World order? Absolutely! By all means! At least that is how it seemed to me during my formative years, young adulthood, and well into my professional life. I visited the United Nations New York Headquarters at age ten, spent most of my teen years in Latin America, and came of age in a time of hope and optimism for the UN system, as a legacy of two world wars and the hope of a generation that there would be no more global conflicts. It certainly seemed true through my first decade as a political science professor, where I was responsible for teaching international relations and comparative government. I was active in the local World Affairs Council, participated in regional Model United Nations conferences, and ran a mid-1990s spring workshop at Novosibirsk State University in central Russia. The two working groups in the Russia workshop were each comprised of a dozen international students and the brief given to each group was to develop a timeline leading to the ‘future fact’ of the creation of a global government by 2050. By using ten-year increments on a timeline leading from 1995 to 2050, they were asked to examine the events and trends that could lead to world government 2050.
Perhaps not surprisingly, both groups independently used the UN as a vehicle to 1) establish global government and 2) limit nation-state sovereignty. Both groups used public health and education and the UN Millennium Development Goals, and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights as starting points, and global health care needs as the driving forces that brought nation states together. Both groups had similar ideas about an eventual World Parliament being constituted by 2050; also not surprising was that world government, for one group, emerged due to a global pandemic crisis. This fitted the model of global progress in my head and in my teaching in the 1990s—one of greater regional consolidation and integration, like the European Union (EU) that was then coming into being. My mental model was one of an increasingly interdependent world that was evolving towards a central government, in the same way that the thirteen colonies became the United States of America. As a naïve young American, it makes perfect sense that I had this idea that the world should look more like the USA. Eventually, I came to realise that the processes that created the US were not the same as those that created the EU or the UN. My belief in a natural progression and centralisation of power did not jibe with the realities emerging in the post-Cold War world in which I lived. If my assumptions about U.S. exceptionalism were naïve, my optimistic assumptions about growth and then about sustainable development were ignorant. How the world order has changed during the last couple of decades!
One can no longer engage in a discourse about world order without challenging the basic assumptions about the trajectory and end state of global ‘order,’ and particularly, pose the question: are we moving towards global disorder; or indeed, the collapse of all order? That is precisely the message of the Uncivilisation, the Dark Mountain Manifesto written by poet and author Paul Kingsnorth and author and social entrepreneur Dougald Hine, and their Dark Mountain Project. The manifesto is a small pamphlet first published in 2009, but Dark Mountain is a larger literary and artistic statement about the dysfunction of the current paradigm and a recognition of the deep damage and harm that humans have inflicted on other species and planetary systems. Now in its nineteenth edition, the Dark Mountain journal continues a tradition of manifestos—written social, cultural, and political demands for change in the current system.