Keith E Rice's Integrated SocioPsychology Blog & Pages

Aligning, integrating and applying the behavioural sciences

Modernisation Theory vs Stratified Democracy #4

Stratified Democracy
Stratified Democracy, as defined by Don Beck (2000b), shifts the focus from economic development to cultural mindsets, with the understanding that the prime area for ‘development’ is sociopsychological rather than economic or fiscal. The aim of ‘development’ in this paradigm is not to become a consumeristic society along the lines of the Western model – though that may well be what some developing countries eventually become. The aim is for the country to be ‘healthy’ in itself – ie: the sociopsychological well-being of the peoples and the inter-relations between the different internal groupings of whatever type – and to have ‘healthy’ relations with other countries of whatever type. Achieving these healthy states at whatever level a country is at facilitates it moving on to whatever is next on the Spiral.

In terms of governance, Stratified Democracy proposes that a core element of Democracy – representative government – be implemented in such as way as to fit with the values and norms – the culture – of the people to be governed. In 4Q/8L terms, this means constructing the Lower Right (the form of government) to match the Lower Left (culture of the people to be governed). As Elza Maalouf (2014, p105-106) says of this approach: “It embraces the virtues of autocracy where they are needed. It embraces the virtues of liberal democracy where this type of governance serves the needs of the electorate. As long as these systems are congruent with the current needs and the future aspirations of a culture, they serve the functional purpose of [Stratified Democracy].”  Effectively this is an interactionist process, with culture influencing structure and vice versa.

For his 2000 State of the World Forum presentation, Beck provided some basic examples of the kind of structure of government to be matched to the vMEME dominating the culture – see below. He also provided some ‘real world’ examples of matches.

Graphic copyright © 2000 Don Edward Beck

Of course, in many countries, the culture is dominated by multiple vMEMES or vMEME harmonics – requiring multifaceted government structures to be developed or risk sections of the population feeling unrepresented. One of the reasons thought to be behind the rise of the far right in the United States and much of Europe during the early 21st Century is that the thinking of those in government (BLUE/ORANGE/GREEN) has become out of touch with traditional white working class voters (PURPLE/RED/BLUE) on issues like immigration.

A key then to developing Stratified Democracy is to give respect to and acknowledge the worth of each vMEME in its cultural context and the values and norms which are prized – provided, of course, the values and norms are not acted out in ways which are directly harmful to other cultures. Viljoen (p111) writes: “Interacting with PURPLE, RED requests BLUE/ORANGE not to try to ‘fix’ [them], but to place value on them for the gifts they bring. The question is not how to move up the spiral, but how to ensure that the shadowy sides of the various [vMEMES] can transcend into healthy versions of their intrinsic value.”

It is notable that, in his graphic above, Beck gives no example of a 2nd Tier (Integral) country – the most advanced being The Netherlands in terms of a GREEN-dominated culture, thus requiring a social democratic form of government. (The Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries are arguably the most egalitarian on the face of the earth.) Thus, concepts of what form an Integral government might take are, at this stage, conjecture. There is, as yet, no identified bloc of 2nd Tier-oriented voters large enough in any country to exercise electoral influence and no major politicians consistently showing what might be taken as 2nd Tier thinking. (In the early days of his premiership Tony Blair seemed to show some 2nd Tier qualities in his thinking, both in respect of seeking a ‘Third Way’ and in the way he used the Qur’an to ‘sell’ the 2001 American invasion of Afghanistan to Muslim leaders in the Middle East and Asia. Vladimir Putin at times also seems capable of 2nd Tier constructs – his reading of geopolitics is often so incisive – but, if it is 2nd Tier thinking, it seems to be of a decidedly dark kind that doesn’t fit with the neo-Buddhist Enlightenment character so often given to TURQUOISE in particular.)

Viljoen says leaders should speak in the colours of vMEMES so that they address all needs at all levels. Alan Tonkin (2008) perceived this in arguably the greatest statesman of the second half of the 20th Century: “Nelson Mandela with his unique ‘Rainbow Nation’ approach was able to successfully blend both the developing and developed worldviews.”

The Rostovian Fallacy in Afghanistan and Iraq
From Beck’s examples, it is immediately obvious that the attempt to introduce ORANGE-conceived multiparty democracy to the RED-dominated Taliban in Afghanistan and PURPLE/RED Sunni and Shia militias in Iraq was a ghastly mismatch. Especially when many more radical Islamists regard such things as the main cause of poverty and inequality. No wonder that Western-style Democracy has failed to embed in either country – just as it hasn’t in much of the developing world. For multiparty democracy to work, a different, more-complex style of thinking is required than that prevalent amongst such ‘electorates’. In many, many instances, the ‘voters’ would rather ask the tribal elder what to do or take direction from their warlord than go into a secret ballot to express their own ‘carefully-considered opinion’.

To be fair to Walt Rostow, who stated that modernisation could take 100 years to work through to Maturity, the Americans have tried to create Western-style structures in Afghanistan and Iraq in just a few years. Rostow can hardly be blamed for these efforts repeatedly blowing up in the faces of the Americans – sometimes all too literally! However, it is Rostow’s vision of the democratic consumeristic society as the ideal which, in part at least, has led the Americans and their allies to disrespect the ‘inferior’ forms of government they find on the ground in these countries.

As Beck (2000b, p4) writes: “’Democracy’, then, comes in many different variations, hues, and levels of complexity. Beware of imposing the form that fits a specific stage or zone on the Spiral onto other strata. This is an invitation to cultural disaster. There are good reasons why humans have created ’survival clans’, ‘ethnic tribes’, ‘feudal empires’, ancient nations’, ‘corporate states’ and ‘value communities’ in our long bio-psycho-social-spiritual ascent. Robert D Kaplan makes this point clearly in a lengthy essay ‘Was Democracy Just A Moment?’ (The Atlantic Monthly, December 1997). He notes that authoritarian China (BLUE) is doing more for its citizens than democratic (ORANGE) Russia, and that enlightened one-party-states and even dictatorial empires (RED), can build a middle class more quickly than multiparty models (ORANGE) in Africa.”

Thankfully, there have been signs that some in the American military in Afghanistan have begun to get their heads around what tribalism is and how to deal with it  – eg: Michael T Flynn, Matt Pottinger & Paul D Batchelor (2010). The pity is that back in 2001 the Americans invaded that country – caricatured by some as ‘stone age’ – with modernisation on their agenda. Where they should have focused their post-war efforts was on repairing and strengthening tribal structures and supporting moderate Islam – rather than trying to rush to Western-style Democracy. Such strategies would have helped to minimise the chances of the Taliban coming back.

Similarly, facilitating healthy tribal structures in a confederation of semi-autonomous ethnically-characterised regions might have saved Iraq. Much more limited support by the West of would-be democratic movements in Egypt, Libya, Syria and some leaning on despots like Hosni Mubarak to cede a few concessions just might have made the Arab Spring more of a minor ‘velvet revolution’ than the lurch into bloody chaos it became.

Applying Stratified Democracy
While it is clear Modernisation Theory has failed and still is failing – with devastating consequences right across the developing world – Stratified Democracy is in its early days.

Its most potent and widescale application so far was in the early-mid-1990s when Beck was involved in developing the South African transition from Apartheid to multi-cultural democracy – see: Don Beck & South Africa. Beck has done some work with the Palestinians in the past decade and the Center for Human Emergence – Netherlands has begun to influence the Dutch Government with Gravesian-based ideas. There is, however, a growing body of empirical evidence supporting the Graves Model and its Spiral Dynamics ‘builds’, on which Stratified Democracy is based, as well as similar models such as the Ego Stages construct of Jane Loevinger (1976). As for Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (1943; 1956; 1970; 1971), in many ways the precursor of Graves/Spiral Dynamics, it is arguably the most used Psychology model outside of the rarified halls of academia – with both formal studies and numerous anecdotes to support its efficacy.

What is needed is for American diplomats and senior military personnel to be trained in Graves, 4Q/8L and the MeshWORKS concept so they can apply Stratified Democracy in Afghanistan, Iraq and wherever else the United States’ role as the world’s leading superpower takes it. As Americans demonstrate deep understanding and empathy for local and regional cultures, so the United States is likely to find itself making new friends out in the world instead of bearing the ‘ugly American’ caricature its people abroad have found themselves tarred with for so long. In a world where a resurgent Russia is jockeying hard for geopolitical influence and China’s economic growth is fuelling some disturbing militaristic posturing, the US urgently needs to start making its foreign policy less ethnocentric and more accepting of diversity.

Similarly for the Europeans. Understanding and applying Stratified Democracy will enable the former masters to move beyond the iniquities of empire and start helping their former colonies develop in a way that is natural for them.

Beck and his key collaborators have yet to publish a definitive account of the concept. So it’s not possible at the time of writing to construct a fully-realised Stratified Democracy alternative to Modernisation Theory. However, the underpinning principle of working with natural vMEME emergence is clear. Tied in with this is a key Maslowian concept which is reflected right through Graves/Spiral Dynamics – namely that before an individual, group or society can move onto a new/more complex need/level of existence, the needs/problems of the current level have to be resolved. See Process of Change and Social Change.

For all that there is yet to be a definitive and detailed Stratified Democracy theory articulated, a number workers in the field are highlighting aspects of the concept in action. Maalouf, in her work via the Center for Human Emergence – Middle East, lays great emphasis on the role of ‘indigenous intelligence experts’. She and Beck consider these critical to the design process: local people who understand the local values and norms and would report those things a worker from another culture might miss simply because the schemas they have don’t attach importance to them. In cross-cultural research terms, the intention is to identify and value what John Berry (1969) termed emics (local customs, practices, norms) so as to avoid importing emics from another culture as imposed etics (emics from one culture treated as universally applicable to all cultures).

For Beck and Maalouf, the data collected is then fed through MeshWORK processes by ‘integral design experts’ to ensure there is respect and value for all systems of governance, with systems for interconnecting them for the benefit of the most. (2nd Tier does not deal in platitudes that all can be benefited – especially equally. It does acknowledge that some may to have lose for the majority to gain.) Viljoen (p111) says of the MeshWORKERS: “Leaders…must design their interventions from high YELLOW to ensure that a true mesh of human [vMEME] gifts is unleashed into each relevant system.”

From these considerations, we can see clearly that Parsons, Inkeles, Hoselitz, etc, went about tackling traditional society PURPLE values completely the wrong way. For people to move beyond those values, the needs those values reflect have to be met – ie: safety-in-belonging is achieved consistently through healthy tribalism, with the tribes respecting each other’s integrity. Then there have to be means to encourage the tribes to cooperate in problem solving and thus moving in the direction of shared ‘meta-identities’ – as per Samuel Gaertner et al’s Common In-Group Identity Model (1993). Leaders with strong RED need to be convinced that the best way to protect and develop their power is through the development of  – and adherence to – BLUE legal systems. In this way, the unhealthy indulgence of the RED-driven elites can be nurtured towards a RED/BLUE vMEME harmonic and then towards a true and effective BLUE. Rather as England’s Mediaeval King John developed beyond absolute personal power (RED) towards an embryonic national legal system (BLUE) to enforce and protect tax collections for his government. Of course, such shifts assume either BLUE controls can be put in place and/or some degree of GREEN conscience develops to inhibit the rampant RED/ORANGE exploitation strategies of the TNCs.

At this time, there is limited understanding of how vMEMES affect economics and economic development in the developing world. Both Jon Freeman (2015) and Said E Dawlabani (2013) have produced key works approaching finance and economics from more of a 2nd Tier viewpoint. Dawlabani in particular considers global capital flows and the effects on different countries according to where they are culturally (Lower Left) on the Spiral. However, there has yet to be a specific application of these ideas to development in the Third World.

It may yet be that the structure of Modernisation Theory can provide elements of a framework for development of a Pre-Modern rural subsistence economy towards a Modern industrial economy, provided the implementation of such development strategies work with, rather than against the values of the people concerned.

Of course, the world doesn’t need every country to be working towards having a fully-industrialised economy – a key flaw in the thinking of the Modernisation theorists. What is needed is a diversity of economies working in an integrated fashion for sustainability right around the globe. That, unfortunately, is a considerable way off – though it is the kind of globally-critical issue John Bunzl is attempting to address with his SIMPOL campaign.

Where do we go from here?
In spite of the many criticisms levelled at it and the doubts expressed as to just how far its application really has helped – or indeed ever could help – Third World countries out of poverty, Modernisation Theory continues to exert a considerable influence over Western foreign policy. If anything, the collapse of Soviet and European Communism in 1989 has given its proponents confidence that their side has ‘won’ and that their view is the correct one.

One result of this is that there has been a more vigorous assertion that free market economies will lead to the relief of poverty more effectively than those economies that are centrally planned or characterised by government intervention. Consequently IMF lending in the 1990s often had conditions relating to government spending in areas such as health, education and welfare being cut back. Even the world recession, starting in 2008, appears to have dented this approach only slightly.

One disturbingly-biased offshoot of Modernisation Theory is the work of Samuel Huntington (1993; 1996) who divides the world into 8 major cultural zones: Western Christianity, the Orthodox world, the Islamic world, the Latin-American, Confucian/Sinic, Hindu, Buddhist and Japanese – adding African in 1996. (Huntington’s zones are shown below – click the graphic to enlarge.) According to Huntington, the exceptional values and culture of the West, which have enabled its success, are lacking in the rest of the world. Resentful of this success, which also enables the West to control institutions like the United Nations and the World Bank, the other zones will, to varying degrees, facilitate resistance and opposition to Western interests – including, in some instances, the use of terrorism.

Huntington’s 9 cultural zones. Graphic copyright © 1996 Samuel P Huntington

To understand current and future conflict, Huntington posits that cultural rifts must be understood because culture – rather than the nation-state – needs to be accepted as the locus of war. Thus, Western nations will lose predominance if they fail to recognise the irreconcilable nature of cultural tensions. Huntington argued that this requires the West to internally strengthen itself against oppression from the other cultural zones.

With the 9/11 attacks in the United States and the rise of fundamentalist-driven Islamism around the world, Huntington’s ideas have found increased credence in a number of quarters. This thinking appears to be reflected in some of the 2016 campaign trail pronouncements made by Donald Trump – with regard to Muslims and the Middle East especially.

His work is obviously based on a recognition of different value sets for each zone. However, he suffers from what indeed might be termed ‘Modernisation Myopia’, failing to appreciate that Western consumerist societies have many problems – including some that other societies don’t have – and, therefore, may not be that superior to other societies.

In marked contrast to Huntington’s into-the-bunkers type of approach which predicates conflict, Bunzl has been using the concept of Stratified Democracy to develop ideas of world governance to tackle collaboratively key global issues such as poverty and climate change which clearly are beyond any single nation or group of countries. He holds that means of world governance need to be developed which allow different kinds of government to contribute to innovative problem-solving in ways which validate the kind of government they are in that time and context – so it becomes in their interest, rather than against their interests, to collaborate with very different types of government.

Not only does Bunzl draw from the principles of Stratified Democracy but the way he approaches global interactions is almost to recognises that there is a modern world system in the sense of World Systems Theory, accepting that different countries with their often very different governments play their part in the system – whether they acknowledge that or not.

The concepts off Bunzl and Dawlabani are in their early days – almost embryonic! – but they are at the least the start of developing new approaches, based on Stratified Democracy, in which healthy systems of political and economic development can be grown organically.

Go back…


Share this via:


Verification Captcha (human, not robot!) * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.