Dynamic Approach to Economics

Sun Sep 19 15:09:25 1999

Hello Mark,

Nice to talk to you on Frank's new Wilber Forum!

Belated congratulations by the way on your article posted in the "Reading Room" which I found most interesting.

I am an economist by profession. My notions of "Integral Science" - which are quite distinct from Ken's - arose directly from attempts to provide a more comprehensive experiential perspective for economic behavior.

Economics is already identified in terms of Upper (individual) and Lower (collective) quadrants with the customary breakdown as between Microeconomics (individual) and Macroeconomics (collective).

Because of an attempt to be considered an "objective" science, there is an undue emphasis in Economics on the Right-Hand (exterior) as opposed to the Left-Hand (interior) quadrants.

So I would consider that it would be particularly valuable to initially develop this Left-Hand understanding (in a differentiated sense).

Indeed I did a lot of work in this regard back in the 70's and early 80's reflecting all of the basic economic concepts from a more (interior) subjective perspective.

For example the fundamental economic concept is that of scarcity.

The human demand for goods and services exceeds the resources available so we thereby have inevitable scarcity. This creates the need to make important choices, in any society, as to what to produce, how to produce and for whom to produce.

Now conventionally the emphasis in dealing with scarcity is on achieving economic growth thus making more economic commodities available. However this merely reflects an objective emphasis (on the Right-Hand quadrants).

However the problem of scarcity cannot be conceived solely in these terms. Our desire for goods and services - which in materialistic societies may well be excessive - is based to a considerable extent on underlying psychological attitudes.

So we equally could attempt to deal with scarcity by lessening the psychological need for excessive consumption. In this way people would be encouraged to achieve better balance as between material and spiritual desires and could thereby be genuinely happier with less (certainly in the more affluent countries).

This counterbalancing Left-Hand approach is very much missing from Economics, as we know it, and it continues to present a somewhat distorted model of human behavior.

However a new emphasis on Left-Hand quadrants - though desirable - still represents a somewhat static approach.

I came very early to the conclusion that differentiation of the four quadrants is only a first step. Actual integration (of what has been differentiated) is quite distinct and requires an inherently dynamic approach (based on bi-directional circular notions).

In terms of a comprehensive approach to Economics I would distinguish three levels of enquiry.


This is based on customary asymmetric one-directional (linear) connections as between variables.

A fully developed analytic approach would entail differentiated understanding in relation to the four quadrants. As we have seen Left-Hand appreciation (both in relation to Upper and Lower quadrants is greatly lacking).

I would see that a great role at present for looking at economic concepts from the neglected (interior) aspect.


This represents a dynamic relative approach based on symmetric bi-directional (circular) notions of understanding. This is suited for integration (of what has been differentiated).

Overall it presents a structured way of maintaining balance as between the quadrants. However such notions of qualitative integral science have not yet been properly developed.


This combines both the analytic and holistic approaches. However when the holistic emphasis is largely missing (as in present science), there is a great lack of balance evident in any radial approach.

Economics in many ways falls midway between the physical and psychological understanding of reality. It is thereby extremely rich and complex and more difficult to model (than physical nature or psychological behavior).

However my key point here is that through technological progress, economic behavior has become increasingly dynamic and potentially uncertain. Therefore we need to approach it using methods of understanding that are themselves genuinely dynamic in orientation.

Ken Wilber's four quadrant approach may well be a necessary first step. However his treatment of the quadrants is somewhat rigid and not suited as a proper integral method.