On the eve of the British referendum on membership of the European Union, at last some clarity emerges for me. I have been torn on this question, but in my meditation this morning, this insight dropped in.

I have often used the concepts of pre-conventional, conventional and post-conventional but not in the sense that Lawrence Kohlberg originally used them. I have found them useful to describe the dynamics of a society. There is a conventional level where the mainstream resides and that we basically educate people to accept as the norm. In most industrialised societies that is essentially a world-centric modern mindset with increasing amounts of post-modern (Orange-Green in Spiral Dynamics value systems). Pre-conventional is centred in a more ethno-centric mindset (Red-Blue value systems) and is critical of conventional because it feels threatened in its national or ethnic identity by the increasing engagement with people who have other identities. Post-conventional is centred more in post-modern and integral worldviews (Green-Yellow value systems) and is critical of conventional primarily due to the institutionalisation of free-market capitalism that has plundered the planet and exploited the people for never-satiated economic growth.

Herein lies my confusion of the past weeks. I have a post-conventional critique of the EU that sees it embodying the centralisation of an economic paradigm that is inherently destructive – colonising space for local economic innovation and self-reliance. What I really want to see change is that paradigm and system – and the EU is the perfect target. However, if I were to vote for the UK to leave the EU, I would be assuming that a UK outside of the EU would be more likely to adopt a post-conventional approach than if it remained. Much as I would like that to be true, unfortunately I don’t believe it is so. The predominant pro-Brexit voices are from the pre-conventional ethno-centric mindset, and are likely to dominate UK politics for years to come should they win.

Which means I would vote for the UK to remain in the EU, for all my current misgivings, as it is currently the system that holds the greatest potential for the development of a post-conventional, integral praxis. Environmental issues for example are trans-national by their nature, and need to be handled in a trans-national space. The EU does have the opportunity and power to ban Monsanto’s killer herbicide Glyphosate, for example – something which is far better achieved in a trans-national policy arena that national. So for now I vote to remain – and continue to do what we can to make sure the right kind of decisions are taken at the level of the EU, and build the economic, ecological and social alternatives that will ultimately make the current conventional system obsolete.

See also my thoughts on the covid vaccination debate using the pre- and post-conventional framework.


  1. Thanks Peter for your analysis here – makes sense to me

  2. Hear, hear! Thank you for sharing that clarity, Peter.
    Part of me has the tendens to think: sometimes things first have to get worse, before they get better. So maybe it is time to vote for a Brexit.
    But I think you are so right: a Brexit probably means power to the pre-conventional ethno-centric mindset, for years. Which makes things definitely worse and offers very little hope of ‘a big leap forward once it gets bad enough’.

    So: c’mon you Brits, vote wise, stay connected. We are in this together!

  3. History has shown that when a country is ruled by a foreign power and we will be (I have worked for a German company for nearly 15 years and my daughter and her family lived in Germany for two years) the people thus ruled do not have any say in how their country is run. In other words the further away the centre of power is the less power the people have. So in the case of Cyprus, Greece and Italy democratically elected governments were removed and the eu incorporated people of their choice to run those countries and that government had the power in Cyprus to take money from people’s bank accounts without let or hindrance to help service the debt.

    As someone said it is much cheaper to have a country indebted to you than to send in armed forces.

    The eu has no intention of being reformed. Its purpose is a federal state and everything it does goes towards that end and there can be no provision for countries pursuing their own agendas. We are not even pawns in the game, we are the crumbs on the floor.

    We only need to look at the mess that exists now, created by the eu, to know that we will get more of the same. Change does take courage and there are risks involved but hey it’s an adventure in which ordinary people can partake.

    Our own government will not be perfect but at least we can vote them out.

    I have listened to all the debates and at least the out campaign has been on facts in the main but the in debate has been based on personal insults and fear and scare stories because they personally have a lot to lose.

    The establishment looks after its own and this has come down to the people against the establishment and I sincerely hope we have the courage to take back our own power.

    I could go on and on but if we claim own country back, then others will follow suit and maybe the countries of Europe can free themselves from this tyranny.

  4. I agree, Peter, with all my critics and doubts about the EU. Maria Jeukens

  5. The EU is co-operation across borders. That is more post-conventional than pre-conventional, in your terms.

  6. Remaining signifies the will to provide leadership in reforming the Union and not to keep asking: “What’s in it for us?”

  7. Well said. However, as Thomas Hubll reminded us at IEC, fear has been a motivating force for countless millennia whereas pluralism and integral sensibilities are relatively new….and the first to go during times of fear and stress. It is interesting to see the heavy influence of the pre-conventional reactions by folks, both in Britain and in the States with the issues we are encountering.

  8. Thank you Peter, that was one of the best arguments and distinctions, I heard these days about this subject. Yes let us work on this.

  9. I think what you are trying to say in simple language is … we don’t like the current EU system but the driver to leave it is not a better system its a worse one – so better the devil you know…makes sense to me as Im trying to make sense of the HUGE complexity of this

  10. We’re all world citizens.–living everywhere. Ubitquitous, Let’s give each other credit for learning how to transform our selves and situations for one planet living. Inter-generational turquouise with (keep the )coral aspirations. ..great badge colours! db

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe to my Monthly Newsletter

Subscribe to my Blog via Email

Enter your email address to receive an email notification as soon as a new post is published.

Join 886 other subscribers