By: Ramin Jahanbegloo
The relation between democracy and peace in our world and the claim that democracies are not philopolemic regimes constitute one of the most important pillars of political modernity. The significance of Immanuel Kant’s essay “Toward Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch” written more than 200 years ago is related to the continuing prevalence of global peace in post-Cold war security relations. Thus, uncovering dimensions of democratic peace in our world requires a new understanding of the relevance of the Kantian legacy. Far from being a simple moral imperative in international relations, the Kantian idea of “perpetual peace” is a call for modern politics to move towards the establishment of a cosmopolitan order. Understood more pragmatically, “perpetual peace” meant for Kant that nation-states could emerge from the Hobbesian state of nature and solve the problem of violence by constructing “a peaceful federation among all peoples of the earth.” The end of the Cold War, the beginning of global politics and the rise of religious terrorism in the post-September 11 world, have brought complex concerns over issues such as the contrast between particular cultural identities and universal rights and the tolerance of human diversity and a “right to solidarity and hospitality” in liberal democracies. However, although the politics of globalization has increased interaction among different geographical actors, diminishing the role of the states and weakening nationalist feelings at the nation-state level, it has undermined, by the same token, the Kantian idea of a “world republic” that would lead to a sort of global peace. In other words, economic and political globalization that exists at present times has promoted neither equality nor peace. The peoples of the earth have entered into a “globalized” community without necessarily entering into what Kant called “a universal community...where a violation of laws in one part of the world is felt everywhere.” However, many considered the end of the Cold War and the nonviolent changes in Eastern Europe appeared as a move towards the Kantian project of “perpetual peace”. But the extraordinary changes that have been occurring in international politics since 1989 have created new challenges to the inauguration of a cosmopolitan democratic order.
The crumbling of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of communism in Russia and Eastern Europe opened the door to new form of policy making and new networks of international interaction. New labels replaced the old ones: “clash of civilizations”, “the end of history”, and “the coming anarchy” etc. Post-ideological philosophies and post-nationalist optimisms, questioning the future existence of nation-states and empowering the structures of global civil society, were very often accompanied by bloody intra-state wars and ethnic purifications and genocides as in the cases of ex-Yugoslavia and Rwanda. At another level, the end of the Cold War and the rise of religious revivalism gave birth to new strategies of violence in the world. The post- 9/11 terrorism showed itself as a new form of violence in contrast with those committed along the lines of classical governmental ideologies. The globalized modernity gave birth to hybridized terrorist structures. The post-September 11 world has in the eyes of many analysts marked the return of hard-power realism in international security. In this vision security relations became part of a broader cultural strategy: the fate of modern democracy itself. As such, the relationship between culture and international politics became an essential element in the balance of world security and the making of peace. Last but not least, the growth of horizontal cross- cultural connections and the erosion of state-centered paradigm in difficulty with an amorphous and shifting constellation of cultural identities and economic interests has created a crisis of political leadership in the new world order. It is worth noting that politics, either “liberal” or “autocratic” is no more “centrocratic” (run from the center) in today’s world. Contrary to impressions, politics is rarely a rock-solid matter. As Collingwood used to say: “The life of politics is the life of political education” ( New Leviathan, 39:34) and political education of citizens is a fluid arena which has to deal with unforeseen challenges from both within and without the society. Moreover, state governance can no more function in the framework of national hegemonic culture, as what Friedrich Nietzsche called the “cold monster”. As we know, the end of the Cold War witnessed not only the rise of global politics, but also the collapse of the state as a highly complex political system within a proclaimed closed territory. However state boundaries do still matter when someone marshalls an army and marches across them, but from the perspective of global politics, the state is no more a unitary political actor. Non-state institutions such as multinationals, parties, military and paramilitary establishments, NGOs and individuals, a wide variety of groups extending across the globe, are political and sociological actors of change. Despite all appearances, state elites are no more the unique policy makers of our world. Though the political boundaries have not much changed, but the value of territory per se has declined. The experience of European Union is, in many respects, representative of such an evolution, which the traditional notion of the Westphalian state does not seem to capture. The idea that the state should be the organizational form of a nation, consisting of a body of people with a sense of belonging together has been the source of endless confusion. Despite the model of French Revolution, which dominated our political thinking for more than 200 years, the pillars of European civilization have not been nation-states, but particular cultures. Even those philosophers such as Fichte and Hegel, who longed for a state that would express the Geist or spirit of a nation, were nevertheless doubtful that it could be realized in practice. In truth, nationalist sentiment has always blocked the work of the rational work of the state by its irrationality. It has always refused to relativize its lifeworld vis-a vis other lifeworlds, since it has always excluded the other on the basis of regional identity. Particularistic identities have never been innocent traditions and their historical effort to universalization has always been based on the exclusion of the otherness. However as the political and cultural destiny of Europe testifies, the instrumental universalism of the nationalist principle has become a danger for cultural identities themselves. It appears clearly that in a post-national Europe the best way to preserve the regional integrity of particular European identities is in a multicultural context of cultural diversity. Pragmatically speaking, the particularistic aspirations of different cultures cannot be met on the normative basis of the nationalist principle. In other words, nationalistic attitudes are too weak to resolve nationalist upheavals and conflicts without destroying the foundations of European democracy. Therefore, given the intercultural situation in Europe, the idea of “Europe” as a self-enclosed cultural enclave appears to be outdated. In the case of Europe, the overlapping cultures and religious traditions could possibly integrate Islam in the game of European diversity.
Let us take for example the Spanish experience. Spain's historical experience of dialogue and diversity, in all its complexity is a contemporary and relevant issue. Since the March 11 terrorist attack on Madrid on March 11, 2004, killing 191 people and injuring nearly 1,800 others, the questions on Islam and Muslim immigrants living in Spain have taken a very different perspective. The debates over Cordoba’s cathedral (a mosque which was consecrated by Ferdinand III in 1236 as a cathedral) in 2004 and the controversy over the construction of Europe's biggest mosque in Seville in 2007 are clear signs of a broader feeling among many Spaniards and Europeans that there is an Islamist design to “reconquer” Spain and Europe. As for the Islamists, they repeat that they are not attempting to launch the reconquest of Al- Andalus but want to show that Islam is not an alien faith in Spanish history. This is not the first time that Catholics and Muslims have entered a virulent debate on the conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. The terrorists, who claimed responsibility for the March bombings, cited the loss of "Al- Andalus" as motivation. "We will continue our jihad until martyrdom in the land of Tarik Ben Ziyad," they said in a communiqué issued after the massacre, alluding to the Moorish warrior and original Islamic conqueror of the Iberian Peninsula.
Spain today, like most of Europe, is struggling with ways to accommodate its fast-growing Muslim community while keeping an open eye on her past heritage of diversity. As many know, while Europe languished in the Dark Ages, Muslims, Jews and Christians in Andalusia together formed an intricate social fabric having a closely entwined and culturally fruitful collaboration. A relatively homogenous society ever since the end of the “Convivencia” in the 15th century and the expulsion of Jews and Muslims, Spain has far fewer Muslims than France or Germany. Yet Spain is the only country in Europe where a true debate on inter- cultural understanding and inter-faith dialogue is possible today. The paradigm of Cordoba shows not only the possibilities of a dialogical exchange, where people of different religions and cultures could live side by side, discerning common grounds and values without hating what—and who— they are not, but also the strength of the diversity of European identity—a strength that could encourage further border-crossings between Islamic and European civilizations in the South and the North of the Mediterranean. The Andalusian experience symbolizes the universality of the human cultures to connect with each other. It is often difficult to reach beyond the tragic events of history to recognize the cultural bonds that connect us to the best in the Islamic, Jewish and Christian traditions. In this respect, perhaps we can learn something from the Spanish exception. As Ortega Y Gasset admirably claims: “We have need of history in its entirety, not to fall back into it, but to see if we can escape from it.” Ortega is rightly concerned with the way responsibility for history is assumed consciously. Spain needs to re-write her history to become once again a place for the meeting of faiths and philosophies. Diversity, rather than similarity, has become today a significant basis of the cultural and political construction of Europe. However, the question for the politics of diversity is not only “what” of traditions, but its “how” as well. The “solidarity of differences” in Europe can draw on historical resources of the Spanish exception. The paradigm of Cordoba sounds equally timely in the situation of the present Europe: why do European, instead of entering into a truly condition of diversity sink into a new kinds of absolutist claims which refuse to relativize their own lifeworlds vis-à-vis other lifeworlds? Celebrating a culture of dialogue and European diversity does not render national and religious identities obsolete; on the contrary, it aims to preserve their regional and cultural integrity in a multicultural context of politics of diversity. Pragmatically speaking, the national and religious aspirations of different cultures and faiths cannot be met on an instrumental universalism of radical nationalist and religious principles. As such the idea of Islam or Europe as cultural and political fortresses of self-enclosed homogeneous cultures appears to be anachronistic. It is true that Islam has historically been a source of tension for Spain, but it is even truer that the historic hybrid of Islam and Catholicism is one of the most celebrated aspects of Spanish culture. Islam is very much a part of Spanish history and therefore of European history. The rejection of Islam in Spain and elsewhere in Europe is ironic, because it is very close to Europe and yet very far. However, Europe, because of the Spanish exception cannot reject vigorously Islam. As such, without integrating Islam in the European diversity there will be no way to overcome Islamic fundamentalism or to unmask and defeat politics of nationalist hatred. In sum, democracy without diversity seems not only uneasy, but also without a future.
On the whole, wherever and whenever genuine moral progress has been made in European history, it has been achieved through a cultural border-crossing and overlapping Europe. When we look back at the European history we see that most of the European nations were constituted against the more or less politics of homogenization. Thus, to assimilate the construction of Europe with the building of a homogeneous and arrogant culture is a way of entering into a paradox. If the European integrating process has to survive, it should be peaceful and intercultural. There is no Europe where there is arrogance, coercion and hegemony. Europe is beautiful as long as it is non-ideological. Therefore where diversity is apparent in Europe, solidarity must be organized. That is to say, there is no possible cohesion of Europe without a sense of solidarity based on differences. Europe could be strong because of its political and economic solidarity but it certainly cannot be democratic, generous and influential without its cultural and religious diversity. European diversity can only be defended through its shared values. The need for celebrating differences provides the Europeans with an opportunity to tackle the future challenges of Europe in a globalized world. It goes without saying; the chances of democracy beyond the nation-states depend on the European effort to protect religious and cultural differences.Expressions of homogeneity have always been expressions of impotence and weakness for Europe. The essential point is that in Europe nothing is possible without democracy, but nothing is lasting without diversity. Europe, with the exception of India, is the only human heritage that, in this world of “fast food”, still has the intellectual courage and the political ability, despite the difficulties of a globalized world, to lead democracies toward a horizon of diversity. This is actually the only way to reinforce the Kantian legacy of “perpetual peace” in today’s world through a cosmopolitan conception of democracy. If properly organized, with “ differentiated democracy” there is space for overlapping levels of cultural and religious traditions and there is room for greater pluralism and communal ties. Kant allowed for such a diversity and value pluralism in his idea of a world federation. His proposal can be interpreted today as a criticism of a centocentric governance and a defense of a polycentric sovereignty of citizens. If we accept the view that globalization is not only about the obsolescence of the nation-states but also about the rise of a transnational public sphere which helps to shift the power from the states to civil societies, then it is plausible to argue that any effective global peace would need the implementation of a new supranational rule of law which would put some limits on the powers of the states by enforcing a balance between means and ends in their policies. That is to say, it would be hard to imagine conditions of peace in today’s world without a perception of governance in terms of responsibility and accountability. It is true that the state of the world gives reason to pessimism, when we see that the very values of law, respect and tolerance that Kant defended are replaced by violence, hatred and fanaticism in many areas of the globe. And yet Kant himself invited us not to los hope and to continue believing in the possibility of moral progress of humanity. He writes in Theory and Practice: “ …however uncertain I may be and may remain as to whether we can hope for anything better for mankind, this uncertainty cannot detract from the maxim I have adopted, or from the necessity of assuming for practical purposes that human progress is possible.” (Theory and Practice in Kant: Political Writings, p.89). This hope for us is, of course, a hope in a new cosmopolitan legal order which is more adequate with the new global political order of the world. The politics of the United Nations can take this hope seriously only if the idea of democratic peace is shared by all its members. If this is the case, peace is no more considered as an end of war but as a process accomplished by a strategy of nonviolent intervention. In light of current global threats and challenges such as overpopulation, organized criminality and corruption, environmental destruction, economic inequalities and the spread of fundamentalism and terrorism, there should be a consciousness of shared risks among those around the globe who believe in the cosmopolitan transformation of the state of nature inside and outside the state boundaries into a cosmopolitan legal order.
Since the end of the Cold war in 1989 and through the closer relations of the European states, there has been a rapidly growing need for the construction of a moral community in the world. Kant anticipated this “ethical universalism” when he concluded in Toward Perpetual Peace that “a violation of rights in one place in the world is felt everywhere.” In his text Kant linked the possibility of civilizing world politics to the presupposition of existence of constitutional republics. The democratization process in world politics in general and in Europe in particular in the last two decades appear in a completely different light non-filling the gap between a sense of moral progress of humanity and empirical history. To that extent, however harsh it may sound, the global process of democratization has not prevented a barbarization of world politics. Above all, challenges to democracy arise today not only from within particular communities of faith or reason but also from sites of sovereignty that go beyond “national communities of fate.” Alongside these developments, the cosmopolitan institution of democracy requires not only cosmopolitan democratic laws but also cosmopolitan democratic consciousness committed to upholding different political, religious and cultural communities within and across boundaries of moral co-responsibility. Therefore a new conception of peace necessitates a broader and more inclusive conception of democracy, with a broader and more inclusive idea of diversity. Escaping the dilemmas of fanaticism and intolerance remain the most difficult structural challenges of a cosmopolitan multicultural order. It is clear that the fate of Western democracies and the fate of illiberal communities result from the future of the cosmopolitan ideal of peace. Though, unlike Kant, we live in an age disillusioned with the idea of progress, we need to take the threat of violence and the idea of peace at national and international levels as more urgent and global matters than they were in his time.