Tag: <span>Civil Society</span>

Hugo Grotius Rapprochement of Cultures.

Hugo Grotius: The Law of States.

Portrait of the Dutch lawyer and statesman Hugo de Groot, also known as Hugo Grotius. By Michiel Jansz. van Mierevelt, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

By Rene Wadlow.

Hugo Grotius (10 April 1583 – 28 August 1645) whose birth anniversary we mark on 10 April played a crucial role in the development of the Law of States, in particular through two books written in Latin Mare Librium (Liberty of the Seas) 1609 and De Jure Belli ac Pacis (Law in War and Peace) 1625) Grotius is a key figure in the transition between the older feudal period and the important role of city-states and the development of a state system.

Grotius showed his intellectual talents early in life and was considered a youthful genius. At 17 in 1601 he published Adamus Exul (The Exile of Adam). In the drama, Satan is sharply critical of God’s grand design and is jealous of Adam being prepared to share in it having done nothing to bringing it about. Grotius’ Eve is a lovely, loving and enchanting partner, but is bored and ready for an apple. John Milton; who met Grotius in Paris and read Adam Exul there used many of the same themes in his Paradise Lost.

Hugo Grotius was Protestant and also wrote on religious subjects. However, he was caught up in intra-Protestant theological disputes in what is today Holland. Due to these theological tensions, he lived most of his life in Paris – 1621 to 1644 – where he served as the Ambassador of the Court of Sweden, a Protestant country. He was well thought of by the French King Louis XIll and Cardinal Richelieu, the power behind the King.

John Milton

Portrait of John Milton in National Portrait Gallery, London. By National Portrait Gallery, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Law concerning states to an emphasis on law with the focus on the individual citizen.

As the feudal period was ending, laws had to be formulated so that relations among states were not to be based only on material strength. Just as Hugo Grotius was writing at a time of a historic shift from the structures of the feudal period to the creation of states, so today there is a shift from international law in which the focus is on law concerning states to an emphasis on law with the focus on the individual citizen. Just as feudal structures and city-states did not disappear, so today, states are still present but there is a shift in focus. Today, we have an increase in multi-state entities such as the European Union, the African Union, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on the one hand and multinational corporations and individuals on the other.

The shift to the law of the person grew from the lawlessness of states during the Second World War. The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights created a new focus, and it has been followed by the two International Covenants on Human Rights and then the Convention against Torture, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Convention of the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Human Rights Declaration

Eleanor Roosevelt holding poster of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (in English), Lake Success, New York. November 1949. By FDR Presidential Library & Museum, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

You might read: Human Rights: The Foundation of World Law.

We must put people at the center of everything we do.

The system of monitoring, investigation and reporting set up by the United Nations human rights bodies are important avenues to focus upon individuals. As then U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said “No shift in the way we think or act can be more critical than this: we must put people at the center of everything we do.” The U.N.’s influence is derived not from power but from the values it represents, its role in helping to set and sustain global norms, its ability to stimulate global concern and action, and the trust inspired by its ability to improve the lives of people.

U.N. efforts to extend international law to the practice of trans-national corporations have not acquired the momentum that the focus on the rights and obligations of individuals has done. However, there is a growing emphasis on what is increasingly called “civil society”. The civil society that has emerged and evolved around the U.N. spans a wide range of interests, expertise and competencies. While there are U.N. structures for dealing with non-governmental organizations which are granted consultative status, there is no equivalent structure for dealing with trans-national corporations although some have real influence on the policies of governments and the lives of people.

Today, there is a need to increase the rule of law within the world society. We need individuals with the vision and dedication of Hugo Grotius.

Kofi Annan

Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan spoke with the media at the United Nations Office at Geneva following the June 30, 2012 Meeting of the Action Group for Syria. By US Mission in Geneva, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

1 2 21
Antonio Gramsci Rapprochement of Cultures.

Antonio Gramsci: A Cultural Base for Positive Action.

Emilio J. Rodríguez Posada, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

By Dr. Rene Wadlow.

Antonio Gramsci (22 January 1891 – 24 April 1937); was an Italian Socialist; and then Communist editor ; who is best known for his notebooks of reflections; that he wrote while in prison. (1). 

 Gramsci grew up on the Italian island of Sardinia; and saw the poor conditions of the impoverished peasants there.  He studied just before the First World War; at the University of Turin at a time when industry; especially the Fiat auto company was starting.  Antonio Gramsci became concerned; with the conditions of the new industrial working class.   When the First World War started; he was asked to join a new Socialist newspaper; that had started in Turin.

1921, in part due to the Russian Revolution, the Italian Communist Party was born.  Some of the  Socialists, including Gramsci, joined the new party, and Gramsci became an editor of the Communist newspaper. In 1922, he went to Russia as a delegate of the Italian Communist Party to a convention of Communist Parties from different parts of the world.

During 1923; Benito Mussolini and his Fascist Party came to power; and quickly began a crackdown on the Communists; and other opposition movements.  In 1926; after a failed attempt on Mussolini’s life; there was a massive crackdown on Communists. Although he had nothing to do with the effort to kill Mussolini; but as a Communist deputy to the national Parliament; Antonio Gramsci was sentenced to 20 years in prison.  His health; which had never been strong; deteriorated in prison. On 27 April 1937 he died; aged 46.

Benito Mussolini in 1930. By Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Idea of Hegemony.

While in prison; he wrote his ideas in notebooks; which were censored by the prison authorities. Then; the notebooks were passed on to family members. Antonio Gramsci had to be careful; about how he expressed his ideas.  The  notebooks were published; only after the end of the Second World War; and the defeat of the Fascist government.  Thus; Gramsci was never able to discuss; or clarify his views.  Nevertheless; his prison writings have been widely read and discussed.

The concept most associated with Antonio Gramsci; is the idea of “Hegemony”.  

Hegemony is constructed through; a complex series of struggles.  Hegemony cannot be constructed once; and for all since the balance of social forces; on which it rests is continually evolving. Class structures; related to the mode of production is obviously one area of struggle – the core of the Marxist approach.  However; what is new in Gramsci; is his emphasis on the cultural, ideological, and moral dimensions of the struggle for hegemony.

For Antonio Gramsci; hegemony cannot be economic alone.  There must be a cultural battle; to transform the popular mentality.  He asks:

 “How it happens that in all periods; there co-exist many systems and currents of philosophical thought and how these currents are born; how they are diffused; and why in the process of diffusion; they fracture along certain lines and in certain directions.”

The French Revolution.

Gramsci was particularly interested in the French Revolution; and its follow up. Why were the revolutionary ideas not permanently in power; but rather were replaced by those of Napoleon; only to return later?.  Gramsci put an emphasis on what is called today “the civil society” – all the groups and forces; not directly related to government: government administration, the military, the police.   

There can be a control of the government; but such control: can be replaced if the civil society’s values and zeitgeist (world view);   are not modified in depth.  There is a slow evolution of mentalities; from one value system to another.  For progress to be permanent; one needs to influence; and then control those institutions – education, culture, religion, folklore – that create the popular zeitgeist.  He was unable to return to the USSR; to see how Stalin  developed the idea of hegemony.

The intellectual contribution of Gramsci has continued in the work of Edward Said; on how the West developed its ideas about the Middle East. (2). Likewise his influence is strong in India; in what are called “subaltern studies” – what those people left out of official histories think. As someone noted

 I believe firmly that the history of ideas is the key to the history of deeds.”


1) Antonio Gramsci. The Prison Notebooks (three volumes) (New York: Columbia University Press).
    Antonio Gramsci. Prison Letters (London: Pluto Press, 1996).
2) See Edward Said. Culture and Imperialism (London: Vintage, 1994) .

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

1 2 21

Civil Society Appeals

A Vibrant World Civil Society

Featured Image by  Kelly Lacy in Pexels.

The Term  Civil Society.

The term “Civil Society” came into extensive use;  especially in Europe in the mid -1970s;  as efforts to bridge the East-West divide and prevent the dangers of war in Europe. As Mary Kaldor writes “A group of us launched the European Nuclear Disarmament (END) Appeal for a nuclear-free Europe.

The Appeal attracted thousands of signatures;  from all over Europe and beyond and was one of the mobilizing documents of the new peace movement;  which sprang up in Western Europe in the early 1980s. The Appeal called for nuclear disarmament through unilateral, bilateral, and multilateral means;  but it was also an appeal to end the Cold War. It accorded responsibility in the Cold War to both the United States and the Soviet Union;  and insisted on the link between disarmament and democracy.” (1)

Mary Kaldor

Mary Kaldor. The World Transformed 2018 in Liverpool. By Kevin Walsh from Preston Brook, England, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.


The Idea of Institutional and Ideological Pluralism.

The END  Appeal looked to positive action from “Civil Society”  within the Soviet block;  which was starting to be vocal outside of the government-controlled peace organizations;  which largely reflected Soviet government policy in their interaction with Western peace-disarmament non-governmental organizations.

As Ernest Gallner writes “Civil Society is the idea of institutional and ideological pluralism;  which prevents the established monopoly of power and truth and counterbalances those central institutions;  which though necessary, might otherwise acquire such monopoly. The actual practice of Marxism had led;  wherever it came to be implemented to what might be called Caesaro-Papism-Mannonism to the near total fusion of the political, ideological, and economic hierarchies.

The state, the church-party, and the economic managers were all parts of one single nomenclatura… Civil Society is that set of diverse non-governmental institutions;  which is strong enough to counterbalance the state and; while not preventing the state from fulfilling its role as keeper of the peace and arbitrator between major interests;  can nevertheless prevent it from dominating and atomizing the rest of society.” (2)


The Importance Of The Spirit.

Vaclav Havel, athough he later became president of a State;  was a valuable symbol of the efforts to develop a civil society. “We emphasizd many times that the struggle we had taken on had little in common with what is traditionally understood by the expression “politics.”

We discussed such concepts as non-political politics;  and stressed that we were interested in certain values and principles and not in power and position. We emphasized the importance of the spirit;  the importance of truth and said that even spirit and truth embody a certain kind of power.” (3)


Václav Havel

Václav Havel during his speech at the Freedom and its adversaries conference held in Prague on 14th of November 2009. By Ondřej Sláma, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Today  more than in the recent past;  we are faced with a revival of the Caesaro-Papism-Mannonism States,  whose interactions;  especially in the wider Middle East, could lead to armed conflicts. In addition to the Caesaro-led States;  the world society faces terrorism as movements with goals, gurus, ideologues, myths and martyrs. Thus there is a need to develop and structure a world-wide civil society.

The concept of civil society is probably the platform for future progressive action. The global civil society is a “power shift” of potentially historic dimensions with bonds of trust;  shared values and mutual obligations which cross national frontiers. With the war drums starting to beat, creative action is needed now.


1) Mary Kaldor (Ed.) Europe from Below (London: Verso, 1991)
2) Ernest Gallner. Conditions of Liberty: Civil Society and its Rivals(London: Penguin Books, 1996)
3) Vaclav Havel in Mary Kalder (Ed.) Europe from Below

Rene Wadlow, President  Association of World Citizens.


Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

The Uprooted.

Increasing numbers of people in countries around the world, have been forced from their homes, by armed conflicts and systematic violations of human rights. Those who cross internationally recognized borders…

1 2 12