This exploration of core principles that can inform a Planet of Cities, needs to be unpacked in two ways so it is useful for our inquiry.

Integral City Compass

First let’s define what a principle is and second let’s set the scope of what we will consider in this series of explorations. We start with the definition.

Oxford Online Dictionary defines principle in this way. (Note that I have underlined key words and changed or added the italicized examples to relate to the Integral City).



  • 1a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behaviour or for a chain of reasoning:the basic principles of city management
  •  (usually principles) a rule or belief governing one’s behaviour:Integral City Practitioners struggle to be true to their own principles
    [mass noun]:she resigned from the city committee over a matter of principle
  •  [mass noun] morally correct behaviour and attitudes:a Practitioner/Person of principle
  • 2a general scientific theorem or law that has numerous special applications across a wide field: the city is a complex adaptive system exhibiting behaviors of complex living systems.
  •  a natural law forming the basis for the construction or working of [an artefact like a machine or system]:these cities all operate on the same general principle
  • 3a fundamental source or basis of something:the first principle of all city-related things was life.
  •  a fundamental quality determining the nature of something:the combination of male and female principles
  •  [with adjective] Chemistry an active or characteristic constituent of a substance, obtained by simple analysis or separation:the active principle of water quality


in principle

as a general idea or plan, although the details are not yet established:the city government agreed in principle to a neighbourhood plan that was founded on mutual, trust and respect for all cultures
used to indicate that although something is theoretically possible, in reality it may not actually happen:in principle, the city manager sets the budget after comprehensive consulting with all city stakeholders

on principle

because of or in order to demonstrate one’s adherence to a particular belief:he refused, on principle, to pay city taxes for services he had not received
It can be seen from this definition that the emergence and discovery of principles is core to understanding Living Systems – and in particular human systems (including the city) – the Anthroposphere – that we identified in the last blog. A principle can be considered as a habit or rule, that the Living System has developed both for accomplishing outcomes in an agreed manner (effectiveness) and minimizing energy in the process (efficiency). A set of principles acts like a compass to keep a Living System internally aligned, externally adaptive and alive.
I notice that the Oxford Dictionary definition embraces all of the Integral Quadrants : (UL reasoning, attitude, belief; UR behaviours, constituents and scientific theorems; LL moral correctness; LR natural law). This seems to reflect the importance of each quadrant in considering principles related to Integral City Practice.
Finally I also observe that the discovery and identification of Principles is what differentiates a Practice – and especially a Community of Practice/Practitioners – from a mere Network of Practitioners. (And for those who already know about the framing of Meshworks, you can see that Principles are foundational to the very emergence of Meshworks.)
With this in mind, I think it is safe to say, that we couldn’t establish an Integral City Practice Field without discovering and identifying the Principles that underlie our Practice.