Ken Wilber — Identity Politics: An Integral View


I love this conversation about identity politics too. I’ve just written on Facebook a couple days ago, right after the midterm election, I think something interesting happened. You know, Jared Polis won as Democratic governor of Colorado. The funny thing was, the day after he won, all the headlines were, you know, “America elects its first male gay governor”. Right? So the identity politics were coming out in full force. The funny thing is, when I was looking at all the forums, from all of the people who either voted for him or did not vote for him, the number one thing I kept seeing repeated over and over again was, “Wait he’s gay? Cool!”. Like the identity politics didn’t factor into the build up to the election, but it became one way to interpret the election once it already happened. And I saw that as a healthy use of identity politics. Because, you know, Jonathan Haidt, who we talked about earlier, he oftentimes talks about how when he went to a liberal arts school, and I think it was the 1980’s he says, he was taught a wide selection of different lenses that he could put on, one at a time, to enact reality, and see, you know, look at things from different perspectives. And all of those lenses were useful, insofar as they went. The problem comes when we only choose one of those lenses as being the primary lens that we’re enacting reality through. And this has become the problem with identity politics. I think it’s completely fine, after someone like Polis wins, to write a headline acknowledging the fact that he’s the first male gay Governor. I think that’s cool, because I think there are, you know, groups of people out there who have a history of oppression and marginalization. And this is a sign because — because you know talk about the starting line and the finish line of the race, Jared Polis was an example of someone who made it over the finish line. There was an equitable result here, and hey, guys, that’s good news for gay America, there is a good reason to celebrate here. But acknowledge it and then let it go because there’s so many more important facets to this story, including his policies and all of that. So I was encouraged when I saw that story, as being like, well, here is a case where identity politics could have dominated the build up to the election, but they really only came into play after the election, as sort of an interpretive device for the election. And I thought that was fine, I thought that was healthy, because we didn’t get stuck on it. Identity politics is important in a developmental sense, because, again, just using the very simplified broad waves of development, from egocentric to ethnocentric to worldcentric to integral, everybody goes through those ethnocentric stages, everybody goes through an “identity politics” stage. And they’re absolutely crucial for personality formation. It’s something that has to be kept in mind as we move towards a global world federation, that we still have to have people develop their identities. And so there’s still some role for nation states to help get them from ethnocentric towards world centric, and then start identifying with global humanity. But we can only do these things sort of one step at a time, so these are important. What we have to be very careful about is that identity politics recognizes that it works only if it understands it’s part of a worldcentric unity-in-diversity. It can’t be just diversity. That’s tribal association, that’s everything humanity fought against to end bigotry and slavery. None of those got ended when we were at ethnocentric stages of development. They were all heightened, and cases of wars, and serfdom, and slavery, and misogyny, and you name it. Now we got out of all of those by moving to worldcentric. And if we now just start reemphasizing identity politics, ethnocentric, we’re cutting under that great worldcentric umbrella of moral fairness for all. And that’s a disaster. And that’s part of what’s happening right now. So we have to really be careful about that. And the far right and the far left, neither one of those are helping. They’re both sort of sucking into that identity politics tribal orientation. And that’s really a problem. If you see it as part of an ongoing embrace of a broader identity that allows you to see what all tribes have in common, and how we all should be treated fairly regardless of race, color, sex, or creed then it’s great, and every person should be proud of their ethnic orientation, their sex, their identity, whatever it is.

Maurice Vega

30 Responses

  1. Ни какого уважения… У него наверное и джинсы подвернуты.

  2. You have to choose choose a lens to hold up above the others in order to take action. If you don’t, you just default to whatever your temperament pushes you toward. What you put forward is a version of Derrida’s argument that selection of something necessarily marginalizes. The problem is that it’s necessary to do that to undertake any action. The problem comes in when you become totalitarian about it, ie use the same, ossified lens for everything. The problem isn’t the selection of one lens over the others; it’s the complete devotion to one, ossified lens no matter what

  3. With the advent of global internet as the nervous system of humanity, humanity as a whole is only just entering its teenage identity discovery years as the global super consciousness expands exponentially with more people asking why, why, why about bigger & bigger questions

  4. Those integral muslims wouldn't have a problem with a Gay governor would they? Where are they though?.I don't see any ….Hey didn't it take a whole lot of integral christians to help push the vote in favor of same sex marriage? How could people not want to identify with that?Or acknowledge that and then claim they are progressive then run out and march along with Linda Sarsour and Hamas? Whats integral about sharia law.?.Is kafir tax integral? Are christian fundamentalist in America less global, multicultural, less pro womens rights? You don't even have to be a christian to see that the far left hasn't a clue.

  5. If we ask, who am I really, the answer is not to be found with reference to any binary divisions such as male female, black white, straight gay etc. I am my experience – but we are separated from our experience by the din of words. So some people today seem to believe that they have a male female, black, white gay straight experience. But using words to define experience in this way is hugely limiting.

    So it concerns me that Ken Wilber is saying that all identities can be accepted as equal because in the act of defining identity by such categories we are creating an inequality.

    The inference that other people we see work much as we do is the essential first insight for any spiritual development.

  6. I've always found Integral weakest on politics. Usually proponents merely justify their kind of conventional liberal views with integral jargon. And sometimes they wander into colonial racist / clash of civilization discourses using stuff like spiral dynamics. I wish Intergralists were more clued up about politics.

  7. Corporate centrist liberal democrats in the US fetishize identity politics because they want to avoid wider issues of economic inequality which affect everyone in the middle and working class regardless of race or gender in order to protect a neoliberal corporate economy

  8. Great job Integral Life!! Keep up the great work, we're all counting on you, and we'd love to be your megaphone in the bay area with our recording studio! let us know when your leadership is coming around the area! www.simulationseries.com [email protected]

  9. For me, the interviewer a great job of eliciting conversation from Ken. I think it would be a shame to have Ken speak without someone to set such good context. 🙏

  10. University—> not simply Diversity…
    Unity—> not Division…
    One—> not Two…
    The disastrous danger of uncritically aligning with 'identity politics' is in missing the following:
    "…that they may be one just as we are one…" Jesus

  11. I've read around a dozen of Wilber's books, including SES three times (with the footnotes), and doing so is like getting a Ph.D. in the integral outlook on life. Wilber changed by head, my heart, and my life. He is a major, if not the major, thinker of our times. I have to hear Wilber explain why developmental milestones go into extremism and regress to the very things the milestones fought to overcome.

  12. Every time I see Ken Wilber my heart just fills with love. Thank you for your books and your teachings. You really changed my life.

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