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Metaprogressive vs Post-Progressive
Q: What’s the difference between what you call “metaprogressive” and the “post-progressive” politics coming from Steve McIntosh and the Institue for Cultural Evolution?
Let me say, firstly, that I am both.
There is a slight difference in emphasis between these variants of integrative, developmental, transpartisan and trans-centrist politics (Steve and I have discussed these themes on numerous occasions and I am a strong supporter of his efforts & intentions) HOWEVER there is clearly a lot of emergent overlap between these two positions. Either word could be used for other “movement.” Not only that — but both are rather new concepts whose clarifications are still forming and are likely to change a little as they go forward. So consider this to be sincerely provisional…
Keeping in mind, then, how close these two positions are let us take an exploratory first pass through the subtle differences between these two ways of being politically homeless:
COMBINE VS CONVERGE
Post-progressives affirm the positive ethical values of the contemporary progressive movement while also going beyond that by combining those values with the positive and popular ethical stances found in liberal, conservative & libertarian communities.
Metaprogressives are deepening the critique of modern systems and privileging certain forms of progressivism as the current, emerging cultural platform around which urgent convergence is needed. However they are doing this from a developmental “meta-perspective” which uses flexible, multi-epistemic thinking and feeling. This means we have to redefine the assumptions of the progressive movement and tease apart their real and false versions. It is strategic, in the short and midterm, to favor the largest, most complex and still-emerging major value system — while also encouraging the longer-range development of more integrative coalitions.
WHAT ARE PEOPLE’S VALUES?
Post-progressives: You can basically understand people’s values by listening to what they say is important. Then you can group them into broad categories with other people who also articulate those values.
Metaprogressives: Values are expressed in styles of behavior which are often worlds apart from what people say is important. People are not typically very good self-observers, self-articulators and they many personal, habitual and ideological incentives to assert beliefs, facts & value-claims which serve a purpose rather than present the authentic understanding and feelings of their body-mind-heart. It is hard to get a man to understand something if his paycheck depends upon him not understanding it.
THE STATUS OF POSTMODERN POLICIES
Post-progressives tend to view “progressive” or “postmodern” values/ideas/policies as being well-known, well-established and, in many respects, already tried. We have seen what this kind of implementation looks like and, though it is nicer in some ways, it fails on its own terms and creates a dangerous backlash.
Metaprogressives tend to think that progressivism/postmodernism is still just starting and is largely untried. It has mostly been deployed under the control, and through the methodological habits, of modernity. Despite the fact that it is still nascent and emerging, we can also point to the increased well-being, resilience and attunement to new thinking in places where stable progressive approaches have been implemented.
ATTITUDES TOWARD LIBERALS AND CONSERVATIVES
Post-progressives tend to view traditional and modern populations as largely good faith players who must be brought together to produce hybrid compromise solutions.
Metaprogressives tend to view traditionalists as basically “team loyalists” who favor symbols over facts and to regard modernists as largely subordinated to a procedural system and sensibility that — despite their personal understanding and intentions — reproduces exaggerated wealth disparities, accumulating ecological crisis, stunted innovation, unnatural living conditions, vulnerability to international corporate manipulation, exaggerated military industry, reliably distorted media ecosystems, etc. Agents of traditional and modern systems are largely bad-faith actors because, regardless of their individual human qualities of decency and intelligence, their behavior is always skewed toward reproducing traditional and modern approaches (which have been demonstrated to fail in addressing systemic, accumulating, novel and complex problems).
Note: Many putative progressives are considered, by metaprogressives, to actually be traditionalists or modernists simply using new flags and terminologies.
WHY DID AMERICAN CHRISTIAN TRADITIONALISTS SUPPORT TRUMP?
Post-progressives: Trump was hired as a “bouncer” by evangelical Christians who were willing to tolerate his faithless vulgarity and sinful ways as long as he challenged, upset & thwarted the godless, oppressive, unpatriotic, radical-arrogant Leftists.
Metaprogressives: Trump’s obscenity, goofiness, self-indulgence & authoritarianism is itself a huge part of his attraction to traditionalists. Once these people are separated from the content of their value assertions (and placed alongside other groups who behave similarly with alternative reality-claims) we see a very strong and normal tendency for these poplutions to permit themselves to be inconsistent, manipulative, irrational, selfish, self-destructive, incurious and somewhat sado-masochistic — under the guise of “believing” whatever symbols of traditional goodness are currently popular.
To be offensive is a feature, not a bug of the Mythic-Membership “folk” style of culture. The clan, the town, the Church, the partents “get to” inflict things on people. This is intrinsically valuable. As such, the revelation that Trump only made the Left stronger is not an argument against him among the “Republican base.” That is irrelevant to the reason they hired him.
Post-progressives: Politics is downstream from culture.
Metaprogressives: Culture is downstream from economics (and other social procedures such as voting method, diet, type of energy production, child-raising style, sexual practices, dialogue style, media incentives, etc.)
HOW TO SPEAK TO & BEYOND PROGRESSIVES
Post-progressive: Create an integrative political ethos by getting people to realize, acknowledge and respect healthy versions of multiple values. Bring them together around this premise and ask them to support groups and policies that incorporate this inter-value conversation.
Metaprogressive: Create an integrative political ethos by (a) cultivating a new symbolic mood that combines progressive procedures with conservative symbolic emphasis and use this to judge candidates, politics & situations (b) work to create convergent consensus among integral and meta-level communities around a core set of progressive structural/economic/ecological upgrades appropriate to this urgent historical moment.
GOOD & BAD PROGRESSIVISM
Post-progressives: The evils of progressivism must be thwarted so that its virtues can join with modern and traditional virtues.
Metaprogressives: A very high percentage of the people who are pointed toward as epitomizing or speaking for progressives are left-wing traditionalists ( using, as they usually do, popular new terms) and modern liberals (who, as they usually do, cloak themselves in professional virtue & de-platform people for being “off message” or “uncouth” while they market identarian thinking to consumers and deploy incremental-moderate-compromise/d strategies to prevent change from occurring at an adequate scale and tempo to address our common problems).
WHAT IS MODERNITY?
Post-progressive: Modernity is characterized by individualism, free speech, innovation, rational science, freedom from ideologies, human rights, etc. Corruption, pollution, exaggerated inequality, abuse, dehumanization and mass deception are real but unfortunate periodic side-effects that can be corrected.
Metaprogressive: Modernity is not primarily characterized by its rhetoric about itself. Its popularly associated value-claims form an aspirational horizon derived from a very small number of putatively modernist philosophers (many of whom were early pluralistic thinkers). Modernist approaches to language are notably technical and tactical. While this can help with the development of rational thinking and science, it also predominates culturally as propaganda and skillful deception. All communication become marketing and professionalized public performance.
Corruption, pollution, exaggerated inequality, abuse, dehumanization and mass deception and periodic side-effects are predictable and regular outcomes of this way of organizing society and resources.
WHAT IS POSTMODERNITY?
Post-progressive: Progressivism (or postmodernism) is primarily associated with empathy, sensitivity, the art of ironic distance, care for the marginalized, relativism, anti-hierarchy, hyper-critical academic disciplines & the shift away from individualism toward collectivism.
Metaprogressive: Progressivism (or postmodernism) is primarily associated with the need to systematically enfold externalities in all domains, foreground and international ecological ethics, deploy the art of juxtaposed contexts, examine subconscious and statistical outcomes, showing up transparently to our systemic categories and multiple identities, live experimentally, create a more inclusive-universalist ethos, emphasize the somatic-sensuous dimension of life and thought and move past individualism into an organic hyper-individualism as the basis for a return to inter-tribal mutualism.
Post-Progressive: We need to go beyond Left and Right without merely being Centrist.
Metaprogressive: Every cultural operating system has its own left & right — which are used to protect and regenerate the centre. We need to establish the actual progressive center by bringing the progressive left & the progressive right together. A whole new spectrum of politics has to replace the current level/right/center “duopoly.”
THE ROLE OF ELITES
Post-progressive: A mixture of different types of people have prominence, wealth or other forms of social power. This usually indicates a high degree of capacity and many of these people are actually very well-intentioned. We need to educate them, work with them, support them and enlist them We can’t make change without them.
Metaprogressive: The so-called “meritocracy” has, for a long time, favored the worst human traits and reward people according to how well they've insulated themselves from the consequences of their decisions — backed up by a corrupt and sycophantic mainstream media and political community who make it easier and easier to control society according to how well you have gamed the system. The incentive structures of modern societies systematically favor. promote and protect the wrong kind of people and label this as “merit.” Economic, media and political superpredators predominate at the expense of real businesses, real science, real media, real communities, etc. This is so widely sensed by most people that anti-elitism is among the most common sentiments of both left-wing and right-wing populists. That common base is what needs to be enlivened and mobilized at the expense of the people who are most benefitting from and most frequently distorting the socio-economic-ecological system. Even those who appear as strong ethical forces in the world are embedded in political and economic realities that undermine their benevolent actions and, over time, reduce their altruism to yet another form of marketing and control.
Okay — let’s not get too carried away here!
Depending on how you phrase any of these statements, you would get more post-progressive or metaprogressive agreement. Probably you, yourself, could go back and further on a lot of these subtle distinctions.
So I would tend to say that pro-progressives & metaprogressives (or whatever we call them) are likely to be complementary emergent forces who will need each other in order to have any cultural impact.