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The First Normative Global

The Uncertain Political Future
of Globalization


Richard Falk

Professor of International Law and Practise, Princeton University

TFF associate

February 5, 2002 

I. The Sudden Advent of Global War

The events of September 11 alter fundamental calculations about the future of global governance, the role of the state, and the policy agenda that is likely to dominate debate in various national, regional, and global arenas. Whether the impact of mega-terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon initiate a civilizational war between the West and Islam is highly uncertain at this time, but what seems beyond doubt is that the substantive and symbolic harm inflicted on the United States by Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaida network, a non-state enemy with visionary goals, forever changes our sense of historical context and of the nature of war and power.

Before September 11 the preoccupations of the era seemed captured by the terminology of globalization, and the tensions produced by economistic emphasis on global economic growth as the foundation of a new geopolitics, possibly also providing a vehicle for a unified world culture built on the pillars of secularism, market economics, and constitutionalism at the level of national governance. Security concerns were seen as matters of law enforcement and peacekeeping rather than matters of war and peace, with the major challenges increasingly being associated with the rise of transnational criminality. International terrorism was viewed as part of this challenge, a matter of finding the perpetrators, although the most virulent forms of terrorism seemed to be associated with ethnic, religious, and national struggles that were being waged to determine the destiny of a particular state. There were during the late 1990s think tanks in the United States and public officials warning the public about bioterrorism and the danger of terrorists acquiring nuclear weaponry, but such scenarios were widely discounted as exaggerations or as efforts by the government to identify new threats to justify high defense budgets in the absence of any serious strategic rivalry, and the widely shared general sense that war among leading states was not likely to recur. The American effort to build a defense shield was justified against such a background as a check against the danger of attack by "a rogue state," but not as a capability that could be effective against a major adversary.

Since September 11 this understanding has been radically revised, at least for now. The pursuit of security is again in the domain of "war" rather than "law enforcement." Global economic concerns no longer dominate the policy scene, and even the emphasis on globalization is temporarily in eclipse. What is more striking is the degree to which the new global war has seemed to sideline the normative preoccupations that appeared so important during the 1990s: human rights, the accountability of leaders, redress of historic grievances, and the prospects for global democracy. My argument in this chapter is that these initiatives of the 1990s taken together were mounting the first normative (humane values as expressions of ethics and law) revolution in world history that was of global scope, and that these developments were an outgrowth of modernity that could not be reversed. The events of September 11 seem to contest such an interpretation, but I believe that their impact, while overwhelming in the short run, will be temporary, delaying rather than terminating the overall effort to establish the norms and institutions of humane global governance as the foundation of world order in the 21st century.

Such a reading of the future may seem overly optimistic, especially considering the possibility that mishandling the response to September 11, either by under or over reaction, could induce an inter-civilizational war of long duration and savage intensity. I think the danger of under-reaction is virtually non-existent, and that the scale of reaction, while risking over-reaction, will be moderated by prudence in the months and years ahead. If such a line of anticipation is correct, then it remains useful to comprehend the underlying trends that gave rise to the speculative hypothesis that we were witnessing the first ever normative revolution of global proportions.


II. A Revolutionary Prospect

Jacques Barzun warns us at the outset of From Dawn to Decadence that "[w]e have gotten into the habit of calling too many things revolutions," and so we have. To claim, then, a revolutionary prospect on the horizon of international political and cultural life is to accept a heavy burden of persuasion. It is not only a matter of not contributing further to the dilution of the idea of revolution as entailing a fundamental transformation, but also of countering a historical mood of post-utopian skepticism about large jumps for the better in the human condition. The disillusionment that accompanied the failures of state socialism as reinforced by the defeat of the cultural revolution that was at the core of the turmoil of 1968, makes doubters of us all. This anti-revolutionary mood extends even to the point of admitting that seeking a promised land tends to make modest ethical gains of an incremental character unlikely, and certainly more difficult. This is due to a conservative backlash that generally achieves strict control of thought and action in the aftermath of failed revolutionary projects. This pattern of hostility to progressive social change whether domestic or international, in the main, captures the spirit of the times during the 1990s and the early 21st Century.

If revolutionary rhetoric survives at all during this period as a positive prospect, it is with reference to a set of materialist claims that market forces, integrating via computer, satellite, and optic fiber, will generate an era of abundance and health on a global scale. Cumulatively, these radical technological innovations are now, according to this view, in the process of establishing an organic form of "globalization" that will indeed diminish the role of the territorial state to the point that it is no longer is satisfactory to consider world order as constituted by sovereign territorial states. Even these most extreme globalizers do not foresee the disappearance of the state, but rather its increasing virtuality, a redesigned role to facilitate world trade and investment, providing security to the extent that disruptive actors mount threats to the established order. In the background of such dramatic conceptions of the global integrative process underway is the related idea that globalization carries with it a cultural and normative code that homogenizes world society in a coherent and beneficial manner. The global media socializes people everywhere to a common consumptive life style, and more ambitiously promises, that in time, due to economic growth and technological innovation, poverty will disappear and material wellbeing will become attainable for everybody. Such developments may over time even lead to a system of global law and morality taking hold of the political imagination. There is an irony that such a materialist vision of the future has generated such mainstream enthusiasm at this stage of world capitalism, despite its resemblance to Marxist conceptions of human and societal fulfillment.

There is the dark flip side scenario that sees the same forces of globalization moving toward self-destructive catastrophe as energy use, pollution, warming, and demographic pressure overwhelm the carrying capacity of the global ecosystem. In this understanding, the impotence of the state to stem such a globalizing juggernaut is part of our collective inability as a species to slow the human stagger toward the abyss. The plaintive and shrill calls for help associated with anti-globalization militancy, initiated in a vivid manner in late 1999 during World Trade Organization meetings at Seattle, and continued ever since, raise many questions about the viability and legitimacy of globalization. This movement from below has gained such strength that its presence at any notable gathering of globalizers from above dominates the occasion, making the encounter overshadow the substantive issues and policy changes under discussion in the official sessions. So far these demonstrations against corporate globalization have succeeded as media events but have yet to prove themselves capable of qualifying as political events that bring about change or even offer a confused public an alternative. For the first time, in the wake of the violent riots accompanying the July 2001 G-8 meetings of heads of state, began to evaluate their approach to the management of the world economy. The leaders assembled at Genoa and their retinue of advisors seemed determined that in view of the political turmoil generated, such meetings should no longer be held, at least within the setting of major urban centers.

There is another series of emergent innovations that have been identified as possessed of revolutionary potential, and these are associated with the frontiers of science and technology. The advent of super-intelligent machines, of really smart and versatile robots, and of human cloning and breakthroughs in biogenetics challenges our sense of the human condition and of species survivability in profound ways. These prospects can give rise to either the excitement of a cyberworld of abundance and longevity or a bladerunner world of sheer destructivity. I think we need as a matter of civilizational urgency to assess with great care the political, ethical, and spiritual impacts associated with this radical technology, but I do not propose to do so in this chapter.

My attempt here is to consider whether, despite the manifest despair and complacency of the age, as well as the disruptive and diversionary effects of September 11, we are not embarked upon a relatively bloodless, normative revolution of values, as well as legal procedures and institutions, which is transforming above all else our understanding of global justice. This process is also profoundly affecting our sense of political authority, accountability, and structure of relations in fundamental respects. Such a hypothesis is easy to fault, even to scorn as totally discredited by the evidence of failed and flawed efforts to pull off humanitarian interventions during the past decade or to hold leaders of states consistently accountable for crimes of state.

In a recent highly articulate repudiation of such normative projects, James Mayall writes that "[t]he revolutionary view of the future is the least plausible." Mayall wants to argue that the continuities of international society based on the co-existence and cooperation of sovereign states, although stretched in places, remains the best hope, and only realistic prospect, for sustaining even the current moderate world order that has the capacity to make modest ethical advances. This view carries forward Hedley Bull's rejection of those normative innovations that attempt, prematurely and regressively in his view, to curtail the sovereignty of states. Mayall's skepticism is explicitly grounded in the thought of David Hume about the international society of his time, with its primary insistence that we not allow our moral expectations exceed our experience of what is attainable in the world as we know it. Of course, such Humean rhetoric is largely question-begging as the issue as to what our experience allows is a speculative matter that is constantly proving our most august pundits unable to see the handwriting on the wall. Consider, in this regard, how "experience" failed to show that East Europe would be liberated peacefully from Soviet control and domestic oppressive rule in the 1980s, that South Africa would find a way to overcome apartheid without enduring bloody civil strife, and that the standards of international human rights would emerge from their declaratory incubator to become genuine levers of influence. To the extent that experience in global affairs is demonstrative at all, it is to confirm our inability to identify the boundaries of the possible, or to give comfort to either optimistic or pessimistic turns of mind. The non-anticipation of the mega-terrorism of the sort manifested on September 11 suggests that our negative imagination is as deficient as is our sense of what is possible in a more positive sense. It also discloses the inadequacies of intelligence gathering by the state, despite billions of dollars devoted to identifying and preventing threats of a terrorist character. We should in these respects encourage receptivity to a wide range of hopeful and dangerous future scenarios, acknowledging the inadequacy of knowledge as a foundation for prediction. In effect, we need to learn to trust the imagination and the political will if we wish to be better prepared to address the future, both its promise and its menace.

It is true that revolutionary processes rarely reveal themselves in advance, and seem to unfold with such rapidity that participants are taken by surprise. Only in retrospect does a revolution disclose its efficient causes and antecedent conditions. Barzun notes "[h]ow a revolution erupts from a commonplace event- tidal wave from a ripple- is cause for endless astonishment."


I. Revolutionary Precursors or Liberal Delusions?

If we look back on a century of efforts to achieve global reforms, it is possible to reach quite opposite conclusions. The Bull/Mayall view is that efforts at reform are dysfunctional to the extent that they do not respect the essential hierarchical character of an international society dominated by sovereign states of unequal size and influence. The view associated with international liberalism has been more optimistic, a confidence that small steps of an ethical and institutional character can over time produce a more peaceful and equitable world order. The view being mainly explored here is whether such reformist steps, whether implemented or not, reflect an intensifying revolutionary impulse to reconstruct world order along more normative and globalist lines that express its integrative character. The conclusion reached is that at this point such initiatives are inherently ambiguous, susceptible of interpretation along any of the three lines. The ambiguity is not likely to be removed for at least a few decades as the fuller impact of globalization is disclosed.

The path of such an interpretative effort leads backwards to Woodrow Wilson and the League of Nations, founded without US participation after World War I, as a tribute to Wilson's stature and popular following in the aftermath of a senseless, cruel, and devastating experience of prolonged warfare in Europe. Was not this enactment of Wilson's vision a normative revolution of global proportions? Perhaps, if only words count. Grandiose claims were made at the time for its transformative effects, especially its project to supersede the balance of power diplomacy and war as the arbiter of change through the institutionalization of collective security. But was Wilson's vision ever enacted in a form, with capabilities and constitutional processes that might have had a reasonable chance of upholding its claims? Is there any evidence that Wilson himself understood or accepted the transfer of capabilities to the international level implied by his proclaimed commitment to end the war system? Did the political elites of the leading states of the world, aside from Wilson, believe that the old realist interplay of dominant sovereign states, could be or should be put aside? Not much energy has to be wasted responding to such questions. A resounding "No" is all that is necessary. At the same time, there is no doubt that the League experience, as sustained by its more elaborate and successful sequel, the United Nations, provide part of the background that helps make the present argument for a normative global revolution more plausible than it would otherwise be. There has been over the course of the last century a growing institutionalization of governance at the international level, a process expressing the increasing complexity of international life, especially in economic domains, along with the search for the security and stability of transactions across the borders of sovereign states.

The same can be said about the Nuremberg and Tokyo war crimes trials held after World War II. On one level these events did put into question the idea that states were the ultimate arbiters of legality and responsibility, as well as the protective notion granting immunity from prosecution to those individuals whom acted on behalf of the state. But the one-sidedness of these inquiries into criminality gave these proceedings an inevitably shaky normative status. They were vulnerable to attacks as "victors' justice" and pure hypocrisy, which could be deflected by contending that a principled framework of generalized accountability would soon follow, with codes and tribunals applicable to all members of international society. When there was no implementation of this Nuremberg Promise, cynicism seemed justified, and the experience of imposing accountability was limited to the circumstances surrounding the outcome of World War II.

As with Wilsonianism, so with the Nuremberg, a normative idea with strong potential claims was validated to a certain degree under special conditions, but not in a manner that would induce durable and consistent change in the behavioral practices of world order as conceived along Westphalian lines of territorial sovereignty. As such, these normative impulses, although capable of arousing extremes of enthusiasm and opposition, were not "revolutionary" in either intention or effect. The means to reach the lofty goals proclaimed were not willed into being. No suitable political project that might challenge statist world order or hegemonic patterns took shape in a credible form.

To suggest the possibility of a global normative revolution is to be aware of this background of disingenuous gestures that are made on an ad hoc basis without an accompanying will and social forces to make structural changes. Without relevant agency and the structural changes, the rhetoric of revolution is hollow sentimentality, or a politically irrelevant utopianism. The structural changes responsive to a normative agenda, challenges several aspects of political realism embedded on a global scale in such ideas as sovereignty, statism, hegemony, marginality of law and morality, and the absence of a clear and agreed conception of global justice.

My position is that this normative agenda of challenge has emerged in the last decade or so, building on these earlier impulses, but now reinforced by the global setting in an unprecedented manner, making the idea of a normative revolution more politically grounded than ever before. Such grounding does not ensure its success, hence the question mark in the title, and there are evident significant contradictory tendencies. Yet for the first time in human history a combination of social forces and practical pressures is giving the current manifestation of a project for normative revolution serious credibility, if not yet robustness. This credibility mainly arises because multi-dimensional forms of resistance to market-driven globalization needs to be neutralized by making the emergent order legitimate in the eyes of the peoples of the world.

It remains to ask what is meant by "normative global revolution." The idea of normative is associated with justice, moral values, and legal order, while that of global is connected with the scope of what is being proposed, but in the manner of stacked Russian dolls. Contextualizing such an outlook requires that we consider the Westphalian framework of territorial sovereignty as the established order against which the revolution is being undertaken. As such it is not a modification of a reformist sort that will enable that inherited and resilient framework to adapt yet again to altered conditions, but something that is so fundamental as to revise our perception of the core features of "the real." We will partly come to appreciate the transformative character of this process by expressing the need for and seeking out a new language of explication and appraisal that conveys the new realities in more satisfactory ways.

Barzun, quoted earlier, portrays the history of the West as a sequence of revolutions, but carried on within the boundaries of states taken as the stable elements of an established order. As expressed, "[a] revolutionary idea can succeed only if it can rally strong 'irrelevant' interests, and only the military can make it." My view explored here is that a revolutionary idea under contemporary conditions needs to rally strong support throughout global civil society, which can be conceived from a statist perspective as a domain of the internationally 'irrelevant,' but does not any longer depend on violence for its success.

This possibility is a result of three mutually reinforcing developments. The first of these, and the most encompassing, is the evolution of international human rights from a pious promise made in an unconvincing and nominal form back in 1950, and even earlier, to a serious claim directed against inconsistent behavior in the early 21st Century. In this regard, I take seriously as the second development the empirical spread and universal endorsement accorded a democratizing ethos, although I dissent from the view that "democracy" is properly delimited in minimalist and statist terms of electoral consent in this era of globalization. The third development is the anti-globalization movement with its implicit indictment of the illegitimate character of the manner in which global policy is being formed and implemented, as well as with the inequities alleged to result from such processes, especially with regard to the peoples of the South. This combination of international human rights (including distinct womens', indigenous peoples, and sexual identity movements), the democratic ethos, and the anti-globalization movement is what gives the normative global revolution its political shape and relevance. It is predicated upon an underlying engagement with the attainment of global justice, or alternatively phrase, "humane global governance."


II. Imagining a Normative Global Revolution: Some Activating Conditions

The first set of normative impulses can be best understood as a continuation of World War II by the victorious coalition of states led by the United States. This meant the war crimes trials at Nuremberg and Tokyo, establishment of the United Nations, the Genocide Convention, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Partly, these initiatives represented efforts to learn from the mistakes of the past, particularly they reflected the failures of the punitive approach to Germany embedded in the Versailles Treaty and the non-participation of the United States in the League of Nations. Partly, these initiative resulted from a belated sense of shame about the failure of the liberal democracies to oppose the genocidal politics of the Nazi regime in Germany or even to proffer aid to the victims in their quest for places of refuge- that is, criminalizing genocide and internationalizing human rights were symbolic steps in the direction of imposing limits on sovereignty as exercised within territorial limits. But in the main these initiatives taken between 1945 and 1950 were problematic, being tainted by the victors insistence on exempting their own behavior from legal scrutiny, failing to transfer any peacemaking capabilities to the United Nations, and through the intense adherence to notions of sovereign rights as modified by geopolitical prerogatives (most notably the vet power of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council). 1945 was still very much of a Westphalian world, its statist logic accentuated by Soviet concerns associated with their plausible anxiety about being outmaneuvered and outvoted in any consensual procedure established at the global level. It is also the case that the main learning experience arising from the World War II experience was that idealistic approaches to international order do not succeed in providing either security or peace. The paradoxical conclusion is that the best prospects for peace result from the maintenance of deterrent strength rather than by way of demilitarizing disarmament, which tempts aggression. The so-called "lesson of Munich" was formative for Western leaders in this period, creating anxiety about placing any serious reliance on the UN as possibly diverting resources and energies from the need to rest world peace in the future on a balance of power logic. Neither legal nor moral norms of constraint, but only countervailing power could induce moderation based on assumptions that leaders of states are generally guided by rational assessments of gains and losses associated with recourse to force and by a prudent approach to risk-taking.

The two most radical innovations in world order that were launched in this period were not widely perceived as such at the time, and perhaps for this reason were able to develop beyond most expectations of what seemed realistic. The first of these innovations was to overcome some of the weaknesses in world economic coordination that were thought to have contributed to the Great Depression of the 1930s, especially currency volatility. A complementary institutional innovation was designed to ensure that there would be ways to assist poorer countries of Asia and Africa in meeting their needs for foreign capital so to overcome their backwardness while respecting their political independence, and without appearing to be constructing new variants of economic imperialism. The IMF and World Bank, the so-called Bretton Woods institutions, as much later complemented by the World Trade Organization, designed to institutionalize periodic moves toward freer international trade and exchange rate stability, evolved into a powerful institutional triumvirate. Unlike the UN, global economic governance, was seen as a capitalist enterprise, and was controlled by the Western liberal democracies from its inception. These institutional actors, along with the leading capitalist governments, provide a measure of global economic governance that has evolved over the decades in response to changing conditions, and recently functioned quite explicitly to disseminate neoliberal ideas and practices about state/society policy. This includes facilitating the adoption of market-oriented priorities of corporate globalization by countries in the South such as privatization, fiscal austerity, and the free transnational flow of capital.

The second radical innovation with enduring implications for global governance was the establishment of a regional approach to Western European recovery and reconstruction that began modestly with cooperation in relation to iron and steel production and trade among a small number of Western European countries. By the year 2001 European regionalism has matured into a quasi-confederal European Union that will launch a common currency in 2002, impressively upholds human rights of Europeans even against abuses by their own national government, contemplates a European constitution, and may in the years ahead incorporate much of Eastern Europe into an enlarged "Europe." Whether to view international financial and trade institutions and European regionalism as normative initiatives are themselves complicated and controversial matters that required extended and nuanced analysis. Certainly both initiatives have important normative implications, especially in relation to two crucial concerns: the character of global governance, the role of the state, and a concept of justice that is not limited to state/society relations. Their relevance will be assessed in the concluding section.

Undoubtedly, the great normative achievement of the cold war era involved the delegitimation of colonial rule, and the emergence of almost universal support for the right of self-determination. Of course, this achievement was rendered more difficult and remarkable because it cut against the grain of geopolitical alignments, placing the colonial powers, particularly Britain and France, as pariahs of the old order, and putting the United States in an ambivalent position. The extent of this ambivalence became evident in the setting of the Indochina Wars in which the United States supplanted France in a sustained and futile effort to prevent indigenous nationalism from strengthening the Communist bloc.

The bipolar split of the cold war era (1945-89), combined with a realist turn in the diplomacy of major states, kept other normative developments of an inter-governmental character at a minimum: a consensus in support of the modernizing quest of the developing world and an ethos of co-existence flourished from time to time that encouraged formulating an overarching framework of shared normative ideas. The adherence of the United States to a realist understanding of global security was particularly influential, especially as the United States had traditionally challenged the European geopolitical orientation as war-prone premised on shifting alliances and the balance of power. This turn encouraged the substitution of "arms control" for "disarmament," in effect, seeking to reduce risks associated with unintended behavior without challenging the essential role of power in sustaining peace and stability within "the anarchical society" of states. This managerial diplomacy of prudence mainly focused on the distinctive problems of managing rival arsenals of nuclear weaponry, especially the dual role of this weaponry in relation to deterrence and to a resolve to forego actual use. Hence, the fascination with the acronym MAD, mutual assured destruction, but as well the crazed condition of threatening a course of action that would also lead to catastrophic self-destruction. MAD was complemented by an anti-proliferation approach to nuclear weaponry, in effect, trying to prevent additional states joining the nuclear club rather than seeking to abolish the club altogether. The prevalence of nuclearism tended to marginalize normative efforts in the security domain, especially given the implicit adoption of omnicidal prerogatives in the name of the security of state or ideological identity ("better dead than red.") and the reluctance of the existing nuclear state to seek ways of reliably denuclearizing world politics.

Yet in this period, despite the ideological cleavage that affected all dimensions of global policy as coupled with the realist zeitgeist, there were important developments that set the stage for later developments. First of all, initiatives in civil society challenged statist approaches to both international human rights and environmental protection. Civil society actors (earlier known as NGOs), with transnational links began to promote adherence to weak, yet existent, international norms, exerting pressure especially in democratic societies for their implementation. Starting with the Iranian Revolution at the end of the 1970s, non-violent populist pressures for democratizing change were mounted under the extreme conditions of authoritarianism prevailing in Eastern Europe, as well as in relation to the racism associated with apartheid in South Africa. Secondly, militant opponents of cold war policies believed to violate fundamental norms of international law and morality began to invoke the Nuremberg idea as the basis of their refusal to support official policies. This process took place in America especially during the latter stages of the Vietnam War and later on with respect to symbolic acts of resistance by individuals seeking to prevent the deployment of nuclear weapons with first strike characteristics. In both instances, feeble or flawed inter-governmental undertakings relating to accountability that were supposed to be confined in their application to their original facts, were kept alive in a mutated form, while being generalized by civil society activists. These activists, often associated with deeply religious backgrounds, gradually came to view "democracy" through neo-natural law eyes as the spontaneous exercise of "popular sovereignty" in deference to the authority of a normative order higher than that of the secular state. Such attitudes, particularly as vindicated by varying degrees of success, helped set the stage for subsequently mounting a normative revolution of global proportions.

A final stage-setting development was the totally unexpected visionary global outlook provided by Mikhail Gorbachev during the last years of the cold war. In seeking to undertake drastic reforms internally and diplomatically, including a negotiated end to the cold war, Gorbachev revived a normative global agenda with a sweep and passion that recalled Woodrow Wilson. Unfortunately, this visionary call by Gorbachev for a more cooperative and demilitarized world order, sustained by a stronger United Nations and an increased acceptance of the rule of law, was dismissed at the time either as "propaganda" or as a feeble effort by the Kremlin to conceal the mounting evidence of Soviet decline. Unlike the efforts to deepen the commitment to human rights norms and to keep alive the Nuremberg tradition, this Gorbachev crusade led no where, despite its humane and sensible content, and has been barely acknowledged. Most regretfully, the United States, the most satisfied of superpowers, saw no need to respond to this Gorbachev approach either by way of endorsement or at least with a reform agenda of its own. Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Washington failed to seize the occasion to promote a system of humane global governance. Unlike the endings of major hot wars over the centuries, the end of the cold war did not induce the victorious powers to offer the peoples of the world a program of global reform that would contribute to future human wellbeing. The two most tangible opportunities for global reform as of the 1990s were a serious effort to achieve phased nuclear disarmament and a commitment to strengthening the capabilities and independence of the United Nations System.

Despite this disappointment at the inter-governmental level, other positive developments ensued to make the hypothesis of a normative global revolution seem well worth entertaining.

The previously mentioned trends toward global economic governance and European regionalism were accelerated due to favorable geopolitical conditions for their evolution. Without cold war preoccupations, greater attention could be turned toward the coherent management of the world economy and the effective participation of Europe in a global trading and financial system that was dominated by the United States and Japan. Overall, the end of the cold war brought to the fore an economistic outlook toward the goals of global policy, particularly given the absence of serious strategic or ideological conflict. China's moves to enter the world economy and submit to the discipline of world capitalism has operated as a major factor in reorienting world order around global economic policy.

These developments taken together with a series of technological developments, especially in the broad area of information technology (IT)- the computer and Internet, as well as the rise of networking organizational schema in business operations- led to the realization that there was a sufficient disjunction between past and present to require a new descriptive vocabulary. Hence, globalization. In some respects, the advent of globalization, especially as historically enacted according to quite contingent neoliberal precepts, represented a serious normative regression: a declining willingness to divert resources to overcome poverty and social deprivation combined with a reliance on the market and private sector to address human suffering. The point here is that the technological infrastructure that has made world integration feasible and beneficial could occur in relation to a more socially compassionate set of presiding ideas. Other "globalizations" more normatively acceptable than neoliberal globalization were possible, and yet may be negotiated to bring "peace."

This regression associated with the rise of neoliberal ideas was offset to some controversial extent by an effort to make democratic patterns of governance, by which was meant periodic multi-party elections and free markets, the foundation of legitimate state/society relations. Leaders of Western states, whether knowingly or not, became unwitting (although partial) adherents of Immanuel Kant's ideas about "democratic peace," and conditioned their enthusiasm for globalization by this call for democratization.

Also important was the changed role of violence in world society. There seemed to be a growing sense of obsolescence associated with major warfare as territorial gains were rarely worth the effort, and the backlash could be severe. In this sense the Gulf War of 1991 was an anomaly, and it also demonstrated the point that aggressive undertakings could generate massive responses to achieve a reversal. Of course, unsettled borders and unresolved territorial disputes still threaten future wars, but for limited ends that do not threaten international stability, with the possible and highly unlikely exceptions of wars fought by China to gain control of Taiwan or of North Korea to take over the entire Korean Peninsula or the renewed outbreak of Indo-Pakistan warfare relating to the future of Kashmir. Despite these lingering concerns, the prospect of strategic warfare is receding from the political imagination, although not smoothly as ongoing debates about missile defense systems and regimes for the prohibition of biological weaponry suggest.

As a result of this tendency, and in view of the large number of persisting forms of violent encounter, there has grown a focus on intranational violence, and on the limits of sovereign power and authority. There has emerged the awareness that international law and the UN as now constituted fit awkwardly into the new paradigm of political conflict. Both international law and the UN Charter accept the idea of territorial supremacy and sovereign rights of the state, thereby rejecting any external accountability of a government or responsibility on the part of the world community to protect an abused society or ethnic minority. This tension between moral imperatives and the constitutional order generates efforts to find new normative ideas that will bridge the gap.

A further actuating circumstance is the emergence of global problems that can only be solved by the logic of collective action. The US refusal as of 2001 to back the Kyoto Protocol relating to global warming without offering a substitute measure is indicative of the vulnerability of the peoples of the world to a normative framework that is conditioned on the right of a single state to defy the collective will of the world community. The issue raised is whether collective action can be arranged either by way of a revised US assessment of its own interests or by way of procedures that take precedence over its refusal to accept a global regime of restraint. The short-term outlook is not promising, but as the evidence of harm from continued emissions of greenhouse gasses at current levels mounts, there is likely to take shape a strong political effort to insist that the United States in its behavior act as "a responsible sovereign," which might include cutting back aspects of its way of life that are globally damaging.

A further background consideration is the dual realization that armed struggles have difficulty gaining their goals, and that governments are not able to prevail over their citizenry by reliance on coercion alone. The 1980s and 1990s bore witness to a post-Gandhian rise in non-violent revolutionary challenges to established political orders and an abandonment of armed struggle strategies. The trend toward negotiated compromises was a promising, although not consistent, development. Non-violent challenges were turned back in several Asian countries, most prominently in China during 1989, and armed struggle tactics succeeded in some instances, as in inducing the NATO intervention in Kosovo that result in the expulsion of the Serb oppressive police and military forces.

My argument is simple: that a series of developments have set the stage for the unexpected surge of normativity that has taken place globally (and regionally to an uneven extent) during the last decade or so. The next section will identify the main dimensions of this normative phenomenon, to be followed by a short section assessing its sustainability.


III. The Normative Surge since 1989: A Quest for Global Justice

Although the hypothesis being explored is that the cumulative impact of the normative initiatives underway may amount to a global revolution if sustained for the next decade or so. It may also fizzle, and there are also present some lively possibilities of normative global regression. The main elements of what is being presented here as the elements of the normative revolution are, by and large, not novelties, but extensions of earlier initiatives that had appeared to be stillborn with only a historical significance. That is, the latent normative potential of the Westphalian evolution of statism during its latest phases are the main building blocks of a possibly emergent normative global revolution. The political project associated with achieving global justice and humane global governance amounts, then, to activating these latent elements.

Accountability: Justice for the Perpetrators. Undoubtedly, one of the most striking developments with moral/legal/political implications, involves a multitude of efforts to hold those who act on behalf of sovereign states internationally accountable for their behavior, at least to the extent of severely abusive behavior. The substantive scope of "abusive" is unclear, and will undoubtedly evolve to incorporate shifting sentiments, but seems now definitely to extend to genocide, crimes against humanity, torture, rape as a military tactic, and possibly crimes against peace and severe violations of human rights. Such efforts to impose international accountability is a direct and fundamental challenge to the central Westphalian idea of territorial supremacy of the sovereign state, and the related doctrines of act of state, sovereign immunity, and superior orders. This impulse to hold leaders, and their subalterns, accountable for adherence to norms is not new, tracing its origins to medieval efforts to uphold codes of chivalry in times of war. In the last century the half-hearted insistence by the Allies that Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany be prosecuted as a war criminal for his role in starting World War I suggested a rudimentary type of international accountability, which came to nothing.

The true precursor to the recent initiatives was, of course, the Nuremberg/Tokyo trials held after World War II. At the time, these trials seemed to promise a radical innovation in international relations, but turned out to be limited to their historical circumstances associated with the outcome of a war deemed just by its victors. Or were they? The benevolent virus of international criminal accountability had been released into the body politic, and it spread unpredictably, establishing its authority as a standard of criticism and self-judgment. This was especially the case for the United States, which was the main architect of the Nuremberg approach, and also the state most vulnerable to claims from within its own society, as well as from the broader community of liberal democracies. In fact, cold war priorities inhibited allies from complaining about US departures from the rule of law with respect to the use of international force, but it did not similarly constrain outraged citizens, especially in response to growing domestic and international opposition to the Vietnam War in the late 1960s. Notable in this regard, was the convening in Europe of a tribunal composed of well known moral authority figures to assess the criminality of American conduct in Vietnam by the British philosopher, Bertrand Russell. Also significant was Daniel Ellsberg's much publicized release of the Pentagon Papers, which he explained in public and under oath at the time as responsive to the text and teachings of the Nuremberg Judgment.

But the 1990s witnessed the inter-governmental revival of international accountability procedures, at the formal initiative of the United Nations Security Council, initially with respect to the breakup of former Yugoslavia and then shortly thereafter in relation to genocide in Rwanda. The establishment of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at The Hague in 199- led to a renewed interest in international accountability. This interest was intensified some years later when Slobodan Milosevic was indicted in the midst of the Kosovo War, along with other high-ranking officials in Belgrade, while he was officially head of state, and again in 2001 when Milosevic was handed over for prosecution as a result of a change of government in Yugoslavia. These developments stimulated civil society and moderate governments to seek the institutionalization of international accountability through the establishment of an international criminal court. Surprisingly, this collaboration resulted in the Rome Treaty of 1998 that comes into force once it secures 60 ratifications, which seems likely within the next year or so, but without the participation of such vital states as the United States, China, Russia, and Israel. There is still prevalent the idea that accountability is a selective instrument that cannot be used to judge the behavior of individuals acting on behalf of the powerful states. The silence of the West in relation to Russian behavior in Chechnya is revealing of the extent to which normative principles are subordinated in favor of economistic and geopolitical goals.

Of comparable interest, and even greater salience, has been the efforts by national courts in Western Europe to claim the legal competence to punish foreign governmental officials for criminality even if committed within their own country. The landmark experience involved the criminal indictment of Augusto Pinochet for crimes committed in Chile during his period as dictatorial ruler, and his later detention in Britain for the purpose of assessing whether he could be extradited to face prosecution. This effort yielded some notable legal decisions in Britain, including a final determination by a Law Panel of the House of Lords, that Pinochet was subject to extradition, but for a very portion of the criminality charged. In the end, Pinochet was returned for Chile, being declared by the British Home Secretary as unfit to stand trial, a conclusion also reached later on slightly different grounds by Chilean courts.

Subsequently, in 2001, Ariel Sharon, while Prime Minister of Israel is under investigation with regard to his allegedly criminal role in connection with the massacre of Palestinian refugees at Sabra and Shatila in 1982 while he was Defense Minister. The massacre occurred at the last stage of the Lebanon War, perpetrated in West Beirut with alleged Israeli complicity by the Phalange Militia, while it was under the control of the Israel Defense Forces. The Israeli Foreign Ministry in August 2001 has reportedly prepared a map for its officials and diplomats that points out which countries have empowered their courts to prosecute for crimes against humanity and other crimes of state, and have warned of possible embarrassment to Israel.

A group of scholars and legal practitioners has formulated a set of guidelines as to the extension of universal jurisdiction to allegations of this type. There is a definite movement underway to challenge the traditional idea of sovereign immunity when it comes to crimes of state, which if it becomes established in the years ahead, will represent a major step in the struggle to bring law to bear on the behavior of governments. It will also give pause to leaders who could no longer count on immunity or asylum. It is notable that national courts functions as agents of both global civil society and of an international society of states to the extent that such accountability is implemented.

It is important to ask why such a momentous set of developments has taken place in the last decade, especially given the failure during the prior half century to follow up on the Nuremberg precedent. The obvious answer relates to the absence of geopolitical inhibitions of the sort that existed during the cold war. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, it seemed to become more tenable to assert universal standards of accountability whose application would not be seen as a propaganda victory or defeat, and would not be an occasion for a heightening of superpower tensions. Also relevant was the increasing importance of international human rights, with the exemption of crimes of states thus seeming like an anomaly.

Redress of Grievances: Justice for the Victims. Parallel, yet seemingly disconnected from these extraordinary moves toward international accountability, has been an unprecedented effort in an array of settings to achieve on behalf of victims some measure of redress for past grievances. It is possible to view the imposition of criminal liability on the perpetrator of abuses as also simultaneously responding to the pleas of victims and their families. Indeed, capital punishment in the United States is often defended as a form of justice for the victims, particularly since other arguments based on deterrence and prevention seem so unpersuasive. Yet it seems helpful to separate the efforts to hold perpetrators individually accountable from the efforts to obtain redress from a variety of actors associated with perpetrators (and entities such as banks and industrial firms, and even governments) in various ways.

The most salient instance of redress was associated with the efforts of Holocaust survivors and descendants to recover their share of gold that had been confiscated from them by the Nazi regime in Germany and deposited in various European banks, especially those in Switzerland. These claims along with related claims to unclaimed bank deposits seemed suddenly to receive moral backing from important governments, including that of the United States. The Swiss Government and a consortium of its leading banks negotiated a large settlement, and "redress" became an idea whose time had definitely come. A variety of claims followed seeking recovery of earnings from slave labor, insurance proceeds, and art objects.

The experience of pursuing Holocaust claims seemed inspirational for other communities of victims. Most obviously, those in Asia/Pacific who had suffered at the hands of Japanese imperial power sought redress with a special intensity. Japan, far less than Germany, took the first step toward redress, which is an acknowledgement of wrongdoing. At present, in Japan more than 55 years after the end of World War II, school textbooks continue to whitewash the past, which itself has kept from healing the wounds of victims and those who identify most closely. Some of the Asian efforts are merely to coerce remembrance and accurate historical reconstruction through such devices as books, films, museum exhibits, and conferences detailing the Nanking Massacre of 1937. And from remembrance, the impulse to obtain redress seeks informal acknowledgements of wrongdoing, which eventually will produce a formal apology by the responsible government, and possibly some sort of offer of compensation.

The more monetary approach to redress associated with the Holocaust survivors was also emulated by Asian/Pacific survivors who have been seeking to recover damages for slave labor and other abuses endured at the hands of Japan. So-called "comfort women" abducted in various Asian occupied countries to satisfy the sexual appetites of Japanese military forces have also sought to obtain some sort of belated compensation for the abuses sustained, so far failing to find satisfaction from the Japanese judicial system. From an international law perspective, the redress process directed at Japan has encountered special difficulties arising from the waiver provision in the Japanese Peace Treaty that purported to extinguish all claims of individuals on both sides of the conflict. There are important ways around this apparent barrier, but they are yet to be accepted by courts.

A form of redress that has achieved great prominence, and can be viewed also as a diluted approach to accountability, is the establishment of truth and reconciliation commissions to record and document past wrongs, as well as to elicit testimony and expressions of remorse by confessed wrongdoers. These commissions were established in Latin American countries in the process of making peaceful transitions from dictatorial regimes to constitutional democracies, and seemed to offer a more stable way to walk the tightrope between impunity and accountability in societies where the old order was still entrenched in the military and security forces. Ever since Nuremberg the argument has been made that one of the main functions of criminal prosecution is to build a documentary record of past wrongdoing, both to avenge the feelings of the victims and to educate the society and the world in the hope of avoiding repetition. South Africa's remarkable transition to a multi-racial democracy relied on a truth and reconciliation commission as an alternative to seeking "justice" by prosecuting those whom carried out the criminal policies of the apartheid regime. Such an attempt to make transitions to democracy successful is not without controversy, with the most severely victimized elements of the society exhibiting bitterness about letting the perpetrators of unforgivable crime get off so easily. On balance, the truth and reconciliation approach has proved to be a creative compromise, repudiating past criminality without treating those associated with the former regime so harshly as to provoke their resistance. Of course, there is no incompatibility between engaging in a truth and reconciliation process and relying on accountability procedures to deal with certain unrepentant or severe offenders.

Redress as a moral and political tactic is definitely in the mind of victim communities. Without surveying the vast array of claims, it is worth observing the issuance of apologies by leaders of dominant countries for such past abuses as colonial rule and the institution of slavery. Refusal of acknowledgement, as with respect to Armenian allegations of "genocide" by Turkey in 1915-16, has been treated by segments of international public opinion as tantamount to an endorsement of the historic abuse.

Among the most militant and persistent pursuers of redress have been indigenous peoples acting in various ways through their representatives. These initiatives have been notable for their assertiveness without any strong base of military or economic power, but through a moral and legal crusade to enjoy the protection of property and other rights, including respect for sovereignty and traditional way of life. Indigenous peoples have been able to establish a forum for networking, expressing their grievances, and positing a protective regime based on a legitimated normative order.

The logic behind the redress movement is that the victims of severe wrongdoing are entitled, even with the passage of decades or even centuries, to obtain some sort of symbolic or material form of compensation for past injustice. The relevant actors are both individual and collective, with various entities engaged as claimants and responsible party. This validation of a redress ethos reverses an earlier dominant cultural and political view that the past is a closed book as to rectification of wrongs. The new context has lent credibility to claims and contentions that were formerly dismissed as frivolous, as was the case with efforts by African-Americans to demand reparations (in the billions of dollars) for the suffering endured due to the practice and institution of slavery.

The significance of this redress ethos is difficult to assess at this stage. It does clearly form part of an increased sensitivity to issues of justice wherever and whenever, and the relevance of their resolution to a peaceful and equitable world order. Why during the 1990s? It seems evident that the end of the cold war, coupled with concerns about accountability, human rights, and democracy, led those who identified as victims improperly acknowledged toward adopting activist positions. In addition to this normative atmosphere, two other factors seem worth noting: the relativizing of sovereignty made states and their representatives more vulnerable to legal and moral claims than previously; and the preoccupation with the future imparted a new salience to time and history, giving to the past a present relevance.

None of these considerations is conclusive. It remains to be observed whether the redress movement is sustainable, and achieves enough tangible results to influence our understanding of the nature of global justice. What can be agreed upon is that diverse redress claims are being asserted to an unprecedented degree during this period, and that this process contributes to the impression that a normative global revolution is underway.

Humane global governance: justice for the peoples of the world. In the background of this quest for global justice is the effort to achieve humane global governance within a political setting that can no longer be conceived or dealt with as an assemblage of nation-state communities. In this regard, the normative global revolution is accompanying a transition from a pluralist world of sovereign states to a solidarist world of peoples. The sites of struggle and controversy are complex, inter-linked, and diverse, and can only be indicated here in the most cursory manner. Several sites can be mentioned: the legality and legitimacy of humanitarian intervention; the movement to globalize democracy; the resurgence of religion; and the struggle for people-oriented development.

Humanitarian Intervention. The NATO War over Kosovo in 1999 heightened an awareness of humanitarian intervention, occasioning intense debate that persists. To the extent that humanitarian intervention is justified on ethical grounds, it expresses the right and duty of collective action on an international level to protect victims of crimes of state, including victims of gross violations of human rights. Humanitarian intervention overrides territorial sovereignty, implying a use of international force in circumstances other than self-defense. If underwritten by a United Nations mandate that is processed by the Security Council, then there is a general acceptance of legality associated with humanitarian intervention despite the UN Charter's promise in Article 2(7) that the Organization will not intervene in matters that fall within the domestic jurisdiction of member states. Implicitly, the severe abuse of people by a territorial government no longer insulates the behavior from international coercive protective action.

The more difficult challenge arises when a Security Council mandate is not forthcoming despite overwhelming evidence of catastrophic human abuse. Such was the case, as understood by those who supported the Kosovo intervention. As the Independent International Commission on Kosovo argues in its report, the Kosovo intervention disclosed a troublesome gap between legality and legitimacy in relation to claims for humanitarian intervention. The Commission approach was to propose a set of guidelines to shape such an intervention and its assessment, but the possibility persists that a humanitarian intervention can appear to be legitimate from the perspective of morality and politics and yet illegal from the perspective of international law.

On a purely conceptual level the idea of humanitarian intervention suggests the emergence of a protective global regime that responds to the vulnerability of peoples being victimized by a government that does not respect international law in dealing with its own territorial population, usually a dissident minority. It reflects the pressure for normative revolution by subordinating claims of territorial sovereignty to those associated with humane governance. But humanitarian intervention of the Kosovo variety is highly contested in theory and practice. It is attacked for its defiance of international law and the UN Charter on a matter of cardinal importance- the unconditional prohibition on uses of non-defensive force in international relations. It is viewed as a new modality of imperial control by the strong in relation to the weak: if Kosovo, why not Chechnya, Tibet? It is attacked as a cover for old geopolitics repackaged for public relations. And it is opposed on pluralist grounds of support for sovereign rights as the most consistent means to protect the wellbeing of peoples at the present stage of international history.

Global Democracy. If the normative revolution is to succeed it will need to extend the principles and practices of democracy to the main arenas of decision and policymaking operative in the world. "Globalization" is a shorthand for suggesting that many of these arenas fall outside the statist framework. The anti-globalization movement, although unfocused, does emphasize its refusal to accept the authority of institutional actors who do not act in accordance with the precepts of global democracy: transparency, participation, and accountability.

One idea for advancing the agenda of global democracy involves the establishment of a Global Peoples Assembly either within the UN System or as a free standing institution. There are many formats that could be used to get such an institution into being, with various methods available to select representatives. A GPA could start modestly as "a coalition of the willing," and gradually improve the quality of its representativeness. The experience of the European Parliament is instructive, both in terms of its evolution and the degree to which it has gained in respect and authority through time despite being dismissed as irrelevant at various points by cynical and realist-minded critics.

Global democracy to be realized implies a solidarist world order, which in turn presupposes the completion of a normative global revolution. It is connected with earlier discussions of accountability and redress, and connects democratic process with global justice. As with other aspects of the revolutionary possibility, it is premature to draw firm conclusions. It seems evident that resistance to globalization is likely to lead its managers to offer some coopting gestures of democratization, but whether these amount over time to "governance" is the critical and now unanswerable question.

Religious Resurgence. Perhaps, even more controversial than other aspects of the argument relating to a prospective normative revolution, is the inclusion of a religious dimension. It is controversial, to begin with, because many commentators on the international scene regard religion as a divisive element, and closely connected to the Huntington postulate of "a clash of civilizations." The view favored here is that religion has a dual aspect, partly destructive of the prospects for humane global governance, but partly indispensable to its attainment. The contribution of religion is to mobilize mass sentiment around several themes: the spiritual and moral context of the human condition; the unity of the human family; the shared perspectives- what Aldous Huxley called "the perennial philosophy"- being promoted by Hans Küng and others.

What is not in doubt is the reality of the religious resurgence as a worldwide phenomenon that suffuses all of the great world religions, although unevenly and with differing impacts. The preoccupation with religious extremism, especially in the Islamic world, diverts our attention from the degree to which the rise of religion is a normative reaction to the material and secular fundamentalisms embedded in economic globalization.

Calls for inter-civilizational and inter-religious dialogue are part of the effort to construct a shared human identity that could combine an understanding and acceptance of differences with an affirmation of common values and goals. It builds normative networks outside the domains of conventional transnational activism, and emphasizes cultural and civilizational boundaries more than those of sovereign states. As such, the religious resurgence could contribute to humane governance within a variety of regional frameworks. The positive sides of religious consciousness also affirm responsibility for the poor and afflicted, providing a normative antidote to those who believe that economic growth and private sector charity can handle human suffering. Finally, the religious approach to the global challenges posed by such divergent realities as global warming and human cloning suggest the insufficiency of reliance on either economistic or secular modes of problem solving.

People-oriented Development. More utopian than other aspects of the current revolutionary turmoil, is the demand that people and not profitability shape the allocation of resources for development, particularly in countries of mass impoverishment. There is some shift in the rhetoric of such international institutions as the World Bank and the IMF that seems responsive to such a demand. To the extent that such an approach to development is accepted by influential actors, it adds to the impression of an emergent normative climate in world politics.

At present, such a re-orientation of the developmental ethos away from profitability and growth seems utopian in the sense that almost everywhere the prevailing mood and allocational patterns governing the use of resources continues to be capital-driven. Banking principles and financial markets exert direct influence on the behavior of governments, even to the extent of overwhelming traditional postulates of economic sovereignty. Even a country as strong and nationalist as Turkey has ceded substantial control to external decision makers implementing a neoliberal view of development. Commenting on a visit to Turkey by Stanley Fischer, former high ranking IMF official, in July 2001, a journalist named Mehmet Ali Birand writes: "Fischer's trip revealed something of great importance: The Turkish economy it transpires is being run from Washington. As if nobody knew already. What was not clear was the degree of detail involved."

No normative global revolution can succeed unless it address directly and as a matter of priority issues of economic deprivation, but also the degrees of disparity between countries, regions, and classes. It may be both the most obvious and elusive issue as its resolution would require the substantial revision, if not the abandonment, of the current ideological orthodoxy embedded in globalization.


IV. Conclusion

The presentation above tried to make credible the case for believing that a normative global revolution is underway, but that its sustainability and outcome are highly uncertain and beset by contradictory evidence and trends, especially given the onset of the war on global terror. The goal of such a revolution is the establishment by stages of humane global governance that is responsive to the functional needs of an era of globalization. Whether the sovereign state can adapt to this revolution, or mounts a counter-revolution on behalf of a pluralist world order, is a major area of uncertainty. It would seem that rates of adaptation are uneven, with interesting collaborative opportunities evolving for states favoring normative reforms joining with civil society actors to achieve such ends as an international criminal court or a ban on anti-personnel landmines.

Another crucial uncertainty involves the direction taken by the United States, and the manner in which it chooses to discharge its global leadership, especially now that it has shifted its focus to a decidedly militarist pursuit of security. Its present anti-solidarist unilateralism and reliance on a militarist view of global security is discouraging, but it may generate counter-tendencies within the United States and elsewhere that are supportive of the normative global revolution.

In the end, the secular prospects for the normative global revolution will depend on the degree to which the anti-globalization movement converges with the struggle to promote and achieve global democracy. But even if this movement evolves in a constructive manner, its ultimate success will depend on its capacity to relate positively to the creative and visionary aspects of the religious resurgence, and not get trapped into an embrace of secular fundamentalism as a reaction to religious extremism and its mega-terrorist enactments.



© TFF & the author 2002  


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