Planetary Maturity and Our Global Social Contract. Part Two: The Social Contract

Glen T. Martin

                                                                     March 2014     

In Part One of this article, we saw that the astonishing biological, linguistic, and cultural coherence of the human race is complemented by the substantial agreement among developmental thinkers concerning the stages of cognitive and moral maturity characteristic of both individuals and the human species.  As a species and as persons we are capable of growing beyond egoism and ethnocentrism to a ‘world-centric’ and ‘integral’ mode of living that embody the holism of our planet Earth, its living creatures, and even the universe.  Part One pointed out that my book Millennium Dawn (2005), called this ‘planetary maturity’ and argued that we need a global social contract to complement this maturity. In this concluding section, I want to discuss the holism of our situation in more detail and apply it to what I believe is the most promising candidate for a binding global social contract capable of lifting humanity beyond the apparently lethal global problems that now endanger our future.  Part One already identified this as the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.

         My subsequent books, such as Ascent to Freedom: Practical and Philosophical Foundations of Democratic World Law (2008)and Triumph of Civilization: Democracy, Nonviolence, and the Piloting of Spaceship Earth (2010), explicated the holism emerging from all the sciences and indicated by the phrase ‘planetary maturity.’ These books present an analysis showing how the planetary economic and nation-state system can and must be transformed into a global social contract, embracing the rights, dignity, and freedom of all citizens of the Earth under the democratic rule of a World Parliament premised on the principle of unity-in-diversity. There is simply no other viable way to establish a beneficent world-system that embraces the coherence and integration of human development, protects the planetary environment, establishes sustainable economic principles for the Earth, as well as ends war and disarms the nations to the point where their diversity can be embraced and celebrated rather than fragmented into endless conflicts.

         Critics of this idea of global democratic government often project their present experience of the oppressive, militarized, national security-state onto a planetary scale and claim that they fear a global tyranny. But the maturity on which the Constitution for the Federation of Earth is based is world-centric, compassionate, universalistic, and transformative.  You cannot have the oppressive, militarized, national security state without enemies, and the Earth Constitution most fundamentally does away with the concept of national ‘allies’ or ‘enemies’ that functions as the dark underbelly of the concept of a sovereign state recognizing no effective law over itself. Sovereign states, almost by definition, are states in economic and military competition with other states for power, resources, and markets. Global tyranny may come about when one state dominates all the others, putting weapons in space, militarized drones in every continent, and achieving a ‘full-spectrum dominance’ over all air, lands, and oceans. However, the Earth Federation is precisely the structural change designed to prevent such tyranny and make it impossible while, at the same time, empowering the emerging holistic paradigm.

         The Earth Constitution eliminates this war and this competition-model (the so-called ‘political realism’ by which most nation-states continue to operate today) and initiates the ‘unity-in-diversity’ model of planetary maturity. Since the degree to which institutions condition human consciousness is today common knowledge, it should be clear that the unity-in-diversity model of mature planetary government will quickly transform the thinking of human beings to one of participating in a common future and cooperatively dealing with global issues like food security, education, environmental sustainability, and the ending of war. Just as today’s militarized, national-security states tend to attract thoughtless and immature persons and place them in positions of power so the global social contract will clearly attract, and elect, more mature persons as leaders and officials.

         As philosopher of law John Finnis points out, in the modern world of the past few centuries the nation-state has presented itself has the ideal of a ‘complete community’ capable of addressing the needs and aspirations of its citizens. However, in today’s globalized world, we see that this is not the case: “we must conclude that the claim of the national state to be a complete community is unwarranted and the postulate of a national legal order…is…a ‘legal fiction’.” [i] And as 20th century philosopher Errol E. Harris concluded: “As the sole condition on which sovereign power can be legitimized is that it can maintain the conditions of the good life, strictly speaking the nation-state is no longer the legitimate bearer of sovereign authority.”[ii]

         Our endangered environment and the possibility of nuclear holocaust (that still very much exists as Chomsky points out in a recent article[iii]) are forcing reluctant humanity to reconsider the notion of ‘complete community’ as applicable to the entire human species. A complete community, Finnis states, is one that is bound together by enforceable democratically legislated laws making possible the actualization of each person’s potential for living a good life.[iv]  Harris agrees – the sovereign nation-state is no longer the legitimate bearer of authority. Its militarized natural-security mania exacerbates the dangers of war and simultaneously ignores our collapsing environment, making the nation-state a detriment to human well-being, rather than its protector. And its laissez-faire promotion of corporate capitalism violates every principle of democratic legitimacy. Our global social contract must institutionally prevent not only militarism but environmental and economic irresponsibility as well, and this is exactly what is done by the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.

         Study of the Earth Constitution reveals the multiplicity of ways that unity-in-diversity is not only written into its preamble but designed into the very foundations of the Earth Federation government, drawing, in dozens of ways, on every continent, every country, every race, and every religion in the framing of global laws protecting human rights, ending war (and disarming the nations), protecting the environment (and converting to sustainable economics), and ending poverty and disease worldwide. This principle converts the autonomous, sovereign nation-states into federated units governing themselves regionally within a democratic constitutional framework for all, and it converts exploitative corporate capitalism to a beneficent global economics promoting sustainability within reasonable economic freedom and equality for all. Militarism is abolished by law, and the constitution institutionalizes not only peace but a protected planetary environment as fundamental human rights.

         The phrase ‘global social contract’ symbolizes the integration and developing maturity of human consciousness. People agree to work together, in a concrete and practical global democracy, to solve our problems and advance from a war and scarcity world-system to a peace and prosperity world-system. That is their ‘contract’ – mutual cooperation, unity-in-diversity, and the rule of democratically legislated due process of law for everyone on Earth. The phrase ‘social contract’ is used this way, for example, by contemporary political theorist Benjamin Barber.[v] As such, the phrase has positive connotations connected with the development of our human project toward world-centric, coherent, and compassionate relationships. The ‘global social contract’ changes the paradigm by which we understand our Earth and the human project from a war, violence, conflict, and tyranny model to a peace, nonviolence, cooperation, and freedom model.

         The ratification of the Earth Constitution and the foundation of the Federation of Earth need not be accomplished only by advanced ‘integral thinkers’, nor by exclusively ‘world-centric’ individuals. Nearly every person can understand the advantages of ending war, protecting the environment, and eliminating severe poverty. However, once established, its ‘integral’ and coherent structure will immediately begin moving the people of Earth into the needed paradigm shift (already inherent in the Constitution) from fragmentation to unity-in-diversity. Even the world police, under the Constitution, are trained in conflict resolution, protection of universal human rights, and nonviolent methods of apprehension.

         Neither is the phrase ‘global social contract’ intended here to indicate the specific content of the traditional social-contract theory of John Locke, or any of the other 18th century social contract theorists. They popularized the phrase, but the 21st century assigns a very different meaning. It no longer means the idea of autonomous individuals who claim a priori rights over and against government and who form government primarily for the protection of their personal ‘life, liberty, and property’. The model of democracy developed by Locke (that is substantially at the heart of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution) is not the model of democracy as understood by persons of planetary maturity, persons who have developed their ability for an insightful and mature critical social theory, compassion, and active nonviolence.

         The Lockean model divides the planet into a collection of sovereign states that, effectively, recognize no law above themselves. In the 17th and 18th and early 19th centuries, not only Locke, but Baruch Spinoza, Thomas Hobbes, Immanuel Kant, and G.W.F. Hegel recognized that the system of sovereign nations was inherently a ‘war-system’, since there was no social contact among the nations themselves, and the system meant that nations recognized no effective laws above themselves – resulting in what Hobbes called a ‘war of all against all’ at the interstate level.

         The Lockean model also fetishizes the unlimited accumulation of ‘private property’ as a natural right that is intrinsic to human freedom. The irrationality and inhumanity of this ideology is manifest all around us in the world today. The Earth Constitution by no means abolishes private property and considers this a right. But it converts the global economic system to a debt-free system that puts the reasonable common good of all the people of Earth at the heart of the global social contract.  The global community, integrated together under the rule of democratically legislated law, will no longer be enslaved to multi-national banking cartels, and no longer condemned to perdition under IMF or World Bank austerity programs that harm the 99% in order to secure the wealth and power of the 1%.

         As the present system of neo-Lockean, and neo-Hobbsian nation-states continues to endanger human civilization itself with the possibility of nuclear war, as well as engulfing the world in the perpetual violence of the wars on terrorism and numerous local wars, while at the same time ignoring an ever-spreading global poverty and rapidly escalating climate collapse, we ask what practical options are available to humanity if we wish to establish a viable and decent future for the world’s two billion children?  The only truly practical and reasonable answer is ratification of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.

         The Constitution was written through a process of four constituent assemblies between 1968 in Interlaken, Switzerland, and 1991 in Troia, Portugal, each attended by a large international constituency of world citizens, international lawyers, and integral thinkers. It is a document that embodies, in dozens of ways, a critical social understanding of our flawed, Hobbesian world-system, a deep compassion for the equality, freedom, and dignity of all human beings, and the insight concerning how to establish a nonviolent world-system free of both structural and military forms of violence, a world based, as Mahatma Gandhi expressed it, on truth rather than lies.[vi]

         The best way to proceed to establish a global social contract that both stems from and promotes planetary maturity is to work for the ratification of the Earth Constitution under the criteria specified in Article 17. It is the only real, viable option available to humanity since all other initiatives, for example, environmental activism, human rights work, disarmament work, etc., form only partial initiatives that will ultimately require the global protection of democratically legislated world law. Not only this, but all partial initiatives tend to leave the global economic and sovereign nation-state system in place, thereby ultimately engaging in positive work that is ultimately defeated by the system itself.  Our global social contract, on the other hand, goes right to the heart of our multifaceted and interconnected problems. It places human relationships on the principle of unity-in-diversity and frames these relationships within enforceable, democratically legislated laws.

         The Earth Constitution is found in many places on the internet and is available from publishers in printed form. It has been translated into some 23 languages and is the best known and most widely admired of the various ‘constitutions’ that have been proposed for the Earth. We are not talking about some vague, idealistic ‘Earth Charter’ or unrealizable ‘Millennium Development Goals’. We are talking about a real constitution that provides the procedures and protocols for equitable world laws, enforceable over all individuals.  The Constitution does not abolish the U.N. but integrates the many valuable U.N. agencies into a democratic framework that gives the Earth Federation government the real authority to end war, protect human rights, and protect our global environment. 

         As Part One pointed out, integral theorist Ken Wilber has constructed a typology of the systems by which human beings have organized their civilizations on this planet, from ancient times to the a future of integration and planetary coherence.[vii] If we really want an ‘integral theory of everything’ as Wilber proposes, we need to add near the top of his ‘systems’ typology the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.  This may not be the highest system that human beings will attain in their development toward ever-higher levels of consciousness and organization, but it is exactly the global social contract that is needed for the 21st century. 

         This is the century that will determine whether we survive to further develop our unimaginably vast human potential. It will not happen unless we establish a real paradigm-shift away from the fragmented systems that now threaten our future on this planet and establish a holistic peace-system, sustainability-system, and justice-system that makes possible that transformed future. The key document for this vital transition of civilization from fragmentation to unity-in-diversity is in our hands, only thirty pages long, ready to go. We need to act from our developing planetary maturity, for the sake of our children and the future, and establish a global social contract through ratification of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.

(Glen T. Martin is Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Program in Peace Studies at Radford University. He is author of nine books and dozens of articles concerning human liberation, democracy, and the philosophy of law. He was also a 2013 recipient of the GUSI International Peace Prize.)

[i]  Finnis, John, Natural Law and Natural Rights. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980, Chapter VI.6.

[ii] Harris, Errol E., Twenty-first Century Democratic Renaissance: From Plato to Neoliberalism to Planetary Democracy. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press, 2008, p. 132.

[iii] Chomsky, Noam.

[iv]  Finnis, Op. Cit.

[v]  Barber, Benjamin, “The War of All Against All: Terror and the Politics of Fear,” in Verna V. Gehring, ed., War After September 11. New York: Roman and Littlefield Publishers, 2003.     

[vi] Martin, Glen T., ed., A Constitution for the Federation of Earth: with Historical Introduction, Commentary, and Conclusion. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press, 2010.  See Gandhi, M.K., Gandhi: An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth. Boston: Beacon Press, 1993.

[vii] Wilber, Ken, The Integral Vision. Boston: Shambhala, 2007. See also Wilber, Integral Psychology: Consciousness, Spirit, Psychology, Therapy. Boston: Shambhala, 2000.