V. The New World Order: A Federation of Civil Societies

Kant's intention, then, is to help advance the cause of civil societies by demonstrating a way to make peacefill relationships possible among states. There are two steps in the process. The first step is to accept certain basic or what he calls “preliminary articles for perpetual peace among states.” They include the following:

No treaty of peace shall be held valid in which there is tacitly reserved matter for a future war, ... no independent states, large or small, shall come under the dominion of another state by inheritance, exchange, purchase, or donation, . . . standing armies . . . shall in time be totally abolished, . . . national debts shall not be contracted with a view to the external friction of states, ... no state shall by force interfere with the constitution or government of another state, . . . [and] no state shall, during war, permit such acts of hostility which would make mutual confidence in the subsequent peace impossible.1*

These basic articles are not in themselves sufficient to secure a lasting and enduring peace among nations. In addition, there are the “definitive articles for perpetual peace among states.” Taken together, both the preliminary and definitive articles of peace suggest that even if the natural condition among states is war, this condition can be defeated if an environment is created that encourages civil societies to flourish on a worldwide basis.39 We turn now to the definitive articles of peace.

The first definitive article is that the “civil constitution of every state should be republican.”40 As seen earlier, the legislative branch is the most important branch of government. Kant believes that, in a republican regime, citizens make the laws through their representatives, and, since citizens are desirous of securing their rights, they instruct their representatives to make laws that protect their rights. Moreover, because citizens have such an important place in the law-making process, no republican regime can engage in war without the consent of the citizens. And, since average citizens are most affected by war, and it is they who have to pay for it or fight in it, it will be less likely that in a republican regime there will be a war tendency. Kant says:

If the consent of the citizens is required in order to decide that war should be declared... nothing is more natural than that they would be very cautious in commencing such a poor game, decreeing for themselves all the calamities of ward1

The second definitive article for perpetual peace is that "the law of nations shall be founded on a federation of free states.”42 Of critical importance to making this framework of peace possible is the absolute commitment on the part of nations to end war. In effect, nations must take an oath that says that “there ought to be no war among us. . . [and instead of war] we want to establish a supreme legislative, executive, and judiciary power which will reconcile our differences peaceably.”43 Why would a state join such a federation? Kant believes that, as societies become republics, there will be an inherent interest in avoiding war, and this interest will help to propel such states into alliance with other states who similarly want to avoid war. Kant says:

For if fortune directs that a powerful and enlightened people can make itself a republic, which by its nature must be inclined to perpetual peace, this gives a fulcrum to the federation with other states so that they may adhere to it and thus secure freedom under the idea of the law of nations. By more and more such associations, the federation may be gradually extended.**

The federation or "league of peace” will end all wars among member states. Moreover, member states will achieve this objective without threatening their sovereignty. And thus, Kant says:

This league does not tend to any domination over the power of the state but only to the maintenance and security of the freedom of the state itself and of other states in league with it, without there being any need for them to submit to civil laws and their compulsion, as men in a state of nature must submit.*5

The third definitive article states, “The law of world citizens shall be limited to conditions of universal hospitality.”46 Citizens from one state will be able to move freely into other states and exchange ideas and engage in business opportunities. Whereas states will not extend citizenship status to visitors from other states, each state will extend full respect and dignity to foreign visitors. For Kant, hospitality would no doubt cultivate a “spirit of commerce” that is “incompatible with war,” and that “sooner or later gains the upper hand in every state.”47

These articles of peace suggest that individuals look at the world from two standpoints: namely, as members of their particular home state, possessing legal citizenship status, and as citizens of the world, possessing a moral responsibility to maintain an international order that can sustain civil societies everywhere. As citizens of particular states, they are to uphold the laws and interests of their own nations. But, at the same time, these individuals are also citizens of the world, and, as such, they must see to it that their own state maintains its commitment to the principles of a peaceful international order, lest it find itself outside the family of nations, subject to censure. It is this sense of being part of the audience of world citizens that provides the basis for a sustaining pressure, emanating from an international culture, to enable different parts of the world to be at peace with each other. Kant hopes that “the human race can gradually be brought closer and closer to a constitution establishing world citizenship.”48

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >