"Transcend and include... this is the self-transcending drive of the Kosmos—to go beyond what went before and yet include what went before... to open into the very heart of Spirit-in-action." Ken Wilber, A Brief History of Everything

"Wouldn't it be wonderful if a group of people somewhere were for something and against nothing?" Ernest Holmes

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Transpartisan Values 1: Liberal and Conservative?

You know how it is when you leave a partner or a paradigm behind, you focus on everything that was wrong with it? I have a suspicion that's what's at work for many of us when we outgrow and turn against values we were raised with—like loyalty to our ingroup. Integral Theory tells me there are higher levels at which we re-integrate those values; we transcend and include them. And I believe that when we get to those levels, former "liberals" and "conservatives" will meet up as integral transpartisans.

Five universal values
I got a new way to think about this in Jonathan Haidt's "The Real Difference between Liberals and Conservatives." In his TED video, the social psychologist tells his mostly liberal audience they could achieve more of their agenda if they'd drop some of their prejudices against conservatives. Unfortunately his talk introduces his findings in a way that could be offensive to conservatives, thus diluting his effectiveness. But his message is clear in the paper in which he defends his "Five Foundations Theory." It claims that five values undergrid the world's many moralities, but liberals and conservatives emphasize the values differently.
He says liberals and conservatives value these two about equally
  • Care/Protection from Harm
  • Reciprocity/Fairness
But generally, conservatives place more emphasis on
  • Authority/Respect
  • Loyalty/Ingroup
  • Purity/Sanctity
Haidt concludes:
We in psychology, and in academe more generally, have a tendency to reject conservative concerns related to ingroup, authority, and purity as "bad" on the grounds that they often conflict with the "good" moralities of harm and fairness. We dismiss the conservative outgroup's morality as "motivated social cognition" driven by non-moral concerns such as fear of change. Doing so makes us feel good, but it should not, for it is a violation of our values (we become "politico-centric"), and it is a route to irrelevance (we cannot persuade the electorate, because we do not have an accurate picture of their moral motivations)...

[For example] Conservatives and many moderates are opposed to gay marriage in part due to moral intuitions related to ingroup, authority, and purity, and these concerns should be addressed, rather than dismissed contemptuously... Recognizing these foundations as moral (instead of amoral, immoral, or just plain stupid) can open a door in the wall that separates liberals and conservatives when they try to discuss moral issues.
I can say a loud "Amen" based on my experience living among the fundamentalists for two years. When I worked hard to understand their concerns about homosexuality, the result was a willingness to drop their support of gay marriage bans—because, "Judgment is up to God, not the government." While this outcome is not wholly satisfactory to many, the question is, would you rather make progress like this or is it more important to keep proving how wrong the other side is?

Beyond Merely Acknowledging Conservative Values
I can hear most of my integral buddies saying, "OK, fine, conservatives have ethical values. But Spiral Dynamics shows us they are low-end ethics." And that's half true. But mapping Haidt's data against the spiral makes it clearer than ever to me why we must reintegrate those "conservative" values as we reach the higher levels. Haidt implies this by asking, "Why has the moral domain shrunk for educated secular Westerners?" Instead of merely transcending and tolerating conservative values, we must also find a way to include them.

Research indeed backs up the liberal feeling that some conservatives' ethics are lower. (An integral perspective tells us that a "higher" value is one with a bigger perspective—it takes more into account.) In Kohlberg's famous stages of development, purity, respect for authority, and loyalty arise in the early stages (pre-conventional and conventional), while care and fairness arise in the later post-conventional stages. [Update: Whoops, that last clause is wrong, as pointed out in Karl's comment below. Care & fairness emerge early. But they are weak until post-conventional because they are overshadowed by the primary values at the lower levels, and they are applied only to one's ingroup.] Thus Haidt asks whether the three conservative values are "just manifestations of Kolhberg's 'immature' conventional morality stages." If we look through the lens of an integral perspective, the answer is "yes" in the lower stages but "maybe not" as we approach the top.

One of Integral's best tools is Spiral Dynamics, a scheme which elaborates on Kohlberg's stages with the insight that values emerge in a natural progression that loops from concern for the individual to concern for the group. Haidt's five values map perfectly to the Spiral levels as shown below.

(The grayed values are inactive, and the line of grayed values at the bottom level represents my inclination to go along with Haidt's claim that we are born with a "taste bud" for these values. This contradicts Spiral Dynamics' claim that values emerge from experience. But it's my chart, so I'm going out on that limb.)

At first glance at this chart, liberals may be tempted to say, "See, our orange/green values are higher than conservatives' red/blue values." For even when blues try to be good Samaritans, providing care to an outgroup, they can only provide the kind of care they themselves would want. It's not till green that we can take another's perspective--love our neighbor as ourselves.

But look closely and notice what happens at the orange level of teens, corporate culture, and the Enlightenment. Up until this level, the values have been coming into focus and staying in focus. But Haidt's findings seem to suggest that the teenager now breaks with convention, rejects the first-flowering values of purity/sanctity, authority, and loyalty, and he or she substitutes the new values of reciprocity/fairness and then care/protection from harm. We feel we have transcended the "lower" values. In the case of loyalty, for example, we shift our loyalty from our ingroup to all humans, or to an ideal, or even to ourselves, recasting it as "to thine own self be true." "Loyalty" feels outdated.

Integrating all five at the high end
But notice the yellow "integral" level at the top of the chart. This is the level at which we integrate the values of all prior levels. This is the level at which we reclaim the previously transcended values. We see that authority, loyalty, purity, and sanctity have a rightful place in higher level morality and we want them back.

We'll know we have thus transcended and included each of these values when we can consciously choose among them from a broader perspective. Indications that we are at this level include
  • We are not knee-jerk controlled by any one value
  • We are passionately for each value without being against the others
  • We can access each value when appropriate
  • We avoid extremes by integrating opposites: For just as too much loyalty breeds revenge, we come to see that too much reciprocity breeds heartless legalism and too much care breeds what Buddhists call idiot compassion.
  • We are not 100% sure we are right but we are willing to make tough choices in full humility that we may be wrong
  • We loosen identity with a political party, seeking to become transpartisan
Taking loyalty as an example, our top loyalty may indeed now rest with an ideal or with all people, instead of with our ingroup of family, community, tribe, or nation. But when our ingroup needs help, distinctions between our needs and its needs may seem less sharp. I believe each of the transcended values must be re-included in a similar fashion if we are to be truly mature. And if the idea of re-valuing "purity" gives you the hives, ask yourself if you wouldn't be the least bit uneasy if your spouse was using pornography or your teenager was frequenting casual sex parties. Voila the remnants of the moral taste bud for purity. Do we really have no more use for it? (For everything you need to know about purity and sanctity, see my One chart that Explains Religion.)

So who holds all five values?
If people at the upper level weigh all five values, why doesn't Haidt's research show any liberals holding all five values? I can see three reasons.
  • Haidt's questions aren't designed to sniff out the distinctions in the list above. So a person at the integral level who weighs loyalty to family against loyalty to every other human being may not test out as being "loyal" at all (see Karl's fantastic comment below)
  • Haidt apparently drops data from those who identify themselves as "independents," "libertarians," or "other," and those are exactly the categories in which the integral transpartisans may be hiding out
  • Ethical values are only a subset of the values that distinguish conservatives from liberals, and those labels don't take into account variation within the two camps--as identified in my One Chart that Explains all Politics
But of course, the other side of the question of why no liberals hold all five values is why all conservatives do. I believe the answer is that some of these conservatives are at integral. (In a future post I'll assess the shortcut (hint: ladder) that I think got them there.)

Distinguishing high level values from low level
The problem is, it can be impossible to tell the difference between someone acting at a higher level (with a broader perspective) and someone at a less mature level.

Let's take, for example, Sarah Palin's demotion of her state trooper brother-in-law. From the publicly available details, it appears Palin chose loyalty over reciprocity and even over respect for authority. Most everyone will agree that would be wrong and extremely dangerous in a public leader. But if you are a conservative pre-disposed to like Palin, you may look for evidence there were extenuating circumstances such that she did what she felt she had to do to protect her family from imminent harm. On the other hand, if you are a liberal pre-disposed to dislike Palin, you are more likely to assume she acted from the shadow side of loyalty, taking revenge into her own hands. From the outside, those two acts look the same.

And that's what's wrong with so much religious and political debate today. We assume the highest motives for our side and assume the lowest for the other side. What could happen if we flipped that script—checking ourselves for lower motives while giving our opponent the benefit of the doubt about theirs? My experience shows that the release of pressure we get when we do so creates space for something new to happen.

Haidt seems to agree.
Social justice researchers might benefit from stepping out of the"good versus evil" mindset that is often present in our conferences, our academic publications, and our private conversations. One psychological universal (part of the ingroup foundation) is that when you call someone evil you erect a protective moral wall between yourself and the other, and this wall prevents you from seeing or respecting the other's point of view.

It's more entertaining to watch people throw rocks at each other over the wall than it is to watch the slow, difficult process of dismantling the wall...
My next post will kick around the kinds of survey questions that could distinguish integral transpartians who truly weigh all five values from those conservatives who see themselves as attempting to do so but who always end up privileging the earlier values over the later ones. And I'll be asking for your help. Take a moment to subscribe below so you won't miss a thing.


Karl Higley said...

This is an insightful piece, and also a great springboard for further thought on this topic. I'm particularly hooked by the idea you present here that Haidt's moral values and the Spiral Dynamics memes ought to line up somehow. It taps into some things I've been thinking about, and spurred a lot of further thought on my part.

Looking at the chart, something seems off to me about it. If each meme builds on the previous memes (transcending and including), then one would expect that orange would build on the values of blue, green would build on the values of orange, and yellow would build on the values of green. Yet Haidt's research seems to show that orange and green have fewer values than blue! It just seems odd to me that blue would accept the values of red and purple, but orange wouldn't. I can't justify that based either on the particular qualities of the orange meme or on the general qualities of the overall spiral. I have similar trouble justifying why, after the apparent “intolerance” of orange and green for the values of the previous memes, someone developing to yellow would suddenly start accepting these values again. Both of these irregularities, or asymmetries, in what would otherwise be a smooth, consistent process of transcending and including are somewhat disturbing to me.

I've tried to resolve those oddities for myself, and in the process sharpened or clarified my understanding of the spiral somewhat. This is all somewhat conjectural, but I think I have found a way to restore some structural order and consistency –- how well it matches up with the world we live in remains to be seen. My thoughts start at a very fundamental level, and progress toward higher significance and the topic at hand.

(In fact, they go a little bit beyond that, since my thinking on this also helped me resolve some things about the natures of yellow and turquoise that had been bothering me for a while now.)

*Each meme has a primary value that it identifies as the top-level, most important motivation for action. For example, purity, authority, group loyalty, fairness, care.

*As one moves upward/forward through the spiral, progress from each level to the next requires disidentification with the primary value of the current level, before that value can be transcended and included by the next level, which identifies with a new highest priority value.

*Disidentifying with a particular value does not (necessarily) mean completely repudiating it, but rather realizing the limitations of that value and seeking a new value with broader applicability. The values of previous memes are generally seen as valid but either less important than or incomplete in comparison to the present highest priority value. As a result, each meme will accept the values of previous memes when they don't contradict with that meme's top priority value. Orange will accept group loyalty when it doesn't contradict fairness, blue will accept authority when it doesn't eclipse group loyalty, and so on.

*Each meme will repress the values of previous memes when they do contradict with that meme's top priority value. For example, orange and green will both dismantle the beliefs and stories used to reinforce group loyalty, particularly where those beliefs are considered unfair (by orange) or harmful/marginalizing (by green.) Blue will levy harsh punishments against those seeking or acting with more authority than their designated role in the group allows. (And so on.)

*The conditional acceptance of the values of previous memes results in a sort of cascading filter effect, in which the relative weight a meme places on values from previous stages is inversely proportional to the distance between the originating memes and the present meme. For example, orange tends to find purity the least acceptable and “valuable.” The filtering effect explains why: each layer between orange and purple, where the purity value originates, adds a new filter that reduces the number of circumstances where purity can be considered the most important value. As a result, orange sees purity as valid only when it doesn't contradict fairness, group loyalty, and authority, in that order. This goes a long way toward explaining why liberals value purity so much less than conservatives.

*There's another effect happening side by side: as one moves up the spiral, the top priority value applies to a wider and wider group of people. The increasing scope of consideration narrows the circumstances under which the top priority value doesn't apply. Viewed in another way, the less broadly applicable a particular value is, the more gaps it leaves for prior values to shine through. Either way you look at it, each new step toward increasingly inclusive values tends to further marginalize the values originating lower down the spiral.

Consider the transition from blue to orange, from ethnocentric to world-centric values. In blue's eyes, there are certain rules regarding how I should treat the other members of my group, and certain roles that I may take on in relation to them. But these rules and roles only apply to people who are in my group –- in dealing with anyone else, I can act as I please. This leaves a potentially large number of cases that don't fall under the umbrella of group loyalty, in which I can fall back on authority or purity instead. This goes a long way toward explaining why blue has historically sometimes still managed to justify slavery, despite having a notion of reciprocity. If you aren't in my group, I don't have to reciprocate with you, or so the thinking goes.

As I move to orange and start to seek universal truths, the scope of my consideration expands from the members of my group to all people. My concern becomes not just what is fair for us, but what is fair for everyone. The broad applicability of orange (and subsequent) values doesn't leave a lot of places where group loyalty, authority, and purity can shine through.

Even if I assume that the filtering and scope effects discussed above are really happening, it still doesn't explain yellow and its relationship to first tier values. It may even complicate things somewhat. It wouldn't make sense for the filtering to suddenly stop at yellow, resulting in a meme that values all of the previous values equally. Yet it also doesn't suffice to say that yellow simply appropriates green's values and takes them less seriously. In my estimation, you would need to satisfy two conditions to resolve this conundrum. First, you'd need to figure out what yellow's value is, and second, you'd need a way to explain why yellow is less repressive than previous memes. I'll put forth my attempt to resolve these issues, which looks at the relationship between green and yellow, and builds from there a little bit in order to take a peek at turquoise too:

*Rather than simply accepting all previous values, yellow has its own primary value: synergy. Yellow has a similar relationship with the values of previous memes as the others memes do -- it accepts those values when they align with its primary value and represses them when they contradict its primary value.

*Even though yellow has a similar relationship to previous values as other memes, it does have a capability that the other memes don't. Yellow is the first meme that has the cognitive and conceptual tools to see and understand the way it transcends and includes prior values.

To see this more clearly, let's back up a little bit, and take a look at green. The capacity to take perspectives on perspectives (meta-perspectives!) began to develop at green, giving birth to an appreciation of contextualism, constructivism. Green sees that there are multiple perspectives, that each perspective places what ever you look at in a different context, that each context gives the object of contemplation a different meaning, and that we can (to some extent) choose our perspectives and contexts and thus create our own meaning. This train of thought leads to what we might call “the green imperative”: that we recognize, acknowledge, and respect each other's perspectives and contexts. This also means that, in green's eyes, we ought to all respect each other's values. Green, then, is the first meme with a value concerning values, and it marks the emergence of meta-values, which are also displayed by yellow and turquoise.

[Aside: While Haidt's value of care may not cover the full extent of green values, it is the one that green would clearly prefer the most. Once we acknowledge and appreciate someone else's perspective, we also tend to care more about their concerns. In a sense, Haidt may be testing for the second part of a two step thought process. This may explain why conservatives seem to also value care, despite our general assumption here that they are centered in purple/red/blue/orange. By this hypothesis, they legitimately demonstrate the second part of the thought process, but not the first. Particularly in the case of blue and orange, their version or interpretation of care may have more to do with care for the in-group or a sense of universal fairness than a recognition of multiple perspectives and contexts.]

Yellow adds to the capabilities of green in two important ways. First, yellow sees that a perspective is not an island. Each perspective interacts with other perspectives; when taken together, these perspectives form a system. Second, yellow sees that some perspectives are more inclusive than others –- that they account for a wider range of phenomena. These new capacities lead yellow to substantially modify the conclusions of green, even while appreciating green's central truths. Since the people holding perspectives interact with each other, we'd like to take a perspective that interacts well with other perspectives, and ideally as many other perspectives as possible. In order to accomplish that, it's helpful to construct a perspective that acknowledges at least the conditional or contextual validity of as many other perspectives as possible. (And, of course, that's the core motivation of integral theory.)

Once one can see that some perspectives are more inclusive than others, one can appreciate the full spectrum of inclusiveness as it relates to perspectives and memes, from the comparatively limited perspective of purple to the universalizing perspective of orange and on through green's subsequent explosion of contexts. The capacity to see and make judgments concerning inclusiveness makes yellow the first meme to be able to bring awareness to the manner in which it transcends and includes the values of previous memes. This understanding of the spectrum of values allows yellow to consciously and intentionally accept, activate, and align the values of previous memes when doing so promotes fruitful cooperation within the system of value contexts that make up the spiral.

Yellow then, like green, has a meta-value –- in this case, a value that delineates harmonious and discordant expressions of other values. And that's why, when yellow looks back down the spiral, it distinguishes between, for example, healthy red and dysfunctional red, and then aims to promote one and “heal” or discourage the other. Yellow sees that when healthy expressions of two memes exist side by side, the situation yields more than a simple sum of the two memes acting individually. And that brings us full circle to yellow's value: synergy.

*I've identified two qualities that I associate with turquoise that I don't believe are present at yellow. First, recognition of the continually changing nature of everything around us –- not just systems, but systems undergoing transformation. Second, the realization that systems of all sizes are transformed through similar processes -- in a sense, appreciating the fractal nature of systems. This is more than simply realizing that there are systems of varying sizes (which yellow is perfectly capable of.) It also requires a recognition of the congruence of the transformations that these systems undergo across all scales. These qualities of turquoise naturally lead to valuing progress, development, and growth –- if things change all the time, we'd like them to be changing in ways that make them better rather than worse. So turquoise also has its own particular value: evolution. You'll note that, like synergy, evolution is a meta-value.

*Just as with the other memes, turquoise accepts the values of previous memes when they don't contradict its core motivation of development. Since evolution is a meta-value, it can (like yellow) apply itself to other value systems. When turquoise looks back down the spiral, it sees not only healthy and unhealthy versions of the previous memes (as yellow does), but also which versions of previous memes facilitate growth through the spiral and which act as barriers that impede growth. (This charge of impeding growth is one that is disproportionately leveled at green, though I have a feeling the other culprits may be somewhat under-appreciated.) Turquoise may also see the ways that the expressions of a particular meme have changed over time, and the ways they may change in the future.

*The recognition that growth through the first tier memes (and yellow) is a necessary prerequisite to arriving at turquoise leads beyond acting as a simple steward of the spiral (as yellow would) and into a more active, cultivating role. Viewing the spiral with evolution as a primary value leads one to consider how to create opportunities for growth, and how to make the process of growth unfold as smoothly as possible. In that sense, the difference between yellow and turquoise is, loosely speaking, sort of like the difference between a housekeeper and a gardener. As I see it, the “turquoise question” regarding the spiral is, basically: how can we transform the memes our society teaches its members, so that each meme leads naturally into growth to the next stage?

I believe that value filtering, the widening scope of values, and the concept of the meta-value clarify things substantially. Filtering and the squeezing out effect that accompanies the transition from ethnocentric values to worldcentric values help to illuminate why Haidt finds that liberals (who I assume to be centered at mostly at orange and green) express a strong preference against purity, authority, and group loyalty. Though it's beyond the scope of what I've been discussing here, they may also point toward some methodological refinements that could be made in a future study regarding moral values.

In regard to the so-called second tier values, the idea of the meta-value clears up yellow's relationship to the previous values, while also removing conceptual blocks to the idea that yellow does indeed have a value of its own. Meta-values also bring turquoise into sharper focus, which is decidedly helpful –- turquoise cognition is often conflated with other things (spiritual experience, for example), and described in semi-mystical language that serves to broaden it and distance it from yellow more than may be warranted. Seeing turquoise's primary value points gives us something to hang the other aspects of turquoise on, and also a way to tell what is really connected to turquoise and what just sounds that way. While yellow and turquoise are beyond the scope of Haidt's research, I believe these considerations would be important if one was interested in conducting a similar survey that included “second tier” values.

Curious to hear how this strikes you, Teri.

As always,

Teri Murphy said...

Ah! Karl!
You win the prize for correctly identifying what's wrong with the chart in this post (at least half of what's wrong). I love the way you explained the two asymmetries at the jumps from blue to orange and green to yellow.
You said:

-- The jump at blue comes from the shift from ethnocentric to world centric
--The jump at yellow comes from the introduction of the meta value of synergy
--The changes at each step are explained by a filtering process in which we repress prior values only where they conflict with our new primary value

I also love the way you distinguish between yellow as the housekeeper of the spiral vs turquoise as its gardener. As they say in my favorite fundamentalist church, "That'll preach!"

You've given me a great springboard for investigating the other whopping contradiction between my chart and Haidt's data: For the conservatives who report honoring all five values, what level is their fairness and care coming from?

Karl Higley said...

Haidt has another survey on his website (yourmorals.org) that asks about seven different kinds of fairness:

* Procedural Justice - Fairness is a function of how a decision is made rather than the outcome.
* Equality - Fairness is a function of how equally people are treated.
* Need - Fairness is a function of those who are in need having their needs met.
* Equity - Fairness is a function of people who contribute more getting their just reward.
* Interactional Justice - Fairness is a function of people being treated with dignity & respect.
* Informational Justice - Fairness is a function of truth and openness.
* Retributional Justice - Fairness is a function of people being punished for bad behavior.

Looking through that list, I see a few that appeal mainly to orange (equity, equality, informational justice), a couple that appeal to green (need, interactional justice), one that appeals to red (retributional justice), and one that might appeal to a variety of memes (need.)

This supports my general thought that fairness is a concept that can be interpreted in a number of ways from the viewpoints of different memes. Looking at Haidt's survey questions (which you can find at moralfoundations.org) supports the general hypothesis that his questions about fairness and care are not limited to orange and green interpretations. So, it looks like Haidt's survey is generating positive responses to fairness and care from every meme from red to green.

If that's true, it would seem to explain why both liberals and conservatives rate these 'moral foundations' highly -- this phenomena would be an artifact of the questions Haidt asked. Then the answer to your question would be that conservatives' fairness and care is probably coming from red or blue.

If we were looking to identify purely orange and green values, I believe they would be based on universals (orange), and respect for multiple perspectives (green.) I sat down the other day and tried to write survey items that test for these. It's harder than 'fairness' or 'care,' but it is doable.

Marmalade said...

There is often a misunderstanding of the left. In the late 18th to early 19th centuries, conservatives were largely blue shifting into orange and liberals orange shifting into green.

Many early liberals, like Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, were already developing strong green pluralism (tolerance of diversity, separation of church and state, etc). It was from this position that Paine and Jefferson was able to more clearly see what was of value being lost in the destruction of feudalism, when so many conservatives couldn't see it.

As conservatives took on more orange, they did so by disconnecting from much of blue and this oddly made the left sometimes the better defenders of large swaths of blue, such as the importance of the commons that was incomprehensible to orange individualism as conservative "classical liberalism" (i.e., individualistic capitalism).

Both Paine and Jefferson sought ways to compensate for what was being lost, whereas so many conservatives perceived it as worthless. Green liberalism shares a communalist attitude with blue traditionalism, whereas orange conservativism often finds itself in conflict with both blue and green. This is rarely discussed.