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

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  century.

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.)


Patterns of Thought and Human Survival: Holism vs. Fragmentation


Climate disruption is dawning upon even the most close-minded of human beings. The proliferation and growing possibility of planetary devastation through weapons of mass destruction is beginning to dawn upon even the most close-minded military fanatics. Careful assessment of possible human futures gives us a bleak picture indeed. Even a Bernie Sanders, who is giving momentary hope to tens of millions of ordinary Americans, is not capable of transforming the overall assessment of a bleak and possibly hopeless human future.

In October 2015, the UN announced its new development goals, now called “Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)” to serve as a guide for all nations until 2030. These replace the failed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were in effect from 2000 to 2015. The Guardian reported that these new goals address the inadequate assumptions behind the failed earlier goals: “While the MDGs, in theory, applied to all countries, in reality they were considered targets for poor countries to achieve, with finance from wealthy states. Conversely, every country will be expected to work towards achieving the SDGs. The new agenda, with 17 sustainable development goals at its core, recognizes that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with a plan that builds economic growth and addresses a range of social needs, while tackling climate change.”

Recently scientists have revealed that the amount of heat in the oceans has doubled since 1997, in a mere 20 years, with immense unknown consequences for life in the oceans and by implication for all life upon the Earth [1]. Meanwhile Vladimir Putin said he “hopes nuclear warheads will not be needed to deal with terrorists or anyone else, after Russia launched cruise missiles from its submarine at Syria” [2] The threat to human existence from both these sources is no longer even veiled or repressed by the media: the possibility of the end of the human civilization project as we have known it is very real and immanent.

However, at the same time a great hope of a fundamental paradigm shift has arisen among a small portion of humanity, a paradigm-shift that I examine at length in my newest book One World Renaissance: Holistic Planetary Transformation through a Global Social Contract (2016). For more than a century now, since the scientific revolutions initiated by the work of Albert Einstein and Max Planck, scientists have been confirming and elucidating the holism of the universe and all the differentiated forms of existence within it–from galaxies to star-systems, to planets like the Earth, to the evolution of life, to the ecosystem of the Earth, to the oneness of humanity as a single species of homo sapiens.

Science has discovered that the universe is a single whole, systematically differentiated into innumerable parts. It has discovered that the universe is composed of levels or “fields” of overlapping wholeness, that every whole is necessarily differentiated by parts but that those parts cannot be understood apart from the wholes that make them what they are [3]. However, this is the crucial point: science has shown that every part in the universe is inseparable from the wholes of which it is a part, and science has shown that one cannot understand any part within the universe without comprehending the wholes within which it is a part.

It is precisely these insights that have not yet dawned on most human thought processes. We continue to focus on the parts independently of the wholes, and we continue to begin with the parts and operate from them. The new Sustainable Development Goals presented by the UN to the world in October contain the same failed assumption: that these are goals to be pursued by some 193 independent member states of the United Nations. That is why the SDGs will fail and the planetary environment will continue to collapse: because the ecosystem of the Earth is one interconnected whole and it cannot be addressed through the independent actions of some 193 independent parts. It must be addressed as a whole, by humanity acting as a whole, or we will not have a climate that sustains human life by the end of this century.

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Similarly, news sources are now seriously proposing that “World War Three could start tomorrow” [4]. If World War Three begins tomorrow it will mean the end of human civilization. All scientific accounts of the effects of a major nuclear war agree on that. Yet we continue to think from the parts, and think in terms of the parts, and in this process we never get anything but more parts: more fragmentation–militarized nation-states confronting one another, competing with one another, skirmishing with one another. An ever-increasing emphasis on “homeland security” (whether in India, from which I just returned, or Russia or Britain, or the U.S.): every nation hunkering down on its “security” and military preparedness.

Science has shown that our planetary ecosystem is a whole, that human beings are a whole, and that human civilization is a holistic process of evolution all over this planet. And it is precisely these wholes that make possible an entirely new way of being (involving harmony and interdependence) and new way of understanding our situation. But instead we hunker down on the fragmentations, on the parts, under the illusion that this madness of fragmentation can somehow ensure our security and our future. This is exactly the opposite of what a century of science tells us we should be doing.

I took the photo above earlier this month of an overpass in Bangalore, India. It is symbolic of the point I am making. It correctly states that “destroying nature today” will lead to a “disastrous future someday.” Then it shows a green trash receptacle to the right as if throwing trash in that receptacle can possibly make a difference to that impending disastrous future. The problem of climate collapse is not addressed by individuals throwing trash in receptacles, nor by concerned nations trying to limit their CO2 emissions. It can only be addressed if we begin thinking in terms of the whole system, the entire unsustainable system of the Earth.

The Constitution for the Federation of Earth begins from the wholeness of humanity and civilization and shows how the parts (persons and nation-states) can and should be integrated into one harmonious and interdependent system of mutual thought, discussion, and decision-making. It establishes a World Parliament made up of representatives of the people of the world, the nations of the world, and “counsellors” chosen by the people and nations for their knowledge and wisdom to represent the whole of the world. Through a carefully planned and step by step process, it eliminates all weapons of war from the nations of the world. Through an integrated and scientifically informed process, it ensures environmental sustainability for all economic, commercial, and consumer activities of the people of Earth.

In other words, the Earth Constitution begins with the wholes of which we are all necessary parts: the wholeness of humanity, the wholeness of civilization, and the wholeness of our planetary ecosystem. The Earth Constitution embodies the holistic wisdom of a century of scientific thought. The only possibility for human survival and creating a decent future for our children comes from thinking in terms of these wholes, and deriving our economic, political, and consumer actions from these wholes. The parts fall into their proper places within the harmony of the wholes when we begin in this way. If we begin with the parts (my nation, my private property, my company, my religion, my ethnicity, my race) then we inevitably will fail as a species and as human beings.

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The 14th session of the Provisional World Parliament just took place in Kolkata, India, December 27-29th. The Parliament operates under Article 19 of the Earth Constitution. In other words, the Parliament begins with the whole of humanity and our planetary ecosystem and operates from that wholeness. We passed two major World Legislative Acts: one merging the entire UN system into the Earth Federation under the Constitutionand another creating a Global Sustainability Directorate (GSD) that integrates all UN and international organizations working for sustainability into a single organizational whole, encouraging cooperation and an integrated approach to saving our collapsing environment [5].

The UN’s current set of Sustainable Development Goals are neither adequate (in terms of what needs to be done if we want to survive climate collapse), nor are they achievable under the current UN Charter that is merely a treaty of militarized sovereign nation-states in a competitive and conflictive relationship to one another. The UN Merger Act and its complementary Global Sustainability Directorate lay down the pattern for the holistic thought and action that are necessary if we want to end world militarism and create for ourselves a decent, sustainable future on this planet. These legislative acts think holistically, just as the Earth Constitution establishes a holistic world system based on the realities that science has discovered: the holism of humanity and our planetary ecosystem.

There is no other way into the future. We must begin thinking and acting holistically now, or we will only further descend into chaos and mutual destruction on this planet. We need to study and promote the Constitution for the Federation of Earth in every possible venue and forum. We need to be thinking about it and how to actualize it in every aspect of our workplaces, our lives, our politics, and our scientific endeavors. The entire future is at stake: either we think and act holistically or we end up destroying both ourselves and our precious planetary home.

(Glen T. Martin is President of the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA), professor of philosophy and chair of the Peace Studies Program at Radford University in Virginia, and author of ten books on human liberation, earth federation, and the development of democratic world law.)

The Ethics of Compassion and Human Liberation

Glen T. Martin

Many writers on ethics point out that the Golden Rule is universally taught by all of the world’s great religions.  But ethics must go beyond a rule to do to others what you would have them do to you to a compassionate embrace of the suffering of others who happen to be victims of the immense structural violence and injustice of the world.  The world system of militarized sovereign nation-states and vast inequalities of income, property and power makes the Golden Rule relatively meaningless at a global scale.  Global ethics today requires not just the Golden Rule but compassion for the two billion citizens of earth who have virtually nothing, compassion for the millions of victims of immense violence perpetrated by the imperial nations of the world, led by the US, and compassion for future generations who are going to inherent hell on Earth unless we can bring climate collapse under control.

For these reasons, a holistic ethics of compassion is also an ethics of liberation that goes beyond the imagining of doing to others what I would want done to me to an envisioning of system-change. Ethics cannot be private morality alone (doing as you would be done by) since the systems of Earth make us all guilty, all beneficiaries or victims (or both in different ways) of unjust planetary systems. As Albert Camus expressed this, we do not want to be either “victims or executioners.”

My compassionate identification with the victims of the current world systems (systems most notably identified as global capitalism and the system of warring nation-states) leads me to demand the transformation of these systems of injustice and exploitation to compassionate, inclusive systems of cooperation, sharing, and mutual participation. The ethics of holism under present conditions is creative and revolutionary holism: We are morally required to transform the systems of Earth to ones of justice, reasonable equality, respect for human dignity, and ecological sustainability.

Since nothing is excluded from the ethics of holism, it is clear that political life within democratic societies, international relations between nations, as well as economic and business relations, must be guided by ethical principles of holism and harmony. Harris compares the ethics of holism to the universal principle of love (agape) taught by Jesus: “Genuine rational love, therefore, must extend to the entire human race…. Love of neighbor, in the full sense, transpires as love of the entire community and devotion to the ideal Kingdom of Ends” (1988: 163-64). Jesus taught the bringing of the Kingdom of God to Earth. Preparing the way for the kingdom of God means global system change. Dussel calls the present world system a “system of sin”:

In the totality of the systems of practices of the world, as objective and social reality, the “carnal” subject or agent desires the permanency of order, which, however, attempts to legitimate itself by appealing to the “gods” as its foundation. The “flesh” is idolatrized in the “kingdom of this world,” and promulgates its own law, its own morality, its own goodness…. This system is closed in upon itself. It has replaced the universal human project with its own particular historical project. Its laws become natural, its virtues perfect, and the blood of those who offer any resistance—the blood of the prophets and heroes—is spilled by the system as if it were the blood of the wicked, the totally subversive…. Essential to an ethics of liberation is a clear understanding of the starting point of the praxis of liberation. The starting point is sin, the world as a system of sin, the flesh as idolatrous desire, and a system that nevertheless is “moral,” having its own morality and a justified tranquil conscience…. (1988: 30-31)

The system generates its own self-justifying ethics, its own conception of “natural” laws and virtues. These virtues normally include the golden rule as an ideal: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you while ignoring the fact that you participate in global systems of injustice and domination that make this impossible.” The ethics of holism requires critical analysis of systems of exploitation, hidden behind the “tranquil conscience” and self-justifying conventional morality of the dominant world order. The dominant world order generates “its own law” (so-called international law), “its own morality” (the naïve liberal idea that we can work within the system to evolve it toward greater justice), and “its own goodness” (e.g., the idea our military promotes and protects democracy worldwide).

Holism requires that critical social thought that was most clearly developed within the Marxist tradition. We do not want the illusion of holism (the false morality of the dominant system) but to establish real holistic systems of justice, dignity and freedom for the earth. Ethical holism is an ethics of liberation. The fact of global systems of violence, domination, and exploitation, exposed by those of critical integrity devoted to human liberation, generates a corresponding insight into value: the system must be transformed into one premised on universal justice, dignity, and freedom. Fact and value reunite in the authentic quest for human liberation. Authentic holism is revolutionary holism. Küng writes:

In the past decades it has emerged more clearly than before that a religion can contribute not only to human oppression but also to human liberation: not only in psychological and psychotherapeutic terms, but also politically and socially. Here there is no longer propagation of a class morality (of a bourgeois stamp) of the kind that Marx and Engels rightly criticized in the last century; here—from Latin America to Korea, from South Africa to the Philippines, from East Germany to Rumania—there is a struggle for a humane society. (1991: 46)

Not only can religion embrace this new paradigm and the reintegration of fact and value, Kant taught that the social implication of the categorical imperative (that every person be treated as an end in themselves) is the ideal of the “Kingdom of Ends,” the ideal of a union of all human beings in a community of moral relationships. The ethical principle of the categorical imperative alone necessarily also gives us the social-political principle of a universal, just human community. Harris (2005) is also stating that the ethics of holism, of rational love, implies the ideal of a moral world order of freedom, peace, justice, and harmony. To achieve this we must expose the lies of the self-justifying ideology of the current world system of sin. Küng states: “It has become abundantly clear why we need a new global ethic. For there can be no survival without a world ethic” (1991: 69).

A “world ethic” will by no means come from Christianity or Western thinkers alone. The work of such Eastern creative thinkers as Rabindranath Tagore (Martin, 2013b), Swami Vivekananda, and Sri Aurobindo is also fundamental. Insight into the interdependence of all being has long been a foundational theme of the great thinkers of Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. As von Brück expresses this:

Thus ethics has its basis not in a forever grounded ought, but in a real transformation, which includes being aware of the interdependence of all being, and this, in turn, has consequences for their behavior towards the whole of nature… Two aspects which such a new experience has to include are the “autonomous worth of creatures” and the “interdependence of all beings.” If the West represents especially the “autonomous worth of creatures,” Eastern thinking takes place in the context of the experience of interdependence. The dialogical community of the two could thus be important in working out our destiny.  (1991: 273, 275-76)

Implicit in the new holistic paradigm is the vision of a cooperative and participatory world order in which war and exploitation have been abolished and replaced by peace, cooperation, rational love, and mutual economic and political efforts for the common good. And, indeed, it must be a world order, rather than one fragmented into autonomous warring economic and political units. The world of the early-modern paradigm, fragmented into conflicting national power interests and a multiplicity of conflicting economic interests, is gone forever from the most advanced conceptual and scientifically confirmable levels. A true world order emerges that has truly emergent properties due to its higher levels of wholeness and integration. It will become clear that such a “true world order” necessarily involves planetary unity-in-diversity through democratic world law. It necessarily involves ratification of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.

The Presuppositional Status of Democratic World Law and the Holistic Moral Demand for an Earth Constitution

Earth Flag #1

(Abstract: This article brings together several sections from my latest book One World Renaissance: Holistic Planetary Transformation through a Global Social Contract (Institute for Economic Democracy Press, 2016: It first describes the revolutionary paradigm-shift that has found expression in contemporary science and literature. Second, it briefly characterizes the “emergent” quality of holism in human life and the significance of this for the philosophy of law. Third, it presents an argument that world law is a presupposition of our common humanity and planetary civilization, a presupposition that urgently demands actualization in human affairs. Finally, it argues that the Earth Constitution is the most promising option for actualizing enforceable democratic world law for humanity.)

Introduction: The New Holism

The principles of holism and harmony have deep roots in human civilization going back at least to the Axial Period in human history during the first millennium before the Common Era. For many thinkers and religious teachers throughout this history, holism was the dominant thought, and the harmony that it implies has most often been understood to encompass cosmic, civilizational, and personal dimensions. Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Lord Krishna, Lao Tzu, and Confucius all give us visions of transformative harmony, a transformative harmony that derives from a deep relation to the holism of the cosmos. Human beings are microcosms of that holism and must seek ways to allow it to emerge within their lives and cultures.

Today, holism appears to us not only as a constant, abiding feature of our universe, but also as an emergent and evolutionary aspect of the cosmos and all life. In the face of the pervasive disharmony of much of human existence that we experience today worldwide, the principles of holism and harmony function, in the words of Ernst Bloch (1986), as a gigantic “principle of hope.” We recognize that disharmony threatens the very existence of life on Earth, that we face the possible end of the human project and higher forms of life on this planet.

However, even as the danger grows, as the poet Hölderin sang, the saving insight emerges within our hearts and minds and within human civilization. The creative and revolutionary holism of the emerging planetary paradigm becomes a vision of the very real possibilities for a harmonious and transformed human reality. Today, the holistic vision of the ancient spiritual teachers is reborn on a higher level—consistent with the deepest discoveries of modern science. This concept of “a higher level” is crucial, as we shall see.

Holism is the most fundamental discovery of 20th century science. It is a discovery of every science from astrophysics to quantum physics to environmental science to psychology to anthropology. It is the discovery that the entire universe is an integral whole, and that the basic organizational principle of the universe is the field principle: the universe consists of fields within fields, levels of wholeness and integration that mirror in fundamental ways, and integrate with, the ultimate, cosmic whole (see, e.g., Laszlo 2007).

This discovery has overthrown the early-modern Newtonian paradigm in the sciences, which was predicated on atomism, causal determinism, mechanism, and a materialism that was discerned, it was thought, by a narrow empiricism. The holism of the ancient and medieval thinkers was superseded by this early-modern Newtonian paradigm in the 16th and 17th centuries. This development generated a host of assumptions about the world and human beings that became determinate for the basic world view that most people and institutions continue to hold today, including the worldwide institutions of sovereign nation-states and global capitalism that were first developed during these centuries (see Harris 2000).

Today, beginning perhaps decisively with Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity (1905) that discovered that space, time, matter, and energy form one integral whole, and continuing with E.P. Hubble’s 1929 realization that the entire universe is expanding, the holism of the ancients has been rediscovered on a higher (dynamic and emergent) level.  We understand, very much more clearly than these ancient thinkers, that human beings, like the universe itself, are deeply evolutionary and historical beings, moving from a past, through a dynamic present, toward a future that we are significantly involved in creating. We create our future through a vision and comprehension of its possibilities, and through the actualization of its basic presuppositions.

Revolutionary holism is just that: a holism that can transform everything from disharmony to harmony, from war to peace, from hate to love. Ethics, law, education, and government are all historically grounded aspects of human life. Yet they are not contingent in the sense of being arbitrary: they are implicit within the universality of the human project. This means they are subject to holistic transformation, to “a new heaven and a new Earth,” that, indeed, has much in common with what the ancient teachers said about holism and harmony.

Holism is not simply an intellectual perception of harmony, for in holism we are included in the wholes, wholes that we discern at the deepest levels with our entire being. The paradigm-shift to creative and revolutionary holism illuminates not only fundamental aspects of our world but something about ourselves as well: our participation, as D.H. Lawrence puts it, in this “magnificent here and now of life in the flesh that is ours, and ours only for a time,” as part of the “living, incarnate cosmos” (1976: 125-26), that we manifest “its very structure, its Principle” (Swidler and Mojzes, 2000: 118). It is the realization that we ourselves are manifestations of the “living, incarnate cosmos.”  We carry within us universal presuppositions that manifest this holism.

The new categorical imperative of ethics deriving from this universal holism is to discover the patterns of holism everywhere, to distinguish what is authentic from what is misapprehended, and to actualize them further, to create holism in our personal lives, in our communities, and for the whole of Earth. The ethical imperative is to create authentic democracy, sustainability, and reasonable economic prosperity, as well as harmony, reunion, rebirth, reconciliation, and redemption for ourselves and the living creatures on our planetary home, first and foremost for the billions of marginalized and dehumanized persons living in vast horrific slums in every corner of the globe. All these goals inherent in our human situation go together.

The Principle of Emergence within the Human Situation

 What is often missing in today’s philosophy of law is recognition and articulation of the emergent principle within the cosmic-planetary-human project.  Human beings are products of the evolution of the cosmos itself and the evolution of life on Earth. Some physicists and cosmologists have even proposed the “Anthropic Principle,” arguing that the emergence of human beings is implicit in the cosmos from its very beginnings within the Big Bang some 14 billion years ago (see Harris 1991). The holism that is the most fundamental discovery of science over the past century is manifested in the cosmos, in planetary life on Earth, and in human beings as self-aware emergent consequences of this cosmic movement.

Positivists in today’s philosophy of law tend to ignore these deeper aspects of our human situation altogether, attempting to appeal strictly to specific historical and social facts to understand the nature of law in human civilization.  On the other hand, neo-Kantian transcendentalists like Hans Kelsen (1949) need to be critiqued as attempting to formulate the abstract principle of law in ways that bind law to an unchanging a priori principle rather than to an emergent a priori principle.

This same criticism applies to natural law theorists. To quote Cicero (1999), for example, as a paradigm for natural law, to the effect that the natural moral law is an “eternal and universal unchanging principle” is to deny the entire emergent project of humanity and evolution. Natural law theory has a valid intuition that law derives from the moral foundations of human life and the universe. But it often mistakenly assumes, as do Cicero in the 2nd century or St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, that the moral law is a finished framework to which human life and societal laws must conform. This denies the process of human growth and development both as a cosmogonic, evolutionary, and historical civilizational project.

Although the exact form of the emergent principle may never be fully concretized for us—since the emergent evolution of human beings will likely continue into the future without limit—we can make some broad generalizations concerning the principle that allow is to distinguish the principle quite clearly from what it is not. First and foremost, it is a principle of holism.  The holistic principle, implicit in the structure of the universe and all its elements, functions as an immanent telos for the actualization of our human potentialities, including the meaning and rule of law in human affairs.

Law is not exclusively defined in terms of mere historical acts, events, commands, or collective recognitions. It is guided in its emergent meaning by the principle of holism governing the actualization of human potentialities.   It is not as if there is a pre-existing transcendental normative essence to law, as Hans Kelsen declares. Rather, the meaning and nature of law becomes progressively realized and actualized under the immanent influence of the principle of holism.

Holism, as Errol Harris points out, governs all aspects of development since in any genuine whole. The parts develop teleologically as governed by the immanent principle of the whole.  This does not exclude diversity as the parts are an integral component of the whole, without which the whole would not be any finite “thing” at all. He writes:

A whole, therefore, as a system of elements in relation, a continuum of overlapping moments, is always both unified and differentiated, both one and many, and is always a totality, fragmentariness being inevitably relative to completion. Its unity and multiplicity are mutually dependent and inseparable. Each implies and requires the other in order to be itself. There is and can be no unity without multiplicity and no multiplicity without unity, for it is nothing other than the interdependence of the differentiations that constitutes the unity of the whole. Conversely, the unity of each constituent element is dependent upon its interrelations with the other elements. Its specified position in the whole makes it a reflection or expression of the total structure from a particular viewpoint. (1987: 144)

Emerging into human life is the realization that a human being is an “expression of the total structure from a particular viewpoint.” With human beings, and the development of human law, this realization does not happen automatically in the sense of determinism or teleological necessity deriving from the wholes that we embody and of which we are a part. Freedom is itself a deeply mysterious expression of the emerging wholeness of the universe and human freedom also allows for interference (whether negative or positive) with the teleological movement of human cultural, social, and economic forms toward planetary integration and wholeness.

 The Presuppositional Status of World Law

 In this paper, I am focusing on one aspect of the holism of the human situation: the presuppositional status of democratic world law. Human history, I have argued elsewhere (Martin 2008), in some fundamental ways involves the process of human beings coming to realize evermore clearly what is presupposed in the fact of our humanity—what is presupposed by the fact that we are all human beings, sharing a common species-being (as Karl Marx put it), a common genetic nature, a common social nature, a common set of languages, needs, wants, etc.  For example, I argue that personal freedom is presupposed by our common human reality and that historically we have been struggling to discover modes of governing that bring this into greater reality.

A similar process is taking place with regard to the concepts of democracy and human rights.  These are presupposed within our common humanity and developing human project.  It is the same with the concept of world law. In Hegelian terms, each of these ideas (freedom, democracy, human rights, world law) exists as a mere abstract concept until the potential inherent in these emerging universals, including democratic world law, is concretized and embodied in a multiplicity of ways in human civilization.  As each of these universals moves from being an abstract concept and becomes progressively embodied, it becomes ever more fully a “concrete universal,” rather than a mere abstraction. Freedom, as Hegel (1991) argued, is emerging ever more fully from the process.

Some writers identify our planetary governmental situation over the past several centuries under the descriptive phrase: “Hobbes’ paradox” or Hobbes’ contradiction” (e.g., Luban in Gehring 2003). For Hobbes, we end the war of all against all by entering into a social contract in which enforceable positive law keeps the peace and allows for civilized living (1651, 1963). But this social contract, as Hobbes conceived it, was and is confined to particular sovereign nation-states and therefore gives rise to the same condition of war that the implementation of enforceable law was intended to prevent: the state of war now exists among the multiplicity of sovereign nation-states.  Hobbes, Spinoza, Kant, and Hegel all explicitly recognized this dilemma of so-called sovereign nation-states (see Martin 2010a 73-4).

To escape the condition of war requires the advent of the universal rule of law.  All the social contract theorists are basically agreed on this. However, you cannot establish the universal rule of law by reinforcing the particularistic and subjective characteristics of the very entities whose warring existence needs to be overcome.  Rousseau and Kant most significantly understood this—only by drawing on what is truly reasonable and universal can we really actualize the rule of law in human affairs.  By trying to make the development of world law contingent on the voluntary agreements or treaties of sovereign nation-states (so-called “international laws”), we are reinforcing the very resistance to law that needs to be overcome. We are exacerbating, not removing, Hobbes’ paradox.

The paradigm-shift effected by the 20th century sciences, across the board, was a shift from the early-modern mechanism, atomism, and determinism to holism: as stated above, 20th century science discovered that the universe and everything in it is characterized by a holism in which everything is internally related to everything else and there are no autonomous, independent atoms at the basis of any cosmic, social or natural structures. The cosmos is an integrated whole of unity-in-diversity, the planetary biosphere is likewise an evolutionary ecological whole, and human beings are universally the same: our unique individuality and diverse cultures are inconceivable apart from our human rational, moral, and social universality that has been emerging into self-awareness primarily since the Axial period during the first millennium BCE.

The system of sovereign nation-states (usually dated from the Peace of Westphalia in 1648) derives from the early-modern assumptions about the atomism and mechanism of nature and society. These are false premises, and the idea of a world divided into some 193 national sovereignties (with absolute territorial boundaries, incommensurable with one another) is based on these false premises. The truth of this is seen in the on-going destructive presence of Hobbes’ paradox: there is war, environmental destruction, and social chaos everywhere on Earth. The United Nations is based on this outdated premise of “the sovereign integrity of its member states.” The UN Charter must be replaced with a constitution based on correct presuppositions.

If we want to overcome the chaos of warring nations and planetary environmental and social chaos, our best option is to begin operating from the a priori status of universal law that is intrinsic to the human condition itself, not by reinforcing those incorrect premises behind the nation-state system as if they were the source of legitimate positive law and must be drawn upon to make universal law a reality.

You cannot draw upon the false atomism that prevents universal law from becoming a reality by relying on those same illegitimate atoms as the basis for your endeavor. That is why the ascent to universal human and planetary law requires the paradigm-shift, made by all the 20th century sciences, from atomism to holism. It requires the founding of democratic world law within a genuine constitution for the Earth.

The paradigm-shift from fragmentation to holism has clearly not yet significantly influenced the dominant institutions of global society, and the institution of the territorially bound nation-state remains a fundamental assumption in much of today’s philosophy of law. We have not yet achieved that global social contract that can institutionalize political and economic holism in spite of the fact that our “survival problems” cry out for such an expansion.

The vision of transformative hope emerging from the new paradigm is not yet fully actualized. Nevertheless, contemporary philosophy of law has made great strides in moving in the direction of holism, and some of its formulations, even though developed within today’s framework of territorial states, explicitly or implicitly claim a universality applicable to all humankind.

Much of today’s philosophy of law is similar in its situation to the philosophy of human rights developed at great length and in a wide-ranging literature since the ground-breaking formulation of the 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Human rights are said to be universal, to be “equal and inalienable” to all persons, to derive from the inherent dignity of every person, and to be “the foundation for freedom, justice and peace in the world.”

Nine interrelated human right conventions have been signed by most of the world’s nations since that time, including those nations known to violate human rights routinely (see Posner 2014). It should be clear that the system of territorial nation-states has rendered their universal recognition and application nearly impossible. We still lack even the slightest real institutional progress toward satisfying Article 28 of the UN Declaration: “Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.”

The reason we do not have this international order is because the world remains institutionally fragmented among so-called sovereign nation-states competing with one another militarily, ideologically, and economically within a global capitalist system. The rationality and sociality of human beings presuppose universal positive law. No complex society of any size beyond small groupings can function without law.

Like grammar, and the translatability of all languages into one another, law manifests universal deep structures translatable into one another universally: the law in any human culture or language is recognizable and translatable by those outside that culture. Universal positive law is an a priori structure for human life, presupposed by human reason. This insight remains fundamental to the holism of our humanity. Yet the world system, fragmented into sovereign nations and largely unregulated capitalist competition, institutionally violates the holism of our humanity and the a priori status of our dignity, rights, and freedoms. For these universal human qualities necessarily require protection and regulation through enforceable world law.

Immanuel Kant understood this presuppositional status of democratic world law and the primacy of the rule of law in all human relationships.  In his ethics of the categorical imperative (1883, 1964), he argued that each free human being with a good will “legislates the universal law for themselves,” and that only this can make us free from determination by our inclinations and above all self-interest. For Kant universal laws, inherent in our freedom and rationality, are fundamental to both ethics and political philosophy.  In ethics, free individual beings legislate universal laws for themselves; in political life, the general will embodied in a legitimate legislative body, legislates universal law for the whole of society.

In his 1795 essay Perpetual Peace (and in other places), Kant addresses the “savage and barbaric” condition of the system of sovereign nation-states: This system abjures the rule of enforceable republican law for the world. It prefers “senseless freedom” to the “rational freedom” of the reasoned harmony embodied in republican forms of government, forms that protect the “freedom, equality, and independence” of people through the rule of law. Kant advocates “a federation of free states” that does for the lawless world what the social contract to leave the state of nature and form republican government does for individual people: It brings them out of the immoral condition of war and “senseless freedom” into genuine rational freedom.

Law cannot be merely localized in communities around the world, for law is inherent in human civilization and requires universal recognition of our common humanity and common human dignity that transcends all territorial divisions and national boundaries. The absolute need for this recognition has magnified in human consciousness since we began to realize that human beings might be the cause of their own extinction. A number of serious thinkers (such as Albert Camus 1945, 1986) have commonly recognized that 1945, with the development and use of nuclear weapons, was the “beginning of the end-time for human beings,” as theologian Jürgen Moltmann puts it (2012: 46). We need to solve the fundamental problems of living together peacefully and sustainability on this planet or we court the death of the human project itself.

At the same time, some thinkers realized that international law was wholly inadequate for what happened during that war. As Hannah Arendt observes:

For the truth of the matter was that by the end of the Second World War everybody knew that technical developments in the instruments of violence had made the adoption of “criminal” warfare inevitable. It was precisely the distinction between soldier and civilian, between army and home population, between military targets and open cities, upon which the Hague Convention’s definition of war crimes rested, that had become obsolete. (1963: 256)

The inadequacy of existing “international laws” became apparent, Arendt argues, with Nazi “crimes against humanity,” for here the Nazis were not simply violating existing international law but rather attacking “the human status itself.” They violated our planetary human community that is premised on our common, universal humanity. Nevertheless, following World War Two no nation-states, group of states, nor the treaty of sovereign nation-states such as the “United Nations” has seriously considered enforceable world law that protects “the human status itself.”  To do this would be to recognize their own illegitimacy.  For the presupposition of “the human status itself” requires just such enforceable world law transcending their authority as “sovereign” nation-states.

The law protects human dignity in a number of ways, one of which is by creating a public regularity, a public and enforceable social order, and a common, democratically arrived at, set of interpretations that make it possible for people to flourish: to go about living life to the fullest without having to reinterpret and re-judge and re-negotiate each new situation on a daily basis. The law, therefore, is at the heart of civilized living. It provides, so to speak, a collective judgment and interpretation, ideally impartial and justice-oriented, that protects and empowers our dignity and ability to flourish.

If there is to be privacy from government intrusion in our lives, it is the law that will provide for this through placing strict enforceable limits on what government can do, with the ability of citizens through the courts to prosecute government officials who offend against this. If there is to be protection of our human rights from government interference, it is only enforceable law that can do this, necessarily including the due process ability of citizens to find redress of grievances. Only genuine law, carefully designed with checks, balances, transparency, and restrictions on governmental prerogative, can give us the necessary protection from tyranny and injustice. In either case, it is the law itself that must be self-limiting, self-regulated, and transparent to citizens, operating to serve human flourishing.

Under an anarchist regime (without government), on the other hand, relations between people and groups will be not only be sometimes moral but will necessarily often involve naked power relationships within a framework of unregulated interpretive perspectives, itself an impossible and immoral situation, as Kant understood. Without universal law, constitutionally interpreted by courts and enforced equitably over all, different groups will inevitably interpret situations differently and remain in a condition of defacto war in relation to one another. Perhaps people can be moral in the “state of nature” (without government and enforceable law) as John Locke (1689, 1963) proclaimed, but the framework itself is immoral. The presupposition of our moral, civilizational, and rational common humanity, is enforceable, democratically legislated world law.

A Constitution for the Earth

Such law cannot be law unless it is an integral part of all the institutional aspects that make law a genuine representative of the community—a constitution, a legislature, a court system, civilian police, administrative structures, recognition of human individual and social rights, etc.  The great realization that came out of the 20th century (beginning with the world federalism of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom that emerged during the First World War (Martin, 2010b: 8-14)) is that law, like justice, human rights, and human dignity, is inherently universal and all local territorial laws must be derived from the concept of world law: laws that derive from, and protect, “the human status” everywhere on Earth.

Law derives from the primal relation of individuals and communities that characterizes our human situation. Local laws always imply this inherent universality. Human rationality itself is always inherently social and implies the whole of civilization. It thereby also presupposes universal, democratically legislated laws.

Global Institutional respect for human dignity in a world that protects human flourishing cannot evolve or emerge from the fragmentation of disorder while continuing to embrace the false premises of that disorder. True conclusions cannot derive from false premises. This can be also be expressed in terms of the universality of human speech as many contemporary thinkers, such as Jürgen Habermas (1998), have revealed.

Monologue and instrumental forms of communication cannot give us order. The false premises of global capitalism and so-called sovereign nation-states (both instrumental and monological) cannot provide the basis for an evolution of truth with regard to the human condition or human political and legal affairs. Such one dimensional speech has no ability to deal with the global problems in the name of a planetary common good because monologue, in itself, cannot transcend its principle to dialogue without becoming something entirely different.

Habermas underlines dialogue as another presuppositional aspect of our human situation: at the heart of language itself (all languages) lie presuppositions that necessarily include the formulation of universal ethical principles and common laws in a dialogical fashion. Communitive speech with its dialogical presuppositions is prior to instrumental and strategic forms of speech (which are largely monological).

The nation-state, Habermas argues (2001), was once considered the legitimate institutional form for a dialogue that made possible a progressive realization of democratic ideals. But the nation-state can no longer be the carrier of dialogue concerning the good, since the fate of the Earth and humanity now involves global issues that transcend all nation-states: “Today, developments summarized under the term “globalization” have put this entire constellation into question” (2001: 60).

Building on Habermas’ insight, I argue that for humankind as a whole there is an absolute ethical and practical imperative that we create institutions that make global dialogue concerning the fate of humanity possible. Only the rule of democratically legislated enforceable law under an Earth Constitution can provide the effective possibility of dealing with our endangered future. The Constitution for the Federation of Earth (Martin 2010b) establishes the World Parliament and the many agencies of government, staffed by qualified people from around the world, as institutional arrangements designed for people to dialogue with one another (both among those in the world government and with the people of Earth) about our endangered human future and take effective action to ensure that future. If we want to really turn things around, to be really revolutionary, we must create an Earth Federation as the foundation for not only effective global dialogue but also the decision-making authority on behalf of the people of Earth.

Dropping fragmentation, however, does not mean failing to preserve what is valuable about the United Nations or other global institutions that have some features premised on human dignity. For example, the World Health Organization and the UN High Commission on Human Rights have some features premised on the promotion of global citizenship and dialogue (such as UNESCO). Such institutions must be preserved when the hopelessly inadequate Charter of the UN (premised on sovereign nation-states) is replaced with a genuine Constitution for the Earth, premised on the truth of human dignity. In place of the disorder of the current world anti-system, we must make a paradigm-shift to the principles of order and truth. Truth emerges from dialogue, from the common effort and interaction of innumerable truth-seekers, present and past.

The Earth Constitution was written by hundreds of world citizens working together from 1968 to 1991 and meeting four times in global Constituent Assemblies (1968: Interlaken, Switzerland; 1977: Innsbruck, Austria; 1979: Colombo, Sri Lanka; 1991: Troia, Portugal) to examine, revise and confirm their collaborative work.  The result was, in my view, the most important document produced in 20th century literature. The Preamble to the Constitution clearly establishes its holism and predicates the Earth Federation on the principle of “unity in diversity.” The Earth Constitution is brilliantly conceived and designed, providing humanity with a blueprint through which we can engage a truly transformed future.

The very logic of law embodies universal moral duties, one of which is global dialogue. The Constitution establishes a justice-oriented, environmentally sustainable order, making possible the universal pursuit of the most basic goods of human existence, and it establishes concrete legal principles of human dignity and inviolable human rights, providing both unity and diversity. It provides, for the first time in history, planetary institutions for global dialogue with the authority to act on behalf of the common good of our planet and its citizens.

The present lawless world must be superseded by a non-military, democratically founded, lawful world. We can only negate the present global disorder and fragmentation by founding a global order of peace, justice, and freedom of all human beings. We must ratify this global social contract, not limp along trying to modify the present broken and hopelessly fragmented current world order.

Article One of the Earth Constitution lays out the six “broad functions” of the Earth Federation government: (1) end war and disarm the nations, (2) protect universal human rights, (3) end extreme poverty and promote global equity, (4) regulate fundamental resources for the common good of humanity, (5) protect the “ecological fabric of life,” and (6) address all global issues that are beyond the scope of the multiplicity of nation-states that make up the Earth Federation.

To achieve these goals the elements of the Earth Federation government are outlined, the primary element of which is the World Parliament comprised of a House of Peoples (representing all peoples around the Earth), a House of Nations (representing all nations) and a House of Counsellors (representing the whole and the common good of all).  World law addressing these global issues and making possible genuine dialogue within the World Parliament (with the authority to address these problems) constitutes the actualization of Article 28 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the actualization of the presuppositional status of enforceable democratic world law inherent within our common humanity.

The solution to our apparently lethal global problems, as both Albert Einstein and Carl Jung (1970: 304) famously said, will require that we move to a new level of thought and existence on this planet. We cannot solve our basic problems through the fragmented institutions and concepts of the outdated early-modern paradigm. As Ervin Laszlo affirms: “We are part of a series of large wholes, wholes within wholes. What it takes is to recover the intuitive feeling that we are part of it, that we are connected….. But this has never happened for mankind as a whole.  Yet now it must happen, because we have become a planetary species” (2014: 79-80).

Becoming a planetary species means realizing the a priori conditions on which our common humanity is founded: freedom, human dignity, human rights, ecological sustainability, and democratic world law.  And the most practical, most coherent and compelling, way to actualize enforceable democratic world law is through ratification of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.

Works Cited

Arendt, Hannah (1963). Eichmann in Jerusalem. A Report on the Banality of Evil. New York: Penguin Books.

Bloch, Ernst (1986). The Principle of Hope. Three Volumes. Neville Plaice, Stephen Plaice, and Paul Knight, trans. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Camus, Albert (1986). Neither Victims Nor Executioners. Philadelphia: New Society Publishers.

Cicero, Marcus Tullius (1999). On the Commonwealth and On the Laws. James E. G. Zetzel, ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gehring, Verna V.,ed. (2003). War after September 11. Intro. by William A. Galston. New York: Rowman and Littlefield.

Habermas, Jürgen (1998). On the Pragmatics of Communication. Edited by Maeve Cooke. Cambridge, MA: MIT

_______(2001). The Postnational Constellation: Political Essays. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Harris, Errol E. Cosmos and Anthropos: A Philosophical Interpretation of the Anthropic Cosmological Principle. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International, 1991.

_______ (2000). Apocalypse and Paradigm: Science and Everyday Thinking. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Hegel, G.W.F. (1991). Elements of the Philosophy of Right. Alan Wood, ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hobbes, Thomas (1963). Leviathan. John Plamenatz, ed. New York: Merridian Books.

Jung, Carl Gustav (1970). C.G. Jung: Psychological Reflections. A New Anthology of His Writings, 1905-1961. Jolande Jacobi, ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Kant, Immanuel (1957). Perpetual Peace. Louis White Beck, trans. New York: Macmillan.

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

Kelsen, Hans (1949). General Theory of Law & State. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Laszlo, Ervin (2007). Science and the Akashic Field: An Integral Theory of Everything. Second Edition. Rochester VT: Inner Traditions.

Laszlo, Ervin (2014). The Self-Actualizing Cosmos: The Akasha Revolution in Science and Human Consciousness. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions.

Lawrence, D.H. (1976). Apocalypse. New York: Penguin Books.

Locke, John (1963). Two Treatises on Government. New York: New American Library.

Martin, Glen T. (2008). Ascent to Freedom: Practical and Philosophical Foundations of Democratic World Law. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.

_______(2010a). Triumph of Civilization: Democracy, Nonviolence, and the Piloting of Spaceship Earth. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.

______ (2010b). Constitution for the Federation of Earth. With Historical Introduction, Commentary, and Conclusion. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.

______ (2015-16). One World Renaissance: Holistic Planetary Transformation through a Global Social Contract. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.

Moltmann, Jürgen (2012). Ethics of Hope. Margaret Kohl, trans. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Swidler, Leonard and Mojzes, Paul (2000). The Study of Religion in an Age of Global Dialogue. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

(Glen T. Martin, Ph.D., is professor of philosophy and Chair of the Program in Peace Studies at Radford University in Virginia.  He is author of ten books and dozens of articles on human liberation with respect to our highest human possibilities, including world law. In 2013, for this global peace work, he was recipient of the GUSI Peace Prize International.  He is also president of the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA) and the Provisional World Parliament.)

American Violence and the Commonwealth of God

Glen T. Martin

Street scene

Much has been written recently about the pervasive violence, internal and external, of the living disaster that is the United States of America.   Articles have appeared about domestic violence, racist violence, prison violence, violence in the schools, police violence, violence against women, violence against immigrants, nation-building through genocidal violence, US imperial violence going back two centuries, the culture of violence, etc.

Tom Engelhardt sums up much of this nicely in his June 2015 article “Armed Violence in the Homeland.”  In the article he reviews much of the violence that occurs nationwide on a daily basis and, under the subheading “Armed Dangers and Meal Tickets,” points out how little danger there is to our lives from ISIS or foreign terrorists compared to the daily police and civilian violence pervasive in America.  However, he points out that magnifying this so-called danger is the “meal-ticket” for the bloated national security state and the military-industrial complex.

In his other books and articles, however, Engelhardt also astutely documents the American drive to dominate the world through globally projected military violence, a huge militarism driven by the lust for empire, wealth, and the resources of our planet.  A recAmerican Empireent complementary book by four scholars and peace leaders very much agrees. In The American Empire and the Commonwealth of God, David Ray Griffin, John B. Cobb, Jr., Richard A. Falk, and Catherine Keller collectively document America’s drive to dominate the Earth through militarism, deception, economic penetration, and guile.  The title of this article is influenced by their book, for I want to point out that the “commonwealth of God” that points beyond violence everywhere on Earth is not characterized adequately by any of these thinkers.  Engelhardt proposes no real solutions to the pervasive violence he documents and these four other thinkers, in my view, are merely lukewarm in their assessment of what is necessary if human life is to continue much longer on this planet.

There are likely many interconnected causes of violence on all these levels: economic, cultural, technological, systemic, etc., but all these causes keep most Americans in a state of immaturity not much beyond adolescence.  Violence is largely a symptom of immaturity: the people who work for the Pentagon are clearly child-like in their ignorant assumptions that violence can solve anything and everything.  The people in Homeland Security are similarly child-like in their belief that trashing democracy and freedom can somehow make us safer, and the people on Wall Street are like college students strutting their post-adolescent stuff: “mine is bigger than yours,” or “I’ve conquered or exploited more people than you have”—clearly this lust for power and extreme wealth is as childish as it is ignorant.

Garry Leach wrote a perceptive book called Capitalism: A Structural Genocide that underlines the point that there are also deep structural features to violence.  Immature people living in immature, undemocratic systems of greed, exploitation, and power will only produce more immature people in future generations. We need to overcome violence on all levels: personally, culturally, and structurally.

But there is a second form of structural violence ignored by many and barely touched on in The American Empire and the Commonwealth of God. This is the violence of the system of militarized sovereign nation-states, all claiming some absolute rights over this or that portion of the Earth and the right to militarize themselves against the violence of all the other sovereign nation-states.  Perhaps Mahatma Gandhi was right when he declared that the nation-state was “violence in a concentrated and organized form.”  Both the nation-state system and the system of global capitalism were born three to four centuries ago when human beings were as yet not capable of moving to a higher stage of maturity.

Many psychologists and developmental thinkers are agreed on the basic stages of growth in moral maturity. I will summarize this in a generic way. (For more details see my recent books.) Human beings can progressively mature from the early magical and mythical stages of young children to the “ethnocentric” stage in which one identifies with one’s own nation, culture, and religion to stages of intellectual independence and “autonomy” and finally to stages of holism and “integration.”  The latter stages inevitably see the world as one and respect its unity in diversity.

The fact of the matter is that science (for the past century) has discovered the holism of the universe, our planetary ecosystem, and human life with great clarity and vast amounts of evidence.  We are now in a position to do what they could not do when capitalism and sovereign nation-states were being developed—we can now see what holism means in our personal, social, economic, political, and cultural lives and adopt it for ourselves and our planet, overcoming the violence of immaturity and fragmentation and embracing our species and our planet with the unity in diversity that is now clearly understood as the fundamental reality of all things.

As Griffin, Cobb, Jr., Falk, and Keller point out, the holism of nonviolence, of unity in diversity, comes from a mature appropriation of the Jewish, Christian [and Islamic] traditions.  In this they are so refreshingly different from the legions of so-called Christian, Jewish [and Islamic] fundamentalists who cling to an idolatrous God of vengeance, violence, and destruction of their perceived enemies.  The Gospels of Jesus (as opposed to the lurid and revengeful Book of Revelation) clearly teach unity in diversity, nonviolence, universal love, and compassion.  However, these qualities must also be structurally translated into our fragmented and violent institutions of global capitalism and sovereign nation-states.

The clearest way to embrace the structural holism that will advance human maturity geometrically is to ratify the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.  This Constitution (written by hundreds of world citizens between 1968 and 1991 and widely available on the web) is predicated on the holism of unity in diversity for the entire Earth: politically, economically, and ecologically.  Only this kind of real conversion from the immaturity of fragmentation, hate, and fear, to the planetary maturity of universal democracy, mutual respect, and planetary cooperation can we turn our disastrous planet around in time to avoid universal death.

We are all one species, genetically almost identical with one another.  We all have the same needs, fears, hopes, and dreams.  We all want our children and future generations to avoid climate collapse or nuclear holocaust.  There is one way to go that is clearly superior to vain attempts to reform the UN, empty diplomacy, police body-cameras, or more spying and denials of freedom. We need to replace the UN Charter with the Earth Constitution. We need to really embrace the holism that is the foundation of the universe. This would be the real “commonwealth of God,” since all humans share the Earth in common, human nature in common, and hopes and dreams in common.  A true “commonwealth of God” would mean seeing the entire Earth as one economic and political community. Only the Earth Constitution makes this a structural reality and lays the groundwork for making it a cultural and spiritual reality as well.

Even though violence and fragmentation are worldwide and not simply “American,” in my many international travels I have found that there is much less violence among people elsewhere, who lack the amazing arrogance and egotism of the American psyche.  We can overcome this violence and fragmentation by identifying ourselves as truly “world citizens,” truly children of universal law under the Earth Constitution, and free of the identification with the fragmented and distorted laws of so-called sovereign nations.  Let’s do it. The move to planetary maturity comes from a decision at the deepest level of our lives, one that is possible for us all to make. Let’s truly embrace the holism of our situation and assume the dignity of real world citizens operating under the unity in diversity of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.