The False Dilemma of Unipolar vs Multipolar World Systems

Glen T. Martin    16 April 2022 

A common distinction in today’s mainstream debate concerning our world-system is between the idea of a “unipolar” world system versus a “multipolar” world system.  It is common for those who study international relations to characterize the USA as having been at the center of a unipolar world system for some decades. During the Cold War it was also said that the world system was “bipolar,” divided between two superpowers.

However, in the first decades of the 21st century, countries such as China, Russia, India, and Brazil have been growing in power while the economic and military domination of the USA has been diminishing. There is much talk about an emerging “multipolar” world and what this might mean for the future. What is the relation of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth to these mainstream discussions?

Mainstream scholars debate this issue within the context of their unspoken assumption that our world has no other options than unipolarity, bipolarity or multipolarity. The following quote from a recent paper exemplifies this assumption: “A return to a multi-polar world characterized by great powers rivalry is therefore more than a fable vagary or a theoretical hypothesis advanced by IR [International Relations] scholars, but it looms as a feasible and concrete scenario and a possible outcome for the near future. This shifting from unipolarity to multi-polarity could affect the stability of the future world order” (Varisco 2013).

This academic paper goes on to argue that with the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the on-going rivalry of the great powers, a multipolar world would not be any more stable or peaceful than previously. Ignored, within these discussions, is the fact our world is not merely facing the prospects of continued wars, and possible nuclear wars, as well as deep nation-state linked structural violence (Leech 2012), our world is facing planetary climate-collapse leading to possible human extinction within a planetary ecosystem that may not support higher forms of life within the next 100 years (Martin 2021).

These scholars of “international relations” limp along with assumptions about the “sovereign nation-state” system that originated at the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, some three and a half centuries ago. During the 17th century the newly arising scientific world view assumed that the world was a vast machine composed of innumerable parts called “atoms.” The representatives at the Peace of Westphalia were atomists and believed it made sense to divide the political world into a system of territorially-bound, independent sovereign nation-states.

It was not until the 20th century that the entire paradigm for understanding our universe began to dramatically change. Since then, it has been understood that atomism is simply false. It has no basis in reality. The world is a whole, and is composed of fields within fields of interdependent energy-centers. The new paradigm is holistic: everything is interrelated with everything else. The concept of an independent sovereign nation-state is a conceptual illusion colonizing the minds of today’s “scholars of international relations.” No wonder the climate is collapsing, and the proliferation of nuclear weapons threatens all humanity. The world is constructed on false premises, on an illusion. Unless we can convert our thinking to conform to the holistic reality, we are truly doomed.

The Constitution for the Federation of Earth constructs a world system premised on the truth of holism. Its preamble declares that the principle of unity in diversity “is the basis for a new age when war shall be outlawed and peace prevail; when the earth’s total resources shall be equitably used for human welfare.” The entire history of humanity is contradicted in this statement. The history of humanity is continuous wars in which the “earth’s total resources” have been wasted by territorial power-blocks on armies, weapons, and perpetual war-making. How can the Constitution so blatantly contradict human history?

The answer is in the paradigm-shift to holism. The Constitution constructs the political and economic institutions of the world on reality, on holism, on the fact of unity in diversity. If human beings ever decide to wake up and get real, then we can end war and use the resources of the Earth for human welfare. As long as we insist on perpetuating our fantasies of “multipolar” or “unipolar” worlds, we will continue headed toward self-destruction and extinction as a species.

The reality on which the Constitution is based is the “unity in diversity” of holism. The world is made-up of innumerable diversities of nations, races, religions, cultures, ethnicities, and individual persons. But science has also revealed that humanity is a whole, and the ecosystem of our planet is a whole, and the entire universe is a whole (Martin 2016). If we base our institutions on the truth of holism, then the consequences will be entirely different—truly ending war, truly sharing the resources of Earth for the common good of all.

The Constitution declares that sovereignty belongs to humankind, and it declares that the world government “shall be democratic in its own structure” (Article 2). Unity here is the people of Earth and their collective right to establish a world system that works for their common welfare, and diversity here is the democratic structure. Democracy means that the diversity of each is protected (universal human rights) through the unity of the whole. The “federation” created by the Earth Constitution is democratic, not “multipolar.”

The Earth Constitution places the legitimate power of government with the whole of humanity. It is not “shared” among some arrangements of semi-sovereign nation-states. Those world federalists who believe we must begin with a weak world confederation by “strengthening the UN,” etc., are still living under the atomistic delusions long abandoned by science.  When the whole of humanity is empowered democratically their government will have great legitimate power—the power to really promote the good of the whole over the contrary tendencies of multinational corporations and waring nation-states.

Political philosopher Hannah Arendt writes that “power needs no justification, being inherent in the very existence of political communities.” What needs justification, she says, is violence, and the less democratic power any government has the more it will require illigitimate violence to rule (1969, 52-55). Power under an ecologically and humanly based world system will be qualitatively different from today’s power that is always enforced through overt, clandestine, or structural forms of violence. The world government will be powerful because it represents the whole, but it will be strictly limited because it is set up (with all sorts of limits, checks, and balances) to protect diversity, that is universal human rights (Martin 2016, Chap. 7).

Under the current fragmented world system, it is impossible to end war and it is impossible to protect our planetary ecosystem from collapse. The UN Sustainable Development Goals, for example, declare in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) document, item 16: “we affirm that every State has, and shall freely exercise, full permanent sovereignty over all its wealth, natural resources, and economic activity.” Here we have the illusory foundations of the multipolar world system. Within the UN system, the Earth’s total resources do not belong to humanity, for the common good of all and future generations, they are divided among absolute territorial entities, and often parceled out as the private property of multinational corporations. Humanity is not united, and the world is doomed to self-destruction (Martin 2021, Chap. 6).

Under this SDG document, for example, Brazil is free to continue destroying “the Lungs of the Earth.” Contrast this with Article 4 of the Earth Constitution. The fundamental resources of the Earth belong to the people of Earth. The Oceans, the atmosphere, the geological features essential to our planetary ecosystem (such as the Lungs of the Earth) all belong to the people, because humanity is a whole and the planetary ecosystem is a whole and the authority of government needs to be based on these realities, not on the illusion of some “multipolar” world system.

As deep thinkers such as Buckminster Fuller (1972) and Errol E. Harris (2000) declared: the logic of a holistic system moves the parts toward synergy and harmony, whereas the logic of a fragmented system moves the parts toward disharmony and conflict. The Earth Constitution creates a world system that is neither unipolar, nor bipolar, nor multipolar. It does not eliminate nations states but includes them within a much greater holism called the people of Earth. Our unity is our common humanity, and our diversity includes not only nations but races, religions, cultures, and billions of individual persons.

The Constitution is not pasting nations together in a strengthened UN system under the illusion that their “sovereign” status makes them somehow a primary reality determining the structure of some future federation. The Constitution creates the House of Nations to represent them as a component of human diversity that complements the all-embracing unity of a World Parliament with three houses representing the unity in diversity of the whole. “Federation,” under the Constitution means real union. The “logic of holism” is the logic of reality itself, and unless we begin governing ourselves based on realities rather than illusions, we do not have much hope for survival and flourishing.

The Earth Constitution can truly declare that under its principle of “unity in diversity” it will be able to disarm the nations and establish world peace, and it will be able to use the world’s resources for the good of all, not for the few as now—not for the good of individual nations nor the good of super-wealthy corporations and individuals. The Constitution gives us a nonviolent revolution, a paradigm-shift, that truly changes things—truly making possible a synergy and harmony that are impossible under the present dysfunctional world system.  For the sake of ourselves, our children, and the sacred divine mission bequeathed to humanity by the ground of Being, we need to ratify this Earth Constitution.

Works Cited

Arendt, Hannah (1969). On Violence. New York: Harcourt Brace & Co.

Constitution for the Federation of Earth. On-line at and In print with the Institute for Economic Democracy Press, Appomattox, Virginia, USA.

Fuller, Buckminster (1972). Operating Manuel for Spaceship Earth. New York: Pocket Books.

Harris, Errol E. (2000). Apocalypse and Paradigm: Science and Everyday Thinking. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.

Leech, Garry (2012). Capitalism: A Structural Genocide. London: Zed Books.

Martin, Glen T. (2016). One World Renaissance: Holistic Planetary Transformation through a Global Social Contract. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.

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

Varisco, Andrea Edoardo (2013). “Towards a Multi-Polar International System: Which Prospects for Global Peace?” On-line at E-International Relations website: