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Global Knowledge Futures: Articulating the Emergence of a New Meta-level Field


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In this paper I articulate a new meta-level field of studies that I call global knowledge futures—a field through which other emerging transdisciplinary fields can be integrated to cohere knowledge at a higher level. I contrast this with the current dominant knowledge paradigm of the global knowledge economy with its fragmentation, commodification and instrumentalism based on neoliberal knowledge capitalism. I take a big-picture, macrohistorical lens to the new thinking and new knowledge patterns that are emerging within the evolution of consciousness discourse. I explore three discourses: postformal studies, integral studies and planetary studies 3 —using a fourth discourse, futures studies, to provide a macro-temporal framing. By extending the meta-fields of postformal, integral and planetary studies into a prospective future dimension, I locate areas of development where these leading-edge discourses can be brought into closer dialogue with each other. In this meeting point of four boundary-spanning discourses I identify the new meta-level field of global knowledge futures, grounded in human thinking capacities, such as creativity, imagination, dialogue and collaboration.
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INTEGRAL REVIEW June 2013 Vol. 9, No. 2
Global Knowledge Futures:
Articulating the Emergence of a New Meta-level Field
Jennifer M. Gidley
Abstract: In this paper I articulate a new meta-level field of studies that I call global
knowledge futures—a field through which other emerging transdisciplinary fields can be
integrated to cohere knowledge at a higher level. I contrast this with the current dominant
knowledge paradigm of the global knowledge economy with its fragmentation,
commodification and instrumentalism based on neoliberal knowledge capitalism. I take a
big-picture, macrohistorical lens to the new thinking and new knowledge patterns that are
emerging within the evolution of consciousness discourse. I explore three discourses:
postformal studies, integral studies and planetary studies
—using a fourth discourse,
futures studies, to provide a macro-temporal framing. By extending the meta-fields of
postformal, integral and planetary studies into a prospective future dimension, I locate
areas of development where these leading-edge discourses can be brought into closer
dialogue with each other. In this meeting point of four boundary-spanning discourses I
identify the new meta-level field of global knowledge futures, grounded in human
thinking capacities, such as creativity, imagination, dialogue and collaboration.
Keywords: Foresight, futures studies, integral, knowledge economy, planetary,
positivism, postformal, post-positivism.
Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we
currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.
(Albert Einstein)
We hear a lot today about the knowledge economy yet this economistic framing fails to attend
to the richness and diversity of knowledge creation that is being enacted on a planetary scale. We
also hear the term information era as if it were a complete encapsulation of the present phase of
This paper draws from and extends earlier published research by the author (Gidley, 2007a, 2007b,
2010c, 2012a, 2012b).
Jennifer Gidley, PhD, pioneers global change through her diverse roles as President of the World
Futures Studies Federation; Adjunct Professor, California Institute of Integral Studies; and Visiting
Professor, Palacký University, Czech Republic. She has published widely on educational futures and
futures of thinking including 50 academic papers; the books, The University in Transformation (2000);
Youth Futures (2002); Educating for the Complexity of Planetary Futures (forthcoming); and Global
Knowledge Futures: The Planetary Emergence of Integral Worldviews (forthcoming); and special issues
of Futures on “Educational Futures” (2011) and “Global Mindset Change” (2010).
My use of the term planetary studies includes newly recognized fields such as global studies, and
discourses that refer to planetization (Teilhard de Chardin, 1959/2004), planetary futures, planetary
culture and planetary consciousness (Gangadean, 2006a; Montuori, 1999).
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cultural evolution. The proponents of the information era generally fail to attend to the
evolutionary move beyond mere information to new ways of knowing, new knowledge patterns
and the emergence of several discourses that attempt to cohere knowledge.
At the close of the first decade of the 21
century, some of the most creative, innovative, and
dynamic knowledge around the globe is being produced and disseminated outside mainstream
universities. Academic researchers and research council bureaucrats need to take heed. Now that
“knowledge production”, “knowledge transfer”, and “knowledge dissemination” have become
core commodities of the increasingly competitive global knowledge market economy, how will
universities and their research centers keep up?
In the last few decades there has been a proliferation of new terms and concepts emerging at
the periphery of the academic landscape—all pointing in diverse ways to the need to move
beyond fragmented thinking and hyper-specialization. Such terms include complexity, paradox
and systems thinking; holism and wholism; integral and integrative; multidisciplinary,
transdisciplinary and postdisciplinary, to name a few. Some of these terms are used in specific
contexts with a variety of different meanings; others claim to cover the whole of the knowledge
domain. Confusion abounds in this new thinking era.
While the juggernaut of old-paradigm thinking seems intent on holding on to educational
institutions, there is a burgeoning of new knowledge paradigms breaking through from the
periphery. A plethora of private providers, social movements, niche research institutes, open
source resources, edutainment and, of course, the ubiquitous information kaleidoscope of the
world wide web, make it increasingly difficult for the former bastions of knowledge production
and dissemination—formal educational institutions to compete for “market-share.” But is
competition the best way forward? Could it be that the leadership of universities and research
councils need to listen more deeply to the periphery—to the new, unorthodox developments in
the creation and dissemination of knowledge?
A preliminary global environmental scan of the emerging discourses that refer to new
knowledge suggests that much of what is called “new knowledge” more accurately relates to new
technologies—both hard and soft. These include the global proliferation of high-tech toys,
cynically designed to become obsolescent within ever-shorter time-spans from their release, and
the moment-by-moment updates and upgrades of every imaginable kind of software. This type of
“new knowledge” is actually not-so-new knowledge, simply repackaged in new technologies.
But this techno-knowledge revolution is deeply grounded in the fragmentation, commodification
and instrumentalism of knowledge by neoliberal capitalist ideologies. By contrast, the resources
required for the flourishing of global knowledge futures are intrinsically human faculties, which
are not so dependent on economic and material resources and are thus potentially more
sustainable. Creativity and innovation; imagination, inspiration and intuition; anticipation and
foresight; dialogue and collaboration are all human capacities that know no bounds except those
we self-impose.
My interest in this paper is not in new knowledge technologies per se, but in new thinking
capacities grounded in evolving human consciousness—this is what I mean by global knowledge
futures (Gidley, 2007b, 2010b). The paper is underpinned by a meta-question: “What are the
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leading-edge discourses that identify new paradigms of thinking and how can they be articulated
and meta-cohered?”
This special issue of Integral Review, based on the Research Across Boundaries Symposium
in Luxembourg (2010), is a pioneering attempt to cross boundaries and build bridges—not just
between and across disciplines—but between theories and perspectives that are already in
themselves meta-theoretical. In this paper I take a big-picture, macrohistorical lens to the new
thinking and new knowledge patterns that are emerging, and contextualize them within the
evolution of consciousness discourse. I offer a broad overview of several meta-theoretical
approaches, including postformal, integral, and planetary studies, and project them into their
possible futures using the prospective reasoning of futures studies.
These areas of research—postformal, integral, planetary, and futures—are relatively new
transversal fields, having arisen in their academic forms over the last five decades,
notwithstanding earlier proto-forms. In spite of the breadth and depth of these meta-theoretical
approaches in their own right, there is a tendency among proponents of these approaches to
isolate themselves within their own discourse and not allow the cross-fertilization that could
mutually enrich their research. At best this does not enable appropriate knowledge sharing; at
worst it can lead to ideological siloism—thus limiting the larger development of the project of
knowledge coherence.
I also briefly identify and articulate my own boundary-crossing theoretical contributions in
each area and how my research takes additional steps towards further levels of dialogue and
potential coherence within and between these approaches. Through my boundary-crossing
endeavors, I have begun to create a new meta-level field that I call global knowledge futures.
An Evolutionary Spin on Global Knowledge Futures
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
(T. S. Eliot, 1934, The Rock, lines 12-13)
One of the greatest problems we face today is how to adjust our way of thinking to meet
the challenge of an increasingly complex, rapidly changing, unpredictable world. We must
rethink our way of organising knowledge. (Morin, 2001, p. 5)
Both of these quotes speak of knowledge. The first is from American-British poet, T. S. Eliot,
and the second is from French philosopher, Edgar Morin. Eliot bemoans the loss of wisdom
while Morin hints at its re-awakening. Perhaps it takes the eye of an artist, a poet, to perceive the
loss of wisdom in the stripped-down, prosaic pragmatism of the Information Era. Yet it is a
philosopher—a lover of wisdom—who actively thinks towards more complex ways of
organizing knowledge in the Planetary Era.
In my reading of Morin’s work it becomes immediately evident through the philosophical and
poetic richness of his language and concepts that his notion of knowledge is already filled with
the type of postformal, integral, planetary wisdom and foresight that is being gradually
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articulated here. As Eliot indicates, the modern era of hyper-rationality and hyper-specialization
has been a reductive process in which the pre-modern unitive world-view of inherited, or
revealed, “wisdom” has been superseded by bits—and, more recently, bytes—of information.
In addition to this fragmentation, commodification of knowledge abounds as a socio-cultural
by-product of globalization. Borrowing heavily from industrial era metaphors, education is now
marketed as the product in a globally competitive “knowledge industry.” The insinuation of
neoliberal economic theory into all walks of life—including education—has led to the reframing
of education as a subset of the new “knowledge economy.” In this new knowledge economy we
can witness nations and regions scrambling to grab market-share through creating “science
parks”, “education cities” and “knowledge hubs.” The most disturbing aspect of this
“globalization of knowledge” is that it frequently reflects homogenization. This
McDonaldization (Ritzer, 2008) of education transplants outmoded models and approaches as if
they were fast-food franchises with little regard to the quality of the learning experience for
students or the cultural context in which the model is implanted. In the rush to the top of the
globally competitive league tables there appears to be a blind disregard for epistemological and
cultural diversity, through alternative ways of knowing. With their embeddedness in the global
economy such approaches to global knowledge are also locked into short-termism, stasis and
homogenization, see Figure 1.
Figure 1: Global Knowledge Economy – Ideological Stasis and Homogenisation
In contrast to the reductive and economistic ideologies underlying the notion of the global
knowledge economy my term global knowledge futures is intended to unsettle those who use the
term knowledge reductively and/or prescriptively. My research and writing over the last decade
has primarily involved identifying and drawing together the ideas, ideals and insights of
numerous avant-garde thinkers—across various disciplinary boundaries, across macrohistorical
and future time frames and across diverse cultures and worldviews (Gidley, 2007b, 2010b,
2010d). My primary intellectual and cultural interest is in people—and ideas—that eschew the
mechanistic, instrumental, reduced versions of knowledge and humanity and have sought to go
beyond, to go deeper, to imagine longer time-scales and planetary spaces, to develop and enact
more coherent meta-theories and practices.
My notion of global knowledge futures is framed within the understanding that human
consciousness is evolving and for the first time in history we can actively participate in co-
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creating our futures through conscious evolution—that is, consciously working on our own
personal development. Although the notion of evolution is frequently attributed to Charles
Darwin, the concept was originally seeded by several integrally-oriented German Idealists and
Romantics, towards the end of the 18
century. Almost a century before Darwin published his
Origin of Species (1859), philosopher/ poet/ theologian Johann Gottfried von Herder claimed
that “there exist radical mental differences between historical periods, that people's concepts,
beliefs, sensations, etc. differ in important ways from one period to another” (Forster, 2001).
Herder’s ideas on the evolution of consciousness were extended by Goethe, Hegel and
Schelling—the latter foreshadowing current notions of conscious evolution (Teichmann, 2005).
Although inspired by earlier unitive worldviews, these integral philosophers also took a long-
term futures perspective. They pointed beyond the limitations of both pre-modern, mythic
consciousness and formal, modernist rationality, towards a more conscious awakening of a
postformal, integral consciousness. David Ray Griffin refers to this as “constructive” or
“reconstructive postmodernism,” which Arran Gare traces to Schelling (Gare, 2002; Keller &
Daniell, 2002).
In parallel with the dawning of integral evolutionary thinking in the German states, the
Industrial Revolution—a key marker of modernity—was brewing in Britain, with both
progressive and disruptive socio-cultural impact. Grounded in the paradigm of logical
positivism, which spawned scientific materialism and analytic philosophy, mechanistic notions
of human nature cast a shadow on idealist and spiritual notions of human being and
consciousness. Since Darwin—and in spite of his under-appreciated writings on love and moral
evolution (Loye, 1998, 2004)—the dominant evolution discourse has privileged materialistic bio-
mechanical worldviews. More philosophical and spiritual worldviews were pushed to the
margins being regarded as unscientific. However, several leading thinkers in the early to mid 20
century carried forward the philosophical and spiritual evolutionary ideas of the idealists and
romantics (Aurobindo, 1914/2000; Gebser, 1949/1985; Steiner, 1904/1993, 1926/1966; Teilhard
de Chardin, 1959/2004). They kept alive the notion that human consciousness is evolving
beyond materialistic, instrumental rationality to embrace more complex, creative, integral,
spiritual ways of thinking and knowing. Yet overall their work has been largely academically
More recently, evolution of consciousness theories have been picked up and further
developed—being ripe for more comprehensive and collaborative articulation through the 21
century. Numerous contemporary theorists from a variety of disciplines have begun to research
the evolution of consciousness from a more integral perspective (Bamford, 2003; Bocchi &
Ceruti, 2002; Christiansen & Kirby, 2003; Conway Morris, 2007; Cousins, 1999; Donald, 2001;
Earley, 1997; Eisler, 1987; Elgin, 1993, 1997; Eliade, 1954/1989; Firestone, West, & Warwick-
Smith, 2006; Gangadean, 2006a; Gidley, 2007b; Grof, 1988; Grossinger, 2000; Habermas, 1979;
Hart, 2001; Hefner, 1998; Inayatullah, 2004; Jantsch, 1980; Loye, 1998; Montuori, 1999; Morin
& Kern, 1999; Nelson, 2005; Neville, 2006; Ornstein & Ehrlich, 1991; Russell, 2000; Saloff-
Coste, 2001; Subbiondo, 2003; Swimme, 1992; Thompson, 1998; Wade, 1996; Wilber,
1980/1996, 1981/2006).
The philosophical and theoretical writings that discuss the emergence of a new
movement/stage/structure of consciousness are also supported by some longitudinal research. An
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emerging change in consciousness was proposed in a study undertaken in the USA over ten
years, reporting on the rise of “integral culture”, and identifying almost a quarter of Americans
as “cultural creatives” (Ray, 1996). In addition, a 43-nation World Values Survey, including
Scandinavia, Switzerland, Britain, Canada and the United States concluded that: “a new global
culture and consciousness have taken root and are beginning to grow in the world”—the
postmodern shift (Elgin & LeDrew, 1997, p. 2).
Building on the evolution of consciousness literature my notion of global knowledge futures
be clearly distinguished from the hyper modernist notion of the global knowledge economy. The
cultural pluralism implied in my notion of global, and the ideological diversity in my notion of
futures, fold back into the term knowledge, enriching it and opening it up to insights from the
leading-edge discourses discussed below, see Figure 2.
Figure 2: Global Knowledge Futures – Dynamic Unity in Dialogue with Diversity
Where the term global in Figure 1, referring to global knowledge economy has a reduced
meaning that often infers a homogenized world with growing cultural uniformity, the term global
in Figure 2, referring to global knowledge futures infers pluralism and cultural diversity. In
Figure 1 the term knowledge is used in a way that it is viewed as a commodity, a part of the
economy, whereas in Figure 2 the term knowledge is used in a way that infers multiple ways of
knowing and multiple perspectives, as found in integral, transdisciplinary and postformal
perspectives. Finally, in Figure 1, the aim and purpose of a global knowledge economy is about
making money and profits. By contrast, in Figure 2, the aim and purpose of developing global
knowledge futures is to enrich individuals, cultures and societies in ways that develop whole
persons (as in the German Bildung), that nurture cultural diversity, and that promote alternative
futures of knowledge that is increasingly complex, multi-perspectival, integrated and coherent, to
better understand a world that is increasingly complex, multi-faceted, diverse and unpredictable.
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Leading-edge Discourses as Facets of Global Knowledge Futures
Arising from my evolution of consciousness research I became aware of the significance of
several discourses that either identify and/ or enact new stages/ structures/ movements of
consciousness. Each of these discourses has a complex inter-relationship with a mode of thinking
or way of knowing that bears its name. I will briefly discuss what I mean by each field of
study—postformal, integral, global/ planetary and futures—and then articulate in more detail the
way of knowing that I see as being identified and/or enacted in each field.
By postformal studies I am referring to 1) the theoretical and empirical research undertaken
by positive adult developmental psychologists who identify one or more stages of reasoning
beyond Piaget’s formal operations. They use the term postformal reasoning to refer to these
higher forms of cognitive and psychological development; 2) the educational research building
on critical theory and postmodernism which is referred to as post-formal education or
postformality; and 3) my own transdisciplinary postformal approach in which I bring these two
discourses together via the term “postformal pedagogies”, build conceptual bridges between
postformal reasoning and other avant-garde approaches, that enact postformal reasoning.
By integral studies I include the various discourses that explicitly refer to their theoretical
approaches as integral (Aurobindo, 1914/2000; Gebser, 1949/1985; László, 2007; Wilber,
2000b) and also those that can be regarded as integral according to the integrality of their
approaches (Morin, 2001; Nicolescu, 2002; Steiner, 1926/1966). The first group explicitly
identifies integrality and to greater and lesser degrees also enacts it. The second group—while
not so explicit about the term—enact integrality.
By global/planetary studies I refer to the emerging discourses that use the term planetary in
the following contexts: critical environmental (biosphere), transcultural (anthropo-socio-sphere),
philosophical (noosphere) and spiritual interests (pneumatosphere). I also include the political
science and international relations literature that points to the shift from nationalistic to
transnational and planetary/ global imaginaries (Gangadean, 2006a; Montuori, 1999; Swimme &
Tucker, 2006).
By futures studies I refer to the transdisciplinary, transnational and multi-sectorial field,
which includes thousands of academics and practitioners, globally. The field is diverse, including
some who take an empirical and economistic stance, while I take a pluralistic approach to the
field and propose below a new typological framing of its epistemological diversity (See Table 2).
I will now expand on each of these leading-edge discourses, introducing the type of new
thinking that each promotes and embraces.
Postformal Reasoning
Postformal in psychology: Postformal is the most widely used psychological term to denote
higher developmental stages beyond Piaget’s formal operations—other terms include “post-
conventional” (Cook-Greuter, 2000), “hierarchical complexity” (Commons, Trudeau, Stein,
Richards, & Krause, 1998) and “vision-logic” (Wilber, 2000a). Adult developmental
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psychologists have been researching postformal reasoning for several decades, identifying up to
four stages of postformal development. They identify numerous features of postformal
reasoning—including complexity, contextualization, creativity, dialectics, dialogue, holism,
imagination, construct awareness, paradox, pluralism, reflexivity, spirituality,
values and
wisdom (Arlin, 1999; Campbell, 2006; Cartwright, 2001; M. Commons et al., 1990; M. L.
Commons et al., 1998; Cook-Greuter, 2000; Falcone, 2000; Kegan, 1994; Kohlberg, 1990;
Kramer, 1983; Labouvie-Vief, 1990, 1992; Riegel, 1973; Sinnott, 1998, 2005; Yan & Arlin,
1995). Michael Commons has identified a hierarchical complexity of stages of postformal
thinking, including systematic, metasystematic, paradigmatic and cross-paradigmatic reasoning
(Commons & Richards, 2002; Commons et al., 1998).
Postformal in education: Several educational researchers have also identified the terms post-
formal and post-formality in relation to critical and postmodern approaches to education (Horn,
2001; Kincheloe & Steinberg, 1993; Kincheloe, Steinberg, & Hinchey, 1999; Rose & Kincheloe,
2003). Kincheloe and Steinberg proposed four key components of postformality: etymology
(origins of knowledge, imagination, problem detecting); pattern (deep structures, metaphoric
cognition, mind-ecosystem links); process (deconstruction, logic-emotion links, non-linear
holism); and contextualization (context, particular-general links, and power issues) (Kincheloe et
al., 1999, p. 62-81). Kincheloe referred to post-formality as “the socio-cognitive expression of
(Kincheloe & Steinberg, 1993, p. 309).
Transdisciplinary postformality: My approach to the term postformal is not limited by the
parameters of the developmental psychology or education uses. My use of postformal is
transdisciplinary and includes a macrohistorical futures perspective (Gidley, 2007b, 2008b).
There are several features of postformal reasoning that have migrated beyond the postformal
psychology literature into the boundary crossing discourses of integral studies, planetary studies
and futures studies. The postformal features I want to highlight include: complex thinking
(Morin, 2008; Sinnott, 2005), paradoxical reasoning (Griffin et al., 2009), creativity (Montuori,
1998; Montuori, Combs, & Richards, 2004; Saloff-Coste, 2001), dialogue (Gangadean, 1998)
and imagination (Gidley, 2009, 2010c; Nielsen, 2004). Complex thinking involves the ability to
hold multiple perspectives in mind while at the same time being able to meta-reflect on those
perspectives and the potential relationships among them. This is also referred to as metasystemic
thinking (Commons & Ross, 2008). Paradoxical thinking is one of the expressions of complex
postformal logic. Authors of a recent study that explores the application of postformal reasoning
in non-cognitive settings make the following connections between postformal thought,
complexity and ability to deal with paradox.
The terms spiritual or spirituality, are used in this research, unless otherwise specified, to reflect
worldviews that acknowledge that there is more to existence than matter. This could be discussed at
length but it is beyond the scope of this dissertation to do so. The use of spiritual is not intended to denote
any particular theological or religious view.
Postmodernism—a term to denote a critical or deconstructive philosophical perspective in relation to
modernism (Keller & Daniell, 2002). While postmodernism is not always regarded as a new stage,
structure or movement of consciousness, I note Hampson’s recent paper pointing to the construct
awareness of Jacques Derrida (Hampson, 2007). I support the notion that much of French philosophical
postmodernism or deconstruction could be regarded as an expression of aspects of the new consciousness.
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One general aspect of post-formal thought is that one can conceive of multiple logics,
choices, or perceptions of an event or relationship, even if seemingly paradoxical, in order
to better understand the complexities and inherent biases in “truth.” Relationships work on
shared “truths” and resolution of logical conflicts. (Griffin et al., 2009, p. 173)
Postformal logics go beyond Aristotelian formal logic, which requires an either/or response
thus creating what is called an “excluded middle.” Paradoxical thinking refers to the ability to
hold in mind the apparently illogical possibility that two contradictory statements can both be
true—or indeed both false. This paradox of the included middle allows for both/and and
neither/nor to be correct (Nicolescu, 2002). Sardar notes that this “four-fold logic enables us to
think in multiples and thus get a better grip on contradictory tensions” (Sardar, 2010). I would
also suggest that the attempt to “hold in mind the paradox of contradictory truths—or non-truths”
creates uncomfortable tension in the minds and emotions of people only accustomed to using
formal logic. It is beyond the scope of this paper to fully discuss the ways that dialogue,
creativity and imagination can be regarded as imaginaries that cohere. These postformal features
have been discussed in more detail elsewhere (Gidley, 2007a, 2007b, 2008b, 2009, 2010a,
Furthermore, this literature raises the question of how we facilitate the ability of people today
to think more complexly, creatively, imaginatively and to dialogue rather than debate their
differences. I see it as a global educational priority to lay foundations in childhood and
adolescence for the unfoldment of postformal reasoning capacities in adults. In this light, we
need to develop postformal pedagogies (Gidley, 2007a, 2009).
In summary, my boundary-crossing contribution to the postformal studies field includes:
- Bringing together the postformal psychology and education notions of postformal through
my concept of postformal pedagogies.
- Identifying in the broader leading-edge literature the enactment of postformal reasoning
features, such as complexity, paradox, creativity, dialogue and imagination, to name a
There are important implications of the first point for both the psychology and education
fields, in that they may be inspired to cross-fertilize ideas; and also for other fields, in that they
may be influenced by learning about the wider potential applications of postformal reasoning.
The second point facilitates greater awareness and self-reflection about their participation in a
global consciousness shift among thinkers enacting postformal qualities.
Integral Consciousness
The genealogy of the term integral is somewhat contested among contemporary integral
theorists and researchers. As noted elsewhere, before Sri Aurobindo began writing about integral
yoga and knowledge, Steiner
was already using the term integral
in a similar way at the turn of
Steiner also philosophically used terms such as integration, synthesis and unity to express integrative
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the 20
century (Gidley, 2007b). Steiner’s earliest use of integral, to my knowledge, is the
following comment he made on integral evolution in a lecture in Paris on the 26
May 1906.
The grandeur of Darwinian thought is not disputed, but it does not explain the integral
evolution of man… So it is with all purely physical explanations, which do not recognize
the spiritual essence of man's being. (Steiner, 1928/1978, para. 5. Italics added)
Steiner also used the term integral in a way that foreshadowed Gebser’s use of the term. The
latter (Gebser, 1949/1985) claimed that the integral structure of consciousness involves
concretion of previous structures of consciousness, whereby “the various structures of
consciousness that constitute him must have become transparent and conscious to him” (p. 99).
Gebser used the term “integral simultaneity” (p. 143) to express this. This echoes Steiner’s
characterization of “the stages on the way to higher powers of cognition … [where one
eventually reaches] a fundamental mood of soul determined by the simultaneous and integral
experience of the foregoing stages” (Steiner, 1909/1963, § 10, para. 5) [Italics added].
The term integral has been popularized over the last decade by Ken Wilber and Ervin László
with their respective integral theories of everything
(László, 2007; Wilber, 1997, 2000b). Much
of the contemporary evolution of consciousness discourse that uses the term integral to point to
an emergent, holistic/integrative and spiritually-aware consciousness—draws on the writings of
Gebser and/or Sri Aurobindo, either directly, or indirectly through reference to Wilber’s integral
theory (Anderson, 2006; Combs, 2002; Earley, 1997; Feuerstein, 1987; Montuori et al., 2004;
Murray, 2006; Neville, 2006; Roy, 2006; Swanson, 2002; Thompson, 1998; Wilber, 1997).
In summary, Wilber has made a significant contribution to the integral studies discourse by
drawing attention to the emergence of integral consciousness, contemporizing and popularizing
it. Wilber’s notion of integral drew from Gebser’s extensive research on what he called ‘integral-
aperspectival’ consciousness. Gebser’s major contribution, apart from formally identifying this
structure, was to note its emergence in the world in various fields in the first half of last century.
Prior to Wilber, Gebser, and even Sri Aurobindo, Steiner had begun in the early 1900s, to
identify the emergence of a stage of consciousness beyond abstract, formal, intellectual thinking.
Steiner proposed a stage of self-reflective consciousness that he called “consciousness soul” that
is not only able to perceive and know the world but to become conscious of itself (Steiner,
1909/1963). This resembles the “double I” identified by the late postmodernists: particularly
Foucault and Derrida (Benedikter, 2005). Wilber similarly uses the abbreviation “I-I” to refer to
I have identified seventeen texts in which Steiner uses integral similarly to Sri Aurobindo, Gebser and
integral theorists today. This matter will be the subject of further research.
A comprehensive genealogy of integral thinking is yet to be undertaken. However, there are several key
thinkers who must be considered as serious contributors. These include: Russian philosopher Vladimir
Sergeyevich Solovyov (1853-1900) whose thesis on “The philosophical principles of integral knowledge”
was published as a series of articles as early as 1877; Russian sociologist Pitirim Alexandrovich Sorokin
(1889-1968) and Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). Some consideration has been given to the influence
of these early thinkers on integral education by Markus Molz and Gary Hampson (2010).
The integral approaches I consider, including my own, need to be contextualized as post-positivist, in
contrast to the early 20
century strivings of the Vienna Circle to create a unified science through logical
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the “I” who reflects on itself, sometimes also called the witness (Wilber, 1995/2000 ).
Effectively, Steiner identified the imminent emergence of the postformal reasoning feature of
self-reflexivity over a century ago. Steiner arguably also contributed the most substantial
material in terms of how we can actively develop this new stage of consciousness (Steiner,
1904/1993, 1926/1966, 1934/1983), and how we can educate for it, including dozens of volumes
of educational lectures.
As my contribution to further the development of integral theory, I have developed a layered
framing through which to view the complementary nature of several significant integral theorists
(Gidley, 2010a).
For the purposes of this schematic summary I have chosen to focus on five
integral theorists: Gebser, László, Sri Aurobindo, Steiner and Wilber; and two transdisciplinary
theorists: Morin and Nicolescu.
I propose to view the contributions from several metaphoric
perspectives, introducing five—mostly new—terms to integral theory: macro-integral, meso-
integral, micro-integral, participatory-integral, and transversal-integral.
Based on this new
framing I intend to demonstrate how the various integral approaches need not be seen to be in
competition with each other but rather as complementary aspects of a broader articulation of
noospheric breadth that is seeking living expression. Without implying that any of these terms
represent closed, fixed categories or that any of the integral approaches could be contained
completely within any of these concepts, I have theorized the following provisional mosaic of
integral studies as it stands today (Gidley, 2007b, pp. 125-130).
By macro-integral I am referring to the extent to which the integral theorist includes all major
fields of knowledge. I suggest that at this level of conceptual integration, Wilber’s AQAL
framework makes a highly significant contribution and this is where his strength lies. The
breadth of Steiner’s theoretic contribution to the understanding and integration of knowledge is
at least as vast as Wilber’s, however it has been largely ignored by both the academy and integral
theorists, perhaps to their detriment. Gebser also made an impressive, but largely under-
appreciated theoretic contribution to articulating the emergence of integral consciousness in
numerous disciplines and fields in the early 20
century. In summary, I see Steiner, Gebser and
Wilber as three of the most significant macro-integral theorists of the 20
century with Wilber
being the most accessible of the three (Gidley, 2007b, pp. 125-130).
By meso-integral I am referring to the extent to which the integral theorist contributes
significantly to theory building within particular fields or theories. I propose that László’s
(László, 2007) contribution is highly significant at this level. Having followed a rather more
formal, European, academic-scientific approach to theory building, László has taken a general
systems approach to integral theory. Although it can be critiqued from a Wilberian view as being
partial, it appears more successful than most integral approaches at being taking seriously from
an academic perspective. Although Wilber and Steiner have both made numerous theoretic
I am using the terms theorists and theory in this section broadly to cover philosophy, epistemology and
The atypical nature of this list can be accounted for in two ways: My reasons for including
transdisciplinary theorists will become evident and other integral theorists who have been considered
elsewhere are generally aligned to one or more of these major theorists.
I recognize that some of these terms have technical meanings in mathematics, engineering and
computer sciences, however, I am using them metaphorically in this context.
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contributions to various disciplines, their contributions remain marginalized within mainstream
approaches. Sri Aurobindo’s integral approach could also be regarded as a significant
contribution at this level—albeit also a marginalized one—given that his philosophy provides a
foundation for much of the later integral theory development (Anderson, 2006).
By micro-integral I am referring to the extent to which the integral theorist makes detailed
contributions to specific disciplines or fields through the application of their integral theory. I
propose that at this level of detailed application of integral theory to a wide range of disciplines
and professional fields, Steiner’s extraordinary contribution can no longer continue to be ignored
by integral theorists. Although it is beyond the scope of this paper to consider all the fields of
application of his theory, extensive reference to the integral nature of his theory and particularly
of its pedagogical application can be found elsewhere (Gidley, 2007a, 2008a, 2008b, 2009). By
comparison, Gebser’s, Wilber’s and László’s theories are largely conceptual, although Gebser
enacts his integrality in the style of his writing, Wilber is making moves towards the application
of his theory in various fields and László’s Club of Budapest has an activist dimension.
The notion of participatory-integral is represented here by the integral transformative
education theory of Ferrer (Ferrer, 2002; Ferrer, Romero, & Albareda, 2005). Ferrer’s
participatory approach
is inspired by Sri Aurobindo’s integration of the three yogas of
knowledge, love and action, which is in turn aligned to Steiner’s thinking/head, feeling/heart and
willing/hands (Gidley, 2007b, p. 111). Ferrer emphasizes the importance of the participation of
the whole human being (body, vital, heart, mind and consciousness) and claims that most
integral education theories are either too cognicentric or too eclectic. He provides an alternative
framing, based on Wexler’s notion of horizontal integration, as “the way we integrate
knowledge” and vertical integration, as “the way we integrate multiple ways of knowing”
(Ferrer et al., 2005, p. 309). Based on this framing Ferrer places most integral, holistic and even
transdisciplinary approaches within horizontal integration. My interpretation is that this framing
is too simplistic: firstly, because there are other unacknowledged ways that the terms vertical and
horizontal are used in integral theory and other theories; and secondly, much depends on how the
approach to integrating knowledge is applied. Such a dichotomy could not reasonably be applied
to the writings of Steiner, Gebser or Morin.
I also propose a new concept via the term transversal-integral that refers to integral
approaches that include and cut across these vertical and horizontal levels/dimensions. While it
could be argued that all the integral theorists mentioned cut across these different dimensions to
a greater or lesser degree—particularly Steiner and Wilber—I acknowledge two other significant
integral thinkers who enact transversal
reasoning and relationships through their
transdisciplinarity. Morin and Nicolescu do not tend to use the term integral, nor are they cited
The term participatory in relation to integral theory is also used in a different way to refer to self-
reflective enactment (Hampson, 2007; see also Gidley, 2008b, pp. 13, 110, 124).
Professor of science and theology, J. Wenzel Van Huyssteen draws attention to the role of
transversality in postfoundational approaches to interdisciplinarity:Transversality in this sense justifies
and urges an acknowledgment of multiple patterns of interpretation as one moves across the borders and
boundaries of different disciplines” (van Huyssteen, 2000, abstract).
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as integral theorists in much of the integral literature.
I suggest the latter is an unfortunate
oversight based on semantic and cultural misunderstanding, rather than philosophical and
conceptual understanding. From my planetary scanning of the research it is apparent that the
term integral is much more widely used in North America than in Europe. By contrast the term
appears to be used in Europe, particularly by Nicolescu and Morin, with
similar integral intent. A special feature of both Nicolescu’s and Morin’s transdisciplinary
philosophies is their attention to transversal relationships.
In summary, my boundary-crossing contribution to the integral studies field includes:
- An integration of integral theories that deepens integral evolutionary theory by honoring
the significant yet undervalued theoretic components of participation/enactment and
aesthetics/artistry via Steiner and Gebser as a complement to Wilber’s conceptual
- A meta-framing of interrelationships among significant integrative approaches that are:
inclusive of the vastness of noospheric breadth (macro-integral); that provide rigorous
theoretic means for cohering it (meso-integral); that attend to the concrete details required
for applying the theories (micro-integral); that encourage the participation of all aspects of
the human being throughout this process (participatory-integral); and that are able to
traverse and converse across these multiple dimensions (transversal-integral).
The significance implications of my contributions are that if proponents of the different
streams of integral theory are able to see that they are not necessarily “in competition with each
other” but rather are providing complementary perspectives that each support the other, then this
can only benefit the growth of global knowledge futures in its broadest sense.
Planetary Consciousness
In addition to bringing the postformal literature into dialogue with integral perspectives, this
paper also introduces a third strand of literature—the planetary consciousness literature. While
the psychological literature on postformal reasoning primarily focuses on empirical and analytic
articulation of higher stages of reasoning, and the integral literature—particularly Wilberian
integral—tends to emphasize the epistemological crisis and how this can be transformed by
integral consciousness, the literature on planetary consciousness introduces a much stronger
However, integral theorists from the Califormia Institute of Integral Studies, Alfonso Montuori and
Sean Kelly, have been translating Morin’s writing over the last decade and clearly appreciate its
significance for integral studies.
A lack of clarity on these matters within integral theory may result from a conflation by some American
integral theorists of transdisciplinarity with the concept interdisciplinarity, which is more widely used in
the US. From my reading of these terms, Nicolescu’s transdisciplinarity is closer in meaning to integral
than it is to interdisciplinarity.
The Charter of Transdisciplinarity developed in 1994 by Nicolescu, Morin and others acknowledges
the horizontal integration of the exact sciences, humanities, social sciences, art, literature, poetry and
spirituality (p. 149); the vertical integration of intuition, imagination, sensibility, and the body in
transmission of knowledge (p. 150); and also the significance of broader, transversal integration through
a “transcultural, transreligious, transpolitical and transnational attitude” (Nicolescu, 2002, p. 140).
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critical, normative element. In my view this must be a vital component of boundary-crossing
conversations in the 21
century, given the complexity of our world and the multiple crises that
The critical element is lacking in much of the psychological literature on postformal
and much of the integral theory,
particularly that based on Wilber, with some
exceptions (Esbjörn-Hargens, 2005; Hochachka, 2005; Zimmerman, 2005). Although Wilber
repeatedly claims that his AQAL framework includes “body, mind, and spirit in self, culture, and
nature” the strength of his critiques of the eco-philosophies of the romantics and the
contemporary “green movements” potentially undermine the critical efforts of environmental
ecologists to re-prioritize the needs of nature as part of a fully integral agenda (Hampson, 2007).
The planetary scale and urgency of our current crises need to be foregrounded and brought into
intimate relationship with the epistemic shift in consciousness. This critical component is more
evident in the evolution of consciousness literature that favors the term planetary—rather than
postformal or integral—to denote the emergent consciousness.
The use of the term planetary has been increasing within evolution of consciousness
discourse. The semiotic pluralism of its contemporary usage provides a counterbalance to the
more politico-economic term, globalization. Many researchers who use the term planetary have
been inspired by Teilhard de Chardin’s notion of the planetization of mankind (Teilhard de
Chardin, 1959/2004). The phrase planetary consciousness is emerging as an alternative to the
terms postformal or integral to characterize the new consciousness, particularly in the light of
our current planetary crisis. In addition to its popular use by environmental activists it is used in
academic contexts by a range of philosophers, scientists, educators and sociologists (Earley,
1997; Gangadean, 2006a; László, 2006; Miller, 2006; Montuori, 1999; Morin & Kern, 1999;
Swimme & Tucker, 2006). This critical use of planetary has been emphasized in the
philosophical writings of Morin who refers to the present times as the Planetary Era, which he
claims began around five hundred years ago (Morin, 2001, 2005a, 2005b; Morin & Kern, 1999).
Several other contemporary writers have also been influenced by Morin’s concept of planetary
(Bocchi & Ceruti, 2002; Ceruti & Pievani, 2005; De Siena, 2005; Montuori, 1999; Poletti, 2005;
Saloff-Coste, 2001).
Although the term globalization is often used in the politico-economic discourse where the
term global may be tacitly infused with notions of homogenization, several researchers have also
use the term global to represent more pluralistic notions. Political scientist Manfred Steger refers
to the “rise of the global imaginary” which he regards as having both reactionary elements such
as those reflected in fundamentalist global religious groups, and radically progressive elements
such as those expressed in the justice globalism movement (Steger, 2008). Systems engineer and
former president of the Noetic Sciences Institute, Willis Harman (1988) was referring to the
Notably some of the pioneering post-formal educational literature has a critical element (Kincheloe &
Steinberg, 1999; Kincheloe et al., 1999).
As indicated above, Laszlo’s integral theory of everything is infused with a critical awareness of
planetary issues as is Gandagean’s integral philosophy. Their works already represent an integration of
integral and planetary perspectives, however, they are less explicit about the developmental perspectives
reflected in the postformal literature.
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emerging “global mind change” over twenty years ago. A recent special issue of the journal
Futures is focused on “global mindset change” (Kapoor & Gidley, 2010).
Harman conceived a hierarchical model of science drawing on Popper’s three worlds (Popper
& Eccles, 1977) which is helpful in demonstrating my layered view of the elements of the
planetary studies field. I have adapted Harman’s model (see Table 1) to include the notions of
biosphere, noosphere and pneumatosphere.
This framing also parallels Steiner’s
layered view of science (Gidley, 2008b).
In summary, my boundary-crossing contribution to the planetary studies field includes:
- The development of a multi-layered framing of the different streams within the discourse,
incorporating critical environmental (biosphere), transcultural (anthropo-socio-sphere),
philosophical (noosphere) and spiritual interests (pneumatosphere).
This contribution has significant implications for a number of fields. A greater understanding
of the importance of using adequate epistemologies and methods for each level of reality may
have an impact of the way that global crises are dealt with, the way that international relations
are conducted, even in terms of the futures of world governance and collaboration amongst
historically divided domains and sectors.
Futures Studies, Foresight and Anticipation
While acknowledging that thinking about the long-term futures has a much longer tradition
than the late twentieth century, its presence in the academic literature has only arisen since the
1960s. There are several typologies
to describe the different futures epistemologies and how
they have emerged. The typology below builds on earlier models developed over the last twenty
years—most of which build on Habermas and propose three or four different futures paradigms
(Inayatullah, 1990; Slaughter, 2008a). I propose a five-stranded futures typology, beginning with
a single bifurcation between positivist and post-positivist (see Figure 3).
There is a complex genealogy to the terms geosphere, biosphere and noosphere. The terms geospheres
(sic) and biosphere were coined by Austrian geologist Eduard Suess (1831-1914) as correctly attributed
by both Teihard de Chardin and Vladimir Vernadsky who have both been incorrectly attributed with
coining the terms (Vernadsky, 1967/1998 ). In 1943, Vernadsky attributed the coining of noosphere to
Bergsonian philosopher Le Roy and to Teilhard de Chardin, in 1927 (Vernadsky, 1943/2005 ).
In 1929, Russian philosopher Pavel Florenskij coined the term pneumatosphere, in correspondence with
Vernadsky (Ivashkin, 1990). Florensky included “works of art” within the pneumatosphere, as in
Popper’s evolutionary Stage 6 (Ivashkin, 1990). Other terms have been used to refer to the spiritual
sphere beyond the noosphere, notably Theosphere (Wilber, 1995/2000 ) and LogoSphere (Gangadean,
Note that other typologies have also been developed but it is beyond the scope of this paper to explore
them further (Bell, 1997/2003 , 1997/2004 ; Masini, 1993).
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Table 1: A Hierarchical Cohering
of Knowledge Spheres and Epistemologies based on
Plotinus’ Adaequatio and Popper’s Three Worlds (Sources: Harman, 1988, p. 93; Ivashkin,
1990; Popper & Eccles, 1977, p. 16; Schumacher, 1977; Vernadsky, 1943/2005, 1967/1998).
Domains of
Levels of
points added by
of Suess,
Le Roy,
Teilhard de
3 worlds
Popper’s Cosmic
Domain of
World 3
(products of
the human
World 2
(the world of
World 1
(the world of
(6) Works of Art and
(5) Human Language.
Theories of self/death
(4) Consciousness of
(3) Sentience (animal
(2) Living Organisms
(1) Heavy Elements
(0) Hydrogen, Helium
Domain of
Human sciences
Domain of
Life sciences
Domain of
In Table 1, it can be seen that these models are isomorphic with each other. In each model the layers do
not represent discrete, bounded categories, but rather interpenetrate each other.
Foreshadowing philosopher of science Sir Karl Popper’s notion of three worlds, Steiner also referred to
three worlds, noting: “a clear understanding of them and of [our] share in them can only be obtained by
means of three different modes of observation” (Steiner, 1904/1971, pp. 4-6). He elaborated: “the
biologist is concerned with the body, the investigator of the soul—the psychologist—with the soul, and
the investigator of the spirit with the spirit” (Steiner, 1904/1971, p. 10). He called for a spiritual science
(or Geist science), which he later developed (see also Gidley, 2008b).
Anthroposophy—wisdom of the human being—is the term Steiner used for his spiritual science. It is an
interesting lexical combination of anthropology and philosophy.
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Figure 3: Paradigmatic Bifurcation of Futures Studies Approaches (Gidley © 2010)
These approaches are not mutually exclusive, nor should this conceptualization imply a linear
developmental model. These are all suitable pathways to futures research depending on the
context. Well-informed futures researchers may utilize any or all of these futures approaches
depending on their operational context. Each approach represents different epistemological
underpinnings, which, to some degree, parallel similar developments in other knowledge fields
(see Table 2). As indicated below each of these approaches has strengths and limitations as does
the futures studies field as a whole.
Positivist Approaches to “the Future”
The predictive-empirical tradition originated in the USA. It arose initially from US defense
intelligence but was supported as a methodology with broader purposes by the formation of the
World Future Society in the late 1960s. This research refers to a one and only future that
empirical trends suggest, and is often referred to as the (singular) ‘probable future.’ This
approach still dominates the literature base. One of the strengths of this approach is its
perceived objectivity and values neutrality. Its weaknesses may include narrowness in focus
and lack of contextual awareness. It also implies that trends are inevitable and this can be
disempowering if the trends are negative.
Post-positivist Approaches to “Multiple Futures”
The critical-postmodern tradition originated in Europe, particularly France, growing out of
a critical social theory tradition which sought to balance what it perceived as the overly
empiricist approach of many futurists in the USA. This led to the foundation of Mankind 2000
in the late 1960s, which led among other initiatives to the founding of the World Futures
Studies Federation (WFSF) in the early 1970s. This approach is normative and is often referred
to plurally as ‘preferred futures.’ A strength of this approach is that it makes explicit the—
often tacit—contextual and values dimensions and thus leads to a questioning of ‘business as
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usual.’ A weakness is its perceived subjectivity, which can sometimes lead to excessive
The cultural-interpretive tradition arose in large measure from the work of those futures
researchers who sought to include non-Western cultures and to invoke a deeper consideration
of civilizational futures (Inayatullah, 1995, 2000; Milojevic, 2005; Nandy, 2000; Sardar, 1994).
This approach opens up the possibilities of alternative, particularly non-Western and feminist
futures, and is a crucial part of the dimension that may be referred to as ‘possible, or
alternative, futures.’ Strengths of this approach include its creativity and engagement of
multiple perspectives. A weakness is that proposed alternatives may lack feasibility, or be
overpowered by the more dominant empiricist approach.
The prospective-action research approach seeks to facilitate empowerment and
transformation through engagement and participation. It was initially developed by French and
later Swedish futurists and has been emphasized in Australia (Berger, 1964; Bjerstedt, 1982;
Boulding, 1988; Hutchinson, 1992; Wildman & Inayatullah, 1996). This could be referred to as
‘prospective’ or ‘participatory futures,’ depending on context. The most obvious strength of
this approach is that it engages participants in research projects, empowering them to question
and act on alternatives to ‘business as usual.’ A weakness is that if it does not also take account
of relevant empirical research, it may lack legitimacy in the dominant positivist scientific
The integrative-holistic futures approach is a relatively new and somewhat contested
territory. It is potentially the broadest and deepest possible approach to futures as it can
integrate aspects of all the other approaches (Gidley, 2010c; Slaughter, 2003; Voros, 2001).
Because of its grounding in complex, integrative and transversal epistemologies it maximizes
potential for facilitating and enabling normative ‘planetary futures.’ The strength of this
approach is its breadth of scope, which may enable the integration of different methods as
appropriate to different contexts (Gidley, 2010c; Hampson, 2010). However, too much breadth
may also be perceived as a weakness in that it may sometimes lead to a lack of depth. There is
also an ideological trap, which can lead to contested claims about integrality of approaches
(See two special issues of Futures, Inayatullah, 2010; Slaughter, 2008a).
Being a transdisciplinary field, the insights and methods of futures studies can be applied
within many fields and across multiple issues. However, its contributions are yet to be widely
adopted in much academic discourse. At a time when the pace of change is accelerating, and
environmental issues such as anthropogenic climate change are upon us, both the natural
sciences and social sciences could benefit from a greater understanding of how to think about
alternative futures using longer time frames. The ontological, epistemological and
methodological contributions of futures studies have been overlooked, resulting in too much
research mirroring the short-termism of share markets and electoral-cycle-driven government
policy-making. Futures studies as a field is not without its drawbacks. Unfortunately its
reputation as a serious academic field has been tainted by the uptake and over-use of well-known
futures methods such as scenarios in a non-scientific and uncritical manner by consultants,
market researchers and journalists. Futures researchers often focus on very complex themes and,
consequently, not all relationships can be fully teased out and conclusions have to be recognized
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as reflecting a degree of uncertainty. These issues are addressed in discussions of validity and
trustworthiness in the futures studies literature. Taking these issues into account, policy and
planning initiatives based upon futures approaches do need to be implemented within cautionary
Table 2: A Typology of Positivist and Post-positivist Futures Approaches (Sources: Gidley,
2009; Gidley, Bateman, & Smith, 2004; Inayatullah, 1990; Slaughter, 2008b)
Futures Studies
Key Terms Underlying
Theories and/or
Positivist Approach to “the Future”
‘probable future’
Trend Analysis
Plurality of Post-positivist Approaches to “Multiple Futures”
Critical Theory
‘possible or
alternative futures’
“Other” futures
‘prospective or
participatory futures’
Action Research
Hope Theories
‘planetary or integral
Integral Theories
Global Justice
Planetary Era
Futures studies makes a significant contribution to global knowledge futures in that it
stretches the boundaries of time and its modernist conceptualization. It applies a futures lens to a
number of discourses that do not appear to have a conscious sense of the temporal dimension in
which they operate. While many disciplines and fields have a sense of the past, very few appear
to have a sense of their potential futures. Ironically, even within the evolution discourse, which is
clearly embedded in the time dimension, there appears to be little regard for the decades of
academic research that has been undertaken in the futures studies field. By introducing futures
perspectives into the boundary-crossing discourses, I take both a macrohistorical time
perspective and also make explicit the significance of future time sense as a balance to the over-
valuing of the past. All forms of development, growth and progress are embedded in the time
dimension and thus need to take into account the future time dimension as well as the past.
By applying futures thinking to the three meta-theoretical approaches that I am highlighting—
postformal reasoning, integral consciousness and planetary awareness—I am crossing the
boundary that ties us and limits us to what we already know in the present.
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- Since postformal reasoning refers to the developmental stage after the establishment of
formal operational thinking, it can be conceptually situated in the temporal dimension as a
psychological stage that points to the future of human development.
- The notion of integral consciousness is closely tied to postformal reasoning as it refers in
much of the integral studies literature to a stage/structure or movement of consciousness
beyond formal thinking and is reflected in both cultural evolution and individual
psychological development.
- The rise of planetary awareness can also be situated in the temporal dimension most
frequently associated with the 15
century where the European journeys of discovery
enabled a broader communication between the peoples of all continents.
If one takes a big picture macrohistorical view of time, it may be that these new ways of
thinking are only in their early stages of development.
The significance of stretching our concept of time through futures studies is of great potential
value to education and many other disciplines and fields, such as the sciences, philosophy, and
the arts in relation to considerations of the evolution of these disciplines. Even a cursory glance
at possible futures in the context of the rapid emergence of more integral and transdisciplinary
approaches, suggests that disciplinary knowledge itself may soon become “history.”
Paradoxically, these temporal conceptualizations rely on the three-part model of time—past,
present and future. Elsewhere I have made a philosophical contribution to the reconceptualizing
of this default modernist notion of linear time on which western culture depends (Gidley, 2007b,
appendix 1). Several other ways of conceptualizing time need to be considered, pointing again to
the complexity and paradoxical nature of time.
In summary my boundary-crossing contribution to the futures studies field includes:
- Offering a further development of earlier typologies of approaches with the field, with
particular emphasis on the bifurcation between positivist and post-positivist approaches;
- Taking a futures lens to the other meta-theoretical approaches that are the focus of the
paper, in particular to the postformal studies field.
The implications of my contribution include the realization that futures studies is not immune
to other epistemological developments, nor is it necessarily leading the way. For further
discussion of this issue, see Gidley (in press).
Reflections and Proflections
This paper takes the dominant discourse on the information era with its focus on the new
global knowledge economy and turns it on its head. Unpacking the economistic and reductive
notions of knowledge that flood the literature, and the homogenization inferred in many uses of
the term global, the innovative concept of global knowledge futures broadens the discourse on
knowledge futures in many fruitful directions. The paper discusses the state of play in several
leading-edge discourses: postformal studies, integral studies, global/ planetary studies and
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futures studies. It also offers new boundary-crossing theoretical contributions to them all, gently
nudging them ever closer towards a greater coherence—both within and across these fields.
Divergences and convergences are identified in the process of the analysis and synthesis.
While the psychological literature on postformal thinking primarily focuses on identifying the
features of higher stages of reasoning, and the integral theories primarily focus on inclusiveness
of conceptual breadth, and/or inclusiveness of different aspects of the human being, the planetary
consciousness literature tends to emphasize the urgency of our planetary crisis and the
importance of a plurality of perspectives.
My philosophical interest in this paper is in thinking these threads together as facets of our
emerging consciousness that reflect the dynamic diversity that can be in dialogue with unity. As
Plato said: “Thinking begins when conflicting perceptions arise” (Plato’s Republic, VII, 523,
cited in McDermott, 2005, p. 8).
By working at the creative margins of these boundary-crossing fields, and seeking out and
identifying the territory beyond them where they begin to touch each other, I am initiating the
development of a new meta-level field of studies: global knowledge futures.
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... The generations of organizational structures are hierarchy, heterarchy, and holarchy (Gidley, 2013;Reicher et al., 2005). Today even wirearchies are discussed referring to understanding how people collaborate and create social value. ...
... It can lead to problems caused by insufficiently clear leadership. The result might be inability to make decisions, lack of direction, delay, and, in the worst case, symbolical leadership (Gidley, 2013). ...
... In collective individualism, employees are both prepared to take responsibility for tasks and in turn empower the leadership in steering the organization. According to Gidley (2013), important requirements in creating collective individualism are 1) leaders´ ability to take responsibility and work collaboratively; 2) a team of responsible employees able and willing to work autonomously and respecting healthy visionary leadership; and, finally, 3) a group process including the meta-reflection on the operational development itself (Gidley, 2013). ...
p style="text-align: justify;">The aim of this research is to find out how higher education (HE) teachers reflect on the possibilities of personal development and evaluate the institutional promotion of academic teaching in an HE community. The purpose was thus to understand how university employed teachers experienced and reflected on the benefits of their pedagogical education and pedagogical fellowship during and after the studies. To obtain information regarding the current situations and prospects for the future of the research persons, questionnaires were used, and unstructured essays were written through their study time and subsequently. The research methods were qualitative content analysis and deep analysing methods. The teachers possess cognitive thinking skills of the highest level. Pedagogical and transformative thinking are not at the same level. The research persons express their views tactfully when outlining how teaching should be realized in the future. Still, they criticized the resistance to changes in academic teaching, especially before they themselves were part of the administration.</p
... Moving onto futures studies, we again see diversity and transience. This has been informed and characterised by a diverse and frequently contested range of philosophies, functions, forms, moments, and methods (Adam and Groves 2007;Bell 1997Bell /2003Bell , 1997Bell /2004Inayatullah 1990;Gidley 2013;Slaughter 2008;Son 2015). It is instructive to raise a distinction between the study of futures and the study for futures. ...
... Meanwhile, in futures studies, different moments and typologies (Gidley 2013;Inayatullah 1990) are testament to the observation that 'the scientific, scholarly, and rhetorical methods of any discipline in humanities, social science, and sciences might be -and sometimes are-used by futurists doing research on some particular topic' (Bell 1997(Bell /2003. Approaches such as time series analysis, Delphi, simulation, global modelling, content analysis, morphological analysis, cross-impact analysis, and visioning may have their origins in other disciplines; these tools tend to be re-purposed when applied in the study of the futures (Puglisi 2001). ...
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This paper explores relationships between recent developments in the fields of mobilities, futures, and postdigital studies. The article covers six main themes: questions and their histories; definitions; research methods and ethics; the nature and ownership of knowing and learning; understandings of time, space, identity, community, and relationships; and political processes and political legitimacy. The article was written in three steps. In the first step, the leading author (John Traxler) has identified the relevant themes. In the second step, proponents of each position have freely responded to the themes (futures studies, Stuart Connor; postdigital theory, Sarah Hayes and Petar Jandrić; mobilities, John Traxler). In the third step, the responses have been collectively (re)mixed and edited, identifying complementary and conflicting concepts and ideas. The article was initiated a month before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, and it was completed over one and a half years later. Thusly, responses and analyses have included the pandemic experience without explicitly focusing to the Covid-19 pandemic. The paper concludes with drawing together contributions, seeking underlying commonalities and differences, and looking for trends, convergence, and change. Epistemically, the three positions discussed in this paper are far from commensurable. Yet they are compatible and complementary, in a postdigital dialogue, in a sense that they all need each others’ inputs on the road to a better understanding of our current condition, and the road to a better future.
... Five paradigmatic approaches or epistemological traditions were identified by Gidley (2013) in terms of futures studies, within a bifurcation between the positivist and postpositivist. Positivist approaches to "the future", refer to one, singular and probable future, inside this we have predictive-empiricaltradition (based on trend analysis, time series analysis and prediction, originated in the USA and supported by the formation of the World Future Society in the late 1960s). ...
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Futures analyses and scenario-building exercises have received scant attention from scientific literature on the planning and management of tourist destinations. This article emphasizes the importance of a territorial foresight strategy and scenario building in the planning and management of tourist destinations, demonstrating how it is methodologically possible to combine the Delphi technique with a scenario-building exercise. The findings suggest that the knowledge provided by stakeholders operating within the tourism system can benefit the planning and management of tourist destinations.
... Five paradigmatic approaches or epistemological traditions were identified by Gidley (2013) in terms of futures studies, within a bifurcation between the positivist and postpositivist. Positivist approaches to "the future", refer to one, singular and probable future, inside this we have predictive-empiricaltradition (based on trend analysis, time series analysis and prediction, originated in the USA and supported by the formation of the World Future Society in the late 1960s). ...
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Los análisis de futuros y los ejercicios de construcción de escenarios han recibido escasa atención de la literatura científica sobre la planificación y gestión de destinos turísticos. Este artículo enfatiza la importancia de una estrategia de previsión territorial y de la creación de escenarios en la planificación y gestión de destinos turísticos, demostrando cómo es metodológicamente posible combinar la técnica Delphi con un ejercicio de creación de escenarios. Los hallazgos sugieren que el conocimiento de las partes interesadas puede beneficiar la planificación y la gestión de los destinos turísticos. Futures analyses and scenario-building exercises have received scant attention from scientific literature on the planning and management of tourist destinations. This article emphasizes the importance of a territorial foresight strategy and scenario building in the planning and management of tourist destinations, demonstrating how it is methodologically possible to combine the Delphi technique with a scenario-building exercise. The findings suggest that the knowledge provided by stakeholders operating within the tourism system can benefit the planning and management of tourist destinations.
... Sohail Inayatullah (2002) originally identified three dimensions of futures studies: predictive-empirical, in which language is neutral and deterministic and is the preferred method of policy planners; cultural-interpretive, in which comparisons can be made across societies through an assumption that language is contingent; and poststructural-critical, wherein current conditions of power and discourse are used to complicate visions of the future. Since then, Jennifer Gidley (2013) has added to futures studies the dimensions of empowermentactivist, which intends to apply proscriptive analyses through various forms of political and policy action; and integral/transdisciplinary, in which environmental and planetary concerns are prioritized. ...
To facilitate societal adaptation, we need to establish the principles of Endeavor Architecture (EnA) in addressing the limitations of Enterprise Architecture (EA). To support the social perspectives that EnA adds, we propose establishing EnA directions and requirements, particularly epistemic relationships among the agencies. Furthermore, we assert that EnA must be open to new paradigms and technologies to facilitate societal adaptation. EnA also must accelerate data, information, knowledge, and wisdom transformation, integration, and sharing. We illustrate how the Upper Modelling Framework (UMF), an open, system-oriented upper ontology, along with ten principles of knowledge dynamics, may serve as a framework that sets the direction of EnA beyond EA.
The Upper Modelling Framework (UMF) is an upper ontology that sheds light on the relationships and dependencies within complex domains and demonstrates an intuitive approach to explaining domain complexity. It also considers the multiple facets (or dimensions) of the universe of discourse to illustrate how this ontological framework may be used to break down the domain complexity, understand it, and synthesize it into a model of principles. Using a pandemic as a case study, the expressiveness of the framework is illustrated, including how the UMF may guide sharing of the Domain-Information-Knowledge-Wisdom (DIKW) continuum. The findings contribute to a new way of studying complex domains by considering and supporting cognitive activities (e.g., thinking, reasoning) carried out by the participants (i.e., agencies) and developing epistemic relationships among them.
p style="text-align: justify;">Teachers´ life-long learning and occupational well-being is significant in promoting educational goals and professional development. The aim of the study was to determine which factors contribute to teacher educators´ commitment to work and give them energy for work and self-development. The research data consisted of 24 teacher educators in Oulu University of Applied Sciences. The research method of this case study was a qualitative, thematic content analysis, the research approach phenomenography. The most important single factor seemed to be the community of teachers, students and the administrative staff which are included in dialogue and collaboration. Emotions, meaningfulness, and interaction play an important role, often via pedagogical fellowship. Committed teacher educators take responsibility for workplace culture and transformation of teaching. Positive attitudes, motivation, reflection, and dialogue seem to be connected to professional capability and the ethos of teacher educators´ work.</p
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This research is about modeling the organizational structure of the "Azta" book reading club - as an example of future public libraries - using the methodology of socio-technical systems. In this research, there is a brief introduction to system thinking and the emergence of socio-technical systems. Another part is about the "Azta" book reading club and its objectives, its vision, and mission, its problems, and the need for a new organizational structure. After these steps, the characteristics and features of a public library are discussed from the viewpoint of the socio-technical systems, and then the STS implementation steps in the "Azta" are studied. The final model of the Viable Public Library including the socio-technical design based on the STS methodology is described, as well as the difference between this designed model and its corresponding models in the upstream documentation of the public libraries of the country- Iran Public Libraries Foundation and Iran's comprehensive scientific map – and finally, strategies and policies to improve the status of the future public libraries when faced with upcoming technological changes will be presented.
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Neoliberalism. Neoconservatism. Postmarxism. Postmodernism. Is there really something genuinely new about today's isms? Have we moved past our traditional ideological landscape? This book traces ideology's remarkable journey from Count Destutt de Tracy's Enlightenment 'science of ideas' to President George W. Bush's 'imperial globalism'. Rejecting futile attempts to 'update' modern political belief systems by adorning them with prefixes, the book offers instead an explanation for their novelty: their increasing ability to articulate deep-seated understandings of community in global rather than national terms. This growing awareness of globality fuels the visions of social elites who reside in the privileged spaces of our global cities. It erupts in the hopes and demands of migrants who traverse national boundaries in search of their piece of the global promise. Stoked by cross-cultural encounters, technological change, and scientific innovation, the rising global imaginary has destabilised the grand political ideologies codified during the national age. The national is slowly losing its grip on people's minds, but the global has not yet ascended to the commanding heights once occupied by its predecessor. Still, the first rays of the rising global imaginary have provided enough light to capture the contours of a profoundly altered ideological landscape. Pointing in this direction, the book ends with an interpretation of the apparent convergence of ideology and religion in the dawning global age - a broad phenomenon that extends beyond the obvious cases of Christian fundamentalism and Islamic jihadism.
Wisdom is such an elusive psychological construct that few people have considered it a viable field, though many are fascinated by the topic. Well-known psychologist Robert J. Sternberg of Yale University, perceiving the growth of interest in wisdom as a field, saw a need to document the progress that has been made in the field since the early '80s and to point the way for future theory and research. The resulting comprehensive and authoritative book, Wisdom: Its Nature, Origins and Development, is a well-rounded collection of psychological views on wisdom. It introduces this concept of wisdom, considers philosophical issues and developmental approaches, and covers as well folk conceptions of the topic. In the final section, Professor Sternberg provides an integration of the fascinating and comprehensive material.