Normally this week I would post a conversation with John McWhorter. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, we were unable to record. He’ll be back next week. This week, I’m presenting my conversation with Steve McIntosh, President, Co-Founder, and Director of the Institute for Cultural Evolution. I’ve already spoken with two ICE fellows this year—Stephanie Lepp and Greg Thomas—so this TGS episode constitutes a continuation of the series.
I ask Steve about his latest book, Developmental Politics: How America Can Grow into a Better Version of Itself, which he delivers as a primer on “cultural evolution.” He traces out a historical narrative that takes us from traditionalism to modernity to our present moment of “progressive postmodernity,” and I ask him whether the more excessive elements of our era should be fought or viewed as a stepping stone to the next phase of cultural development. Steve’s answer: “both.” He discusses his account of the last 300 years mostly in terms of Europe and North America, so I ask him how the rise of East Asia fits into the evolutionary processes he discusses. The recent attack on Salman Rushdie leads me to wonder how a cultural evolutionist framework can help us deal with radically anti-modern movements like violent Islamic fundamentalism, and Steve advocates for the promotion of moderate forms of Islam that are in-step with the rest of the world. Steve includes worrying identitarian movements like Black Lives Matter and Kendiesque anti-racism within the progressive postmodern paradigm, but he also thinks that many good things—like gay rights—have come out of it. We close our conversation by considering what a cultural evolutionist has to say about the increasingly dire political polarization we’re experiencing in the US and development within African American communities.
I don’t know that I’m wholly convinced by the grand historical narrative Steve offers, but we need as many new ideas as we can get in the discourse, and cultural evolution does have many virtues (like its praise of economic liberty). I look forward to reading your comments.
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0:00 A scheduling announcement from Glenn
1:28 Steve's latest book, Developmental Politics: How America Can Grow into a Better Version of Itself
7:54 From modernity to progressive postmodernism
15:18 Are we in the midst of cultural evolution or culture war?
19:02 The work of the Institute for Cultural Evolution
30:52 “Modernist consciousness” in East Asia
37:07 Steve: “Force is necessary but not sufficient” to combat violent Islamic fundamentalism
44:01 The positive side of progressive postmodernism
49:15 Can cultural evolution overcome political polarization in the US?
55:38 A cultural evolutionary perspective on the African American development narrative
Links and Readings
Institute for Cultural Evolution
Steve's latest book, Developmental Politics: How America Can Grow into a Better Version of Itself
Steve’s book with John Mackey and Carter Phipps, Conscious Leadership: Elevating Humanity Through Business
Bari Weiss’s recent speech to University of Austin students
Glenn and John McWhorter’s conversation with Richard Wolff
Steve’s white paper on political polarization in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre