FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

State of Apocalyptic Nature: A Contract with Gaia

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

As for the individual, every one is a son of his time; so philosophy also is its time apprehended in thoughts. It is just as foolish to fancy that any philosophy can transcend its present world, as that an individual could leap out of his time or jump over Rhodes.

The very fact that something is determined as a limitation implies that the limitation is already transcended. – Hegel

Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, and most recently Rawls have all been exemplary practitioners of contract theory.

As is well known, all four of these political theorists began with a particular conception of the state of nature or put into other words man’s original existential situation prior to all forms of government or social contract.

In each case, the state of nature is pre-historical because pre-political.

How each thinker viewed man’s primary condition dictated the course of their further arguments concerning humanity’s fundamental political decisions and actions.

This profound intellectual tradition led most famously to the political beliefs and institutions that founded the United States (at least in theory if not in future practice) and later supplied the world, in part through the consequences of the French Revolution, with today’s democratic principles and ideals especially as they relate to Universal Human Rights.

Although, practically speaking, the fruits of contract theory have by no means been fully applied they nonetheless have provided and arguably still provide the intellectual and spiritual resources for critical projects of reform and even revolution.

Important also is the fact that each of these thinkers, as we inevitably all are, were the “sons of their time”. Hobbes was obsessed with the incessant fears and palpable evils produced by civil war, Locke with the proper separation of governmental powers and the role of parliament therein, Rousseau with the prevalent vices and weaknesses of the Ancien Regime, Kant with the perceived threats to conventional religion and morality as posed by the Enlightenment, and finally, close to our own age is Rawls’s concern over not only political equality but social and economic fairness as well.

However, what we are preoccupied with today is not so much the past or even the present but the future.

To be more exact, we are preoccupied with an apocalyptic future the likelihood of which is not at all clear even if it can be presently conceived as a distinctly frightening possibility.

Thus one of the challenges for a possible renewal of future contract theory would be to place its theoretical starting position not in some imaginary distant past, but in a very possible dystopian future.

Thus, the starting premise of a global social contract might be how best to organize ourselves with a view to both human and planetary justice to avoid a future scenario of ecological disaster.

For if anything, the Twenty First century suggests that justice has widened its scope to cover the social and political relationships between humans and nature. Justice must operate within and between both spheres of existence, if there is to be any human existence at all. Historically, The Rights of Man have led inevitably to The Rights of Nature.

What political arrangements? What institutions? What principles? How can humanity live in sustainable fairness to both itself and that which ultimately supports it?

In a Kantian frame of mind, should we make universally applicable maxims out of whatever insights and institutions sustain and strengthen both human rights and the environment?

For indeed, it would be a strange and devilish path to salvation that would require draconian/dictatorial action. But of course, if a new social contract between ourselves and the planet is not soon forthcoming, a new and terrible kind of necessary tyranny may be what is in store for us all.

More articles by:

Dan Corjescu teaches Political Philosophy at Zeppelin University in Friedrichshafen, Germany.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
January 22, 2020
Melvin Goodman
The Media and the Military Mindset
John Davis
The Real Megxit Deal
John O'Kane
The Obama Legacy: Reform Versus Revolution
Kenneth Surin
The “Evolving” Scotty Morrison From Marketing
Martin Billheimer
“The Cops & the Klan Go Hand in Hand!”
Thomas Knapp
Executive Power: Alan Dershowitz’s Imagination Versus the Constitution
Jacob G. Hornberger
Egypt and the Destruction of Civil Liberties in America
Justin Podur
The People of Colombia are Cracking the Walls of War and Authoritarianism
Kelsey Hawkins-Johnson
Our Final Decade to Get Climate Policy Right
Jonah Raskin
Terence Hallinan: Fighter for the People and for the Legalization of Marijuana 
Colin Todhunter
Challenging the Flawed Premise Behind Pushing GMOs into Indian Agriculture
January 21, 2020
Sheldon Richman
Warmonger Cotton Accuses Antiwar Think Tank of Anti-Semitism
John Feffer
Trump Makes Space Great Again
Patrick Cockburn
The US and Iran’s Perpetual Almost-War is Unsustainable – and Will End Badly
James C. Nelson
Another Date That Will Live in Infamy: 10 Years After Citizens United
Robert Fisk
Iran Will be Changed Forever by Admitting Its Great Mistake, Unlike the West Which Ignores Its Own Misdeeds
Dean Baker
Did Shareholders’ Benefit by Paying Boeing’s Fired CEO $62 Million?
Susan Roberts
The Demise of the Labour Party and the Future For UK Socialism
Binoy Kampmark
Janus-Faced on Climate Change: Microsoft’s Carbon Vision
David Levin
The Teamster Revolt Against the Hoffa Era
Victor Grossman
Defender and Spearheads
Russell Mokhiber
BS Public Editor and the Disease of Contempt
Tiffany Muller
Get the Money Out of Politics: 10 Years After Citizens United
Laura Flanders
Iowa is Not the Twitterverse
Graham Peebles
Education: Expanding Purpose
Elliot Sperber
Handball in Brooklyn 
January 20, 2020
Paul Street
Trump Showed Us Who He Was Before He Became President
Eric Mann
Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Ipek S. Burnett
MLK and the Ghost of an Untrue Dream
Mark Harris
Better Living Through Glyphosate? Spray Now, Ask Questions Later
Katie Fite
Owyhee Initiative Wilderness and Public Lands Deal Critique: Ten Years After
Thomas Knapp
A Loophole for the Lawless: “Qualified Immunity” Must Go
REZA FIYOUZAT
Best Enemies Forever: The Iran-U.S. Kabuki Show
Jeff Mackler
Worldwide Furor Sparked by U.S. Assassination of Iran’s General Suleimani
William deBuys
The Humanitarian and Environmental Disaster of Trump’s Border Wall
Binoy Kampmark
A Matter of Quality: Air Pollution, Tennis and Sporting Officialdom
James Haught
GOP Albatross
Jill Richardson
Why Do We Have School Lunch Debt at All?
Robert Koehler
Nuclear Hubris
Patrick T. Hiller
Instead of Real-Time Commentary, Eight Common-Sense Reason for Not Going to War with Iran
Charles Andrews
A Note on Carlos Ghosn and Global Capitalism
Jeffrey St. Clair
Some Trees: Los Angeles
Weekend Edition
January 17, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: No Woman, No Cry
Kathleen Wallace
Hijacking the Struggles of Others, Elizabeth Warren Style
Robert Hunziker
The Rumbling Methane Enigma
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail