The Socialist Imperative and Our Global Social Contract

  1. Human Beings Growing Toward Moral Maturity


Humanity is struggling to emerge from a long history of cruelty, barbarism, and savagery. As Jonathan Glover shows in his book Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century, we are not very far along in the quest “of the human species as it struggles to escape from its brutal past.”  The use of technology in mass exterminations, the dehumanizing of “enemies” and closing of our hearts against the “others,” the lack of compassion for those of different nations, races, or religions have been rampant phenomena throughout the 20th century to the present. Glover is not optimistic that “either torture or cruel punishment is certain to fade away as the human race grows up” (2000: 41 & 39).


But grow up we must, for time is rapidly running out before our savagery, combined with awesome technologies of mass destruction, obliterates the entire hope, beauty, and promise of our human project. The psychologists and philosophers of human development have reached a broad consensus concerning the stages of moral, emotional, spiritual, and cognitive development. Upon reaching adulthood we are capable of continuous growth toward becoming ever-more “worldcentric.”  We are capable of becoming ever-more “integrated” and “integrating” persons, embracing the vast diversity of humanity and other sensitive living creatures with an encompassing love, compassion, kindness, and friendship. We are capable of replacing violence and fragmentation with the harmony of compassionate unity in diversity.


The resources open to us to enhance this growth process include philosophical reflection, meditation, holistic education, and institutional reform. People are more easily led to the dehumanizing of others, to a lack of care for others and hardness of heart, when they are devoid of all or some of these resources. Lack of access to these resources can result in cultures and institutions that promote bigotry, fear, narrowness, ethnocentrism, racism, and the dehumanization of others that accompany these responses.


The socialist imperative is the imperative of our emerging human maturity in which we discover that we are one humanity in whom reason and love must develop to the point where we make the Earth a decent home for all its children. However today, as philosopher and psychologist Erich Fromm points out, the only oneness recognized by the present Lords of the Earth is our planet as both a battleground for global wars and a giant marketplace for capital accumulation. Philosopher and psychoanalyst Erich Fromm declares that we need a new, worldwide “socialist humanism” in which economics is placed in the service of human flourishing and well-being:


The one world is one, so far, inasmuch as it is one potential battlefield, rather than a new system of world citizenship. We live in one world, yet in his feelings and thoughts contemporary man still lives in the nation state. His loyalties are still primarily to sovereign states and not to the human race. This anachronism can only lead to disaster…. The alternative of socialism or barbarism has become frighteningly real today, when forces working toward barbarism seem to be stronger than those working against it. (1962: 171-173)

For Fromm, we need a new renaissance of worldwide socialist humanism in which our “new technical powers” are used “for the sake of man”:  “it is a new society in which the norms for man’s unfolding govern the economy, rather than the social and political process being governed by blind and anarchic economic interests” (ibid. 173).


The socialist imperative is the moral imperative at the heart of human maturity: our personal individuality is not separable from our common humanity. Our love and compassion have grown to identify with the entire world, its human children and its living creatures. Education, economics, politics, and institutions need to be directed toward making our planet a decent place for all to live. We need one world with a world parliament that has the mandate and the vision to actualize a democratic socialist, loving, and sustainable environment for the entire Earth.


It is not only the new human maturity emphasizing the development of our reason and our love that advocates democratic socialism, the socialist imperative is also the moral imperative found at the heart of all the great scriptures of the world: the imperative for love, compassion, kindness, and friendship. It recognizes the moral demand at the heart of our human situation to recognize our common humanity with others and organize our institutions in such a way that protects and enhances the human dignity of everyone. In Christianity it is the universal love (agape) taught by Jesus. In Vedic religions it is the principle of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is one family).


With the growth of critical self-awareness among human beings especially since the 15th century, and prominently since the “Enlightenment” of the 18th century, the moral imperative found at the heart of the great scriptures of the world is being progressively disentangled from the dogmas, rituals, mantras and institutional frameworks of these religions.  From Immanuel Kant’s 18th century affirmation of human dignity independently of all religion to the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, it is now become possible, for the first time in history, to proclaim universal ethical principles independently of all religious scriptures: “recognition of the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.”


The democratic revolutions of the 18th century embodied the revolutionary idea of the equality of all citizens and their inherent “natural rights” existing independently of governmental authorities (which might deny those rights).  The U.S. Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson (a follower of British philosopher John Locke) declares: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”


The first generation of human rights was born: the rights to freedom, civil liberty, religion, assembly, habeas corpus, and due process of law. However, the 19th century with its industrial revolution saw the vast expansion of the capitalist system, with the so-called “right to private property” enshrined in laws that allowed the owners of factories to employ child labor, pay starvation wages to employees, force labor to work for 12 hours per day, and build factories replete with dangerous and unhealthy working conditions. This economic system created masses of extremely poor people living in horrific conditions struggling to survive while being exploited in every possible way to enhance the profits of the owners.


Moral outrage permeates the writings of Karl Marx and many other 19th century revolutionary critics of this horrific system of exploitation and degradation. Scholars such as José Miranda in his book Marx Against the Marxists (1986) show that the so-called “materialist” interpretation of Marx that repudiates the moral dimension in favor of historical forces operating independently of morality is false. Marx was steeped in the Bible and animated by a much deeper moral love and compassion than the “Bourgeois morality” that he repudiated.


The Socialist Imperative recognizes our common humanity, our “species being” as Marx called it, and the imperative of society to organize itself in ways that optimize human equality, dignity, and freedom. In this respect, the socialist imperative is fundamentally identical with the democratic imperative, for democracy is also the organization of society around human equality, dignity, and freedom. Our collective understanding of the moral requirement to recognize our common human dignity, emphasized by Kant in the 18th century, was now expanded in the 19th century with the birth of “second generation” rights: the rights to the conditions that make possible our individual human flourishing and development: education, health care, sanitation, and the basic necessities for life such as food, clothing, and shelter.


The U.N. Universal Declaration of 1948 includes both generations of rights. Article 25 declares: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”  The moral discourse of humanity and our ‘species being,’ now divorced from formal religions and forming the ground for a universal ethical discourse, affirms that economics and society must be organized to preserve human dignity and opportunity for all, even for the least privileged members of society. Human beings continued to grow toward moral maturity.


The worldwide recognition of multiple global crises activated understanding that there is a third generation of human rights. It is not enough to have civil liberties and one’s basic needs satisfied if there is constant war, fear, and violence nearly everywhere on Earth. It is not enough to have liberty and well-being if the global climate is collapsing all around us portending ever increasing disasters throughout our lives.


Human beings have a right to peace, and a right to a protected and wholesome planetary environment. Human rights become a coherent set of ideals surrounding our common humanity and our universal human dignity.  One cannot have some of these without the others. All these rights (and our corresponding responsibilities) form an integrated whole. Human dignity demands institutions that honor this dignity.


  1. The Socialist Imperative


The 4th century Greek fathers of the Christian Church understood the socialist imperative that was taught by Jesus the Christ: St. John Chrysostom (c. 349-407): “Do not say, ‘I am using what belongs to me.’ You are using what belongs to others. All the wealth of the world belongs to you and to the others in common, as the sun, air, earth, and all the rest.”  (Cort, 1988: 45)   St. Ambrose (c. 340-397): “God has ordered all things to be produced so that there should be food in common for all, and that the earth should be the common possession of all. Nature, therefore, has produced a common right for all, but greed has made it the right for a few.” (Ibid. 47)


In the 18th century, social philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau was to agree with St. Ambrose concerning the system of scarcity imposed when the resources of the earth became “the right of a few”:


The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying “This is mine,” and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: “Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.” (In Martin, 2008: 147)


Historian and Christian thinker Richard Henry Tawney in his book Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (1926) writes: “Compromise is as impossible between the Church of Christ and the idolatry of wealth, which is the practical religion of capitalist societies, as it was between the Church and the state idolatry of the Roman Empire” (In Cort, 1988: 173).


Christian thinker Enrique Dussel in his book Ethics and Community (1986) declares of sinners: “They totalize themselves, asserting themselves to be God, fetishizing the divinizing themselves. They fall into idolatry…. The act by which one asserts oneself to be the end of other persons—as factory owners think they have the right to the factory’s profit even though that profit be their workers’ hunger transformed into money—is idolatry…. These modern “gods” are the product of the “logic” of sin, of the domination of one human being over another….”  (1986: 19). For Dussel, the dominant world capitalist system creates a pseudo-morality for itself in order to justify and cover up its vast regime of domination and exploitation. This conventional morality is the negation of the socialist imperative taught by Jesus to love one another in a spirit of harmony and sharing.


For philosopher John Dewey (1859-1952): “The ultimate problem of production is the production of human beings. To this end the production of goods is intermediate and auxiliary. It is by this standard that the present system stands condemned…. The means have to be implemented by a social-economic system that establishes and uses the means for the production of free human beings associating with one another on terms of equality” (1993: 170). Economics and social institutions need to support the quest of each person to develop his or her potential.  This is the socialist imperative. However, for Dewey, capitalism reverses this imperative by sacrificing human beings to the drive for private profit.


For philosopher Michael Luntley (1990), capitalism destroys the capacity of people to pursue the good (including their own potential for development). It systematically obstructs moral pursuit of the good. It introduces an “atomism” in which each possesses a “negative freedom” to pursue his or her own welfare at the expense of nature and the community. It repudiates that normativity in which society collectively supports the development of each of its members and their cooperative effort to actualize justice, freedom, and truth within our human situation.


In his book Natural Law and Natural Rights (1980), philosopher of law John Finnis identifies seven intrinsically valuable goods some combination of which makes for a fulfilled and worthwhile human life. These are life, knowledge, practical reason, friendship, aesthetic experience, play, and religion (in the broad sense of a discerning a meaning to existence). Finnis mounts a powerful critique of the utilitarian doctrine that there can be some instrumental means to “achieving the greatest good of the greatest number” (a justification often used for capitalism).  Unrestrained competition in a “free market” does not create the greatest good. Rather it actively interferes with our common human pursuit of what is good. The fullness of any human life involves the ability to develop and participate in these goods along some or all or these multiple lines, and the common good of society involves the organization of economics and institutions to make this possible for all citizens.


Capitalism violates this common good. None of these intrinsic goods (“natural rights”) is identified as wealth or possessions. All of them require a genuine “community” that goes much deeper than the formal contractual basis of capitalist society: competing commercial persons and entities making legal contracts with one another. A “community,” Finnis insists, can only be completed when it is bound together by a constitution that “completes” the union, granting rights and responsibilities to all citizens and pursuing the common good of them all. At the planetary level, only a global social contract, with economics and institutions predicated on the common good of all, can complete and vivify the human community. This vision of the “completed community” is the democratic socialist vision.


For political philosopher Bernard Crick (1987):


Socialism has both an empirical theory and a moral doctrine. The theory is that the rise and fall of cohesion in societies is best explained not by the experience and perpetuation of elites (which is conservatism), nor by the initiatives and inventions of competitive individuals (which is liberalism), but by the relationship to the ownership and control of the means of production of the primary producers of wealth…. The doctrine asserts the primacy and mutual dependence of the values of ‘liberty, equality and fraternity’, and it draws on the theory to believe that greater equality will lead to more cooperation than competition, that this will in turn enhance fraternity and hence liberate from inhibition, restriction and exploitation both individual personality and the full productive potential of society. (79)


Just as John Dewey argues that the institutions of society should be directed toward the actualization of our human potential so Crick asserts that both individuals and the productive potential of society are enhanced by socialism. We have allowed wealth and power to dominate our so-called free societies to our own detriment. Contemporary social thinker Terry Eagleton writes: “We know that socialism has established itself when we are able to look back with utter incredulity on the idea that a handful of commercial thugs were given free rein to corrupt the minds of the public with Neanderthal political views convenient for their bank balances but for little else” (2011: 28). Donald Trump, now President of the United States, is a case in point.


Political thinker Andre Gorz affirms:


For socialists it is a question, to an increasing extent, of organizing society and sociability as spaces for individual emancipation and development…. Only through such solidaristic association and voluntary co-operation can individuals free themselves from their subordination to the uncontrolled logic of capital and market forces to become actors in the creation of a new society. To fight for socialism means concretely to claim the right of individuals to freedom, equality, physical integrity and self-determination, by acting so that the social conditions which conflict with this right are remodeled. (1994: 41)

Socialism does not mean central planning by some unaccountable elite. Democratic socialism at this point in history will be a market socialism. It will combine the reputed efficiency of markets with the moral imperative that institutions and economics support the development of our higher human potential and pursuit of the good. Christopher Pierson writes:

The core principle of the market socialist position is easily stated. At its simplest, market socialism describes an economic and political system which combines the principles of social ownership of the economy with the continuing allocation of commodities (including labor) through the mechanism of markets…. [Market socialists] offer an alternative model in which markets are combined with varying forms of the social ownership of capital. Amongst its supporters, the market is recommended not only as a way of attaining greater economic efficiency under socialism, but also as a way of securing greater individual liberty or a more equal value of liberty, of increasing democracy and of enhancing social justice. (84-85)

The socialist imperative, therefore, involves the moral imperative to organize our institutions to enhance human freedom and well-being.  This is clearly not done when the wealth of the world is sucked up by a tiny minority of extremely wealthy persons and corporations. It is not a matter of government planning of everything. This is merely a red herring put forward by current ruling class propaganda to serve their own interests. As Gorz asserts above, capitalisms’ “uncontrolled logic” devastates human communities and the environment worldwide.  You cannot have uncontrolled and perpetual “growth” on a finite planet, and you cannot have the 1% sucking up the wealth of the planet, if we want a decent future for our children.

As Michael Harrington asserts in his 1972 book Socialism, socialism is not simply about an economic theory that says that ownership must be in the cooperative hands of people for the common good of everyone, it is also about “a truly new order of things” in which human fulfillment within the framework of a protected natural world is the foundation of our institutions and economic arrangements. For several thousand years, Harrington affirms, human beings have struggled in the “desert” of scarcity, deprivation, and unjust distributions of wealth. We have gotten used to this “bitter experience; we do not dare to think that things could be otherwise” (1972: 272)

But Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, quoted above, rings true. We have allowed the few to claim “private ownership” of what belongs to us all as our birthright: to live with freedom, peace, and well-being within a protected planetary environment. The few will always intone the mantra that this is impossible, that scarcity and deprivation are the natural human condition. But those who are morally awake and mature know that divine compassion, love, justice, and freedom need to become incarnate within our human condition.

We know that the socialist imperative embodies these principles. Our task is to end the wretched slavery, poverty and misery that plague our human condition where the few live well at the expense of the many. Our task, in the words of Jesus the Christ is to bring the Kingdom of God to Earth. Our task, expressed in the words of Article 28 of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is to actualize this: “Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.”  We are far from such a “world order” because we lack a global social contract.

  1. Our Global Social Contract

Just as we have seen Michael Luntley affirm that no common moral good for human life can arise from the “atomism” of capitalism, so the moral imperative that actualizes our third generation rights to peace and a protected environment cannot arise from the atomism and fragmentation of the system of so-called “sovereign” nation-states. Every nation believes it has the “right” to militarize because it is faced with potential enemies. In doing so, each fragmented nation-state becomes an unwitting enemy of humanity. Human beings have a genuine and unalienable right to a world order that actualizes all three generations of human rights, including peace, that is, to a world order united to create our planet as a decent home for all its citizens and other living creatures.

Today people who are born into small, poor nations appear to be born into a prison camp. They cannot travel beyond their tiny borders. No one wants them, and their chances for a flourishing life are severely restricted within their own nation, subject as it is to exploitation and domination within the global capitalist system and under the powerful imperial nations. Today, people born anywhere, whether in a large or small nation, are forced to pay for a militarization that violates their right to live in peace.  How many people in the world today who are not making a profit from the war system want to have war rather than peace?

The apparent necessity of this planetary war system is a direct result of the fragmentation and atomism of the system of territorially bound so-called “sovereign” states: as Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, and many others recognized. No state is willing to allow enforceable laws above itself.  Every state embraces this lawless world system of war, scarcity, suspicion, secrecy, hate and fear. Many nations claim the “right” to build nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, claiming the need for “self-defense” while increasing the terror of those at whom these weapons are aimed.

The capitalist system of domination and exploitation profits immensely from this war system. Great wealth is extracted from the development, manufacture, and sale of weapons worldwide. As many thinkers have pointed out, the capitalist system is intricately linked to the system of militarized territorial nation-states. The socialist imperative is the imperative to unite humanity around the principles of universal justice, equality, freedom, peace, and environmental sustainability.

It is not only the scourge of capitalism that prevents us from leaving the desert of historical scarcity for the promised land of human fulfilment. We cannot escape from the desert as long as we embrace the parochial concept of a world divided into absolute territorial fragments. The very existence of this fragmented, militarized world clearly violates Article 28 of the UN Universal Declaration. It violates our rights to peace and a protected planetary environment.

As many thinkers have pointed out from the 17th century to the present, the system of “sovereign” nation-states is intrinsically a “war-system.” In the early 21st century, we now know that we are one world, one humanity, one universal set of moral imperatives, and one interlinked destiny. Why do we continue to cling to the atomism and fragmentation, centuries old, that violates these truths?

Neither the word ‘capitalism’ nor the word ‘socialism’ appears in the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. Yet, the Constitution announces the socialist imperative at the very outset, in its Preamble. It proceeds to construct a world system that institutionally embodies these principles in a practical, organized, democratic manner.  The Preamble states:

Conscious that Humanity is One despite the existence of diverse nations, races, creeds, ideologies and cultures and 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; and when basic human rights and responsibilities shall be shared by all without discrimination….

The principle of unity in diversity declares that the wonderful diversity of humanity, its languages and cultures, must be embraced in a political, economic, and institutional unity that preserves and protects that diversity. We are all legal world citizens under the Earth Constitution with all the rights and responsibilities guaranteed in Articles 12 and 13. The socialist principle is articulated here in three dimensions: first war shall be outlawed and peace prevail. The socialist imperative is the imperative for social cooperation on behalf of the freedom, equality, and community of all people: a society and economy dedicated to the right of each person to develop her or her life potential. The right of peace is a necessary component in this equation.

Secondly, the Preamble states that the “new age” will be one in which the “earth’s total resources shall be equitably used for human welfare.” Again, the socialist imperative is affirmed. This planet and its resources must be equitably used for the benefit of all, not the 1% who own more than 50% of the world’s resources, not the richest 15% who currently own 85% of the world’s resources.

Third, the Preamble states that “basic human rights and responsibilities shall be shared by all without discrimination.” This affirms the socialist principle that our common human dignity must be protected and cherished through concrete economic and social institutions that guarantee all people equally both freedom and well-being. The basic idea of democracy, the basic requirements of universal moral principles, and the socialist imperative are one and the same. We are tasked as human beings to take back our planet Earth from the 1% and make it a decent home for all persons and other living creatures.

The Constitution sets up a World Parliament of three houses: a House of Peoples with 1000 representatives elected from equal districts worldwide, a House of Nations with 1, 2, or 3 representatives appointed or elected by each nation, depending on its population, and the House of Counsellors with 200 representatives, 10 each from 20 world regions who will represent the whole of the planet and the common good. The mandate of the World Parliament for each and every representative, however, is not to represent the parochial interests of their constituencies but to address the global problems that are beyond the capacity of nations to handle: disarming the nations and ending wars, protecting universal human rights, diminishing social differences, and protecting the planetary environment. The World Parliament is socialist in this sense: its mandate is the good of everyone within an economic and institutional framework that makes this possible.


The basic premises of the Earth Constitution focus on human dignity and the rights of everyone to live in peace, security, with all the basic necessities required for this, within an environment that sustainably supports life,  with the clean water, air, and land required for healthy living. These basic premises are identical with those of socialism. The reason for this is that socialism is most fundamentally a moral conception, whereas capitalism is a self-proclaimed amoral system governed by what it claims are “objective economic laws.”  This claim to being “amoral” covers up the fact that capitalism is objectively immoral. It objectively violates human rights, human dignity, human freedom, human equality, and human fraternity, as well as our rights to peace and to a protected sustainable environment.


The list of “specific powers” granted to the Earth Federation government in Article 4 includes the following: “Place under world controls essential natural resources which may be limited or unevenly distributed about the Earth. Find and implement ways to reduce wastes and find ways to minimize disparities when development or production is insufficient to supply everybody with all that may be needed.”  The Constitution is permeated with this imperative: “to supply everybody with all that may be needed.” If we really mean “all” when we say “all,” then we are taking our stand on the democratic socialist imperative.


The Constitution affirms a market economy directed to the satisfaction of basic human needs, with global public banking providing necessary income and financing to all on the basis of their ideas and ability to work, not on the basis of collateral or previously accumulated capital.  It establishes a market socialist democracy directed to the common good of all the people on the planet and future generations.


In the list of 19 economic and social rights given in Article 13 (which includes a number of rights to a protected, sustainable planetary environment) there is one that may initially strike us as odd: “Assure to each child the right to the full realization of his or her potential.”  But this is fundamental to the entire framework of the Constitution which presents a set of institutions designed to achieve exactly this: the dignity and fundamental rights of each child must include a global social and economic framework in which that child can realize his or her potential. Like global democracy, and like the universal moral principles of equal justice, love, and compassion, the socialist imperative means “all” when it says “all.”


Unless we can unite together under a global social contract as presented in the Constitution for the Federation of Earth, the chances of actualizing Article 28 of the Universal Declaration, or of obeying Jesus the Christ’s commandment to open the way for receiving the Kingdom of God on Earth, appear slim indeed.  The immoral, fragmented, and anachronistic institutions that dominate our world actively defeat morality, justice, and environmental sustainability at every turn. Both capitalism and the system of so-called sovereign nation-states are atomistic, fragmented, and immoral, both in their conceptions and in their observable consequences. They cannot be evolved; they must be transformed through founding a world system based on the democratic, moral, and socialist imperatives from the very beginning.


We must understand that we no longer need to wander in the desert of scarcity, injustice, and immaturity. We must rise to planetary maturity and affirm that we can institutionally ascend to a real fulfillment of our human project. We can enter the Promised Land only if we keep our eyes steadily on that vision; or at very least, we can establish the necessary institutions that make this vision possible. Unless we take this stand now, the future looks bleak indeed. Nothing less than this indicates the significance of our present historical moment with its opportunity to affirm our global social contract under the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.


Works Cited


Cort, John C. (1988). Christian Socialism: An Informal History. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Crick, Bernard (1987). Socialism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Dewey, John (1993). The Political Writings. Debra Morris and Ian Shapiro, eds. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co.

Dussel, Enrique (1986). Ethics and Community. Robert R. Barr, trans. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Eagleton, Terry (2011). Why Marx Was Right. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.

Finnis, John (1980). Natural Law and Natural Rights. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Fromm, Erich (1962). Beyond the Chains of Illusion: My Encounter with Marx and Freud. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Glover, Jonathan (1999). Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Gorz, André (1994). Capitalism, Socialism, Ecology. Chris Turner, trans. London: Verso Press.

Harrington, Michael (1972). Socialism. New York: Saturday Review Press.

Kant, Immanuel (1964). Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals. H. J. Paton, trans. New York: Harper & Row.

Luntley, Michael (1990). The Meaning of Socialism. La Salle, Illinois: Open Court Publishing.

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.

Miranda, José (1986). Marx Against the Marxists. The Christian Humanism of Karl Marx. John Drury, trans. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.



The Concept of Democracy and Our Global Social Contract

Glen T. Martin


Part One: The Concept of Democracy


Most people commonly understand that the word “democracy” literally means “rule of the people.” However, what this means in practice has long been contested and continues today to be plagued with deep misunderstandings.  Is democracy a matter of conserving traditions and inherited forms of authority as provided by educated leaders, wealthy patrons, and community values (Edmund Burke)?  Is democracy a set of formal agreements by which right-bearing, self-regarding individuals compete with one another within a spirit of self-interest and entrepreneurial competition (John Locke)?


At the other extreme, is democracy a corporate enterprise in which individuals become transformed into citizens through their social contract creating a solidarity in which they now defer to the “general will” of the whole (Jean-Jacques Rousseau)?  Or does authentic democracy involve a “strong” participation of citizens who see community, solidarity, and the common good as created through their participatory actions and public involvement (Benjamin Barber)?


Throughout history rulers were always said to be ruling in the name of the people, for example, receiving a mandate from God to be protector of the people and guardian of the common good. One fundamental issue of democracy is exactly what is this “common good”? If democracy is about the “rule” of everyone, then the common good would seem to be the social matrix that benefits everyone. It this social matrix the “thin” procedural framework by which rights-bearers can pursue their (largely economic) self-interests within a free, competitive market place (Locke, John Stuart Mill)?


Or does the common good involve a comprehensive social gestalt that empowers people with a community spirit and forms of participation transcending competitive self-interest (Rousseau, Barber, John Dewey)?   Or is the common good identical to the “requirements of justice” within a social framework that supports the flourishing of individuals participating in a range of intrinsically valuable goods discerned by practical reason (John Finnis)?


If we conceive of global democracy in terms of a global social contract, that contract might be conceived in Lockean terms as an agreement on a minimum set of conditions for people to pursue their competitive self-interests. However, philosophy, psychology, sociology, and anthropology have come a long way since the 18th century with its Newtonian paradigm of atomism, mechanism, and subjectivism.  These disciplines have shown that human beings do not exist as autonomous, rational individuals who exist prior to government and constitutional authority. Today, we understand that human beings are not the atoms of classical liberalism, and not the faceless ciphers of classical collectivism.  Rather, we exist as “persons in community” (Daly 1996: 55).


When Robert E. Goodin argues that the “communitarian” view of democracy with its notion of “the social construction of identity” (2003: 39) destroys the personal independence and autonomy necessary for quality democracy, he creates a caricature of the insights that have been gained into personal growth since the 20th century. It is now widely understood that persons are simultaneously universal (the social construction of identity) and in a process of growth toward personal moral and cognitive autonomy that arises out of our socially constructed nature.  Jürgen Habermas and many others have pointed this out. The implication is that we exist fundamentally and primordially as “persons in community” and we cannot place personal autonomy above community nor community above personal autonomy.  They arise together and the theory of democracy must be founded on this understanding. As Habermas asserts, “Individuation, as part of life history, is an outcome of socialization” (34).


Goodin is correct, however, that democracy must become “reflective” rather than merely preference based.  It is disastrous to think of democracy as simply recording people’s preferences through elections or referendums. Preferences can be whimsical, mistaken, based on ignorance of the facts, emotionally driven, and easily manipulated by mass media or government propaganda. Whatever the common good may be, it is unlikely that the rule of preferences will comprehend or promote that. We need to find ways to get thought and reflection into the democratic process and ways to discover the deeper common good in which democracy must be grounded.


What does “rule of the people” really mean? A human being is a growing, developing person within community.  A human being lives in a dynamic present between a remembered past and an envisioned future structured by a range of immediate, as well as remote, possibilities. As Habermas declares: man “in his anthropological universality – is everywhere the same” (39). “The concept of humanity,” he continues, “obliges us to take up the “we”-perspective from which we perceive one another as members of an inclusive community no person is excluded from” (56)


For Habermas, the morality governing our individuality is identical to the morality governing communities, both arise from a communicative core that presupposes equality, freedom, and a normativity of mutual respect. Our individuality arises from a community that presupposes this and grows toward an autonomy in which we freely choose to recognize and respect the equality and freedom of others.  The constitution, government, must be founded on this reality, on “the reciprocal and symmetrical relations of mutual recognition proper to a moral and legal community of free and equal persons” (2003: 65). “Rule of the people” means that government must be based on the moral foundations that arise from our existence as “persons in community.”


“Government” is the collective authority of society not only to ensure a basic conformity with the ground rules necessary for effective coordination of large numbers of people (e.g., no murder, no theft, no extortion, etc.).  Government is also the organization of society in such ways as to empower citizens to flourish through equal opportunities in pursuit of the life-goals and in the development of their potential as unique human beings. Third, government operates within a framework of “rules of recognition and change” that provide a stable continuity for the human community to move through time in patterns of ordered, nonviolent change and progressive movement into an ever-better future under our common human ideals of justice, fairness, equality, and freedom.


“Rule of the people,” in its deeper meaning, then, clearly does not indicate the rule of arbitrary preferences or the tyranny of some ignorant majorities. The phrase points to the foundational human truth that “government,” if it is to satisfy these three basic functions, must be democratic in the sense that the authority of society is organized on behalf of human flourishing, human aspirations, and nonviolently on behalf of the continuity of society in the progressive service of actualizing our common human ideals. There need be nothing “paternalistic” about this in that many of the mature, autonomous citizens produced within an authentic democratic framework will be precisely those elected to positions within the administrative, legislative, and judicial branches of such a society.


Today, we must add “ecological sustainability” to these ideals since the nonviolent continuity of society cannot endure without a healthy and supportive biosphere. This clearly is one reason why democracy today must be planetary. No territorial nation can any longer provide nonviolent continuity into the future by itself. Similarly, war, in all its forms, is the very opposite of democracy and inevitably destroys democracy, again making it imperative that we move to the level of planetary democracy under the social authority of the people of Earth.


John Dewey substantially agrees: “Democracy, in a word, is a social, that is to say, an ethical conception, and upon its ethical significance is based its significance as governmental. Democracy is a form of government only because it is a form of moral and spiritual association” (1993: 59). “Rule of the people” means the rule of the moral and ethical framework that embraces all human beings now embodied within specific rules for recognition, change and adjudication (Hart 1994) that we know as government.  Democracy arises from what it means to be a human being.


One might associate these ideas with the “Religion of Humanity” expressed by Rabindranath Tagore in which “Religion consists in the endeavor of men to cultivate and express those qualities which are inherent in the nature of Man the eternal and to have faith in them” (in Nusbaum 2013: 88). If religion can be understood as the quest for the actualization of our highest human qualities of love, compassion, justice, and freedom so democracy can be understood as the collective social foundation that undergirds this quest. In other words, “rule of the people” means governmental arrangements that promote the development of morally mature, free, loving and autonomous people and the nonviolent continuity of these arrangements into the future.


For Dewey, democracy is about cultivating the highest potential of the human personality: “From this central position of personality result the other notes of democracy, liberty, equality, fraternity,–words which are not mere words to catch the mob, but symbols of the highest ethical idea which humanity has yet reached—the idea of personality….” (1993: 62).  The “real” in human affairs, is necessarily based on the “ideal” (65), since the ideal arises from our temporalized existence in which we act to realize the ideal that we envision out of the dynamic present.


For Dewey, as for Habermas, our growth toward ethical and cognitive maturity is always a growth toward universality, which is “equivalent to the breaking down of those barriers of class, race, and national territory which kept men from perceiving the full import of their activity” (111). The full import in the development of personality involves discernment of our common humanity, transcending even “national territory.”  We must discern “the secondary and provisional character of national sovereignty in respect to the fuller, freer, and more fruitful association and intercourse of all human beings with one another [that] must be installed as a working disposition of mind” (120).


Democracy is the conception of human association and human potential arising out of our common human condition of temporalized persons -in-community who grow toward the ideals arising out of that

condition. It is inherently universal, for the realization of our fuller human potential necessarily transcends the limitations of class, race, and national sovereignty to the planetary level of unity in diversity. The “rule of the people” means these essential possibilities of our humanity embodied in a concrete constitution that protects and enhances human growth toward our common human ideals across the board.


Mainstream democratic theorists are slowly working their way toward this universality of the concept of democracy. But the process is laborious for those whose context has always been the [unwarranted] presupposition of nation state sovereignty as the proper locus for democratic government. Philosopher David Held in Models of Democracy attempts to “rethink democracy for a more global age.”  He finds that we must develop a model of “cosmopolitan democracy” that envisions democratic participation “across nations, regions and global networks” (353).


He appears to understand some of the limits and difficulties of trying to actualize democracy on the level of militarized territorial states whose destinies are strongly influenced by transnational global, political, and environmental forces, but he has no real, viable proposals for actualizing “cosmopolitan democracy,” barring timid modifications of the unworkable UN system. (The UN system is based on treaties among sovereign nations and hence can never solve our global dilemma under its current Charter. Sovereign nations recognizing no enforceable law above themselves are precisely the problem.)


Social scientists Terry Boswell and Christopher Chase-Dunn offer a more concrete vision of global democracy in their 2000 book The Spiral of Capitalism and Socialism: Toward Global Democracy. Their analysis of the global capitalist system reveals much more clearly why democracy is defeated at every turn within nation-states. As they put it: “We contend that it may also produce a better world in the future if the peoples of Earth understand the structures and processes of the modern world-system and act to transform the current system into a collectively rational and democratic global commonwealth” (xii). Nevertheless, their correct vision that human rationality both envisions and requires a global commonwealth remains largely in the realm of theory since they do not mention any specific constitutional arrangements necessary to make global democracy a reality.


More advanced than any of these thinkers is the work of philosopher Errol E. Harris in his 2008 book Twenty-first Century Democratic Renaissance: From Plato to Neoliberalism to Planetary Democracy. Harris discusses the variety of democratic theories and their critics throughout the book. The essential features of democracy, he argues, include government that effectively promotes the common good, which includes “the condition of positive liberty” (118) in which “civil and human rights are indefeasible” as well as “the equality of all persons before the law” (120) and the basic “security” of all citizens (131). The notion of the common good, he concludes, is a concept that has “objective significance.” No one can doubt the benefit of “an efficient and well organized transport system,” or “a well-run and hygienic health service” for the common good (118-19).


However, he goes on to show that the system of militarized sovereign nation-states with its perpetual wars and national security regimes systematically defeats democracy within nations, as do the growing planetary environmental crises in which the conditions for a flourishing life are rapidly diminishing. These conditions throw nations internally into chaos requiring emergency measures that defeat democracy (121-131). “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…. Only if the dangers currently overshadowing the human race can be removed and the associated world problems effectively tackled will there be any prospect of regenerating the democratic idea” (132).


Part Two: Democracy and the Constitution for the Federation of Earth


The Constitution for the Federation of Earth, Harris maintains in his 2005 book Earth Federation Now!, is by far our best option for accomplishing both of these necessities.  It is designed to effectively deal with the entire range of world problems: global militarism and wars, global human rights protection, global resource management for the common good, reasonable global economic equality, global environmental protection and restoration, as well as with all other problems beyond the scope of sovereign nation-states (Articles 1 and 4).


The democratic idea that arises from our common human situation, Harris maintains, can only be regenerated through shifting the scale to planetary democracy. The Earth Constitution is brilliantly designed to both deal with our global crises and to establish truly meaningful democracy premised on the equality, freedom, security, and common good of the peoples of the Earth. The most advanced democratic theorists have articulated the conditions for a more mature and participatory democracy beyond a regime based on mere “preferences.” This advanced democracy is structured into the Earth Constitution.


For Dewey, the “totalitarian menace awakens us to a deeper loyalty to intelligence, pure and undefiled, and to the intrinsic connection between it and free communication: the method of conference, consultation, discussion, in which there takes place purification and pooling of the net results of the experiences of multitudes of people” (1993: 208).  Democratic government provides the mechanisms for a collective rationality in which people work together for the common good. For Goodin, democracy must develop infrastructure that encourages people’s “empathic recognition” of opposing points of view, so that democracy becomes “reflective” even on the level of large societies that transcend the level of face to face discussion and rely on representative “trustees” to deliberate empathically on the issues (2003: 72).


For Barber, democracy must become animated through the activation of a citizenship based solidarity that goes beyond voting for preferences to transformative participation in governing: “the creation of a political community capable of transforming dependent, private individuals into free citizens and partial and private interests into public goods (1984: 132, italics his). The Earth Constitution is not only designed to deal with all those global crises that transcend the internal affairs of nations, it is designed to actualize all of these features with respect to living democracy as well.


In its second bill of rights, called “Directive Principles for the Earth Federation,” the Constitution requires that the Federation “assure to each child the right to the full realization of his or her potential” (Article 13.12). Here we see one of the many ways that the Constitution reflects the very essence of democracy, which we have seen above is based on our common humanity and individual potentialities. Our continuous growth as human beings requires that we actualize the potentialities within each of us and within the human community.


The Constitution also reflects Dewey’s insight that communicative forums of all sort magnify our individual intelligence into a collective rationality that can effectively deal with our problems. The Constitution, throughout its structures, agencies, and departments, is based upon dialogue and collective decision-making. The World Parliament, central to the entire system, is comprised of three houses: the House of Peoples, the House of Nations, and the House of Counsellors. Each house dialogues within itself and all houses also meet jointly in a common conversation.


The entire Earth Constitution is constructed on a holistic basis to integrate agencies, departments, and the Parliament itself within a synergistic framework. In addition to this, each agency or branch of the government never headed by one CEO but rather by a group of 5 or sometimes 10 highly qualified persons.  We might modify the popular saying here to declare: “Five heads are better than one.”   Each of the 5 is elected from a different one of the 5 official continental divisions of the Earth Federation.


Hence, the World Executive is headed by a Presidium of five, one from each continental division. The Collegium of World Judges is headed by a “Presiding Council” of five World Judges, one from each continental division, the World Attorneys General is headed by five Attorneys General, one from each continent, the World Ombudsmus is headed by a “Council of World Ombudsen,” one from each continent.  Each House of the World Parliament shall elect a “panel of five Chairpersons,” one from each continent.  Six of the seven agencies of the Integrative Complex shall be headed by a “ten member commission” (in addition to their Cabinet Minister and Senior Administrator), divided among the continental divisions.


Dialogue and discussion are structurally built into the fabric of every agency of the Earth Federation government. In each case, the 5 or 10 members of the “council” or “commission” must reach decisions and act collectively.  In addition, the powers of each agency or branch of the Earth Federation are defined specifically, along with the limits on these powers.  Dialogue is the basis for the action of each agency and that action is carefully limited to the broad function, repeated throughout the Constitution, of “service to humanity.”  In many cases, including for each member of the World Parliament, the leaders must take a “pledge of service to humanity” (Article 5.4.4).


The Constitution requires that “Voter’s Information Booklets” be prepared before each Parliamentary election, summarizing the issues, giving the candidates backgrounds, and allowing the same space for the candidates to speak to the issues.  No longer will big money or deceptive advertising determine elections. People will necessarily have to make their decisions based on thoughtful assessment of the issues, not on blind emotions evoked by deceptive big-money advertising.


The World Executive, head of the Executive Branch and the World Administration, is carefully limited in its powers. It has no military powers, no authority to declare a state of emergency or refuse to administer the budget approved by the World Parliament. It does not supervise the World Police, who are directly responsible to the World Parliament (not the Executive Branch). It has no veto power over any legislation passed by the Parliament. It is restricted to dialogue and reasoning within a framework of transparency. There are no reasons for any national security secrets in the form of classified documents and secret meetings. Democracy is here institutionalized at the global level, which is not only its appropriate level, but the only level on which it can actually work.


The same arrangements apply to the World Police and Attorneys General. The “means of enforcement” in Article 10.4 encourage continually reducing the need to use lethal force and finding alternative methods of enforcement.  The Police are required to continually develop the means of non-violent conflict resolution and fair hearings for all peoples. The Police and Executive are watched over by the World Ombudsmus (again directed by a group of 5, one from each continental division) who has responsibility for seeing that human rights are protected, that Article 13 “Directive Principles” are implemented, and that government operates transparently, efficiently, and democratically.


Article 10.1 states that “The enforcement of world law and world legislation shall apply directly to individual, and individuals shall be held responsible for compliance with world law and world legislation regardless of whether the individuals are acting in their own capacity or as agents or officials of governments at any level or of the institutions of governments, or as agents or officials of corporations, organizations, associations or groups of any kind.”  Here we discern a key to a democratic world system transcending the nation-state war system. There is no immunity: no more “diplomatic immunity,” no privileges of corporate power or nation-state government immunity from prosecution, no more military personnel claiming they are “only obeying orders.” These non-democratic features are rife in our present world system.  Democracy can only exist when law is enforceable over all individual persons, and this can only be effectively realized at the world level.


Article 10.1.5 states that: “Those agents of the enforcement system whose function shall be to apprehend and bring to court violators of world law and world legislation shall be equipped only with such weapons as are appropriate for the apprehension of the individuals responsible for violations.”  Just as all individuals are responsible to the law, so there is no need for weapons that target whole groups or communities (hence no military weapons).  A military is only necessary where democracy does not exist, when whole nations or groups can be targeted outside of due process of law and outside of recognition of their universal human rights to “life, liberty, and security of person.”  Under global democracy the role of the police is transformed. It is not in the least military, but rather, foundational to genuine democracy.


The mandate of the police includes article 10.4.4: “A basic condition for preventing outbreaks of violence which the Enforcement System shall facilitate in every way possible, shall be to assure a fair hearing under non-violent circumstances for any person or group having a grievance, and likewise to assure a fair opportunity for a just settlement of any grievance with due regard for the rights and welfare of all concerned.”  Here, again, we find a fundamental feature of democracy. The mandate of the World Police, like that of the World Courts and the World Ombudsmus, is precisely this institutionalization of fairness, justice, and nonviolence.


Democracy eliminates violence because its goal is justice and the “welfare of all concerned,” not the welfare of the rich, nor of any sovereign government, nor of corporate power. “All,” as Mortimer Adler declared, “is the most radical…term in the lexicon of political thought,” and for the first time (under the Earth Constitution) “we are beginning to mean ‘all’ without exception when we say ‘all’” (1991: 90). Thomas Jefferson declared that “All men are created equal,” at the same time excluding slaves and women. Only under democratic world law can we really mean this as a fundamental moral principle. Under nation-state absolute sovereignty, the slogan has little meaning.


The World Ombudsmus is an entire agency dedicated to realizing this principle. Part of its mandate is “To promote the welfare of the people of Earth by seeking to assure that conditions of social justice and of minimizing disparities are achieved in the implementation and administration of world legislation and world law.”  It must protect the two bills of rights: the great range of civil liberties in Article 12 and the rational ideals of a transformed world system in Article 13.


Among the many wonderful freedoms guaranteed by these Articles, I will only mention three: (1) “Freedom of assembly, association, organization, petition and peaceful demonstration.” (12.4), (2) “Freedom for investigation, research and reporting.” (12.8) and (3) “Encouragement for cultural diversity; encouragement for decentralized administration.” (13.16)


The World Police, the World Courts, and the World Ombudsmus are mandated to provide the citizens of Earth with the freedom of assembly and association necessary to rational dialogue and debate, with the power of investigation and information necessary for informed dialogue and debate, and to respect the diversity and decentralized citizen participation necessary for vibrant participatory democracy.


The Earth Constitution, as our global social contract, puts humanity for the first time ever on the foundation of true democracy. This is because the three fundamental functions of democracy, outlined above, can only be actualized on the global level when the citizens of Earth have given up their obsession with violence and war and come together to create a society in which each child is assured “the right to the full realization of his or her potential.”


These structural arrangements for empowered democracy are enhanced through the elaborations that have been made by the Provisional World Parliament meeting under the authority of Article 19 of the Constitution. Article 19 calls for the people of Earth to begin the Earth Federation now, even while they are waiting for full ratification to take place by the peoples and nations of the Earth.  The Parliament has met 14 times between 1982 and 2015 and has passed some 67 World Legislative Acts (WLAs) that have enhanced, enabled, and promoted the letter and spirit of the Earth Constitution.


On the level of dealing with world problems (the addressing of which is defined as “broad functions” of the Earth Federation in Article One) the Parliament has passed World Legislative Acts further protecting the environment, outlawing weapons of mass destruction, dealing with resource depletion, addressing global economic equality and poverty reduction, and protecting human rights. On the level of establishing an empowered, vibrant democracy for the Earth, the Parliament has also passed a number of acts directed toward this goal.


It has passed WLA 26, the Education Act, in which all schools under the authority of the Earth Federation will have students progressively study (1) global issues, (2) the Earth Constitution, (3) issues with respect to quality of life, (4) the requirements for world peace, (5) unity in diversity, and (6) requirements for good government. Through such a curriculum students will be empowered to become active world citizens contributing to planetary democracy and the common good, and they will receive training in that “empathic recognition” that Goodin affirms as essential to representative, trusteeship, democracy.


Among the many other acts of the Provisional World Parliament directed to enhancing vibrant global democracy under the Earth Constitution, let me mention just three more. First, the Parliament as passed WLA 57 establishing the “Collegium of World Legislators.” This requires all of those elected to the World Parliament, including the 1000 in the House of Peoples, the 200 in the House of Counsellors and the approximately 300 in the House of Nations to undergo training in “dialogue directed toward mutual understanding” and “nonviolent communication skills.”  The clear purpose is to enhance the quality of dialogue and debate within the World Parliament, helping the Parliament to become the collective intelligence for the trustees of humanity and not a mere place for promoting partisan interests.


Secondly, the Parliament has passed WLA 59, the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions Act. This Act requires the government to set up such commissions wherever in the world there are serious disagreements that may lead to violence or significant social harm. Procedures for these commissions require local empowerment with local participants taking the lead in the process of truth and reconciliation through non-violent communication and mutual dialogue. The act prohibits the government from using these for any spying or undercover work, and requires that governmental authority provide the framework, sanction, and empowerment for the reconciliations that take place.


Vibrant democracy operates in just this way. It means that mechanisms for communication and understanding and collective intelligence provide a foundation for citizen participation, so that violence, whether overt or structural, is avoided, and human flourishing can take place within a safe and supportive framework.  None of this is seriously possible under the present regime of militarized nation-states and whose lawless and violent behavior is both mimicked and mirrored by global terrorism. This global chaos of violence continues unabated while the planetary environment is collapsing all around us.


Thirdly, the Parliament has passed WLA 29 that creates a “Global People’s Assembly,” creating a worldwide system of meeting places for civic dialogue and debate through which citizens have a direct link to the government offices of their representatives in the House of Peoples. This displaces the current  lobby system, such as that in the U.S., in which wealthy and corporate entities hire professional lobbyists to promote their privileged, non-democratic interests. The Global People’s assembly will encourage dialogue and debate about global issues and democratic living worldwide. It provides a direct, grass-roots means for people to communicate with their elected representatives in the House of Peoples.


As Harris, Dewey, and Habermas understand it, democracy emerges as our fundamental mode of human association. Its development must therefore be moved to the planetary level, since democracy is defeated at the national level by world crises that are beyond the control of the nations. At the planetary level it can really flourish for the first time because democracy is precisely about our common human dignity and about developing our common human and individual potential. It cannot intelligibly be said to stop at arbitrary territorial borders.


The Earth Constitution serves as a global social contract that recognizes our fundamental human condition as persons within community. It is designed not only to establish world peace and environmental sustainability while eliminating global poverty and misery. It is also designed to empower planetary citizenship everywhere, creating a framework for dialogue and debate such that our collective human intelligence will be immeasurably enhanced and our human potential significantly actualized.


For the first time in history, a framework will be in place in which all individual persons can develop to the fullest of their capacities, assuring “each child the right to the full realization of his or her potential.” At the same time, it will enhance, empower, and “complete” our global community, that vibrant and harmonious community that can only be, and indeed must be, the essential framework for both our global consciousness and individual human flourishing. Let us join together to establish real democracy on the Earth for the first time. It is high time to ratify the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.


Works Cited


Adler, Mortimer J. (1991). Haves Without Have Nots: Essays for the 21st Century on Democracy and Socialism. New York: Macmillan.

Barber, Benjamin (1984). Strong Democracy: Participatory Politics for a New Age. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Boswell, Terry and Chase-Dunn, Christopher (2000). The Spiral of Capitalism and Socialism: Toward Global Democracy. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

Burke, Edmund (2001). Reflections on the Revolution in France. A Critical Edition. J.C.D. Clark, editor. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Daly, Herman E. (1996). Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development. Boston: Beacon Press.

Dewey, John (1993). The Political Writings. Debra Morris and Ian Shapiro, eds. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co.

Finnis, John (1980). Natural Law and Natural Rights. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Goodin, Robert E. (2003). Reflective Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Habermas, Jürgen (2003). The Future of Human Nature. William Rehg, et. al., trans. Cambridge, MA: Polity Press.

Harris, Errol E. (2005). Earth Federation Now! Tomorrow is Too Late. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.

Harris, Errol E. (2008). Twenty-first Century Democratic Renaissance: From Plato to Neoliberalism to Planetary Democracy. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.

Hart, H.L.A. (1994). The Concept of Law. Second Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Held, David (1996). Models of Democracy. Second Edition. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Locke, John (1963). “Second Treatise on Civil Government” in Social and Political Philosophy. John Somerville and Ronald Santoni, eds. New York: Doubleday, pp. 169-204.

Mill, John Stuart (1956). On Liberty. Currin V. Shields, editor. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company.

Locke, John (1963). “Second Treatise on Civil Government” in Social and Political Philosophy. John Somerville and Ronald Santoni, eds. New York: Doubleday, pp. 169-204.

Nusbaum, Martha (2013). Political Emotions: Why Love Matters for Justice. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques (1947). The Social Contract and Discourses. G. D. H. Cole, trans. New York: E. P. Dutton & CO.

Human Rights and Our Global Social Contract


Glen T. Martin

Radford University


Part One: What are Human Rights?

Human rights derive from the immeasurable dignity and intrinsic worth of the human person.  Lists of rights, such as the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, attempt to spell out what this immeasurable dignity means in terms of life among others in a human community. In this essay, I will further develop the meaning of this statement concerning our human community through references to contemporary scholarship concerning human rights. The essay will then address the reasons why human rights are violated everywhere on Earth today, and, finally, examine the ways in which our global social contract under the Earth Constitution can effectively restore respect for human rights within a decent global civilization.

Human rights are often misunderstood today because of the misleading ways that they were expressed by some 18th century social contract thinkers such as John Locke. Locke attempted to describe specific ‘natural rights’, such as life, liberty, and property, that were prior to civilized life under governmental authority. However, we shall see that human rights are, rather, central prerequisites for moral life within communities, not something inhering in human beings prior to their social nature.

Recently I published an essay on “Human Dignity and Our Global Social Contract” that defines human dignity in terms of our self-aware, temporalized human structure. In every person (and in history) a perpetual process of self-transcendence takes place dynamically linking our intrinsic dignity and our continuously acquired dignity as we actualize the ideals inherent in our human possibilities that always transcend the present moment [1]. Ultimately, as Immanuel Levinas affirms, we may recognize the infinite transcendence of both others and the divine [2]. In this essay, I will describe human dignity in slightly different (but correlative) terms using the language of philosopher Alan Gewirth and others.

Immanuel Kant had already identified our infinite human dignity or worth in terms of our status as “ends in ourselves” that can never serve as a means to some further end, a status deriving from our free ability to legislate for ourselves universal moral laws, regardless of our inclinations. For Kant, we must have all the rights necessary to have this dignity respected within the framework of a free society. Our rights ultimately entail the ideal of a “kingdom of ends” in which moral principles and mutual respect define human relationships [3].

Alan Gewirth expands upon the Kantian starting point by identifying our intrinsic worth, and therefore our human rights, with our ability to purposively pursue ends or goals and the human capacities and conditions that make this possible:

This attribution of worth to the agents encompasses not only their purposiveness but also the abilities of reason and will to enter into their agency. For in acting for their purposes agents will use both will and reason: will in their freedom as controlling their behavior by their unforced choice and in their endeavors to achieve their purposes; reason in ascertaining the means to their ends, in attributing to themselves rights to the necessary conditions of their agency, and in accepting that all other agents also have these rights….. Human dignity consists in having and at least potentially using these abilities, and human rights are derived from human dignity thus conceived. [4]


Human beings are structured to use their reason and will in the pursuit of purposes they believe to be good. Our human rights, for Gewirth, arise directly from this structure and can be expressed in terms of two “generic” sets of rights: those of freedom and those of well-being. Together, these are the necessary conditions of our being able to pursue and achieve any purposes at all. Our dignity can be said to reside in these capacities of reason and will to pursue what appears good to us, and society is a necessary framework, providing both freedom and well-being, for protecting human flourishing in pursuit of our ends.

The entire panoply of human rights arises from this dignity and these generic rights to freedom and well-being. But this dignity and these generic rights must be conceived in terms of our inherent membership in the human community. They are integrally linked to the concept of justice in which each of us has both rights (to be treated morally, justly, and fairly) and duties (to treat others morally, justly, and fairly). The human community is a community of rights and duties, that is, a community based on the requirements of justice.

Rights to freedom entail the range of political and personal rights such as speech, assembly, thought, religion, association, research, and information.  The rights to well-being include right to those conditions which allow our free agency to operate: food, clean water, sanitation, health-care, education, social security, housing, etc. These rights cannot be secured without people in authority being responsible to provide or protect these things, for they are representatives of justice for the community as a whole. Different constitutions or manifestos may list these rights somewhat differently, but the fundamental principle is that the entire range of rights to freedom and well-being is necessary to human flourishing.

Philosopher Leonard Nelson, in his book System of Ethics, articulates human rights in a somewhat similar fashion.  Nelson also attributes dignity to persons because of their moral agency. Morality, the law that we treat each person with concern and respect as an end in herself, is the source of all human rights and is largely coextensive with those rights:

On the basis of the principle of personal dignity each person is entitled, by virtue of his interests, to restrict the will of others. We call such a title a person’s “right.” The moral law is thus a law of rights, i.e., it determines the content of our duties by rights….

The moral law, as we know, is a law of right. As such it grants each person a right, namely, the right to have his interests respected by rational beings…. What is the extent of one person’s right vs, another person’s right?… We have already learned that the moral law commands us to respect the dignity of the person; now we can define that law more closely as the command of justice, or as the law that commands us to safeguard the equality of persons. The command of justice may be formulated as follows: Each person per se has equal dignity with every other person. [5]

Nelson points out that the social ideal of justice is integral to the moral law as the law of rights.  Each person has a general human right to all the specific rights necessary for flourishing in justice, that is, in equal dignity with all others.  Human rights, therefore, hang together. They are interdependent with one another. They are the requirements of justice within the human community. They can be articulated in different listings or manifestos.

Nevertheless, there has been progress in the understanding of human rights beyond the effort that first began in a widespread manner during the 18th century. The 18th century thought of John Locke was that government was needed to protect our a priori natural rights as well as to supply an “impartial judge” so that disputes can be reasonably adjudicated according to equitable principles of equally impartial laws. In his understanding of the government as having these limited functions, the expression of rights involved primarily political rights.  Such rights are embodied, for example, in the first ten amendments of the U.S. Constitution, written in 1787 by Thomas Jefferson and others who were followers of Locke.  “Congress shall make no law restricting” this or that. “Everyone shall have the right” to speech, assembly, redress of grievances, etc.

However, as capitalism expanded and raged on throughout the 19th century, people began to realize that it was meaningless to protect only these political rights when the majority of citizens lived in such poverty, hunger, and desperation that they could not effectively exercise their rights.  It became widely understood that the rights to freedom were interrelated and inseparable from the rights to well-being, that human beings living in wage-slavery without decent food or housing, and without education or health care, were indeed having their rights violated. Human rights, it was understood, must include all the nexus of conditions in society that make possible human flourishing. Human flourishing means the reasonable ability to pursue purposes and ends in one’s life with some chance of success. Clearly people living on the margins of existence as wage slaves for their entire lives, and then dying young, are not people exercising human rights in any credible form. They are excluded from the community of justice that should obtain among human beings.

As both Gewirth and Nelson insist, the concept of rights is integrally related to the concept of justice, the obligation of the state to foster the equal conditions for people to live flourishing and fulfilling lives. Capitalism purports to be a “purely economic” theory that does not include any objective moral dimension.  Capitalists do, nevertheless, colonize the state in order to secure legal conditions that foster their interests.  The 19th century required immense struggles against both the capitalists and the states that served as “committees” to promote the interests of the ruling classes (as Engels observed).  For Karl Marx, political democracy without economic democracy is merely “formal” and empty. “Substantive democracy” can only exist when the state is organized to promote some significant form of socialism.

The mid-20th century produced globally-recognized declarations of human rights that included both political and economic-social rights, epitomized, for example, by the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This declaration is a brilliant document that encompasses the dynamic of human rights pointed out by the contemporary philosophers I have been citing. It begins and ends with principles that show the link between these rights and our future global social contract.

The Preamble and Article 1 of the Declaration repeat the core principle of human dignity (linked with “reason and conscience”) that grounds all human rights. The Preamble declares correctly that respect for this dignity “is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” Article 2 emphasizes the universal principle of justice (also emphasized by Gewirth and Leonard) that grounds human rights in a principle of universal equality: everyone has the right to equal treatment and equal realization of their human rights. Article 3 focuses on what is most fundamental: “life, liberty, and security of person.” The Declaration presupposes the entire human community as a community of justice.

The list of rights from numbers 4 through number 21 goes on to primarily identify political rights such as assembly, due process of law, a fair trial, freedom of thought and religion, freedom of expression, etc. With articles 22 to 27, the emphasis changes to economic and social rights, specifying the right to social security, to protection in case of illness or old age, to favorable conditions of work, to just wages, to rest and leisure, to medical care, to education, to the benefits of culture, etc. Articles 28, 29, and 30, however, return to the foundational dynamic of human rights and project their realization into the future.

Article 28 points ahead to a world order quite different from the one that existed in 1948 or that continues to exist today: “Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.” What would it mean for this to be fully realized?  Clearly, this implies a dramatically different world order from the one that presently dominates. I will discuss this further below.

Article 29 identifies the central purpose of the entire list: “Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible,” and the only limitations on these rights have to do with the equal right of all others to their exercise and benefit: “and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.” This tells us that the purpose of the entire list is human flourishing, namely, the rights to freedom and well-being within a framework of justice ensuring equality of treatment for all within a community based on the principles of justice. Human rights arise from the vision (implicit in our self-aware, temporally oriented, human structure) of what is required for human flourishing within society. What is required is the entire nexus of political, social, and economic rights organized around the principle of justice: concern and respect for the equal dignity of all persons.

In his book, Taking Rights Seriously, philosopher of law Ronald Dworkin makes a point related to that made by Articles 28 and 29 of the Universal Declaration:

…The right to concern and respect is fundamental among rights in a different way, because it shows how the ideal of a collective goal may itself be derived from that fundamental right. If so, then concern and respect is a right so fundamental that it is not captured by the general characterization of rights as trumps over collective goals, except as a limiting case, because it is the source both of the general authority of collective goals and of the special limitations on their authority that justify more particular rights. [6]

Dworkin calls the rights specified in the normal list (for example, articles 4 to 27 of the UN Declaration) “trumps” because they must be treated as more fundamental than society’s policies or programs and must be protected as such. But the ultimate purpose of any list of rights is human flourishing: the ability of persons to live lives in which their personalities can develop through the effective agency provided by freedom and well-being. For this reason, Dworkin concludes, the specific rights are secondary to the “respect and concern” of governmental authorities for the human flourishing of the citizens. This overall framework of “respect and concern” can also be called concern for the “common good” of society. The meaning of the common good is precisely that of maintaining the societal framework in which all members of the society can flourish in equality and dignity.

Philosopher of Law John Finnis defines the common good in the following way:

When we survey this list we realize what the modern ‘manifesto’ conception of human rights amounts to. It is simply a way of sketching the outlines of the common good, the various aspects of individual well-being in community. What the reference to rights contributes in this sketch is simply a pointed expression of what is implicit in the term ‘common good’, namely that each and everyone’s well-being, in each of its basic aspects, must be considered and favored at all times by those responsible for coordinating the common life. [7]

Human rights are simply a fundamental part of the way societies must be organized to promote the equal flourishing of all their members. This can be understood as the “Principle of Generic Consistency” (Gewirth) in which our rights to freedom and well-being are understood to be the basic principles behind any legitimate society. It can be understood as the mandate for Justice (Nelson) in which the fundamental aim of society must be promoting the equal dignity and ability to flourish of each of its members.  Or it can be understood as the common good (Finnis) in which “each and everyone’s well-being, in each of its basic aspects, must be considered and favored at all times by those responsible for coordinating the common life.”

Yet another aspect of human rights has emerged since the late 20th century as human beings became ever more aware of the conditions necessary for human flourishing. If 18th century political rights can be termed “first generation rights,” and 19th century economic and social rights can be termed “second generation rights,” then the 20th century can be said to be the birthplace of our “third generation” rights to peace and to a healthy planetary environment [8]. Just as Article 28 of the UN Declaration states the right to an “international order” in which all the conditions for human flourishing are realized, so some UN documents since that time have articulated a yet larger context for human flourishing. The 1994 UN Draft Declaration of Principles of Human Rights and the Environment states:

All persons have the right to a secure, healthy and ecologically secure environment. This right and other human rights, including civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights, are universal, interdependent and indivisible (Principle 2). All persons have the right to an environment adequate to meet equitably the needs of present generations and that does not impair the rights of future generations to meet equitably their needs (Principle 4). [9]

The first photographs of our Earth from space became available to humanity only during the early 1960s. For the first time in history, we saw our planet in its photographic reality: a tiny, fragile island floating in the immensity of space. For the first time we began to deeply understand that human flourishing is impossible without a planetary environment that supports life and without intercontinental weapons of mass destruction that can at any moment wipe out all life. We began to deeply understand our fragile interdependency that requires both peace and a protected environment as a foundation for human flourishing. We also began to understand that future generations have the right to inherit a planet capable of sustaining human flourishing [10].

Human rights are about the ideal of a human community organized in such a way that it promotes the equal dignity and ability to flourish of all its members. Human rights are universal and derive from the inherent structure or “purposive agency” for each and every human being. Human rights may vary slightly in the ways they are listed, but basically they are the same everywhere because they simply articulate the basic social conditions necessary for human flourishing.

With the third generation of human rights, we began to understand that we need to found a planetary civilization based on human dignity and human flourishing. We are all in this together, and human rights can never be widely protected unless there is a planetary “social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.” Unless there is a global order founded upon world peace and the integrity of our planetary biosphere and the rights of future generations to inherit a livable planet, human flourishing will be defeated at every turn and human rights will never be widely protected and respected. Because we lack such an order today, human rights are violated nearly everywhere on the Earth.

Part Two: The Failure of Today’s World Disorder and How We Can Establish a World Peace System 

In his book The Endtimes of Human Rights, Stephen Hopgood asserts that the humanist human-rights story of an ever-increasing universal set of values involving human rights recognition is no longer credible:

Rather, we are entering a neo-Westphalian world. That is, a world of renewed sovereignty, resurgent religion, globalized markets, and the stagnation or rollback of universal norms about human rights…. We have entered an era of multipolar authority where what is “normal” or “appropriate” no longer has one answer. Traditional values and conservative religious doctrine will not be outposts, like the Barbary Pirates, waiting for the “universal modern” to arrive. They will be global-level alternative discourses to human rights. [11]

Similarly, Eric A. Posner in The Twilight of Human Rights Law argues that, in spite of the many conventions on human rights that have been passed by the UN, the world system (involving an intractable multiplicity of conflicting nations and cultures) means that human rights law as an international norm is fading way: “It turns out that foreign countries really are foreign” [12].

Our world system today is an inheritance from the “Westphalian” system of sovereign nation-states begun at the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. Our world system is also an inheritance from a global capitalism (claiming to operate by intrinsically amoral universal laws of economics) begun in the Italian Renaissance of the 16th century and now operating under a global neoliberal ideology premised on the same “free market” dogma. These critics fail to see the growth toward planetary maturity, connected with universal human rights, that is an integral part of the veltgeist of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Multinational corporations with more wealth than many nation-states dominate the world’s airways and seaways with transnational trade, along with patterns of exploitation, corruption, and domination.  Within poor nations, where even public officials often live in poverty and painful scarcity, the ability of these corporations to bribe and coerce is immense. The 1% of the world’s population who owns more than 50% of its wealth have unlimited political and administrative power to bend and ignore human rights in their own interests. The result is a world in which some four billion (60%) of its population live in a state of poverty and deprivation that effectively prevents human flourishing.

Similarly, the nations of the world still spend over one trillion US dollars per year on weapons and war. Half of this sum is spent by the United States alone in its desperate attempt to maintain its global empire in the face of significant rival powers, such as Russia and China, and a diaspora of restive neo-colonial, peripheral countries in South America, Africa, and south Asia.  Computerized electronics has resulted in global spying and ever increased tensions as nation after nation is simultaneously torn apart by imperial blundering and terrorist responses [13]. The 21st century has witnessed the vast increase in national security state regimes ignoring the right to privacy of their own citizens and others and continually reducing the scope of civil liberties and respect for human rights.

It is important to understand that the deleterious effects of both capitalism and the system of militarized sovereign nations cannot be addressed within the framework of that system. This is where perhaps most peace studies programs and peace activists worldwide fail in their efforts to address the human rights problem. They are trying to evolve or improve a world-system that itself is a central root of the problem. Capitalism inherently violates our human rights and dignity. It treats human lives as instruments in the pursuit of wealth. A democratic socialism in which human flourishing (human rights) is seen as the purpose of the market and economics is alone legitimate [14].

Similarly, our rights to lead flourishing lives in peace, security, freedom, and sustainability are inherently violated by the fragmented system of militarized sovereign states. As Kant already pointed out in the 18th century, paying war taxes, having to fight in their wars, having to address the devastation caused by their wars, having our freedoms and security compromised because of their militarism, having our brothers and sisters in other countries killed and their life-support systems destroy by war: all of this violates our human rights and human dignity [15]. The sovereign nation-state system is a fundamental violation of our human rights and dignity. War is immoral and is a violation of the human rights of both the victims and the victors.

Yet nether Hopgood nor Posner, cited above, understand that human dignity is our fundamental reality as temporalized creatures who require freedom and well-being to pursue and secure goals in the development of our lives and personalities.  Neither Hopgood nor Poser understand that the institutions we inherit from the past (global capitalism and the Westphalian system of sovereign nation-states) are totally out of sync both with our human dignity and with the holistic paradigm that has emerged from the natural and social sciences during the past century. We are one planet, one biosphere, and one humanity. Both global capitalism and the system of sovereign nation-states intrinsically violate these fundamental truths.

We cannot rely on the bureaucrats in these outmoded institutions of nation-states and global capitalism to lead the way to transformation to the new holistic paradigm. They are like robots or automatons spewing forth the ideological lies of capitalism and the war system. They draw their paychecks precisely because they support the Ancien Régime. But the Ancien Régime in France got overthrown because it was out of sync with the new paradigm that was animating 18th century thought, the paradigm of human rights and human dignity. Today, the larger dominant institutions that we inherent from centuries ago, global capitalism and the sovereign nation-state system, constitute the Ancien Régime. They are outmoded, outdated, and anachronistic. They inherently violate the moral foundations of human life and the purposive structure of human flourishing [16].

They must be overthrown, not by a new form of the guillotine (tempting as that may be), but by the new, truly holistic paradigm that is sweeping through the thoughtful, intellectually and spiritually awakened people in every country on our planet. The present writer has traveled to many countries in the past 20 years and has seen this everywhere. People are embracing the new holistic paradigm: Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, they say in India: “the world is one family.” The emerging holistic paradigm points forward to one Earth, one Humanity, and one civilization premised on human flourishing.

However, it is not enough to simply profess a holistic philosophy of human unity in diversity. Nor is it enough to meditate and pursue inner peace as the foundation for outer peace. It is not enough to study non-violent communication or non-violent forms of civil resistance. This is where we still have to grasp both the enormity of the danger facing us and the depth of the paradigm-shift that is necessary if we want to protect human rights, avoid World War III, and mitigate climate collapse. We must found a new world order that transcends the system of sovereign nation-states and the scourge of global capitalism.  Our institutions must mirror the holism of the universe, the biosphere, and humanity.  And, integral to this, our institutions must mirror the structure of human beings and the conditions of human flourishing that flow from this.

We can only make this happen by founding a world system based on holism, human rights, and unity in diversity.  Such a transformed, holistic world system is embodied within the Constitution for the Federation of Earth [17]. The Constitution articulates a social democracy that integrates the moral principles that include human well-being into economics as directed by a World Parliament and a World Financial Administration concerned to actualize both human flourishing and planetary sustainability.

The Constitution frames global democracy in dozens of overlapping ways to protect and promote human rights and dignity. It explicitly embodies all three generations of rights necessary to establish human flourishing everywhere for the first time in history: rights to freedom, rights to well-being, and rights to peace with a protected, sustainable environment. Our planetary human community is a community of rights. What draws us all together into a global social contract is our common humanity and universal human dignity.

By contrast, every sovereign nation-state (even those that have some form of social democracy) has been founded through accidental and ad hoc historical circumstances reaching far back into the fragmented early-modern era that knew nothing of the holistic paradigm that emerged only in the 20th and 21st centuries. But in fact, given the fragmentation of the current world system with its militarized sovereign nations and dominant capitalist system, even nations that pursue social democracy fail to actualize human flourishing significantly within their borders, and they certainly ignore the horrendous problem of human rights violations throughout the rest of the world. The world system ravaged by militarism and capitalist exploitation inundates and overwhelms all attempts to protect human flourishing within national boundaries, even within the western European nations.

In the face of this devastation, a world system based upon human rights appears “utopian” and unreachable. Samuel Moyn, in his book The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History, asserts that this “utopian” dimension is precisely the meaning of human rights at this point in history. Political utopias, such as the Marxist or Anarchist conceptions, have vanished, leaving us with the intact vision of universal human rights:

There is no way to reckon with the recent emergence and contemporary power of human rights without focusing on their utopian dimension: the image of another, better world of dignity and respect that underlies their appeal, even when human rights seem to be about slow and piecemeal reform. But far from being the sole idealism that has inspired faith and activism in the course of human events, human rights emerged historically as the last utopia—one that became powerful and prominent because other visions imploded. Human rights are only a particular modern version of the ancient commitment by Plato and Deuteronomy—and Cyrus—to the cause of justice. [18]

Moyn’s book goes on to point out the immense difficulties that this utopian ideal poses for those trying to negotiate the world disorder through such institutions as the International Criminal Court (ICC). In a world of rogue superpowers, such as the U.S., Russia, and China, little can be achieved. International law, which includes some nine human rights conventions, remains unenforceable and leads human rights activists to despair. Yet, like Hopgood and Posner, Moyn lacks a transformative perspective. He lacks insight into the holistic paradigm-shift taking place everywhere on the Earth and the need to embody this paradigm-shift in a concrete document that lays the institutional foundations for a holistic world civilization actually based on human dignity and justice.

This so-called “last utopia” needs to become actualized as a pragmatic and practical utopia under the Earth Constitution. Without a global system-transformation from fragmentation to holism, from a world-system based on territorial power centers and corporate power machinations to a system explicitly based on human dignity, human flourishing, and justice, human rights will always remain an unrealizable utopian ideal.  Article 1 of the Earth Constitution defines the “broad functions” of the Earth Federation to: (1) end war and secure disarmament, (2) protect human rights everywhere on Earth, (3) diminish social differences and end poverty, (4) regulate trade for equitable use of world resources, (5) protect and restore the planetary environment, and (6) find solutions to all problems beyond the capacity of national governments.

We can see now that all of these six necessary functions of the Earth Federation go together: they are all necessary for human flourishing in dignity and quality. Human rights embody and include all of them. The ideal of justice going back to Plato, Deuteronomy, and Cyrus can only be realized in a world system based on justice.  The U.N. with its outdated Charter (founded on the principle of national sovereignty) must be integrated into the emerging Earth Federation by replacing its Charter with the Earth Constitution. The Earth Constitution devises an integrated set of institutions that constitute a peace system, a freedom system, a justice system, and a sustainability system for the Earth [19].

Only through such a global social contract can we establish a world system that makes true human flourishing possible through protecting human dignity, human rights, and justice on a planetary scale. The Earth Constitution institutionalizes the holism necessary for human flourishing.  All nations become states within the Earth Federation, and global capitalism is brought under control and transformed into global social democracy.

Human rights constitute the fundamental groundwork for human flourishing in dignity and equality. They will remain a mere utopian ideal until they become embodied in concrete, democratically legislated, planetary laws. If we want a credible future on this planet, we need a global social contract, turning the human community into a legally recognized community of dignity and justice.  We need to ratify the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.





[2] Immaneul Levinas, Totality and Infinity, Alphonso Lingis, trans., Duquesne University Press, 1969, pp. 48-52.

[3]  Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, H.J. Paton, trans., Harper Torchbooks, 1964.

[4]  Alan Gewirth, The Community of Rights, University of Chicago Press, 1996, p. 66.

[5]  Leonard Nelson, System of Ethics, Norbert Guterman, trans., Yale University Press, 1956, pp. 98, 110.

[6]  Ronald Dworkin, Taking Rights Seriously, Harvard University Press, 1978, p. xv.

[7]  John Finnis, Natural Law and Natural Rights, Oxford University Press, 1980, p. 214.

[8]  Raymond Wacks, Law, A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2008, pp. 149-50.

[9]  In Patrick Hayden, ed., The Philosophy of Human Rights, Paragon House, 2001, p. 670.

[10]  In Hayden, Ibid., Edith Brown Weiss, “Planetary Rights,” pp. 618-637.

[11]  Stephen Hopgood, The Endtimes of Human Rights, Cornell University Press, 2013, pp. 166-167.

[12]  Eric A. Posner, The Twilight of Human Rights Law, Oxford University Press, 2014, p. 146.

[13] See Glen T. Martin, One World Renaissance: Holistic Planetary Transformation through a Global Social Contract, Institute for Economic Democracy Press, 2016, Chapter 5.

[14]  See, e.g., Michael Luntley, The Meaning of Socialism, Open Court Publishers, 1990, p. 15.

[15] Immanuel Kant, Perpetual Peace and Other Essays, Ted Humphrey, trans., Hacket Publishers, 1983, pp. 115-117.

[16]  See Glen T. Martin, Ascent to Freedom: Practical and Philosophical Foundations of Democratic World Law, Institute for Economic Democracy Press, 2008.

[17]  Glen T. Martin, ed. A Constitution for the Federation of Earth: With Historical Introduction, Commentary, and Conclusion, Institute for Economic Democracy Press, 2010. The Constitution is also on-line in many places such as:

[18]  Samuel Moyn, The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History, Harvard University Press, 2010, pp. 4-5.

[19]  For elaboration of these see Glen T. Martin, The Earth Federation Movement, IED Press, 2011.




The Nature and Function of Our Global Social Contract

The Nature and Function of Our Global Social Contract

Glen T. Martin

Social contract as “external agreement.” The phrase “social contract” may give the impression, so common in capitalist societies, of some external agreement among contracting parties. Some of the 18th century social contract theorists such as John Locke also had the idea that human beings and their rights existed prior to society and entered into a social order under government as a “contract” designed to protect these a priori rights and freedoms (Two Treatises on Government, 1680-90).

However, a global social contract is, and should be, much more than this kind of external agreement among independently existing parties. The world has received from Indian culture, and from many other traditional religions and cultures, the principle Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, the world is one family. It is a family made up of diverse cultures, nations, races, and religions, but that is at the same time “one family.” Contemporary science has borne out this contention that we are all one species, deeply interdependent and fundamentally related to one another. The principle of a global social contract is to actualize this oneness, to bring to reality the several dimensions of our common humanity that will bring to fruition a world of peace, freedom, justice, and sustainability.

A global social contract would involve an “agreement” penetrating deeply into our subjective, civic, and social selves involving our habits, our assumptions, and our largely unspoken recognition of the common good at the heart of legitimate communities. The social contract embodies our moral obligation to live under the rule of democratically legislated laws within cultural, ethical, and civic frameworks that all interface to promote both individual freedom and the common good of all. The largest dimension of this integrated social matrix would be embraced by the planetary democratic government generating institutions for protecting and regulating the common good of humanity and the Earth (see my One World Renaissance: Holistic Planetary Transformation through a Global Social Contract, 2016).

Fragmentation. This oneness of humanity as one family and one community is as yet implicit and ideal. It has not been actualized on the Earth. Instead, fragmentation and division threaten the future of our human project as well as our planetary environment. The fragmentation involves private, profit-driven corporations worldwide exploiting persons and nature in the service of the accumulation of private profit and power. This fragmentation also involves a consequent world of scarcity where a few have more than their share of wealth, comfort, and power while billions live without the basic necessities for a decent and fulfilling life.

Our present planetary fragmentation includes a worldwide multiplicity of media organizations serving private interests and spewing out misleading or false information and analysis in the service of dogmas and points of view that have little interests in the common good of the whole of humanity. People become divided against one another by race, religion, culture, or nationality. This fragmentation involves vast digital and electronic spy systems in which people around the global treat one another with suspicion and fear of what the others might be doing and thinking.

This fragmentation includes the system of some 193, mostly militarized, “sovereign” nation-states in competition and conflict with one another. It involves both the militarism and wars of these nation-states (“state terrorism”) and the hate and fear of violent extremists around the world (“private terrorism”). In the face of a global population of 7 billion people, and growing, this world of fragmentation, violence, hate and fear, makes the future look bleak indeed.

Eclipse of Reason. In the late 17th century, Thomas Hobbes declared that human nature involved “a general inclination for all mankind, a perpetual and restless desire of power after power that ceaseth only in death” (Leviathan, 1690, chap. Xi). In the 18th century David Hume had declared that “reason is and ought only to be the slave of the passions and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them” (Treatise on Human Nature, 1740).

Hume’s compatriot Adam Smith integrated this false assumption into his book The Wealth of Nations (1776), arguing that self-interest for pursuing, wealth, pleasure, and power were fundamental principles of “human nature.” Following Adam Smith closely, the 19th century Utilitarians such as Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill argued that “pleasure” was the good and that reason was simply the instrument of utility that allowed people to pursue pleasure and minimize pain in life. In the 20th century such figures as Hans Morgenthau, Joseph Schumpeter, or Leo Strauss emphasized the struggle for power and profit and generally took a dim view of human motivations and possibilities.

This distorted view of human nature was denied and corrected by many thinkers from Spinoza in the 17th century to Kant in the 18th century to Thomas Hill Green and G.W.F. Hegel in the 19th century to thinkers like Ernest Barker, Errol E. Harris, and Jürgen Habermas in the 20th century. However, irrationalism prevailed and today dominates the irrationalist foreign policies of militarized sovereign states, global corporations, and planetary banking institutions such as the World Bank and IMF. This fundamentally wrong paradigm endangers our future on this planet.

Reason and selfhood. For Kant, reason reflected the very essence of our humanity. The fact that we exist as free, moral agents capable of doing what we understand to be right “regardless of our inclinations” shows our connection with the very foundations of the universe (the “noumenal” world) and our infinite “dignity” as moral agents, beyond all “price” (Groundwork to the Metaphysics of Morals, 1785). This view of humanity is quite the opposite of Hume’s view. Rather than reason being the “slave of the passions” Kant asserted that reason was primary over the passions. As Plato, Aristotle, and many others had argued, our passions are capable of being controlled, modified, and redirected into the service of reason. Indeed, Kant posited a fundamental division in us between reason and our “inclinations,” but he also determined that we could acquire virtues that brought these inclinations progressively into harmony with the dictates of reason.

Despite the fact that Kant developed a critique of theoretical reason that identified limitations on our ability to directly know the metaphysical foundations of the universe, his view of practical reason harkens back to Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and the ancient Stoics who all, in various ways, saw human beings, with our capacity for reason, as microcosms of the macrocosm. The rational depths of the universe are manifest in us.

Kant distinguishes between ordinary voluntary contracts and the social contract, which he characterizes as a “union as an end in itself—as the end that everyone ought to have, and thus as the first and unconditioned duty in each external relationship of human beings” (Theory and Practice, 1974: 57). There is an absolute moral obligation to live under planetary “republican” government, a universal duty forever violated by the system of “sovereign” nation-states who refuse to recognize enforceable laws beyond themselves. This link between rationality and our basic humanity was developed further by the thinkers mentioned above, two of which I will briefly mention here.

Hegel discerned two things about the world that he linked to reason. First, the world was a whole, a dynamic whole consisting of a multiplicity of particular things, forces, and laws. Reason sees not only this holism, but the many interrelations of things that make each thing what it is through its relationships with all other things. Second, the world was a developing historical-cosmic process. It was not a static holism (such as the Ancients posited) but it was an evolving, developing holistic process.

Therefore, Hegel understood that reason was not something that discerned universal essences independently of the “particulars” that embody these essences (as many ancient and medieval thinkers had thought), but rather reason operated dialectically: discerning the dynamic interaction of ideas and natural phenomena that result in ever-new, ever-more holistic configurations. His famous statement “the real is the rational and the rational is the real” must be understood in this light. The teleological progression of the holistic process itself, and the human ability to comprehend this process as free, moral beings arising out of that process, constitute the rational.

And, for Hegel, this places human beings in the category of microcosms of the macrocosm, just as many of the Ancients had thought. For Hegel, the universe is becoming conscious of itself in us, in our rationality, freedom, and self-awareness. Similarly, contemporary physicist, Henry Stapp, sees the human mind as participating in the fundamental creative dimension of the universe itself, as “an integral part of the highly nonlocal creative activity of the universe” (in Kitchener, The World View of Contemporary Physics, 1988: 57).

Habermas, like Hegel, like 20th century sociologist George Herbert Mead, and many 20th century social scientists, understands that the Lockean idea, mentioned above, that human beings exist prior to their social contract and enter into this contract with a priori natural rights, is fundamentally mistaken. First, Habermas understands that “human nature” is not a preexisting metaphysical characteristic but rather something that is created through history. Second, Habermas understands that society and individual persons arise together: our “subjectivity and singularity” as individuals are inseparable from our  universal socialization, our common humanity as language speaking beings (Theory of Communicative Action, Volume Two, 1987: 97).

Habermas critically examines Max Weber’s theory of the progressive rationalization of society after the collapse of Medieval societies in Europe founded on supposedly unchanging sacred dogmas. Weber had despaired of hope at the progress of this rationalization process that led, he determined, into the blind alley of “the iron cage” of late capitalism with its “loss of freedom” and “loss of meaning.” But Habermas reveals that Weber had implicitly limited the “reason” behind this rationalization process to “instrumental” reason, reason as Hume or Bentham had described it: simply instrumentally figuring out how to satisfy human drives for profit, power, pleasure, and mastery of nature (Theory of Communicative Action, Volume One, 1984).

Habermas’ analyses of language show that the fundamental presuppositions of language are communicative, not instrumental. He further shows that instrumental uses of language (and hence reason) are secondary and parasitic upon the primary assumptions that make language itself possible. These assumptions behind the very possibility of language mean that human rationality is much deeper than instrumental rationality. They also show that human subjective individuality is inseparable from our commonality as language-structured beings. They show that individuals are not prior to society and that communicative reason is as much a fundament of the community (of humankind) as it is of individual persons (On the Pragmatics of Communication, 1998).

Society. In his 18th century Groundwork, cited above, Kant famously pronounced that every person is an “end in his or herself.” He had already identified the basis for a universal human community, as had the Stoics before him who argued that the entire world was a cosmopolis of rational beings or the Upanishads of India who pronounced vasudhaiva kutumbakam. Kant saw the telos and principle behind existing governments as a categorical imperative to actualize the “kingdom of ends,” that is, as “a systematic union of different rational beings under common laws.”

This systematic union, he says, abstracts from all personal differences and their private ends “to conceive of a whole of all ends in systematic conjunction.” In his 1795 essay Perpetual Peace, he declares: “Since the narrow or wider community of the peoples of earth has developed so far that a violence of rights in one place is felt throughout the world, the idea of a law of world citizenship is no high-flown or exaggerated notion.” A union of ends in systematic conjunction, Kant declares in this essay, would mean a worldwide “federation of free states.”

Hegel, in the 19th century, understood that human beings are within a process of development, a process in which we now understand ourselves as the universe becoming conscious of itself in us. This holistic process involves society as well. While a global society was clearly implicit in Hegel’s philosophy, he generally stopped at the nation-state in his analysis. Nevertheless, he saw that individuality cannot be separated from society, that ethics and reason are not simply individual characteristics but involve the whole of society, and that the government, as the maker of laws, was part of a deep common human agreement and social processes from family to workplace to civic organizations to government, a holism that he termed sittlichkeit (Elements of the Philosophy of Right, 1820). This holism also characterizes our life on this planet. Holism is implicit in family, workplace, civic organizations, and even governments. Laws (against murder, rape, etc.) are said to embody universal principles. Constitutions of nations routinely cite universal rights, or human dignity, or our common humanity, as does the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In the 20th century, Habermas has shown the basis for all this in language, in the very fact that every normal human being is a language-constituted being. Every human being orients his or herself within a universal communicative framework. Every human being is individualized through and by this very framework. Our common humanity and individual uniqueness arise hand in hand. Therefore, every aspect of global civilization involves this same dynamic of simultaneously universalizing and particularizing. Human beings are within a vast historical process of actualizing the holism implicit in our individual selves and within planetary civilization.

Conclusion. The lethal and destructive fragmentation of planetary society described above is why there is an absolute need for ratifying the Constitution for the Federation of Earth (found on-line in many places such as We are in the process of destroying ourselves and need to bring democratic order and law to our beleaguered planet directed toward establishing a worldsystem based on peace, freedom, justice, and sustainability. Hence, on the one hand, this Earth Constitution can be termed our global social contract. Its ratification would involve a major agreement from the majority of the Earth’s citizens to move history to a higher level of actualization by uniting humanity together within global democracy.

On the other hand, this Constitution is simply the actualization of the global social contract that is implicit in the global common good at the heart of civilization mentioned everywhere in world literature, cultures and religions. The great early 20th century Indian sage, Rabindranath Tagore, writes: “It is the mission of civilization to bring unity among people and establish peace and harmony: (Gitanjali, 2006: 214). The 20th century French-American visionary Teilhard de Chardin proclaimed: “It is impossible to become one with All without carrying to their extreme limit, in their simultaneous progress toward differentiation and convergence, the dispersed elements that constitute us and surround us” (Let Me Explain, 1970: 117). Albert Einstein famously declared: “We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.

It should be clear that this “mission of civilization” is actualized within our united universality and particularity. We humans synthesize our “differentiation and convergence” to become “one with All.” Through our “substantially new manner of thinking,” we can become one with the rest of humanity and, indeed, with the cosmos from which we emerged. We take first real steps toward this conscious oneness by ratifying the Earth Constitution.

This new way of thinking involves a deep recognition of the holism of humanity, of the planetary biosphere that embraces us, and of the sacred cosmos that created us. It means recognizing, as Einstein himself declared, the need for democratic world government. The ratification of the Earth Constitution would embrace the unity in diversity that is the true social, linguistic, and evolutionary principle at the heart of our human situation. The Preamble of the Constitution declares:

Conscious that Humanity is One despite the existence of diverse nations,races, creeds, ideologies and cultures and 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; and when basic human rights and responsibilities shall be shared by all without discrimination….

This passage correctly identifies a link between embracing this constitution and the actualization of “a new age.” The Constitution embraces the principle of unity in diversity brilliantly within all of its 19 articles. Holism permeates the Constitution and reveals a recognition of our human situation that goes much deeper than the mere signing of a contractual agreement. The Constitution not only recognizes societies, cultures, civic organizations, and religions as part of the holism of humanity, but clearly its ratification would significantly help raise this holism to much greater human awareness. Dialectically, ratifying the Constitution as our global social contract would help actualize the deep holism, rationality, and common good of our human project implicit at every level of global and local societies. It is this deep reality that constitutes the real substance of our global social contract.

Our global social contract already lives within the deep dimensions of the dynamic unity in diversity of our human situation. Ratifying the Constitution for the Federation of Earth will help bring our deep common reality to actuality and self-awareness everywhere on our planet. Global democracy embraces our fundamental human reality and raises it to mutual recognition among the peoples of Earth. It will lay the foundations for a world of peace, freedom, justice, and sustainability that is the true heritage of our common human project.

(Glen T. Martin is Professor of Philosophy and Chairperson Emeritus of the Peace Studies Program at Radford University in Virginia. He is President of the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA), the Institute on World Problems (IOWP) and International Philosophers for Peace (IPPNO). He is author or editor of eleven books and dozens of articles on world law, world peace, and human liberation.)

Fundamentals of Human Liberation

Fundamental Principles of Human Liberation

Glen T. Martin


Everywhere I travel on our planet people speak of political corruption. Many of the politicians who supposedly represent their people in government are really bought and paid for by corporations, wealthy patrons, or criminal enterprises.  Everywhere on Earth the wealthiest 1% run the show, the top 15 or 20% live very well, and the other 80% just struggle for survival. This wealthy minority own the mass media that misinforms and manipulates people in the interest of its class domination. They own the giant transnational corporations who use their immense wealth to corrupt and dominate people around the world in the interests of private profit.

They own the banking cartels that manipulate currencies, create dangerous financial instruments based on speculation, and engage in immense risk-taking with other people’s money. They dominate once democratically elected governments in the interest of wealthy bankers, investors, and corporations. Everywhere on Earth the climate is changing, stable patterns necessary for survival and flourishing are collapsing, and every thoughtful person knows our collective human future is in great danger.  Around the world there are perpetual wars, terrorism, and violence.

The big nations of the Earth, led or threatened by the global hegemon, the United States, spend immense quantities of money and resources of the Earth on military and wars, while neglecting the social welfare and human rights of their own citizens. They continue to develop nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction along with the speed and effectiveness of delivery systems thereby continuing to keep our planet in danger of devastating sudden death for its human population and much of the planet’s higher forms of life. Institutionalized secrecy, mass surveillance, and debilitating security systems encompass our planet, with horrific consequences for public information, honesty, and integrity. Despite some nine human rights conventions passed by the U.N., human rights are routinely violated in nearly every country on Earth.

Part One: Liberation Theory

It is clear to any thoughtful person that there is something fundamentally wrong about our human condition. In terms of the four quadrants that together encompass human life as developed by Ken Wilber (cf. Integral Spirituality, 2006), what is wrong embraces all four of these quadrants: the subjective dimension, the interpersonal-cultural dimension, the institutional dimension and basic aspects of the scientific dimension. Human beings are by and large unenlightened and unliberated subjectively, culturally, institutionally, and in terms of scientific methodologies. In Wilber’s language, we are unliberated in terms of the I (subjectively), the WE (culturally and collectively), the ITS (institutionally), and the IT (in our scientific study of nature and ourselves).

Any short article, of course, runs the risk of oversimplification, and I refer interested readers to my books where these principles are more fully elaborated. However, there is a need for people to grasp the overall parameters of human liberation because these parameters determine praxis: how we act to establish institutions, cultural forms, subjective attitudes, and scientific methodologies. Understanding the broad parameters of human liberation allows us to engage effectively in the kinds of praxis necessary to make it happen.  Contemporary world-class thinker, Jürgen Habermas, distinguishes the ideas of human liberation that emerged from the 18th century Enlightenment from our very different contemporary understandings. The Enlightenment thought of the human race as “constant in its essential nature.” However:

Theory now deals with the objective, overall complex of development of a human species which produces itself, which is as yet only destined to attain its essence: humanity. What has remained is theory’s claim to providing orientation in right action, but the realization of the good, happy, and rational life has been stretched out along the vertical axis of world history; praxis has been extended to cover stages of emancipation. (Theory and Practice, 1973, p. 253).

Across the board, the social and psychological sciences, as well as critical social thinkers, have understood that humanity is a process of development to higher stages of consciousness, cultural forms, and institutional embodiments. Human liberation requires that we study these processes of development theoretically and the kinds of praxis that make liberating development possible. In this article, I sketch an overview of these stages of development and the praxis necessary to enhance and enable them in the most effective manner possible.

One principle that has developed as a fundament for the progressive liberation of humankind is the notion of humanity as one human family: as universally equal and potentially harmonious. The caste system has been legally abolished in India and the slave-system legally abolished in the West. People today are working everywhere to abolish other forms of slavery such as bonded labor and human trafficking. The poor are realizing their intrinsic human rights that make them equal with the rich and demand actualization in equitable institutions. Women, peoples of color, and minority cultures around the world are beginning to take their stand on the universal equality and dignity of human beings.

These principles have their roots in ancient spiritualties and philosophies (from the Greek and Roman Stoics to the Hindu Vedas to Buddhist scriptures), but they reached a higher level of awareness during the Enlightenment. Since that time, philosophies of liberation from Marx to Levinas to Habermas have presupposed this equality as the essential starting point for further development. In the 18th century, Thomas Jefferson declared that “all men are created equal.” For Habermas, universal equality is built into the very presuppositions of language. If you speak a language, universal equality is already presupposed. He writes:

Let us imagine individuals being socialized as members of an ideal communication community; they would in the same measure acquire an identity with two complementary aspects: one universalizing, one particularizing. On the one hand, these persons raised under idealized conditions learn to orient themselves within a universalistic framework, that is, to act autonomously. On the other hand, they learn to use this autonomy, which makes them equal to every other morally acting subject, to develop themselves in their subjectivity and singularity. (Theory of Communicative Action, Volume Two, 1987: 97)

Today, this assumption of the correlation in development of selfhood between human uniqueness and universal equality has been transferred into the newly emergent holistic paradigm. All these developmental stages involve a paradigm shift from fragmented early-modern paradigms to holism (see my book One World Renaissance 2016). This means that our praxis directed toward liberation in the subjective, cultural, institutional, and scientific dimensions of human existence must emphasize developmental and transformative holism. We cannot erect institutions or cultural forms that artificially attempt to remedy our immense global problems with “sociotechnical controls” that inhibit or limit the collective transformation of humanity to higher, more integrated and holistic forms of consciousness, culture, and institutions. Habermas declares:

A theory which confuses control with action is no longer capable of such a perspective. It understands society as a nexus of behavioral modes, for which rationality is mediated solely by the understanding of sociotechnical controls, but not by a coherent total consciousness—not by precisely that interested reason which can only attain practical power through the minds of politically enlightened citizens.  (Theory and Practice, 1973: 255)

Our goal must be the global empowerment of a humanity consisting of politically (and spiritually) enlightened citizens, that is, a “coherent total consciousness” of mature human beings. Human liberation will only come from the whole of humanity developing together. Our praxis must be directed toward empowering this global transformation. There are four key principles that must be understood for making this possible.

  • Human Development Theory. Throughout the 20th century, a number of psychologists and social scientists studied human development in depth, including such well-known figures as Abraham Maslow, Erich Erickson, Eric Fromm, Lawrence Kohlberg, Carol Gilligan, James Fowler, Don Edward Beck, Christopher Cowan, and Ken Wilber. Despite secondary differences, a powerful consensus has developed understanding that human beings move along multiple developmental lines (for example, cognitive, interpersonal, moral, and spiritual) toward higher levels of awareness, integration, autonomy, and fulfillment. There is in addition a broad consensus that human beings also develop civilizationally, culturally, and institutionally through a similar series of developmental stages.

Perhaps the most common model of this development sees proper human growth as moving from egoism (the me, my, and mine orientation, including my family, my nation, my race, etc.) to pluralism (the tolerance and social acceptance of differences in cultures, nationalities, points of view, races, gender orientations, etc.) to a worldcentric perspective (what is important is humanity, human rights, justice, mutual respect, freedom for all, etc.) to an integral outlook (I have internalized and integrated the developmental lines within myself and see human life as a whole, perhaps as a microcosm of the cosmic and divine dimensions of existence, and myself as a living manifestation of this holism). Human liberation requires that human beings grow to these higher levels of self-actualization and awareness. What kind of social, economic, and political institutions best foster this growth?

here are also a number of great philosophers and thinkers who have outlined integral developmental models encompassing civilization as a whole. Sri Aurobindo in India outlined stages of collective human development that move from our current egocentric mind to universal mind to intuitive mind to overmind, that is, toward ever-more awakened states of mind-consciousness, ultimately including world government and the unity in diversity of all humankind.  Jean Gebser understood human civilization as moving from archaic modes of consciousness and culture (in pre-historic times) to magical to mythic to rational to pluralistic to integral modes, the integral modes of the future uniting humankind in a universal civilization of peace, harmony, and freedom. Teilhard de Chardin saw evolution as moving holistically on Earth from the geosphere to the biosphere (life holistically encompassing the Earth) to the noösphere in which mind would encompass and integrate the lower levels. The emergent reality of the noösphere moves toward ever-greater integration of unity in diversity, the progressive incarnation of the divine within the cosmos and human life.

  • Critical Social Theory. This movement is larger than the famous Frankfort School of social thought from which its name derives. Perhaps the most fundamental idea of critical social theory is that we need to look behind prevailing ideologies and institutions and expose their hidden forms of domination, exploitation, and dehumanization. This includes the tradition stemming from some Enlightenment thinkers (e.g., Immanuel Kant’s essay “What is Enlightenment?”) through Karl Marx, György Lukács, and Antonio Gramsci, to Herbert Marcuse, Erich Fromm, Jürgen Habermas, and others in the 20th

It also includes forms of Liberation Theology developed by thinkers such as Gustavo Gutierrez, Jon Sobrino, Juan Luis Segundo, and Enrique Dussel (see Dussel’s Ethics and Community 1988). Today, thoughtful people are suspicious: suspicious of government, ideologies, religious institutions and dogmas, economic institutions and their dogmas, as well as many cultural forms. But this suspicion must not result in the paralysis of skepticism or nihilism. It must be creatively and systematically used to further human development toward authentic liberation subjectively, culturally, institutionally, and in terms of the uses and abuses of science.

Critical social theory systematically fosters human growth toward our highest human potentialities through penetrating the deceiving appearances in economic, social, political, and cultural existence with the goal of human liberation. It critiques society in terms of whether existing conditions constrict and repress these potentialities or enhance and foster them. As critical social thinker Evelyn Bologh writes: “Marx shows greed to be an historical as opposed to a natural phenomenon. This is not to say greed us unnatural or deviant, but that its possibility derives not from an ahistorical human nature but from an historical, social development.” She continues: “Marx formulates history from within a form of life characterized by the possibility of self-conscious community…. He reads history in terms of the repressed community (capitalism) versus…a self-conscious community (post-capitalism)…a historical accomplishment not conceived as external to the members and their activity” (Dialectical Phenomenology, 1979: 76, 237, 239).

It is important to reflect on the words “not external to the members and their activity.”  Liberation is about our common human destiny on this planet, about our collective level of human maturity and spirituality. It is about our ability to actualize fully the compassion envisioned by the Lord Buddha or the love envisioned by Jesus Christ and embody these within our economic and political institutions. It has been properly proclaimed that “Justice is what love looks like in the public sphere.” We have the potential to create a world of love, justice, peace, freedom, and sustainability. Critical social theory is not about social engineering or the manipulation of human beings but our collective human destiny. What kind of planetary social, economic, and political institutions can we establish that promote the actualization of our highest human potential? I will say more about these institutions below.

My own critical theory of our human condition and its possibilities has been elaborated in a developed form from my book Millennium Dawn (2005) through Ascent to Freedom (2008) and Triumph of Civilization (2010) to my recent book One World Renaissance (2016). These works fit the contention of Marx, Habermas and Bologh that our human situation is fundamentally historical and that we have great potential for transformation that is blocked by current economic and political institutions. All three critical thinkers, as well as my own works, attempt to move humanity toward becoming an ever-more self-conscious community. We are moving into the future with immense possibilities for a world of peace, freedom, community, love, justice, and sustainability. However, we are trapped within global institutional arrangements (primarily the system of sovereign nation-states interlinked with global capitalism) that repress, distort, and block the actualization of our higher human potential.

  • The world’s Spiritual and Religious Traditions. There is much in the world’s great spiritual and religious traditions that applies to human cognitive, moral, spiritual, and interpersonal development. Since the late 19th century, these traditions have been progressively freed from their ancient metaphysical and ethnocentric biases. Their immense wisdom is now available for the progressive development of humanity. As many scholars have pointed out, there is a powerful consensus among the spiritual-mystical traditions of the great religions as to stages of spiritual awakening. We can, therefore, add these stages of awakening to the stages of growth articulated by the social scientists.

We can also reflect on the very important eschatological dimension articulated by a number of great religious visionaries. That is, we can reflect on the power of the divine ground to illuminate and transform our human condition. This involves dimensions of our human situation often neglected by developmental thinkers like Wilber as well as critical social theorists such as Habermas. The more deeply aware we become, the more we access the divine depths of our situation and the more we encounter our potential for deep transformation. What social, economic, and political arrangements can foster access to these depths?  Our present global institutions block our potential in this aspect of our human condition as well.

There are different names for the stages of human moral and spiritual development, depending on the thinker. For example, we have seen that proper human growth can be said to move from egoism to pluralism to worldcentric orientation to integral awareness. Or, if we add spiritual stages to this model, we might articulate a commensurate set of stages as “Archaic to Magic to Mythic to Rational to Pluralistic to Integral to Super-Integral” (Integral Spirituality 2006: 90). “Super-Integral” itself can include a series of ever more profound mystical-spiritual stages involving direct awareness of the divine ground. People have long understood the relation between inner peace and outer peace. These higher stages of development involve ever-greater states of inner peace, fulfillment, harmony, and bliss—with the implication that this potential could deeply transform our social, economic, and political arrangements as well.

  • Paradigm Shift from Fragmentation to Holism. As outlined above, this holism must be the framework for the first three principles. We embrace the holism of humanity, the holism of our planetary biosphere, and the holism of the cosmos. Paradigm shift requires transformation to a holistic paradigm in all four quadrants that encompass human life. First, the new paradigm promotes subjective transformation to post-egoic, holistic modes of consciousness. Second, this paradigm shift requires cultural transformation to enlightened holism in our collective lives. From literature, to rituals, to song and dance to all the multiplicity of cultural forms, we need to celebrate our unity in diversity, our harmony and holism. Third, the paradigm shift to holism must include transfer of control of science from the military and economic interests of the top 20% to the interests of the whole of nature and humanity. Fourth, our global economic and political institutions (capitalism and the system of sovereign nation-states) must be transformed under holistic principles to systems that work for everyone, not just the power and economic interests of the few.

Part Two: Liberation Praxis

The key transformative element at this stage of history is ratification of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth (found on-line in many places such as In terms of development theory, the uniting of the nations in a universal federation under the Earth Constitution would provide a fundamental stimulus and incentive for moving the people of Earth from the current egoistic and ethnocentric stage of maturity to the necessary worldcentric stage. It provides a holistic framework that will profoundly influence all four quadrants: subjective consciousness, culture, institutions, and science.

The Earth Constitution, for example, joins humanity together under the principle that the life-giving resources of the Earth belong to all of us, not the 20% or the 1% only. The Provisional World Parliament has already enhanced this principle of the Constitution with World Legislative Acts 22, 42, and 51, establishing reasonable global economic equity ( These institutional transformations will necessarily empower the transformation of people’s subjectivity toward worldcentrism. Once the citizens of Earth are primarily at the worldcentric stage of cognitive, moral, and spiritual development, the model of further growth in maturity and awareness will flourish, and humanity will have begun its journey into ever more profound levels of peace, freedom, and liberation.

In terms of critical social theory, the Earth Constitution is designed to take the undemocratic power out of the hands of the global ruling classes and place governing power democratically within a multiplicity of representatives from around the globe whose mandate is to focus on our common global problems (ending war, protecting human rights, protecting our planetary environment, etc.). The Provisional World Parliament has already created World Legislative Act 57 as an institution that will enhance this process for legislators. Critical self-awareness, as well as awareness of hidden power, exploitation, and domination relationships will flourish evermore widely. Critical social theory in this broad sense will become a standard intellectual and moral praxis of the citizens and government officials of the Earth Federation. The Parliament has also created World Legislative Act 29 for a Global People’s Assembly that will enhance this process for citizens.

In terms of the world’s spiritual and religious traditions, the Constitution opens up universal protection for the diversity of the world’s spiritual traditions which abolishes the current false links of their messages with ethnocentrism and nationalism. Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc., are no longer divided from one another because of association with certain nation-states (as political, economic, and military power centers), but the citizens of the Earth Federation are truly free to access and investigate the profound holistic wisdom of these traditions for the first time in history. The model of spiritual development will flourish. Indeed, the Earth Constitution itself is a concrete manifestation of the global vision of spirituality from awakened thinkers like Sri Aurobindo and Mahatma Gandhi in India, Baha’u’llah in Persia, or Onisaburo Deguchi in Japan. It both fosters and represents a higher level of ethical and spiritual actualization on the part of humanity.

Clearly, then, the establishment of the Federation of Earth under the Earth Constitution will enhance the developmental, holistic paradigm shift in all four quadrants of human endeavor. It will overcome the horrific fragmentation of a world-system of sovereign militarized nation-states. It will powerfully promote cultural transformation to an enlightened worldcentric holism. It will make possible on a planetary scale subjective transformation to post-egoic, holistic subjective modes of consciousness and powerfully promote the spiritualties of the world’s great religious traditions moving people to higher, more integral modes of consciousness. Finally, and extremely important, it will decouple science from the industrial-military-academic complexes of the world and direct the vast potential of science into healing the environment and providing quality of life to all the world’s citizens.

To effectively make this transformation happen, it is important that the people of Earth feel the holistic unity in diversity implemented by the Earth Constitution.  They must feel the power, freedom, and equality reserved to them and understood as inalienable rights by Articles 12 and 13 of the Constitution. One key to cognitive, moral, and spiritual development is the feeling of empowerment and democratic equality with the rest of humanity, inherent in the very languages that we speak. Any hierarchies of classes, institutional discriminations, or superior political empowerment will defeat the growth of the human population toward evermore peaceful, free, and liberated subjective, cultural, institutional, and scientific modes of existence. Any institutionalized elitism will immediately be exposed by critical social theorists as a devious cover for hidden power and self-interest relationships.

From the ancient Stoics in the West to the Vedic tradition in the East it has been declared that vasudhaiva kutubukum: the world is one family. This is the presupposition of the Earth Constitution and the fundamental principle for human liberation. It is the principle of unity in diversity announced in the Preamble to the Constitution and embodied in the immense holism that informs ever article within the Constitution. Upon creation of the Earth Federation under the Constitution, people will immediately begin to feel and assimilate these principles of the holism of humanity and the holism of the biosphere that encompasses the Earth.

The universal equality and empowerment before the law will empower growth to a worldcentric, politically aware, involved, and conscientious stage of human consciousness. The Earth Constitution also promotes universal education for developing worldcentric consciousness. This has been powerfully enhanced by the Provisional World Parliament in World Legislative Act 26, the Education Act.  The majority will begin deeply caring about humanity, the Earth, and the future of the divine-human project upon the Earth. It is the framework of an integrated and institutionalized unity in diversity, premised on the universal equality of dignity and rights of every citizen of Earth that will effect this transformation, not some sociocultural engineering attempting to put the supposedly wiser or more highly educated into power over the rest.

In terms of a coherent understanding of the processes of human liberation, the idea of a “Supreme Council for Humanity,” (proposed recently by some well-meaning people) or any other body of people placed in power over the rest of us because they are wiser or more educated is counter-productive, as well as frightening in its possible totalitarian implications. We need an institutional framework for the people of Earth that encompasses and empowers everyone equally, for it is our general civilizational and common human transformation that will liberate us, not any sociopolitical tools that divide us and attempt to substitute social engineering for genuine transformation.

Currently we are divided from one another (and our common development toward liberation is largely defeated) by the system of sovereign nation-states, most of them militarized, interfaced with a global economic system designed to funnel the wealth of our planet to the top 20% and mostly to the top 1%. The Earth Constitution transforms both these institutions along holistic principles. Under the Constitution the nations are federated with one another, ultimately demilitarized, and joined within a single constitutional framework. Similarly, the global economic system is transformed under the same holism to work for all the world’s citizens, not just the few.

Under the Earth Constitution, the people of Earth will begin energetically and voluntarily educating themselves for participation in this exciting journey into an ever-more holistic and bliss-filled future. On the foundation of human universality and equality we can move into the future developing ever-more integrated forms of unity in diversity. It is all of us together, in equality and freedom, or it will be none of us. This is the fundamental principle of human liberation at this stage of history. And the key to making it happen is ratification of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.

(Glen T. Martin is Professor of Philosophy at Radford University and Chair Emeritus of its Peace Studies Program. He is President of the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA), President of the Institute on World Problems (IOWP), and President of International Philosophers for Peace (IPPNO). He is author or editor of 11 books and dozens of articles on human liberation and democratic world law.)

The Sovereignty of Humanity


Glen T. Martin

Our time is a time of vast danger for the future of humankind and the integrity of our precious Earth.  Forces of disintegration, division, and war everywhere attack human unity and inhibit the emergence of a planetary civilization based on our common humanity. Human beings continue to cling to pseudo-realities, pseudo-realities that become extremely dangerous and tear our world apart: nations, races, religions, ethnicities, cultures, languages, corporate interests, etc.  Attachment to pseudo-realities obscures from us our common humanity, our common human reality evolving out of the vast cosmic evolutionary process from the Big Bang, to human emergence some two million years ago, to human ascendancy over nature and colonization of the entire Earth in the past two centuries.

Since the 20th century, physics has shown us in great depth and detail that the reality (the basic nature) of the cosmos cannot be imagined by the human pictorial imagination.  Unlike the old magical and mythological relations to reality that assumed that the real could be pictured and named, everything in contemporary physics reveals the world in terms of mathematical equations that cannot be translated into imaginative pictures. Physics unveils the absolute oneness of the universe and the thoroughly interdependent and relative nature of all the fields within that whole: within that dynamic, ever-flowing holism.

The cosmos is being restored to the mysterium magnum that encompasses our lives. Physics shows that the universe is relative through and through: all things existing as fields within fields whose identities depend on the fields and their relation to one another.  Rather than a diversity of substantial realities opposed to one another, what emerges is the ONE that all these fields manifest: the cosmic plenum.  Not a magical or mythological relation to nature and the cosmos, not the pseudo-realities of nations, races, etc., but cosmic consciousness, the mysterium magnum of the deeply integrated Oneness of all things.

But the integral oneness of all things can emerge in our common human consciousness only when we have detached ourselves from these multiple pseudo-realities and embraced our common human destiny. The heart of the universe, God or the ONE, is becoming conscious of itself in us. This is central to our human destiny: to become a focal point, compacted like a laser beam, of awareness of the depths: the oneness of Humanity and the oneness of the divine depths actualized in the living human community upon the sacred Earth. The sovereignty of humanity cannot be separated from the sovereignty of the divine plenum of the cosmos in human life and consciousness.

Our planet is passing through its dark night of the soul in the terror of fragmentation: endless wars and destruction in the name of pseudo realities: nations, races, idolatrous religious identifications, egoistic greed: partial and parochial identities all. Becoming truly worldcentric (universally human centric) is not merely a stage in some schema of moral and cognitive growth as put forward by today’s psychologists. Becoming worldcentric, human-centric, and cosmos-centric is the giant imperative of human history—the gigantic ethical demand to become fully human and therefore transparent to the divine mysterium magnum of existence.

The realization of our full humanity does not abandon the body or nature but raises the body and nature up to their true levels and true destiny—to become transparent to the divine presence, to the Oneness at the heart of all things. Our full humanity sanctifies nature and spirit and shows their profound integration. Human beings become sovereign as the expression of the gigantic cosmic telos at the heart of the primordial cosmic explosion, guiding cosmic evolution, and coming to fruition on our precious green and blue planetary home (among other places in the vastness of our cosmos). Human beings become the community of the Earth, the expression and children of the Earth, but also the expression and children of the unimaginable and inconceivable divine.  These are joined together in the sovereignty of the human community—living in love, justice, peace, and compassion in the magnificent intensity of the fullness of life become conscious of itself on our beautiful green and blue spaceship Earth.

The Earth Constitution is not the end of this process. It is, however, an absolutely necessary step in the actualization of our human destiny. The Constitution brings humanity together politically and economically under the concept of the sovereignty of humanity. It recognizes our fundamental oneness, not to the exclusion of diversity (which it protects), but a oneness in which all the diverse elements (nations, races, cultures, ideologies) are raised up to a higher level of respect and protection precisely because they are now joined together within institutions founded upon our common humanity.

Nearly all things created in human history up to this point have not been consciously founded. They have largely evolved in historical struggles on the basis of natural features of the world such as geography, race, culture, language, and so-called “natural” divisions of the world deriving from these features such as nation-states.  There is nothing whatsoever that is fundamental about nation-states. They are thoroughly contingent, relative to one another and interdependent with one another within our common human situation. They are historical pseudo-realities, evolving by geography, accident, and arbitrary human decision-making. There is nothing fundamentally real or “right” about them.

Only today, in the monumental 21st century, have enough human beings evolved in their thinking to a consciousness of our common humanity and our common human destiny upon the Earth.  We are now for the first time ready to found, to consciously establish, a world system based upon our common humanity.  In this lies the immense significance of the Earth Constitution. In consciously doing this, we move to a higher level—beyond the old magical and mythical pseudo-realities to a common consciousness of the sovereignty of humankind and our shared destiny upon planet Earth.

Our destiny is not to abandon nature and the body for some other world or through asceticism as so many historical religions would have it (even though a great non-attachment is indeed required). Our destiny is not to live in a world of allegiances to pseudo-realities of nationality, race, gender identity, culture, or class privilege. Our destiny is to elevate nature and spirit in the magnificent union of ecstatic living in joy within the absolute here and now of life on our beautiful Earth. It is to redeem nature, and ourselves, through the integration (unity in diversity) of God, nature, and humanity.  Evolution and human history have been ever moving toward this cosmic fulfillment.

Our divine-human destiny is the union of mind and nature in the fullness of consciousness of the magnificent present moment. It is to simultaneously live in communion and community with all our brothers and sisters on the Earth. We must become creatures of joy in living—joy in the fullness of the living, divine present. We must find joy in these pots and pans, in this rain upon the roof, in this beautiful human form, in this loving relation with others.  This is the sovereignty of humanity. It is also the sovereignty of God and the redemption of nature. There can be no separation, only integration, in the unity of the mysterium magnum.