A Paper by Vladimir Yakunin, Founding President, WPF “Dialogue of Civilizations”, delivered at the Session of the WPF International Coordinating Committee, Vienna (Austria) on February 9, 2013
The Age of the World Picture
Within the framework of its practical undertakings, its educational, scientific and publishing programs, the WPF has always directed its efforts to meet the desire of the public at large to shape a multilateral image of the contemporary world. With the kind help of a wide range of experts at the leading intellectual centers of the world (Moscow State University, Carleton University, the Jawaharlal Nehru University, the University of Trento, the Shanghai Academy of International Studies and others) the Forum has tabled and legitimatized a “post-colonial” and, at the same time, a “post-European” structure of the world community in the aspect of mutual interaction and a dialogue of civilizations.
In its activity, the WPF has taken into consideration the well-known geopolitical concept that is based on multi-polarity models of world structure where states and countries are the only acting subjects. However, from the point of view of the WPF, as a significant part of the contemporary world, it is essential to examine inter-state systems within civilized cooperation when the main subjects are communities that unite peoples of this or that specific historical-cultural identity. Such a shift of emphasis is necessary since in “the picture of the world” today, Man cannot be presented and described in full by the means and instruments of European traditional sociology.
In connection with this, we consider it would be proper to single out “The Age of the World Picture” as the general theme for the coming 11th session of our Forum. It is noteworthy that the wording of this theme fits in ‘ad verbatim’ with the title of a paper by the German philosopher Martin Heidegger whose scientific works are very close to the theory and principles of the dialogue of civilization that we are developing. Just as we are doing today, so did Heidegger place in the center of his studies a specifically comprehended and in-depth description of the phenomena that distinguished his epoch. His paper “The Age of the World Picture” was written in 1938 – a period when the world was on the threshold of events that changed the entire history of the world. Heidegger introduced into public discourse such questions applicable in practice as mathematical natural science, art as a method of expressing man’s life, culture as means of expressing concern for the uppermost benefits of man. He wrote about processes in mankind’s “disbelief in God” and that certain questions concerning religion have “not been resolved in principle.” Today, within the framework of the Rhodes Forum we, together with you, are also discussing questions concerning the formation of technology of the future, problems of restoring family values as a boon for mankind, ethical principles in economics and the post-secular state of the religious sphere. The importance of all these problems is self-evident, and the same goes for global problems of transformation that the world is experiencing today and which will yet affect the formation of the future world order.
Dialogue as an alternative to globalization
Today we can see how the borders of countries are changing, and how the roles in man-society-state governance are also changing. The world (Being) is setting forth its stratification, whereas the world phenomena that we are observing are interwoven and interdependent. In conditions of globalization the states are compelled to struggle for their independence, and at the same time, to preserve and intensify their responsibility for the integrity of the values and principles of their own public sovereignty. Globality seems to be captivating by many of its “benefits”: unrestricted freedom, the speed and quality in the information sphere, the attractiveness of social technologies, the single and universal set of values and so on. However, as practice demonstrates, in such a global medium much can be gained, but also much can be lost, civilization “loses its face,” so to speak, and man loses his cultural identity. What we can see here is a managed or controlled degradation of the human being to the level of “losing its face or image,” while freedom transforms into arbitrariness, information technologies become tools for manipulating “the masses” or toys for meaningless entertainment, while values that take the place of reality are simplified to the point of becoming fashionable trinkets.
Globality is striving to become a worldwide ideology but all its claims and pretensions as to understanding the world and having its own world outlook have been caught in a snag of post-secular and non-Christian world. The concept of so-called “sovereign democracy” has also proved its ineffectiveness, as it can now be seen that its fading European format is no longer considered universal even by the European community itself. Nonetheless, it is being used for disseminating throughout the multi-civilization field, as it is being continuously done primarily in the interests of the “democratized” nucleus of the old world system.
Instead of the concept of “sovereign democracy” we see an emerging desire to build a working structure of a public dialogue. “The Dialogue of Civilizations” is not an orchestrated worldwide project. It is a vital necessity of the day. The main question that the dialogue focuses on as a project alternative to globalization is to ensure the firmness and legitimacy of inter-public and intra-public ties that are built on such categories that are uncustomary to globalizers as “dignity,” “trust” and “compassion.”
The responsible subject in inter-civilization relations
The world does not need yet another model of world-order governance, but requires a clear-cut and consistent singling out and observance of restrictions or limitations that are capable of halting processes of barbarization and checking depersonalization of the human community. It will be necessary to sum up and integrate public counteraction both at the level of global public structures, as well as at the level of national civic societies. It can now be seen quite clearly that the global community is turning towards public institutions and structures such as the World Public Forum with a request to formulate the criteria of responsibility for currently existing subjects of international and inter-civilization relationships.
Contemporary international life can be characterized by the existence of a multitude of problems that no one wants to shoulder the responsibility to resolve them. This category of problems includes not only the already known problem of climate warming, and in general, ecology of mankind’s existence, but also such problems as terrorism and averting international conflicts, ensuring financial-economic stability and worldwide integration processes.
In pursuance of the above-mentioned, we believe it would be appropriate to include on the agenda of the Rhodes Forum the question concerning the role of subjectivity and responsibility in the life of communities having different cultures and traditions. Public convertible capital gained through swift and efficient solutions at the local level of those countries that allowed themselves to act at their own discretion in the search for ways out of difficult situations has pointed to the emergence of a new tendency in the development of the world community. This tendency realizes itself in the activity of international public institutions.
A responsible subject in present-day civilization can be described, in particular, as that public institution which is capable of giving an adequate answer to the challenges posed by the surrounding world. And, in this sense, it must be able to identify within the context of these challenges “the points of growth” for a corresponding system of activity. It must be able to “feel” and “place its finger,” so to speak, on the really emerging tendencies, and as a result of this, to be prepared to look anew at the realities of life, and to formulate the necessary program of action, both by elaborating a system of civilized restrictions or limitations, as well as by drawing upon positive local initiatives.
Therefore, a responsible subject must be able to unite public efforts in response to global challenges, in response to threats to its own identification of society, and to timely respond to the requirements of social development. It should be focused on reproduction and resuming its own stance within the framework of a more universal model. The next step in its development should become participation – by its own choice – in alternative globalism, the carrier of which will no longer be a nationally identified society (a “Chinese-styled world” or an “American-styled” world) but by the sum total of world public interests.
The responsibility of the members of dialogue community
As we announced at the Rhodes Forum in 2010, and in this respect, our stance since then has not undergone change, the Agenda of the World Public Forum is open; its participants are still united in the spirit of the dialogue principles and mutual understanding of their joint construction of comprehensive guidelines for the world’s development, and they are counting on the fact that the professionalism and responsibility of members of the dialogue community are much more important than ‘ad hoc’ political considerations of the moment.
I thank you for your attention.