Nation-State Ideology and the Great Transition

Glen T. Martin

If the “nation-state” ideology is not discussed politically in the light of a new vision of human life, and a theoretical successor is found that is worthier than preceding ideologies, the project will remain a barren intellectual exercise. Discussion of the nation-state problem is not merely about looking for a new technique for redistributing the products of a “world market,” or for keeping the peace by an ever more precarious “balance of power,” and the like. The discussion must involve the complete vision of Man and the universe. The nation-state is not merely a “political” problem. 

Raimon Panikkar, 2013, 359

Panikkar wrote this paragraph apparently unaware that “a theoretical successor that is worthier than preceding ideologies” has been found in the form of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.  Yet for Panikkar a need for a theoretical model superseding the ideology of nation-states would have to be encompassed within a fundamental transformation of our world view itself.  We must abandon our fragmentation, smallness, and disunity and begin living from the wholeness and fullness of life itself.

Overcoming the nation-state ideology, therefore, must be integral to human beings moving to a new level of awareness, a new contemplation and action, deriving from the integral cosmic wholeness manifested in us as body, mind, and spirit. We must become aware of the real (no longer living from either classical or contemporary distorted or reductionist paradigms). What is real is that our lives and the entire cosmos are embraced by the divine mystery—the unsayable but utterly present fulness of existence that is the third dimension of the real (after mind and body) that is essential for the fulness and deep meaningfulness of life (see Martin 2018).

A key component in this deep realization is the clear understanding of the oneness of our human project on a level that is not merely theoretical but actualized in practice through ratification of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. It does little good to pontificate about the oneness of humanity (as so many of today’s “spiritual” thinkers do) while resting content in the utter fragmentation of militarized nation-states interfaced with global capitalist competition creating absolute winners and losers.

The theoretical model undergirding nation-state ideologies is the Westphalian model, first formulated, many scholars affirm, at the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 at the end of the 30-years War in Europe. This theoretical model assumed that the world could operate with a multiplicity of autonomous, territorially defined regions all living together with no binding authority or framework over them all.  In the 17th century, when this model appeared, there was very little understanding of the world as a holistically interconnected unity embracing all of nature, humanity, and the ground of Being.

The ideology of nation-states makes of the nation a little God—glorifying a mythicized history of the nation, demanding blind loyalty, and criminalizing the disloyal as “traitors” or “terrorists.” In the United States, like many other countries, under the mantra of “national security,” they prosecute and persecute whistleblowers who expose the massive lies and corruption of the government. Handing out extensive prison sentences to citizens who expose the truth and the corruption inherent in institutions (like the military) organized around nation-state ideology. The nation forms not only the legal framework for citizenship (there are no legal world citizens only citizens as recognized by laws of autonomous nations) but the essence of a conventional identity (I am an American; I am Russian; I am Chinese, etc.).

The discussion looking for a worthier theoretical successor to the nation-state ideology, Panikkar says, must “involve a complete vision of Man and the universe.”  The Earth Constitution does not give us such a complete theoretical model. It is a practical blueprint for how human beings should govern themselves on this Earth.  However, it presupposes a theoretical framework, as do all such documents. It presupposes several things that were practically unknown in the mid-17th century when nation-state ideology first developed.

  1. Dignity. Even though a sense of human dignity (infinite worth) is found in all the great classical religious traditions, the 17th century cosmology presupposed by the founders of nation-state ideology largely ignored or devalued this sense of dignity upon which governments must be founded. The nation-state ideology, which legitimizes war in a multiplicity of ways, necessarily degrades the dignity of the “enemies,” of those who may be killed or “neutralized” through patriotic violence.
  2. Equality.  All people are equal in terms of their dignity and their human rights. Today we recognize this equality within a vast diversity unknown in the 17th century. Yet even the more limited diversity recognized by the 17th century deeply discriminated men from women, whites from blacks, superior nations from inferior nations, etc. Nation-state ideology fragments and hopelessly diminishes our universal human equality.
  3. Democracy.  Democracy means that the people participate in governing, and it also means that governing is directed toward the common good of all not for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many. Today, the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that the only legitimate governments are those that protect human rights and provide for the people’s participation in governing. Article 28 of the UN Declaration points beyond the UN Charter to a future “international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.” Nation-state ideology, denying such a future international order, ultimately defeats democracy.
  4. Human unity. The species-sameness of all human beings was understood by the 20th century.  In the 17th century they did not know about evolution. The theory of evolution and species-sameness has become integral to this transformed contemporary theoretical model.
  5. Third Generation Rights.  In the 17th century there was only a truncated view of universal human rights, since the idea of equal political rights only became popular in the 18th century. It was not until the 19th century that the idea of universal economic and social rights developed and not until the 20th century did the idea of planetary rights develop—rights to planetary peace and global environmental protection.  The ideology of the nation-state in itself includes none of these notions of universal rights. They are all embraced by the Earth Constitution (ibid., Martin 2018)
  6. Ecology. Only in the second half of the 20th century did the sense of a universal planetary ecosystem and interdependent planetary ecology develop in a popular sense. The ideology of the nation-state includes none of this (just as the UN Charter based on that ideology includes nothing about ecology). The Earth Constitution from start to finish integrates planetary ecology into global government.
  7. The smallness of the Earth. In the 17th century, the Earth appeared vast with vast distances and vast resources and unexplored continents. Today, with high-speed transport and communications we know that the Earth is small, and that our ideas of governing must integrate the smallness and interdependence of our planet.
  8. The common water, atmosphere, and biosphere of the Earth. In the 17th century there was no idea that the resources of the Earth are finite and should belong to the people of Earth.  It made sense to them to divide those resources according to sovereign nation-states. Today, this ethnocentric greed and fragmentation appear as madness. The new theory of nations is that they all should participate democratically in protecting and manifesting the sovereignty of the people of Earth who alone can be said to represent the essential resources of our planet. The Earth Constitution makes the oceans, the atmosphere, and our planet’s major resources the common property of the people of Earth.  They do not “belong” to nation-states (see Martin 2021).
  9. The common, interdependent planetary health of human beings. The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the fragmentation of the nations, each looking out for itself first before concern for other nations and peoples. The new paradigm under the Earth Constitution is premised on the interdependence of all persons with one another, the environment, and the cosmos. Our health requires the health of all, with a global health-care system equally available to all.
  10. Integration (with one another, nature, and the cosmos). The Earth Constitution presupposes integration, synergy, and cooperation among nations and peoples to create a decent world for everyone.  The ideology of nation-states, on the other hand, is happy with rich nations versus poor nations, with powerful imperial nations and weaker subservient nations, with some nations possessing WMDs while others are forbidden to possess WMDs.
  11. The falsehood of war. In the 17th century war may still have had some honor and meaning, since they were riding horses and using swords, inaccurate canon-balls, and primitive muskets.  Each nation felt it could defend itself since invading armies would be slow and resistance could be effective.  Today, such security is a total illusion in which any place on Earth can be wiped out instantly with high tech weapons. The ideology of national sovereignty no longer makes sense. The Earth Constitution sets up procedures for demilitarizing the nations and creating one universal federation of peace, justice, and sustainability, a truly new paradigm.
  12. The model of growth, evolution, and development. As mentioned above, the 17th century had no idea of evolution. Today we know that all species evolve, and that human history is a story of evolutionary change over the centuries. The Earth Constitution provides for on-going development of historical change and presupposes the evolution of human civilization.
  13. The sense of the whole and the interdependence of all things—the unity in diversity of the cosmos, nature, and human life. This last component of the transformed assumptions behind the Earth Constitution in many ways sums up this entire list. The ideology presupposed by the nation-state system had no idea of the discoveries that would be made by relativity physics and quantum physics in the 20th century that would change the entire framework of human thought. The Earth Constitution presupposes this 20th century background and its integration of human life in a global democracy based on the principle of unity in diversity that is truly transformative (ibid. Martin 2021).

The Constitution, therefore, in terms of its background assumptions, really does fulfill Panikkar’s demand that “the discussion must involve the complete vision of Man and the universe.” The complete vision is holism: the deep holistic interrelationship of body, mind, and spirit that expresses the real in human life and thought. The holism upon which the Constitution is based is a concrete reflection of the holism discovered by 20th and 21st century sciences.

Nation-state ideology was largely a western invention that spread around the world insofar as it appealed to a universal ethnocentrism that characterizes nearly all peoples.  However, this list of features presupposed by the Earth Constitution transcends the East-West distinction and arises from a universality that characterizes our fundamental human situation in which we are all citizens of our common planet Earth, having evolved as a common species over millions of years.

The theoretical model behind the Earth Constitution far exceeds as well as supersedes the theoretical model on which nation-state ideology is based. Nation-state ideology in the 21st century is pure madness, sheer fanatical refusal to see the world clearly, a dogmatic rejection of all these advances beyond the 17th century. The Earth Constitution is “postmodern” in the sense that its assumptions transcend those of 17th century “modernity” and instead draw upon the emergent wholistic paradigm arising throughout the 20th century and culminating in the 21st century.

It is true that the rethinking of the nation-state ideology must be within the context of a rethinking of all human existence and a renewed link with the ground of Being—with the deep mystery of existence, with the real as manifested in body, mind, and spirit.  Uniting humanity in practice through ratifying the Earth Constitution is a key step on the way to the awakening of humanity to our real human condition in which we participate directly in the very foundations of existence, and in which the fulness of life must be discovered that finds meaning and joy in the very act of living on our precious planet Earth within this ecstatic and unspeakably beautiful cosmos.

Works Cited

Constitution for the Federation of Earth. Found on-line at and

Martin, Glen T. (2018). Global Democracy and Human Self-Transcendence: The Power of the Future for Planetary Transformation. London: Cambridge Scholars.

Martin, Glen T. (2021). The Earth Constitution Solution: Design for a Living Planet. Independence, VA: Peace Pentagon Press.

Panikkar, Raimon (2013). The Rhythm of Being: The Unbroken Trinity. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.