I’m actually a major fan of Spiral Dynamics, but I’m more of a fan in terms of serious intellectual interest which still allows for plenty of room for doubt. I’m a curious guy and Spiral Dynamics is just one theory, one possibility. I love models that bring order or demonstrate a pattern to some realm of human experience. I do intuitively sense that there is some truth to Spiral Dynamics. However, I’m always a bit wary of broad generalizations. And so…
Critics point out that the model’s implications are political as well as developmental and that while the terminology of the theory is self-consciously inclusive, the practical implications of the model can be seen as socially elitist and authoritarian. In his work on the subject, Beck emphasizes that one of the characteristics of “tier two” individuals, also called “Spiral Wizards”, is their ability to make superior decisions for all parties concerned and to manufacture consent for their approaches at lower levels using resonant terms and ideas. In addition to outlining an underlying developmental theory, Spiral Dynamics gives explicit suggestions to these “Wizards” for both consensual and non-consensual management of “lower-tier” individuals. One critic of Spiral Dynamics, Michel Bauwens, has argued that some conceptions of what it means to be “second tier” have come to resemble Nietzsche’s idea of the Übermensch. Co author Cowan has publicly dissociated himself from the ideas that are currently being promoted by his ex-partner Beck.
The emphasis Spiral Dynamics places on exercising power derived from greater developmental attainments has also been characterized as derivative of a number of other past political theories emphasizing decision-making by a select elite, including Plato‘s idealization of the philosopher king. It should also be noted that, within this paradigm, Spiral Dynamics is itself characterized as a “second tier” concept, implicitly flattering those who support the theory and potentially inviting confirmation biases.
Further, some criticisms of Spiral Dynamics have been dismissed as expressions of lower-level memes, particularly the “mean green meme.” This internal refutation of external critiques was one of philosopher Karl Popper‘s criteria for establishing that a system of belief is non-falsifiable and for distinguishing non-science from genuine scientific theory.
Some critics dispute the universality of the linear or emergent transitions proposed in Spiral Dynamics, due to the high degree of variation they see among human cultures over time. The claim that humans have changed systemically on psycho-social dimensions, such as self concept or the human propensity and reasons for self sacrifice, over the time period proposed in Spiral Dynamics, is not supported by mainstream anthropology, the social sciences, or evolutionary biology.