Innovation = Regenerating Knowledge | Integral Worlds Theory

Integral Polity Theory:
Aligning Nature, Culture, Society and Economy

Through the conceptual body underlying Integral Polity, we are seeking after harmony, like the ancient Egyptians did through their goddess Maat, and the ancient Greeks through their Polis. In effect, an integral polity serves to harmonize nature and culture, society and economy. Alternately, again harking back to the ancient Greeks and to Plato, it serves to recognise and to interconnect truth, goodness and beauty. Indeed, such an overall, integrated pursuit, characterises the core to our approach to our Integral Worlds.

Starting with the Core

Integral spirituality, integral philosophy and the integral age, standing for an overall, holistic level of consciousness, so to speak, over the course of the last half century, has become a strong enough idea to form some kind of movement. As a philosophy and worldview,  it is indeed coming of age. The contribution of Trans4m movement, in that respect, has been threefold. Firstly, it has brought such an “integral” notion into the realms of economics and enterprise, where it has hitherto been somewhat absent. Secondly, it has aligned such “integrality” with,different “southern” and “eastern”, “northern” and “western” worlds. In other words, at least as far as we are concerned, an integral approach in India is different from that in Indonesia, or Iceland, and, what is even more important, they prospectively complement one another. Finally, and perhaps most importantly for our purposes here, we have developed an integral approach to releasing the genius, so to speak, of an individual, an enterprise and a community, in a particular world, starting from nature, through culture, onto society and economy: what we will term an all round integral polity standing at the centre.

Aligning South, East, North and West

In our approach to Integral Polity, then, we – Ronnie Lessem (Trans4m) an economist from the Zimbabwean South, Ibrahim Abouleish (Sekem) as a natural and spiritual scientist from the Egyptian Middle East, Marko Pogacnik (Sacred Geography) as an artist and geomancer from the Slovenian North, and Louis Herman (University of Hawaii) as a political scientist and philosopher from the Hawaiian West (albeit that all of us are somewhat mixed breeds) – have combined our trans-cultural and trans-disciplinary forces. We use the term “polity”, rather than politics, because for us, as originally for Aristotle in his ancient Greek polis, it represented the embodiment of nature and culture, society and economy, rather than the political realm on its segmented own. In fact we argue that it is this very fragmentation of the political systems from the other such altogether integral realms, which has given “politics”, all round the world, increasingly today, a bad name. So what is the approach that we have been undertaking to such Integral Polity?

In Pursuit of Integrity

Conventional wisdom has it that the “west” leads the way and the “rest” follow, whether in business or economics, politics or even the environment. In our view, this is exactly what has gotten us in today’s mess. Conversely, we argue that, in the 21st century at least, societally as a whole if not economically in part, it is the “south” and the “east” that need to be taking the lead, and it is for the “north” and the “west” to follow.

Our integral approach, as our kind of “mandala” then, combines those four humanistic (southern), holistic (eastern), rational “northern) and pragmatic (western) elements in thereby integral turn. “Integral Polity” is aimed at environmentalists and agriculturalists, economists and political scientists, practitioners of sustainable development as well as all round community activists, who believe that a fundamentally new, what we term integral approach is required to deal with today’s local and global issues, and that we have to learn, as such, from the world as a whole, rather just from Western Europe and America, if not now, also, India and China. It also serves, as a core integrating program for an undergraduate degree in sustainable development.

Hitherto, we at Trans4m have focused up to now on what we have termed integral research and development, and content-wise on economics and enterprise, drawing upon concepts and application from North and South, East and West. From a content perspective, we have argued that, in today’s day and age, capitalism, as we know it, is on its last legs, and communism, as conventionally conceived, has had its day. As a consequence, not only is free enterprise and centralised planning “old hat”, so to speak, at a macro economic level, but, at a micro enterprise one, marketing and operations, human resources and finance, the bread and butter of every MBA program, have passed their “sell by” date, at least from an integral perspective. Indeed they are altogether the cause of, rather than the solution to, our current economic problems. Moreover, neither leadership nor entrepreneurship, as conventionally perceived, is the way forward. So what, integrally, might take each of their place?

Up to this point, we maintain that:

  • consumer oriented marketing and resource based growth need to be replaced by community building, enterprise-wise on the one hand, and community based self sufficiency, economically on the other
  • an orientation to human resources and to development economics needs to be supplanted by what we term conscious evolution, enterprise-wise, and a culturally based, developmental economy, economically speaking
  • a focus on business operations and welfare economics needs to be replaced by knowledge creation, enterprise-wise, and by a knowledge based, social economy, on the other macro economic one, and finally
  • finance and accounting and accompanying economic growth needs to be supplanted by sustainable development, enterprise-wise on the one hand, and by a life based, living economy, macro-wise on the other hand.

So far so good, but as we have recently come to realise, so bad! For we have discovered, in our socially and economically transformative activities in, for example, Zimbabwe and South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt, Slovenia and Germany, as well as the U.S., that economic transformation cannot take place without political transformation, and indeed vice versa. We are hence returning to the eighteenth century view of “political economy” with a contemporary difference, that is through our integral polity, aligning nature and culture, society and economy, as an underlying integral and trans-disciplinary core.

Moreover, and this may come to you as a surprise, we have come to realize that not only does such a reciprocal micro-macro transformation need to occur, as we shall be illustrating, “middle-up-down”, rather than top down or bottom up, but that the real seeds of such transformation lie in unlikely places. In other words, the “basket cases” of the world, ranging from Zimbabwe and Nigeria, Somalia and Eritrea to Egypt, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and indeed currently Southern and Eastern Europe, hold the real potential to promote integrity, albeit alongside the likes of France and Germany, the US and the BRIC countries.

The key to unlocking such integral potential, now politically, as well as economically, is to selectively recognize and release what we term the GENE-IUS of a particular society. In fact the whole format of this book on Integral Polity will be organized both trans-culturally, that is spanning South and East, North and West, and trans-formationally, serving, in each case to release genius by respective Grounding and Emergence, navigation and Effect. In other words, we :

  • ground our approach in particular, local and natural soils, thereafter
  • focusing on actual or potential culturally and spiritually based emergence
  • building up towards home grown socio-technical navigation
  • ultimately lead on to effecting transformation, economically, altogether
  • involving origination to transformation through an integral polity.

Realising an Integral Polity

In realising an integral polity,  we have focused on Africa and Asia, Europe and America, as well as the Middle East, but in order to illustrate the overall approach , we take Africa as one such integral example.

Natural Grounding: Original African Constitution – Birth of Democracy

African American historian Chancellor Williams took some sixteen years in all, during the course of the 1960’s and 1970’s to explore African history, with a view to ultimately releasing the genius of African societies. In fact, for Williams, the traditional worldview of the African contained the seeds within it for an ultimately integral perspective, which, for his perspective, was contained within cooperative democracy. A traditional African society, as Williams discovered in Ghana:

  • retained a highly civilised scheme of political and social organisation
  • had a very definite form of education
  • had a religion that involved brotherhood and cooperation
  • had proverbs which were rich in philosophy of life, as well as poetry
  • prized character formation as the primary purpose of education
  • had a concept of universal brotherhood alongside their tribal values.

For William’s, the renewal of such principles in our contemporary times would lead to the type of cooperative democracy Africa needs, which:

  • receives its fullest expression not at a national level, but in the way people live day by day in their farms, villages, and towns
  • is the way people locally unite to carry forward the work of the community, discover its needs, and plan their programs to meet these
  • is the way people unite locally to promote the economic welfare of their communities, developing local farming, enterprises and industries, all through group action, building on family ties
  • is the way people locally develop closer human relations
  • is most alive, most real, in the local community, in people’s participation and care for such
  • is the way the ablest members of the group carry out their leadership responsibilities at a village, district or national level.

Natural Emergence: Tradition and Modernity : Reflections on Africa

Kwame Gyekye, one of a significant band of contemporary Ghanean philosophers, takes on from where Williams has historically left off. The conception of democracy, in Western political thought, for him indeed, places a premium on political rights, but has failed to elevate social and economic rights to the same level of concern. Hence the fulfillment of social and economic needs is left to the private sphere. Democracy, is therefore confined to protecting and furthering such political rights. This, for Gyekye, is a narrow approach to democracy that needs to be broadened.

What needs to be done, he says, in pursuit of democracy and political stability, is to find ingenious ways and means of hammering the indigenous democratic elements – together with exogenous ones – on the anvil of prudence, common sense, imagination, creative spirit and a sense of history in the setting of the modern world. African culture may yet bring much needed political salvation. Between the two capitalist and socialist concepts, there is a division of emphasis between, on the one hand, individuality and, on the other, social equality. The two values should not be held as incompatible. This was the great problem during the so called “socialist interlude”, where one ideology was pursued in isolation of the other, as a kind of post-colonial reaction to the colonial regimes that had come before. In fact the core concept, which seemingly links the individual with the social, enterprise with community, is “auto-centricism”. For such we turn to Nigeria’s Claude Ake.

Natural & Communal Navigation : Democracy, Development, Autocentricity

Claude Ake was perhaps Nigeria’s – if not Africa’s – most notable political scientist before he was sadly killed in a plane crash in 1995. Three decades of preoccupation with development in Africa, he maintained, have yielded meager returns. African economies have been stagnating or regressing. For most Africans, real incomes are lower than they were two decades ago (Ake was writing in 1995), health prospects are poorer, malnourishment is widespread, and infrastructure is breaking down, as are some social institutions.

Culture, like the institutional framework, has been largely ignored as if it, too, had no serious implications for the success of development strategies. For him

  • development is not the same as economic growth
  • development is not a project but a process
  • development is the process by which people create and recreate themselves and their life circumstances to realise higher levels of civilization in accordance with their own choices and values
  • Africa and the global environment are to be taken as they are and not as they ought to be; what the paradigm contributes is what they can be.

We finally, and with a view to developing a self sufficient polity and economy, turn to the actual case of Chinyika.

Natural and Communal Effect: Food Security at Chinyika

When Zimbabweans Chidara Muchineripi and Steve Kada joined a Masters in Social and Economic Transformation program run by Trans4m in South Africa, early in the new millennium, their people were starving. Introduced at the time to our so called GENE cycle of transformation, the Chinyika journey, in rural Zimbabwe, to self sufficiency, began with Grounding and Activation of the indigenous soil. Second, it involved Emergence and Co-Development, through a process of Communal Learning, in partnership with Cairns Food – Kada was the Human Resource Director of this food processing company – and its agronomists.

At the same time, Cairns Food itself was awakened to its African heritage, which led to a culturally more authentic approach to do business. Thirdly then, a Navigational and Knowledge Creation (conceptualising) role was played by the government’s agricultural extension officers, by the agronomists from Cairns, and, indirectly perhaps, by Trans4m. Finally an actualising Effect was brought about by the Chinyika people themselves. The ultimate effect, at first for 5,000 and ultimately for up to 300,000 villagers, was the realisation of food security. All of that happened over the course of seven years.


Note: to explore Integral Polity theory further, turn to Lessem R, Abouleish I, Pogacnik M and Herman L (2014) Integral Polity : Aligning Nature, Culture, Society and Economy.