The Post-Progressive Project



Beginning in late 2020, the Institute for Cultural Evolution is launching an organization-wide initiative entitled “The Post-Progressive Project,” which advances an inclusive new political perspective. This emerging perspective is founded on “cultural intelligence,” which can help reconcile America’s stark political divide and bring peace to the culture war.

The Post-Progressive Project seeks to build a constituency among leaders and members of the American public who are concerned about progressivism’s emerging pathologies. Post-progressivism, however, is not anti-progressive. Rather, it seeks to demonstrate what comes after progressivism, both culturally and politically. The Project will employ public argument and critique, it will produce media and events, and it will foster a membership society for leaders who identify with this new political movement

Higher Purposes to Be Served

The Institute for Cultural Evolution’s Overall Higher Purpose:

“To advance the evolution of consciousness and culture in America.”

The Post-Progressive Project’s Higher Purpose:

“To build a post-progressive political movement and promote the use of cultural intelligence across the political spectrum.”

Problems to Be Solved and Reasons for the Project

  • American democracy is threatened by severe and increasing hyperpolarization. Conventional political centrism is no longer viable. To restore functionality to American politics, rather than seeking nonexistent common ground, we need to stake out a new kind of “higher ground,” which post-progressivism represents.
  • The growing cultural power of progressivism brings both a needed new level of moral concern, and an existential threat to America’s historically established culture.
  • Therefore, to respond constructively to the growing challenge of progressivism, while simultaneously preserving the minimum social solidarity necessary for a healthy democracy, progressive values need to be better reconciled and integrated with the positive values of both mainstream modernity and religious traditionalism.
  • However, because most of America’s universities, as well as much of the media, have been effectively captured by progressive ideology, ameliorating progressivism’s negatives requires new forms of political organization and activism.
  • Post-progressivism accordingly seeks to create “something higher” by building an inclusive new political perspective that carries forward progressivism’s positives while effectively transcending its negatives.
  • By working to evolve American politics and culture in this way, the post-progressive project advances the higher purpose of the Institute for Cultural Evolution.

Messaging

  • Increasing America’s collective “cultural intelligence” can bring peace to the culture war and restore functionality to America’s political system and governing process.
  • The emerging post-progressive political perspective illuminates “win-win-win” solutions by integrating values from across the political spectrum.
  • In order to preserve pluralism, social respect, and political freedom, American society needs to evolve toward a new cultural synthesis, which post-progressivism represents. 

Theory of Change and Strategy

The Post-Progressive Project’s theory of change is that culture and consciousness coevolve when people expand the scope of what they are able to value. The Project seeks to evolve American politics by helping each political faction better appreciate the intrinsic values of their opponents, as well as the underlying interdependence of America’s overall cultural ecosystem. According to this theory of change, a new era of kindness and cooperation can be brought about by promoting and popularizing the practice of cultural intelligence. Post-progressivism works to advance cultural evolution in three basic ways:

  1. It seeks to improve and develop each major American worldview in accordance with its own goals and values. This involves championing each worldview’s positive and enduring values, while simultaneously encouraging each worldview to take responsibility for ameliorating its own pathologies.
  2. It seeks to further the ongoing evolution of consciousness along the timeline of human history from pre-traditionalism to traditionalism, from traditionalism to modernism, from modernism to progressivism, and from progressivism to post-progressivism. This conception of cultural evolution presupposes a vertical dimension of development and is thus controversial. But despite its hierarchical implications, the post-progressive interpretation of this normative dimension of growth recognizes the political equality and enduring necessity of each set of values. 
  3. It seeks to bring about the further emergence of the post-progressive or integral worldview by promoting its inclusive perspective and its practice of cultural intelligence.

These three interrelated political strategies for fostering cultural evolution are discussed in greater detail in Steve McIntosh’s recent book: Developmental Politics—How America Can Grow into a Better Version of Itself (Paragon House 2020). 

Working Definitions

Worldviews: 

“Worldviews” are coherent sets of values and ideals that persists across multiple generations. Worldviews are large-scale, intersubjective cultural agreements about what is good, true, and beautiful. These value frames give meaning to reality and help provide personal identity. Worldviews are arguably the basic units of cultural analysis and interpretation—the most fundamental structures of cultural evolution.

Post-Progressive: 

“Post-progressivism” is an emerging cultural and political perspective that honors and synthesizes the best aspects of America’s three major worldviews: modernism, traditionalism, and progressivism. Through the use “cultural intelligence” (defined below), post-progressivism seeks to transcend progressivism’s pathologies, while carrying forward its important gifts. By eschewing the horizontal continuum of left and right, post-progressivism is charting a vertical dimension of normative growth that can lead to a more evolved form of politics and culture.

Cultural Intelligence: 

“Cultural intelligence” is the ability to recognize the mutual interdependence of America’s three major worldviews: traditionalism, modernism, and progressivism. This comprehensive overview perspective sees how the positive values and enduring accomplishments of all three of these distinct value frames form a kind of symbiotic cultural ecosystem wherein each worldview has an ongoing role to play. Cultural intelligence provides the ability to integrate and harmonize these three distinct sets of values. This process begins by clearly distinguishing between the positives and negatives of each worldview. 

Progressivism’s positive values include social justice, worldcentric morality, and environmental priority. Whereas its negatives include “anti-modernism,” which fails to recognize how progressive culture itself is predicated on the freedom and prosperity provided by modernity’s liberal values; “reverse patriotism,” which characterizes American history as a sinister criminal enterprise; divisive identity politics, which promotes grievance without gratitude; and tyrannical demands for immediate and uncompromising reform, which disrespect the institution of democracy itself.

Modernism’s positive values include economic and scientific progress, individual liberty, and the rule of law. Whereas modernity’s negatives are seen in its environmental degradation, growing inequality, and nuclear proliferation. 

Traditionalism’s positive values include loyalty to family and country, duty and honor, and the sacrifice of self-interest for the greater good. Whereas traditionalism’s negatives are found in its racism, sexism, and homophobia.

Once each worldview’s positives have been clearly distinguished from its abiding negatives—once the dignities have been separated from the disasters—it then becomes possible to integrate positive values from across the political spectrum. Yet crucially, this integration process does not eliminate the political challenges that each worldview poses to the others. Cultural intelligence seeks a kind of dynamic integration that preserves the natural polar tensions that exist between these worldviews. This political approach helps make these ongoing conflicts more functional and constructive by fostering deliberative relationships of challenge and support wherein each worldview can influence and improve its cultural competitors.

Cultural Evolution: 

The development of human history entails both the social growth of human artifacts, institutions and technologies, as well as the cultural growth of human knowledge, values and ideals. This development is simultaneously physical and objective, psychological and subjective, and collective and intersubjective—the ongoing coevolution of “It, I, and We.” Sociocultural evolution overall counts as real evolution because it extends the structure of evolutionary emergence that began with the big bang, continuing the process through which “something more keeps coming from something less.”

The concept of “cultural evolution” primarily concerns the collective and intersubjective side of this development, with a special emphasis on values. Values are defined and sustained within large scale systems of agreement known as worldviews (defined above), which circumscribe horizons of potential improvement. New worldviews emerge through a dialectical process by pushing off against the shortcomings and pathologies of previous worldviews. Newly appearing worldviews are therefore inevitably defined by their opposition to the limitations of the previously prevailing culture. Yet simultaneously and conversely, new worldviews achieve developmental progress by building on what has come before. 

Cultural evolution exhibits many varied characteristics. Viewed from certain perspectives, this growth appears not as a sequential trajectory of step-wise advance, but rather as a “sprawling bush” of development that includes numerous branches, contradictory countercurrents, as well as forces of decay that work against positive development or pervert it into trends that result in social regression. But notwithstanding the chaotic and contingent nature of cultural evolution, the historical record clearly shows how both the worldviews of modernism and progressivism have emerged in opposition to what came before. So even though the developmental trajectory of human culture is not linear and can’t be neatly pigeon-holed into a series of static stages, the dialectical process through which new worldviews emerge does mark the course of history with a structural sequence of emergence that unfolds in clearly identifiable steps. And these discrete steps of worldview emergence can be accurately identified as levels of development, albeit in a very loose and general way. This dialectical sequence of worldview emergence accordingly demonstrates the developmental logic of cultural evolution. 

For more on post-progressivism, please explore these links:

Article: Towards a Post-Progressive Political Perspective

Video: Developmental Politics Simplified in 5-Minutes

Podcast: The Emergence of Post-Progressive Political Thought

Book: Developmental Politics—How America Can Grow into a Better Version of Itself