The Farther Reaches of Progressive Policy-making; CLA

(PROUT Globe, 14 June, 2013) – Have you ever marveled at how fantastically good great art is at depicting the manifold realities of our life? Or how deep a dream can be, so magnificently powerful that you only wished it was real? How about powerful symbols, do you sometimes feel they are of relevance to and even affect your life? Is there still space for that old mysticism in your life outside of — or perhaps inside — the ordinary and trivial? (Continued below the video.)

As opposed to that, how do you feel about politicians’ routine wrangling, backbiting, mudslinging — the endless dry debating and power mongering of policy makers? Don’t you sometimes feel they have become one-dimensional enough and could do with some more perspective — depths and heights — in their work processes?

To the rescue comes Causal Layered Analysis (CLA), the brainchild of futurist and Proutist thinker Sohail Inayatullah (see video above). Think bureaucrats meet radicals meet day dreamers meet depth psychology and you may have your CLA. Then again, you may not — take yourself out of the box, feel deeply, take in some more, and envision even more differently!

CLA explores four levels of being:

  1. The litany, the official unquestioned view of reality, such as “Capitalism works!” “Socialism is good!” etc.
  2. Social causes, the systemic perspective that explains and questions the data of the litany. For instance, “What are the causes of the financial crisis?” “Why are so many people poor?” etc.
  3. Discourse/worldview, where deeper, unconsciously held ideological, worldview and discursive assumptions are unpacked, such as “Capitalism is individualistic, short term oriented, corporatist,” “Socialism is state oriented, bureaucratic run, collectivist,” etc.
  4. Myth/metaphor, the unconscious emotive dimensions of the issue: “Capitalism is like an all-devouring bloodthirsty demon that only cares for itself,” “Socialism is like an over-possessive mother that only thinks about keeping everyone and everything close to herself and never actually think for the freedom of others,” etc.

The challenge, Inayatullah says, is to conduct research that moves up and down these layers of analysis and thus is inclusive of different ways of knowing. Doing this allows for the creation of authentic alternative futures and integrated transformation. CLA begins and ends by questioning the future.

The notion of reality as vertically constructed is far more appropriate than the poststructural notion of alternative horizontal discourses, Inayatullah holds. This perspective is derived from Indian philosophical thought — best developed by PROUT founder P. R. Sarkar — which asserts that the mind is constituted in shells or kosas. Moving up and down the shells is a process of moral and spiritual enlightenment. Going deeper into the mind is an inward process through which truths are realized.

“Like all genuinely spiritually oriented systems, Causal Layered Analysis takes not one but several spheres of reality into account when determining a future course. The method opens up for individual and collective synthesis across several levels of existence. As such CLA is in harmony with PROUT and lends itself well to helping evolve sound socio-economic and other policies among other things,” PROUT Globe editor and Psychosynthesis lecturer Trond Overland comments.

As a method, the utility of CLA is not in predicting the future but in creating transformative spaces for the creation of alternative futures. As a theory it seeks to integrate empiricist, interpretive, critical, and action learning modes of knowing, an introductory paper informs us.

For example, while a doctoral student may use the method to organise different sorts of ‘data’ — quantitative, qualitative, and critical, for example — a company may use it to develop different sorts of products and services, or to rethink its purpose. An institution may use it to articulate its strategy for different audiences (for example, students, professors, the community, the government, various boards) with different temporal expectations (immediate needs, mid­term needs, long term needs). A social movement may use it to challenge conventional policy formulations by states and corporation.

“Its versatility is astounding,” Overland says. “CLA is a natural, simple approach to making life more meaningful and truly productive. It has the power to transform your, my and our life again and again.”

CLA has developed through doing. Through numerous uses in a variety of settings and countries — international organisations, universities, associations, non­governmental organisations, and business — the method has evolved, and has been refined in the process.

Dr. Sohail Inayatullah, a political scientist, is Professor at the Graduate Institute of Futures Studies, Tamkang University, Taipei; Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore; and Visiting Academic at Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane. In 1999, he held the UNESCO Chair at the Centre for European Studies, University of Trier, Germany. Inayatullah is co­editor of the Journal of Futures Studies and associate editor of New Renaissance.

Inayatullah has written and co­edited a dozen books. His books related to PROUT include Situating Sarkar: Transcending Boundaries and
Understanding Sarkar: The Indian Episteme, Macrohistory and Transformative Knowledge. The Sarkar Game is another great transformational tool close to Inayatullah’s heart. He can be contacted via

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