Forward, to the Union of Humanity

By Cowley, Jason | New Statesman (1996), October 15, 2001 | Go to article overview

Forward, to the Union of Humanity


Cowley, Jason, New Statesman (1996)


Two centuries ago, the great philosopher Immanuel Kant also envisaged a world community. welcomes a neo-Kantian in Downing Street

"All wars are so many attempts to bring about new relations among the states and to form new bodies by the break-up of the old states to the point where they cannot again maintain themselves alongside each other and must therefore suffer revolutions until finally, partly through the best possible arrangement of the civic constitution internally, and partly through the common agreement and legislation externally, there is created a state that, like a civic commonwealth, can maintain itself automatically."

Immanuel Kant, 1784

"Round the world, 11 September is bringing governments and people to reflect, consider and change... There is a coming together. The power of community is asserting itself... I have long believed this interdependence defines the new world we live in."

Tony Blair, 2001

Everyone who is anyone in the world of letters has been scrambling to offer their interpretation of the world-changing events of 11 September. We have endured Martin Amis's hyperbolic take on the collapse of the twin towers, all "sharking" planes, "world flashes" from the near future and "species-shame". We have endured the hawkish pomposity of the well-known thriller writer Robert Harris, delivered in weekly despatches in the Daily Telegraph, for which he was no doubt hired as a lone maverick counter-intuitive voice, though he has emerged as someone capable only of attacking the left from the right, as it were. We have had Ian McEwan's subtle meditations on the hijacked passengers' expressions of love at the point of extinction, as well as far too much "expert" geopolitical analysis and the odd apocalyptic prediction or two.

But so far there has been no seminal essay, no work of insight and prescience to rival Francis Fukuyama's essay The End of History, which so perceptively defined the mood of western triumphalism at the end of the cold war in 1989, while offering a persuasive philosophical explanation for the collapse of our old bipolar world.

In the absence of such a text, Tony Blair's speech to the Labour Party conference deserves to enjoy a radiant afterlife, not least because of its curious and unexpected revival of a form of Kantian liberal internationalism, as expressed in his hope for the future harmony and interdependence of nations. "This is a moment to seize," he said. "The kaleidoscope has been shaken. The pieces are influx. Soon they will settle again. Before they do, let us reorder the world around us... 'By the strength of our common endeavour, we achieve more together than we can alone'."

Much has been made of the urgent tone of the speech - its messianic fervour and missionary zeal - and considerably less, if anything, of its philosophical foundations. This is to be regretted, because when Blair speaks of a "common thread of principle" uniting all nations, of "reordering" the world, of eradicating global poverty and ignorance, and of rebuilding a new interdependent world order from the wastes of conflict, he thrillingly, perhaps unconsciously, shares a vision of the future with the great Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). Kant's essays Perpetual Peace (1795) and Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Intent (1784) once provided the philosophical inspiration for contemporary liberal internationalism, and certainly influenced the foundation of both the League of Nations and the United Nations.

That Blair should discuss such ideas while he prepared to support the bombing of Afghanistan is not as absurd as it first seemed. Kant believed that war was the engine of history, a paradoxical mechanism forbeneficial change as men reluctantly submitted themselves to the rule of law in order to avoid a relentless cycle of destruction: "The means that nature employs to accomplish the development of all faculties is the antagonism of men in society, since this antagonism becomes, in the end, the cause of a lawful order of this society.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Forward, to the Union of Humanity
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.