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We, human beings and human societies, become what we think we are. If we have conflicting ideas of what we are, we become a puzzle to ourselves and to others. If we have no clear idea of what we are, we become what circumstances make us. Conceptual dissonance and conceptual drift have been characteristics of the life-story of the three societies (called European Communities) which are now contained in a society called the European Union. A member of a select but ominous class of international social systems which also includes the Holy Roman Empire and the League of Nations, the European Union is a paradoxical social form, namely, an unimagined community.
What we need is a metaphysics of Europe's self-constituting. What we do not need is a rationalization of ‘European integration’. Still less should we act as apologists of the current incoherent state of the public realms of Europe, a state of affairs which is an unwilled and irrational outcome of countless coordinated and uncoordinated acts and events – a leviathan of shreds and patches. ‘European Union’ is an Ungeheuer which is an Unganze.
There was Europe – as place, as subjectivity, as potentiality – before there were the social systems (‘states’) which the usual conception of ‘European integration’ presupposes. The true self-constituting of the people and the peoples of Europe requires a new concept (Begriff) of their perennial unity, not merely an explanation of a particular negating of their recent disunity.
Europe – as place, as subjectivity, as potentiality – is not the natural product of organic processes. It is a product of, and in, consciousness. Societies constitute themselves ideally by imagining collectively their identity, their unity and their purpose. The ideal self-constituting of a society is a process of collective thinking, embracing every kind of thinking, theoretical and practical, disinterested and subjective, rational and irrational.
Long before there was a Europe of the European Union, there was a Europe of the European Mind. Europeans have spoken to each other in a permanent conversation across frontiers, the kind of conversation which generates the subjectivity of a community. The future of Europe is not merely the future of the European Union but the future of the European mind. It is possible to identify the constituent elements of Europe's mental unity with which Europeans have designed the architecture of a true European community, a community of unity-in-diversity.
It is possible also to see that Europe's mind is in a pathological state, sclerotic and defeatist in the face of a recent past of which we have reason both to be proud and ashamed, and in the face of a world which has passed beyond Europe's mental and political control.
The European mind can be cured, reasserting an identity in relation to hegemonic powers outside Europe, restoring the social role of the scholar and the intellectual, resuming responsibility for the development of the ideas required for new kinds of social existence in a new kind of human world, asserting a special responsibility for the development of society and law at the global level, the level of all-humanity.
To be is to be thought of as being (Parmenides). To be a self is to think of oneself as a self (Descartes).
The peculiar human self-consciousness associated with the idea of a new century and the idea of a new millennium encourages us to make judgements about the past and to think about new possibilities.
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, we are exceptionally conscious of the remarkable development of human society through the last ten centuries of frenzied social experience. We are conscious of the power of social systems which have emerged from that experience, especially the systems known as democracy and capitalism. We are conscious also of the paradoxes of our social experience, all the good and all the evil done by and through the social systems which we have made.
We are conscious of our inherent freedom to reconceive and reform the social systems which we have made, and yet we seem also to be the slaves of the systems we have made. Two aspects of our experience offer us the hope of regaining and reusing our freedom – the role of law as the means of ideal-governed social self-constituting and the power of the mind to transcend itself in what we have experienced from time to time as ‘enlightenment’.
Humanity has the need and the possibility of a New Enlightenment. The author's Eunomian project (reconceiving society and law) and his Eutopian project (reconceiving the human mind) are New Enlightenment projects.
The mind's freedom
A new century. A new millennium. A time to look back – and a time to look forward.
It was a tragic day in the history of humanity when the subtle and complex concept of law was crudely split into two – national law and the law between nations. In earlier times, there had been complex and subtle conceptions of the relationship among various forms of law and even of a common essence of all law. But the brutal managers of the new European polities, monarchies and republics of every degree of conservatism and reformism, chose to see their co-existence as intrinsically unsocial and hence governed by rules of more or less enlightened prudence and pragmatism. And the European worldview was made the worldview of all the world through the world-wide expansion of European power and influence.
In the latter part of the twentieth century, the contradiction between an intensely dynamic development of social relations across national frontiers and the archaic forms and rules of intergovernmental international unsociety became absurd and unbearable.
There could have been another concept of international law. There could be another concept of international law. There can be a conception of law which transcends the frontiers between national legal systems, which sees all legal systems as participating in an international legal system, and which allows international law, as so reconceived, to play the wonderfully creative functions of law in the self-constituting of all forms of society from the society of the family to the society of the whole human race, serving the common interest of all-humanity.
The idea of human society as shared subjectivity is probably older than the idea of human society as political organisation. The nation presumably pre-existed the state. Society as mind politic probably pre-existed society as body politic.
The subjectivity of the nation means that there is a permanent flow of consciousness between individual consciousness and social consciousness, as the private mind of the individual finds an essential part of its identity in participation in the identity of society, and the public mind of society borrows the powerful idea of selfhood to establish its unique collective identity. The individual self of the citizen is mirrored in the selfhood of society, and the self of society is mirrored in the identity of the citizen.
The mutual self-constituting of the individual and society means that individual psychology and social psychology flow into each other. And where there is psychology there is the possibility of pathology, the social manifestation of individual psychopathology and the internalising in the individual of social psychopathology. Symptoms may go as far as the self-destruction of society, as it pursues the defence of its self against other selves, and the self-destruction of the individual, carried to self-sacrifice by loyalty to the greater self.
Humanism and naturalism
Hegel called it ‘a glorious mental dawn’. ‘Never since the sun stood in the firmament and the planets revolved around him had it been perceived that man's existence centres in his head, i.e. in Thought, inspired by which he builds up his world of reality.’
The present state of international society is a product of its past states. But who was responsible for making the past of international society? It was a clique of cliques, a conspiracy of one small part of the governing classes of those national societies which used diplomacy and war as the continuation of crude politics by other means.
The externalising of their internal social power somehow managed to override the profound differences of their national social systems, their profoundly different forms and degrees of social development, so that absolutist monarchies and republican city-states, and all intervening social forms, could interact in a game in which they were also the masters of the rules of the game (the so-called law of nations). They even purported to recognise rules about war (the mass murder of human beings and the mass destruction of property).
Still more mysteriously, the game of externalised social power somehow managed to survive revolutionary transformations within some of the national societies, so that an international governmental absolutism continued, unabated and unabashed, while very new social theory and social practice transformed every other aspect of the holding and exercise of public power.
The human world is changing. Old social structures are being overwhelmed by forces of social transformation which are sweeping across political and cultural frontiers. A social animal is becoming the social species. The animal that lives in packs and herds (family, corporation, nation, state) is becoming a member of a human society which is the society of all human beings, the society of all societies. The age-old problems of social life - religious, philosophical, moral, political, legal, economic - must now be addressed at the level of the whole species, and the level where all cultures and traditions meet and will contribute to an exhilarating and hazardous new form of human self-evolving. In this book Philip Allott explores the social and legal implications and potentialities of these developments in the light of the general theory of society and law which is proposed in his groundbreaking Eunomia: New Order for a New World.
The idea of constitutionalism is the idea that all public power is subject to the law, that all public power is delegated by the law, that the exercise of public power is accountable before the law. The revolutionary transformation of international society includes the insertion of the idea of constitutionalism into its theoretical structure, into the pure and practical theories of international society.
The idea of constitutionalism is a golden thread running through the better history of the human race, a perennial and universal possibility in humanity's social self-constituting, a meta-cultural and meta-temporal theoretical potentiality. It is an idea which has had intimate and essential connections with the perennial and universal phenomenon of religion, allowing us to see religion as a spiritual constitutionalism. It is an idea which has had intimate and essential connections with the idea of social self-constituting, with the intrinsic hegemony of that which, in a society, transcends the self-constituting of individual society-members. It is an idea which has had an intimate and necessary connection with the most abstract conception of law as a metaphysical and meta-personal and meta-social phenomenon.
As the fabric of international society becomes ever more dense and complex, as the cross-frontier socialising of human beings develops in dynamic intensity, the idea of constitutionalism is emerging as a necessary and natural control on the ever-increasing accumulation of communal governmental power, which is gradually reproducing at the global-level phenomena of public power, which are closely analogous to those which have developed over recent centuries at the national level and to which national systems have had to respond with ever more sophisticated systems of social and legal control.