“World Domestic Politics”

Prof Johan Galtung

, was the brilliant formula minted in 1963 by Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker; nuclear physicist with a dubious career in the Nazi period, philosopher, peace activist, and believing Christian. The world seen as one polity, one political unit.  Not in terms of two levels, the world and the states–canonized as members of the UN–with domestic policies, and “foreign” policies.  “World domestic politics” calls for a world with neither states nor regions but the world as the polity. With LAs, local authorities, but basically with 7 billion+ humans, endowed with human rights and democracy.

A single shiny word, making many think and speak differently. Akin to all formulas giving rise to a number of problematic questions; one more proof of how fruitful this formula was and is.  Thus, how can that one world polity organize political, cultural, military and economic power?  Brief, preliminary answers:

  • Political power: by the people, through direct world elections and referenda, to a world parliament, and on issues;
  • Cultural power: as a world dialogue of civilizations, meaning mutual learning for a possible world civilization, inside that world polity;
  • Military power-force: general-complete disarmament of state armies, world police operating at world and local levels like domestic police;
  • Economic power: by a welfare world lifting up suffering individuals.

We can sense that all four, direct world elections and referenda, world dialogue of civilizations (not only West-Islam), world police and welfare world are waiting back stage to be enacted, and to act. But on stage are states and super-states; singing their swan songs?

Let us try to dig more deeply into this.  We have about 200 domestic state polities–193 are UN members–can anyone be a model? Or, do we have to think anew for the whole world population to feel at home, domus, for anything to become world domestic politics?

The best candidates as possible models would have only LAs (local authorities) between the state and individual humans.  There may be something else for administrative reasons, but the local level would count more.

Norway was once such a country (“Formannskapsloven“, 1837), but the present conservative government, supported by the equally or more conservative, Labor Party, is busily building “regions”, like in France and Spain and other countries.  The reason is rather obvious: regions can be steered from above by the state, LAs from below by the people. The justification is economistic, in terms of big scale advantages; leaving out the human significance of closeness to other people and to things like our little library, and our bookstore. LAs can make circles of cooperation, also to make books publicly and privately available.  But closeness matters, a sense of ownership.

Spain has many of the same features, with more than 8,000 LAs, ayuntamientos; but with 50 provinces in 17 “autonomías” in-between. Like in Norway, the state with legislative-executive-judicial powers has the final word.  Or maybe EU.  Or maybe UN. Or the US Embassy?

Switzerland?  In-between the federal government and people are 2,300 LAs, but also 26 cantons and four language regions.  However, frequent referenda based on LA level debates have the final word; if carried by more than half in more than half of the cantons.

Would a world based on, say, 2 million LA voting units for world elections-referenda be feasible?  Technically, yes; politically yes, but would it work?  Imagine a referendum on vegetarianism, banning consumption of meat from animals, maybe also from fish and fowl, actually following the Christian Bible (Genesis 1:29-30). Carried by a majority in the Orient part of the world influenced by Buddhism/Hinduism but rejected in the Occident part?  Would parts have veto?  In that case, there would be parts, in fact, in-between polities?  Or, could each LA decide for itself, with world policy decided by the world majority?

That would still be a world whose majority can override a whole civilization with deeply rooted beliefs about true or false, good or bad-evil, right or wrong, beautiful or ugly, sacred or profane.  If there are 7-8 of them, how about giving civilizations a veto, including over which issues to be decided by direct world elections-referenda, lest we should risk The End of Civilizations, by voting?

Personally I do not think we are ready for Weltinnenpolitik.  We may still need much time for a world dialogue of civilizations to produce something closer to a world civilization.  The West has seen its own civilization as the answer; but that is no longer an option. The world as “United Regions” rather than as “United (old-fashioned) Nations” may make sense, the regions being civilizational.  No doubt, that world could serve as a stage in-between toward Weltinnenpolitik.

How about the five old “continents”, could they play a role? America both North and South, Europe both West and East, Africa, Asia and Australia-Oceania?  They are all civilizationally mixed, maybe Europe less so.  Being five in number, could the Swiss formula of more than half in more than half of the continents be meaningful?

Conversely, could we simply continue the present line for the World Court; decisions are “advisory”, not binding?

Humanity will navigate these troubled waters for quite some time.  But there is a positive approach: focus less on political, military and cultural power and more on the economics of a welfare world. Lift up the most miserable local communities all over the world, empowering them to do so themselves, not by development assistance or trade, but by basic needs oriented cooperatives.  China, a huge portion of humanity, does that; if still a far way to go.  Others can join.

A world focus on the world’s most miserable communities, to lift up the bottom of humanity, is a welfare world we need.  Doing that would already be Weltinnenpolitik.  Today, not waiting 50+ more years.

First published at :TMS: “World Domestic Politics”  

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