Julyan Davey
Supporting the emergence of life affirming, transformative cultures.

The Listening Society: A Metamodern Guide to Politics by Hanzi Freinacht

The Listening Society: A Metamodern Guide to Politics by Hanzi Freinacht

Date Read: 5/08/18

My rating: 10/10

(See my list of other books I've read)

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

This book has got me thinking like no other! It's the combination of two big ideas. First is that to solve the pressing problems of humanity we need to move towards a Welfare State 2.0 which is called The Listening Society. Second is the ideology that's going to get us there: metamodernism. The book is written in a 'metamodern' style. For example the author (who apparently is a creation) often combines being provocative, offensive and ironic whilst at the same time being totally serious about the fate of planet earth and the human race. A must read!



First question: What is human development?

Second question: What is the development of society?

Third question: What is freedom?

Developmental blindness—meaning that you consistently fail to see the developmental stages of human beings, animals and societies.

Inner dimensions blindness—meaning that you consistently fail to take into account the subjective dimensions of life and how they fundamentally shape society and reality.

If you are like most people, you have been overestimating your own “scientificness” to a preposterous extent.

If my mode of thinking is less wrong than yours, my social theory is valuable.

Double Blinds: hold a presented idea to impossible standards, ones that your currently accepted views couldn't match either.

The more radical the new idea, the more painful it is to accommodate.

“Specifics please”: What are the specifics, in concrete reality?

“The humble seeker”: They are offended by the certainty of the speaker, and by the very fact that her thoughts can be systematized, organized and lead to concrete conclusions.

"Spiritual purity": You attack and degrade the speaker because she is not spritual enough because she “thinks too much” or “tries to force her intellect upon the world”

Rather, I relate to you as what Deleuze called a dividual, full of different parts, of different voices and drives working in different contexts.

I relate to you transpersonally, meaning that I meet you not as one single, rational individual, but as the cross-section of the beautiful and terrifying depths of your inner life and the conflicts and potentials inherent in the social, economic and cultural fabric of the digitalizing world.

Metamodernism is the marriage of extreme irony with a deep, unyielding sincerity.

I begin by telling you that I’m going to fool you and fuck your wife, make her come like Vesuvius, just to get your attention, and only then do I reveal what this is actually about: universal solidarity with all sentient beings, from all perspectives.

To “be a metamodernist” is to apply oneself to sincerity with religious fervor, while keeping an ironic smile at one’s own self-importance.

PART ONE: The New Political Landscape

1. How Politics Changed

The Nordic countries are extremely ordered societies, even today under the pressures of globalization and immigration. It is within the framework of this extreme level of order—and the far progression of the dynamics inherent to modern society—that the revolution occurs.

In Sweden, all parties discuss sustainability issues much more than almost anywhere in the world. This country also accepts more refugees than other European countries. Gives more money to foreign aid development, is more digitalized, has lower crime rates and corruption, lower income inequality (at least until recently), higher standards of living, higher levels of reported happiness, and greater gender equality.

The only thing special about Sweden is that it has had a relatively stable development in a relatively favorable part of the world economic system of trade, growth and exploitation—while being at a relatively short geographic, cultural and linguistic distance from the center. That’s it.

Easterlin Paradox, named after the economist Richard Easterlin who wrote a book chapter about “economics and happiness” in 1974. The paradox is that wealthy countries seem to stop increasing their level of happiness.

Post-materialist values: Extra wealth is simply a less efficient strategy for people to achieve fulfillment and happiness in these societies.

One Meta Ideology Has Already Won: All parties in all Nordic countries are in effect green social-liberals.

What we have is one victorious meta-ideology, one recipe for society that has beaten its competitors when it comes to functionality and rhetorical edge.

In this ideology people increasingly value co-development: the ability to, together with others, responsibly explore the new landscapes of risks and possibilities that are opening up.

2. Crisis-Revolution

Such parties are indicative of new progressive strata of the population, representing the groups we can call the triple-H: hipsters, hackers and hippies.

The non-progressive group, the increasingly bewildered guardians of the old society, generally consists of the less favored people in the newly emerging social, cultural and technological hierarchies. If you look at voter behavior, you have an overrepresentation of men, older people, lower education and rural residents.

The progressives have the opposite profile: city-dwelling young women with higher education (and more gay people).

The more artsy, creative, well connected, socially intelligent, emotionally developed, idealistic, digitalized, diversified and educated you are—the more likely you are to be a rising star of the new society.

The nationalist resurgence is only that: the outdated, the outgunned, the outmaneuvered.

Hackers produces digital solutions and software that reduce the complexity of society and make it manageable.

Hipsters produce the many symbols that help us to orientate ourselves in, make sense of, and find meaning in the global digital age. Wide array of artists, designers, thinkers, social entrepreneurs, writers and bloggers.

Hippies are the people who produce new lifestyles, habits and practices that make life in postindustrial society happier, healthier and, perhaps, more enchanted.

All rely more upon cultural capital (and to some extent social capital) and less upon economic capital.

Because cultural capital is becoming more powerful than economic (as a means of organizing and coordinating people’s actions and behaviors), the cultural capital can be traded for money or other valuable resources at a favorable rate.

The wage labor treadmill (and conventional work life) hinder the lives that they want to live, rather than being a source of security and empowerment.

Revolving door between “the creative class”, which the triple-H population largely constitutes, and the precariat—people in economically and socially precarious situations

Triple H people suffer from 3 problems:

  • uncertainty of levels of expectations.
  • bullshit
  • empty networking

Uncertainty of Expectations: if you work hard and put your stuff out there most anything can happen: you can become a star or you can be completely ignored for whatever reason.

Bullshit: You have to wrestle the doubts and accusations that it's all just bullshit. You never quite know if you are the bullshitter or the hero or if you are being sold utter bullshit.

Empty Networking: because the triple-H people all rely upon large networks of people to collaborate with in different project, they must alawys be open to new contacts. But the productive relationships that are mutually reinforcing and become stronger over time are rare.

The Multidimensional Crisis Revolution

Several extremely far-reaching revolutions of technology, thinking and behaviour are occurring simultaneously.

Maturing of information and communication technology itself. AI, Robotics, Deep Learning.

Nanotechnological Revolution. Likely to solve fundamental problems of scarcity and has the potential to create abundance of a whole new magnitude.

Genetics Revolution. CRISPR - ability to alter genetic code.

Demographics. Ongoing population booms in countries like the unstable Nigeria. Quickly aging population of Japan.

Global political power structure of the world shifting with China, India and Brazil blazing into world prominence.

We face no less than nine simultaneous major global ecological crises. Three very acute ones. We are living in an age of mass extinction of species comparable to the one that ended the age of dinosaurs some 60 million years ago.

Most of the oceans have collapsing ecosystems and most fish are dead or dying. Over a trillion aquatic animals are killed per year. The soil is eroding and climate change is striking at the heart of the frail meteorological equilibrium that constitutes our rather young current meteorological epoch.

There is the threat of nuclear war. Haywire AI, erratic nanotech and global epidemics are the major ones.

The global capitalist system is based upon perpetual growth. But we have yet to see economic growth without increased exploitation of natural resources—resources that are already overused by a wide margin.

The financial system seems to generate both growth and crisis—and it increasingly concentrates wealth at the top, which in turn seems to hijack our politics by way of lobbying and other artful machinations.

The BOOM equation

An increasing number of accelerating revolutions and crises, all cross-pollinating at an accelerating pace.

The solution to the equation is "boom!" we just don't know if it's fireworks or atom bombs.

We need directions, but these directions must necessarily be of an abstract, open-ended nature. We don’t need cookbooks; we need general ideas on how to create good cookbooks, so to speak. We need stories about stories. Meta-narratives.

3. In A Nutshell

We need to formulate a Green Social Liberalism 2.0.

What is "The Listening Society":

Deliberately and carefully cultivate a deeper kind of welfare system that includes the psychological, social and emotional aspects of human beings, so that the average person, over the length of her lifespan, becomes much more secure, authentic and happy (in a deep, meaningful sense of the word).

Generativity: the propensity of society as a cultural, economic and social-psychological system to, on average and over time, generate the conditions for psychological thriving and growth to occur.

We're not talking about shoving some formula for the good life down everybody's throat. We’re talking about creating likelihoods for good conditions.

The Nordic countries have happy populations relative to others—and this appears to work in tandem with a highly functional and ordered society (producing plenty of poetry and crime novels too, for what it’s worth).

The fact that happiness isn’t everything, doesn’t make it into nothing.

The suffering and stunted development of our citizens are not individual concerns, but matters of utmost importance to society as a whole. They are deeply political, ecological and economic matters.

Happiness tends to transmit through networks. A happy friend within a mile tends to make you happier. A neighbor even more.

Metamodern politics aims to make everyone secure at the deepest psychological level, so that we can live authentically.

There is increasing evidence that many different factors work together to help a human being flourish or to let her fall apart. In psychology it is similarly called the “bio-psycho-social model”.

We are speaking about conscious and deliberate social-psychological and cultural development.

  • How can good conditions and prerequisites for human flourishing and “thrivability” be brought about?
  • How can this be done in a manner that is open, democratic, non-manipulative—without a “creepy” undercurrent of control?

Nudging: idea that people can be subtly nudged to make better choices by means of "libertarian paternalism". Who should such a "choice architect" be?

4. Possible and Necessary

  • Everyone should have the benefit of talking to a kind, listening professional therapist while growing up.
  • Everyone should get to learn to meditate, both with mindfulness and other techniques so that one can handle stress and get in touch with one's own emotions.
  • Everybody should get a good gym coaching from early age so that they grow up to have fit bodies, good bodily awareness, positive body image, relaxed body landuage and healthy habits.
  • Everyone should be trained in dialogue and get the chance to participate in public debates or deliberations.
  • Everybody should get a year off once in a lifetime to go look for new purpose in life and make tough life decisions under professional care and support - in a kind secular monastery.
  • Everybody should be "nudged" and supported to consume both healthy and sustainable food that prevents depression and supports long-term societal goals.
  • Everybody should be trained in social and emotional intelligence so that conflicts arise less often and, when they do arise, are handled more productively.
  • Everyone should have a proper sexual education from early on, knowing things such as how to tackle early ejaculation, tensions in the vagina, sexual rejections, making approaches in a charming but respectful manner, how to handle competition and how to handle pornography or sexual desires that diverge from the norm.
  • Everybody should get some aid in managing the fear of death and facing the hard facts of life - to help us intuitively know that our time here is precious.

The Listening Society is not just a long-shot possibility. It is a moral imperative. Failure to adopt a more efficient welfare system is likely to have very negative consequences.

What is lacking in our day and age is the ability for people to manage complex problems that require patience, knowledge, oversight, creativity, mutual trust and friendly co-operation across sectors, scientific disciplines, cultures and subcultures.

In a phrase: the management of complexity.

We require greater collective intelligence.

The listening society is, plainly, much more powerful in a digitalized global economy, than is the capitalist liberal democracy.

The deeper welfare system is necessary because, without it, you will be outcompeted by other, more listening societies.

Amartya Sen: Development as Freedom. Psychological and social development can—and will—lift us out of spiritual and emotional poverty.

Emotional Intelligence (coined by Daniel Goleman):

  1. Self-awareness: the ability to know one's emotions.
  2. Self-regulation: involves controlling one's disruptive emotions and impulses.
  3. Social Skill: Managing relationships to move people in the desired direction.
  4. Empathy: considering other people's feelings especially when making decisions.
  5. Motivation: being driven to achieve for the sake of achievement.

They aren't inherent moral qualities that people either have or they don't. They are skills that can be learned, honed, maintained and developed.

Social Intelligence (also coined by Goleman) is more to do with managing other people.

Collective Intelligence is the general problem-solving ability of a group organisation or society.

When researches let groups perform a wide array of different tasks (creative brainstorming, puzzles etc). There does appear to be smart groups and dumb ones!

Two factors determine the smarts of the group as a whole:

1) The average social intelligence of the members. (again, rather than IQ)

2) The structure of the group. More evenly distributed talking time, less of a clear leader, more democratic decision making.

5. The Alternative

Alternative Party has three main issues in focus:

  • Transition to a sustainable society (drawing partly on the Transition Town movement, originally from the UK);
  • supporting entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship; and
  • changing the culture of political dialogue (as well as supporting art and culture in general).

Transpartisanism: the principle of seeing the interchange of all parties as vital to democracy.

Debate Principles:

  • We will openly discuss both the advantages and the disadvantages of a certain argument or line of action.
  • We will listen more than we speak, and we will meet our political opponents on their own ground.
  • We will emphasize the core set of values that guide our arguments.
  • We will acknowledge when we have no answer to a question or when we make mistakes.
  • We will be curious about each and every person with whom we are debating.
  • We will argue openly and factually as to how The Alternative’s political vision can be realized.

The artistic, sensitive, complex and multitalented social entrepreneur is increasingly becoming the ideal type of the new economy.

This balancing of sincerity and irony gives progressive movements (like The Alternative) a great competitive advantage in the media and on the political stage—a sharp edge.

People need irony in order to build interpersonal trust based on self-knowledge, humor and critical thinking.

Transnationalism: not just building a network across and beyond national borders BUT also the long-term approximate aim of dismantling the modern nation state.

The Metamodern Aristocracy

Transpersonal Power: the power of selves and others. The brutal capability to coordinate living systems, to make events come into being.

Lovers of transpersonal power seek the empowerment of selves and others—realizing that power and freedom are sisters.

"Netocrats": people who govern and control value creation on the Internet and related media, where attention rather than money, is the primary value.

Three forms of Netocrats:

  • new kind of social entrepeneur
  • web-savvy philosophers
  • networkers who actively and deliberately make themselve into central connecting nodes.

These people "Imploit" rather tha exploit people and resources.

The primary driver in my life is not food on the table, or even struggle for interest, but an ethically fueled playfulness and sense of adventure concerned to a large extent with directing people's time, emotions and attention towards novel ideas.

6. Political Philosophy

Transpersonal Perspective

In modern society there is a widespread idea about "the individual".

The idea of the “individual” no longer fulfills its function as an effective unit of society’s self-organization.

Dividuals: we all are in fact part of one another and affect one another.

Transpersonal Perspective:

  • society is determined by the deep inner lives -

the most personal relations and tender emotions - of human beings. This takes the unique lived experience of each human being very seriously.

  • deeply human and personal experience is in turn created by societal process that are largely invisible to each single person.

We go from the idea of the individual (vs. “the collective”), to simply seeing society as an evolving, interlinked set of transindividuals.

It’s not just that we are each a billiard ball that “interacts” with other people. We co-emerge. Or, as the physicist-philosopher Karen Barad has put it: we intra-act.

It is by looking at deep psychological issues, the inner development of each of us, and how such properties are generated within society, that we address the core of society’s problems.

Example of Nowegian killer Breivik:

Two major explanations:

  1. Political issue (spead of neo-nazi ideas)
  2. Mental Health issue (the guy is crazy)

Or (say mainstream left) result of the neoliberal developments of society.

These discussion choose between an individual and a societal perspective.

From a transpersonal perspective the matter is instead the social psychology of a long sequence of everyday events. Somehow and somewhere in everyday life, this young man became very embittered, and was clearl unable to handle life in a productive manner.

The only way to have prevented this from occurring would be if people like Breivik were simply much less likely to emerge in the first place.

The terrible truth is that Breivik is you and me. He is a direct result of the society we create and uphold every day. He is not an alien force. It's all interconnected. We are all interconnected.

The View From Complexity

world-systems theory?

With the view from complexity, it becomes apparent that you can’t really blame the individual behaviors of the many people who interact, and you can’t really identify an evil “power structure” out there.

You have to look at the rules of the game, at the patterns of interactions, and how we create one another through those interactions—and how that in turn produces society as a whole.

If you want to change society, you need to change these games. You have to change minute things in people’s behaviors and you have to develop the quality of their relationships.

The rules of the game generated racism and discrimination.

Another example: sexist commercials.

Do you yourself have a slight tendency to spontaneously like good-looking people better?

This small relatively innocent urge is what grows through complex interactions and creates a terribly sexist society that nobody wants and many of us are suffering from.

Beyond Left and Right

Going “beyond Left and Right” means that we make questions of the relations between public sector, private sector and civil sphere into open discussions where the best empirical arguments for each mechanism, in each case, must be taken into consideration.

Do “free markets” work more or less efficiently than state bureaucracies?

Transcend one's political allergies.

The three systems depend upon one another for their functioning, for their very existence.

Fragmentation: We become split up; the same person is a family member, a citizen and a professional. These spheres of life are kept at a certain distance from one another. This is one of the major sources of alienation in modern society.

Keep three stages in mind:

One: markets, politics and personal relations are not clearly differentiated; two: in modern society these three spheres gain a great measure of independence from one another; three: in metamodern society, these three spheres are being re-integrated, ideally without any one of them dominating or contaminating the other two.

"triple helix models": collaborations between public, private and universite agents.

The growing importance of “the fourth sector”, consisting of hybrid organizations, public-private initiatives and, above all, of social entrepreneurs—as mentioned, the social entrepreneur being the ideal type person of the new global economy.

The principle holds that social life is of fractal nature and that society consists of three interdependent dimensions that always repeat themselves.

  • Solidarity: all societies have cooperation and mutual aid. you, rather than me.
  • Trade: all societies have an element of exchange. tit for tat. me and you, but only conditionally.
  • Competition: In everyone's life, in every goddamn relationship there is an element of competition: conflicting interests, power relations. me not you.

You ca break up any dimension into smaller parts and see how it repeats iteself. You can break up friendship and see how it consists of trade and conflict.

Non-Linear Politics

The metamodernist can choose sides only from a transpartisan position—you understand that there is always a larger process that goes beyond and through your current ideological, partisan position.

There is always something to learn from the other parties, even from your most bitter adversary.

Applying this principle of dialectic development to yourself, to your own views and opinions. Is it not obvious that, whatever you think and believe today, it cannot be fully correct or acceptable from some future vantage point, where better knowledge is on the table?

The Non-linear process:

The output (outcome) is disproportional to the input (the effort made). More money doesn't have to mean less poverty. Longer education does not have to mean higher understanding. Less regulation does not have to mean greater freedon. Social problems don't necessarily shrink in proportion to social expenditure.

Both the mind and society are ecosystems. They self-regulate, self-reproduce, keep up a certain "homeostasis" for periods of time and they they either develop or crash through crisis.

"Crisis" occurs when some variables are jacked up on self-strengthening feedback cycles and run off the charts in "far from equilibrium states".

The cardinal of all such linear models in politics the belief that “if only people were like me, had my opinions, the world would be alright”. This is the point zero of political understanding.

That is how it works: The Heracles, Prometheus or Achilles of our age is whoever can think the most abstractly and act the most non-linearly—those who can live with and skillfully handle uncertainty and not be paralyzed by it.

Liberal Innocence Lost

We can no longer take the stance of the liberal innocent.

The first such belief is that one can hold a “pure” or “correct” ideological position within a parliamentarian party system.

The ideals of liberal democracy are formed around the notion of the educated “concerned citizen”. This informed citizen must be able to take on a general perspective of society and deliberate with others, as equals, about the common good.

In reality, liberal democracy in industrial society has been a party-political trench war between working class (worker, employee) and bourgeois (industry, professional, consumer, share owner) interests.

Second belief of the liberal innocent: That you can choose not to act, and just be a normal citizen, and that you are thereby innocent. Only the politicans, reformists and dictators bear the true responsibility.

You are society as a whole. There is no "default position" to which you can revert, no way of "just being normal". Our society is a meat-eating, animal-exploiting, cruel, capitalist, alienating, unfair, oppressive, unscientific, undecomcratic, unsustainable society.

When you call yourself an anarchist, an environmentalist, an anti-capitalist or just an honest working citizen, you are not pure, not taking the "right path" and leaving it to others to mess up the world.

All your opinions, all your choices, both do good and cause harm. You are causing harm doctor. If you are against animal exploitation you are also saying that you want to denigrate the social status and livelihood of millions of human beings the honest folks working for generations with animal husbandry.

Once you choose totality, once you begin to see society as a whole, liberal innocence is lost.

PART TWO: Psychological Development

6. On Stage Theories

The terrible true is this: Adult human beings are not equal.

Without the insight that humans can be described with subsequently unfolding developmental stages is developmental blindness.

A progressive thinker and activist of today must know and accept hierarchy.

Stages represent a logical sequence where later stages build upon earlier ones. The later stage transcending and including the earlier one.

A stage is an equilibrium at a certain stage of complexity, a form of self-supporting balance within your mind, brain, organism.

Changes of stage usually happen in relatively short leaps that bridge more stable and longer periods of equilibrium.

Domain Specific vs Global Development Theories

7. Cognitive Development

MHC: The Model of Hierarchical Complexity

0) Calculatory Stage (molecules)

  • Can distinguish between 0 and 1
  • Can only react to stimuli without any distinguishing for strength of reaction.

1) Automatic Stage (cells)

  • Can react to stimuli dependent on quantities.
  • Just a single stimulus-response.

2) Sensory or Motor Stage (amoeba)

  • Can react in different ways to different stimuli. (but not invent new responses)

3) Circular Sensory-Motor Stage (insect, fish, newborn)

  • Can reach, touch, grab, shake objects, babble.
  • Can move body parts after having perceived objects and can recognise things.

4) Sensory-Motor Stage (rat, small baby)

  • Can do a series of movements that are calibrated after one another and build upon one another to achieve something.

5) Nominal Stage (pigeon, one year old toddler)

  • Can find relations among concept and make them into words.
  • Can begin to understand what other organisms mean.

6) Sentential Stage (two/three years old)

  • Can put words into sentences and see a series of simple tasks that need to be coordinated, imitate a sequence.
  • Allows for the use of pronouns like I, mine, you, yours.

7) Pre-Operational Stage (three to five years old)

  • Can make simple deductions (but not spot contradictions) and tell short stories.
  • Can use connectives: if then as etc

8) Primary Stage (five to seven)

  • Can do logical deduction and use empirical rules. Adds, subtracts, divides etc.
  • Can relate to times, places, can count acts and relate to separate actors.

9) Concrete Stage (seven to eleven)

  • Can do long division, follow complex social rules, takes on roles and coordinates self with others.
  • Can create meaningful concrete stories and keep the same story intact over time.

10) Abstract Stage (eleven to fourteen)

  • Can form abstract ideas and thoughts: single generalized variables that fall beyond the concrete sequences of events in a story.

11) Formal Stage (age fourteen to eighteen if at all)

  • Can identify relations between abstract variables and reflect upon these variables.
  • Solves problems using algebra with one unknown.

12) Systematic Stage

  • Can identify patterns among linear relationships. Thus forming systems of relations among abstract variables.
  • Begins to discuss legal systems, social structures, ecosystems, economic systems and the like.

13) Metasystematic Stage (early twenties and above if at all)

  • Can compare and synthesize several systems with differing logics, put together 'metasystems' or conclusions that hold true across different systems.
  • Understand that things can be "homomorphic", "isomorphic" etc.

14) Paradigmatic Stage

  • Can deal with several very abstract metasystems to create new ways of thinking of the world, new paradigms, new sciences or branches within sciences.
  • Has a fractal way of thinking so that the universal principles found are applicable to many different levels of analyris and phenomena.

15) Crossparadigmatic

  • Can deal with several paradigms to create new fields.
  • Examples are Newton's reformulation of physics. Darwin's theory of evolution etc.

Horizontal vs Vertical Complexity

Horiontal complexity is simply a measure of how many calculations you have to make.

IQ-test will primarily measure horizontal complexity.

The MHC stages measure vertical complexity.

Chapter 9: The Important Stages

Stage 10 Abstract

Create abstractions: The ruggedness of mountain cliffs. (blefuscity)

"High Blefuscity" means that the cliff range has many sharp edges and "low blefuscity" means it has fewer such edges.

Racism is Bad. It is a self-contained and self-explanatory essence that spreads by itself unless you stop it.

Stage 11 Formal

We can invent rules or principles that describe or guide the relationship between several abstract variables.

On a very steep cliff, you can only climb it if it also has high blefuscity.

Gone from thinking "blefuscity and steepness" to thinking "blefuscity and/or/if steepeness"

We have invented a rule that describes the relationship between three variables: blefuscity causes greater difficulty under low steepness and lower difficult under high steepness.

Racism results from economic and social inequalities in society and causes further inequality and discrimination.

Stage 12 Systematic

We can coordinate several formal rules or simple equations to see how they form a larger system.

Let's add the climber's characteristics. They can be tall or short (with corresponding length of arms) and she can be a good or bad climber.

We are looking now at how the entire system is affected by the interactions of two quite different sets of variables.

Racism is an emergent property of all societies and interacts with things like inequality. Blaming and pointing fingers is generally unproductive and one should instead try to address the long-term issues that may be causing ethnic tensions under these particular circumstances.

Stage 13 Metasystematic

Capable of comparing the general properties of systems, naming these properties and reasoning about when they generalize or not.

Adds a term "alignment" to describe the system as a whole. The cliff/climber system has low alignability. It is difficult—or it has high cost—to change any one variable and the different variables effect almost no change upon one another.

Racism emerges as different cultures and status hierarchies interact, where ethnic markers are used in order to increase one's position in the status hierarchy. It should be prevented by the creation of both greater psychological security and by the facilitation of productive dialogue about cultural differences.

Downward Assimilation and Scaffolding

Downward Assimilation: you can take a word that originated at a higher order of complexity and still use it. Your use will inevitable follow the logic of your own stage.

Scaffolding: It is possible through the means of language and communicative actions to support someone's cognitive stage upwards - not just one, but TWO stages.

Implications for Society

In a good democracy the more complex answers to life’s problems can emerge, answers that are more inclusive to a multiplicity of interests and perspectives. In a poor democracy, the lowest common denominator sets the limit.

Create process in which people's perspectives make up a part of a larger whole, a whole which resides at a higher order of complexity.

Chapter 10: Symbolic Development

This is the evolution of the world of language and shared symbolic universes.

If MHC is the cognitive hardware (processing power etc) this chapter discusses the software.

Realdialektik: this stage system follows a distinct, dialectical logic. Each of the stages creates language code that is inherently more advanced that the previous stage.

Archaic: earliest humans and neanderthals.

Animistic: magical and ritualistic thinking of tribal society.

Faustian: the mythical thinking of agriculutural warrior society. Neolithic onwards.

Post-Faustian: The mythic-rational transcendental thinking of traditional, religious society.

Modern: The rational, scientific thinking of the developed world today.

Post-Modern: The post-rational, systemic critique of modern life and society.

Meta-Modern: Read this book, please.


You aren't really taking the other perspectives seriously, if you don't evaluate, compare and connect them and give each perspective its due credit.

Chapter 11: Subjective States

Posits that every organism, every moment of its life, is in some kind of non-indifferent subjective state.

The overall subjective state of the organism is not its emotions. It is something more fundamental.

Lower states:

  1. Hell
  2. Horrific
  3. Tortured
  4. Tormented

Medium States:

  1. Very uneasy
  2. Uneasy, uncomfortable
  3. Somewhat uneasy, "okay", full of small faults
  4. Satisfied, well
  5. Good, lively
  6. Joyous, full of light, invigorated

High States:

  1. Vast, grand open
  2. Blissful, saintly
  3. Enlightened, spiritual unity

Organisms don't really seek or avoid certain emotions, but they seek to raise the level of their subjective state and avoid low states.

“Spirituality” is a catch-all phrase for those human activities, experiences and practices which concern the three highest categories of subjective states.

Spirituality has little or nothing to do with specific religious content or belief.

Each “state level” you shift up or down truly is a world of difference.

State variability: a measure of how easily, to what degree, and how often, your state shifts.

The higher one’s state, the wider and more relaxed one’s perspective: At higher states we see ourselves, the world, and our place in it more clearly.

Prolonged and stable periods of high equilibriums of subjective states are possible and achievable.

Can Lower States Be Good?

Sensitive people tend to be, I would argue, both more vulnerable to the adversities of life and more in tune with the profound beauty of existence.

HSPs: Highly Sensitive People.

A saner, more sensitive society might turn this heightened state variability into a potential.

There is a kind of dialectic between the lower and the higher states: Lower states can be instrumental to the acquisition of higher ones.

There is a crediblity problem of the higher states. People don't believe that higher states exist.

Why do spiritual communities turn into cults? Whenever a community is built, there is a hierarchy. Hierarchies of some kind are necessary for people to successfully cooperate, evaluate the effots of one another: who puts in the most effort, who is reliable and so forth.

But spiritual communities are built around hierarchies of "subjective states". But subjective states cannot be easily measured.

Often we overlook the other developmental dimensions when we say someone is 'enlightened'.

Example: Eckhart Tolle. He has high states. But his answers on any social or societal issues and the theories in his books are of average complexity (MHC stage 11 Formal, more precisely)

While being both kind and wise, this man is poorly educated and truth be told, not very clever.

Low state pathologies are pretty obvious—you feel like utter crap and this can make you dysfunctional, make you have destructive behaviors and want to lash out against the world.

High state pathologies: if you suddenly feel extremely enlarged and filled with cosmic love, this can easily translate into having grandiose ideas about yourself and your place in the world.

Chapter 14: Depth

Depth is a person's intimate, embodied acquaintance with subjective states.

A person's depth increases through her felt, lived and intuitive knowledge of a new subjective state (lower or higher than previously experienced) and when the intimate acquaintance of that state becomes an integrated part of her psychological constitution.

Depth can be thought of as a kind of existential or spiritual wisdom.

"Greater-depth" people are the ones who have experienced a wider range of subjective states. For example depth by lower states can come to a person like Viktor Frankl who survived in a Nazi concentration camp by finding meaning.

Depth is the number of states that have become inseparable parts of us; integrated into our memories and personalities.

Depth is a person's innermost recognition of the greatness and/or seriousness of reality.

It is a persons embodied knowledge of agony or ecstasy.

An intuitive way of measuring depth might be by asking people what they think of as 'ultimately significant'.

What is most important to you in the whole universe?

Low depth responses:

  • Feelings of happiness
  • Fun
  • Success in life
  • To be a good person
  • To experience as much as possible

Medium-depth answers:

  • Involve more universal values such as love, truth and beauty.
  • To live a life that serves love in all forms is what is of ultimate significance.
  • To prevent suffering.

Great-depth answers:

  • to manigest divinity in the world
  • to find radical accept
  • ance
  • to serve the becoming of the most profound possible unity and multiplicity
  • to "be" wordless emptiness and recognize the pristine meaninglessness of the ultimate truth

Who has greater depth? It depends on whether or not each of them has had the opportunity to successfully integrate her inner experiences.

Integrating experiences "permanently" changes one's relatedness to the world and to existence as a whole.

There are three specific forms of inner depth that a person can develop. Beauty, Mystery and Tragedy.

Depth as Beauty

The experience of beauty is by definition purely subjective. It can only be known from direct experience. Even if I tell you of the greatness and the beauty of existence, you must always experience it for yourself for my words to make any sense.

Like strawberry flavor: how would you explain it to someone who never tasted a strawberry.

For some strange reason, this reality, for all its meaningless grinding and torture, is sublimely beautiful.

Beauty, in this sense, is a kind of recognition. We recognize things such as harmony, balance, proportionality, contrast, pattern, variation, rhythm, repetition; aspects of the world that we spontaneously seem to appreciate.

Seeing beauty somehow strangely seems to be the correct way of seeing.

Depth as Mystery

Recognising the fundamental mystery of reality. A search for truth for the sake of truth. There is a profound and almost painful sense of meaning in the search of truth for truth's sake.

Fell this when the mind clears and clicks and lets me jot down a new insight into my notebook.

A human being can develop depth - not necessarily by "studying science", but by knowledge itself through science, as an existential and spiritual endeavour.

We're just talking about a general sense of mystery and awe that grips your heart.

Depth as Tragedy

All systems, all living organisms are always falling apart.

If there is a fundamental divide between the innocence of (healthy) childhood and the maturity of adulthood, it is that children live in blissful unknowing of the utter tragedy of existence, whereas the (spiritually mature) adult lives in full awareness of suffering.

To recognise this profound seriousness, and to fail to make it into the main engine of one's life, is what I call: the denial of tragedy.

What grows out of a clear recognition of the tragedy of existence?

A surrender to the primacy of the "thou", the you-ness of reality; the "youniverse"!

Long story short it means that I am nothing without you. It is the recognition that, fundamentally, I love you - that love is a fundamental faculty and a realization rather than a specific feeling.

Depth is developed by the recognition of tragedy, by the successful acceptance of such tragecy, and by the resolve to work, as Sisyphus eternall lugging rocks, against it.

Depth of the saint, the bodhisattva and western "philosophical pessimism" (Schopenhauer)

Chapter 15: Wisdom Troubles

Light Depth: The acquantance with higher states.

Dark Depth: The acquantance with lower states.

When we are stuck in social settings or relationships in which our inner depth—light or dark—are not honored and included, we feel that we are unable to act upon our most profound impulses and motives.

Under these circumstances it becomes difficult not to feel very alone and alienated.

The greater the depth a social setting seeks to accommodate, the more difficult the social situation is to manage smoothly and productively.

Very many of us harbor greater inner depths than we normally manifest in our lives, or than others normally recognize in us. We are just not offered the social situations to manifest these inner depths.

Crucial aspect of the maturation of humanity: create institutions and social settings in everyday life that are much more proficient when it comes to accommodating our inner depths.

Chapter 16: Effective Value Meme

Spiral Dynamics:

Purple (tribal folk people)

Red (gang members)

Blue (traditionally religious people)

Orange (modern mainstream people)

Green (postmodern people)

Yellow (metamodern people)

Turquoise (new-agey "holistic" or "integral" people)

This crude and ahistoric formulation of stages causes a lot of problems. It is the result of cramming many different things into one single developmental sequence.

He proposes the following list of effective value memes:

Archaic (beige)

Animistic (purple)

Faustian (red)

Post-Faustian (blue)

Modern (orange)

Postmodern (green)

Metamodern (yellow)

A population always has a developmental demographic of some kind.

A large host of the problems of today's world are of developmental imbalances.

We essentially live in a retarded world.

Your effective value meme is a kind of average between your complexity, code, state and depth.

Developing the effective value meme of the general population is one of the most important things in the world right now.

Compexity: adds to your effective value meme because it helps you see and relate to more abstract layers of the world.

Code: having installed a more advanced symbolic toolkit adds to effective value meme because the later symbolic codes are specifically developed to suit the realities we face in larger and more complex societies.

State: adds to your effective value meme because it means that you live in a lighter world, which gives you the emotional fuel to accept a more universalistic and less selfish view of society.

Depth: adds to your effective value meme because it makes you relate to more profound and universal aspects of reality and existence.

Each of the four dimensions has its kind of width.

Stage has IQ.

Code has ammount and how high quality knowledge you have.

State width is the length of time period you manage to stay within different higher states.

Depth is the time you have spent at states and the variety of different experiences you have successfully integrated.

1st, 2nd and 3rd person views.

1st: corresponds to our idea of a "self".

2nd: is our ideas about right/ wrong (how I treat you)

3rd: corresponds to our ontology (what we believe is "really real")

Potentials and potentiality, rather than facts and actualities, constitute the most fundamental or “more real” reality. What we usually call reality is only "actuality", one slice of an infinitely large, hypercomplex pie. Actuality is only a "case of" a deeper reality, called "absolute totality".

Chapter 17: Major Implications

The spiral dynamics Turquiose doesn't exist. If there would truly be a value meme beyond the metamodern, there would be a murderous critique of the metamodern code - which is nowhere to be found.

Even in the most affluent and developed societies like Sweden, the Metamodern value meme accounts for less than half a percent of the population and this value meme and the society it corresponds to are still being born.

The increases in effective value meme can be understood as a kind of increase in the degree of secularism.

Postmodern value meme secularises against the purported rationality of modern society and "modern man".

The metamodern mind realises that postmodernism is being essentialist i.e. that it believes in essences of things like (patriarchy, power structures, ideology) which are inherent to these invisible forces.

Light vs dark value memes: light pomos are more like hippies, they like environmentalist, self-development, organic food, community, Taoism and the like. Dark pomos are more like academics, anarchists, critical sociologists etc.

Progressive vs the regressive and the retarded:

Regressive political movements can be defined as the ones that draw society towards earlier value memes, often by allying with the value meme retards.

Developmental imbalances i.e. the fact that some thing develop ahead of others and some parts are always lagging behind.

Two such developmental imbalances: the magic residual and reductionism.

Generally speaking, the soft-edged folks—who prefer vagueness over certainty, openness over boundary-making, and wholeness over parts—are the ones who out-depth and/or out-state their own complexity and code.

Why are all the expressions of New Age culture and yoga parlors of this kind?

The Magic Residual: that people have seen greater depth, mystery and beauty in the world than their cognitive minds and symbolic code can handle.

The people at the highest value memes—like Metamodern—are more likely, rather than less, to believe in preposterous and magical things.

Reductionism: The prickly people. It is when you out-complex and out-code your own depth and state.

It is when your mind picks everything apart and uses its intellect in a much-too-instrumental manner.

The world appears too dead, too meaningless, too mechanical for you to really care about it.

We have to balance science and cognitive complexity with inner growth and vice versa.

The philosopher’s stone is simply the cross-section of great depth and very high complexity (stage 14 Paradigmatic and above).

The metamodern dictum: after deconstruction must follow reconstruction.

Chapter 18: Development Matters

Development is real and it matters.

We need to stimulate psychological development in millions of our fellow citizens.

When you say that they are hierarchical, they admit it and say that if you don’t accept hierarchies, you are being judgmental yourself.

If you’re not a developmentalist you can’t say why feminism and animals rights would be better than mainstream capitalism.

We are living in the age of the great stretching out. Never before has there been such intense and close contact between so many different value memes.

Appendix: The Metamodern paradigm condensed

Metamodern Stance Towards Life

  • To be exquisitely ironic and sincere, both at once.
  • To be both extremely idealistic and extremely Machiavellian.
  • To see that God is dead and humanism dying (humanism is the humanity-centered worldview originating in the Renaissance) and to accept and celebrate this by taking meaning-creation into one’s own hands.
  • To intellectually see, and intuitively sense, the intimate interconnectedness of all things: “The universe in a grain of sand.”
  • To accept and thrive in the paradoxical, self-contradictory, always incomplete and broken nature of society, culture, and reality itself.
  • To have a general both-and perspective. But note that it is not either “both-and” or “either-or”—rather, it is both “both-and” and “either-or”.
  • To accept and thrive in both manifesting, systematizing philosophy (like Plato or natural science) and non-manifesting, process oriented, open-ended philosophy (like Nietzsche or critical social science).
  • To recognize the impermanence of all things, that life and existence are always in a flow, a process of becoming, of emergence, immanence and ever-present death.
  • To see normal, bourgeois life and its associated normality and professional identity as insufficiently manifesting the greatness and beauty of existence.
  • To assume a genuinely playful stance towards life and existence, a playfulness that demands of us the gravest seriousness, given the ever-present potentials for unimaginable suffering and bliss.

Metamodern View of Science

  • To respect science as an indispensable form of knowing.
  • To see that science is always contextual and truth always tentative; that reality always holds deeper truths. All that we think is real will one day melt away as snow in the sun.
  • To understand that different sciences and paradigms are simultaneously true; that many of their apparent contradictions are superficial and based on misperceptions or failures of translation or integration.
  • To see that there are substantial insights and relevant knowledge in all stages of human and societal development, including tribal life, polytheism, traditional theology, modern industrialism and postmodern critique. In another book, I call this the evolution of “meta-memes”.
  • To celebrate and embody non-linearity in all non-mechanical matters, such as society and culture. Non-linearity, in its simplest definition, means that the output of a system is not proportional to its input.
  • To harbor a case sensitive suspicion against mechanical models and linear causation.
  • To have “a systems view” of life, to see that things form parts of self-organizing bottom-up systems: from sub-atomic units to atomic particles to molecules to cells to organisms.
  • To see that things are alive and self-organizing because they are falling apart, that life is always a whirlwind of destruction: The only way to create and maintain an ordered pattern is to create a corresponding disorder. These are the principles of autopoiesis: entropy (that things degrade and fall apart) and “negative entropy” (the falling apart is what makes life possible).
  • To accept that all humans and other organisms have a connecting, overarching worldview, a great story or grand narrative (a religion, in what is often interpreted as being the literal sense of the word: something that connects all things) and therefore accept the necessity of a grande histoire, an overarching story about the world.
  • To take ontological questions very seriously, i.e. to let questions about “what is really real” guide us in science and politics. This is called the ontological turn.

Metamodern View of Reality

  • To see the fractal nature of reality and of the development and applicability of ideas, that all understanding consists of reused elements taken from other forms of understanding.
  • To be anti-essentialist, not believing in “ultimate essences” such as matter, consciousness, goodness, evil, masculinity, femininity or the like—but rather that all these things are contextual and interpretations made from relations and comparisons. Even the today so praised “relationality” is not an essence of the universe.
  • To no longer believe in an atomistic, mechanical universe where the ultimate stuff is matter, but rather to view the ultimate nature of reality as a great unknown that we must metaphorically capture in our symbols, words and stories. To accept the view of a world being newly born again and again.
  • To see that the world is radically, unyieldingly and completely socially constructed, always relative and context bound.
  • To see that the world emerges through complex interactions of its parts and that our intuitive understandings tend to be much too static and mono-causal. This is called complexity.
  • To accept the necessity of developmental hierarchies—but to be very critical and careful with how they are described and used. Hierarchies are studied empirically, not arbitrarily assumed.
  • To see that language and thereby our whole worldviews travel through a much greater space of possible, never-conceptualized worlds; that language is evolving.
  • To look at the world holistically, where things such as scientific facts, perspectives, culture and emotions interact (this form of interactivity is called hypercomplexity)
  • To see that information and management of information is fundamental to all aspects of reality and society: from genes to memes to money and science and political revolutions.
  • To accept an informational-Darwinian view of both genes (organisms) and memes (cultural patterns) competing to survive through a process of developmental evolution that involves negative selection (that disfavored genes and memes go extinct, but continue to exist as potentials).
  • To see that Darwinian evolution depends equally on mutual cooperation and competition; that competition and cooperation are always intertwined.
  • To see that the world runs on dialectic logic, where things are always broken, always “stumbling backwards” as it were; that things are always striving for an impossible balance and in that accidental movement create the whole dance that we experience as reality.
  • To see that reality is fundamentally open-ended, broken, as it were, even in its mathematical and physical structure, as shown in Gödel’s incompleteness theorem and in some of the core findings of modern physics.
  • To recognize that potentials and potentiality, rather than facts and actualities, constitute the most fundamental or “more real” reality. What we usually call reality is only “actuality”, one slice of an infinitely larger, hypercomplex pie. Actuality is only a “case of” a deeper reality, called “absolute totality”.
  • To explore visions of panpsychism, i.e. that consciousness is everywhere in the universe and “as real” as matter and space. But panpsychism should not be confused with animistic visions of all things having “spirits”.

Metamodern Spirituality, Existence and Aesthetics

  • To take existential and spiritual matters very seriously; to view humanity, intelligence and consciousness as expressions of higher principles inherent to the universe.
  • To recognize that the esoteric, spiritual disciplines and wisdom traditions East and West relate to real insights of great significance.
  • To recognize that the esoteric, spiritual disciplines and wisdom traditions East and West relate to real insights of great significance
  • To understand that elevated, expanded subjective states relate to higher existential and spiritual truths than do most of the experiences of everyday life.
  • To see that inner experience—and the direct development of the subjectivity of organisms—is crucial to all things, and is perhaps the main ingredient lacking in the perspective of the modern world; acknowledging inner experience is often the golden key to managing society’s problems.
  • To take philosophical, cultural and aesthetic matters very seriously, as they are seen as inherent dimensions of reality, not just “additional woo-woo” on top of physics.
  • To create art and architecture that allude to the depth and mystery of existence, without putting it “in your face” or trying to tell you what to think or what is real.
  • To support a democratic, intersubjective, participatory, scientifically supported, peer-to-peer created spirituality, rather than traditional paths, teachers, gurus or authorities.
  • To see that both a spiritual and non-spiritual life experience and worldview are fundamentally okay. Spirituality and non-spirituality: Neither is inherently better than the other.
  • To understand that people are fundamentally crazy, that our everyday consciousness is not a sane reflection of reality, but a bizarre, psychotic hallucination that is utterly contingent, made up and arbitrary.
  • To intuit that the central spiritual and existential insight is the perfection of absolute totality as it always-already is; that there is a pristine, serene clarity underneath all the chaos.

Metamodern View of Society

  • To see no fundamental divide between nature and culture.
  • To see that we live in a new technological era (the information age), and that human societies evolve through different developmental stages for better or worse.
  • To believe that history has some kind of directionality based on logic, but that this directionality can never be certainly known, only metaphorically and told as a story—playfully and purposefully.
  • To believe that we can always synthesize the knowledge we have about society to some kind of overarching narrative, a meta-narrative, but that this metanarrative is never taken to be a complete synthesis, but rather always a self-critically held, but necessary protosynthesis.
  • To have a nomadic view of social life; knowing that our “self” is part of a social flow, a journey—and that we are becoming more tribal and nomadic in the internet age with our virtual identities.
  • To celebrate participatory culture and co-creation of society through non-linear, interactive processes where the whole is more than the sum of its parts.
  • To see the importance of collective intelligence (not to be confused, as it unfortunately often is, with collective consciousness, often associated with Carl Jung, etc., which is not part of the metamodern paradigm). Collective intelligence is simply the ability of a group or society to solve problems and respond to collective challenges.
  • To understand that technology is not neutral, not just “a tool in our hands”, but that it adopts its own agenda and logic, shaping and steering history.
  • To see sustainability and resilience as fundamental questions to all social life.
  • To see that sexuality and sexual development are a widely overlooked centerpiece in the mainstream understanding of all human societies. Sexuality has extraordinary explanatory, behavioral and predictive power.
  • To see “everyday life” as something that humanity can and should transcend in favor of a more actual and authentic form of life and community.
  • To take the rights and lived experience of all animals very seriously, human and non-human. Human society is just a cognitive category, and this category can just as well include all cultures, all deep-ecological entities (ecosystems, biotopes) and all sentient beings.

Metamodern View of The Human Being

  • To see that humans are behavioral, organic “robots”, controlled by our responses to the environment, and that we are simultaneously subjective, self-organizing and alive—beings of great existential depth.
  • To see that my identity and “self” are not ultimately my body or the voice speaking in my head; or at least that my fundamental identity is not exhausted by that everyday conception of a self (my body plus the voice talking in my head), what is sometimes called “the ego”. The ego is just an idea, an object of awareness as any other created category that describes an object.
  • To adopt a depth psychology stance towards humanity, seeing that her consciousness is transformable by changing her fundamental sense of self and sense of reality. This is achievable through psychoanalysis (or “schizoanalysis”) and love relationships as well as athletic, aesthetic, erotic, intellectual and spiritual practices—where contemplative mysticism stands out as a very valuable path.
  • To see that every person has a three-dimensional view of reality of her own, consisting of an ontology (a strong sense of what is real), an ideology (a strong sense what is right) and a self (a strong sense of one’s own place in reality)—and that these three dimensions can be described in a pattern of sequentially unfolding developmental stages.
  • To see that different human organisms are at fundamentally different developmental stages and therefore display very different behavioral patterns.
  • To understand the transpersonal view of the human being, where her deepest inner depths are intrinsically intertwined with the seemingly rigid structures of society. She is not an individual—her deeper identity reaches through and beyond the individual, the person. The “person” is just a mask, or a role, dependent on context. It is not inherent to the individual—even if the human organism can of course be described with behavioral science.
  • To see that in the transpersonal perspective, individual people cannot really be blamed for anything. All moralism is meaningless. This translates to a radical acceptance of people as they are; a radical non-judgment that can also be described as a civic, impersonal and secular bid to love thy neighbor.
  • To see that the human dividual has many layers, that she is both animal, “human” in a multiplicity of roles, and that she has higher potentials within herself.
  • To acknowledge the inalienable right of every creature to be who she is.
  • To have a non-anthropocentric view of reality, where human experience is not seen as the measure of all things.
  • To accept the idea that humanity’s biology and fundamental life experience can and will change through science and technology, what is called transhumanism.
  • To stretch solidarity towards the highest possible universality: Love and care for all sentient beings, in all times, from all perspectives, from the greatest possible depths of our hearts.