Human Development and Capitalist Society
in James W. Fowler, Karl Ernst Nipkow and Friedrich Schweitzer (eds) Stages of Faith and Religious Development, Implications for Church, Education and Society London, SCM Press 1992, pp. 209-223 ISBN: 0 334 02520 6
In "Extracts from the Report of the Centenary Celebration of Grand Vizier Services," Michael Kidron and Ronald Segal satirize the attitudes of the entrepreneurs supplying services to their most wealthy clients. In his annual address, the president of the firm advises his senior management on how they can best take advantage of the strengths and weaknesses of the wealthy and describes the conditions, both political and psychological, that will do most to advance their own prosperity. He exhorts them:
All of us, not only we the executives, but also the principals, if I may pursue a distinction, must train assiduously in the use of power. We must exercise it constantly, in a manner that is firm, fair and open. In this way we will satisfy the deepest inner needs of humankind, for without social order, without a planned sequence of attainable and spiritual goals for each person, there can be no self-fulfilment and no sense of security. Social harmony and our considerable advantages rest on our providing a framework, however modest it might be, within which that sense might flourish. (Kidron and Segal 1987, 143).
In this clever parody, Kidron and Segal make bare the connection between the "jargon of authenticity" and the purposes it serves. Government, including the internal government of the affairs of the company, must be both fair and open, but at the same time it must be "firm" because it constantly seeks to maintain and to extend the power of vested interests. The language of spirituality is particularly useful in this respect, since modem marketing methods explore and create intimate links between the inner, psychic world of the individual consumer and the product or service that is created in order to minister to (i.e., nurture rather than satisfy) those needs. The president of Grand Vizier Services shows himself sensitive to the spiritual needs of people today. He knows that it would be insensitive to speak of "mankind",
for many of his clients are wealthy women, highly educated and well aware of patriarchal power. He understands that people need to experience "self-fulfilment" and that this is related to a "sense of security" without which the stock markets will become nervous and people will not be able to relax enough to enjoy the luxurious services the company offers. Without this inner harmony there can be no "social harmony", and without social harmony the social pyramid of power would be threatened. Above all, people need a "planned sequence of attainable and spiritual goals", so that, however complex and mystifying the external world might seem, there will always be an inner world of rationality, order, and control, which will impart a sense of purpose and planning to the lives of ordinary men and women. Because the world of business is international, and Grand Vizier Services is itself a multinational company, this "planned sequence" of spiritual stages must be available "for each person", and again we notice the sensitive use of inclusive language by our enlightened president. It is up to companies such as Grand Vizier Services to provide such frameworks for modern living and to encourage other people to do the same.
The links between capitalism and spirituality are both direct and indirect. At the direct level, we may consider the obvious intimacy between the electronic churches and modern capital, expressed in the increasingly familiar theology of success, while at the hidden level we may study the alienation and false consciousness of the middle-class spirituality of wealthy churches in a poverty stricken world. If religion is the opium of the people, severe addiction seems to be typical of wealthier people.
In their final chapter, Kidron and Segal take off the mask of satire and announce their own conclusions about the impact upon human values of the world of business and money: "Where it has not swept aside other ways of organizing and thinking, it has subverted and appropriated them. It has subjected or reduced all considerations - moral, aesthetic, intellectual, spiritual - to the material imperative" (Kidron and Segal 1987, 178). In what follows we will be discussing some of the ways in which stage development theories might be thought of as products of modernity. We will not try to do this in comparison with other contemporary expressions of spirituality. It may be that some of the modern religious cults or aspects of the counselling movement and so on can also be considered as products of modernity, and this may be true of other approaches to the study of human behaviour and experience today, such as behaviourism and psychoanalysis, but these remarks will be confined to stage development theories. We will also ask whether stage development theories are not only products of modernity but may become weapons against modernity. Insofar as they are a genuine response to problems created by modernity, they can be purged or detoxified, conscientised and redirected so as to become instruments for passing beyond modernity. Is it possible that next year's presidential address to the management of Grand Vizier might be a little less certain about the safe spirituality of the planned sequences ofspiritual goals?
Stage Development Theories as Products of Modernity
Development in Capitalism and in Stage Theories
Gabriel Moran has pointed out that the word development is used mainly by psychologists, economists, and photographers. "Are psychological theories of development a justification for the status quo issued by the well-to-do part of well-to-do countries?" (Moran 1983, 4). The distinctions between developed, developing, and underdeveloped countries are clearly made in the interests of business potential. Moran regards development as a characteristic image in modernity, tracing it to the emerging historical consciousness of the nineteenth century, in which the way to understand things was to stand back and watch them develop. He contrasts the ancient images of the process of change, which often involved ideas of decay and suffering, with this characteristically modem image, associated with growth, progress, and improvement, noting that this cluster of ideas represents "more an ideological doctrine than an incontestable fact" (Moran 1983, 17-20).
Studies of human development concentrated at first on infancy and childhood, under the influence of biology, especially embryology, and only in the mid-1970s did the theories expand so as to catch the attention of the public in adult development. It is in the last ten years that there has been a particularly noticeable impact on the lives of adults of the tremendous world-wide expansion of competitive consumption and capital escalation. While it is true that Erik H. Erikson made extensive use of the concept of the "life cycle" to extend Freudian ego psychology from adolescence to old age, it will be shown below that his theory ignores just those institutions of contemporary industrial growth which are having the most decisive impact on the lives of adults. This aspect of the Eriksonian life cycle becomes apparent as one gazes back on it in the light of the last ten years of developments in modernity. In a word, the intensification of capital development is leading not only to an intensification of interest in adult stage development theories but also to a hermeneutical suspicion about the relationship between stage theories and modernity itself (e.g., Broughton 1986, 90-114; Heimbrock 1986a, 150-54).
Modernity Itself as a Stage Development Theory
There is a second way in which stage development theories are closely related to modernity. Modernity itself is often understood as the contemporary stage in a stage development theory of history. The foundations of this perspective were laid down by Hegel,
and Kierkegaard’s response to Hegel consisted partly in outlining a series of psychological or spiritual stages of inner transformation (the aesthetic, moral, and religious stages) in contrast to the world-historical-spiritual evolutionary theory of Hegel. The interpretation of modernity as a historical stage was used by Karl Marx to relativize industrial society by showing that it had certain origins and could be expected to have certain outcomes. Marxist socialism understands itself as pointing to a stage (communism) that lies beyond capitalist industrialization and will be its superior successor. Western theories of individual, internal stage development may be thought of as a psychological and spiritual (economic?) response to the historical and sociological interpretation of the stages of history offered by communism, a bit like Kierkegaard's response to Hegel. It is interesting to note that Kierkegaard became popular in Europe in the early years of the twentieth century, particularly after the First World War, and is one of the inspirations behind contemporary faith development theory. On the other hand, we may trace the impact of Kierkegaard, Martin Buber, and Karl Barth upon a writer such as Paulo Freire, where the existentialism results not in a theory of individual inner development but in a "dialogical education" within a Marxist framework as part of a humanistic societal and historical revolutionary program. If the existentialism of North America is strikingly different from that of South America, the political and economic conditions prevailing in the two continents of the new world cannot be entirely overlooked.
Not only is the concept of modernity itself the product of stage development theories, but there have been many attempts to interpret religious modernity in a similar manner. It should be noted that stage development theories of the history of religions coincide with stage development theories of the religious development of modem individuals. This helps us to see that religious stage development theories are a characteristic feature of religious modernity itself, and it also throws light on certain characteristics of the psychological theories of stage development.
As an example, we might take the well-known theory of Robert Bellah, in which a description is offered of the history of religion in structuralist, stage-developmentalist terms, postulating five stages: primitive religion, archaic religion, classical, early modern, and modern religion. The theory focuses on religion as the development of symbols which express and concern both cultural and individual identity, the structure of the symbol system under-going transformations from stage to stage. The transformation from classical and early modern religion to the religion of modernity is characterized by a change from what Bellah calls "compact symbolism". The compact coherence of the specific religions and denominations with their self-conscious boundaries excluding one system from the other have given way during the modern period to a more free and fluent situation of symbolic
complexity in which coherent content is less clearly defined, individuals being encouraged to formulate their own synthesis during the course of their own migration of faith, under the general auspices of a sponsoring denomination (Bellah 1970, chap. 2).
In other words, one of the distinctive features of any particular religion under the conditions of modernity is that it exists alongside other religions in a state of mutual competitiveness and intermingling and is at the same time undergoing internal pluralisation, not so much in the sense in which Protestantism had a tendency to break into innumerable sects (early modem religion) but in the sense that each religious believer contains within his or her own subjectivity a range of possible religious identities. The sociological interpretation of this phenomenon offered by Robert Bellah may be compared to the theological interpretation offered by H. Richard Niebuhr in his use of the term "polytheism" to describe the modem individual who exists within several worlds, and "henotheism" to describe the modem individual who in order to maintain internal coherence rejects plurality for the sake of an internal totalitarianism. Polytheism and henotheism are contrasted by Niebuhr with monotheism, which refers to the modem individual who has overcome both inner and outer pluralisation in loyalty to universal being itself (Niebuhr 1960). It is hardly necessary to remind readers of this study that H. Richard Niebuhr is one of the major theological influences upon the faith development movement.
In stage development theory, content is replaced by form. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews identified immature Christians by the religious topics with which they were concerned, whereas to be mature they should have been concerned with a different range of religious and theological subjects (Heb 6:1f.). We may regard this as a content-based understanding of spiritual maturity. This understanding of religious development will work only during the period of compact symbolism, when the intellectual and emotional system of religion can itself be arranged in a hierarchy so as to provide a rationale for progressive improvement. When the systems are fragmented and relativised by intersystemic collision and internal proliferation, to say nothing of the effects upon religious faith of secularisation, the most satisfying alternative is simply to abandon content altogether as a criterion of spiritual maturity. Its place can be taken by form, and if the forms can be distinguished from each other by structures and related to each other as a sequential hierarchy, then we have classical religion reconstituted with a sort of anti-radiation defense kit which will enable the survivors to pick their I way safely through the life of heretical imperative which Peter Berger has described so well (Berger 1979). We may contemplate the work of Rudolph Bultmann and that of the stage developmentalists as offering different models of demythologisation under the impact of modernity. Whereas Bultmann demythologises the content in a historicalreductionist approach, stage development theory demythologises content by a category shift from content into structure. The result of Bultmann's approach is a renegotiation of content. The result of the stage development approach is to substitute form for content. There is no doubt that both approaches are extremely powerful to religious believers made sensitive to modernity, and it is interesting to notice a certain seepage between the two approaches, which occurs when a categorization that purports to be structural slips into a sort of theological classification, where content is arranged in ascending order of superiority as it becomes more highly demythologised in the Bultmannian sense. In the work of the English stage developmentalist Ronald Goldman we may note such a conflation of Piaget and Bultmann (McGrady 1983, 126-33; Slee 1986, 84-93). It is also important to notice that contemporary representatives of stage developmental theories are much more theologically sensitive than those of twenty years ago. Theological concerns have always been much more overt in the faith development movement, and it is noticeable that theology is becoming increasingly important in recent faith development literature. If we contrast Ronald Goldman with James Fowler, we see a liberal Bultmannian rationalism which was mainly unconscious and which must therefore be regarded as being ideological, in contrast to a much more self-conscious representative of American radical social transcendence in which theology is actually distorting (or liberating) the elements of the stage developmental theory itself (Goldman 1964; Fowler 1984a, 1987a) insofar as it could be thought of as a product of modernity. In other words, the later work of Fowler points beyond modernity, whereas the work of Goldman was enclosed within modernity. Stage development theory is developing rather nicely.
Reason and Fantasy
We now come to a third way in which the stage development theories may be thought of as being products of modernity. It was Max Weber who did most to interpret modernity as a form of rationality. Reason becomes rationalization, the efficient calculation of ways and means in order to maximize profitable production as measured by economic statistics (see Marcuse 1986, chap. 6; Wellmer 1985, 35ff.). The rational society becomes immanent in its most characteristic class, the bureaucracy. Several contemporary studies of modernity have concentrated on bureaucracy as being the characteristic form of modem political life, whether in the East or the West (Lefort 1986; Berger, Berger, and Kellner 1973, chap. 2). This rationality of the efficient institution has its analogue in the rational ego, and it is interesting to notice that the search for the rational ego emerged out of the quest for the irrational id in the 1930’s the period when the rationality of modern industrialization had collapsed in the irrationality of the Nazi state. The experience of social irrationality was accompanied by a quest for ego rationality and for ways of relating ego and society. One of the results was the psychosocial theory of life cycle development in eight stages associated with Erikson.
Sigmund Freud’s theory of sexual development was an attempt to understand certain aspects of irrational adult behaviour, that is, the neuroses. In a somewhat similar way, although perhaps less self-consciously, stage development theory seeks to bring moral order out of the moral relativity and conflict of modernity by transforming moral dilemmas into diagnostic procedures (Kohlberg,) transforming the bewildering anonymity of contemporary institutions from a source of anomie leading to suicide (Durkheim) into a sequence of nurturing institutions giving intergenerational strength arranged in the form of a repetitive cycle (Erikson), turning the breakdown of traditional life patterns into a series of predictable crises (Sheehy 1976) and the bewildering range of faith options into a coherent and stable series of successive faith structures (Fowler).
It is important to realize that modernity has two sides. There is the rational side expressed in the ideals of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, and there is the insidious way in which this was subverted into the rationalization of the industrial process under the pressure of growing capitalism until it resulted in a rationality that was no longer rational (Horkheimer 1973; Horkheimer and Adorno 1975). At this point, the true and the false reason had to be linked together in order to maintain credibility, and this could only be done by fantasy. It is extremely important to understand the role of fantasy, both in modernity itself and in the stage development theories as an expression of modernity (Horkheimer 1967, 106; Horkheimer and Adorno 1975, chap. 4; Castoriadis 1984; Haug 1986, chap. 1, sec. 6, andchap. 2, sec. 2; Hull 1987). On the face of it, modernity looks like the triumph of rationality. Many of its most sensitive critics (e.g., the nineteenth-century French poet Baudelaire and the German novelist and art critic Walter Benjamin) have emphasized that modernity is essentially the fleeting moment, that which is transitory, the perennially new, the whimsical, and the novel. This is why they tried to catch the spirit of modernity in the scraps and tatters of culture, in the fads and fashions of the shops, in cigarette ends, newspaper cuttings, and junk (Frisby 1985). In the stage development theories the radically new comes into being but is transitory. It passes away into what succeeds it, which is again qualitatively new (Haug 1986, chap. 1, sec. 7). Moreover, although stage development theory (especially in Piaget and Kohlberg) seems to be so powerfully rational, it is surprising how vulnerable it becomes to criticism of its imagery (e.g., Gilligan 1982; Moran 1983). The rational side is turned over, and underneath is a mass of symbols and images with which our life today is being interpreted. Rationality and fantasy blend in the stage development theories just as they do in modernity itself.
Structuralism provides a fourth link between the stage development theories and modernity. One of the main criticisms of the structuralist approach is that although at first sight what is new in history and society seems to be permitted to emerge as one structure succeeds the next, closer examination reveals that "the possibility of the emergence of something genuinely new, of real history, seems negated from the start. Change can only be a relatively new reorganization of the elements within an already established structure of relationships" (Bonino 1986, 83). The result of this attempt to reduce human experience to its essential structures, and so to make it universal, can lead to a suppression of the historically unique, and so when the bottom line is reached structuralism becomes a legitimisation of the status quo.
Let us take an example from the work of Ronald Goldman. The story of Moses and the burning bush was used by Goldman to determine the developmental stage of children and young people in Piagetian terms, that is, intuitive, concrete, and abstract stages. In the form of the story that Goldman used, however, the following words were left out. "The people of Israel groaned under their bondage and cried out for help, and their cry under bondage came up to God, and God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant, and God saw the people of Israel, and God knew their condition" (Exod 2:23). These words are an essential introduction to the burning bush, since they set the theophany in the context of the
liberating intention of God. Moreover, Goldman's version of the story ended before God had a chance to tell Moses why he had appeared in the burning bush. "Then the Lord said, ‘I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their task-masters. I know their suffering, and I have come down to deliver them’" (Exod 3:7). The result was a story that was no longer about radical historical change leading to a realignment of power on the part of the oppressed, but one that had already passed through the structuralist process, a story that was already prepared for the structuralist interpretation of what the children would say, and which also prepared the children to find in the story a problem of cause-and-effect rationality within a matter-of-fact "scientific" world (Goldman 1964, 253).
It is at this point that the social imaginary becomes visible (Castoriadis 1984,83). The theological language is neutralized by the reification of such "invisible institutions" as "the concrete" and "the abstract". This is an example of what Cornelius Castoriadis meant when he spoke of "the prejudice that believes it is possible to describe a thing as it is without prejudice", pointing out that this prejudice "is itself only the skin of a certain historical institution of the project of theory" (Castoriadis 1984, 130). In other words, the things which we think we are describing so fairly and with such objectivity are the visible outcrops of the larger formations that are actually invisible to us, because they lie far beneath and are the basic support for our whole way of perceiving and speaking. The intention to discover in the children’s minds the progressive unfolding of reason in a sequence of structured stages is the visible outcrop of the entire project of an enlightenment that seeks to discover in history and especially in our own history the unfolding and the culmination of progressive reason. This becomes visible only when an alternative mass is encountered. This is what happens when Goldman's version of the story is put back into its original biblical context. We then discover what I have elsewhere described as "an ideological crack" (Hull 1985, 85).
In commenting on the use of structuralism in psychoanalysis, Castoriadis remarks: "there is no reference to the concrete, historical life of the patients in society in which they have developed. The patient. . . is regarded as being merely the expression of a number of impersonal structures. Behind the emptiness of the personal life of the patient, everything is forever the same" (Castoriadis 1984, 46ff.). So, when the cognitive stage developmentalist looks for the way in which such abstractions as "the concrete" and "the abstract" may reveal themselves in the persons being studied, the investigator is under the power of "the social imaginary."
Structuralism is a variety of essentialism, in which the essence of human thought is sought in certain structural a priori categories. It is easy for this emphasis on essence, with its universality and its timelessness, to lead to an arrangement of ordered hierarchies. "This is part of the annunciation of the ideology of the monopoly capitalist period in whichdomination by the most powerful economic groups is effected by means of the delegation of power to prototypical leadership personalities, and in which the interests of these groups are concealed by means of the image of an essentially personal order of values, leadership and followings, status, order, racial elite and so forth. The intuition of essence helps to set up essentialist hierarchies in which the material and vital values of human life occupy the lowest rank, while the types of the saint, the genius and the hero take the first place" (Marcuse 1968, 63).
Power to the Powerless: Stage Theory and the Unconscious
One final link between the stage development theories and modernity must be noted. This has to do with these theories as examples of ego psychology. In its idealist antecedents (Kant), as also in the work of Freud and the structuralists proper of the middle years of this century, the structures remain unconscious. They order the conscious mind but are not themselves an object of consciousness. This becomes a problem for those versions of stage development theory which emphasize the formation and evolution of personal meaning in life, since if a more coherent meaning is to become a project of the ego it cannot remain at the preconscious or subconscious levels. It is in recognition of this that recent developments of this kind of stage development theory are compelled to speak of the structuring power of content, rather than the structuring power of the actual structures.
If we leave on one side the idea about the structuring power of content, because it does not seem reconcilable with the idea that it is the structures themselves that have structuring power, we are left with a problem in stage development theory concerning the relationship of the conscious and the unconscious. There is, as stage development theory affirms, a difference between the manifest content of the speech and that which is hidden beneath the surface of the content, that structure of which the speech is a symptom, that meaning for which the researcher seeks. From the point of view of ego psychology, this is a perfectly legitimate inquiry into the adaptation processes of the ego, the relationship between the manifest and the latent being sought in the "conflict-free areas of the ego."
By restricting the relationship between the manifest and the latent to these areas, and by "naturalizing" the manifest/latent relationship under the perspectives of universalising structuralism, stage development theory encourages a neglect of the kind of relationships between the manifest and the latent that are potentially more explosive and more liberating.
Particularly in the case of religious language, one has to reckon with "false consciousness" and with the barriers of resistance which prevent the latent meaning from breaking through the disguise of the open surface of thought. In stage development theory there is little notion of the manifest as occupying a dominating role over the deeper and potentially liberating hidden meanings. The manifest is not conceived of as having a repressive function but is made impersonal, inevitable, and natural by means of structuralism. Stage development theories certainly point out inconsistencies in the manifest content, but these are regarded as symptomatic of stage residence or stage transition, for the theory does not permit an arousal of hermeneutical suspicion which might suggest that the inconsistencies are the result of deeper, repressed disturbances originating in the history of the individual rather than in universal structures and precluding complete interpretation without recourse to ethics. In other words, the repressed relationship of the latent to the manifest requires understanding, sympathy, reconciliation, forgiveness, and renewal.
The result of this limitation is that stage development theory gives power to the teacher rather than to the pupil. It would not make much difference to the pupils if they knew they were in the concrete stage, but it would help the teacher to teach better. It is all too common that in the teacher-pupil relationship, too much power lies in the hands of the teacher, and the best pedagogies seek to transfer power from the teacher to the pupil. It seems to lie beyond the scope of stage development theory to do this, and this is why it remains, for the most part, an instrument of diagnosis and not a weapon of liberation. This feature of stage development theory is in itself sufficient to arouse the hermeneutical suspicion of those who study it with the interests of the powerless in mind. This is why stage development theory often seems to have but little potential for the renewal of the religious life today. It seeks to understand what is, rather than to create what is not.
Let us consider for a moment the case of Erik H. Erikson. It is likely that Erikson would agree with much of what has been said about the impact of modernity in its capitalistic form upon the life cycle. For example, he remarks that the ideology characteristic of our own time advocates "complete pragmatic abandon to the processes of production", because "unceasing production seems to be the thread which holds present and future together" (Erikson 1980, 170ff.). Often Erikson’s attitudes toward the industrialized society are quite favourable. He explains that during the third stage of childhood, when the characteristic balance is between initiative and guilt, there is a need to instill into the child a spirit of free enterprise, continuing "the word ‘enterprise’ was deliberately chosen, for a comparative view of child-training suggests that it is the prevalent economic ideal which is transmitted to the child at a time when in identification with his parents he applies the dreams of early childhoodto the as yet dim goals of an active adult life" (Erikson 1980, 86). Similarly, we note that the characteristic balance of the next stage, the stage of schooling, is industry versus inferiority. At other times, Erikson seems to be more alarmed about the consequences for psychic health of the ideology of a competitive, industrial world. Our language and our customs have begun to standardize the modem person, "so that he may become a reliable mechanism, prepared to adjust to the competitive exploitation of the machine world" (Erikson 1980, 41).
Erik Erikson and Capitalist Society
In view of his undoubted sensitivity to the economic and political context of the socialisation process, it is surprising that Erikson did not include a wider range of institutions in his theory, in which the characteristic conflict or problem of one stage of individual life is met by an institution in which the strengths of many generations have been collected for the very answering of that need. So, for example, the religious institutions enable individuals throughout their entire life cycle to relive the basic infantile conflict between trust and mistrust. Erikson also includes the legal institutions, the theatre, the school, the ideologies, the conventional expressions of friend- ship and solidarity, and marriage. There are, however, some significant omissions from his list. Erikson does not pay sufficient attention to the state itself or to the institutions of political life, the media and the armed forces. While he sees the importance of industry up to a point, he does not include the giant industrial corporation among the formative institutions, and in spite of his wonderfully sensitive work on toys, he seems unaware of the significance of the commodity upon the shaping of the inner life of persons today. It is true that he does consider the double-edged nature of each institution, being aware, for example, of the way in which religion can become both a source of renewed hope and a rigid defense against wider loyalties, and it is also true that in compiling his list of relevant institutions he is looking for sources of ego strength or virtue, and so would naturally select institutions that are generally regarded as being beneficial. Nevertheless, the result is an emasculated series of social institutions in which the profound impact of the power of organized money and big business is generally ignored. So serious is this defect in a stage theory that is specifically psychosocial, that the theory can only retain its usefulness if it is purged by a much more critical approach to the identity-shaping influence of contemporary structures of social power. To put it in the language of Jiirgen Habermas, we might say that the structures of the life world must show far greater sensitivity to the colonizing power of thesystems if they are to have any chance at all of reasserting their dignity and creativity over against the systems.
Stage Theories as Pointing beyond Modernity
Let us close by briefly suggesting some of the ways in which stage development theories, even if they are vulnerable to the sort of ideological criticism we have been suggesting, may also point beyond modernity.
First, there seems to be a growing tendency to interpret the significance of the stage development theories in the light of interpretation theory itself. There is an increasing interest in the significance of the images which are suggested in the theories for the unfolding of human lives. This does not necessarily mean that the character of the stage theories as offering genuine knowledge of how and why human lives do in fact develop will be imperilled; it does, however, suggest a more flexible way of understanding the knowledge, as a series of models and metaphors rather than as something springing from impersonal and unchanging essences.
Second, it is noticeable that theology is being increasingly used to provide alternative models and to offer sources of impetus both across the stages and for conversions within each stage. The somewhat ambiguous role of stage 6 in faith development theory is an interesting case. This could be interpreted as a "kingdom of God" intrusion that could, in principle, occur to people within any stage of development. There seems to be little remaining reason, in the light of the more recent developments in the theory, to retain stage 6 at the end of a hierarchal sequence. It is possible that faith development theory might move toward the Eriksonian idea of seeing within each crisis an outcome that leads to greater strength alongside an alternative possibility that would lead to increased weakness. So, within each stage, people may develop along lines that will encourage a self-grounded position or may become more open toward a "kingdom of God" situation. Faith development, the theory is coming close to saying, is not enough if it remains nearly normal. The autonomy of self-subsistence must be broken at each stage if human vocation is to be fulfilled.
Third, the idea that institutions have an optimal sponsoring level is applied to church congregations by James Fowler in his most recent book. There seems to be no reason why this could not be applied to other institutions, and it would be interesting to reflect, in the light of faith development theory, on the pastoral care of persons in film and television, waged and un-waged situations, the institutions that care for the disabled and the sick, and especially in the great financial institutions of today.
What is the relationship between Fowler's more recent ideas about pastoral care and the concept of "culture creation" in recent theories of industrial management (Huczynski 1987)? How do the various ways in which institutions may be changed correspond to the changes which people experience in the passage from one stage to another? What would a "kingdom of God" alternative be for each institution in each kind of institutional transformation?
Finally, the power that the stage development theories generate must be put into the hands of the powerless. An interesting move in this direction is found in the "tapestry of life" worksheet at the end of Fowler’s most recent book, although faith development theory seems to have played only a minor part in its composition (Fowler 1987a, 118). At this point, a courageous attempt must be made to overcome the impersonal implications of the subliminal nature of structural residents by introducing the methods of ideological critique and other forms of critical theory. It ought to be possible for adults to be helped to recognize elements of intuitive-projective thinking in their lives and to value and to criticize these. The faith development diagnosis could be used for helping people to identify and to evaluate positively and negatively elements of mythic literalism in their thoughts. Moreover, more should be done to adumbrate the ways in which the later stages appear as seeds in the earlier stages. It should be possible for young children in stages 1 or 2 to be helped to recognize features of later stages present within their own thinking already and to make use of these to proliferate childlike imagery. In the Christian nurture process, this can be turned into a variety of techniques of theological conversation with young children. Whether with children or adults, one stage can be used to critique another stage. In other words, can the elements of stage development theory, and especially faith development, be turned into a pedagogy of the oppressed?
In his study of the hermeneutics of revelation, Paul Ricoeur has distinguished the revelatory significance of a number of different kinds of biblical speech (Ricoeur 1981, 73ff.). In a somewhat similar manner, may we not interpret faith development theory as offering a kind of hermeneutic of the contemporary religious life? There are various kinds of religious speech, each of which expresses some perspective on the religious life, and each of whichneeds to be purged both internally by the "kingdom of God" perspective and externally by the negotiation of one style of speech against another. The vital thing is to prevent the colonization of the religious consciousness by one form of religious speech. Without entirely abandoning its sequential or cumulative character, the stage development theories can develop into pedagogical manifolds for mutual emancipation.