Most activist philosophies are narrow. They focus on a range of issues that arise from an aspect of life that is truly important, but not wide or deep enough in itself. This narrowness can simply be practical; activists focus on the issues where they feel competent and relevant. Sometimes, the narrowness can become a doctrine, such as Marxism arguing that all true revolution and progress revolves around economics or Radical Feminism arguing that women’s liberation is the primary arena for social change. There is a pressing need to articulate a broad integrative activist philosophy. An example of such an articulation is the 1986 book Liberating Theory, primarily written by Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel, which sought to integrate Marxism, Feminism, Anarchism, and Anti-Racism.
1) Eight-fold Social Struggle
Liberating Theory identified four “spheres” of social struggle; economics, politics, kinship, and community. However, this list seems incomplete in light of the social movements of the 1960s. In addition to the social movements for anti-racism, economic justice, feminism, and radical demcracy, key radicalizaing movements included anti-war, sexual revolution, environmentalism, and the religious left. An integrative revolutionary philosophy will therefore focus on an eight-fold social struggle encompassing anti-racism, ecology, gender, radical democracy, radical economics, religious left, sexual liberation, and anti-war politics.
2) History and Future of Radical Progress
A integrative revolutionary philosophy will also articulate a prescriptive view of progress as a measurable and definable process. Many radical activists define their goals in absolute terms, and condemn any partial successes as “reformism.” An integrative radical philosophy agrees that radicalism needs well-defined principles, but also takes lessons from history which demonstrate that most progress is usually partial.
In contrast to an all or nothing radicalism, viewing radical progress as taking at least two large steps, such as in Marx’s classic progression from capitalism to socialism to communism, seems a more balanced viewpoint. Of course, rethinking radical progress may mean envisioning something different than socialism and communism as a desired future. Developmental theories are also helpful to define the transitions towards a radical future by considering the past. To see where progress can take us and where we might be able to go, an integrative vision of radical progress will seek to understand the distant past, recent past, and the present, with an aim of envisioning both the near future and beyond.
Provisionally, this historical trajectory can be described as encompassing transitions beyond our present instrumentality paradigm to a fulfillment of the relationality paradigm that emerged in the 1960s, followed by a further advance into a provisionally identified “authenticity” paradigm. An initial proposal for this trajectory is published on this blog as “Outlines for a Possible History of Radical Progress.”
3) Inter-relational Paradigm
Finally, the construction of a vision of radical progress seeks to go beyond activism and politics to look at progress in more personal and interpersonal dimensions. A proposed model of eight interconnected domains of lived experience make for a rich articulation of an integrative vision. The eight domains in relation to which activism finds it integration are as follows:
These eight domains should be envisioned as nested within each other in a complex matrix of emergent phenomena. The integrative methodology proposed here seeks to broaden and deepen previous philosophies of social revolution, and leave out nothing of importance. A full articulation of this integrative philosophy would take several lifetimes and would require dedicated work by many activist philosophers working across the terrain of the eight-fold revolution.