Shifting to a 'Global Home' Outlook and Paradigm

  Previous  |  Next  

Thursday October 12, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

Corporations as well as nations have accepted the global village paradigm. However the needed shift to a "global home" paradigm is more challenging.

Supportive precedents for the shift exist, but taking that final step requires not only accepting the precedents but also understanding competing theories in the relatively new field of international relations (IR) theory as well as differences in paradigmatic realms.

The Nobel Prize stands out as a prime precedent of internationalism from 1901 onward. Awarded for achievements in the fields of literature, physics, chemistry, medicine, economics and world peace, the Nobel Prize transcends national boundaries. It is awarded to individuals not nations and it represents their contributions to the individual or a family of individuals (mankind).

The UN is a different precedent of global change and internationalism. Although recent (1945) and far from perfect, it addresses relations among nations, a family of nations living on one home, planet Earth. Among the problems that the UN has yet to work out are those of membership, global authority and goals.

Many groups - such as the Kurds, Catalans, and Palestinians - exist within member nations but wish to create separate sovereign nations.

Meanwhile, the already existing nation like the mid-sized nation of Taiwan - the Republic of China (ROC) - is not a member. Larger in population than more than 70 percent of UN members and more economically viable than 80 to 90 percent, Taiwan remains the greatest anomaly that the UN must face regarding membership.

As a one-party state called the ROC, Taiwan was a founding UN member. However, in Taiwan's complicated history, representatives of Chiang Kai-shek left the UN before being voted out because they wanted to represent China and not just Taiwan.

Now Taiwan is prevented from joining the UN, as the People's Republic of China whose flag has never flown over Taiwan claims the veto its inclusion.

Examining the different ideological camps within IR theory can provide insight into why the UN takes the stance that it does on these issues but also points out inadequacies or shortfalls within IR theory.

When IR theory began, realism was the predominant approach. The realist camp proposed that as there is no legitimate central world authority, all nations, because of the chaotic void, must naturally be driven by self-interest.

While few would argue against self-interest being crucial to survival, but self-interest is not the whole answer. Alliances between nations supported theories of cooperation that were proposed by the opposing liberal camp in the IR tradition.

Nations have always made alliances, but the realist camp countered that alliances change with the changing needs of self-interest. This is exemplified by the saying that among nations, "no friend (ally) is a friend forever and no enemy is an enemy forever."

However liberal theory and its variations proposed that nations had a variety of other reasons for cooperation that went beyond self-interest. Neoliberalism proposed that nations have a "complex interdependence."

The bellwether test came with "global" war. The reality of World War I shook the foundations of a purely realist theory of international relations and forecast the need for some kind of global authority however flawed.

In 1920, just after the end of World War I, the League of Nations was formed. It did not survive; many nations including the US never joined. It fell apart because it had no teeth - and so World War II followed along with the advent of atomic weapons.

Again the importance of cooperation and interdependence was apparent.

The UN was formed in 1945 and exemplified the neoliberal tradition of a "complex interdependence" whereby nations must be connected. Sovereignty has rights but it also has duties and in fulfilling those duties, nations need to abandon some of their rights.

A look at micro and macro comparisons of human existence can further elucidate the IR realism vs. liberalism debate.

On a micro level, there is a basic human dialectic between the individual and community however big or small. Each individual has personal rights.

The challenge for the individual is being true to oneself in one's phenomenological realm while being a member of the larger community.

The challenge for the community is different because it exists in a different and metaphysical realm. Its challenge is how the community can allow for individual diversity while maintaining communal bonds.

In transporting this perspective to a macro level, the nation state becomes the individual and the human race becomes the community, which the UN aspires to represent.

A phrase from the Judaic scholar Hillel the Elder expresses the essence of this dialectic although from a different perspective. "If I am not for myself who will be for me; if I am only for myself, what am I?"

Hillel's statement can be taken both at the micro and the macro levels and so it fits the IR theory dilemma of realism versus liberalism and individual versus community.

In IR theory, constructivism was developed to challenge the realist and liberal camps: It addressed how "ideas" define international structure and how ideas are related to perception.

To the realist camp it says that the need for self-interest in a chaotic world is too often based on a purely perceived sense of chaos and anarchy.

To the neoliberal camp it states that economic interdependence as would later be expressed in the global village paradigm is not the end-all - more important reasons for unification can and should be found.

This raises a different challenge for constructivism in IR theory, and eventually for the UN and member nations. If the international reality is "socially constructed," how does it relate to paradigmatic thought especially when metaphysical paradigms and phenomenological paradigms exist in different realms?

Is paradigmatic thought a "cognitive structure" or is it the outside framework within which the cognitive structures of IR constructivism operate? The applicability of this can be seen in how the UN faces its many challenges.

The UN operates from the paradigmatic perspective of a global village. However, inherent in the global village paradigm is the reality that all nations are separate and can and will inevitability be involved in zero sum games.

To switch to a global home paradigm would have tremendous ramifications, because it would extend both the needs and responsibilities of the UN, which would need to provide incentives for wealthy member states to address the needs of more dispossessed states.

That is the basis for the overriding sense of family and community in the global home paradigm. This is the vision that is needed.

Looking at the difference in paradigmatic thought between a heliocentric and geocentric universe can facilitate visualizing how the global village and global home paradigms operate differently.

From the standpoint of gravity and normal day-to-day actions on Earth, it makes little difference which position (heliocentric or geocentric) one holds. However, if a person wants to leave Earth to reach the moon - or Mars or Saturn or beyond, - then the reality of that paradigmatic difference becomes crucial.

Similarly for the UN, whether the Earth is seen as a global village or global home has far-reaching ramifications. This is the reality in which the anomaly of Taiwan exists and tries to contribute to the world.