Moving Towards South Asian Confederation
Ideal of Human Unity - Chapters


World-State and Crime

During the formative period of modern nation-States, the creation of order and discipline and the laying down of administrative functions took precedence over other things. Crime, violence and revolt were initially difficult to deal with as aggression had a psychological motive and represented more of a ‘natural and general propensity of mankind’ (The Ideal of Human Unity, pg 499). At present, with more efficient administrative linkages between governmental and inter-governmental institutions coupled with great advances in communication networks, the State is better equipped to deal with the order of life. The question arises that if a World State comes to being would it leave individual nation-States to deal with law and order, crime and punishment or prefer a more centralized control? Sri Aurobindo mused, ‘In the World-State, it may be thought, each country may be left to its own free action in matters of its internal order and, indeed, of all its separate political, social and cultural life. But even here it is probable that the World-State would demand a greater centralization and uniformity than we can now easily imagine’ (Ibid).

Crime continues to be an ineradicable element which can no more be tackled by individual States without co-operation from other countries. When a mafia Don escapes to another country, international extradition treaties have to be worked upon to bring the culprit back and seize any accrued overseas assets. Crime constantly, albeit creatively, changes its modus operandi and its localized action may have global determinants. Today with the shift to cybercrime, nothing less than an international check and control can suffice to control deviancy.

Sri Aurobindo had observed in 1917 that there would be two basic attempts to deal with crime in a radical manner:

(a) ‘The first necessity would be the close observation and supervision of the great mass of constantly re-created corrupt human material in which the bacillus of crime finds its natural breeding-ground. This is at present done very crudely and imperfectly and, for the most part, after the event of actual crime by the separate police of each nation with extradition treaties and informal mutual aid as a device against evasion by place-shift. The World-State would insist on an international as well as a local supervision, not only to deal with the phenomenon of what may be called international crime and disorder which is likely to increase largely under future conditions , but for the more important object of the prevention of crime’ (Ibid, pg.499-500).

(b) ‘For the second necessity it would feel it would be the need to deal with crime at its roots and in its inception. It may attempt this,

1. ‘first, by a more enlightened method of education and moral and temperamental training which would render the growth of criminal propensities more difficult;

2. 'secondly, by scientific or eugenic methods of observation, treatment, isolation, perhaps sterilisation of corrupt human material;

3. ‘thirdly, by a humane and enlightened gaol system and penological method which would have for its aim not the punishment but the reform of the incipient and the formed criminal’(Ibid, pg 500).

Judicial System

Pari passu with the control of crime, the judicial system has to be upgraded to meet challenges that were earlier inconceivable. The World-State ‘would be led to standardise the new principles and the new methods by a common legislation and probably a general centralised control’ (Ibid, pg.500).

Though the World State is still an unrealized dream, the international criminal law has been evolving after the World War II when the Nuremberg principles were affirmed by the UN General Assembly. For the first time individuals would be held criminally accountable under international law. Since the mid-1990s, the work of the UN created adhoc tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda re-affirmed the status of international criminal law as customary law. The crystallization of international criminal law in the Rome Statute which came into force in 2002 resulted in the creation of the International Criminal Court in The Hague which started functioning in 2003 (Werle.G & Jessberger,F, Principles of International Criminal Law,3rd Ed, Oxford, 2014).

As of today, all efforts are being made so that domestic legal systems of independent nation-states do not clash with the norms of international crime. It has been established that the classification of crime as a crime under international law does not depend upon whether a domestic legal system permits domestic courts to directly apply norms of international criminal law. Such optimal centralization of international law is imperative for a global control of crime and would contribute one day to a commonality in global administrative functioning.

Many of the issues that Sri Aurobindo had envisaged for a World-State are gradually been taken up by the Time-Spirit in international denouements or in round-about ways. This is important for the outer form of world-unity has to be preceded by the spirit of internationalism.


Date of Update: 22-Sep-17

- By Dr. Soumitra Basu