Monday, January 31, 2011

Stayin' Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class by Jefferson Cowie

While many most of us are keenly aware of the sometimes painful realities of class in our everyday lives, and open and honest discussion of the nature of this country's socioeconomic class structure remains perhaps the most taboo subject in American politics.

From the end of World War II to the early 1970s, the fruits of economic growth were broadly shared across class lines. There were still noticeable gaps between the very wealthy and everyone else, but as long as the economy kept growing, working and middle class people could expect their living standards to increase steadily - in the words of President John F. Kennedy, a rising tide lifted all boats. Many Americans look back on this period with a deep sense of nostalgia for a time in which anything seemed possible, defined by the existence of a broad middle class that could expect its children and grandchildren to lead ever better lives. As the title of a popular TV show from the 1980s put it, these were The Wonder Years.

But the wonder years did not last forever. Since the early 1970s the incomes of working and middle class people have stagnated or declined while the upper classes and the super rich have increased their shares dramatically. From 1980 - 2005, over 80 percent of income growth in the U.S. went to the top 1% of the population. The ongoing economic slump has made these trends worse. By 2009, income inequality in the U.S. reached the highest levels ever recorded: the top 20% of the population took home half of all income while those living below the poverty line took home only 3.4%. The number of people living in poverty and the number of people without health insurance increased dramatically. The prevailing mood seems defined not by a sense of boundless optimism, but rather a profound anxiety about the future.

How did we ever get to this point? And why don't politicians and the media seem to ever talk seriously about the sorry state of the working class in this country? Historian Jefferson Cowie gets at the root of these questions in his valuable new book Stayin' Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class, which we will be discussing on Brooklyn Book Talk this month. By chronicling the unraveling of the New Deal order and the unionized working class that supported it, Cowie unearths the meaning of a much-maligned decade in which the world that we live in today was created.

As you wait for your copy of the book, check out the author's Stayin' Alive blog, where he comments on politics, class, and culture. Also, I recommend listening to the author's recent appearance on the excellent Behind the News radio show hosted by Doug Henwood. The Cowie interview begins at 30:15, but the whole hour-long program is excellent and well worth listening to:

Behind the News with Doug Henwood - January 15, 2011 at 10:00am

Click to listen (or download)

One of the main threads of Cowie's book is a consideration of how representations of the working class in the popular culture of the period both reflected and shaped the political and economic trends of the decade. So in addition to more "serious" talk, get ready for plenty of YouTube clips of Bruce Springsteen, Merle Haggard, Johnny Paycheck, Devo, Saturday Night Fever, Norma Rae, Blue Collar, Rocky, All in the Family, and other great cultural products from the period.

In my next post, we will talk about two important questions that will help to underpin our discussion of the book: what exactly do we mean by "class," and how do we define the working class?

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Integral Approach

In the first 32 pages of Integral Spirituality, Wilber gives an overview of his Integral Map, also called the Integral Operating System (IOS). Based on cross-cultural and interdisciplinary study of diverse human potentials – spiritual, psychological, social – the map can be distilled into 5 major factors: quadrants, levels, lines, states, and types.
These five factors are not abstract theoretical concepts but salient and verifiable aspects of our being-in-the-world, claims Wilber. Without confusing the map with the territory, and by learning to identify these factors in ourselves, and in the world, we can harness them more effectively, thereby accelerating our own development to “higher, wider, deeper ways of being.”

Let’s look at the five factors briefly by beginning with the quadrants.

Quadrants combine the most fundamental distinctions in the world: interior/exterior and individual/collective. The four resulting intersections give us the interior and exterior of the individual and collective ( See figures 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 ). In the Upper-Left quadrant (I: the interior of the individual), one can find one's thoughts, feelings, sensations, perceptions, memories, all described in 1st-person terms. When we look at the individual from the outside, not subjectively but objectively, that will be the Upper-Right quadrant (it: exterior of the individual), which can be described in 3rd-person terms such as neurotransmitters, neo-cortex, limbic system, matter, energy, physical behavior etc. We can also observe that every "I" is a member of many "we's" which represent the collective in a given culture. This is described by the Lower-Left quadrant (we: the inside awareness of the group), which characterizes shared worldview, shared feelings, shared values etc. Just as the "I" has an interior (subjective) and an exterior (objective), likewise, every "we" has an exterior which is indicated by the Lower-Right quadrant (its: systems, networks, technologies, government, natural environment etc). In other words, quadrants simply refer to 1st person (I), 2nd person (you/we), and 3rd person (it, its) realities, which we can verify in our every day experience of the world as any occasion possesses an inside and an outside, as well as an individual and a collective dimension. More importantly, all 4 quadrants show growth or evolution, which happens in levels or stages.

Levels (or stages) are higher order structures that emerge as evolution breaks into new territory. Each level represents a level of organization or in other words, a level of complexity, and emergence in a given domain of development, termed as line of development in the IOS. These developmental lines occur in all four quadrants but in the context of personal development "I" (Upper-Left quadrant), for example, one of the lines --the "self-identity" line-- unfolds from egocentric to ethnocentric to worldcentric, or from body to mind to soul to spirit. Correspondingly, in the Upper Right quadrant terms, felt energy phenomenologically expands from gross to subtle to causal to nondual. The levels or stages can apply to any line of development i.e. self, cognitive, emotional, moral, spiritual, values, needs, worldviews etc. ( See figures 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 ).

Lines are specific areas (cognitive, emotional, inter-personal, moral, spiritual etc.) of our being-in-the-world in which growth and development can occur. They are called developmental lines because they unfold in progressive stages such as pre-conventional, conventional and post conventional. The level of a particular line simply means the "altitude" of that line in terms of its growth and consciousness. Hence, it is only when states are converted into stages of consciousness that genuine development occurs. However, one can be highly developed in one line (i.e., cognitive) and not so developed in another (i.e., moral). Wilber gives the example of Nazi doctors as a phenomenon of high development in cognitive line but low in the moral ( See figures 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 ). He also identifies some 31 specific lines of development, with each line unfolding with respect to stimulation by the corresponding information-energy inputs i.e., to stimluate bodily-kinesthetic line one can resort to hatha yoga. Similarly, to evolve in the cognitive line one can embark upon extensive reading, reasoning and research, and so on. The 31 lines are: affective/emotional development, altruism, bodily-kinesthetic, care concern, cognition, communicative competence, conative/motivational drives, creativity, dance, epistemic mode, forms of death seizure, ideas of the good, interpersonal capacity, intimacy, level of defense mechanisms, linguistic/narrative thought, logico-mathematical thought, morals, musical, object relations, openness, psychosexual, religious faith, role-taking, self-identity, self-needs, spiritual development, sports, values/worldviews, and visual-spatial thinking.

States mean states of consciousness or subjective realities within us, which could be natural or altered or trained. They could be temporary, changing, and sometimes powerful (especially of the transpersonal realm) forms of awareness, the most familiar being waking, dreaming, and deep sleep. But there are other such as meditative states (induced by yoga, zikr, breathwork, tonglen, contemplative prayer etc); altered states (induced by drugs etc); and a variety of peak experiences (induced by listening to exquisite music, or walking in nature etc). The great wisdom traditions maintain that the three natural states of consciousness—waking, dreaming, deep sleep—potentially contain a treasure trove of knowledge, experience, and wisdom, only if we know how to train them properly. The meditative states such as unio mystica, sahaj or satori can give knowledge or awareness of an ultimate reality. Thus, states of consciousness can house several different levels (or stages) of consciousness. States of consciousness come and go but stages of consciousness are permanent ( See figures 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 ).

Types are horizontal differences (such as masculine and feminine expressions, yin, yang, or Myers-Briggs, or enneagram etc). For example, the main types within Myers-Briggs are feeling, thinking, sensing, and intuiting. The main types within enneagram typology are helper, achiever, reformer, and so on. One can be any of those types at virtually any stage of development. ( See figures 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 ).

With these five fundamental factors of the Integral Approach (also called AQAL, which is short for "all quadrants, all levels, all lines, all states, all types) in mind, we will delve more deeply into more complex ideas (please see these diagrams) discussed in the book.

Comments and questions are welcome.