Nordic Ideology, Part 2: The Plan

Denys Bakirov
Nov 5, 2019 · 31 min read

Six Forms of Metamodern Politics

“Only by seriously helping people to get what they really need and want from life — by supporting serious adult development, development of the mind and the personality as a whole — that we can raise the level of behavioral functioning throughout society and the level of mental health throughout all social groups. It is in this manner we can raise the average “effective value meme” of the population above the modern stage.”

So how exactly does Hanzi envision our infiltration into the tangled fabrics of society’s functioning? How to bring the change we so desperately need? Granted, we ourselves have to be this change, embody it to prototype further — but apart from that? Hanzi offers six new forms of politics, intricately vowen into one network. Six processes to check and balance one another — and one Master Pattern to rule them all.

Let’s recap how personal growth shapes societal progress:

“Psychological development of people through four dimensions (cognitive complexity, code, state and depth) largely determine their “effective value memes”, and achieving a higher average effective meme of the population is exceedingly important for the development of healthy postindustrial, transnational, digitised societies.”

Society changes one person at a time. We cannot direct its development without “a new political movement to put such psychological growth on the agenda.” That is, without political metamodernism:

These theories are metamodern because they synthesise the ideas of modern progress through successive stages with a postmodern, critical sensitivity towards modern society. They offer a direction and a roadmap without relying upon a naive, materialist, linear and mechanical faith in science, rationality and humanity. There’s no state of Lenin pointing us towards a glittering future… Rather, the metamodern view of progress takes as its point of departure the very failures, limitations and insufferable tragedies of modern life. It is born not from the glory of the modern project, but from its frailty and futility. And more; it is born not from the postmodern critique of modern society, but from the relative fruitlessness of that very critique.”

The frameworks that people use to address reality grudgingly become outdated.

“If you see that it’s not only modern society and its institutions that are futile, but that even the postmodern criticism of the same is equally so, you must also recognise that the postmodern “deconstruction” must be followed by a corresponding re-construction: We must create new visions and pathways towards a relative utopia. This is where political metamodernism enters the picture.”

1. Democratisation politics.

“Is the form of governance prevailing in the west today the most democratic there is ever going to be?”, asks Hanzi in the beginning of this section. His answer is “no”. Moreover, adds Hanzi, democracy is not a binary thing (society is not either democratic or not democratic). Rather, democracy itself is an instrument of becoming more and more democratic, which involves:

1. increasing dispersion of leadership;
2. increasing volume, complexity and efficiency of information processing;
3. increased accountability and balancing of powers, putting greater demands upon the verifiability of decision-making;
5. a deepening and thickening of de jure and de facto participation and popular support in processes of decision-making and opinion formation; and
6. the growth of democratic, egalitarian and multi-perspectival culture and values.

“If you like”, offers Hanzi, “you can see these five dimensions as a way of increasing the collective intelligence of a given society; a means to “deepen” democratic participation. In this regard, a deeper democracy is one that lets solutions of higher orders of complexity emerge and gain legitimacy, thereby allowing for more complex forms of society to exist and strive.”

Societies seem to have been progressing in this direction for some time now. There is no point in thinking that our current forms of politics, equilibrated around the attractor of liberal democracy is the last word. What we have is not the end game. Rather, it is always more prolific to consider contemporary situation as a medium point of history’s progress. In this sense, we never leave medieval times.

“There is simply no conceivable reason to believe our current forms of governance in modern democratic societies would be the only possible and best forms of governance for all posterity. If all other forms of governance have emerged in historical time, have had beginnings and endings, is it really a feasible supposition that liberal parliamentary democracy is an exception?”

Hanzi hypothesises that in order to promulgate democratisation we have to harmoniously advocate for the proliferation of the four fundamental tenets of democratic process: (1) direct democracy, (2) representative democracy, (3) participatory democracy, and (4) deliberative democracy.

“We start at the meso-level (a “triple-helix” of companies, local administrations, and universities) and then we use the increasing organisational and institutional leeway to gradually go back and forth between the micro- and macro- levels. Development starts at the middle and bounces its way up and down in increasing magnitude: from changing people’s ideas and habits, to changing national, transnational and supranational structures of governance. Democratic development oscillates.”

2. Gemeinschaft politics.

“The quality of ordinary citizens’ relations with one another can make or break a country. Societies characterised by a strong sense of community, high levels of trust and mutual respect and understanding tend to be richer, less corrupt and more peaceful. Countries with weak communal bonds, widespread distrust and little sense of belonging often fall apart, sometimes violently… If a country fails badly enough at Gemeinschaft you get Yugoslavia or Iraq, it if succeeds, you get Denmark or Japan.”

German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies differentiated between Gesellschaft (formal societal structures addressed in the section on Democratisation) and Gemeinschaft (fellowship, intimate relationships within communities).

“We need to apply scientific knowledge to improve the quality of human relations, long terms, at all levels of society — just like Franklin D. Roosevelt said it. The value of social bonds and relationships is of course immeasurable. Yet, besides this value-in-itself, the quality of human relationships is a source of unimaginable wealth or poverty… There in today’s affluent societies are almost no real material or economic problems left — pretty much none of the fundamental problems of late modern society are due to a de facto lack of economic resources… The main source of society’s ailments is that people’s behaviors, psychologies and social relations don’t function properly. In late modern society, suffering is social rather than economic.”

I’m going to delve into this chapter at great depth because I think it is of utter importance in the context of my own work with these same issues and the metamodern clairvoyance of Rowan Williams who sees it as a loadstar of society’s development.

If you look at any of our problems a bit closer you’ll see how much it has to do with the damaged fabrics of interpersonal relationships.

Take climate:

“it is not difficult to see that a society in which people have less reason to feel insecure about their social status would also be one in which a more post-materialist culture could flourish and people could more easily make sustainable choices.”

Take poverty:

“the challenge isn’t really to feed and shelter the unemployed, but rather to provide them with social status, meaning, dignity, activities and a daily rythm — to prevent social decay.”

All these challenges to our wellbeing stem from defective

“human relationships, including: those between residents in local communities, cultural and sports activities and other forms of volunteering in civil society, how well community builders and local leaders are treated and supported, how class distinctions play out, relations between different ethnic groups, the integration of immigrants, relations at work, gender relations and sexual and romantic interplays, family relations, domestic conflict and violence, relations in school, how much loneliness there is, how much bullying there is, how much peer pressure there is, cross-generational relations, social safety nets for old age and disability, the quality and prevalence of friendships, acquaintance network relations, distributions of social capital and status, levels of interpersonal trust, levels of average interpersonal care and solidarity, the degree to which people are willing to help strangers, norms for treating one another in public spaces and in general, the level of kindness and understanding people show one another, how judgemental or forgiving we are towards each other, how people reject one another and handle norm-breakers and delinquents, how many grudges and perceived “enemies” we have, what resources there are for conflict resolution, which taboos we can’t talk about, how good we are at social perspective taking.”

We have been focused too much on which particular norms are valid or not, in place of focusing on how we impose any kinds of norms on each other in the first place: “how to handle norm-breakers and delinquents”, how to treat “one another in public spaces and in interactions at large.” Norms may be important, but the way in which we impose these norms on others is arguably not less important. But what can we do to inhance the situation? Just talking about it… helps, it actually does, for it at least brings the subject to awareness, makes it salient to us.

“In highly unequal societies governed by earlier emotional regimes, the norms are upheld through more brutal forms of penalties and rewards: ostracism, corporal punishment, ideas about going to heaven or hell, etc. In more equal and free societies, where the underlying emotional tensions are lessened, the norms are upheld with fines, definitions of psychiatric pathology, withheld social support, withheld recognition, subtle behavioural cues, ridicule and mockery, slander, etc.”

Your bad mood is a virus. Every time you interact with another person, you create an inprint in her psyche, your careless remarks and subtle signal do not exasperate with the end of the encounter, but swirl and cave in the basement of her mind forever, ready to be passed on to another unlucky host. We have to understand how important these baseline everyday interactions between people are. They are the context, the background atmosphere to everything we do. To tune them in the right way we need Gemeinschaft Politics. Hanzi offers four examples of what it might look like:

1. Measures to train emotional, social and collective intelligence: “training sessions in school to successfully read facial expressions and body language, guessing the hidden motivations of others, participating in games of perspective taking, training team formations and task delegation to compete against other groups in tasks of collective intelligence — and so forth.”
2. Organised community housing for families and the elderly: “elderly citizens could move to shared spaces that are safe for frail and weak bodies, letting families with children move into their houses rather than the seniors holding on to them, partaking in shared gardening projects, sharing some burdens of cooking, baby-sitting and so forth. There would be a facilitated framework for democratic decision-making and partly shared ownership — with relevant training offered to key people.”
3. Support for local citizen discussion clubs led by professional facilitators: “New arenas for public deliberation are needed and more people should be trained and equipped to become local leaders and facilitators of such meeting places… demand is huge for spaces in which people can be “general citizens” and speak their minds on current events and pressing topics and listen to the perspective of others.”
4. Making room for civil society projects in public spaces: “It is somehow taken for granted that most of the public spaces of a modern consumer society should be reserved for commercial activities. Busy shops in the center of town have long been considered the yardstick of a thriving community… People and organisations should be able to book public areas that are frequented by many fellow citizens and use them as meeting places and platforms for artistic, cultural or social ends.”

Let’s also address gender antagonism. There can be no stable and happy society in which the basic matrix of sexual/family relations is corrupted by bitterness, resentment, and disproportion.

“Erich Fromm once wrote that for society to prosper, we need not more distant intellect, but “men and women who are in love with life”. But to be in love with life, we must also successfully fall in love with one another.”

Granted,

“in liberal societies, we see that people in general can be viewed as interesting and attractive in a wider variety of ways than in the past. Scandinavian men are to a lesser degree held to macho ideals and standards of professional success than was earlier the case (and is still the case in most other societies) and have a wider range of positive masculinities available which can still be viewed as attractive. People can be gay, have metrosexual styles, be more childlike, more androgynous and so forth. People can hook up around weirder fetishes than before. And people can form a wider variety of love relationships and family constellations.”

But there is still a lot of misery and suffering going on connected to the relations between genders. Hanzi gives us one example:

“So if a girl has a bad dad (who because of his insecurities treats her and her mother poorly), and then gets a lousy boyfriend who just uses her for sex (because he wasn’t really in love with her, just really pressured to get rid of his stigmatised virginity and desperate to gain sexual experience and she was all eh could catch), then she’s quite likely to not like men in general very much. And then she’ll reject approaching guys at bars very contemptuously, cold and blank behind her smile, hence feeding into the bitterness of these trembling souls who had been trying to work up the courage to go and talk to someone like her for over a year…”

Almost everything that was mentioned in this example could have been the subject of conscious amelioration on the societal, communal, and personal levels:

“The level of gender antagonism can be reduced only by changing the games of everyday life, by developing people’s abilities to give themselves and one another what they need. If our anti-heroine above met a really sweet guy, who deeply satisfied her needs, after a few years perhaps her shields might go down and she might feel less bitter about men. And then she will stop feeding into this slugfest of resentment between the sexes. Or imagine if the first guy would have been much better trained at seducing women, so that he wouldn’t have had to “settle” for her, because he wasn’t in a scarcity mindset about sexual validation, and if he were less pressured to get sexual experience at any cost.”

All of this reminds of the type of discussions one might sometimes have within one’s family, talks about something that was always determining the flow of events, but always resisted being brough up into articulated awareness. These hyper-conscious deliberations are the core of what it means to be “meta” — no matter how awkward these surfaced subterrean strats can make us feel under the scrutiny of mindful dialogue, there is no coming back. There is this idea in Christianity that after Adam and Eve were exiled from the paradise of Eden by via becaming conscious and self-aware, there was no coming back through becoming unconscious again, rather, the new paradise — heavenly Jerusalem — was now reachable only through becoming more and more conscious:

“Can we really afford to keep this issue outside of politics, outside the ongoing discussing about conscious self-organisation of society? We must, as society, cultivate higher likelihoods for better relationships, developing people’s sexual faculties and reducing gender antagonism.”

3. Existential politics.

Brent Cooper considers the concept of metanoia to be a cornerstone of metamodernism

There can be no politics without the underlying overarching narrative about reality, “some kind of religion” in broad terms.

“What’s rational to do is simply senseless to ask without first having established what’s beautiful and just. And in turn, what’s beautiful and just depends on our narratives about the world, which in turn result of how we relate to existence as such”.

We can talk about what is rational to do in relationship to certain goals, but these goals themselves cannot be defended through rational argument. Means can be rational or irrational, but goals we pursue can be what Hanzi calls “trans-rational”:

“We pursue shallow life goals, because we get stuck on relatively simple and basic inner needs that still “have us by the balls” [needs to maintain self-image in eyes of others, etc.]. The goals our actions are themselves “innefective” (transrationally speaking), our motivations and drives hardly conductive to sustainable human flourishing, development, love and lasting happiness.

What systems of knowledge, what wisdom traditions would help us to ground our goals in their transrational ethos?

“A metamodern politics would need to reintegrate key aspects of all the former value memes, which means that even some aspects of post-faustian society and its traditional religions should be re-examined and judiciously reinvented.”

This is the sentence I was fishing for: “some aspects of post-faustian society and its traditional religions should be re-examined and judiciously reinvented”. This is precisely what I’m trying to do in my own work where I revisit eastern orthodox Christianity to find what it might offer to this growing field of wisdom-cultivating practices.

We need these practices at the core of our societies if we want our societies because collective integrity is always grounded in the integrity of the individual. And because inner worlds matter:

“Just as every society reproduces its murder and suicide rates with frightening precision from year to year — so must every society have a specific number of shattered dreams, a number of broken hearts, a percentage of lifetime spent in subtle self-doubt, a number of crises successfully passed (or not), a number of psychological stage transitions that occur harmoniously or in wretching agony.”

And this is what I would like to point out — aren’t these two sets of statistics correlate? Doesn’t a shattered dream often lead to a suicide? So isn’t it our duty to non-linearly save millions of bodies by preemptively saving millions of souls?

Secular monasteries.

The Monastic Academy in Vermont, USA

John Vervaeke often laments that modern society doesn’t have an institution where people can apply for wisdom. We have schools for eduction, academia for science, entertainment industry for pleasure. But where do we turn for wisdom? We used to have monasteries for that, but the protestant countries decided that they’re better off without them. And since these countries were and still are at the vanguarde of west’s development, this societal structure bereft of monastic routine became the norm even in the Catholic countries which nominally still have monasteries. In one of his lectures Vervaeke brilliantly demonstrates how Lutheran narcissistic individualism miltiplied by the doctrine of undeserved grace trumped any notion of spiritual work, striving, excersice, metanoia, development, and led to the abandonment of monastic institutions and the birth of modern society.

If modern society has, as Foucault argued, been marked by “the birth of the clinic”, Metamodern society must usher in

“the rebirth of the monastery”, echoing and carefully recycling some of the finest aspects of medieval society… The purpose of metamodern monasteries would be to offer all citizens necessary periods of seclusion (and/or community) and concentrated honing of inner skills, such as healing from trauma, making crucial life-decisions or transitions, learning new life philosophies, practicing meditation and taking care of the body, forgiving people who hurt us, sorting out ethical dilemmas, and other transformational practices. All of these services should be backed up on a collective level so that people are guaranteed a year off from work and be guaranteed a basic livelihood during this period.”

Today’s global problems can become “solvable” only through the global awareness that includes many previously “othered” perspectives. The ailments of modern world can only be treated if we grow into the adults whose level of inclusion surpasses family/nation/and race identities and broadens to include queer/animal/and ecological perspectives. We are after the full-blown adultisation of society, as argued by Alexander Bard:

“If we are to turn the tide of spiritual poverty and alienation inherent to modern life, we must begin to nourish the souls of millions. Only then can we develop a metamodern society, a society that takes its own development — interior and exterior — into its own hands. If there is one thing that characterises the emerging meta-ideology I call the Nordic Ideology, it is this: a systematic and deliberate nourishing of the human soul throughout the life course; a clarion call for adult development.”

As potential adults, children would be better off if they begin self-cultivation early on. Real adult development begins before one can walk:

“All children can and should be offered therapeutic talks with a trusted adult professional throughout their years in school... So basically, it should be a long-term goal to train everybody in contemplation, self-observation and meditation, starting from early childhood when our brains are especially malleable. If we transform not only the content of people’s minds and the nature of our human relations, but the very base structure of how our brains function, we transform society.”

What are we after here? Integrity.

“Integrity is a measure of how and to what extent the different parts of your psyche — be it thoughts, beliefs, emotions, habits, reflexes, assumptions, perceptions, evaluations, intentions, motives, or identities — contradict and undermine each other, and/or how well they reinforce and strengthen one another. Integrity is the measure of how well your psyche is integrated.”

Integrity, wholeness, chastity and oneness versus fragmentation, disparity, and separation; god vs devil. It is Jung’s individuation process; it is every religion’s call for unity. Same goes for us, regular human beings — with all due respect to polytheist traditions, our personalities function properly when they are united under the auspicies of “One God”, not when its divergent subpersonalities serve different power-hungry principalities.

It may seem ubiquitous and irrelevant to a regular reader, but you know what is also ubiquitous? The most terrifying crimes committed against humanity. Evil is banal, as argued Hannah Arendt:

“most evil acts could often be understood by studying surprisingly banal processes, actions and events.

It all starts from small things. “If we are to belief her”, says Hanzi,

we should also see that the forces of good, of human integrity, solidarity and reason, are equally banal. The banality, if you will, of virtue”.

But personal identity cannot exist separately. It stacks up to cultivate the transpersonal integrity, which

“builds upon not only how well the different parts of our inner selves are integrated, but how well all of us jive with one another, and how well all of us jive with society around us… We’ll never have a harmonious, kind and functional society without extensive inner work being done by many or most of us on a regular basis. And this is where the neo-monastic institutions would be of help: At major transit stations and periods of crisis in life, people would be supported to do the hard work that inner integration requires.”

The point is not to transcend the ego once and for all — for eveybody:

“we can’t just “get rid of the ego” and be done with it. Everybody needs to have a sense of self and maintain a reasonably positive self-image to feel okay as they go about their day. But we are staring at a very crucial correlation here, one that is possibly instrumental to the very survival of our civilisation: the average underlying fear of death in society is proportional to the identification with the ego, refusing to stiff procession to the grave. The identification with the ego is proportional to our tendency to identify with certain moral and political conclusions, which curtails any attempts to challenge these notions. Forms of inner work that let us deal with the fear of death and help us to disidentify with the ego, such as serious meditation practices, will — on average, over time and as a collective — help us maintatin a more functional and sane discourse in which people more honestly seek to know the truth… The point is not to “transcend the ego” so that we “can all see the truth”. That would be silly. The point is that society — and its members — can be more or less emotionally and existentially mature, more or less invested in identities, political or otherwise.”

“Even as these things are indeed often based on lies, even if they are conceited and steeped in falsehood — they are still the greates values of existence: the true, the good and the beautiful. Due to our collective existential immaturity, however, we perpetuate a situation in which people’s strivings for these noble ends cannot be trusted.”

“That’s the ultimate goal of the Existential Politics: to see that ego identification can be rolled back, that fear of death can be eased at the deepest level. Thus the genuine striving for the good, the true and the beautiful can be unleashed in our lives and beyond — to see that truth and idealism can be sought with the metamodern rebel wisdom we have called informed naivety.”

And much like Nordic and German Bildung centers,

“A neo-monastic institution, offering its support to the wider population, should of course also be linked to activities such as criminal rehabilitation, psychiatry, social work, palliative care… to education, where the opportunities for psychological and existential support should not only be a background structure as it is today, but a central and prioritised feature of life in schools and universities. Not to mention healthcare more generally; most present-day healthcare systems are bogged down with people seeking medical attention when they in fact have social, emotional and existential problems — as any general practitioner can attest to.”

4. Emancipation Politics.

We need to be parts of the whole. But we also need to hold on to our own individual identities. Gemeinschaft is to be balanced by Emancipation. Metamodernism is both-and.

a) as society’s complexity increases,
b) this also creates pressures to increase the reach and density of governance,
c) and this creates new sources of oppression (both the increased complexity of society at large and the new layers of governance),
d) and this creates an increased need to expand negative human rights and freedoms, i.e. the right not to be subjected to a host of new oppressions,
e) and as these new negative rights must be of a subtler and more abstract nature, they will be harder to define, defend and make sound and socially sustainable,
f) which thus makes necessary an ongoing political process (Emancipation Politics) through which information is gathered, rights and obligations are perpetually discussed and tested, and new institutions are created in order to defend people against new forms of oppression.

“The idea of Emancipation Politics is to create a permanent framework for society’s ongoing debate and dialogue about freedom and oppression: If new forms of oppression emerge, in whatever subtle or obvious guise, there should be a forum for bringing this to the public eye and a framework within which new solutions and responses can be discussed and devised.”

“what about the vague but real threat of Islamist extremist terrorists, or the right not to have our “free will” manipulated by technocrats and special interests, or the right not to be brought into social situations in which we are “out-depthed” and feel utterly confused and horrified as a result, or the right not to be subtly held back by narrow-minded definitions of the societal system, or the right to not have our attention span invided by a thousand addictive smartphone apps and commercials?”

Hanzi lists four main dimensions of oppression:

1. External state and/or market structures;
2. Limits of everyday life interactions, the cultural forms of oppression: “if you are of a lower effective value meme than most of society and you are pressured to take on a straightjacket of morality requiring an inner depth and cognitive complexity that you simply lack, this feels like oppression. You try to be a good person, but even if you try your best, people keep attacking and degrading you for being shallow and evil, and you never quite see it coming. In such cases, you are being culturally oppressed. Higher value memes can be oppressed by lower ones as well, like when the Nazis went after “degenerate art” or when today’s speciesist society penalises people who don’t think we should torture two-year-old toddlers to death (vegans being against factory farming)”;
3. Other people and their behaviors more directly standing in your way: “Ideally “your freedom should end where mine begins”, but in actual social reality, people and their lives are always layered in social relations: parents have power over their kids, larger family groups over single persons, bosses over employees, teachers over pupils, bossy and manipulative peers over peers. Your freedom doesn’t start at my outer border, but at the center of my heart”;
4. Our own inner oppression of ourselves: “freedom is always dependent upon us having sufficient skills and faculties to act freely and make use of what resources we have for the benefit of ourselves and others. For instance, if you cannot recognise what emotions and deeper motives arise within ourselves, we will be slaves to motives that lie beyond our conscious awareness — often being stuff such as greed, envy, power hunger, or an unreasonable sense of insecurity. This last category links us right back to Existential Politics: Obviously, there is an intrinsic connection between our relationship to existence and the deeper freedom in our lives.

5. Empirical Politics.

“From an informational perspective, the very reason democracy works is the same reason science works in the first place: It allows for ideas and claims to be intersubjectively scrutinised and checked. The developmental direction, in terms of attractors and “relative utopia”, could not be clearer that in this case: The future metamodern society must be a society closer to the approachable but always unattainable truth.”

“Science itself doesn’t point us towards appealing to human rationality as the best means for transitioning to sustainability. Within disciplines such such as environmental psychology and behavioral economics, it is becoming abundantly clear that emotional and personal development evolves our values, habits and goals in terms of sustainability. Consequently, science itself seems to point us beyond “rationality”, and towards a meta-rationality that includes our emotions, relations and narratives. A scientific society would not only change our minds, but also our hearts… We are far, far away from a truly scientific society. We are medieval.”

Always medieval, as I have put it in a previous part of the review. Or, rather, metadieval, because one thing differentiates us from the medievals: We are at least becoming conscious of our perpetual predicament.

Hanzi is also very kind to offer us the ten tenets of what this “Ministry of Truth” would do:

1. evaluate, survey, rate and publicise the degree of evidence-based practive in all areas of public sector work and civil service;
2. aim to improve the quality, relevance and reliability of science, throughout all bracnhes;
3. cultivate and develop the critical meta-discussion about science and its role in society (we should make certain that science as a whole and our “politics of science” are properly critiqued from as many and systematic angles as possible);
4. increase the number of networked contacts adn exchanges between the scientific fields (interdisciplinarity);
5. increase the average ability for critical thinking and logical reasoning in the general population;
6. found crosschecking media institutes;
7. support a co-developmental political structure (we need our political culture and debate to take on more civil and respectful forms);
8. support the development of popular culture in an empirically correct direction (whereas the arts must always remain free, it should be noted that blockbuster movies and popular outlets play a crucial role in forming people’s background understanding of reality… Efforts should ebe made to proliferate more factually correct stories);
9. develop the precision and reliability of everyday language;
10. support the “ontological security” of the population (Ontological security is a term coined by the sociologist Anthony Giddens, and usually refers to “the sense of order and continuity in regard to an individual’s experience”… Our commitment to truth and our ability to challenge our own opinions and conceptions depend upon how safe we all fundamentally feel in the universe. By strengthening this sense of security, we serve truth-in-society at its most essential level. Which links us back to Existential Politics).

“In metamodern society, “truth is God” (Gandhi said it). The point is not to obsess about “hard, rational empiricism!” with those strict eyebrows of a narrow-minded modernist, or to reduce the richness of life and existence to hard, crunchy data and chew it like a jawbreaker until the end of days… The point is to gradually increase society’s capacity for information processing and event prediction by developing our collective capacity for intersubjective crosschecking.”

6. Politics of Theory.

Greek word theoria, θεωρία, means seeing, looking at, viewing, beholding. “We need to have institutions that make culture itself transformable because our life conditions will change again and again”.

Hanzi begins this chapter with being radically honest:

“The basic idea of Politics of Theory (or “of Narrative”) is to monitor, steer and regulate the fundamental “theory of everything” that people subscribe to; our shared narrative or worldview. Straight talk: It’s the politics of massive population brainwashing.”

It is as if Hanzi is saying Hey, dear children. It is a cliché to say that I was just like you. But I mean really. Look around. I am sitting nearby — that guy you notice the least, sometimes you smile at him but he’s too shy to retaliate. That’s me. «Hi!» I returned to teach you a lesson or two about how the world operates. To brainwash you, to infect you with a certain kind of ideology and philosophy. Because that’s what you actually need to live a happy life, have family, have children, see dreams come true.

“All societies more or less brainwash their citizens into a certain story (or set of competing stories) about reality, society, humanity and life. We are all socialised into a certain identity, ideology and ontology — ideas about our “self” and our place in the universe, about what’s right and wrong, and about what’s really real in the first place.”

“The modern conception of a historical development towards higher levels of individual autonomy in thinking (they used to tell people to believe in Jesus, but now we’re free to believe what we want) is manifestly wrong… The modern project and its reach for freedom is undergirded by a corresponding growth of intimate mechanisms of control, mechanisms through which minds, bodies and behaviors are controlled and coordinated to an unprecedented degree. The most obvious of these mechanisms is schooling…

So the question, then, is not “should we have massive and extensive brainwashing of millions?” — we already do, and we probably must: Modern society relies upon an educational system, and all societies rely upon shared narratievs and intricate coordination of people’s perspectives and streams-of-action. Rather, the question is, “should this underlying theory of everything be brought under continuous, explicit, democratic scrutiny, or should it remain beyond our reach in terms of democratic governance”?

“Modern society and its project of enlightenment and progress uses science and economic growth to reshape nature in accordance with the inner projections of the human mind — but it does not see its own culture and fundamental worldview as subject to change. It doesn’t recognise that not only does our knowledge of the world evolve, but so does our perspective of our knowledge of the world… The postmodern critique of the modern world revealed that underlying patterns of thought and ideas governing the lives of people can be questioned, analysed, deconstructed, unveiled. It led intellectuals to question the universality of the modern project in its entirety. Metamodern society takes that fundamental code, our very own perspectives, into its own hands, and shapes it, just as it shapes nature; metamodernism is the historical point when society becomes conscious of itself.”

“To the modern mind, nature is the object, the “great it” and culture is the subject, the “great me” who acts upon a silent cosmos. To the metamodern mind, culture and nature are both part of the object, whereas the subject is the transpersonal developmental process itself.”

The great process of Logos incarnated by Jesus of Nazareth, who mediates between Great Mother Mary on earth and Great Father who is in heaven, if you’re into symbolic theology.

With the new technology advancing with an unprecedented pace, “we will be able to create new life and new conscious experience: extremely high and extremely low inner states. If anything goes wrong, we can all but literally create hell.” After all, I think that only one episode of the Black Mirror series has a real happy ending. You get the picture.

“Under the current historical conditions, we have democratic institutions; rights and liberties that enshrine a somewhat free and fair “market of ideas”, even if distortions and manipulations necessarily occur. What we don’t have is a proper set of institutions with the explicit goal of monitoring and steering the worldviews of the population… The brainwashing should be domocratically up for grabs by all contenders, and all political actors will need to specify which worldview they would like to spread and why — which means all worldviews become subject to greater self-scrutiny.”

In a very non-linear way, we will have vindicated Plato’s old adage “until philosophers become kings”:

“There will be no end to the troubles of states, or of humanity itself, till philosophers become kings in this world, or till those we now call kings and rulers really and truly become philosophers, and political power and philosophy thus come into the same hands” (Plato, the Republic, book 5).

Example: Big History in Schools

“as part of nation-building effort, school curriculums came to focus more on the histories of the nation and the state. And as societies democratised, past struggles for political emancipation and victories over authoritarian dictatorships were highlighted in these national narratives so that pupils would become good, democratic citizens. Such nation-state centered narratives still remain dominant in most schools today. But despite its many merits, this kind of history teaching has increasingly begun to be at odds with the interests of our emerging global civilisation. It fails to emphasise the truly global aspects of societal and technological development; it overemphasises the role of states and ethnicities in our present era; and it provides too limited understanding of the interactions between humans and the rest of the biosphere.”

Postmodern approach to history which focuses on divergent themes that were left out is “arguable more in tune with the multicultural societies of today’s post-colonial, global world, but it still suffers from a number of inadequacies: it’s overly preoccupied with details and smaller histories, more concenrned with picking apart established conceptions than creating new ones, and it offers little help to navigate a hypercomplex, ever more technologically advanced and increasingly interconnected global civilisation on the brink of ecological collapse”. It leaves us with “history in pieces”.

“But without any meta-narratives, what we are left with is a fragmented and parochial view of history, too absorbed in details and devoid of any attempts at fitting them together into a greater, coherent worldview, in effect rendering history lessons into a random presentation of “one-damned-things-after-another”, to quote the historian Arnold Toynbee — which makes it different to explain why anyone should bother studying history at all.”

“we must accept the postmodern critique, namely that we will never obtain the truth in any absolute meaning of the term. The quest for truth can only be stated in provisional, playful terms: only a Proto-Synthesis is possible.”

“despite all our modern knowledge and reasoning, we still seem utterly incapable of eradicating the poorly composed myths that each of us spontaneously constructs nevertheless. So why not deliberately create a better myth and have it out in the open so that we can criticise it and improve upon it?”

“If there were a ministry of Theory”, says Hanzi, it should gather expertise within:

1. Weltanschauung (worldviewing);
2. Study of value memes (people tend to stabilise their worldview and values around certain discernable equilibria I call “value memes”, which depend upon both social and psychological factors, which can be studied as large patterns or “metamemes” (modernity, postmodernity, metamodernity));
3. Social constructionism (as described by Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann in 1966);
4. Mythologies and archetypes (Carl G. Jung, Erich Neumann);
5. Narrative analysis;
6. Discourse analysis (based upon the tradition of M. Foucault);
7. Hermeneutics and the hermeneutic circle;
8. Ethnomethodology (invented by Harold Garfinkel);
9. Imaginaries (a concept coined by the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor);
10. Studies of cultural values (such as the World Values Survey or Hofstede’s studies of the organisational culture in different countries).

“There are already lots of useful methods for studying “theories of reality” prevalent in society; we just need to start doing it at scale, in a more coordinated fashion and link it to the world of politics and democratic governance.”

In the end of the chapter on Politics of Theory, in a characteristically metamodern both/and fashion, Hanzi urges us to be “ironically sincere” when “proto-synthesising” our “meta-narratives”.

“Six form of politics. Six new processes. Now let’s take a look at how all of this fits together”.


The Master Pattern

“I wasn’t joking when I put all of these six processes in a hexagon; they really do fit together” (p. 343)

“When you go ahead to introduce political metamodernism, others will try to pin the failures of any of the micro-movements onto you. Don’t let them distract you… Play strategically to align all these forces with the emergence of a metamodern society”

There are many partly-metamodern micro-movements that emerge in the world already, preparing the ground for holistic political metamodernism:

1. Existential Politics: “ little political parties and civil society groups who seek to radicalise democratic governance. Wikipedia counts 38 of them worldwide… Sweden has three”;
2. Gemeinschaft Politics: “is prevalent among many volunteering-based groups of civil society — and some professionals within public social work — who work to create “meeting places”, “melting pots” for the cultural integration of immigrants, dialogue clubs for common issues, fora for dealing with cultural traumas and so forth”;
3. Democratisation politics: “in rudimentary form exists within a lot of spiritual circles… you have movements like Syntheism, and to some extent the Burning Man Festival community, which seek to explore and co-create new forms of spirituality and existential development”;
4. Emancipation politics: “pirate parties… Silicon valley people who share libertarian ethos” and postmodern critical theorists;
5. Empirical politics: “shows up amongst all those science and “evidence based politics” parties”;
6. Politics of Theory: “you can find it in networks and think tanks which have as their explicit goal to change the metanarrative of society. Metamoderna, Ekskäret Foundation in Sweden (they have a private island where they gather people to talk about the future of society) and Perspectiva in the UK (they, especially the chess Grand Master Jonathan Rowson, write about spirituality and personal development connected to e.g. climate crisis)”

But “each of the six new forms of politics is, taken by themselves, deeply harmful and destructive… We need to develop society across all of these semiotic relations if it is to function at a new and more complex stage”

Let’s consider Politics of Theory, the most complex and profound of the metamodern political processes. It must “be coordinated with the real, embodied communities that exist in society (Gemeinschaft) and be held in check by verifiable factual claims (Empirical), and any attempt to force perspectives down people’s throats must be challenged and counteracted (Emancipation), and it must be reconnected to a transparent democratic process (Democratisation), and whatever narratives and value memes are strengthened through this process must be matched by the inner development of the population (Existential). It needs all five other processes up and running in order to emerge in a functional, healthy way.”

“These are six different forces that, to a significant extent, work against each other! Emancipation politics is out to get Gemeinschaft Politics, and Existential Politics is out to get Empirical Politics and vice versa… The master pattern is not brought to life through one harmonising totalising “plan”, but through a number of processes pushing against each other, refining, challenging and defeating each other.”

1. Existential Politics develops the relationship of me to myself, my subjective inner world, the relationship between 1st person and 1st person. It offers metanoïa.
2. Gemeinschaft Politics develops the relationship between us and us, between people in general, relating to another as a “you”, in 2nd person. It offers metaxy (and also metaphor);
3. Democratisation politics develops the relationship of the single “me” to society, to all other people, empowering my participation and so forth. It offers metastasis (reforming forms, structure of governance);
4. Emancipation politics develops the relation of society to me, of how I have right to be treated or not treated by society as a whole, by all of you. It offers metaplay (being exempt from whatever the stucture that suffocates you and being offered a different set of games to play);
5. Empirical politics puts 3rd person constraints upon what forms of relations can be had between self and society (all the four above relations between 1st and 2nd person); it is thus the relationship between 3rd person reality and the self/society relation. It offers metacognition (applying scientific scrutiny to scrutinise applying scientific scrutiny and so on);
6. Politics of Theory develops the relationship fo self/society to reality as a whole, i.e. to reality in 3rd person. It is thus the relationship of all the first four processes (1st and 2nd person) to a commonly constructed 3rd person view. It offers metaphysics.

Again, how to enkindle these processes in a given society and the world at large? Hanzi deposits two main agents of change: 1. the metamodern aristocracy and 2. the process-oriented party.

“The process oriented party focuses primarily on the political process and on keeping very high standards of behavior. That doesn’t win mass votes and quick landslide elections, but it makes it become the most trusted and respected of all parties — or, seen differently, the least hated by all other positions on the spectrum. It does not maximise quantitative success (number of votes), but becomes part and parcel of the most central nodes of society — respected by public actors, industries and civil society.

“Some of the Green, centrist and leftwing parties will steal your [Democratisation Politics] ideas and find their own twist on them, which is fine.” Same for Gemeinschaft Politics, with its aspects stolen by “social democrats, center-right conservatives or even nationalists who seek to revive obsolete forms of social integration”. Then you introduce Existential Politics only to see it recycled by “Christian democrats or equivalents, making it their hallmark.” But that is fine.

“Other parties will steal not only your policies, but also your co-developmental party structures, and hence their political culture will shift and collective intelligence of governance will increase across the board… There’s an attractor point here; a bunch of interrelated processes that potentially reinforce and resonate with each other in a new way, a way that is different from modern society.

Political metamodernism has the shortest average distance to all other positions. It is closer to socialism than the conservatives, closer to conservatism than the ecologists, closer to ecologism than the libertarians, closer to liberalism than the center and vice versa. It is not the most popular of positions, but it is the least hated. It is thus, in a sense, the opposite of cheap-scoring populism — and yet it can approach and deal with populism more easily than does conventional centrism and liberalism. Populism sounds exciting but is boring in terms of its potentials. Co-developmental politics sounds boring, even goes out of its way to look harmless, but it is truly radical and transformative.”

Denys Bakirov

Written by

A lecturer and a PhD student at the University of Kharkiv

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