As human inventions of political organization, modern states have served some purposes well, others not so. The bottom line in critiquing this institution from a social point of view, of course, is does it meet our needs? If not, then what new and additional forms of organization might?
These and other critical questions are now being asked by activists and scholars alike. Since the answers are apparently not coming from within the modern state apparatus, where might we find them?
One place that is being investigated is within traditional governing systems of indigenous nations. As the parent political structures that spawned modern states, they have both a greater perspective and depth of experience dealing with meeting human needs. As we venture into the 21st Century increasingly adrift from our democratic moorings, perhaps we would benefit from taking stock of how we arrived at this impasse, and from reassessing the utility of modern states and the international institutions they in turn created.
As it happens, this and related topics are the subject of the book Indigenous Nations and Modern States by my colleague Rudolph C. Ryser, chair of the Center for World Indigenous Studies. While I’ll leave reviewing his treatise to others, suffice to say that human development and international relations haven’t come to an end; nor is the United Nations, as an institution, the be all and end all when it comes to global organizations. We can create additional ones as we see fit.
As we work to create a democratized international community, using our imaginations intelligently and constructively will create new opportunities for peaceful and more effective means of solving problems and resolving conflict. Coupled with our growing awareness of how we are governed and the need for change, all that is left is our resolve and commitment to making it happen.