The “global social contract” mentioned in the title is the EARTH CONSTITUTION which has been developed by the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA). Glen Martin is Professor of Philosophy at Radford University in Virginia as well as President of WCPA. Since the EARTH CONSTITUTION is a thoroughly worked out design for a world federation, this academic volume setting forth the case for a world federation should be of great interest to all world federalists.
The book is not addressed primarily to world federalists, however, but to intellectuals, primarily academics. In it Martin aims to show “that dealing with the global crises that threaten human existence is directly related with the imperative to establish a world based upon human dignity and human flourishing, a world that will include both a spiritual renaissance and a practical, planetary social contract” (p. 11), that is, adoption by humanity of the EARTH CONSTITUTION creating a world federation. Things seem to be moving in the right direction, but “celebration at this point would be premature, since this new paradigm of wholeness has not penetrated into the practices and institutions of civilization. The power of [global] capitalism, the system of [completely] sovereign nation-states, and instrumental-technological rationality remain fundamentally entrenched” (p. 37).
In the 20th century new developments in science engendered an important cultural movement from the Newtoniam materialistic, atomistic, mechanistic, deterministic view of the universe to a new view that leaves room for the mental and spiritual. It is holistic, teleological, and open to an emerging future. The world is not a machine that can be reduced to the movements of physical particles but rather a transcendent unity with a built-in purpose like any growing living thing. Martin supports his observations with quotation after quotation from leading thinkers. In fact a great value of this book is its very large number of important carefully documented quotations.
Martin believes that capitalism and the current nation-state political system are both the result of the old early-modern Newtonian view of reality. For him, it is these two facets of the current social system that need to be rejected and replaced by a global social democratic federation such as the EARTH CONSTITUTION would establish. He does not explicitly oppose all capitalism but only unrestrained global capitalism, which in my view results from the other thing that he adamantly opposes, unlimited national sovereignty. I also think that he somewhat carelessly condemns national sovereigny of any kind when he omits that important qualifying adjective “unlimited.” He is a world federalist who wants to retain some national sovereigny but it must be limited by and subordinate to a global authority.
I especially like Martin’s comment that those in the peace movement who champion commitment to personal nonviolence “have positive insights, but not meaningful concrete proposals for institutional transformation. . . . We need to oppose the global war system with a global peace system. . . . A philosophy of nonviolence alone will not do it” (p. 300).
This short review does not at all do justice to Martin’s extended argumentation about how the changes in modern science have caused vast changes in the general cultural outlook. At the same time I do want to note the absence of any discussion about what specifically needs to be done to gain support for world federalism in general or ratification of the EARTH CONSTITUTION in particular. This book should help, but more is needed.