An exploration of P. R. Sarkar’s contribution to the field of global governance
The concept of world government has been around for many hundreds of years. Yet, the combination of cosmopolitanism and the terrors of modern warfare have caused an upsurge in thought about it in the twentieth century. After each of the world wars, international institutions were established to avoid the future scourge of war. World government advocates have usually seen the League of Nations and the United Nations as inadequate organizations, because sovereignty was retained by the national states and the international organizations lacked sufficient coercive power to mandate peaceful resolutions of conflicts.
Both at the time of, and after, its founding, proposals were made to strengthen the United Nations and in effect make it a world government. Grenville Clark and Louis Sohn wrote the most famous of these proposals entitled, World Peace through World Law. Their plan envisioned reapportioned representation in the General Assembly, rapid verifiable disarmament of all countries, and peacekeeping by a world militia under United Nations control. Their work won praise from many quarters, but the advent of the Cold War dampened interest in theirs and other world government work.
Another major postwar proposal came from the University of Chicago. Under the direction of the University’s President, Robert Hutchins, and Italian scholar, G.A. Borgese, a group of renowned scholars were gathered to draft a world constitution, which was first published in 1948. It provided for legislative, executive and judicial bodies. The constitution also created a Tribune of the People to protect the rights of minorities and a Chamber of Guardians to oversee the armed forces of the world government. The University of Chicago constitutional draft attracted considerable attention because of the eminence of its authors, but it, too, suffered from the climate of fear generated by the Cold War.
The Cold War did not end world government movements altogether though. A number of organizations were founded in different parts of the world to carry on advocacy for the concept. One of the best known of these groups was the World Federalists, which, as its name implies, advocated a federalist approach where the world government would focus on common global concerns while other issues would be left to national or local governments. The World Federalists gained followers in many countries and remains today a leading champion for world government.
The major movements generally saw the need for world government as a means to avoid war and maintain peace. This came as a natural reaction to the horrors of the world wars. Over time additional rationales were recognized as new problems arose that transcended national boundaries.
The global concern over the quality of the environment led to a world summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. These ecological issues have now become a part of the basis for the call for world government. Questions of human rights and economic justice, which are admirably portrayed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, have also been incorporated in the world government discourse.
A strong statement of these various values has been presented by the World Order Models Project. The project, initiated by Professors Saul Mendlovitz and Richard Falk at Princeton University, joined renowned scholars from around the world to present different cultural perspectives on how to achieve what they called world order values. These included peace, economic well-being, social justice and human rights, environmental quality, and participatory politics. The project began during the Cold War era and initially reflected considerable pessimism about the prospects for achieving these goals. With the end of the Cold War they have shown some growing but still guarded optimism:
Part of what makes global constitutionalism politically relevant at this time is the emergence in rudimentary form of the first global civil society in human history – that is, globally constituted attitudes, social connections, information networks, transnational collaboration, and citizens’ associations – an ensemble of diverse cumulative forces and tendencies that has many innovative potentialities. It is this cumulative profile that is the backdrop – a democratizing project that extends beyond the borders of states and derives its political identity from its primary association with the human predicament at this historical juncture. This perspective is guided by the conviction that global constitutionalism deserves serious study by those dedicated to change for the better of the world. `Global constitutionalism’, as used here, is itself a manifestation of global civil society in a nascent form. These societal roots are important, making the undertaking plausible as a political project at this time, and providing a specific normative grounding, ensuring that whatever emerges as global governance embodies world order values, and does not merely represent a gigantic technocratic fix designed to handle complex forms of interdependence that seem quite ominous if left on their own.
In a parallel but complementary path, several spiritual and religious bodies have promoted visions of world government. World government thinking is found in the Bahai faith and among followers of Indian seer, Shrii Aurobindo. While these sources acknowledge the positive values put forth by the other world government advocates, they also see additional spiritual values stemming from a united world. In some senses, they present the evolution towards world community as a natural outcome of humanity’s unfolding consciousness.
The pace of world government movements picked up dramatically after the end of the Cold War. Two major approaches have been tried. The first envisioned reforming the United Nations. The second involved several different approaches of bringing citizens together to create a new world government.
Having reached its fiftieth anniversary, a number of different reform proposals are being advocated to transform the United Nations into a world governing body. In general, these proposals seek ways of limiting national sovereignty at least in those key areas where global governance is most required. Some of the proposals provide for wide-ranging reforms such as those envisioned in the Clark/Sohn plan. Another recommends strengthening the Security Council and giving it the practical power to govern on peacemaking and other selected matters.
Finally, an eminent group of world leaders has called in its `Stockholm Initiative’ for the United Nations to reconsider charter reforms which would enable it to better address the transnational issues.
While many world government efforts have focused on United Nations reform, a number of others have sought to create new forms. In part, these have been promoted because of their supporters’ skepticism about the prospects of national governments ceding more of their powers to the United Nations.
Several groups have sought to create constitutional conventions among citizens of the world in order to create a new global government. They have frequently taken the original U.S. constitutional convention as a model. The best known of these efforts is the World Constitution and Parliamentary Association founded by Philip Isley. This group, with thousands of members around the world, has drafted a world constitution and has begun a process to promote its ratification.
Another more recent effort called Philadelphia II was initiated by former U.S. Senator, Mike Gravel, and takes its inspiration and name from the original American convention which took place in Philadelphia in 1789.
Both these groups count legislators and jurists as active participants. In addition, legislators (World Parliamentarian Association) and judges/lawyers (World Peace through Law Center) have founded their own organizations which foster global governance principles.
Other groups have sought to instill in people a deeper sense of their status as global citizens.31 This has included creating world citizen identity cards and registries, global passports, peace sites and the like. In addition, the development of non-governmental organizations with international membership has created new opportunities for organizing and lobbying for world government.
In its relatively long history, the movement towards world government has rarely been as active and perhaps has never been as close to actually achieving some breakthroughs. From this background we will now look at the special contributions that Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar, an Indian social thinker, has made to this movement. As this article will show, Sarkar’s ideas share in a rich background of world government thought, which has become particularly vibrant in the twentieth century. At the same time, Sarkar brought many new perspectives to the subject stemming from his philosophies of spirituality, Neo-Humanism and Prout.
Sarkar’s vision for implementing a world government
Sarkar saw strong societal currents aiding the movement towards the adoption of a world government. As he said:
Nationalism is fast getting out of date. Not only has national sentiment given humanity rude shocks in the world wars of the present century, but social and cultural blending of the present age also shows the domination of cosmopolitanism in world affairs.
He did not believe that these developments alone would lead to the creation of a world government, but rather the spirit behind them would provide momentum for the effort. In fact, he felt many people would actively resist this movement for fear of losing their own political or economic power:
Many people say that different national interests are the only hurdle in the formation of a world body. In my opinion this is not the only obstruction, rather this is just a minor difficulty. The real cause lies in the fear of local leaders losing their leadership. On the establishment of world federation the powerful influence which they enjoy today in different countries, societies and in the national lives, will no longer exist.
To overcome this resistance, Sarkar advocated stressing elements which emphasize our common humanity. He specifically felt we need to foster a common philosophy of life, common constitutional structures and penal codes, and the assurance of the minimum essentials of life for all peoples.
Sarkar’s notion of a common philosophy of life is based on his spiritual outlook, which sees humanity and all creation derived from one Cosmic Ideal which in turn is our ultimate destiny. He sees human development as an evolution in physical, mental and spiritual terms towards that Cosmic Ideal. While other aspects of life can give rise to social cohesion, Sarkar believed that only this absolute, unchanging spiritual source can bind society together on a permanent basis.
He felt this common philosophy was essential because, for him, human unity is purely ideational, a unity which occurs in the psychic or mental realm. Without this base, efforts to unify human organizational structures would be fruitless, and susceptible to destruction whenever divisive tendencies arise.
With a common philosophy as a base, creation of a common constitutional structure can serve to solidify the unity. While Sarkar generally discussed this constitutional structure in conjunction with the development of a world government, elements of his constitutional vision could themselves be used to promote unity as part of the preparation leading to the creation of a world government. For example, he would include provisions guaranteeing access to minimal essentials for life such as food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education and the like. This could be used as part of a campaign to bolster appreciation of a common philosophy of life by stressing our common basic needs. In some ways this is analogous to the role played by the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights both as a document embodying particular rights and as an educational tool to be used to build greater consensus for universal adoption of those rights.
It is a natural outgrowth of a common constitutional structure that humanity be governed by a common penal code. Sarkar wanted a single code to govern all people but his code would be based on universal tenets which he called cardinal human principles. These principles are those which serve to elevate humanity and individuals towards their spiritual goal.
He believed present day penal codes vary greatly because they are based on local notions of virtue and vice, which in turn are influenced by particular religious doctrines. In a sense he believed we should look for the universal truths held in common by our great religious and spiritual traditions and make them a basis for a unifying code of conduct. At the same time, we should ignore local variations which only serve to create disunity.
Furthermore, Sarkar felt the penal code should strive for a corrective as opposed to retributional end. Even those who make mistakes and violate the common code must be looked on as members of the universal society and efforts should be made to rectify them. This outlook also led Sarkar to oppose capital punishment except in very rare cases.
In addition to common philosophies and laws, Sarkar believed our common human needs can serve as a cohesive force. Although he recognized that no two people are exactly equal in their capabilities or needs, he nonetheless believed all people have basic common requirements for life such as food, shelter, medicine and the like. While people have historically fought over material possessions, Sarkar felt that all people have a fundamental right to these necessities and that emphasizing this right could foster closer ties among people.
Once momentum has been built for these unifying sentiments, the stage will be set for a phase wise implementation of world government. In the first phase, Sarkar saw the establishment of a universal body to frame laws. While in theory this universal body could derive from today’s United Nations, its present national government constituents will be among the least likely to support its expansion.
In any event, in the long run Sarkar’s universal body would pass laws which would be executed by local or national governments. Sarkar believed the universal source and nature of these laws would make it more difficult for local governments to discriminate against minorities.
Structurally, Sarkar saw a bicameral legislature:
There will be two houses – a Lower House and an Upper House. In the Lower House representatives will be sent according to the population of the country. In the Upper House representatives will be sent country wise.
This bicameral structure provides for checks and balances within the legislative body itself:
First bills are to be placed before the Lower House and before their final acceptance they will be duly discussed in the Upper House. Small countries which cannot send a single representative to the Lower House will have the opportunity to discuss the merits and demerits of the proposed act with other countries in the Upper House.
Sarkar also saw some executive powers for the initial stage of world government, limited principally to settling disputes and maintaining peace through a world militia. Over time these executive powers would be expanded until the world government would carry out a full range of legislative, executive and judicial functions.
While Sarkar saw natural evolution towards world government, he also counseled well-meaning people to accelerate the process. Rather than focus on political action, he urged people to cooperate in rendering social service to humanity. He felt that the political arena was rife with corruption and that people could easily get co-opted by it. Through the medium of service he felt progressive people could build on the present momentum towards world government:
Modern people should realize that in the near future they will have to adopt universalism. So the well-wishers of society will have to mobilize all their might and intellect in organizing a world federation, giving up all considerations of forming the communal or national organizations. They will have to concentrate wholly and solely upon constructive activities in a simple and straight forward manner rather than indulging in deceitful and diplomatic utterances.
The question is whether the establishment of a world government or universal fraternity is practicable without staging any fight. To this I will reply in the affirmative. The extreme welfare of the human race can be achieved by mobilizing the living spirit of those people who are desirous of establishing world federation, not by political rivalry but only by means of service and constructive work. One has to remain engaged in the task of social welfare with all sincerity, without having any other motive in one’s inner self. Those rendering due cooperation to the people undertaking the austerity of social service will be considered desirous of establishing world federation. Where the governments will not associate themselves with this task, people will become agitated and the violent mass will establish world government through a revolution. Therefore there is no necessity for people engaged in service of the masses to enter into the dirt of politics.
It is through this expression of benevolence and service that Sarkar believed a world government could be forged. Today’s political environment is far too divisive and self-interested to create consensus among diverse peoples for a global governance.
Sarkar joins a long and distinguished line of concerned individuals calling for the establishment of a world government to overcome the problems associated with today’s nationalistic framework. While many of Sarkar’s ideas are shared by other world government thinkers, he offered a number of new considerations, based on the need for developing a common philosophy, a common penal code, and guaranteeing economic security for all people. Finally, Sarkar’s emphasis on constructive service as a means to achieve world government presents a positive new approach for obtaining this worthy goal.
 Georgia Lloyd and Edith Wynner, Searchlight on Peace Plans. New York, Dutton, 1949.
 Joseph Baratta, Strengthening the United Nations: A Bibliography. New York, Greenwood Press, 1987; Hanna Newcombe, World Unification Plans and Analysis. Dundas, Canada, Peace Research Institute, 1980.
 Grenville Clark and Louis Sohn, World Peace Through World Law. Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1960. Second edition.
 Committee to Frame a World Constitution, Preliminary Draft of a World Constitution. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1948.
 American Vice President Gore recognizes the transnational quality of environmental concerns but does not himself call for world government. Al Gore, Earth in the Balance. New York, Penguin, 1993.
 Richard A. Falk, Robert C. Johansen, and Samuel S. Kim, eds., The Constitutional Foundations of World Peace. Albany, SUNY Press, 1993, 14.
 J. Tyson, World Peace and World Government. London, George Ronald, 1986.
 Samar Basu, Earth is One. Pondicherry, India, World Union, 1983.
 J. Tyson, World Peace and World Government; Samar Basu, Earth is One. Compare with the sociological and historical evolution towards world government in John Kiang, One World. Notre Dame, Indiana, One World Publishing, 1984.
 Harold Stassen, United Nations: A Working Paper For Restructuring. Minneapolis, Lerner Publications, 1994.
 Benjamin Ferencz, New Legal Foundations for Global Survival. New York, Oceana Publications, 1994.
 Common Responsibility in the 1990s. Washington, D.C., World Federalist Association, 1991.
 Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar, Idea and Ideology. Calcutta, Ananda Marga Publications, 1978, 92.
 Tim Anderson and Gary Coyle, eds., Universal Humanism: Selected Social Writings of P. R. Sarkar. Sydney, Proutist Universal Publications, 1982, 113-114.
 Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar, Idea and Ideology, 91.
 Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar, ‘Discourses on Prout’, in Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar, Prout in a Nutshell: Part 4. Calcutta, Ananda Marga Publications, 1987, 17.
 Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar, ‘How to Unite Humanity’, in Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar, Prout in a Nutshell: Part 21. Calcutta, Ananda Marga Publications, 1991, 20.
 Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar, ‘Talks on Prout’, in Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar, Prout in a Nutshell: Part 15. Calcutta, Ananda Marga Publications, 1988, 19.
 Sarkar provides an in-depth discussion of these principles which he called yama and niyama in his book, A Guide to Human Conduct. Calcutta, Ananda Marga Publications, 1974.
 Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar, ‘Neo-Humanism of Sadvipras’, in Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar, Neo-Humanism in a Nutshell: Part 1. Calcutta, Ananda Marga Publications, 1987, 2.
 Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar, ‘Talks on Prout’, 20.
 Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar, ‘Discourses on Prout’, 4.
 Ibid, 5.
 Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar, ‘Talks on Prout’, 20.
 Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar, Problem of the Day. Calcutta, Ananda Marga Publications, 1968, 42-43.
 Tim Anderson and Gary Coyle, Universal Humanism, 113.
 Ibid, 120.