Global Studies

Global Studies

in a Time of Global Angst

Kennedy Graham

Welcome to this revamped website of the NZ Centre for Global Studies which has just gone live today. 

After five-years of activity in research and policy prescription, the Board sees it now as time to reach out more to the general public with its research findings and individual conclusions and views – not least to the younger generation pursuing their study and commencing their careers.

Most of the content of the original website is retained in the new updated version, but the main innovation is the series of columns on global affairs, commencing today.  Four columns will be maintained, consisting of separate commentary from the Director, and from a member of the Board, a member of the International Advisory Panel, and of the Young Global Scholars Group. There will also be invited commentary from others.

In my introductory column, I first want to pay tribute to colleagues who have served on the Board since its inception.  They are a wonderful group of talented individuals who have devoted individual time beyond their own pressing commitments to collectively put the Centre on the map.  My personal thanks go to them for their professional dedication to the idea of ‘global studies’.

The idea of global studies has been explained in the Special Edition of Victoria University’s Policy Quarterly, back in early 2017 (see elsewhere on this website). 

In short, it studies contemporary issues confronting humankind, not from the traditional lens of mid-20th c. thought reflecting national sovereignty (times 193) but rather from the 21st c. viewpoint of an emerging global community.

This has profound implications for political and legal thought in the future.  ‘Structural’ issues of global citizenship, and global law and governance, and ‘thematic’ issues of global security and global sustainability form the basis of the Centre’s work programme.

At present, the ‘global mood’ is neither cohesive nor constructive.  Humanity cannot decide, does not know, whether it is primarily a single group, with essentially common interests and objectives or, rather, a slew of national groups, based on a complex mosaic of ethnicities and cultures, each competitively pursuing separate national interests that may, or may not, achieve a common end.

We do not know, or refuse to agree, that climate change is a global crisis and that a global emergency should be declared.  The vestige of denialism morphs into rationalisation and prevarication.  The same bipolar syndrome attends to the legality of nuclear weapons.  Meanwhile, some far-thinking academic institutes are studying existential risk management, on behalf of humanity, where governments fear to tread.

The bipolar mind-set is playing out in the various national statements delivered at recent annual sessions of the UN General Assembly, around the notion of a ‘rules-based order’.  The debate has taken a kind of intellectual rivalry between two apparent doctrines: on the one hand ‘patriotism’ articulated by, among others, the United States; and on the other hand, ‘universalism’ articulated by, among others, France and New Zealand.  

It is important, for both intellectual and political reasons, not to belittle any statement of belief advanced at the United Nations, and not to engage in personal ad hominem criticisms.  Nothing is achieved, and much is placed in jeopardy in that event. 

The underlying, and critically important, challenge is to explore what is meant by these concepts, and by the term ‘rules-based order’, including whether that order reflects 20th c. thought or the 21st

That is what the Centre is about, and what future columns on this website will be about, in various individual views.

Next week, I shall go into this general subject in more depth, before proceeding to apply the findings to specific thematic issues – in global law and governance, and global security and sustainability.

And so, I expect, will other columnists. 

Dr Kennedy Graham is Director of the NZ Centre for Global Studies  

Author; Director Director

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