Emergence, Dimensions of a New World Order
Author: edited by Charles Lerche
Publisher: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, London, 1991
Review by: Nazila Ghanea-Hercock
Despite the many Bahá'í books available on peace, few have been suitable for students and academics in the field of international relations. Bahá'í writers often take the 'preaching to the converted' tone that assumes that everyone desires peace and thinks it is possible. Unfortunately, the lessons of history and the apparent realities of politics have led students of international relations to conclude that peace is utopian and unattainable; their aim is to try to reduce the extent of conflict.
Emergence - Dimensions of a New World Order is a Bahá'í book covering the old theme of peace within a new framework. Its editor, Charles Lerche, is a Bahá'í professor of international relations, and its language correlates Bahá'í themes to modern day thinking in politics and international studies.
Its six chapters cover the Bahá'í model of World Order, the Bahá'í view of international organisation, human nature, Bahá'í arguments for world federation, the Bahá'í development strategy, and coping with environmental crises. Each chapter is written by a different Bahá'í academic, with a slightly different tone.
The first chapter, 'An analysis of the Bahá'í World Order Model', successfully catalogues the main features of the Bahá'í World Order model in just 45 pages. Its compact yet comprehensive presentation means that it provides a good picture of the extent of the Bahá'í project to a sympathetic reader. Its brevity, however, means there is not much time to convince a cynical audience.
The second chapter, 'From League of Nations to World Commonwealth', is written by a U.S. Bahá'í lawyer and tackles some Bahá'í perspectives, judgements and prophecies regarding international organisation. It traces the historic forces that gave rise to the need for international organisation from 1870 to the present day and then follows the same line of argument to back up the Bahá'í prediction that such cooperation has been preparing the path to World Order: to the Lesser Peace,
a World Federation, and a World Commonwealth. Its section on failures and shortcomings of international organisation is a must for all Bahá'ís and makes us realise that an unqualified support for the contemporary United Nations actually actually adds up to a serious compromise of our own beliefs.
The third chapter is the most suitable for a non-Bahá'í audience and tackles the belief that a pessimistic attitude towards peace stems from a misunderstanding of human nature and history. It challenges the 'opposition' head-on by explaining the negative image of human nature put forward by the 'greatest' thinkers of our civilisation, and then uses the Bahá'í image or critique to move towards a more positive picture. It concludes, 'Bahá'ís do not underestimate the difficulties that stand in the way of accepting a positive image of human nature and the vision of a new World Order that can give it form. Rather they consider that the trauma of our age is bringing into being an audience increasingly receptive to this very idea'.
Chapter 4 is geared more towards a Bahá'í audience and puts forward the universal political thesis of the Bahá'í community in the following terms:
Any foreign policy that serves goals other than the immediate transformation of the United Nations into a fully functioning World Federation, bears within it the seeds of future world wars and is equivalent to a crime against humanity.
It calls on Bahá'ís to make this issue one of the central themes of Bahá'í activity so that 'ceaseless endeavour' this universal political thesis is made to prevail.
We all tell our contacts that the Bahá'í development strategy (and economic model) is neither capitalist or socialist, but contains the successful futures of both. Unfortunately we are rarely able to convincingly explain why. Chapter 5 explains the 'why', persuasively and in simple terms, as it puts forward the Bahá'í development strategy as 'a meeting of social ideologies'.
The final chapter argues that no special solution exists for the environmental problems of today, if the issue is tackled in isolation. It puts the problem in a broader perspective of technological progress, attitudes to the natural world, environmental management, and sustainable development. The author calls for a more moderate balance between material development and the requirements of the natural world, suggests that 'the biosphere can only be managed within the context of a new World Order built on universal values' and calls for a world Federal system to respond to the present global environmental anarchy.
This book has several purposes: to make Bahá'ís more knowledgeable and better able to apply their Faith to current thought processes; to address non-Bahá'í scholars regarding a theme of mutual interest; to extend Bahá'í theory and to convince a non-believing audience of the claims of the Bahá'í Faith. The different authors have different priorities but as a whole the book responds to all the various needs mentioned.
As a Bahá'í, I would especially recommend chapter 3 for non-Bahá'í academics and chapters 2, 5, and 6 for non-Bahá'í students of international studies/world politics. I would use chapter 4 as a political expression of the aims of the international Bahá'í community, and chapter 1 as a succinct check-list of the features of the Bahá'í project towards World Order.