cover image Children of a Modest Star: Planetary Thinking for an Age of Crisis

Children of a Modest Star: Planetary Thinking for an Age of Crisis

Jonathan S. Blake and Nils Gilman. Stanford Univ, $28 (326p) ISBN 978-1-503-63785-6

Political scientists Blake (Contentious Rituals) and Gilman (Mandarins of the Future) ponder how to “effectively manage planetary issues” in this sweeping polemic. Arguing that current global governance is not up to the task of solving planet-wide problems (especially climate change, but also other transnational crises like antibiotic resistance and plastic pollution), Blake and Gilman advocate for “the creation of new institutions at larger and smaller scales than existing national states”—a concept called “subsidiarity.” The idea is “that larger-scale governing institutions should not intervene unless and until a smaller scale is unable to carry out a particular task.” This will theoretically prevent institutions from becoming inefficient or tyrannical, while still allowing for coordinated action on all-encompassing issues. The authors point to the E.U., with its common courts and currency but separate nation-states, as a promising example. They do a good job of spelling out current pitfalls of global governance (“The primary problem with the national state is its claim to absolute sovereignty, not its size or scale”) and tracing its recent history (the nation-state did not become a “hegemonic organizing unit” until after WWI). Envisioning future changes to global governance as inevitable, the authors hope to stave off more harmful and chaotic alternatives, especially “decentralization and privatization” (which they define as the full dissolution of hierarchy and grasping of power by non-state actors). It’s a stimulating argument. (Apr.)