Political Polarization—Evolving Both Right and Left

Overcoming Polarization by Evolving Both Right and Left

How Polarity Theory Provides a Path to Political Progress

By Steve McIntosh

As ICE president Steve McIntosh argues in this paper, we can effectively grow out of extreme polarization by sharpening our focus on the foundational values that form the bedrock of loyalty-identity underlying our national political landscape. Building on the analysis of ICE’s acclaimed 2014 paper, Depolarizing the American Mind, this new paper describes a strategy to develop both the right and the left independently and according to their own distinct goals and values, as a prerequisite to greater cooperation overall.

In furtherance of this strategy of developing each side independently, the paper describes a new kind of deliberative polar alliance that can better integrate the competing camps (opposing poles) that exist within both the right and the left. It then shows how the American right can evolve by forming such a deliberative alliance between its conservative and libertarian poles. This is followed by a similar analysis of the American left, where an opportunity now exists to evolve this side of the spectrum by forming a more functional alliance between the liberal and progressive poles of the left. Eventually, as both sides evolve culturally, the inherent virtue of each side’s bedrock values will become more apparent, leading to greater sympathy and trust. It is thus through this kind of cultural evolution that we can effectively overcome our current political stagnation Below is a 50 minute audio interview on the paper from the Daily Evolver podcast.


August 2, 2016, 6:03 am

“The entire difference between a triad of the included middle and a Hegelian triad is clarified by consideration of the role of time. In a triad of the included middle the three terms coexist at the same moment in time. On the contrary, each of the three terms of the Hegelian triad succeeds the former in time. This is why the Hegelian triad is incapable of accomplishing the reconciliation of opposites, whereas the triad of the included middle is capable of it. In the logic of the included middle the opposites are rather contradictories: the tension between contradictories builds a unity which includes and goes beyond the sum of the two terms. The Hegelian triad would never explain the nature of indeterminacy…..

The logic of the included middle does not abolish the logic of the excluded middle : it only constrains its sphere of validity. The logic of the excluded middle is certainly valid for relatively simple situations. On the contrary, the logic of the excluded middle is harmful in complex, transdisciplinary cases….”


    Steve McIntosh
    August 8, 2016, 4:05 pm

    Thanks Neelesh. I enjoyed reading this, but it did cause me to chuckle a bit. Modernist academics want to characterize different approaches to the process of becoming as fixed theories that have static meanings. But at the integral level we’re discovering new aspects of this process—we’re beginning to discern new relationships between these different elements. That is, polarity theory and dialectical development theory are related in ways this author cannot see. Indeed, these theories are now in the process of ‘truing each other up.’ And this means we can see something new and say something more about the process of evolutionary unfolding than those at the modernist level of worldview development.

    I do encourage you to post more stuff like this as you come across it, because it’s good food for thought.



George F Knox
July 18, 2016, 7:15 pm

I am impressed with the analysis of the dynamics of polarity that Mr. McIntosh described.I happen to believe that the necessary political will to integrate must be preceded by a heartfelt affirmation that all of the affected parties are equal.
We may still have work to do to make sure we have the will to accept the changes that come with evolution, and to come to grips with the the fact that evolution is immutable and inevitable.
This may mean that we must see each other as equals with shared values and tangible value to bring to a new order that the Founding Fathers never envisioned.
Race matters. Race is not incidental. It is fundamental. I wonder if even postmodernists are ready to honestly confront the Black/White polarity as positive/positive interdependence.
The work of integralists could be enhanced by embracing and incorporating the perspectives of historically marginalized cultural entities.

Jim Loving
March 12, 2016, 10:20 am

Steve, once again you have done a great service to the republic and democracy with this latest effort. Sometimes, it is hard to think about addressing underlying systemic cultural drivers of change when you are in the middle of a burning building that seems like it is at risk of collapse and you don’t exactly know what caused the explosion or if the perpetrators are still at large all while you are looking to conduct triage among the injured. I am keenly interested in “the how” of taking theory and turning it into action, or identifying like minded organizations on the left and right to turn this theory into action – the boots on the ground of creating “Conscious formation of a new kind of deliberative polar alliance.” Presumably, with additional funding (), this is exactly what ICE will be up to next. Keep up the good work.

Ashwin Goutham Gopi
February 25, 2016, 7:40 am

I was wondering where you would fit the neoreactionary / alt-right movement into this discussion. They go beyond the traditional left-right dichotomy by lumping the entirety of popular political stances in to the far left. Though they don’t have much political foothold as of yet, their political aesthetic is gaining followers in the United States and in Western Europe, as evidenced by the emergence of far-right parties, and in the writing of Curtis Guy Yarvin, Hans Hermann Yoppe, Michael Annisimov, Nick Land and Guillaume Faye. Rather than believing in the conservation of “heritage”, they wish to preserve “natural-order”. Of course there are similarities since both stances are rooted in the epistemology of historical positivity, but where traditional conservatives (just like liberals and progressives) assumes the existence of the nation state, neo-reactionaries seek to change it in favor of a monarchy/city-states.

Eric Belsterling
February 25, 2016, 5:49 am

Steve, I appreciate your integrally informed approach in what I see as one of the “prime” issues of my generation; co-creating a sustainable system based on Integral Theory and provides the capacity to thrive. Often I can get to extreme cynicism in regard to what I perceive as a devolving of our species. I very much appreciate the fresh perspective, which garners hope and inspiration. If nothing I appreciate you providing a map of how to begin to turn the rutter of the Titanic. As Ken Wilber often quips, the map is not the terrain, but it sure is nice to have a map.

Holly Smith
February 22, 2016, 11:57 pm

I so enjoyed this paper and it’s much needed perspective. I also want to ask if you ever see Hillary Clinton or Obama as integral thinkers. When I listen to Hillary in the debates and on her website, I see multiple perspectives taken ~ Obama also.


Nathan Scott Shoemaker
February 17, 2016, 9:19 pm

Learned this stuff intuitively by the third grade, just not with the technical language surrounding it. As a US National Champion in Lifeguard SurfBoat there is not a race that goes by where there is not a contentious protest (nice way of saying near fisticuffs), often as many as five in a given race, where it is virtualy a fleet requirement that the party’s have it out … Feels like so much contention in politics is intentional as a cover for wholesale graft “anguish.”

Bonnie Williams
February 17, 2016, 4:32 pm

How does the author define the difference between “progressive” and “liberal”? I use them interchangeably to describe myself.

    Steve McIntosh
    Steve McIntosh
    February 17, 2016, 4:48 pm

    Hi Bonnie,

    Good question. I define “liberals” as left-of-center modernists, and “progressives” as postmodernists. Within integral discourse the words “modernist” and “postmodernist” are used as defined terms for two of the major worldviews in American politics. Postmodernism is explained breifly in the paper itself (pp. 16-21) But these worldviews are described in greater detail in the ICE paper Premises and Principles of the Evolutionary Worldview.

David Meggyesy
February 16, 2016, 2:02 pm

How can I get Steve’s paper?

My wife Carolyn Silk made an excellent observation this morning, which is, how internet search engines are really isolating us in our respective groups even more. We get information that appeals to us, pre-sorted, not quite predigested, and typically we don’t look for what information our “other side” is getting, same pre-sorted stuff as us, a different stew however. Steve’s blog is a good example. After all I wear my cultural creative button with pride.

    Isaac Holze
    February 24, 2016, 7:51 am

    I am excited for the paper and shared with my integral discussion group at my work place.

    I resonate with David’s feeling of the search engine being “too good”. Like if turning off Youtube login and history actually worked, it’d be nice to be surprised by the internet again.

      Ashwin Goutham Gopi
      February 25, 2016, 7:37 am

      I study online platforms and I find that unfortunately, technology allows people to isolate themselves in echo chambers where they only perpetuate the same narrative, hide dissent, and further the polarization of opinions.

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