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The Shaping of World Order Studies: A Response

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 August 2009


The highest function of criticism is to stimulate an author to think harder, to go further, to reconsider, and, possibly, to try again. At times, often unwittingly, author and critic join in a species of tacit collaboration. I regard Stanley Michalak's generally helpful critique of A Study of Future Worlds in this spirit.

The overall ambition of world order studies has been to work out an intellectual framework useful for understanding and acting upon the great global challenges of our time—the menace of large-scale warfare, the scandal of large-scale poverty, the outrage of acute injustice, the dangers of environmental decay, and the burden of inhumane and/or ineffectual governance at all levels of social organization (from family to planet).

Research Article
Copyright © University of Notre Dame 1980

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1 An analysis along these lines can be found in Falk, Richard, This Endangered Planet: Prospects and Proposals for Human Survival (New York, 1972), pp. 93213Google Scholar; compare the more restricted conception of world order challenge in Hoffmann, Stanley, Primacy or World Order: America's Foreign Policy since the Cold War (New York, 1978)Google Scholar; Brzezinski, Zbigniew, “Recognizing the Crisis,” Foreign Policy, 17 (19741975), 6374CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

2 For some important instances, mainly with an economic slant, see Meadows, Donella and others, The Limits to Growth (New York, 1972)Google Scholar; Mesarovic, Mihajlo and Pestel, Eduard, Mankind at the Turning Point (New York, 1974)Google Scholar; Tinbergen, Jan, coordinator, RIO: Reshaping the International Order (New York, 1976Google Scholar; Herrera, Amilcar O. and others, Catastrophe of New Society? A Latin American World Model (Ottawa, Canada, 1976)Google Scholar; Leontief, Wassily and others, The Future of the World Economy (New York, 1977)Google Scholar; also relevant, yet less comprehensive in their assessment, is the work of the 1980's Project sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations and of the Trilateral Commission.

3 This range is conveyed by a series of essays: Mendlovitz, Saul H., ed., On the Creation of a Just World Order (New York, 1975)Google Scholar.

4 “Invisible oppression” refers to exploitative structures of economic, social, political, and cultural relations that are not generally perceived as such. The conception is similar to what Marx had in mind by reference to “alienation.” Examples of invisible oppression include security resting on weapons and doctrines of mass destruction, industrial operations that cause atmospheric contamination, storage of nerve gas close to urban populations, emission of low-level radiation by nuclear reactors.

5 The principal variety of Utopian studies has been literary-philosophical, concerned with the portrayal of a perfect human community in the manner of Plato's Republic. The utopian antecedent of world order studies is a legal-political conception of the world as community, a tradition of speculation that goes back to Dante's De Monarchia with its argument on behalf of political unification under the aegis of the Roman Empire.

6 Clark, Grenville and Sohn, Louis B., World Peace Through World Law, 3rd rev. ed. (Cambridge, Mass., 1966)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

7 WOMP has, in fact, made a serious effort to engage scholars from the socialist orbit in its work, that is, both Marxist scholars from nonsocialist countries and scholars from socialist countries. As yet, the published fruits of these efforts are meager. At the same time, the oral interaction has been intense and has made an impact on the outlook of WOMP, especially with regard tostrategies of transformation.

8 For perceptive inquiry along these lines see Roszak, Theodore, Unfinished Animal: The Aquarian Frontier and the Evolution of Consciousness (New York, 1975)Google Scholar; Person/Planet (Garden City, New York, 1978)Google Scholar.

9 Such forebodings are sketched by the authors of a much-publicized study of the Trilateral Commission. Crozier, Michael J., Huntington, Samuel P., and Watanuki, Joji, The Crisis of Democracy (New York, 1975)Google Scholar.

10 Western civilization is important beyond even the West. Its perspectives and fundamental outlook have become a shared ideology for ruling elites throughout the world, including the communist countries. There are, to be sure, anti-Western elements among some governing groups, but the essential conviction that science-based technology contains the best promise of societal progress is almost universally endorsed. The Westernization of world political consciousness is almost complete, and has, if anything, increased its influence during the era of decolonialization.

11 For a creative inquiry into non-Hobbesian dimensions of order in the state system see Kratochwil, Fritz, Foreign Policy and International Order (Boulder, Colorado, 1978)Google Scholar.

12 The high rate of abstention from electoral politics in the United States is one expression of this loss of confidence in mainstream channels. Another expression in the increasing perception of the main political parties as providing insufficient choice on the questions that matter. The formation in 1979 of a Citizens' party represents a third party initiative with the definite idea of widening citizen choice and control over public policy.

13 For expressions of what this might entail in the Soviet context, see Sakharov, Andrei, Progress, Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom, (New York, 1970)Google Scholar; Sakharov, , My Country and the World (New York, 1975)Google Scholar; Medvedev, Roy A., On Socialist Democracy (New York, 1975)Google Scholar.

14 This is also my response to a similar line of criticism in a stimulating and original article by Steiner, Miriam. “Conceptions of the Individual in the World Order Models Project (WOMP) Literature,” International Interactions 6 (1979), 2741CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

15 “Interview with Wilson, Robert,” N. Y. Arts Journal, Spring 1977, p. 17Google Scholar.

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