PROGRESS AND GLOBAL POLITICS  (Fielding paper)      April 1998                                              p. 1 of 2


I. Introduction: We need better paradigms for dealing with social problems. Samuel Huntington, in The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order, has proposed a new paradigm, which illustrates the need.

II. Hypothesis: Huntington lacks a sense of "progress" in the development of individuals and of modern societies. Stage of development accounts for preference for style of government.

III.  Attributes of Human Development: Individuals develop through a series of stages, each with characteristic value systems and world views. Most people alive today are at the magic, the mythic, or the rational stage. The main challenge facing the world is getting most of the world to the rational stage.

IV. Huntington's Case:  summarized by quotes from his introductory chapter.


Minaret, Cairo 1973

V. Critique:  section-by-section consideration of his points, with attention to his underlying paradigm, a biological model of civilizations (an assumption that they begin, grow, flower, decline, and disappear).                                 (Page 2)

VI. Conclusions: An alternative paradigm, based on stage theory. Progress as desirable change; desirable directions of growth. The need for more research and information about human and institutional growth: how to foster it, enhance it, measure it. Applications to the long-term population and environmental crisis threatening the world.

VII. References.   


          It has been obvious for some time that many of the social and political issues besetting the modern world do not respond satisfactorily to the application of conventional analysis. The failure of the Great Society program and the uneven results of Third World development efforts have brought intervention into disrepute. Something is missing from the paradigm we use in seeking to understand and deal with social problems. 

The search for better paradigms is widespread among scholars. Ever since Thomas S. Kuhn made us aware of the importance of the paradigm to science, people have sought to put forward better models in which to consider phenomena. [Kuhn, 1962, 1970] This is particularly true of the social sciences, and, of these, of international relations. The end of the Cold War made apparent the need for a new way to view relations among states. Samuel Huntington, with specific reference to Kuhn, has set forth his own candidate for the paradigm of the decade in the field of global politics in The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the Modern World. [Huntington, 1996]. It is a major contribution and has inspired vigorous debate among analysts of global relationships. A review of the book and some of its critics may be found in my recent unpublished paper. 

          I have chosen Huntington’s work as the focus of my efforts to determine what is missing from existing paradigms because 1) he sets the book up in paradigmatic terms, 2) it is in a field with which I have some experience, and 3) the subject is sufficiently narrow as to be manageable. 


          I think the element missing from Huntington’s paradigm is a sense of “progress” in the development of modern individuals and of modern societies. Progress among individuals can be conceived of using the human development theories of Piaget [Piaget, 1977], Kohlberg [Kohlberg, 1984], Loevinger [Loevinger, 1976], Kegan [Kegan, 1985], and others. Progress in societies can be conceived of in economic terms (measures of per capita income) or political terms (measures of participation).  Progress in organizations, subsets of societies, can be conceived of in terms of management theory (such as Torbert’s stages of organizational development).  

          These dimensions of progress are reinforced by the continuing advance of technology. Human development is recognized by most psychologists to be a product of innate individual characteristics and the environment in which the individual matures and functions. Technology plays a major role in shaping the environment in which most people spend their lives, at work and at play. The requirements of modern technology and modern society place greater cognitive demands on average individuals than has been the case in any previous historical era [Kegan, 1995]. Similarly, the effective use of modern technology, and the advancing capabilities of its users, demand ever greater devolution of authority in organizations. Successful behavior in modern organizations also requires greater affective control by the individual, another dimension of development, than has ever been the case before [Goleman, 1995]. Modern technology, advanced levels of human cognitive and affective abilities, and modern organizations demand a less authoritarian style of governance than at any previous historical time. Hence the rise of democracies (in the West) and the continuing demands for less governmental intervention in the economic and social lives of people. 

          A number of caveats must be made before attempting to apply the hypothesis to Huntington’s thesis: 

·         This notion of progress does not imply the inevitability of a desirable outcome. In practice, much of the world is making progress at a historically unique rate of speed, but overpopulation and environmental deterioration can still result in disaster. On the other hand, global pollution and excessive fertility can probably only be contained by continued progress, the process through which people become able to voluntarily reduce their fertility and care for their habitats. Traditional systems of land use, food production, manufacturing, education, and human organization are simply no longer adequate to serve population levels achieved virtually everywhere as the result of modern medicine. Furthermore, people functioning at a level common to traditional society will not succeed to anything beyond menial employment in the modern world. 

·          The situation is complicated by differential rates of change within societies, at both the individual and organizational levels. That is, every society has some people functioning at very advanced levels, and some people functioning at rather basic levels. The proportion of people at top, bottom, and intervening levels, changes as part of the development process.  

·         Recognition of a hierarchy of levels of human development, and of differential rates of change among societies, may be anathema to some of our cherished beliefs, especially for advocates of multiculturalism. Others may suspect racist motives, because the nations leading in social progress are predominantly white, and those trailing furthest behind are predominantly black. Yet, the fact that every society contains people of the highest level of human development, and nearly every society has in recent years increased the proportion of its population in the middle and upper levels of human development, provides clear evidence of the universality of human potential in all races and cultures. Some cultures are more adept at creating opportunities and rewards for advanced human development than others, often because of the tenacity of traditional power relationships in those slower to change. (It seems obvious that the US took the lead over Europe in modernization during the inter-war period because of an absence of stifling social structures inhibiting the mobility of the most able. Books like Le Defie Americaine helped break down class barriers in Europe in the 1960s). 


          Of the three interacting forces of modernization – human development, organizational development, and technological development – human development is least understood. I suspect this is because of the complexity of the species, the difficulty of studying ourselves, and the ideological and religious barriers we construct to help us deny what we do, or could, know about ourselves. Another factor could be the disarray of the field. It seems as if each psychologist feels compelled to create his or her own scale of human development, his or her own definition of the process. For people in other fields, academic or not, it may appear that human development can safely be subsumed under the label of child development and relegated to mothers, nannies and teachers. 

          Fortunately, it is not necessary to go through the tedious process of comparing the stages of Piaget, Loevinger, Kohlberg, and others, in order to come up with a unified theory. Ken Wilber, a remarkable synthesizer, has done it for us [Wilber, 1995]. Wilber’s work has two other dimensions that simplify the task of considering international relationships from the perspective of a science of the individual: 

·         Wilber uses a quadrant diagram to illustrate the four aspects of human consciousness. Two of these apply to the individual, and two to the collective. Two apply to external phenomena and two to internal. Hence, one has external/collective including families, tribes, villages, nations, economies and institutions; interior/collective, or culture; interior/individual, which is the home of human psychological or spiritual development; and external/individual, or behavior and the physiological structures that evolve in step with the development of other dimensions. This diagram is useful as a constant reminder that activity in any of the quadrants has an impact on, and must be considered in the context of, the other three. It admirably links the individual perspective with the collective in a way that few intellectual constructs do. 

·         Wilber also sees the evolution of consciousness in parallel with the evolution of society. The institutions of society evolve in accordance with the modal levels of development of the people of a society. According to Wilber, “the individual and social are not two different coins, one being of a higher currency than the other, but rather the heads and tails of the same coin.” Individually, each of us progresses through the Piaget-defined sequence to whatever level we attain. On average, over time, as the modal level of people in a society increases, their institutions also rise to a higher level in terms of participation of their members and scope of their capabilities. (Wilber does not deal with the role of technology in the transformation of individuals and institutions, but I believe it is technological change that makes possible/necessary the evolution of individuals and society.) The notion that not only do individuals mature through stages in a fixed sequence, but that societies have evolved through parallel sequences, seems obvious upon reflection, but it is rarely found in the literature. 

          The principal stages of consciousness of interest to us are the magic, the mythic, and the rational. In Piagetian terms, these stages would be called pre-operational, concrete operational, and formal operational. Parallels may also be found in the stages of moral development of Lawrence Kohlberg and the stages of ego development of Jane Loevinger.  

These are not all of the stages of human development identified by Wilber and others. Post-conventional stages seem to most interest many theorists today. Wilber recognizes, however, that the main challenge facing the world is not achieving the post-conventional levels, but getting most of the world to the rational stage. That is the stage at which problems, such as of environment and fertility, can be tackled. He makes the telling point that the issue is not between cultures, but within cultures. In every culture there are people striving to develop from egocentric to socio-centric to world-centric; to orient their beliefs from magic to mythic to rational. (In essence, this paper could end right here, because this is the main answer to Huntington. The coming world struggle is not as likely to be between civilizations, as it is to be between groups at different levels of human development, and hence with different value systems and world views, within civilizations, e.g. anti-abortionists and militias versus the conventional, late mythic views of our modal population.)          

          Several characteristics of stage theories generally need to be identified before we proceed to discuss the stages of most interest to us: 

·         Individuals develop through an invariable sequence of stages. One cannot skip a stage in the course of development;

·         People level off at different stages; that is, not everyone reaches stage three, and some people go beyond stage three;

·         Stage transitions are products of both heredity and environment, with some environments, e.g. formal schooling, being more conducive to change than others;

·         Each stage transcends but includes its predecessor;

·         Each successive stage has greater differentiation, variety, complexity, consciousness and organization than the earlier stage;

·         The circle of empathy or sphere of one’s identity broadens with each successive stage;

·         People can be at more than one stage at a time; e.g. a person may function 50% at one stage and 25% below and 25% above the main stage depending upon sphere of activity;

·         Barring catastrophe, people do not regress from one stage to another; and

·         Stage levels transcend cultural boundaries, although the behavioral expression of each stage may vary with cultural traditions. 

          The three selected stages are not the full range of human development, but they are the levels at which most individuals level off. Before these levels is a sensorimotor stage, generally lasting from infancy to age two, and beyond formal operations are several post-conventional stages generally involving altered states of consciousness.  We are concerned only with these three individual and associated group levels of development because these levels contain the motivations and behaviors that affect the conduct of international relationships. 

          The characteristics of each of these stages can be briefly summarized as follows: 

Magic and magic-mythic. In child development, the preoperational stage can be divided into two parts. The early preoperational, or magic, stage occurs from 2-4 years of age. It is the time when a child believes he or she is the center of the universe and is the instrument causing things to happen, such as making the clouds move. The late preoperational stage, or magic-mythic, occurs from 4-7 years of age. At that time the child realizes that he or she does not directly cause things to happen, but the omnipotent magic is transferred to other subjects, such as daddy or God.  It is from the magic-mythic structure that most of the world’s classical mythologies seem to spring. 

This stage is characterized by confused physical and personal causality. The physical world appears to operate much the way people do. Few societies can be found now which function at that level, but as recently as 1970, the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman fit this category. People believed that illness and infant mortality were caused by the evil eye and the djinn, and the ruler took on god-like traits. All of that changed rapidly after Sultan Qaboos, the current ruler, overthrew his uncle, Sultan bin Taimur, in that year, and began modernizing the country, now called simply Oman. 

Mythic and Mythic/Rational (Concrete Operational) At this stage, lasting roughly from ages 7 to 12, the child or adult (if the child doesn’t attain the rational stage) is more sociocentric and ethnocentric than before. He or she gains the ability to take the role of the other. In relation to previous stages, the mythic represents a greater autonomy, a higher and wider identity, and a greater consciousness. 

This is the mind-set or worldview that encouraged empire. Wilber notes that the Greeks and Romans, the Khans and Sargons, the Incas and the Aztecs, imposed their own mythology on others through conquest, thus creating empires. In the modern age, mythic stage behavior can be observed in the militias and the anti-abortion terrorists. The intense identification with one’s own group leads to the dehumanization of the other. Perhaps Saddam’s behavior is an example of concrete operations at the state level. 

Formal Operational. This stage signals the emergence of a strong rational ego. At this stage, the individual can think about an ecological system in which changes in one aspect may lead to a whole system of changes in the balance between other aspects of nature. The individual can also grasp the concept of relativity. The rules and norms of a society can for the first time be questioned, and a literal interpretation of religious texts gives way to a regard for the principles underlying them.  The person becomes more reflective and introspective. It is a time when young people seek their identities and begin to question their upbringing, and authority in general. 

At this stage, people reach the moral level where they must assume responsibility for their own, relatively autonomous, choices. In political terms, the conception of individuals as autonomous agents leads to equality under the law, freedom of expression, and democratic systems. 

For the first time, the average person can achieve a global world-view, biased certainly in favor of one’s own identity, at least in the early part of the rational stage, but global nonetheless. One can think in nonanthropocentric terms, realizing that our species has a place in the spectrum of living things, but we are not the center of the universe. Reaching the stage of formal operations or rationality does not mean that individuals or states abjure war or imperialism. But they undertake forceful measures after rationally calculating alternatives, not because they believe it is the will of God or the manifest destiny.       

          Individuals don’t necessarily stop with the formal operational stage of human development, although Piaget assumed that it did. In recent years, many theorists have become increasingly interested in what may lie beyond pure rationality. Wilber says that more advanced stages find spirituality tempering rationality; the latter is not forsaken, but is mitigated by the former.  

          This summary of the stages of human development most commonly found among adults in today’s world is admittedly inadequate as an introduction to the subject, but for those already familiar with human development psychology, this may be sufficient to frame the discussion of Huntington’s proposed paradigm in global politics. 


          The book is conveniently divided into five sections elaborating the main proposition. The remainder of this section is quoted directly from Huntington’s introductory chapter: 

The central theme of this book is that culture and cultural identities, which at the broadest level are civilization identities, are shaping the patterns of cohesion, disintegration, and conflict in the post-Cold War world.  

Part I            For the first time in history global politics is both multipolar and multicivilizational; modernization is distinct from Westernization and is producing neither a universal civilization in any meaningful sense nor the Westernization of non-Western societies. 

Part II           The balance of power among civilizations is shifting: the West is declining in relative influence; Asian civilizations are expanding their economic, military, and political strength; Islam is exploding demographically with destabilizing consequences for Muslim countries and their neighbors; and non-Western civilizations generally are reaffirming the value of their own cultures. 

Part III          A civilization-based world order is emerging: societies sharing cultural affinities cooperate with each other; efforts to shift societies from one civilization to another are unsuccessful; and countries group themselves around the lead or core states of their civilization. 

Part IV          The West’s universalist pretensions increasingly bring it into conflict with other civilizations, most seriously with Islam and China; at the local level fault line wars, largely between Muslims and non-Muslims, generate “kin-country rallying,” the threat of broader escalation, and hence efforts by core states to halt these wars. 

Part V           The survival of the West depends on Americans reaffirming their Western identity and Westerners accepting their civilization as unique, not universal, and uniting to renew and preserve it against challenges from non-Western societies. Avoidance of a global war of civilizations depends on world leaders accepting and cooperating to maintain the multicivilizational character of global politics.  (continued)

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