In addition to the criticism that Panarchy is too unbalanced, a second criticism I sometimes hear is that Panarchy cannot properly handle pressure from social holons of lower altitude. Put another way, an Integral Panarchic Operating system cannot defend itself from the emergence of say, a Red Warlord, or Blue (Amber) expansionist state. I believe this erroneous belief stems from two sources. Firstly, my own reluctance or inability to predict exactly how an Integral Panarchy would actually deal with such scenarios. I have some ideas, but I am also careful not to put them out as “the way” such that readers get the impression that Panarchy can only have a certain method for dealing with such challenges, leading to critics of panarchy focusing on those potential methods, rather than the social organizational principles themselves. The second source is, I believe, the reluctance or inability of the critics themselves to use their own imaginations!
The crux of this critique, that Panarchy fails should there exist within it social holons (no matter their number) at conventional or pre-conventional stages is interesting to look at. It begs the question, how does panarchy handle the emergence of a pathological lower stage vMeme on the one hand, and more importantly what global social developmental conditions (or in Spiral Dynamics terms “Life Conditions”) are necessary in order for Panarchy to emerge in the first place? It is the second question that should be answered first. For it is Life Conditions that will eventually necessitate the emergence of Panarchy as a social operating system. Once that occurs, then it is appropriate to wonder, what happens when Panarchy is challenged by lower level elements from within. After all, Panarchy doesn’t require all people to be at a certain developmental level. It requires the leading edge (and dominant LR/LL vMeme to be at 2nd Tier as a minimum and for the bulk (the center of the bell curve if you will) to be at Orange. At present we are not quite at that stage yet, but we are not all that far off either.
A bell curve is an important concept because as our collective consciousness evolves, that distribution curve moves collectively “up” the spiral. So that the preconventional vMeme’s become more and more rare (that’s important because Panarchy isn’t suitable if a large portion of humanity is still preconventional – this is also why early 20th century attempts at anarchy failed). Already the center of our bell curve is at say red/BLUE with the lead or dominant vMeme at orange/Green, so Beige (or infrared, or crimson or whatever the fuck they’re calling it now) is pretty rare in society – perhaps the mentally ill and/or homeless are the closest equivalent we have today. Purple (Magenta) are more common but by no means representative of human social holons as it had been in the recent past. Red is also probably on the back side of the apex of the curve, while Blue (Amber) forms the vast bulk of current social holons.
It might help us to look at the various Social Operating systems from the standpoint of functional fit. Integralists are generally familiar with the AQAL 4 quadrant model (see figure above via Robb Smith). This is a useful way at looking at the whole picture of Kosmic development. Note particularly the lower left quadrant (Exterior-Collective). What I’d like to do in the next few paragraphs is plot the memetic distribution of the population which are necessary to generate the functional fit of the associated level-appropriate operating system.
Nation State | Democracy
The flowering of Democratic Republics in the Americas and Europe from the late 18th through the 19th centuries was not by accident. The Democratic Nation State is the natural, functionally fit operating system for a social holon with a developmental distribution similar to the above graphic. Once the leading edge of the society, those who determine the direction of the culture (art, music, philosophy and so on) is firmly rooted in the Modern (Orange) vMeme the power dynamics shift away from Blue/Amber Empire|Monarchy as the functionally fit Operating System. This shift is inevitable. Of course there will be some variation in the precise makeup or Aesthetics of the Operating System. Never-the-less the general form will be of a Nation State|Democracy.
World State | Network
Beginning in the Progressive era following WWI and WWII we had first the failed “League of Nations,” and finally the United Nations which formed at the conclusion of World War II. The formation of these Global Networks of Nations have fostered a level of peace on earth that has not been previously seen in Human history. Yes, there are still wars fought among the nation states of the world (often these are proxy wars over ideology and access to resources), but it is no longer so easy for one belligerent nation state to drive the whole world into all-out total war. There is an overall “World State” in the United Nations that keeps such belligerents in check.
The Life Conditions necessitating this change where, perhaps most chillingly, the probability of extinction due to Global Thermonuclear War. But another precondition, namely the progressiveness of the global population was also beginning to come on line. The world was becoming smaller, and more and more people’s consciousness was shifting from a Conventional ethnocentric perspective to a Modern universal and Postmodern multicultural perspective. More and more people began to think of themselves as “global citizens” rather than national citizens, and when that happens the need for a more global social operating system becomes critical.
Trans State | Panarchy
This is the point in history where we stop looking back and begin to look forward. As such it is somewhat in the realm of speculation. However, we are beginning to get more and more clues about the next up and coming Operating System for human society. I’ve been writing about this up and coming system since 2012, and I have so far seen nothing that convinces me that it will take a substantially different form; in fact quite the opposite, the developments of the last decade have only further convinced me of the inevitability of this LR quadrant shift within our lifetimes.
In fact Panarchic organizational methodologies are already beginning to be practiced. I can think of no better example of this right now than in what has become known as “Teal Organizations,” which in operation are very similar to how I envision a Panarchy to operate as a Global Social Operating system. The life conditions that will necessitate this shift will be more and more of the global population shifting out of Conventional and Preconventional consciousness (again that shift in the bell curve), so that the bulk of humanity is thinking much more globally, and so that the leading edge (that 15%) of the curve is solidly second tier. The post-conventional consciousness, being far more capable and autonomous than previous stages, will demand an operating system that allows for more autonomy, more diversity, more choice and experimentation while still having some guardrails for developing holons. That function is best served by Panarchy.
Non State | Agora
Now let’s get really speculative! In my view the next step beyond Panarchy would be, well Anarchy! I know however that’s a pretty big leap for some. I prefer the term “Agora” as it has far fewer negative connotations. Agora is ancient Greek for “gathering place” or “assembly” and can be thought of as representing a “collaborative commons” so to speak, or essentially – a place we all come together in voluntary cooperation.
The life conditions at this stage would be the vast bulk of humanity in the postconventional and Integral stages of consciousness, as well as an economic and material “superabundance” created by the prior panarchic society and integral technologies available. At this stage scarcity is no longer the driving economic factor in society, and as such the need to regulate the material economy becomes more and more moot. The transition from Panarchy to Agora is likely to be a gradual one (as there is nothing in Panarchy per se that prevents Agora from arising). Thus unlike the transition from First Tier World State to 2nd Tier Panarchy, there is unlikely to be any social drama or unrest associated with this shift in paradigm.
Personally, I think we’ll see Panarchy (or something similar) in the 21st century gradually moving toward a voluntarist agora as we approach the 22nd century and beyond. But even if we don’t achieve things that rapidly, it is my view that this is an inevitable progression on the kosmic timescale. The question isn’t really will we progress to these new social paradigms, but when will we.
How does Panarchy handle Conventional and Pre-conventional challengers?
I think one mistake that critics of Panarchy/Anarchy often make is looking at it’s functional fitness in terms of the Life Conditions we have today. There may be many people who wish to live a more free life in an anarchistic or more libertarian society (myself included!). Such a society is certainly possible to imagine in the context of current life conditions. However, such a society is none-the-less unlikely to be stable enough to remain pure to it’s original intentions unless the Life Conditions on Earth as a whole are sufficiently advanced to warrant it. Rather it would find itself eventually overrun either internally or externally by the demands and needs of lower level holons. The result, unfortunately, would be the regression to a more functionally fit operating system in keeping with the memetic makeup of the population. Only very strict controls on the memetic makeup of the societies population would prevent such a regression from “the inside” but still, it would not prevent it from the outside.
Thus it is important to recognize that Panarchy will come to fruition only when Life Conditions are appropriate for it to do so, and not before. Similarly with the more advanced “anarchic” operating system I call Agora. Such an Operating System will require an advanced society indeed. It is therefore a category error of sorts to reference past attempts at anarchy such as those of the late 19th and early 20th centuries as analogous to what I am discussing here. Doing so would be like comparing the Democracy of ancient Athens with that of the United States. While they may have some philosophical similarities, they are operating on entirely different developmental levels.
A Turquoise Agora would look nothing like a Green Anarchy, because the constituent holons as well as life conditions of the two would be so incredibly different. This is why forcing an early adoption of these operating systems is also not advisable. Once again, it will happen, when our Exterior Collective condition makes it functionally fit.
Given those pre-conditions one can see firstly how rare and powerless (in the sense of social power) conventional and preconventional vMeme’s would be in these future societies. It would be as if our current orange/GREEN society were to worry about being challenged by Beige or Purple vMemes. They will number so few and be so powerless even within their own cultures as to be relegated to cases of what we might consider mental illness worthy of social charity and care today. While you will undoubtedly indeed find examples of individuals unable to move beyond a Red center of gravity, and crime and violence will not wholly disappear, the danger of such people gaining control of or endangering society as a whole is simply too remote and in the long run, very highly unlikely to affect the overall trajectory of our development.
On the time scale of the Kosmos there is an evolutionary certainty that we will either advance, or we will destroy ourselves in the attempt. I prefer to remain optimistic.