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BOOK REVIEW: Humanity-Craft for New Epoch Leaders

COMMENT

A thoughtful and important guide that should be closely studied by current politicians (who won’t have the time to do so), would-be politicians, and the myriad types of advisors to avant-garde politicians and those seeking a “new paradigm” for human affairs. Unfortunately, the text is marred by an inordinate number of distracting typos, which will hopefully be corrected soon in a new edition.

Many of the themes in this book are prefigured by Dror’s two most recent books. The Capacity to Govern: A Report to the Club of Rome (London: Frank Cass, 2001) has a leitmotif of “Guiding Global Transformations,” and chapters on Unprepared Societies and Obsolete Governance, Fostering Raison d’Humanite, Rulership, Empowering People with Public Affairs Enlightenment, Deepening Policy Reflection, Fuzzy Gambling, Making Global Governance More Resolute, Augmenting Oversight, and Gearing Governance for Crises. Many of these themes are elaborated in Dror’s 2014 book. More recently, Israeli Statecraft: National Security Challenges and Responses (London: Routledge, 2011; Global Foresight Books “Book of the Month,” Sept 2011), defines “statecraft” as applied to Israel, but also has excellent chapters on likely ruptures ahead (the necessity for global action on climate issues, more rapid change in violence modalities, increased standing of Asian countries, and increasing power of civilizations and faiths not based on the Bible) and ten long-term global mega-trends (e.g.: intensified faith, rising Islam, more non-state actors, radically novel science/technology impacts, more competition for resources, diminishing US hegemony).

The back cover of Avant-Garde Politician brags that this is an “iconoclastic book,” and, in the introductory pages, Dror hopefully states that “this book will cause some controversy.” The carefully-introduced Chapter 17 on “Public Interest Machiavellianism” may well provoke complaints from progressive purists (who seldom get elected to any position because of their purity), and Chapter 2 on a “Circumscribed Global Leviathan” will surely upset many others, especially firm believers in state sovereignty and scientific freedom of inquiry. (Is the scary image of “Leviathan” really needed to promote better global governance and tame science/technology?)

But viewed through another lens, this book is not so iconoclastic (although several icons are questioned) or potentially controversial. Rather, it is timely, sensible, pragmatic idealism. Chapter 3 on “Raison d’Humanitie” deserves to be pondered and introduced into policy discussions as equal to or greater than “raison d’etat” (e.g., the response to the ebola epidemic in West Africa is clearly unvoiced “raison d’humanite”). Chapter 4 describing 14 components of the humanity value compass (e.g. protecting essential physical conditions, ending large-scale violence, eradicating evil, and expanding pluralism) is perfectly reasonable and unremarkable. Chapter 11 listing 19 desired aspects of humanity in 2100 (e.g. pluralism, stable population, increased carrying capacity, no serious economic crises) also provides sensible goals to strive for (perhaps fitted under the attractive banner of “sustainable development”, which Dror unfortunately ignores). This positive future is offset by 19 dismal futures to avoid.

Part 3 offers five chapters on Composing Humanity-Craft, including #16 on Dror’s original views about “fuzzy gambling” for the high stakes of human existence and welfare. Most important, the ponderous Chapter 12 on “Pondering” includes a list of 34 “Grand-Policy Conjectures” related to the three existential imperatives and the Chapter 4 “value compass,” dealing with critical humanitarian issues, restricting radical human enhancement research, expanding and enforcing the responsibility to protect (“R2P”) doctrine, preventing states from failing, containing greenhouse effects, protecting biodiversity, a global refugee policy, eliminating tax havens, promoting education programs to strengthen human communality, compensatory payments to countries harshly damaged by global warming, and much more. In other words, it’s a perfectly reasonable and useful progressive agenda incorporating many current prescriptions.

Another way to position Dror’s thinking is to consider it on the axis of global urgency and anger. At one extreme is Ross Jackson, author of Occupy World Street: A Global Roadmap for Radical Economic and Political Reform (Chelsea Green, March 2012; GFB Book of the Month, Sept 2012, 315p; www.occupyworldstreet.org), which views the current global structure as dysfunctional, undemocratic, corrupt, and exploitative of the environment and developing countries. In contrast to Dror’s relatively modest planetary “metamorphosis,” Jackson (chair of the Gaia Trust in Copenhagen) views civilization in the midst of a painful “global collapse that will continue for several decades.” This is supported by chapters about the assault on nature, the drivers of destruction (economic beliefs, neoliberal ideology, deregulation), the “corporatocracy” in charge, the Kennan Doctrine as a blueprint for empire, growing inequality, etc. This radical view leads to a call for Gaian economics and an elaborate and idealized “Gaian World Order” scheme including a Gaian Trade Organization, Gaian Development Bank, Gaian Congress composed of delegates appointed by Gaian League governments, a Gaian Resource Board, and a Gaian Council of elected wise elders. Jackson’s “global roadmap,” which includes a small-state “breakaway strategy” for getting there, is endorsed by Maurice Strong, David Korten, Dennis Meadows, and Hazel Henderson. Although there is some overlap with Dror’s relatively tame “Circumscribed Global Leviathan,” there are many differences along an idealistic/pragmatic axis.

At the other end of the axis of urgency and anger is Henry Kissinger’s reflective World Order (Penguin Press, Sept 2014, 420p), with chapters on the global Westphalian system dating back to the 17th century (no true “word order” has ever existed), today’s European order (“suspended between a past it seeks to overcome and a future it has not yet defined”), Islamism and the Middle East as a world in disorder (the region is “pulled alternately toward joining the world community and struggling against it”), the US and Iran, the multiplicity of Asia (with no common religion and deepening ethnic and cultural differences), China and world order, the historical US concept of order (“acting for all mankind”), the US as ambivalent superpower, the challenge of nuclear proliferation (any further spread of weapons “multiplies the possibilities of nuclear confrontation”), cyber technology and world order (Internet technology has outstripped strategy, and it is easier to mount cyber attacks than to defend against them), and the question of “World Order in Our Time,” in a world of multipolar power in “unprecedented flux” and increasingly contradictory realities, with lack of an effective mechanism for the great powers to consult and possible cooperate on long-range strategy. “Reconstruction of the international system is the ultimate challenge to statesmanship in our time,” requiring “a coherent strategy to establish a concept of order within the various regions, and to relate these regional orders to one another.” (p.371) In sum, “A world order of states affirming individual dignity and participatory governance, and cooperating internationally in accordance with agreed-upon rules, can be our hope and should be our inspiration.” (p.372)

Given the preceding topics, this vision seems reasonable. Yet it is very limited. Other than a passing reference on page 2 to “environmental depredations” and “the spread of new technologies threatening to drive conflict beyond human control or comprehension,” Kissinger makes no mention of climate change, global warming, new biotechnologies and human-enhancing technologies, growing inequality, or any form of global governance. The fact of these omissions should be controversial! Yet the book is favorably reviewed on the front page of The New York Times Book Review (Sept 14, 2014) by the like-minded editor-in-chief of The Economist, who calls it “a book that every member of Congress should be locked in a room with—and forced to read before taking the oath of office.”

Suffice to say that all members of the US Congress, and national leaders and would-be leaders everywhere (along with leading editors and relevant academics), should spend a week with Avant-Garde Politician if we are to get serious about world order in an undeniable age of metamorphosis and possible global collapse. It won’t happen, of course. But the slim possibility of a maturing humanity would be improved if this were so, and if we could acknowledge the structural problems that keep us from learning about—and seriously debating–more appropriate worldviews for our turbulent times.


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