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A META-PARADIGM FOR POLITICS: A MORE BALANCED STATE OF EXISTENCE

This is where, for Herman, the larger evolutionary perspective of big history offers a breakthrough in understanding both revolutions and the unique political possibilities for our moment. When we look at what the great revolutionary paradigm builders of Western civilization actually did, as opposed to what they told us we should do, we can see some patterns roughly equivalent to the practices constituting the truth quest described by the primal complex. Socrates and Plato, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau and Marx were passionately involved in the troubles of their times. They all responded out of a heightened awareness of the human predicament of living in the in between (individual and collective). They experienced the limitations of the prevailing big picture as a personally felt crisis of order, requiring diagnosis and therapy according to a vision of political health. Their visions tended to be worldviews, big pictures, creative works of synthesis touching on the foundational issues of politics: human nature, the individual, the community, the natural world, government, economics and epistemology.

These symbolic constructions were shaped by the life story and situation of the philosopher, and to some degree by the logic of the dialectic – reflective self-examination and discussion carried out in a spirit of egalitarianism among a virtual, if not an actual, community of similarly motivated philosophers. Finally, they were all concerned, directly or indirectly, with action and saving or transforming of worlds. Here we can see, for Herman, their method reflects the four defining elements of the primal dynamic – individuation, democratic community, discussion and the integration of knowledge into big pictures that guide action.

The enlarged perspective clarifies the depth dimension of the primal truth quest. It is a method of revolutionary political science that is also the core of a new politics; or to put it the other way around, it is a model of political order that is also a way of searching for order. The primal political complex inserts into the heart of practical democratic politics the revolutionary discipline previously reserved for the geniuses of classical political philosophy. Using the language of paradigms, we can understand the primal mandala as a paradigm for a radically democratic politics that has at its centre the practice of political paradigm deconstruction and reconstruction. In this sense, it could also be regarded as that elusive meta-paradigm for politics that constitutes a revolution in our understanding of political revolutions.

The reference to such a meta-paradigm would help lift competing ideologies to the level of discourse of the primal quest, where the four quadrants of the mandala – self-knowledge (our “West"), face-to-face discussion (our “South"), democratic relationships (our “North") and the ongoing construction of the big picture (our “East") – would all be mobilized in decision-making. It would constitute a reflective leap that would be both a radical novelty and the recovery of the core of something ancient. It would establish as the mainspring of political action an ongoing process of psychological, intellectual and spiritual growth in the soul of the questioning individual in the community.

This would help create a culture in which the community regularly pursues the big questions in personal and political life and thus is more capable of responding to change without waiting for the system to crash. Such a model embodies the ancient Socratic wisdom that the never-ending search for the best way to live is itself the summum bonum, the core practice of the good life we seek. Like a spinning gyroscope, the primal dynamic keeps our thinking and actions moving around the essentials of what it means to be a conscious, questing human at this extraordinarily decisive moment on our marvellous evolving planet. There can be no end to history, or the quest, as long as there is more life to be lived through, about and understood. The mandala, for Herman, like our own integral worlds, offers a model for political transformation without violence, since it works continually to challenge the lure of power and privilege with love for the beauty of the path with a heart – the pursuit of the truth quest – a tao of politics.

We now turn, via French philosopher Bruno Latour, to politics and nature from his navigational, and thereby constitutional, perspective.

 
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