Review of Ervin Laszlo’s Book Global Shift Now: A Call to Evolution
Glen T. Martin
In his new book Global Shift Now: A Call to Evolution, Ervin Laszlo addresses our crying need to rapidly evolve our values, attitudes, and institutions to create a new world after the global pandemic. The book presents annotated lists of the values that have failed us and outlines the transformed values that will be necessary for human survival and flourishing. We must emerge from the global pandemic doing the following (2020, 32-33):
- Shift from competition to partnership
- Shift from greed to sufficiency and caring
- Shift from outer to inner authority
- Shift from separation to wholeness
- Shift from mechanistic to living systems
- Shift from organizational fragmentation to coherent integration
He goes on to explain how these shifts in value orientations will lead to a new economics of sufficiency, sustainability, and resilience, to a new culture of respect for diversity in which persons “find solidarity and love linking them with their fellow humans, and with the universe at large” (ibid., 37).
We need a transformed economics and a transformed culture but also a “shift from organizational fragmentation to coherent integration.” “Organizational fragmentation”? Could Laszlo mean the ultimate absolute fragmentation of humanity into militarized sovereign nation-states? He goes on to talk about the compelling need for cultural transformation but does not pursue the concept of “organizational fragmentation” which, one would think, also gives us a compelling need for organizational transformation.
In the earlier books of his that I have read (see Works Cited), he does not present any direct critique of national sovereignty even though he takes a systems approach and recognizes that ideally “social systems, like systems in nature, form ‘holarchies’…. There are many levels, and yet there is integration” (1996, 51). And he recognizes a problem with nation-states in his 2008 book: “For states the goal of extensive growth is territorial sovereignty, including sovereignty over the human and natural resources of the territories” (2008, 48).
In this new little book called Global Shift Now! A Call to Evolution, we encounter some brief but serious calls to question the system of militarized, autonomous nation-states.
One of these features of this new world (by the year 2030, he says) will be the abolition of “pretentions to sovereignty”:
The world of 2030 is globally whole but locally diverse. Sovereign nation-states, the inheritance of the modern age, have given way to a transnational world where nations are one, even if an important level of political organization, without pretentions to sovereignty…. In some areas—including trade and finance, information and communication, peace and security, and environmental protection—decision making is entrusted to global forums. This, however, allows a significant level of autonomy on local, national, and regional levels. (2020, 72-73)
The areas of global decision-making that he lists will be made by “the United Regions Organization,” the global-level body created by reform of the United Nations Organization” (ibid., 73). This organization will include “the European Union, the North American Union, the Latin American Union, the North African-Middle Eastern Union, the Sub-Saharan African Union, the Central Asian Union, the South and Southeast Asian Union, and the Australian-Asia-Pacific Union” (ibid., 73-74).
Earlier in the book, in an error unbelievable in its proportions, Laszlo asserts that the First World War was concluded in the “Peace Treaty of Westfalia” that “conferred on nation-states the ‘inalienable right’ to have an independent government, internationally recognized boundaries…. The formally constituted nation-state became the sole political authority, the only entity possessing legal and political sovereignty” (ibid., 56). In reality the Peace of Westphalia concluded the 30 Years War in the year 1648. This conception of national sovereignty has been with the world some 370 years, not merely since World War I as Laszlo asserts.
None of the seven peace treaties that concluded WWI had this name. The primary treaty was the Treaty of Versailles. How could someone of Laszo’s vast knowledge make this mistake? Perhaps the book was written by one of his assistants? Nevertheless, his name is on the cover.
The difference in dating is so serious and fundamental because in 1648 the conception of independent sovereign nation-states perhaps made some sense, since people were riding horseback and armies were fighting primarily with swords. By the time of WWI, the idea of militarized sovereign nation-states recognizing no effective laws above themselves was already a glaring absurdity.
During WW I advanced thinkers such as Rosika Schwimmer from the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom (who was also a founder of the Women’s Peace Party in 1915) understood that this horrific war of mass slaughter was itself the product of the system of sovereign nation-states recognizing no enforceable laws above themselves (see Martin 2010). Indeed, nearly all the astonishing brutalities of the 20th century can be linked to this bizarre system of unaccountable militarized sovereign nation-states—from imperialism to genocides to the destruction of our planetary biosphere.
Now we human beings find ourselves in the year 2020 and major thought leaders like Ervin Laszlo appear to be just beginning to seriously challenge the conception of absolute national sovereignty, something he does not do in his previous books. Throughout western history, many major thinkers have already challenged this notion going back to the 17th century when it was born (from Spinoza to Hobbes to Locke to Kant to Hegel, etc.), as I have showed in many of my books and articles (e.g., Martin 2008).
Challenging the absurd notion of absolute national sovereignty is one thing. Proposing a credible substitute for it is something entirely different. According to Laszlo, within the next 10 years the world must form seven regional unions comparable to the European Union and then unite these regions under a global body called the “United Regions Organization.” This vision and proposal appear to me as nothing short of bizarre.
The European Union alone took some 70 years to develop and is still quite inadequate because it refuses central public banking and other necessary features of true union. This inadequacy can be seen in the brutal treatment of Greece when it was facing bankruptcy. Instead of working as a union to save one of its members, it castrated Greece and forced it into radical austerity status.
Does Laszlo seriously expect our world to work out some seven additional regional unions and then develop a “United Regions Organization” with authority over peacekeeping, trade and finance, and environmental protection within the next ten years? A plan that appears to have no blueprint, no advance work done, and no advance worldwide recognition? How is it that serious thinkers can stray so far from common sense and clarity? Laszlo appears unaware of all the work done by world federalist thinkers going back to World War I?
The fact is: human beings have a simple, clean and elegantly written blueprint for uniting the world as a “holarchy” on the basis of global democratic principles. It is called the Constitution for the Federation of Earth and it has been around for decades, while also translated into dozens of languages. It is known worldwide and has tens of thousands of followers around the world. It organizes the world as a bottom-up democracy from 1000 electoral districts planetwide. It removes sovereignty from the nations, demilitarizes them, and brings them as participating regions into a global cooperating community. It gives significant autonomy to local, national, regional levels of social-political-economic organization.
It is already written—a completed document and ready for ratification (www.earth-constitution.org). Here is something that could truly be accomplished within the next 10 years, a transformation that would save the environment, disarm the militarized world, and create the Earth as a global cooperative community of unity in diversity. According to Laszlo the responsibilities of any “global level organization” would be as follows:
The Global level is the lowest level in regard to ensuring peace and security and regulating the global flow of goods, money, and knowledge. It is also the level for coordinating the information that flows on global networks of communication. Its objective is to harmonize policies dedicated to ensuring the integrity of the processes that maintain equilibrium in the biosphere. (2020, 74)
This describes very closely the functions of the Integrative Complex as formulated by the Earth Constitution and placed at the very heart of the Earth Federation government. Peace, security, knowledge flow, and global economics are all part of the democratically run Integrative Complex. As Laszlo affirms, our world really is in terrible crisis due to the global pandemic. As he also affirms, we need to evolve rapidly and consciously in global culture, economics, and organization.
The Earth Constitution provides all of these things within a framework that allows for ratification and implementation within the next 10 years. Indeed, under Article 19, we can begin doing these things now. We do not have to wait upon the formation of global regional unions and some speculative uniting of these regions under a “United Regions Organization.” Let us pass over abstractions and absurdities and take the practical steps for transformation that are available to us here and now.
It is time we got real. It is time step beyond our lists of noble ideals as are found in the Earth Charter and many of Laszlo’s books. It is time to actualize these ideals according to a practical blueprint that has already been worked out by hundreds of world citizens working together over a period of 23 years through a process of four Constituent Assemblies.
Not the “Earth Charter,” nor a pledge of “Declarations of Interdependence” as found on-line, nor “The Ten Commandments of Living in a World of Diversity” as found in this book by Laszlo (pp. 70-71). Pious ideals will not do it. We need to legally, effectively, transcend the destructive system of militarized sovereign nation-states recognizing no effective laws above themselves.
We need action and a real, effective democratic Constitution for the Federation of Earth. We do not need to begin theoretically formulating new organizational documents in an attempt to define a transformed future. We already have the key document that we need.
It institutionalizes a future of peace, justice and sustainability for all humankind. What can and must be done now is organizing systems for voting. Our next practical step both now and after the pandemic must be for secure on-line voting that can ratify and implement the Earth Constitution. The future of our planet is at stake. We need to act now.
Laszlo, Ervin (1996). The Systems View of the World. A Holistic Vision for Our Time. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, Inc.
Laszlo, Ervin (2006). Science and the Reenchantment of the Cosmos. The Rise of the Integral Vision of Reality. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions Publisher.
Laszlo, Ervin (2007). Science and the Akashic Field. An Integral Theory of Everything. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions Publisher.
Laszlo, Ervin (2008). Quantum Shift in the Global Brain. How the New Scientific Reality Can Change Us and Our World. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions Publisher.
Laszlo, Ervin with Anthony Peake (2014). The Immortal Mind. Science and the Continuity of Consciousness Beyond the Brain. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions Publisher.
Laszlo, Ervin (2014). The Self-Actualization Cosmos. The Akasha Revolution in Science and Human Consciousness. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions Publisher.
Laszlo, Ervin, Jean Houston & Larry Dossey (2016). What Is Consciousness? Three Sages Look Behind the Veil. New York: SelectBooks, Inc.
Laszlo, Ervin with Alexander Laszlo (2016). What is Reality? The New Map of Cosmos and Consciousness. New York: SelectBooks, Inc.
Laszlo, Ervin (2017). The Intelligence of the Cosmos. Why Are We Here? Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions Publisher.
Laszlo, Ervin (2020). Global Shift Now! A Call to Evolution. Cardiff, CA: Waterside Publications.
Martin, Glen T. (2008). Ascent to Freedom: Practical & Philosophical Foundations of Democratic World Law. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.
Martin, Glen T. (2010). Constitution for the Federation of Earth. With Historical Introduction, Commentary, and Conclusion. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.