23 January 2004

Dooyeweerd on international politics

The following is taken from my dissertation on the political thought of Yves R. Simon and Herman Dooyeweerd, "Towards a Christian Democratic Pluralism" (University of Notre Dame, 1986):

Whether Dooyeweerd would actually favour the establishment of a world state of some type cannot be gleaned from his sparse comments on the international arena. Readers of Dooyeweerd differ on this point. C. T. McIntire sees Dooyeweerd as defending "the modern anarchy in the international politics of states and nation-states as normative." L. Kalsbeek, on the other hand, sees at least the possibility in Dooyeweerd's thought of "an organization of nations with a supranational police force at its disposal to maintain order among states which have relinquished the right to wage war on their own account." This writer is inclined to agree with Kalsbeek that the seeds of a supranational political order are indeed to be found in Dooyeweerd. It may be that Dooyeweerd would not be willing to accept all the implications of a world state, but his thought as a whole seems at least to tend in this direction.

I am not certain I would now come to the precisely the same conclusion, and a rereading of the relevant section in Dooyeweerd's New Critique of Theoretical Thought (pp. 473-477) reveals more nuances than I picked up nearly two decades ago. Here is the relevant passage from the New Critique quoted by Kalsbeek. It is one of the few places in his writings where he deals with international politics and the dilemmas raised by it:

The Christian view of the State must never capitulate to a naturalistic theory of the "raison d'État" elevating the "sacred egotism" of the States to a kind of natural law in international relations. Such a theory is intrinsically false and contrary to the individuality-structure of the States as well as to the basic structure of the international order.

The internal vital law of the body politic is not a law of nature but bears a normative character. A State can never justify an absolutely selfish international policy of the strong hand with an appeal to its vital interests. God has not given the States such a structure that, with a kind of natural necessity, they are compelled to carry on a Kain's [sic] policy for the sake of self-preservation. Only a blind man does not see that the vital interests of the nations are in a great many ways mutually interwoven. It is not the political structure of national life but the sins of the nations that have caused the individualistic selfish power of the States to dominate international politics.

In international legal relations the internal public juridical structure of an individual body politic is necessarily correlated with that of the other States in public juridical, inter-communal relations. Similarly the love of a particular country cannot fulfil the moral commandment in the international moral relations between the States without its counter-weight in international love of one's neighbour among the nations. Any absolutization of patriotism leads to a blind chauvinism, which lacks the true moral sense of love. It is an absolutely un-Christian thought that the commandment of temporal societal love of one's fellowmen is not valid in international intercourse between the nations organized in States. International relations are also subject to the moral law; they cannot be ruled by a purely egotistic principle. But the structural principle of the international norm of love is not identical with that of private moral intercourse between individual men (III, pp. 476-477).

The difficulty raised here is finding concrete mechanisms to ensure that the central love command given to humanity is followed in the international realm when the temptation is so great simply to use state sovereignty to follow one's own self-defined interests at the expense of those of other states. Federation is a possibility, as Dooyeweerd himself admits (pp. 475-476), although he does not seem to envision it encompassing the entire globe.

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