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.