Taken from the current issue of the Integral Review October 2015


Special Issue Editors:
Marc G. Lucas and Matthew Rich-Tolsma

What does ‘integral’ mean in the context of the European academy? This special issue of Integral Review aims to address this question through highlighting integral theories, methodologies, and research practices related to the European context. It is important to raise this question in this manner at this time in order to distinguish between the popular usage of integral as an umbrella term for various kinds of worldviews, often with a spiritual connotation and the historical and emergent academic movements towards “integrative approaches” and “grand theories.” European thought would differentiate between two dialectical tensions related to these two fields, which could be described as a) (quantitative and analytic) natural science and (qualitative and holistic) humanities/art (Geisteswissenschaften) and b) religious dogma and spiritual experience. Whilst in this sense engaging in both of these fields may have a specific role to play in the unfolding of what “integral” means in the European context, our focus in this special issue concerns deepening understanding of academic integral theory as a process which assumes possibilities of advancing the integration of such knowledge stemming from the natural sciences as well as the humanities, practically, theoretically and meta-theoretically.

In our view the Special Issue is timely as there are some recent developments within European society and the European academic context that make it not only necessary to develop more integrative engagement, but also indicate some “proto-integral” trends. The whole European idea started as a myth of integration of the union of human beauty and wisdom, with the bull the symbolic representation of strength and fertility (Everett-Heath, 2000). And today “Europe is a dynamic plurality of ideas and rhythms which aspire to finding common ground within a framework of diversity” (Prats & Raventos 2005, p. 27). Of course such common ground can never be achieved easily and as a final solution. Deep forms of dialectical thinking therefore have quite understandably emerged within the European context and shaped academic endeavours towards striving for temporary synthesis and complementarity which is always aware of its often dilemmatic and discontinuously changing Gestalt. Such development can for example be seen in recent debates on the migrant crisis, where blame games and disunity stand against a growing understanding of the need to find new and better solutions to such complex crises. In such discourse an underlying European theme can be found which might best be described using Vergara’s (2007) statement that Europe is constantly working towards a common identity, which, from the point of view of human diversity (both individual and collective), should have as the basis and intangible beginning of the old and yet new European identity mankind and its individual, social and transcendent rights […] Europeanness is a quality far richer than any unilateral reductionism brought about by modernity. Above all, it is a way of being and acting, which has had, as the non-renounceable basis of its construction and historical identity, mankind and its moral, intellectual and transcendent character. (pp. 15-22)

In the field of academia the 5th Euroacademia Global Conference “Europe Inside-Out: Europe and Europeanness Exposed to Plural Observers” held in Barcelona, Spain in March 2015 might be an example of recent explorations of such Europeanness. It is as well a topic for current organizational research within academia. The authors Meyer and Boxenbaum (2010, p.738, pp. 751-752) regard this research in Europe as being rooted in a long-standing humanistic tradition of a more philosophical and social scientific nature. For them European research is often grounded on the work of grand thinkers. Equally, Europeanness leans towards more macrooriented, critical, and processual approaches. Receptiveness to alternative paradigmatic perspectives is more accepted within European academic cultures. In this sense current European integrative frameworks like syncretism (Martinez, Peattie & Vazquez-Brust, 2015) advocate the reconciliation of economic imperatives and environmental concerns via the reintegration of corporate objective (or systemic) and subjective (or constructionist) contingencies. Within European thought the struggle of “Widening horizons beyond national boundaries” (Hickson et al., 1980, p. 1) is a constitutive driving force.

The few attempts to define Europeanness in a positive way include terms such as multidisciplinarity, reflexive methodological stance, critical scholarship, and socio-political orientation. The authors conclude that Europeanness, if the term is applicable yet, reflects a spirit of engaging with grand thinkers of the present and the past in attempts to integrate the different linguistic communities included in the respective research. This linguistic and multi-disciplinary diversity often stimulates European research to reflect on the nature of relationality and integration of disparate findings from a more complementary and/or comprehensive perspective. In such attempts a proto-integral orientation can be seen, in light of which the contributions in this Special Issue can be contextualized.

Nevertheless Europeanness still focusses on a hyper-rationalistic, multi-linguistic but still language bound research orientation in a post-modernist way. This assessment leads to the following exploratory attempts at a journey into an alternative, maybe post-postmodernist research perspective. The articles in this special issue indicate possible ways of how such integral thought could contribute to the current state and defiances of European academia. In these recent developments of sense- and meaning-making structures, integral thought quite naturally participates by being grounded in the current European life-condition and concomitant historical cultural tradition. In this sense the special issue is highly relevant to today’s changing European Gestalt and can contribute to the emergence of its more integrated shape which might be more adaptive to the pressing complex issues at hand.

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