Transnational Justice and National Sovereignty
Law and the Re-Making of Humanity
Philip Allott
Professor, Trinity College, Cambridge, England and Global Law Faculty, New York University School of Law

The new century and the new millennium make us unusually conscious of our responsibility for making the human world, our self-made habitat. What we have learned over the past millennium is that we are capable of transforming our world through the power of our consciousness. Ideas can re-make what ideas have made. Above all, we have seen the transformatory power of law, the means by which a society makes itself, conserves what it has made, and constantly re-makes itself. This knowledge of what we have achieved over the last millennium, and especially over the last two centuries, all the wonderful and all the terrible things that the human mind has found itself able to produce, can inspire us to undertake a great challenge - a New Enlightenment, a fundamental re-thinking of human society and the human mind, with a view to making a new kind of human world, using the instrument of law at all social levels, up to the international society of all human beings, the society of all societies.

But this heightened self-consciousness seems to be accompanied by a profound spiritual confusion. We are exceptionally aware also of the scale of human inhumanity, in all forms of social evil, including endemic war and world-wide social injustice. And we see that the great achievements of human socialising have also produced other forms of de-humanising, as ever more efficient social systems, especially those of democracy and capitalism and science and engineering, take power over every aspect of our lives, even over our minds, and as we turn ourselves into human scientists, studying ourselves as if we were an alien life-form.

Our response to the challenge of a new self-enlightenment must begin with our amazing capacity to think about ourselves in the activity traditionally known as philosophy. Over the last two centuries we have come to understand better the way in which our minds work, and hence the way in which we make human reality, the way in which we do good and evil socially. It is a dangerous delusion to suppose that international society at the global level will simply improve naturally, as democracy and capitalism spread throughout the world. Instead, we have to make the effort to understand the role which law plays in the ideal of democracy, and hence the role that law can play in the re-humanising of humanity.

The ideal of law is the idea of a society actualising its highest values and purposes through the distribution and control of social power. It follows that, in the new century: (a) philosophy must be international philosophy, a product of all cultures and traditions; (b) international society, the society of all societies, must have the political and legal means of forming and actualising its own ideals, especially those of justice and social justice; and (c) humanity must have a new idea and a new ideal of itself and of its self-perfecting potentiality, at every social level from the village to the international society of the whole human race.