Global Democracy and Human Self-Transcendence
Emeritus Professor of Law
University of Warwick and Delhi
24 October 2017
This a powerfully summoning book that brings in the good news that we may still overcome. It brings forth a new politics of hope, pitted against the poetics of despair. Here is a new vision of the world where distress of the Anthropocene is writ large and global impoverishment of politics is legible to all. Professor Glen T. Martin summons us to think that ‘choosing life’ is still doable in the face of extinction posed by the advancing Anthropocene. And one way to meet the challenge is facilitated by the coordination, if not outright demise, of national sovereignties and move expeditiously towards green global governance.
Among the universal contradictions of late capitalism, David Harvey narrates the present hyper-globalzing/post-liberalization era as fostering the condition universal and ‘multiple’ alienation. (1) This work addresses a similar problem but is more roseate, in diverse bold ways in silhouetting the possibility of a new global contract. Professor Martin shows that this possibility is both a metaphysical moment as well as practical agenda for a new world order: for Professor Martin, a new global vision is ‘is absolutely central to the possibility of human survival and flourishing on our beautiful planet Earth during the 21st century’. (2)
Emphasizing that ‘old patterns of thinking are no longer sufficient’, Martin believes that that we need to rethink in ‘creative and innovative ways because today we face threats to human existence and a viable human future from many directions’. How do we think anew and afresh rather than recycle old, fatigued, and unresponsive ways of thinking? Martin insists that we move away from what he calls ‘egoistic’ (the ‘orientation of childhood and immature adults’), ‘ethnocentric’ (thinking ‘largely limited to one’s own culture, religion, or nation’) to ‘worldcentric’ thinking which helps develop ‘compassion, care, and universal rational principles applying to all humanity’. The emphasis respects the coequal nature of sentimental reason and emotional intelligence and universal principles of moral reason. This feature gives an adequate significance to the terms ’holistic’ and ’integral’, so favorite of Martin.
The ‘integral’ is the fourth entailment which prescribes ‘developing integrated cosmic awareness and understanding and harmonizing masculine and feminine elements within the whole of one’s being’. Arriving at a Worldcentric stage is ‘not an endpoint, but a profound beginning of a perpetual journeying into ever-greater wonder, awareness, harmony, and love’ where life ‘becomes a wondrous journey into an ever-widening future, and the ‘utopian vision becomes ever more clear’. The ‘worldcentric’ character of the new ways of thinking is the only possible collective human response to the challenges posed by the Anthropocene and geophysical crises besides global warming and climate change. (3)
The term ‘integral’ has several meanings. The sense in which Shri Aurobindo and the Mother used it in expounding integral yoga is different from the views of the philosopher Ken Wilber coined the term “Integral” in a specific sense, meaning a very comprehensive standpoint on reality that combines inner and outer perspectives on the individual and the collective. For Wilber, whom Martin follows, all of reality is constantly mobilizing an “It” dimension (the outer-individual), an “I” perspective (the inner-individual), an “Its” perspective (the outer-collective) and a “We” perspective (the inner-collective). Christian Arnsperger has applied it in what he names ‘Full-Spectrum-Economics’, which means in complete plain words that ‘that ecological and social problems are like the two sides of the same sheet of paper, with inequality linking them indissolubly’. (4)
In the vision of a new global future (and contract) love plays a prominent part. That love is neither romantic not Platonic, much less what Rousseau may have meant by what he termed ‘official love’. Rather, writes Martin, love ‘can and should be a dimension of our knowing, caring, and being, for through it human consciousness can manifest the creative joy in simply being: knowing as ecstatic consciousness’. He
quotes Tagore: ‘Inspired by the breath of the universe, the heart, like a reed sings’. Love is but another name for what Martin has elsewhere termed ‘integrative mysticism’ – the dimensions that articulate ‘wonder, … knowledge and understanding, join together what is separated, and … the simple joy in living, a joy that is often at the same time an intuitive awareness’. Love is ‘fundamental to the process of continual self-transcendence that characterizes human life and reflects our infinite dignity’.
Love may take many forms. It ‘can take the form of desiring what appears good and beautiful, or … of a relationship of respect and concern among persons within a community (and a special bond with some that can be called friendship)’, or further … the form of compassion (literally to “suffer with”) for other persons or living creatures’. Seeking to co-suffer with the hapless other betokens ‘something of this form of love’. But to ‘experience compassion for another is not to have desire for them, and not even necessarily friendship for them, it is to feel with them’, to share critical solidarity ‘to the point where we feel with them: their pain, their anguish, their fear, even their joy and happiness’. No better linkage between human rights and love can be articulated.
The book in your hands demonstrates how an ‘effective global social contract’ would not ‘only transform…anachronistic institutions that today are the central threat to human survival on Earth’ but would advance ‘significantly a mature worldcentrism of universal reason, love, and compassion impact’. This will happen because science shall be ‘liberated to promote human welfare and sustainability’, culture similarly ‘liberated to promote peace, tolerance, and mutual understanding’, and human subjectivity liberated to ‘grow to a mature worldcentrism of universal reason, love, and compassion’.
The book focuses the new vision through the prism of Constitution for the Federation of Earth, which is a global movement endorsed ethically many states and peoples. As they are made more aware of the plight of the Planet Earth, more critical solidarity will grow for a new global social contract. But it is here conceived broadly as ‘a regulative ideal and a vision of one possible coherent planetary order that can guide and organize our thinking toward a decent human future’. (5)
The Earth Charter, outlining in detail the institutional framework of a new global social contract enunciates a new conception for green global governance and often amounts to a blueprint of global government. What stands projected is the demand that ‘we form a federation that ends war, protects universal human rights, creates reasonable economic equity, regulates world commerce for the common good, protects the planetary environment, and addresses all problems beyond the scope of nation-states’. A world federation that addresses these global concerns would be, ‘in the words of Swami Agnivesh, a paradigm shifts from a power-dominated system to a love-orientated system’.
This book is not so much concerned with particularities of the provisions of the Earth Charter but rather with the ‘cusp of … a paradigm-shift from fragmentation (of capitalism and the system of sovereign nation-states) to holism (world socialism, global democracy, and the human community)’. To be sure, there are ‘many dialectical tensions’ which surround ‘human dignity, human love, human freedom, human rights, human community, etc., and our anachronistic historical institutions of global capitalism and sovereign nation-states’. But this can only be changed when we begin to ‘envision this transformation and actualize it with great urgency…’.The argument entails ‘the dialectical reciprocity of institutional structures and human consciousness’. Put another way, transformations of individual consciousness will ensue, once rapid changes in institutions and networks occur.
I am tempted to steal the entire thunder of the book but that is both inappropriate for a forward and insufficiently ‘worldcentric’; so dazzling is the vision that an act of appropriation is unseemly. I hope that the reader of this work will want to grasp the overall significance of the vision here propounded. The present, certainly, is a time of dystopias, but we need a resurgence of the utopic element of thought and feeling to invent a whole new paraphernalia to make sense of destruction, degeneration, and the devastation that awaits us as the Anthropocene advances and mere anthropogenic harm makes any human effort at restoration totally unattainable.
Utopias are first best read as offering critiques of the present institutional human condition, and as a quest for new regulative ideas and principles, and for the near future holism and integrity of individual and collective thought and action. Above all, we need (as the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge once said) a ‘willing suspension of disbelief’, not the old habits of thought that celebrate the immutability of things. (6)
- David Harvey, Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism, 198(2013).
- In this, he comes close to John Rawls who changed his views from justice as a metaphysical good to a political virtue. See John Rawls, ‘Justice as Fairness: Political not Metaphysical’ Philosophy and Public Affairs, 14:3, 223-251 (1985); Melissa S. Williams, ‘Justice toward Groups: Political Not Juridical’ Political Theory, 23:1 67-91, (1995).
- Full Spectrum Economics Toward an Inclusive and Emancipatory Social Science’ (London, Routledge, 2010).
- Christian Arnsperger and Dominique Berg, Ecologie intégrale: Pour une société permacirculaire (translation: Integral Ecology: Toward a Perma-Circular Society), 12 (2016).
- The literature on the subject is immense but see, for example, Dorothy Emmet, Role of The Unrealisable: A Study in Regulative Ideals (London, Palgrave McMillan, 1994).
- Michael Tomko, Beyond the Willing Suspension of Disbelief: Poetic Faith from Coleridge to Tolkien, (London, Bloombury,2015).