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Toward a New Global Platform

(This is Part IV 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

When the World Law Fund was building its team of international scholars for the World Order Models Project (WOMP), its primary concern was representing all regions of the world in the creation of an analytic value framework. Then once this framework had been developed, they hoped to address the problems facing the world—primarily the presence of war—and propose sustainable solutions. Creating a system in which war was no longer an acceptable institution was the focus of the first meeting of the WOMP directors in New Delhi. After experiencing humanity’s capacity for mass violence and genocide, this seemed like the natural starting point for this team of transnational scholars trying to make society a “better place to live.”

However, as the research directors came together to meet and discuss ways to combat the causes of war and construct a preferred world model, it became very clear that there was more to the preferred system than just the absence of physical violence. Instead, the pursuit of a just world order required solutions for both physical and structural violence. At the time, the idea of “structural violence” was largely associated with WOMP director, Johan Galtung, who Saul Mendlovitz considered an “outstanding innovator” in peace research. According to Galtung, unlike physical violence, structural violence was built into societal institutions, manifesting in “unequal power and consequently as unequal life chances.” In other words, structural violence manifested as social injustice.

Yet, while Galtung was heavily engaged in this area of peace research, it was the scholars from India, Africa, and the other “non-Western” regions that insisted on expanding WOMP’s focus. At the second meeting of WOMP, these project leaders made it clear that if the project did not deal with issues of development and social justice, they would not participate. With this declaration, the World Order Models Project moved into its third meeting with the values of peace, social justice, and economic well-being. And, at its fourth meeting, the World Order Models Project added its fourth value—ecological balance—at the suggestion of North American director, Richard Falk.

Still, while these values represented the original core of the World Order Models Project (and ultimately the Institute), another core value—global citizenship—was added later. The idea of global citizenship (which was added by Mendlovitz), represented both WOMP’s approach to education and policy, as well as their attempt to understand and engage the public. Unlike the prevailing realist theories at the time, WOMP believed that it was “no longer appropriate to think about the globe as an area of nation states, but as a place where human beings are facing problems common to all.” Thus, in promoting global citizenship, they hoped to emphasize the need for global solutions, rather than solutions based on national interest.

Eventually, global citizenship was changed to “species identity,” as the use of citizenship was criticized and over-analyzed by a number of intellectual circles.  According to Mendlovitz, the concept of “species identity,” was WOMP’s attempt to deal with the problem of alienation felt by the world’s citizens. In renaming “global citizenship” “species identity,” WOMP wanted to emphasize the interconnectedness of mankind on the most basic levels, reducing the importance of nationality, sex, race, or any other factors that can divide human beings. Ultimately, by addressing alienation as part of the World Order Models Project, Professor Mendlovitz and the other WOMPers hoped to better understand the way people felt about their lives and identify their values.

Together, the five values created an integrated framework; each was connected in some way to the others and could not be taken in isolation. Ultimately, using this framework, the goal of the project was to address the world’s issues—not in legal terms—but in a style that reflected the WOMP values. Essentially, the WOMPers wanted to “build a base from which you could say, yes, it is reasonable and sensible to think speculatively, imaginatively, morally, about global problems.”

In addition to promoting the five values, the WOMP scholars were challenging the prevailing Realist ideologies. And, at the time, they were the only group promoting the use of the globe as the unit of analysis. Because of their approach, the WOMPers were criticized for being a utopian group “in the worst way possible.” But, as the North American director of WOMP explained, the project was providing a much needed “radical interpretation of our ills—linking problems with their real sources—and promoting it widely so that people can see why things are wrong and change them for themselves.” And, because of the prestige of those involved, there was eventually a “begrudging acceptance” that the WOMPers, and their work, had to be taken seriously.

Still, it was not enough for WOMP to be accepted among intellectual circles. Instead, Harry Hollins, who sparked the original idea for the program, believed that the real success of WOMP would be in building “a bridge between the research and thinking of the academic world and those persons who, in public life, have had to deal with the hard realities of our times.” Again, reaching the public through the education system, WOMP introduced an alternative way of thinking about world issues. And, as people adopted this way of thinking (particularly in the U.S.), they began challenging the state v. state model. Instead, people began using the globe, the species, or the planet as the unit of analysis. With this initial success, WOMP focused on optimizing their five values to reflect the emerging issues facing the world. 

The next post in the series will discuss WPI's approach to the Art-Policy Nexus.

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

[Image attached is WOMP logo]

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