the inclusion and coordination of a pluralism of worldview-structures and their constitutive aspects into a unified framework, thus aspiring to understand worldviews in themselves as well as the societal worldview-dynamics they necessarily interface with in a rather comprehensive manner.
The ways these three distinct uses of the term integrative are interrelated is as follows: both methodology (‘integrative, mixed methods-approach’) and theory-development (‘Integrative Worldview Framework’) are logically related to my research worldview as described in section 1.3.1, which is inspired by integrative philosophies such as critical realism and integral theory (and can thus be said to bear resemblance to the emerging, integrative worldview as described notably in chapter seven). The multiple uses of the term integrative thus reflect my aspiration for logical coherence and consistency between research inspection, then, ‘integrated’ approaches usually turn out not to be ‘fully integrated’ in the absolute sense of the phrase, but ‘more integrated’, usually signifying that the analysis includes a few more factors than earlier approaches. This process may repeat itself, leading to greater and greater ‘integrative’ scope, but the concept may well lose some of its meaning along the way” (p. 335).
36 worldview, methodology, and theory development. The possible ‘worldviewbias’ potentially resulting from this is discussed in section 9.1.3.
1.4 Focus and scope of the study: Research aim and questions Having introduced the larger background, context, and key terms, I will now elaborate on the focus and scope of this study, outlining the central research questions that inform the inquiry. The main research question is formulated as follows: How can worldviews and their interface with goals and issues of sustainable development be conceptualized, investigated, and understood, and how can these insights be applied to policy and practice aimed at more sustainable societies? This question can be broken down in five major sub-aims, which I will discuss below.
1.4.1 Understanding the nature of worldviews First, the aim of this study is to generate understanding into the nature of worldviews. Although the concept of worldview seems to be increasingly appealed to in the climate change and sustainable development-debates (see e.g.
Hulme, 2009; O' Brien et al., 2010), its nature remains controversial: the notion is debated and used in a variety of ways and contexts, and its connotations change over time and along with the evolving content of worldviews (Naugle, 2002). Moreover, it is still unclear how the concept can best be systematically thematized and operationalized. This is important for the (mostly socialscientific) research that is being conducted into worldviews, as well as in the context of more practical concerns, for example how to take up the task and challenge of the worldview reflection, exploration, and remediation that is frequently argued for. Thus, there appears to be a conceptual, empirical, and practical need for more clarity on the nature of worldviews. I have chosen to approach this aim by offering a historical perspective on the concept (see chapter two). Since the notion of worldview originated in the field of philosophy (Naugle, 2002), the first question this study addresses is how worldviews have been understood and conceptualized in the history of philosophy. In this inquiry, special attention is paid to the different features and aspects that characterize worldviews, according to the investigated philosophers. Related to that is the 37 question of why worldviews are important in the context of global environmental issues. Or, in other words: what in the nature of worldviews makes them relevant in the context of sustainable development?
1.4.2 Empirically researching the structure of worldviews Another important aim of this study is to generate insight into how to empirically investigate the somewhat
and comprehensive concept of worldview, notably in the context of a lack of scientific theory with respect to the concept (Koltko-Rivera, 2004). As some authors have argued, precisely because of its overarching nature, the concept of worldview may have the potential to function as an integrative framework with which to investigate the interaction of beliefs, values, attitudes, and potentially lifestyles and behaviors (K. A. Johnson et al., 2011; Koltko-Rivera, 2004). In the first place, it is useful to know how worldviews have been explored by existing approaches. In chapter three I therefore conduct a literature review, summarizing and analyzing multiple survey-approaches from a range of disciplinary and theoretical traditions that explore worldviews vis-à-vis sustainable behaviors and lifestyles. On the basis of this meta-analysis, I draw conclusions about how to (more) optimally investigate worldviews, emphasizing the need for a more comprehensive and systematic operationalization of worldviews exploring structural worldview-beliefs, as well as for a dynamic (rather than binary) understanding of the different co-existing worldviews. In the study of worldviews, Koltko-Rivera (2004) distinguishes between dimensional approaches, which emphasize the aspects or dimensions within worldviews, and categorical approaches, which emphasize the categories of, or content-differences between, worldviews. I attempt to address worldviews comprehensively by including both: that is, the different aspects (dimensions) of worldviews, as well as the ways different worldviews give shape and meaning to these aspects (categories). Although the conceptual and methodological foundation for empirically investigating worldviews is laid in chapter three, insights about how to understand and investigate worldviews iteratively emerge and are further explored and developed throughout the different phases of this dissertation, resulting in an evolving worldview-heuristic: the Integrative Worldview Framework (IWF).
38 1.4.3 Exploring various worldviews and their relevance for sustainable development A third aim of this dissertation is to explore existing worldviews, and the extent to, and ways in which, they are relevant for goals and issues of sustainable development. In this way, I hope to give a basic overview of the major worldviews in the current cultural landscape in the contemporary West, and their interface with sustainability-issues.
Using the IWF and its operationalization of the construct of worldview into five aspects as described in chapters two and three, I develop in chapter four a survey that explores individuals’ worldviews, environmental attitudes, and sustainable lifestyles. On the basis of the analysis of the data generated through this survey (based on a representative sample of the Dutch public at large), distinct clusters of worldviews were found, which fairly consistently correlated with environmental attitudes and sustainable lifestyles. These result show that certain worldviews indeed correlate significantly with pro-environmental attitudes and sustainable lifestyles, whether others display much less sustainable tendencies across the board. The eminent contemporary philosopher Charles Taylor’s theorizing about the post-Romantic cultural current in our contemporary cultural landscape, in combination with the empirically grounded Self-Determination-Theory (SDT) of positive psychology, provide an analytical frame for understanding the different worldviews and their tendencies in terms of environmental attitudes and sustainable behaviors.
1.4.4 Deepening insight into worldviews with particular potentials for sustainable development After having formed a broad overview of the existing worldviews in the Netherlands and their interface with sustainable development, a fourth aim of this study is to gain in-depth insight into worldviews that appear to have particular potential for sustainable development. Building forth on the quantitative survey-data, I now ‘zoom in’ on the worldviews that are likely able to contribute to social-cultural change in the direction of more sustainable societies and lifestyles, attempting to generate a more detailed, in-depth understanding of these worldviews and their affinity with, and potential for, sustainability-issues. As the results of the survey demonstrated, several cultural 39 phenomena—such as the culture of contemporary spirituality, the contemporary emphasis on inner growth and self-exploration, and the emphasis on nature experience and connectedness—appear to be of particular interest in this context. In chapter five, I therefore report in-depth interviews with individuals conducive to a more ‘spiritual’ experience of nature, illuminating their understanding and experience of both nature and spirituality, and offering an intimate insiders-perspective into it. In this way, I generate ethnographic insight into contemporary nature spirituality and its positive relationship to sustainable development. In chapter six, I aim to generate insight into the culture of contemporary spirituality and investigate both its potentials and its pitfalls for sustainable development. This question is engaged by a review of the sociological literature on the “New Age,” and shows that there appear to be more ‘monistic’ or ‘de-differentiative’ as well as more ‘integrative’ tendencies within this widespread, eclectic, cultural movement. The more integrative tendencies seem to point at, and push for, the emergence of a more integrative understanding of the role of spirituality in contemporary life as well as of reality in general, and appear to be related to a more integrative worldview. In chapter seven, I focus on the central beliefs, feelings, and practices associated with this integrative worldview. I do this through in-depth interviews with ‘integrative environmental leaders,’ exploring the different aspects of these individuals’ worldviews. I also aim to clarify how the premises of this worldview appear to translate into a social imaginary of a sustainable society, that is, a (new) vision on how to understand and approach sustainability issues, potentially resulting in new practices and policies.
1.4.5 Applying insights into worldviews to sustainability policy and practice Lastly, this study aims to translate the generated insights into worldviews to sustainability policies and practices. While the former chapters demonstrate that worldviews are relevant for sustainability goals, practices, and policies, so far no insight is given into how to pragmatically use these understandings. This task is therefore taken up in chapter eight, where I synthesize the gathered insight into an expanded articulation and understanding of the IWF. This heuristic framework is then applied to policy-making and communication, with the aim of unpacking how it can serve as a 1) heuristic for cultural and psychological selfreflexivity; 2) analytical tool for understanding worldview-dynamics in society;
and 3) scaffolding for effective climate communications and solutions. In this, I use the literatures on, particularly, reflexive policy-making, climate communications, and framing.
1.4.6. Summing up: The research questions
Thus, one can translate these five sub-aims to the following research questions:
1. What is the nature of worldviews? (See chapter 2)
a) How have worldviews been understood and conceptualized by philosophers over the ages?
b) Which features and aspects characterize worldviews, according to these philosophers?
c) What in the nature of worldviews makes them relevant in the context of goals and issues of sustainable development?