5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2013
I am about halfway through this book and had never been exposed to Wilber's integral theory, but have long taken a multi-perspective approach to acquiring reliable knowledge, particularly in the way presented by Stephan Harding at Schumacher College.
This book would get 5 stars if it were titled, "Integral Ecology: Applying Ken Wilber's Theory to an Ecological Worldview." I have searched the book and cannot find a single critique of Wilber even though he is referred to as an authority on every page. I find the approach very useful and in many ways eye-opening. But the lack of multiple-perspectives when it comes to Wilber feels disingenuous. I know then Hargens has written elsewhere about the need for many approaches to integral ecology. But that makes the fact that the uniform emphasis on Wilber is unmentioned in the title feel even more disingenuous. Moreover, it makes the work academic unreliable and invalid unless Hargen and Zimmerman or someone else undertakes the effort to go through this book and add in a critical lens on Wilber.
This is great for a read on Wilderian ecology, but fell short as a full integration of an Integral Ecology into a wider audience and effort. I look forward to a work that includes a fuller history of integral approaches and applications, or at least one that devotes a section to naming and acknowledging that history before 800 pages dedicated to a single perspective on taking multiple perspectives.
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2009
This was a very good book, and very readable if you have some familiarity with Ecology or with Wilber's theory; if you are lucky enough to be familiar with both this should be a walk in the park.
There is a great deal of material that the writers try to synthesize, so it is difficult to summarize the book adequately, but I'll try to give the bare bones version.
Ecological views consist of a WHO a WHAT and a HOW. The WHO is usually an individual or groups of individuals who are interested in the planet, the WHAT is the terrain they are interested in. The writers hold that perspectives are fundamental to all forms of knowledge, but like a good constructive postmodernist, they claim that a "good¨ perspective can lead to "real" knowledge. Thus a perspective a WHO takes (sometimes unreflectively) leads them to look at a specific dimension of the WHAT (a terrain) and ask HOW can I learn more about it? What are these terrains? Well theoretically they can me a huge amount but the writers focus on 4 major perspectives available to a WHO that have been explored historically. These are the I domain ("subjective realities of any being at all levels of its perception"), WE domain (inter-subjective realities of any being at all levels of its communion), IT ("objective realities at all levels of its organization"), ITS ("inter-objective realties of any being at all levels of its intersection").
Having just foreshadowed this point, all beings have depth and complexity. Depth can be mapped as levels of interior and cultural experience/meaning-communication respectively. Complexity shows up as emergent properties in the physical domain (physics, chemistry, biology to give most obvious example), and nested systems within systems in how objective properties relate to each other (most systems approaches are dealing with this). Interestingly the depth dimension in beings applies to both what we look at and who does the looking, i.e. the researcher/theorist and the "being" looked at. This view leads to the importance of the individual who is looking. Some time is spent at showing how interior depth is important in a person's ability to adequately engage certain approaches, since certain kinds of knowledge are only available by 1st person acquaintance. To really study the emotional lives of chimps, you probably shouldn't send someone with anti-personality disorder (or what use to be called a psychopath, sociopath); you want someone with a very developed sensitivity to the emotional domain in both its span (types of emotions) and depth (profundity/subtlety of emotions). The writers cover much more material in the levels of a Who that is simply too complex to summarize in this format, but hopefully the above gives you a sense for the direction they take.
A little summary so far from a diagram(p261) I domain (WHO: researcher, HOW: Comparative psychology, WHAT: Animal as psychologically structured organism), WE domain(WHO: researcher, HOW: long term field study, WHAT: animal as culturally regulated organism), IT domain(WHO: researcher, HOW: direct observation, WHAT: Animal as physical and behavioral organism), ITS (WHO: researcher, HOW Functional fit analysis, WHAT: Animal as system-bound organism).
These domains are then further subdivided into two each giving eight total. This is done because you can try to take an insider's or outsider's perspective relative to each domain. I'm just going to give examples: I domain divides into Zone 1(animal phenomenology/experience) and Zone 2(developmental Ethology, mental development of animals). The WE domain divides into Zone 3(Zoohermeneutics, animal interpretations), and Zone 4(Zooethnography, animal culture). The It domain divides into Zone 5(Cognitive Ethology, animal cognition, a field waiting for its own Pinker to popularize itselfº ) and Zone 6(Zoology, animal biology). The ITS domain divides into Zone 7(Biocybersemiotics, socio-communication) and Zone 8 (Socioecology (animal societies).
All this dividing and mapping is useful in getting a fuller, richer, and more accurate understanding of the environment and our relationship to it. Most theorists or researches tend to only include 1-3 of the eight possible views highlighted above and because they don't properly see the role of their Who and the HOW in enacting the WHAT they tend to take their WHAT as the only way to see it (reductionism) and their HOW as the only way to again knowledge about it (epistemological reductionism).
Also since they include depths of interiors in all beings they can and do talk about the spiritual implications of this view. There is much more detail to the theory then I was able to summarize. Also if you're left feeling this is too abstract to be applicable, blame me not the book. Half the book is concerned about what it means to apply/enact their perspective when dealing with ecological issues. It even includes three insightful case studies from three independent authors. There are numerous notes and citations to help the interested reader delve deeper into the topics mentioned. I appreciated the academic carefulness of the writers. They also classify around 200 ecological approaches within their eight domains. I hope integral books keeps coming out with such nice publications, and no I'm no academic, I'm just a curious dude.
Finally I think the book would appeal to two kinds of people: those who know a lot about ecology and are interested in bringing their knowledge into some sort of relatedness, and those who know Ken Wilber's integral theory and would like to see what it looks like when applied to a specific domain like ecology.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 31, 2009
It is hard to do justice to this extraordinary book. Its scope is enormous, scholarship meticulous, degree of synthesis rare, and its spirit both inclusive and generous.
The book applies Ken Wilber's integral framework (the most inclusive and integrative conceptual framework currently available) to the field of ecology. It thereby manages to incorporate ideas and perspectives from more than 200 approaches to ecology. It does this by incorporating the contributions of each approach, while also identifying the partiality of each, and then going beyond them all to offer an inclusive, multidisciplinary (or actually transdisciplinary), multiperspectival synthesis. The result is an extremely impressive yet readable text that offers a superb, uniquely encompassing and synthetic overview of ecology.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 6, 2009
Integral Ecology gives us the first of major application of Ken Wilber's integral model beyond his own writings. Not surprisingly its scope and depth are vast, and the scholarship upon which it rests detailed and exquisite. This amazing investigation will be required reading and an invaluable resource for future ecologists for many years to come.
Allan Combs, author of the forthcoming Consciousness Explained Better; The Radiance of Being; Changing Visions (with Ervin Laszlo), etc.