Specific Contributions

Below I’ve listed a handful of specific contributors from different fields  to illustrate applying culturally mature compare-and-contrast principles. I’ve kept that list short and in no way attempted to be comprehensive. This listing is just to help make the application of these tools more concrete. I’ve associated figures with one of their better-known books (if they are writers). Additional representatives will be added to this page as seems appropriate.  (The list’s order has no significance):

Nelson Mandela (Long Walk to Freedom).   I include Mandela because his contribution represents one of our time’s most striking examples of culturally mature leadership.  South Africa’s transition out of Apartheid happened as bloodlessly as it did almost wholly because of Mandela’s remarkable capacity to leave behind the polarizations that had defined South African society.

Richard Dawkins (The Blind Watchmaker):   Evolutionary biology is pertinent to the task of culturally mature conception because it invites that the science might bridge with softer pursuits in engage questions of human purpose.  Dawkins is one of the most well known and controversial such thinkers.  Unfortunately, while he asks important questions pertinent to Cultural Maturity and arrives at intriguing formulations, in the end his ideas reduce to a particularly narrow sort of scientism—and in so doing most often stop well short of Cultural Maturity’s threshold.  (The CST site examines more specifically how some of his more well-know ideas fall short.)

Richard Rorty, (Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity):  Rorty’s pragmatism represents some of the most sophisticated of Post-Modern/Constructivist thought.  As such, it solidly get its nose into culturally mature territory.  But his ideas in the end suffer the inevitable constructivist fate.  They admirably engage  the challenge of contingent thought, but the worldview that serves as their foundation undermines the ability to think with the systemic detail and precision fully developed culturally mature conception requires.

Alfred North Whitehead, (Process and Reality):  Whitehead very explicitly confronted the bridging challenge and did so using an approach with important relationship to CST.  He proposed that, “the ultimate metaphysical ground is the creative advance into novelty,”  and suggested that a creative frame could reconcile the apparent conflict between scientific and religious worldviews.  As such, his thinking makes is a good solid couple steps into culturally mature territory.  However, that he did not find a way to use his appreciation of formative process to develop a more detailed conceptual language presents important limits to formal process thought.

Ray Suarez  (The News Hour with Jim Lehrer):  I include Suarez because his moderating of  NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” for many years represented a particularly impressive example of culturally mature journalism.  He interviewed a wide array of guests—not just the usual suspects—and asked unexpected questions that got to the underlying crux of issues and challenged people to get beyond familiar conclusions.   He still makes insightful contribution, but television presents limits that make them less striking.  (Too often the best of even NPR and PBS falls for the time-worn Compromise Fallacy of “lets hear from the left—lets hear from the right” debate with its totally predictable arguments and conclusions.)

Alvin Toffler  (The Third Wave):   Futurist Alvin Toffler is notable for putting forward some of the earliest and most comprehensive, popular audience Post-Industrial/Information Age formulations.  While he treats invention as culture’s ultimate driver (Cultural Maturity proposes that invention is but one ingredient in systemic change) he predicts changes of very similar to those proposed by Cultural Maturity.  His thinking can thus be thought to make at least a start into culturally mature territory (though culturally mature perspective would question whether the causalities he assumes would, by themselves, produce the outcomes he proposes).

Teilhard de Chardin   (The Phenomenon of Man).  The evolutionary Christianity of Teilhard has an important and respected place within Transformational/New Paradigm interpretations.  And it certainly engages many of the key questions of Cultural Maturity’s threshold.  But, in the end, it reduces to a kind of philosophical/spiritual idealism.  His notions of a final Omega Point is more allied with beliefs of ultimate salvation than the more humble and specifically integrative formulations of culturally mature perspective.

Peter Senge  (The Fifth Discipline). Senge’s work makes important contributions to the task of bringing mature systemic perspective to our thinking about leadership and organizational dynamics.  It gives less attention to broader social questions and lacks methodology for really detailed systemic conception.  But we appropriately think of it as representing a couple good solid steps in culturally mature territory.

Ludwig von Bertolanffy  (General Systems Theory):  The ideas of von Bertolanffy were notable not just because they introduced the notion of formal systems thinking.  He recognized  the challenge of getting beyond earlier mechanical systems ideas, of finding ways of thinking better able to represent living processes.  His work necessary stops a few steps into culturally mature territory due to lack of formal concepts for bringing detail to such conception. (The CST site examines the history of systems thinking.)

Nicholas Negroponte  (Being Digital):  Of the MIT Media Lab and Wired Magazine.  Negroponte’s writing is some of the most insightful about digital technology and its possible future implications. But his vision seems largely of the Post-Industrial/Information Age sort.  It would gain an important additional level of perspective and substance if his picture of technology driven change were married with a deeper appreciation for cultural forces.

Edward O. Wilson  (The Future of Life):  Wilson’s writing represents some of the most poetic and reverent of scientific description.  It is notable also for the attention it gives to that critical question of planetary limits.  In the end, Wilson’s worldview is a form of scientism, but it is scientism of the soft sort that does not present great harm to more overtly integrative conception.

Ken Wilber (A Brief History of Everything):  Wilber’s thinking is the most often cited of the Transformational/New Paradigm sort.  He is overt in taking on the task of integrative, big-picture conception and engages important questions of our time in often provocative ways.  But in the end, in spite of the integrative intent, Wilber’s work represents an essentially spiritual cosmology.  It is thus very limited in its practical applicability to complex questions and vulnerable to Unity Fallacy interpretations.  (CST views Wilber’s work as effectively engaging cultural maturity’s threshold but also biased well to the left by the overriding left-hand inclinations of his particular personality style—see CST site.)

Erwin Laszlo  (Evolution, the Grand Synthesis)  Laszlo has successfully carried on the tradition of early systems thinkers like von Bertolanffy and integrated them with more contemporary perspectives such as those from the sciences of complexity. Increasingly his efforts take on more social and planetary concerns.  However, Laszlo’s more recent contributions often manifest a significant left-hand lean, often to the pint of falling for Unity Fallacies

Thomas Friedman  (The Owl and the Olive Branch)  I find Friedman’s writings in the journalistic sphere notable both for the systemic complexity of thought he brings to difficult questions and his willingness to step over ideological lines.  He also brings a sensitivity to cultural differences rare in political analysis.  He frames planetary change primarily in terms of globalization and technological influences.  I can’t tell if he goes beyond this to see culture itself in developmental terms.