My personal view of integral life

From Modern to Postmodern

Developmental Psychology: Assignment #8 – From Modern to Postmodern

This week’s assignment is all about the differences of 4th Order of Consciousness (Modern) and 5th Order of Consciousness (Post-Modern) and how that transition may or may not happen. I will also shortly describe what a term “antimodern” in this context means.

Fourth order can be seen as a system or complex structure with relations between abstractions. People at fourth order have relationship-regulating forms and multiple-role consciousness. They are also able for self-regulation and identity, self-formation and individualization. What has been a subject for the person at 4th order becomes the object of the subject of the 5th order which is to say that at 5th order it is possible to have interpretation of the various selves rather than being identified with them. Fifth order is a trans-system or trans-complex structure requiring a trans-systemic or cross-theoretical epistemological organization. “Do we take as subject the self-as-form (4th) or do we take the self-as-form as object (5th)?” (Kegan; In Over Our Heads, 1994, p. 316) is the most critical question here when analyzing self-identity and the differences between 4th and 5th order. In his book Kegan describes the differences between modern and post-modern in various contexts; probably the most striking one is the description of two leaders both having 5th order (post-modern) consciousness but acting out differently. Those differences can be seen as the process of moving from 4th to 5th order being in different transition phases: “… differentiation always precedes integration…” and “…conflict precedes re-solution”, which means that the previous order of consciousness must be fully differentiated to be able to move to the next order completely.

Sometimes post-modern thinking can be mixed with antimodern thoughts which disidentify modern thinking but do not recognize it a part of the new developing complex structure of consciousness. Antimodern “…represents an earlier stage of complexity in the gradual evolution from the fourth to the fifth order of consciousness….” and “…the antimodernist cannot move from a deconstructive to a reconstructive position without disturbing the self” (Kegan, p.332).  Fifth order of consciousness is still quite rare but it is as rare as the fourth order was a hundred years ago. It seems that as we age and our life expectancy is being lengthened over 20 years (past 100 years) we might be really evolving to the fifth order because of that. But as Kegan put wisely in his book “…whatever the virtues of the fifth order, no one should assign us the postmodern curriculum until we are ready for it” hits straight to the topic which is being “in over our heads” and seeing the fact that even though higher orders of complexity and consciousness are evolving naturally, people at lower order can’t yet fully understand the complexities of it. This is all about having the capability of “seeing” at which order a person or an organization is and talk to it on its own terms for a fully fruitful interaction.


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Categorised in: Integral, Psychology

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