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Threefolding or Global Governance?

Christoph Strawe




Governance - a New Keyword // Dissolving of the Old Community //  Individualization = Egotism? On Mistrusting the Human Being //  Individualisation and Cultural Power // Globalisation and Modern Economy //  The Question about the New Role of the State // Archetypal Phenomena of Threefolding // Conditions for a Culture of Trust // What Kind of Governance Do We Need? // Threefolding - a Promising Governance Approach for the Future? // In Search of New Political Forms and Structures // The Threefolding Movement - Tasks and Chances  

Governance - a New Keyword

How can we meet the challenge of globalisation? - Wherever this question is raised, again and again the concept of "global governance" comes up. Even though up to now it hardly plays any role in the media dominated public it is a key concept for future developments. "Governance" according to dictionaries means: to govern, rule, power of government, sway, power, control, form of government - and thus it lies close at hand to think of a world-government, which takes that lawless space under its control that has been created by globalisation and cannot be handled by the nation states. Thus an institution or institutional level that creates legal forms, meets international crime through a world domestic policy, confines the profit interests of the global players through a world social policy.

That there are powers or forces that dream the dream of world government is not questioned. However the point is, that governance is normally understood as a policy approach for problems on global or regional levels under the conditions of the non existence of a world government. Some quotations will make this clearer:

Under-Secretary Ischinger from the German State Department explained: "In a certain way the classical nation state has surely lost in policy authority, that is in power. Today no state in the world however powerful it may be, not even the US, holds the monopoly of competence for the solution of the global problems. However the situation is not about a Œrenaissance‚ of the nation states monopoly of power, nor even about an utopian world government. What is much more needed is successful Œglobal governance‚, that is the creation of a new kind of policy structures or structural framework between all stakeholders of globalisation. A clear example is the search for ways to structure the immensely large flows of money being daily transferred around the globe to avoid regional or even worldwide financial crises." [2]

German Secretary of State Fischer at the UN assembly: "[∑] with the jump into the next millennium the principle of the nation state will continue to lose relevance. It will no longer be possible to find answers to the large global problems within the framework of the classical nation states but only within a strengthened international structure and through a power transfer to international organisations, at their top the UN, a transformation of classical power into justice, a balance of interests and a civilisation of the international political system together with an ever stronger integration of civil society stakeholders and businesses. [∑] The United Nations have to become the core of an effective global governance." [3] - In the work programme of the Governance-White Paper of the European Commission one can read:" For a number of years now the term ´governance` is being used now in various contexts. An important report of the United Nations about ´global governance` has emphasized the necessity of rules, through which even without the existence of a world government (Emphasis added by the author) a consensus can be reached, which then can be globally and effectively applied. [∑] ´Governance on a couple of levels` means that public stakeholders that are independent of each other cooperate on various geographical levels to realize goals of common interests." "With ´governance` the emphasis also is on the cooperation on subordinated and nongovernmental stakeholders." These shall be integrated into the decision making processes of the community. [4]

In these three representative statements the term "governance" is used with a particular nuance of meaning, as in the concept of "good governance", meaning a state under the rule of law and citizen friendly kind of administration. The history of global governance encompasses thus not only the emergence of institutions like the UN and the IWF, but also the founding of the "Red Cross" in 1863, the World Postal Service Society in 1874 and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 1919.

It is important to have all this in mind to in order to see clearly what is characteristic in the phenomena we have to deal with today. Certain critical remarks, which Rudolf Steiner as founder of the idea of social threefolding made about Wilson´s League of Nations, his warnings against endeavours of global dominance, have to be understood and interpreted in their concrete historical context and cannot be interpreted as a vote against any form of governance. In the same way it would of course be missing the mark, if without reflection we would take today´s concepts of governance as a contribution to the development of threefolding simply because the idea of tri-sectoral partnership - in form of the integration of nongovernmental stakeholders coming from business and civil society - plays a role there. "Threefolding or global governance" - in this formulation the "OR "can mean an excluding alternative, but could also be the expression of a similarity.

To find a well grounded answer to the question of the relationship between governance and threefolding, the concept of threefolding shall not simply be taken for granted. Because that "what is cognized is not already recognized [5] ", and especially he who has cognized threefolding will continuously have to try to deepen his/her recognition. Threefolding is not a finished product but the answer to a reality with whose further changes it itself has to go through transformations. It is a working approach, not a doctrine. So what is the inner core of threefolding?


Dissolving of the Old Community

The reality in which we live today is highlighted by the two concepts of "individualization" and "globalisation". Humanity´s past is characterized through the hierarchical cultural and social relations, through the submission of the individual to the community. At the same time economic life is orientated to a large degree towards self-sufficiency. The ongoing development leads to the reversal of this situation: at the time as everyone more and more feels that he or she is "a human being for him/herself", different from all others, an economic and communicative network of dependencies between people - based on technology - has developed, covering the whole globe. Both are due to the development of consciousness, to the development of the individual spiritual potentials of human beings: the technological progress and the proclamation of maturity are both coming out of this one same source.

Up to the threshold of our time the large majority of human beings stood in a state of immaturity. This meant that legitimated elite groups, irrespective of how that legitimation occured, thought and acted for them in a way that guided communal life hierarchically from top to bottom. Even though first attempts of independent thinking and preliminary forms of democracy had already developed in the antiquity, only in modern times, and in the fullest sense only with the French Revolution, did human beings start "en masse" to shape their own history. In doing so they still have to face the old thinking wanting to guide them from top to bottom, which is still alive within society`s institutions, but they also have to face the tendency in themselves, to fall back into the state of immaturity out of inner weakness and laziness.

In former times communities had been relatively unified formations enclosed in themselves, of which a last remnant of form has maintained itself until today in the uniformity of the nation state. Two movements of disbandment lead to the dissolving of this old unified formation and to totally new questions of shaping, to a need of reshaping "from the bottom":

The individual emancipates from all old bonds, puts itself in this respect out of the (old) community, demands its maturity and freedom, and rejects top-down interferences into its life.

Parallel to that the economic life, based on modern technology, overcomes all territorial and nation state limitations.

Out of both tendencies results 3. a necessity for the countries to adjust and reshape their legal structures.

These three movements, whose effects for the social structure are reflected in threefolding, shall now be looked at more closely:


Individualization = Egotism? On Mistrusting the Human Being

The movement of emancipation of the individual (individualization) is at first a negation of community, because one cannot become a self-reliant human being, if one does not free oneself out of bonds and distances oneself. "I-Consciousness" emerges out of the rejection of the "Non-I". In this way with growing self-confidence also egotism comes up, endangering human communal life and the natural conditions of life.

Thus comes about the first and basic question of shaping, which once having emerged will never disappear out of human history again: the question for the life conditions of freedom in society.

Obviously the answer to this question is dependent upon whether one rather mistrusts or rather trusts the human being and this again is dependent upon the understanding one can attain about the human being per se.

He who mistrusts the human being will see individualization - which for him can only be a synonym for the working of egoism - only as a danger to community. He will therefore, in the interest of this community put limitations to the principle of the individual and will want to limit it to the private sphere. In societal life however he will want to channel that which is individual, or where this is not possible, will want to suppress it through regulations.

This attitude can call upon a whole array of phenomena of weakness in judgement, resentment towards carrying responsibility and ego-addiction in the western dominated culture of our time. From other cultures, for instance Asia however, the reproach is raised that individualization in the west has gone too far, and one should not pursue this path further but should rather re-orientate to the still existent traditional community values in these cultures.

As understandable as this point of view is, one can take yet another point of view in this question of freedom in society which lies in the direction that development of individual freedom in the west has even not gone far enough. This point of view can be taken up by those who have come to the experience that the liberation of heteronomy is only the first step to freedom but that this freedom only there finds its true form where it becomes "freedom to" (F.Nietzsche) - as opposed to the sheer "freedom from".

With this second level of freedom we are referring to that capacity within the human being - which has become independent - to set goals of actions for itself, through which it becomes responsibly active in social life. The fulfilment of freedom doesn‚t lie in arbitrariness and lack of commitment but rather in self-commitment through freely accepted responsibility. It is easy to see that such an advanced development of freedom will not lead further away from community but into new constitutional forms of community: this happens where independent human beings out of their inner initiative, form task orientated communities in the various fields of life - for instance in education, healthcare, agriculture etc. Seen in this way, freedom ceases to be a private concern and becomes a social issue; it becomes the prime source of cultural richness in society. At the same time it will become a requirement for society that its structure remain permeable for this source of initiative.


Individualisation and Cultural Power

We speak of culture whenever individual activity and work shapes nature. This begins with agriculture and ends in science, art and religion, the core realm of culture. The source of culture is the creativity of the individual human being: "every human being an artist" (Joseph Beuys). This expression points to a potential in each human being, which will however be opened up in different degrees and which, through inner or outer circumstances, can be hindered or supported in its unfolding. Each individual holds spiritual forces which as working capacities, as technical or artistic intelligence, flow out into society which would otherwise have to decay. In the core realm of culture these forces of creativity are acted out or nurtured as an end in themselves, whereas in other places they serve the necessities of outer life.

Today this core realm of culture is to a large degree externally governed through the state and the market. Naturally, particularly those people that have already awakened the "artist within themselves" suffer from this heteronomy. Together with Paul Ray one can speak of the "cultural creatives", a qualified minority of initiative taking and innovative people. He/she who wants to become culturally creative needs autonomy. Autonomy in the sense of self-governance of cultural institutions or initiatives, is the structural condition for cultural creativity. Individuality and therefore pluralism is one of the living conditions of culture today. In the age of maturity of the individual, the choice of school, therapy institution, nutrition, can only be put into the judgement and decision of the individual - under the precondition, that at the same time the same freedom of judgement and action of all people, that is guaranteed under human rights, are observed. (That means at the same time that this freedom includes the solidary form of financing of health care or education). [6]

It should be a central item on civil society´s agenda to work or strive for such autonomy of culture which has to be achieved step by step. This naturally does not mean that self-governed schools are decreed to those that are satisfied with the state-run school system. It rather means that everywhere where the new option is wanted, chances for its realization should be provided. And here wanting does not mean merely wishing but the readiness and capacity to take on responsibility oneself.

An essential precondition for such processes consist in the fact that civil society actually works everywhere as an independent power and does not let itself be co-opted into the system of either the state or the market. It should not run into that trap that one could call "the majority trap". This majority trap says that in relation with the state one does not concentrate on demanding freedom for all people to realize good and creative ideas but instead tries to make all people happy with ones own good and creative ideas. This happens when one looks for majorities for these good ideas and thereby forgets the minority which must then experience these good ideas as being forced upon them. The best pedagogical insight cannot be forced through by the state in an top-down levelling out kind of way because being decreed, the decreed good will turn into its opposite.

Civil society has to unfold its force ("power") but not in order to establish a new centralized power or to be part of such but to take down those balances of power that have become anachronistic. The threefolding of society is not dividing power amongst three groupings but making society receptive for the new things wanted. Civil society should use the new balance of societal powers, coming about through tri-sectoral partnerships, for such openness.


Globalisation and Modern Economy

In modern times, parallel to individualisation, the economic life developed with its dynamics bursting all guild restrictions of the middle ages and finally the limitations of the nation states. Only the great discoveries made the earth a globe in the consciousness of human beings. As member of a world economy based on serving others, throughout the previous centuries the individual became in reality dependent on the services of others for the maintenance of his own life. This also is a process which leads out of the old limited community. He who reflects on what comes into play between natural resources, work and know-how for the production of one single commodity in modern economy enters just through this reflection process itself into the dimension of mankind. The original motive of the individual taking part in economy to maintain its own living, proves itself insufficient for the shaping of an economy in which working for other must be more than a unpleasant duty on the way to ones own income.

The classical doctrine of market economy has answered the questions of motivation with the thesis of the egoistic self-interest as the only possible drive for economical progress. [7] By necessity this had to result in a highly one-sided and exclusive emphasis on the principle of competition. Through today‚s neo-liberalism this principle has been put as a guiding idea at the base of the "elite" form of globalisation, in which form it is in the hands of, and being driven through organisations such as the WTO. The dominating guiding principles are all penetrated by mistrust for all communication processes amongst partners in economy - for instance for the attainment of a fair price. Maturity as freedom to microeconomic action is accepted, however the possibility of non-egoistical comprehensive shaping of macroeconomics by the economic actors is rejected. The credo of structural policy: the legal forms shall enforce keeping to the framework of competition. One assumes correctly that a real laissez-faire would lead to a self-regulation of economy through a network of agreements. And because the mistrust-approach hinders holding such agreements possible, other than through advantage- taking cartels, one fights not the cartel but the agreement in general as "competition hindering" - to the effect, that slowly the right to competition comes to stand higher than the right for contract.

Paradoxically today‚s law takes care of maintaining a certain form of economy in an enforced way but on the other hand this law itself is being marginalized and pushed by the same thus enforced economy. This form of economy has also spread through the factors of production land, labour, money and capital to the extent, that their rules are no longer a question of legal framework conditions for production of goods but are an integral part of market life. Because of this the term "pseudo market economy" (Scheinmarktwirtschaft) has been introduced. The "pseudo markets" determine more and more global economy which is most of all shaped by untamed financial streams that are roving all over the globe separated from real economy to a large degree but at the same time reacting upon it in a harmful way. Not for nothing is the question about possible control of the financial markets a decisive question in civil society‚s governance discussion.

That the state should not bureaucratically regiment economy is hardly to be questioned after the historical experiences of the last century. However economy is not an extraterritorial area of society but an integral part of society which it should serve. An economy that knows human beings only as cost factors is perverse. Thus the legal communities have to escape the trap of globalisation by finding forms that allow the re-instalment of societal supremacy over economy. The creation of wealth is an economic question; the social structures for sharing this wealth are questions of justice. Where the progress of production development leads to ever more elimination of human labour thereby making more and more people dependent on redistribution and social welfare, the marginalisation of the legal communities is a catastrophy.

All these problems result solely from the paradigm of the homo economicus who is only interested in himself. To state this does not mean to deny the power and the importance of self-interest. But it has to be clearly said that the one-sided orientation on self-concerned motives will lead to the situation that self-concernedness cannot ever again be regulated through cooperation and meeting. He who only calls on egoists raises egoists!

Such a one-sided concept of economy has to be challenged by a different approach to economy: economy is a societal operation serving the mutual support of human beings. To serve this task forms of cooperation between the business partners have to be able to emerge accordingly. "World-economy" must not become an abstract world-market, in which the interest for profit rules, disregarding the living conditions of human beings and their natural resources. Rather these forms of cooperation have to supply the context in which the cooperation of all enables each single economical region to proper. Economic regions should be understood as life-areas, as "socio-topes", worthy of protection!


The Question about the New Role of the State

Everything is changing, only the states act as if everything remains the same, so a remark by an observant journalist on current affairs a couple of years ago. Indeed the states are rather a change-resistant element: the dynamic comes from individualization and economic globalisation.

It would be the task of legal communities and of a global legal structure to bring about the permeability of society for initiatives and thus to facilitate the development of the principle of individualization towards the principle of responsibility which would bring with it new capacities for community building. However, instead of consequently granting such spaces of autonomy, society gets stuck within the framework of New Public Management which is at best only a partial autonomy, and which only too often consists of a division of control between state and market. One tries artificially to create market-like conditions in cultural life, which again on the other hand support tendencies of standardization. Because standard should bring the possibility of comparison between the competing offers. Behind these tendencies again lies the already described problem of mistrust.

Although they do not grant culture really full freedom, the State has moved increasingly into a defensive position in relation to economy; which should clearly experience State limitations in social as well as in ecological terms.

Thus they miss the concept of the modern democratic human-rights-defending state, which of course should be a lean but in no way a weak state. Modern and post-modern development lead to the necessity of a new understanding of the role of the State, which is laid out in the two central ideas of modern political science: democracy and human rights. Human Rights put the individual into the centre of the government system. To respect and defend its full human potential becomes - as it is laid out in the German constitution - the highest duty of all State authority. After the emergence of the demand for democratic equality the discourse had to be fought, with its deformation into egalitarianism, while in truth it is a principle about the same freedom for all. In the human rights the community recognizes that these basic rights are not given to the individual by the community, but belong to him as a human being. The "guarantee for the content of essence" ("Wesensgehaltsgarantie") of human rights is more than merely a legal idea, in it the idea of the irrevocability of the human rights and thus the negation of legal positivism has become a positive right. The democratic majority is not the new supremacy, to which the individual now would have to turn as a petitioner in the same way as to the aristocratic supremacy in former times. It is much more - at least idealistically understood - the community of the free who now tacitly accept to only arrive at agreements amongst themselves in a democratic way, while recognizing the general freedom for action of the individual as the basis for polity. Because the legal condition finds its concentrated expression in the legislation but cannot be reduced to that alone, human rights remain more than a sheer legal idea even if laws contradicting them are pushed through violently. Clearly they have to be anchored as deeply and as solidly as possible in the legal-consciousness of the people and have to be made factually irreversible through the democratic participation of people in achieving constitutions. Human rights demand on the one side freedom of culture, on the other side - so that freedom and dignity are not just something on paper - such a shaping of economic life which enables people to mutually supply themselves economically so that freedom is not just an empty word. And they demand democratic participation in all decisions that apply to all people in a polity.


Archetypal Phenomena of Threefolding

Summing up we can say: The fact of maturity leads to a reversal of the relationship between the individual and the community. In earlier times it had been the community around which everything revolved. Now the development of the individual and its capacities for responsibility become the focus and the task of the community. We find a certain analogy to this process in the history of mankind in the biography of the individual in its steps towards legal maturity (which normally takes place at the age of eighteen). Everything which up to this point - which of course has prepared itself over a longer period of time - had been a precondition of the development of the young human being - care, guidance, integration into the community of the family - would now mean a reversal into a hindrance of this development. It is a wise institution in the law to withhold the decision about legal maturity from the parents who, seeing the factually still missing capacities, would be much rather inclined to assert the ongoing guardianship over the young human being. However the point is that with" coming of age", the development of responsibility becomes a task of the self-guidance of the individual who for that purpose needs self-determination over his own life. [8]

This self-determination has the factual consequence that a differentiation in the social relationships takes place: the young person now searches for himself that cultural environment in which he or she wants to be in. As a citizen of the state he now enters the life of polity as a carrier of the same democratic rights for participation. And in carrying the responsibility for his own life, sooner or later he has to integrate himself into the system of a globally networked economy based on division on labour - that means that he has to embrace a work task in which he achieves something which not he himself but other people need. There we have before us an archetypal phenomenon of social threefolding: social maturity demands and creates threefolding.


Conditions for a Culture of Trust

From this it is not hard to see where one has to look for the way out of the mistrust in the human being to a culture of trust. After all historical experiences it cannot be a matter of proposing the human being as such as good, or only made evil through the environment. Blind trust only leads to abuse which again provokes control from above and outside. But in the same way one must not view the existing incapacities as non-changeable constants in the human being. One has to take seriously the human being as a developing being, which means to apply the possibility to develop oneself and "to grow beyond oneself" - which everybody can observe in oneself - also to others.

Development can only take place where room is made for it. If we would only allow the child to walk when it had already perfected it, it would never learn to walk upright. If we waited until the young person made perfect use of his freedom before we granted him maturity he would have no chance to become free. One learns responsibility where the conditions allow responsibility to be taken on. And he who does not grant parents the free choice of schools and then laments that they lack in the judgement to make this choice, does not realize that he laments a situation which he himself has helped to bring about. Mistrust in maturity is a self-fulfilling prophecy, as Kant already has remarked.

The question about the way how freedom can live in a society can thus be reshaped into the question how one can bring about conditions that support responsible action. The answer to this question will be different in each case depending on which parts of societal life are involved. Economic questions demand a different style of treatment than cultural questions and these again a different one from political questions.

But in each case it will be a matter of addressing people in their capacity for responsibility in a way that all solutions, to the furthest extent possible, have to be brought about through the direct participation of those involved; through their "communicative action" (Jürgen Habermas) or through "self-administration". Autonomous self-administration means in the end: those who are active are also those administrating. In contrast to that the culture of mistrust leads to bureaucracy manipulation, and to anonymous conditions. It results in "systems" in which people should function without causing problems. A system however - even the most "complex" - remains a dead machine, cannot become a living - organic - network of relationships between individuals.

Self-administration ˆ we could also call it self-governance - as living responsibility relies on people. It leads to shaping of relationships where one meets as partners and thus out of the strength of the meeting itself. By shaping their relationships, those involved enter themselves on a human-social path of development. In the cultural sector self-governance will grow out of the independent status of individual institutions and their networking. The economy will have to start with networking as a given fact at the outset resulting from division of labour. This means that organs for action have to be allowed to emerge in which the exchange of interests between the business partners- from production to consumption - can work out of economic reasons on holistic bottom-top solutions. There, where the conditions themselves do not allow an alternative to binding regulative structures for a larger community - e.g. to have traffic moving on the left or right can not be a matter of individual choice - there maturity means to have the same chance to introduce initiatives into the majority decision finding process and to participate directly and grassroot based (the three step legislation proceedings through the citizens themselves as a complementation to representative democracy). Without becoming an integral part of the state and without giving up its independence in relation to the state, Civil society will have to take up and realize this demand to produce freedom-orientated solutions - which is on its own agenda - and bring them into legally binding realization. Initiatives in this direction have been proposed for example in relation to the development of the European Constitution through the IG EuroVision and the Initiative Network Threefolding.


What Kind of Governance Do We Need? [9]

Individualization and globalisation are driving the old societal uniformities apart. At the same time new tendencies of uniformaty of life are arising all over the globe through the way in which globalisation acts today. Economy is slipping out of human societal control and aspires to be a hegemon of human society. While layers of problems are increasingly determined through global interdependencies they can less and less be worked upon through the old nation state forms which at the same time are contradicting the life conditions of culture themselves.

All this leads to the question of new forms in which a societal life can live that is governed on the one side by interdependencies and dependencies asking for solidarity and which on the other side has as its axis freedom at whose structuring every human being participates. These new forms can only arise in a healthy way when the self-organisation of culture, of political structures and of economy through the people involved is not hindered through centralisms and concentrations of power.

The new paradigm is: self-organization in the sense that the people who are involved have the responsibility to shape themselves. Only this basic principle can lead to a future-orientated solution of the governance problem.

Without such an idea which leads to structured ("folded") societal relationships one will finally be caught in the suction of a new uniformaty mania. One will dream the dream of world government - and will only be satisfied with a structure below this level because one thinks of this world-government - for the time being - as utopian.

That instruments of a global rights-life have to be developed, that the United Nations have to play an important role in it, that it is a progress within the rights-life that crimes against humanity can be brought to international courts, - non of this need be argued against. However it cannot be a question of transferring the principle of the nation-state - which, facing individualization and globalisation has proven to be a deeply problematic structure - to the level of world-regions or even onto the global level itself. Enlarging the dimension of the state would only enlarge the dimension of the state problems already existing today! There are other possibilities to restore societal supremacy over economy. An important approach lies in the tax-systems as the meeting point between economy and the constitutional state. [10]

The new world situation demands a new understanding of individuality and thus of diversity, otherwise globalisation will lead to cultural levelling-out, to the destruction of everything original, creative and spiritual. The wealth of a world we are heading towards consists of exactly this cultural diversity. Democratic equality, in relation for instance to an education system, does not consist in the uniformity of the pedagogical content but in allowing the same participation for everyone in a diversely-shaped educational system which lives by initiative taking teachers, professors, parents etc.. The mental image of a standardized curriculum which would globally guarantee what students of a certain age are dealing with would in this relation be a nightmare. The agreement of such standardized solutions is also utopian because individualisation of necessity brings with it a diversity of educational ideas and approaches. It is not accidental that during the last years in many countries again and again conflicts arose around the teaching content to be taught at schools resulting from the fixed ideas of uniformity (in Germany for instance the discussion about whether a provincial government could pass a law that crucifixes had to be hung up in classrooms). Like in education things are similar in other areas.


Threefolding - a Promising Governance Approach for the Future?

What is the relationship between governance and threefolding? Rudolf Steiner‚s approach for a threefolding movement directly before and after the World War I can in fact also be understood as an attempt to deal with the governance problem, even as the formulation of a governance approach, in a time in which globalism by most people in responsible positions was only understood in categories of international relationships between states.

In the final chapter of his then well-received book "Towards social renewal" [11] Steiner deals with the "international relationships" of social organisms". If one follows the argumentation of this chapter, a global structure finally results out of the fact, that each of "the three spheres" - culture, politics or rights-life, and economy - of one social organism "would have its own independent relation to the according spheres of the other social organisms". In this way cultural, economic and inter-state networks could emerge and develop relatively independent from each other. In this way meaningful forms of co-operation could result whereas before the states were instrumentalised through economic interests or cultural questions were instrumentalised through political intentions. The human rights would become the axis of international life and state supremacy would no longer have the primacy in international relations.

As an example, the idea of a world-school-association was articulated in the context of this approach. Through this it becomes clear which direction can be worked on in creating global organs within the framework of future-orientated governance. It is not a matter of having only organs in which states co-operate but also general self-governing organs have to emerge in which the shapers of education-systems and other areas of society are co-operating responsibly in matters that are of their common concern.

Only cultural autonomy guarantees that each ethnical, religious or otherwise group can foster its own culture without hindrance. On the other hand this principle of autonomy excludes that ones own culture can be imposed upon others by means of state egalitarianism. Only in this way can the conditions slowly arise for peaceful co-existence and even active tolerance between cultures and their clash (the "clash of civilisations") can be avoided.

One can see how modern and capable of development this approach is. Steiner´s sceptical and critical attitude towards Wilson´s ideas of the League of Nations resulted from the insight that the "right for self-determination of nations", as propagated by Wilson, can only too easily become a "barbarian instrument" (as such it has been characterised in the 80´s by Ralf Dahrendorf). There, not the individual right of each human being to live within his or her polity in freedom, in equality and under humane material conditions of existence, is the axis of international life, but the right of each nation for its own state. This has to lead, to non-curable conflicts, especially where different ethnic groups live on the same territory, as we have again just recently seen in the Balkans and in other places. Through social threefolding - so Steiner in his time - "diversified relations are therewith established between peoples, states and economic bodies which ally all the parts of mankind so that each, in its own interest, is sensitive to the life of the others. A league of nations arises from impulses corresponding to reality. It will not need to be ´installed` because of one-sided political considerations." [12]

Where societal areas of life develop in ever greater independence and the meaningful shaping of the whole depends from consideration of their inherent characteristics, there the form of co-operation can not be one centralistically mediated, but only such a one of "tri-sectoral partnership" of representatives of the three spheres - in which at the present time for the cultural realm, organised civil society can and must play the key role.

Today the necessity of "tri-sectoral partnership" is so obvious that even the representatives of uniform thinking - be it more from the economic or from the political perspective - find themselves urged to adopt this approach at least partially, - however not without trying to attempt to re-functionalise it. It is intended to achieve the same economic interests and political intentions as before only in a more flexible way by integrating and co-opting civil society. One can speak of an integrational approach. This however is, as shown above, not capable of future development.

The new constellation poses difficult questions for civil society. The now stronger integration of non-state stakeholders into "political networks" of various kinds, opens new possibilities, but they are also connected with the danger of losing ones original intentions. Civil society would also fall into a trap, if it forgot that its power emerges from the basis: the movement for democracy, the local agenda´s, the coalition for freedom in education, the consumer initiatives and initiatives for new forms of economy, etc. In the end one will not be able to avoid the question whether the role of civil society activists at the round table of tri-sectoral partnerships only serves the representatives of the establishment as a possibility of an early warning system about the neuralgic points for the realisation of their own goals or whether conditions can be created in which those involved can engage themselves as carriers of responsibility in an open and shaping dialogue.


In Search of New Political Forms and Structures

Tri-sectoral partnership as such does not inherently solve the problem of how to create new political forms in the age of individualisation and globalisation. We have looked at many important aspects of this problem. But these thoughts must be developed further in a variety of directions. For participatory democracy, it is the process through which a juridical form comes about that is decisive. Especially for this reason in the debate about this there is so much attention put onto questions like the media presentation of initiatives as a precondition for a real public discourse. This public discourse lives by the fact that decisions are taken as close to the basis as possible. Here, with the enlarged dimensions of democratic legitimacy through globalisation, new problems arise. All State authority comes from the people, but it is decisive where it goes to, as already remarked by B. Brecht. The higher the level at which decisions are taken, the less the possibility to take into consideration the special characteristic of a certain region. From this point of view the idea of grassroot-democracy draws in the ideas of a necessary forming of federalism and of subsidarity.

At present a new concept is emerging in political-life, that of "soft law". "Soft law" comes about through agreements, through informal settlements etc. amongst societal stakeholders. A justification for this phenomenon is seen in the increasing ineffectiveness of the traditional way to arrive at structures and policies especially on the global level, where up until now this has been done through treaties between states. On the other hand the need to find new structures and policies is so virulent that it leads to the creation of "soft law". This development is truly dubious. Where well-founded and therefore also clear laws are missing, particular interest groups can try to fish in muddy waters. However, in the creation of "soft law", complementing traditional structural forms of international law, lies also a seed for future development, because those actually involved are at the centre of the process to shape new political relations, meaning that they, out of their own free will, create legal bonds through means of arrangements, agreements, contracts and commitments. Such agreements are one possible approach to shape the legal side of global relationships in which the sovereignty of the involved groups and their specific interests and impulses can be maintained. Through agreements between partners laws can also be created within the framework of tri-sector partnerships - however under the precondition that the partners themselves are legitimised by their own basis, that is for instance that the state stakeholders do have a democratic mandate.

When we accept the general freedom of action for the individual as substantial for a modern understanding of rights and politics and if we understand this freedom to act at the same time as freedom to unite on the one hand, and freedom to make contracts on the other hand, then this will enlighten the central position of the principle of contract in the political sphere. Modern state philosophy does not start for nothing with the deduction of supreme power out of the original free contractual relationship amongst the members of a community (theory of social contract). The shaping of contracts is indeed archetypal for the legal forms of maturity. [13]

The political structures of the future will consist of a combination of various elements. The legal forms democratically legitimised through the citizens themselves will have to form a framework in which various elements of a new type of "soft law" can develop.


The Threefolding Movement - Tasks and Chances

The ongoing governance-debate is a symptom of the need for social change having piled up. The present situation offers new chances for threefolding work but also higher demands go along with them, which can only be met, when we again and again test and prove the methodological fruitfulness of threefolding and find the right answers for each situation. One of the higher requirements is also that more than before the capacity is needed to find solutions in dialogue with partners and in coalitions. The word "social" originates from ´socius`, which can be translated with companion. For us I would like many companions together with us taking the necessary steps towards social renewal.

© Christoph Strawe, Initiative "Netzwerk Dreigliederung", Haußmannstr. 44a, D-70188 Stuttgart, Tel. +49 (0) 711 - 23 68 950, Fax 2360218, E-Mail:, Internet: //



[1]  The text is the elabaration of a lecture, held in a conference with Nicanor Perlas and Michael Baumann in the forum 3, Stuttgart, 11 March 2001. It was published in German in the circular Threefolding of the Social Organism, No.3 / 2001. The circular is published by the Initiative Network Threefolding, Haußmannstr. 44a, D-70188 Stuttgart, E-Mail, Internet //

[2] "Globalisation and german foreign policy". A contribution to a paneldiscussion at the EXPO on 17 October 2000. Published as pdf-file in the internet-archive of the german state department (look under

[3] Speech of German Secretary of State Joschka Fischer at the 54th general assembly of the United Nations on September 22nd 1999 in New York. Source: Internet-Archive of the German State Department (look under

[4] Commision of the European Community. A white paper or handbook on "governance" for the European Union. "To deepen Democracy in Europe". Work programm. Work document of the departments of the commision. Brussels 11th October 2000, SEK (2000) 1547/7 endg. The document has been placed in the internet by the EU server.

[5] Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel, foreword to the second edition of "Science of Logic".

[6] See the authors article "GATS - Service to Whom" (

[7] By pointing to "moral sentiments" inherent to human beings this thesis at least in the beginning is admittedly softened, however those sentiments play only a secondary role.

[8] This genesis of threefolding out of maturity and its analogy in the biography of the individual has again and again been emphasized by Udo Hermannstorfer in his presentations on social renewal.

[9] See my article on Trisectoral Partnerships, Civil Society and Threefolding in the "Rundbrief Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus", first edition/march 2001.

[10] Compare with the suggestions by U. Herrmannstorfer, H. Spehl and myself to refinance the social systems through a consumer-orientated social transfer, amongst other places published also at

[11] Rudolf Steiner "Towards social renewal", Rudolf Steiner Press, London 1977.

[12] "Towards social renewal" see above, page 129. However one has to say that already the League of Nations did not always act in accordance to Wilson´s basic ideas; so for instance in 1921 when Finnland´s supremacy over the swedish speaking Aland-Islands was confirmed in view of the far-reaching autonomy that Finnland had granted them.

[13] That there are various so-called contracts in which formal equality and freedom hide factual inequality and unfreedom is a different matter.

Translated by Ulrich Morgenthaler