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What distinguishes metamodernism from other integral theories? How did the “Nordic variant” come about? And who is this “Hanzi”?

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Nordic Metamodernism – by Hanzi (oops, a pseudonym 🙂

(2200 words | 9 min. reading time) I had indicated that I was on a journey of discovery myself and had come across the “Metamodern” MEM before Pentecost. Now I found illuminating contextualizations on an EU-funded project website Leadership for Transition1There I was shown the further context for Hanzi Freinacht and his metamodern approach, there are some "old acquaintances" in there :-). The question was also open: what distinguishes the approach from the integral theory according to Ken Wilber?
Layman argues that “no matter how comprehensive you want to be, you cannot avoid specializing in some way” (ibid.). Therefore, he suggests that Metamodernism as “a slimmed down socio-political integralism” to understand, while conversely “the integral is an extended psycho-spiritual metamodernism” (ibid.). More on this now and the peculiarities of this school of thought “metamodernism” according to Hanzi Freinacht:

In Dr. Elke Fein et al.’s summary book: Integral politics: foundations, principles and sources of inspiration see Chapter 7 the metamodern perspective of “Hanzi”.

What is it about?

Book cover: The longing for a more holistic, "integral" way of being goes back to the beginnings of humanity. The term "integral" is not new; it was coined at the beginning of the 20th century to describe a newly emerging structure of consciousness and understanding of the world. This book presents central sources of inspiration for a new, integral paradigm of politics from Sri Aurobindo to metamodernism. It examines what each of them contributes to this paradigm shift and what we can learn from them for the reinvention of politics in our time.

This resource provides an overview of some of the key thought leaders in the emerging ecosystem of a new, integral politics of the future.

Authors: Dr. Elke Fein, Anne Caspari, Beth Smith, Dr. Bettina Geiken, Prof. Dr. Karen O'Brien

Book cover and table of contents

  1. Foreword & Introduction (Elke Fine)
  2. Sri Aurobindo: Integral Yoga and the vision of human unity (Elke Fein)
  3. Jean Gebser: The Evolution of Consciousness and culture (I) (Elke Fein)
  4. Clare W. Graves: The development of consciousness and culture (II) (Elke Fein)

4. Ken Wilber: Integral Theory and the Integral Model (Elke Fein)

  1. Otto Scharmer: Theory U and the U-process (Elke Fein)
  2. Frédéric Laloux: The TEAL paradigm (Elke Fein)
  3. Hanzi Free Night: Metamodern Politics (Elke Fein)
  4. Politics and complexity (Anne Caspari, Beth Smith, Bettina Geiken)

9. Politics from the perspective of quantum theory (Karen O’Brien)

  1. The feminization of politics (Indra Adnan)

This book is also available in English. This book is also available in English.

Summary of Chapter 7 (excerpt by Helge)

Who is Hanzi?

The fictional Figure Hanzi Freinacht is a pseudonym, behind which stand two Scandinavian co-authors, the Swedish sociologist Daniel Goertz and the Danish historian and philosopher Emil Ejner Friis. Both have a strong background in integral theory and a long history of political activism based on integral thinking…


Living in Copenhagen and Lund respectively, their aim was to bring integral ideas into the discourse of Nordic societies. However, this proved extremely difficult, as it is dominated by late and postmodern ways of thinking and value systems. As we know from Graves (see Chapter 3), the latter find it particularly difficult to accept integral ideas, especially when it comes to functional hierarchies based on the vertical development of individuals and societies. Therefore, the Hanzi team decided to create a to develop new framingto get the necessary attention and support for these ideas.

Conversely, "Hanzi" also criticizes the integral approach for being too "wishy-washy" spiritual, without a sufficiently solid, i.e. academic, foundation. This could be an allusion to the fact that Ken Wilber has not had an academic career, that he does not formulate his work in any recognized disciplinary way or discuss it in academic contexts - and that he is therefore not taken seriously in academic circles. This is the shortcoming that the “metamodern” approach seeks to cure.


The Nordic School of Metamodernism, which we present here, is currently being created on the basis of Hanzi Freinacht’s book series “A Metamodern Guide to Politics”. Unlike other currents and schools of metamodernism, it focuses on the transformation of politics and society based on an integral consciousness. At the same time, it refrains from calling these ideas "integral", but calls them "metamodern" instead. This term implies a cultural phase, structure of consciousness or way of thinking that goes beyond postmodernism and integrates it, as well as all other previous structures described by the development models presented in Chapters 2, 3 and 4.

  1. Hanzi’s political vision has so far been expressed in “The listening society (The Listening Society)“ (TLS, 2017) and “Nordic ideology (Nordic Ideology)” (NI, 2019). Further volumes are to follow. TLS begins to formulate a metamodern vision that goes beyond the systems we know in all areas, essentially through “personal development and psychological growth”. It wants nothing less than “to surpass and replace liberal democracy as a political system, all political parties and their ideologies, capitalism as an economic system and our current welfare system” (Freinacht, 2017: 3f).
  2. Second, Hanzi argues why structuralist development theories are essential tools for mapping and supporting personal and cultural growth. With regard to the former, Hanzi places particular emphasis on the cognitive development, which he based on the Model of Hierarchical Complexity (MHC)2 by Michael Commons. With regard to the cultural development he stays at the steps of Graves3, which he admittedly described as “cultural code” In addition to these two dimensions (upper and lower left quadrant in Wilber’s model), Hanzi also adds two own dimensions added: subjective state and depth, by which he means "a person's intimate, embodied acquaintance with (a certain range of, EF) subjective states" (ibid.: 281). He claims that these four dimensions taken together could form a new category and indicator of overall development, which he calls the "effective value meme (evm)".

Metamodern politics in six forms:

  • Metamodern politics proposes an “overarching pattern” of six new political forms (Policy areas) which, carefully interwoven, would form a balanced equilibrium in and for a more holistic, ‘listening society’.

The six forms of metamodern politics:

    1. Democratization policy: aims to broaden and deepen the quality of democratic participation in all areas of society, with a view to the vision of a ‘listening society’ that really hears and takes into account the deeper needs of its citizens.
    1. Community policy: aims to strengthen or restore mutual solidarity, trust and support between citizens in everyday life; this is also a prerequisite for deepening democracy (see above).
    1. Existential politics: addresses the deepest questions about the meaning and purpose of our existence and our existential relationship to reality, turning them into common concerns that deserve public attention and political support, and thus bringing us back into contact with our roots and visions.
    1. emancipatory politics: aims to address and counteract the inevitable new, subtle forms of oppression that emerge as a result of the increasing "intimacy of control" as our societies evolve.
    1. Empirical politics: aims to increase the level of awareness and the ability to think critically in society in order to enable it to intersubjectively review and empirically test the knowledge that serves as the basis for political decisions.
    1. Theory-Politics: formulates a metamodern worldview as a basis for a more complex understanding of political challenges and invites all political actors to engage in dialogue about it.
  • New types of ministries should develop, promote and implement these new policies and be provided with the necessary powers and resources to do so.
  • One “metamodern aristocracy” (ie a community of practice) and a “process-oriented party” are to advance this agenda, spread the “metamodern virus” throughout society and conduct cross-sector and cross-party dialogues on the future of politics.

In Hanzi's second book, Nordic Ideology, the tone changes, from polemical to constructive (“the last book was written for enemies, this one is for friends”; Freinacht, 2019: 11), and the focus shifts more directly to the actual vision of metamodern politics and steps towards its implementation. In his own words: “TLS was largely about Developmental psychology, this is about Development sociology" (ibid.: 1f., my emphasis). Nordic Ideology sets out this series of six new policies that are intended to politically support individual and collective development, growth and depth. They are democratization policy, community policy4, Existential Politics, Emancipation Politics, Empirical Politics and Theory Politics. Together they form a "master pattern" that is the main pillar of metamodern politics. Due to the mutual relationships and interdependencies between the six forms, Hanzi describes this master pattern as a metamodern version of Montesquieu's separation of powers ("Montesquieu 2.0").

Questions of Metamodern Ideas

  • How can we get the best out of the other two philosophies Modernism and Postmodernism, EF get out?
  • Can we create better processes for personal development?
  • Can we redesign the processes by which society is governed locally and globally?
  • Can the inner dimensions of life play a more central role in society?
  • How can modern, postmodern and premodern people live together productively?
  • How can politics adapt to an increasingly complex world?
  • What unique role does humanity play in nature's ecosystems?

Difference to integral approach?

As far as the specific self-presentation of metamodernism is concerned, several aspects stand out.

  1. First, metamodernism is closely linked to the Age of the Internet and the social media – trends that strongly influenced the generation of the two Hanzi authors.
  2. Secondly, in comparison to the Integral, it is striking that here the modern and postmodern philosophies are the most important – and basically the only – reference points of the new metamodern approach (unlike Lena Rachel Anderson!) The latter aims to integrate these two “outdated” predecessors while correcting their shortcomings.
  3. Finally, a central specificity of Hanzi’s metamodernism is its genuine interest and you Focus on social and political transformation.

Apart from these peculiarities, their integrative attitude, their urge to recognize the inner dimensions of life, and their overarching concern for personal and collective development are strongly reminiscent of core elements of integral thinking as presented in the previous chapters. The question therefore arises as to how metamodernism differs from integralism in its claim to offer a more appropriate, holistic approach to tackling the complex challenges of our time – and how does it relate to integralism overall?

  1. Daniel Görtz describes his own transition from integralism to metamodernism as a process in which he finds himself in a "Reform Protestants of the Integral Church" (ibid.). Building on the ‘best of the integral’, namely metatheory, the holistic approach and developmental consciousness, Hanzi’s metamodernism attempts to reformulate these in a less ‘spiritual’ way in order to make its core ideas more accessible to people who come from a more academic than spiritual background.
  2. He explains Hanzi’s metamodernism as a “more conservative integralism”, which focuses primarily on the integration of modernity and postmodernity, rather than on the integration of all other previous levels of existence or consciousness at once. Why? "Because we haven't managed to do this integration properly so far, so why try to do it all at once?"

Similarly, Layman argues that “no matter how comprehensive one wants to be, one cannot avoid specializing in some way” (ibid.). Therefore, he suggests that Metamodernism as “a slimmed down socio-political integralism” to be understood, while conversely “the integral is an extended psycho-spiritual metamodernism” (ibid.).

Görtz summarizes Hanzi's relationship to the integral by saying that his metamodernism essentially sees itself as a differentiation that is "only post-integral insofar as it came chronologically after the integral" (Görtz, ibid.). Metamodernism therefore sees itself as part and product of integral theory and its vision of a "marriage of sense and soul", that is, of rationality and intuitive, spiritual wisdom. It builds on its concepts and distinctions, but develops the prism further when it comes to social transformation.

Nordic Ideology: A metamodern "to-do plan to save the world"

"My book The Listening Society is not that good or important. Nordic Ideology gets to the heart of the matter and that's where you'll find most of the ideas you need to really change politics" (Hanzi on Facebook).

As a holistically informed political sociologist and philosopher, Hanzi presents his model as a general pattern, provided with an explicit disclaimer that formulates at least three important limitations:

  • None of these forms is alone the answer; it requires the combination of all, cleverly implemented.
  • It is still unclear who in a specific context the driving force for the desired change of the game (state, market, civil society and/or what he calls a ‘metamodern aristocracy’).
  • Each country follows its own path when attempting to introduce metamodern governance, depending on its history, culture and available resources (path dependency; ibid.: 176f.).

So, if you're keen to delve deeper, it's now time to read the detailed description in CHAPTER 7 or the whole book... Oh yes, that takes time. I hope I've been able to give you an idea of the basic ideas. And you've got an overview and saved time.

Read: Hanzi Free Night: Metamodern Politics (Elke Fein)

  1. They also offer further training in FACILITATION: Collaboratory Facilitator Training
    Are you interested in contributing to the collective intelligence in addressing complex, adaptive challenges? The Collaboratory is a powerful co-creative process for engaging stakeholders to make progress on complex societal challenges toward a desirable future. However diverse the participants may be, a collaboration taps into the collective intelligence, stimulates deeper layers of creativity, and brings forth new approaches to burning problems. The collaboration methodology combines several proven holistic approaches such as Art of Hosting, Appreciative Inquiry, Design Thinking, Open Space, Theory U, and Whole Person Learning into an energetic choreography from vision to action.
  2. Probably the best known and most theoretically sound neo-Piagetian model of cognitive development (Commons, 2008). It is based on a mathematical foundation and distinguishes up to 16 levels of complexity with which the ability to solve tasks can be precisely described, not only for humans, but also for animals and computers.
  3. Metaphorically, he describes this dimension as the "software" of a society, consisting of the system of values, norms, rules, etc. that prevail in a particular society or group. When a person is socialized into a particular environment, he or she learns its specific cultural code as he or she grows up. This, says Hanzi, is like downloading a particular software.
  4. Essentially, he calls on us as a society to invest more in building "secure psychological attachment patterns and thereby help people to be better partners and lovers". This would benefit everyone's mental health, reduce gender antagonisms (postfeminism) and create more relaxed and better family relationships and a deeper trust in society as a whole (ibid.: 239, 241). By ESTABLISHING a Ministry of Love (as opposed to already existing Ministries of Loneliness, e.g. in the UK, ibid.: 222). Its role and function could be, more generally, to "promote the conditions for community flourishing throughout society" in a conscious, transparent and systematic way, and to "develop, implement and evaluate appropriate social innovations, practices and institutions" (ibid., 223f.).


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