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In Search of a New World Order: WPI History Part I

(This is Part I in a series of articles on the history of the World Policy Institute leading up to World Policy Around the Table: A 50th Anniversary Celebration and Conversation)

By Amanda Dugan

When the World Policy Institute was originally founded in 1961 as the Fund for Education Concerning World Peace through World Law, it marked the next stage in a moderate internationalist movement that began in the wake of World War II. The leaders of the Institute—Grenville Clark, Harry Hollins, and C. Douglas Dillon—shared a commitment to the transformation of the international system and the belief that change must be initiated by the world’s citizens, not its governments. However, while these men shared the vision of what would ultimately become the World Policy Institute, it was the support of Earl D. Osborn and his Institute for International Order that made it possible.

The oldest predecessor to the World Policy Institute, the Institute for International Order, was originally established in 1948 as the Association for Education in World Government. Hoping to avoid another devastating war, the Institute promoted the development of an effective governing body to maintain world peace. Using Grenville Clark’s work and proposals for revising the UN Charter as its cornerstone, the Association worked to facilitate the “collection, study and analysis of proposed methods of achieving world government,” through the confines of the current international system. Ultimately, the Association believed that such an authority could serve as an effective means to world peace. However, as Douglas Dillon would later reflect, while the Institute’s goal of sustainable world peace was desirable, the public was not prepared for a change as drastic as world government. 

At this point, both Clark and the Association for Education in World Government adopted a more progressive approach. In 1954, the Association became the Institute for International Order, and in 1958 Clark published World Peace Through World Law with Harvard professor Louis B. Sohn. The text reflected a shift of focus in Clark’s work—from the transformation of the UN Charter to the transformation of the public’s understanding of the problems. 

Unfortunately, the public’s reluctance to accept the idea of world governance was not the only obstacle. After World Wars I and II, Korea, and now facing Vietnam, the American public had grown accustomed to war—it had become an inevitable part of reality. The question, thus, was how to connect with an audience that had become desensitized to conflict and convince them that peace was possible? And for Clark, who had already proposed a world order system based on enforceable laws, the question was more specific: how do we transition from our current system to this proposed system?

When Clark eventually reached out to Hollins, these were the questions he was grappling with. As he had explained with Professor Sohn in the introduction to World Peace, the goal of their book was not to provide a final solution (that would be too “presumptuous”), but to create a basis for the “extensive discussions… required before truly effective institutes for the maintenance of peace [were] accepted by the peoples of the world.” At this point, Clark believed that individuals had the power to influence the course of events, and would act rationally if provided the necessary information, but he was not sure how to prepare and engage the public. When Hollins agreed to meet him at his home in Dublin, New Hampshire, Clark hoped he would have the answer for what they—as two private citizens—could do. After concluding that the “energy and intelligence with which [the goal of world law would be] pursued… depend[ed] in large measure on the degree to which citizen leaders and the general public understood its implications,” the two men decided to found the Fund for Education Concerning World Peace.

Designed as an “educational program on the inadequacies and dangers of the present international system,” the Fund began operating from a small one-room office in New York under the sponsorship of Osborn’s Institute for International Order. With $40,000 in the bank and a staff of three, including himself as director, Harry Hollins began the process of initiating and promoting an educational program encompassing "disarmament, peacekeeping, economic development, human rights, the control of atomic energy, [and] the development of the oceans and outer space for constructive purposes." According to Hollins, these issues were of vital concern to all nations, and thus earned the name “World Order Studies.”

The World Order Studies method approached education as a “stimulating learning sequence for students,” involving three stages. The first stage was to diagnose current world problems and trends, followed by proposals for alternative political configurations that would address those concerns. After an acceptable design had been established, the final step was the development of transitional steps to “transform the present world system into the preferred alternative future(s) detailed in the second step.”

Essentially, the Fund’s educational process intended to develop requisite transitional steps for reaching a more acceptable global model and to prepare the next generation of students to be “more sensitive to the opportunities for preparing constructively in the development of a world community.” However, Hollins had no formal training as an educator and was unsure of how to adapt the Fund’s vision to a classroom setting. Instead, he enlisted universities to host experimental seminars with the materials. It was at one of these seminars that Hollins met Rutgers University Professor Saul Mendlovitz.

Impressed with Mendlovitz’s educational approach and use of the materials, and also concerned with the Fund’s progress in achieving its goals, Hollins asked the Professor what he would do in the same position. After brief consideration, Mendlovitz explained to Hollins that the problem was not simply how they could introduce world order studies to American schools, but how they could succeed in extending this course of study to educational systems throughout the world. According to Mendlovitz, this would be the Fund’s real success.

Once the Fund had redefined their goal, their next step was to develop a strategy. After identifying the two major obstacles to be a lack of adequate instructional materials and a shortage of qualified instructors, the Fund then established its Publications program to produce the curriculum, and the School Program to prepare the teachers to carry it out. Then, armed with the materials and the method, the Fund introduced its program to American universities, colleges, and schools.

During this first phase of the Fund’s activities, all of its energy was focused on transforming American perspectives through the educational system. However, while this was in part due to the Fund’s sense of responsibility toward the American public, it was also a means to refine their program’s mission to create a model that could be translated to the “distinctive reality of each major cultural perspective.” After working on the world order education model domestically for two years, the Fund expanded their activities with their first international conference in New Delhi in 1964.  

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Amanda Dugan is a Research Consultant for the World Policy Institute.

[Logo courtesy of Curtiss Calleo]

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