Political Maturity in Addressing Conflict Scale (PMACS) Items

by Diane Perlman, Ph.D © 2003

Introducing the Concept of Political Maturity

This is an attempt to reframe the simplistic, dualistic right-left, liberal – conservative categories in public discourse according to the dimension of “Political Maturity.” Right – Left categories can be used to reduce, dismiss, and demonize those with opposing views in ways that stop thinking and foreclose dialogue. By being descriptive, issues can be raised more accurately, intelligently, deeply and with greater maturity. The Political Maturity Scale is intended to take us “outside the boxes.”

Politically Immature vs. Politically Mature

Strategic Maturity in policies, rhetoric, and actions

“First-order change” – addressing the symptom vs. “Second-order change” addressing the relationship system
Provokes unintended consequences vs. Produces intended consequences
Increases tension vs. Decreases tension
Reactive vs. Proactive
Increases fear and danger vs. Decreases fear and danger (people are more dangerous when afraid)
Provocative, threatening, punishing vs. Calming, reassuring, positive inducements
Destructive vs. Constructive
Polarizing vs. Collaborative, Synergistic
Punitive, Retributive  Justice vs. Restorative, Reparative, Transitional and Transformational Justice
Violent force vs. “Metaforce™” (political, economic, social, educational, moral force, positive inducements)
Foreclosing options vs. Generating new options
Ends justify means vs. Using better means for better ends, integrity of means and ends
Bilateral, dualistic vs Multilateral, bringing in helpful parties, stakeholders
Humiliating, intimidating, backing into a corner vs Giving adversary a face-saving way out
Win/Lose orientation vs Win/Win, Mutually beneficial strategies
“Conventional wisdom”  vs Creative
Short term focus vs long term thinking, intuition
Reckless policies vs. Cautious policies
Domination vs Mutuality
Mutually Assured Destruction vs. “Mutually Assured Survival™”
Cognitive Maturity
Misperceives cues vs. Perceives cues accurately,  intended meaning
Focus on one dimension at a time vs ability to focus on more than one dimension (Piaget)
Simplistic, concrete, black & white thinking vs. Complex, multidimensional, nuanced thinking
Rigidity vs. Flexibility, Adaptability
Immediate focus vs. Long-range thinking
Superficiality vs. Depth
Linearity vs. Multidimensionality
Theory driven, self-justifying vs. Data driven, willing to revise opinions and attitudes
Poor reality testing, perceptions dominated by emotions and false beliefs  vs. Objectivity, seeing patterns
Static, compartmentalized, fragmented view vs. Dynamic understanding
Dishonest vs. Truthful
Acausality vs. Causality
Dichotomous vs. Transcendent approach

Emotional, Relational Maturity

Gripped by right & wrong vs. Focus on improvement
Concrete, physical,  psychologically ignorant  vs. Psychological, dynamic understanding
Me and my people are always right vs ability to criticize oneself and one’s group when warranted
Self-absorption vs ability to take perspective of the Other
Bravado, arrogance vs. Sensitivity, humility, vulnerability
Need to intensely hold certain beliefs  vs. Willingness to change attitudes and beliefs based on new information
Ego Driven vs. Motivated by Higher Self, Self Originating
Justify previous actions, statements, beliefs vs. self- criticism, learning from experience
See events as unrelated vs. understanding cause and effect
Need to blame other vs. curiosity, responsibility, understanding Other’s motivation, rationale (even if you don’t agree)
Denial of responsibility for one’s actions, effects on Other, provocation vs. Taking responsibility for effects of one’s actions on Others  (Perlman’s “Political Heisenberg Insecurity Principle”)
Externalization vs. Self awareness
External locus of control vs Internal locus of control
Gripped, consumed by emotional forces vs. clear, objective thinking
Denial of death, desire to master death vs. Awareness of mortality and vulnerability
Proud vs. Humble
Ruthless, cold expedience vs. Compassionate
Primitive, archetypal imagery vs. humanized, mature understanding
Ahistorical, acontextual vs. Contextual
Dehumanization of Other vs.  Empathy for the Enemy
Submission to authority, (only following orders) vs. Willingness to challenge authority
Projection vs. Consciousness
Stereotyped, primitive enemy imaging vs. Understanding the Other
Spiteful vs. Yielding
Vengeful vs. Problem-solving, Healing
Controlling, dominating vs. Empowering
Paranoid style (possibly self-fulfilling) vs. Reassuring style
Misrepresent intentions vs. Communicate sincere intentions
Undermine trust vs. Build trust
Under/Overestimate Other Bias vs. Accurate estimation
Creating enemies vs. De-enmification
Engendering moral outrage vs Inspiring respect 

Political Maturity Ratings

1. Destructive Dictators & Despots
2. Dangerous Unconsciously Impulsive  
3. Harmful Immature
4. Colluding Neutral  
5. Helpful Mature   
6. Constructive Wise   
7. Creative Transcendent – Visionary, Transformative.  Courageous

When Going to War is Politically Immature: Beyond Left – Right Politics 

(written 2003 before the invasion of Iraq - slightly revised in 2014)
Introducing the Concept of Political Maturity
    This is an attempt to reframe the simplistic, dualistic right-left, liberal – conservative categories in public discourse according to the dimension of “Political Maturity.” These categories can be used to reduce, dismiss, and demonize those with opposing views in ways that stop thinking and foreclose dialogue. By being descriptive, issues can be raised more accurately, intelligently, and with greater maturity. We will focus on discourse about war and conflict with an emphasis on consequences of rhetoric. 

Is Going to War Politically Immature?

You don’t need a degree in psychology to understand the arguments for war in terms of Political Maturity  The illusion that a war will simply destroy Saddam ( 2014 update – or Assad, ISIS, Osama, Qadafi) without fueling more hatred and rage, unleashing escalation of chaos, terrorism, death and environmental destruction, including aiming at US targets. Strategies of “going after bad guys” are shortsighted, simplistic, egocentric, concrete, dangerous, psychologically ignorant and politically immature.
As my colleagues and I predicted in 2002-3, the “Global War on Terror” launched after 9/11/01, actually provoked a many fold increase in terrorism. Our policies were met with counter – measures of decentralization, increasing recruitment and developing counter-measures in response to so called “counter-terrorism (CT)” which is an oxymoron. CT goes after the symptom, not the cause.  
We are in a new age of global terrorism, a form of asymmetrical warfare, proliferating weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) as well as conventional weapons. It is naive to believe that that the US can still use threats of violence to dominate and control the world without provoking retaliation A war would not be “preemptive” or “preventive”, as we are seduced into believing, but provocative. The expectation of clean preemption is an example of what psychotherapists call “poor reality testing.
The fantasy that we can conduct a “war on terrorism” by killing terrorists and physically destroying infrastructures, while we are simultaneously provoking more recruits and more terrorism which is now decentralized, more hidden, more creative and clever, shows a lack of insight into the nature of terrorism and a failure of imagination.

Ego-Based Politics

The refusal to recognize and address the root causes that drive terrorism, to work to remedy the suffering, injustice, humiliation and just grievances is a manifestation of ego-based politics which reinforces escalating spirals of violence. Ego politics splits the world into us and them, right and wrong, good and evil, and is preoccupied with anger, hurt, revenge, and winning and losing in a lose-lose scenario, at the expense of efforts to reduce tension and violence. The obsession with “not letting the terrorists win” clouds thinking about wise strategies. One always gets to be right and good, but fuels cycles of violence and retaliation. There is no way to win anymore on this world of WMDs and asymmetrical warfare.

Transcendent Politics

  A higher level political consciousness is required to transcend terrorism and replace war as a healthy way of responding to conflict. There are bodies of knowledge of proven, effective methods in tension reduction, conflict transformation and violence prevention that are virtually absent in politics, the media and public discourse. If people were aware of their existence, and were educated and trained, we could raise consciousness of and support for mature, problem-solving, wise strategies that would increase global security.
This scale is a work in progress, designed to illuminate the underlying maturity of political phenomena in response to conflicts. Focus on material associated with conflict places this in the field of conflict studies as well as developmental, cognitive, and political psychology.  This tests maturity as conflict is a charged field easily predisposed to automatic emotional reactions and requiring maturity to transcend it. As Jung said, consciousness is a work against nature.  This model can be applied to political speeches, spontaneous comments and interviews, slogans, articles, policies, strategies and media that address conflict situations, that are intended to influence public opinion with regard to “us and them”  and potential for violence.  Maturity is based on simultaneous aspects of inner psychological, emotional and cognitive organization as well as external interpersonal, social, political and military orientations in response to rhetoric, such as in inciting violence or reducing hostility.
PMACS is consistent and isomorphic with developmental models and scales including: Loevinger’s scale of ego development, Piagetian cognitive, social and moral development, Kohlberg’s moral development, Gilligan’s moral orientations of justice and mercy, Erikson’s  Eight Stages of Man (trust versus mistrust), Kleinian psychological positions of paranoid schizoid position and depressive position.
This scale can function as a tool that provides an objective measure to rate candidates, political speeches and their consequences in a scientific way. We should consider whether a speech is written or spontaneous, as speech writers may be at a slightly different level, and spontaneous remarks may reveal one’s level more accurately.
We can compare some historical samples of speeches that provoked consequences – positive and negative – and rate them, and/or compare speeches from Gandhi, Mandela.
This scale is an attempt to replace the simplistic, reductive, thought-stopping right-left categorization of people and ideas.
Research ideas –
1 – to study relationship between PMACS & violence in history
2 – to rate political candidates and strategies for maturity


Diane Perlman, PhD. 
(h) 202 775 0777      

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