Max Borders

The Integral Liberal




This is an extract from Max Borders, After Collapse (2021).

It clarifies beautifully the basic principles that underpin the behaviour of the liberal person.



Thus, the integral liberal adopts five spheres of practice which we have already set out:

1. Nonviolence, or ahimsa, is the practice of abstaining from harm in thought, word, and deed. In our formulation, it extends to both persons and their property. Such can include nonviolent resistance against harmful institutions and individuals who would harm.

2. Integrity is the practice of truthfulness and fidelity to one's word. Being a person of your word means that others can count on you. Your reliability is infectious.

3. Pluralism is the practice not just of tolerating differences among people, but of actively seeking to understand and synthesize multiple perspectives to maintain peace and glimpse a greater truth.

4. Compassion is the practice of being concerned for others' suffering and, when appropriate, actively and directly seeking to mitigate their suffering or improve their wellbeing.

5. Stewardship is the practice of taking care of thing, whether resources or property, while actively seeking to improve that which is in your care, leaving circumstances better than when you found them.

Recall that liberalism was born, more or less, in the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment's major exponents were enamored of reason, and so are we. But reason is not enough. If you go too far in stripping your doctrine of what it means to be human, to feel human, people will not readily adopt it. None of this is to argue that integral liberalism should be irrational, nor should it be about sharing our feelings from one moment to the next. Taking on a pre-birth perspective or applying a game-theoretical algorithm is useful, to a point. But employing reason shouldn't be so bloodless, Practice requires more than just adopting an abstract political philosophy; it requires embodied wisdom, attention to feedback, and being completely attuned to your inner life.

Because people live in a society, their philosophy must be more than a legal doctrine. It must also be a life philosophy. In other words, it's not enough to hope that some enlightened legislators will make our laws. We have to live our liberalism. In this way, it takes discipline to practice our values. Unrestrained passion pushes us into making poor decisions and causes us not to see other perspectives. But the integral liberal must think and feel and practice, too. In taking on other perspectives, they can think what others are thinking, and feel what they are feeling. By weaving together multiple, partial truths into a greater transcendent truth, reason and empathy operate in tandem.

Therefore, integral liberals practice liberalism in the same way one practices a religion. Or, their liberalism is an active moral and psychological practice, as one is always listening and open to the perspectives of others. They remain attuned to opportunities to synthesize rather than contradict. At the highest levels of mastery, they can recommend a way forward based on a synthesized truth that they have appreciated. The rarest integral liberal will be able to communicate or build something upon her insights to make them useful.

Synthesis can be 'meta,' but not always. Unfortunately, smart people can be more meta than thou. That's not to say that we shouldn't all try to click out our minds another order of magnitude, from time to time. It's healthy to take a different perspective. Thinking 'meta' can be healthy. But

it is unhelpful when few, or one alone, can appreciate their insights. In this, one achieves self-satisfaction. Smug solipsism. The integral liberal has to watch out for lapsing into immoderate meta-ness. The point of synthesizing perspectives is to discover a deeper truth and share it with people at different development stages.

Realizing the irony here, we must take a step back from our own meta-ness. We should ask what rules, guides or heuristics can help ordinary people along the path to change. The truth is, most of us just aren't that smart or spiritually developed, which is another reason why we need practice. To lead, one has to not only to speak with and restraint. One has also to relate one's ideas to allow others; to understand and integrate the change. If one’s cognitive scaffolding is so far above the ground that everyone looks like ants, no one will be able to hear.

The integral liberal will build fewer towers of intellectual solipsism, and their thinking will be advanced and nonlinear. Otherwise, at their best, they will speak clearly. They will build new tools and write new rules that reconcile multiple perspectives. And, most importantly, they will live by example, engaging their practice, always moving towards mastery. Of course, not all integral liberals will achieve proficiency in all five spheres. Very few will. We must hope there will be enough. We must hope, at the very least, people embrace ahimsa. As my mentor, entrepreneur Chris Rufer says, our best protection comes when more people adopt the social values of peace.

Finally, the integral liberal is neither a collectivist nor an individualist. Collectivism subordinates the individual to the group, especially the power structures of groups. Individualism puts the right emphasis on autonomy, but some variants neglect the reality of interdependence and community. The integral liberal sees no contradiction in the integration of concern for self and concern for the whole.
Individual and group cohere in balance.


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