L e v e l - 7 Philosophy

Tools For A New Political Economy

Level 7 Philosophical Framework


My development of Integral Lifework over many years began hinting at how a Level 7 economy could take shape, and writing Political Economy and the Unitive Principle in 2013 was the first glimpse of a more well-rounded vision. You can read a searchable online version of the book here, you can download a DjVu copy here, or you can purchase e-book or paperback editions here. Since that time, additional discussion, feedback, research and writing has continued to expand the foundations of an alternative political economy, resulting in the launch of this website in 2016, and its ongoing expansion and refinement.

What are the core design principles of a Level 7 Political Economy?

The following list of core design principles provides links to a more in-depth discussion of each idea. The essential aim of Level 7 is to transition to more distributed and diffused systems of governance and economic opportunity — that is, to move away from institutions and traditions that concentrate wealth and power in order to remedy the economic inequality and corruption of democracy so prevalent in the world today.

Where did the philosophy behind a Level 7 Political Economy originate?

These ideas coalesced over a number of years as an outgrowth of studying how moral development, economics, traditional philosophy, cultural values, history, politics and democracy have generated and intersected within political economies over time. The influences have been broad, but include these contributions and considerations:

Influential Concepts

  • Elinor Ostrom’s research on common pool resource management that arose organically around the globe, and which helped inform the shape of polycentric governance.
  • An intersection and synthesis of virtue ethics, utilitarianism and pragmatism — especially as they intersect with democracy, commerce and political obligation.
  • As a response to pervasive corporate oligarchy and its destructiveness to both democratic civil society and all life on planet Earth — as extensively exposed by Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Chris Hedges, Yanis Varoufakis, Greg Palast, George Monbiot, and others.
  • Integrating lessons learned by Alec Nove about the failures of State socialism and potential remedies.
  • Consideration for the varied insights and vision of many other economists, such as Thorstein Veblen, E.F. Schumacher, Thomas Picketty, Karl Marx and Amartya Sen.
  • Howard Odum’s concept of Earth as a closed or isolated ecological system, subject to the laws of thermodynamics and cycles of energy transformation, and the consequent development of approaches by David Holmgren, Peter Pogany and others to operate sustainably — that is, with a regenerative mindset instead of an extractive one — within such a closed system.
  • Paulo Freire’s emphasis on an inclusive, participatory, dialogical educational process to bring about social change through individual self-empowerment and critically reflective participatory action (critical pedagogy and praxis).
  • A convergence of ideas and evidence encountered in moral philosophy, theories of human development, spiritual disciplines, enduring works of art, neuroscience and evolutionary biology around the centrality of prosocial behaviors as the basis for human society and collective survival.
  • Paul Piff’s research on the deleterious effects of wealth, greed and social status on social relations.
  • Adam Smith’s warnings about the dangers of monopolies.
  • The selective merits of various libertarian socialist and social anarchist proposals (see also An Anarchist FAQ for additional elaboration on social anarchy) and real-world examples (see anarchist mass societies) influenced by the writings of William Godwin, Murray Bookchin, Peter Kropotkin, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Mikhail Bakunin, and Rudolph Rocker. (Also, of course, the original writings of these seminal thinkers as well.)
  • Employing Ken Wilber’s AQAL schema to help define what integral liberty should look like.
  • Proven advantages of member-owned and worker-owned cooperatives over shareholder-centric institutions and management.
  • The importance of the pilot principle — along with its precautionary principle corollary — in considering all activism or when implementing any solution.
  • The demonstrated advantages and historical precedents of subsidiarity, horizontal collectivism and egalitarianism, and the observation that all concentrations of wealth and power are destructive to democracy and economic freedom.
  • Implementations of direct democracy in Switzerland, installed in parallel with representative democracy (and holding those elected officials accountable).
  • A re-engagement of civic responsibility, first and foremost at the community level, via both governmental and non-governmental institutions.
  • Relying on evidence-based solutions that are customized to regional and local differences (rather than trying to impose homogenized conformance).
  • The exhortations and warnings of philosophers and activists throughout history that the methodologies, values, prejudices and attitudes embodied in any movements or activism will persist into the institutions and cultural norms that emerge out of that revolution; I call this revolutionary integrity.

Original Ideas & Supportive Insights

(To appreciate how many of these elements interrelate, I recommend reading
Integral Lifework Concepts, Tools & Assessments as an in-depth overview, and Integral Lifework Developmental Correlations and Integral Lifework Moral Development Map for summary snapshots)

  • That multidimensional nourishment (both individually and collectively, in widening circles of intention and action) creates critical support structures for moral development, and that moral development, in turn, is a critical support structure for an advanced political economy.
  • The acknowledgement of a unitive principle, evident in nearly all philosophical and spiritual traditions — and supported by research into group selection and the evolution of prosocial traits — that identifies loving kindness as the fundamentally binding force in social cohesion, organization and development.
  • The criticality of developing and reinforcing personal and collective functional intelligence — especially in terms of values alignment between our personal life, social mores, cultural traditions, and our economic, legal and political systems.
  • An emphasis on consciously engaging our moral creativity to shape civic institutions that support our values.
  • That capitalism is profoundly antagonistic to social cohesion and moral development, and that individualism and materialism — especially as championed by neoliberalism, Right-Libertarianism, and Randian objectivism — aggressively counteract the unitive principle.
  • Redefining property position in terms of the type of ownership, functional abstraction layer, and an holistic valuation (that includes use value, externalities and effective nourishment capacity), as a central building block of a Level 7 economy.
  • Evaluating the evolution of capital from original, simple forms to secondary, complex forms in order to differentiate commons-centric orientations and solutions from capitalistic ones.
  • The importance of multidialectical synthesis in addressing complex systems as both an individual, interior discipline and as a collaborative, participatory process.
  • Other unique features of a Level 7 political economy, such as daily direct democracy and the Public Priorities Database, a social credits with accountability system, a Public Information Clearinghouse, diffused currency issuance backed by common property shares, etc.

What is the role of Integral Lifework?


Integral Lifework, as a form of self-enriching and self-empowering multidimensional nourishment, was initially created as a form of holistic self-care. Over time, it became clear that Integral Lifework practice had a profound impact on development and transformation in nearly every aspect of being, and that this transformation had a natural tendency to radiate outwards into larger and larger arenas of action and intention. Of critical importance to models of an advanced political economy, Integral Lifework naturally encourages innate moral development — a necessary prerequisite for positive social change to occur and endure. Also endemic to the nourishment model is a reliance on internal and relational resources, rather than externalized (objectified and commodified) dependencies, so that Integral Lifework praxis becomes an antidote to the spectacle itself. In addition, there is a deliberate effort to differentiate diluted or ineffective “substitution” nourishment from the real deal in each dimension of being - so that moral development, self-reliance, discernment, skillful compassion and other benefits of integral practice are more fully energized and strengthened over time. In this way Integral Lifework also helps synthesize the character and endurance necessary to sustain revolutionary integrity. To appreciate all of these relationships and interdependencies, I recommend reading A Mystic’s Call to Action.

Special thanks

Special thanks to the many fine people who have helped contribute to this website and creative thinking around these ideas over time. Your knowledge, insights, questions, and encouragement have made this effort possible. The list of contributors is long, but here are some of the folks who have greatly enhanced this effort:

David MacLeod, Ernie Bornheimer, Mark Edward Niblack, Trevor Malkison, Jennifer Grove, Scott GrantSmith, Jeff Wright, Steven Douglas Daly, Bill James, Scott Debenham, my wife Mollie and my siblings Sam, Karin and Kirsten.

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