Press Release: Esalen Tackles Political Polarization and Gridlock

BIG SUR, Calif. — September 24, 2014 — The increasing polarization of American politics weighs heavily on our democracy, but for now, no existing institution seems to have a handle on how to fix it. Well-meaning appeals for a return to pragmatism and cooperation have failed, leaving the ship of state floundering in uncertain waters. The seeming intractability of this problem, which touches on all aspects of America’s political order, now calls for “outside the Beltway” approaches.

In response to this vexing challenge, Esalen’s Center for Theory & Research, in partnership with The Institute for Cultural Evolution and The Breakthrough Institute think tanks, is hosting on October 5-8, 2014, a small, invitation-only Conclave on Political Polarization, during which leading public figures, political scientists, pundits, insiders and activists will address perhaps the most troublesome issue facing the country today: the growing tribalism of American politics.

Participants and Their Affiliations

Conclave participants include:

  • Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, political scholars and co-authors of the New York Times bestseller, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks
  • Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist and author of the New York Times bestseller, The Righteous Mind
  • Michael Shellenberger, President of The Breakthrough Institute, a progressive think tank on politics, environment and economy
  • Steven Hayward, a scholar on conservatism and the Ronald Reagan Professor of Public Policy at Pepperdine University
  • Other prominent strategists and activists

Many of the participants are affiliated with major organizations in America working on solutions to break the political gridlock, including:

  • No Labels
  • Brookings Institution
  • American Enterprise Institute
  • Public Conversations Project
  • National Purpose Initiative
  • Mediators Foundation
  • Search for Common Ground

The Conclave will be held at Esalen’s storied center on the beautiful Big Sur coast. Attendees from multiple disciplines and ideological perspectives will discuss topics such as “how to fix the broken political system,” “the psychology of partisanship” and “strategies for depolarizing the American electorate.” The Conclave’s organizers aim to develop a vision of the future of government in which a diversity of ideologies can work together to move the country forward.

Chairman of Esalen Institute Sam Yau commented, “Known as the birthplace of the human potential movement, Esalen has continued its role as an incubator of new cultural perspectives over the years. Esalen’s Center for Theory & Research, under the direction of its Founder Michael Murphy, continues to foster innovative approaches to America’s problems, such as those that will be explored at its upcoming Conclave on Political Polarization.”

See the main agenda topics for the Conclave on Political Polarization and list of participants and their biographies.