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The World Order Models Project

Saul Mendlovitz and Ashis Nandy

(This is Part III 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. This post is based on an interview with Professor Saul Mendlovitz.)

By Amanda Dugan

The underlying philosophy of the World Order Models Project (known affectionately as WOMP), was that world peace could not be created by any one nation. Instead, an “acceptable design for world order [must] be the product of contributions from many nations.” Inspired by the insight of founder Harry Hollins, WOMP sought out new models of world order that would form the basis of an international dialogue to address the question of what world order values ought to be.

However, as to not stray too far from their academic foundation, the World Law Fund hoped to work these new view points into their world order education method. To this end, the Fund recruited scholars from around the globe to produce educational materials, which—when combined—would “represent most of the major world perspectives.” Eventually, these scholars would form a “transnational group,” that would produce materials from a global perspective that could be used simultaneously in the world’s educational systems. Once again though, while the Fund had the idea and the strategy, they still needed the funding.

With the original six-page proposal (written after his conversation with Hollins), Professor Saul Mendlovitz approached the Carnegie Endowment for Peace, and they funded WOMP with a first grant of $100,000. Armed with this investment and the goal of creating an international network of thinkers, Mendlovitz began recruiting WOMP scholars.

Envisioning WOMP as a social movement, as well as an academic experiment, Mendlovitz established two criteria for potential WOMPers: intellectual prestige and a commitment to social activism. With this in mind, he sought out scholars that could “clarify [their] ideas and be in touch with the people running the world before reaching out to the grassroots.” With Richard Falk already on board, Mendlovitz took the WOMP movement abroad, making his first trip to Germany to meet with Carl von Weiszäcker.

By the time Saul was recruiting him, Weiszäcker was an active participant in Germany’s postwar movement. Yet, as a physicist and philosopher, Weiszäcker had made a name for himself in a very different context. As one of the first physicists to recognize the potential for nuclear weapons, Weiszäcker was part of the German team developing atomic weapons during World War II. However, as he continually maintained—he never wanted to create a bomb; in fact, he claimed, none of the German scientists wanted to see the project through and deliberately undermined its success.

While the validity of this statement has been contested, the truth remains that after the war, Carl became an outspoken critic of nuclear weapons, and a leader in Germany’s anti-nuclear movement. It was his role in this movement, which inspired Saul to enlist Carl to WOMP. And, once he had successfully signed Falk and von Weiszäcker to the project, Saul returned to the Carnegie Foundation and began strategizing on how to involve more scholars from around the world. At this point, Mendlovitz had clearly identified the type of scholar they wanted to join the project, and now the question became: how many and from where?

In an attempt to represent each major culture, Saul began recruiting scholars from around the world to serve as research directors—a process that lasted until 1969. One of the delays in developing the WOMP team was the difficulty in recruiting a Russian participant. Although he had successfully recruited scholars from Japan, Chile, India, Norway, and Uganda, it took nearly four years before WOMP had a permanent Russian member. Yet, this was not for lack of interest on the Russian intellects’ part. 

When Saul originally traveled to Moscow, he met with four scholars—all of who were interested in WOMP. However, during a meeting with one of the candidates (which they conducted as they walked around the city to avoid surveillance), Saul was told “if all else fails [in the selection], stay with [Gennadi] Gerasimov.” According to Saul, “all else failed,” and the government censured his original candidate. Still, Gerasimov was a strong addition for WOMP. As the press spokesman for Gorbachev, he was very familiar with Western culture and society. Additionally, Gerasimov was not only well respected and had a reputation for being a scholar, but he also had infiltration with the academic intelligentsia and media.

With a team of international scholars finally assembled, the World Order Models Project moved into the next phase of work. Structuring the teams in a way that allowed for input from others, the scholars pushed to bring their world order ideals into “forceful form… [to] let people see them and find out if there was any consensus, any disagreement.” But, as they soon found, before they could present their ideas to the public, they had to come to their own consensus first.

The next post in our series will discuss the evolution of WOMP's core values which helped shape the Institute's work in the coming years.

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

[Photo of WOMP Director Saul Mendlovitz with Ashis Nandy from the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in India (a partner of the World Law Fund) courtesy of SC/UA Rutgers University Libraries]

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