Integral ShamWow! or: How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love (or at least Tolerate) the Hype [VIDEO]

Written by myself and Marco Morelli
Originally posted on Integral Revolution, April 13, 2012.

We’ve long been considering the role of marketing in the integral movement. The images, stories, values, and ideologies communicated by marketing are ubiquitous and affect us on multiple levels — some of which we’re not even aware of. As postmoderns, we’ve learned to be skeptical of all marketing and marketers. We’re reflexively suspicious, and guarded. Yet at the same time, we delight in some forms of over-the-top advertising, like Super Bowl commercials. We admire cultural wizards like Steve Jobs and the mystique he created around his products — even though we know that behind the scenes, for instance in his interpersonal brutality, and in the working conditions in the factories of some Apple suppliers, things have not always been so shiny and cool.

Many of us are entrepreneurs ourselves, and thus appreciate very intimately how hard it can be to communicate effectively in an overcrowded attention economy. Yet we need to engage the process, and well, to give our gifts and sustain our livelihoods. Marketing and branding (whether by for-profits, non-profits, or individuals) is not an option in the logic of our media-saturated world. Whether we intentionally seek to brand and market ourselves or not, we are branding and marketing ourselves. Even our mundane interactions, like looking for work, applying to school, or posting updates on Facebook, tell a story about who we are and our assumptions about the world. They assign us an economic value. And they raise questions, such as: What are these stories actually saying? How authentic or true are they? How do they affect our lives? And what are their effects on the larger conscious ecosystems of which we’re a part?

Within integral circles, we’ve often heard from people who are cynical and fed up with the number and type of marketing emails and other promotions they are exposed to on a daily basis from various integral organizations, teachers, authors, and so on. Others cast a more academic and critical-theoretical gaze on these communications, discerning the hidden (or not-so-hidden) agendas and ideological assumptions embedded therein. Others express discomfort with the cost of entry to some of the offerings.

So we’ve been thinking about these questions, particularly as they relate to our writing and teaching projects together. We started writing a “serious” article on the subject, but then it occurred to us that it might be more fun for us, and for you, to take a different approach. Naturally, we decided to make a computer-animated cartoon video! (We were inspired once again by the Integral Trollz.) Please take this video as our (initial) response to the discussions — on Facebook and Twitter, in various blog posts (including in the comment thread on “Occupy Integral!”), and in personal conversations — that have raised concerns about how the monetization of integral consciousness is affecting the integral community. Our book will take the conversation deeper.

We’re grateful to critical integral theorist Daniel Gustav Anderson, who coined the phrase “Integral ShamWow.” We also want to point people to Ken Wilber’s essay “Right Bucks”, which, though written many years ago, is just as relevant today. Finally, in the video we make reference to the cultural philosopher Slavoj Žižek, alluding to his critiques of Conscious Capitalism and Western Buddhism.

We believe the Integral Revolution will involve creating new economic and communication structures (on many scales, from local to global to virtual) that are more empowering, less alienating, and more inclusive. We respect and seek to address some of the critiques of capitalism, marketing, and ideology that some express; but we also find them lacking when it comes to operationalizing real change in the messy world in which we must make our way. Some forms of criticism, when they harden into a merely reflexive (and un-self-critical) generalized cynical attitude, can tend to disempower authentic change agents. On the other hand, uncritically recreating the same structures and repeating the patterns of “late capitalism” is no recipe for evolutionary transformation either. Thus intelligent, compassionate criticism is indispensable, and we welcome it.

Ultimately, we see an opportunity for our movement to give birth to an Integral Commons that is bigger than our economic and marketing exchanges, yet inclusive of them, so that while our community coheres more strongly, our marketplace grows and thrives too. We intend to say more about this idea in future posts, and of course in our book.

This is a living consideration, so it will go on. We don’t presume to have fully answered or resolved all the issues we raise. But we hope we’re shining a light on some of the mostly unspoken tensions in our community with this video—and maybe lightening things up and sharing some grins along the way.

Enjoy! And please share it widely :)

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