Moving Towards South Asian Confederation
Ideal of Human Unity - Chapters


Socialism and global economy: United Economic Life of the race

World War 1 started in August, 1914 and shattered the whole edifice of the international trade that existed hitherto and compelled the search for a new global economic order. Writing barely a month before the culmination of the Russian Revolution in October, 1917, Sri Aurobindo wonders whether a World State could be established not only to consolidate all military power but also to be a harbinger of global economy along a socialist paradigm.

An underlying global unity in the World State would inevitably be countered by ‘the spirit of national jealousy, egoism and sense of separate existence which makes each nation attempt at once to assert its industrial independence and at the same time reach out for a hold of its outgoing commercial activities upon foreign markets…..Inevitably, as the World State grew, this would be felt to be an anomaly, a wasteful and uneconomical process. An efficient international authority would be compelled more and more to intervene and modify the free arrangements of nation with nation. The commercial interests of humanity at large would be given the first place; the independent proclivities and commercial ambitions or jealousies of this or that nation would be compelled to subordinate themselves to the human good. The ideal of mutual exploitation would be replaced by the ideal of a fit and proper share in the united economic life of the race. Especially, as socialism advanced and began to regulate the whole economic existence of separate countries, the same principle could gain ground in the international field and in the end the World-State would be called upon to take up into its hands the right ordering of the international production and distribution of the world….Each (country) would produce and distribute only what it could to the best advantage, most naturally, most efficiently and most economically, for the common need and demand of mankind in which its own would be inseparably included.’(The Ideal of Human Unity, pg. 498-499).

For decades after World War I, attempts to recreate the pre-1914 global economic integration failed. In the 1930s, important nations sought self-sufficiency rather than international economic integration. In the post-World War II period, communist countries rejected global capitalism in principle while developing nations rejected it in practice (Frieden, Jeffrey A, Global Capitalism : Its Fall and Rise in the Twentieth Century, WW Norton,2006). In the1990s, an integrated world economy supporting global capitalism suddenly revealed itself. This happened when the industrial world dropped its control on economic ties, Communist countries opted for international playing fields in lieu of central planning while developing countries looked outward for cheaper goods and policies that brought foreign investments.

Is the global capitalism clicking? Since the 2008 financial meltdown, the world has been witnessing how the State attempts to bail out the financial elite by imposing brutal austerity measures on the ordinary citizens, the general working class (Socialism and the global economic crisis,, October 6th, 2011). A very clever ploy is being worked out whereby instead of physically destroying a nation’s infrastructure, there is a forced privatisation and take-over by corporates.

It is now being recognized that global capitalism can fall again. If a fundamental restructuring of the economic life of the masses is not carried out, the wealth of the world will always be held captive by a few corporate houses.

The present spectre of globalization has grown out of choice and not out of compulsion. Frieden (vide supra) explains that this choice arose from governments consciously deciding to reduce barriers to trade and investment and adopt new economic policies. Naturally globalization needs supportive governments while supportive governments need positive public support. If the public is disenchanted with the ploys that favour the super-rich, a different choice could emerge!

History seldom takes any phenomenon for granted. The global economic order might appear not to be unstable today but that may be a passing interlude.

If globalization is the result of a choice and not compulsion, one might also consider that one day, Sri Aurobindo’s endorsement of a global economic order supported by some variant and poise of fundamental socialism might make its choice felt where ‘mutual exploitation’ would be replaced by equitable share in ‘the united economic life the race’ (The Ideal of Human Unity, pg 498)


Date of Update: 12-Aug-17

- By Dr. Soumitra Basu