Political maturation appears to be part of something bigger: the maturation of consciousness within society. Societal evolution has its own natural flow, but it is also closely aligned to broader forces, which may inhibit and weaken development, or may provide impetus and opportunity.
The diagram provides a schematic account of political evolution in the West, and major factors that seem relevant now and in the future. Political life will never become easy—but when (not if) thistrajectory is completed, Aristotle’s dream will have been fulfilled.
Politics commenced with government by traditional hierarchies (royalty, aristocracy, priesthood, military). They used force to collect taxes, maintain order, conduct wars and exploit the common people. This eventually generated social turmoil and, in many countries, a successful political revolution.
The Age of Enlightenment: A key factor in the psychological readiness for revolution was an outpouring of ideas in Europe during the 18th century. These ideas, about human liberty, authority in social life and the importance of reason, took possession of the people. The world was never the same again.
Ideas like the equality of all under the law and the separation of political powers were like dynamite under the political establishment. Somoved to .
The same set of ideas also encouraged the move to. However, for this to be accepted, people needed greater self-awareness to recognize their own inalienable freedoms and personal responsibilities.
Marx was a product of the enlightenment and presented an argument about the historical and material basis of society. His ideas gave birth in the 19th century to the Age of Ideology which continued intensely through much of the 20th century.
Arguments raged about the possibility of collectivist security and quasi-equality in economic terms versus individualist rewards for effort and acceptance of personal risk. The desire for prosperity proved decisive, and the socialist and communist experiments collapsed.
moved to as the «tragedy of the commons» worsened. The industrialization of the West combined with the growth of science meant that dumping of «bads» on to society could be measured and shown to be intolerable for the few and dangerous for all. The prestige of science led to a Scientific Era in politics. Not only was science harnessed to military ends, it was also used to monitor and control the populace, and eventually to enable and conceal highly risky financial speculation.
The Financial Era followed during the move fromto re-enter . Here financialization, indebtedness, and creation of money was supported by the political elites who realized (as many had before them) that money and its control were the source of social power.
Eventually the exploitative banking fraternity generated socio-economic inequalities greater than ever before, and then a massive financial disaster.
About this time, the Internet Era comes into its own and tilts the balance of power toward individuals and the citizenry. This technology will allow the move to.
About 2020–2040, a spiritual crisis is likely, leading to a transition to. The crisis will lead to a New Age of Enlightenment, where «self-awareness and self-mastery» will be recognized as an essential complement and counterpart to «reason and science».
The psychosocial developments generated inwill enable a heretofore unthinkable Integrity Era in politics. This era must deal properly with the realities of individual differences that otherwise produce a social tragedy.
The move towill enable society’s political institutions to reflect and support the actual nature of communities and their members rather than the fantasies of the elites. Government will operate within a of .
The powerful will certainly not have disappeared, but the government will exist for the people. Politics will be expected to serve communities and to enable the many ways of meeting human needs to flourish. Growing up does not make life easier. So politics will be difficult in the final stage, just as it is difficult now: but it will be a more mature form of difficulty and a more mature form of response to social issues.
Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the RSA, tells the same story of Cycle-1 progress and where the West is now—based on ordinary observations and an ethical common-sense. He naturally remains unaware of the existence of Cycle-2. The RSA is a mainstream establishment UK organization, so its public expression of these ideas suggests that Cycle-2 is not far away. Watch Matthew's 11 minute animated video courtesy of the RSA: it's well done and fun.
If you have grasped the Spiral development process, you are ready to continue to the next section of this Satellite, dealing with what determines political choices in practice, irrespective of the stage of political maturation.
Originally posted: July 2009; Last updated: 11-Apr-2014.