A Global Conception of Justice via the Civilizational (Eurasianist) Model: A Case Study in Theory


Global Justice has henceforth been identified as comprising the realist and idealist approaches, with the understood notion that neither extremity is satisfactory for adequately enforcing justice. Whereas the realist interpretation does not allow for the incorporation of globalization developments, the idealist method typically does not take IR theory and the relations between states into consideration. Therefore, it is imperative to find a third way that combines the best approaches of the previous two while mitigating their shortcomings. It is proposed that the civilizational approach of the Eurasianist variant is the most well-suited alternative hybrid theory to advance global justice. The exposition will begin with a basic explanation of how Eurasianism relates to global justice before describing the specifics of the theory’s traditionalist-civilizational attributes. It will then move on to a brief discussion about how these attributes are the most democratic way of finding a middle ground between all ideologies of justice. The composition will then speak about Russia’s official acceptance of the plausibility of the civilizational model via its Foreign Policy Concept of 2013, and will conclude with a forecast about the relevance of this approach to the future of IR.

Eurasianism as an ideology and philosophical movement has its roots in the Russian émigré community of the post-1917 era, however, the subject of relevant focus is Eurasianism as it currently manifests itself today. Its evolutionary variant is most commonly associated with Aleksandr Dugin, a contemporary Russian political philosopher. Dugin postulates that the West, through its proselytization of liberalism via the medium of (pressured) globalization, is endangering the customs, traditions, and civilizational foundations of all non-Western entities. Principally led by the United States via its unipolarity, the West (the US and Western Europe) is understood as offering non-Western entities no choice but to eventually accept its way of life and ideological standards, one way or another. Such standards include its subjective interpretation of human rights, governance, and justice, and it is believed that ‘democracy promotion’ and ‘humanitarian intervention’ are forced weapons of cultural and normative change against resistant states.

Civilizationalism and Eurasianism are complementary in that the former presupposes the creation of the latter. Eurasianism means that there is a certain civilization that is not European, yet is not Asian. It is somewhere in between. As such, it follows that there are other civilizations as well, be they European, Islamic, Chinese, etc. It is not important how the other civilizations are categorized (Eurasianism believes that all civilizations should define themselves in their own way), but what is important is the acknowledgement of civilizations as distinct cultural and traditional entities with relative philosophical understandings. Eurasianism strongly supports the idea of sovereignty, and it believes that each sovereign unit (civilization) should handle its affairs as it sees fit, without any uninvited external interference. Unlike Huntington, it does not believe that civilizations are predisposed to clash – quite the contrary, it believes that this method encourages cooperation between civilizations. And should there develop clashes within the civilizational model, they may very well be intra-civilizational and not inter-civilizational. Although examples of inter-civilizational wars surely exist, one need look no further than the history of fratricidal wars between Western Civilization itself to identify the possibility of intra-civilizational conflicts. The post-World War II advent of civilizational harmony among the members of Western society also indicates that civilizations may even retain peace within their ranks. Thus, there is no absolute certainty as to how the nature of conflict will play out should the world adopt the civilizational model in IR.  

It has thus far been established that the elements of the Eurasianist ideology that pertain to global justice include an opposition to the (forced/pressured) spread of Western liberal ideology, a belief in the association of all states with one civilization or another, and the precept of non-interference in sovereign affairs. Therefore, it is now appropriate to transition into an explanation of civilizations and their traditions before moving on towards an explanation of how this fits into the theory of global justice.

A civilization can be defined as a ‘society, culture, and way of life of a particular area’, and as was first evidenced during the age of colonialism, it can be spread over a non-contiguous geospatial area. This is further reinforced by the creeping dissemination of Western civilization and its resultant values across the world. Civilizations may even be amalgamations of smaller civilizations, as is seen by Western European civilization’s encompassment of British, German, and French civilizations, for example. What ties the smaller civilizational units into the larger ones are a common history, values, and culture. Therefore, all civilizations have unique attributes that make them different from others, giving them each special identities. The gathering of states into like-minded civilizational units can also serve as an alternative to globalization. The perceived threat of an outside civilization building normative influence within another via economic means can be neutralized through ‘civilizational globalization’, in which the economic processes of globalization are transplanted to a smaller, civilizational theater. Many existing global civilizations, as defined by Huntington, are geographically contiguous, so civilizational globalization could take on a large-scale form of regionalism. This continues to underline how the civilizational approach can present an alternative to globalization.

Continuing with the Eurasianist logic that traditional civilizations are losing their identity via the dissemination of Western values and ideas, the ideology seeks to liberate and democratize the world by allowing each non-Western civilization the freedom to develop at its own pace and by its own choosing. It does not want the homogenization of civilizations along a ‘universal’ values-based system, since it sees the imposition of foreign values as a drastic step in altering the identity of a civilization. The differences between civilizations and peoples are seen as elements to be highlighted, not mitigated. It is also adamantly in opposition to the selective military/political/economic punishment by one civilization (or prominent representative[s] of a civilization) against another for perceived transgressions of the former’s standards.

As for the interior arrangement of the various civilizations, Eurasianism supports each civilization independently deciding amongst itself and its constituent entities (however they be organized – nation-states, states, confederations, etc.) how to develop, preferably under the aegis of its own shared traditions and culture. As such, religion could also potentially serve as a guide for development. Considering the diversity of civilizations amongst their peers, and even within themselves to varying extents, this idea ultimately supports global diversity. The founding blocks of civilizations, tradition and culture (which together contribute to identity creation), would form the basis for decision making within each. This allows each civilization to celebrate its uniqueness and proceed along different paths, each according to its inherent characteristics and philosophies.

In this way, Eurasianism posits itself as a truly democratic ideology for sovereign development in all fields, including justice. Being relative, justice is understood differently according to each civilization. What may be perceived as justice in Islamic civilization, for example, may be perceived as anti-democratic in Western civilization, just as the Western conception of justice may be seen as anti-religious by Islamic civilization. What is good for one may not be good for another, and the idea behind the traditionalist-civilizationalist approach is to allow for a ‘hands-off’ policy towards dealing with those civilizations that differ in their beliefs and conception from one another. As the logic goes, if one entity decides among itself how to internally settle disputes and implement justice, would it not be oppressive, anti-democratic, and unjust to pressure or force it to accede to the demands and ideology of an outside dissenting other? After all, each civilization makes its choices according to its own unique criteria (influenced by culture, tradition, and religion), and just because they may be subjectively different from another one’s choices, does not mean that they are objectively wrong. By this sense, the aforementioned criteria are purely relative, and true justice rests in allowing each global civilization to make its own choices and deal with their resultant consequences without outside interference.

It already seems as though the bridge dividing ideology from political implementation has begun to be crossed. The Russian Foreign Policy Concept of 2013 makes prominent mention of the role of civilizations as actors in IR, and it explicitly states that ‘for the first time in modern history, competition takes on a civilizational level’. The Russian Foreign Ministry also states that ‘the major states of the world…should be representative in geographical and civilizational terms’, and that Russia will work on ‘preserving and increasing (its) common cultural and civilizational heritage’ with the countries comprising the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The document speaks about Russia being ‘an integral and inseparable part of European civilization’, as well as describing the ‘common deep-rooted civilizational ties’ between it and the Euro-Atlantic states. Russian identity is clearly different from that of Ireland (Europe) and Tajikistan (a CIS state), for example, but it still feels that some kind of intangible Eurasian (in this sense, Euro-Asian in the geographical meaning) characteristic connects it with such diverse cultures. This accentuates that civilizational uniqueness can be used as a tool to foster cooperation and conversation, and that it is not a guaranteed criteria for a predetermined clash. The difference between values and traditions, as in the case of Russia and Tajikistan, could theoretically be lessened by the influence of a shared history. This may allow for the incorporation of countries as different from one another as Russia and Tajikistan into the same civilization, whereas such a development is not possible in this example between Russia and Ireland. Nonetheless, it will remain to be seen how various civilizations, including Russia’s own ‘Eurasian’ civilization, evolve in their definitions of themselves in relation to others.

In conclusion, it is significant that civilizationalism is officially acknowledged by Russia in its Foreign Policy Concept of 2013. The discussion of civilizations as leading actors in IR by the Russian leadership signifies that other global powers may soon follow suit in re-perceiving the world through this perspective, conceivably resulting in a rapid shift in IR thought. In the future, scholars may even speak about intercivilizational relations as opposed to what may then be viewed as ‘archaic’ international relations. With this being said, the likelihood of the civilizational model becoming increasingly relevant in explaining global developments appears strong. This reinforces the importance in better understanding its possible impact on philosophical issues such as Global Justice in advance. That would properly prepare the world in acclimating to the adoption of this new theoretical framework, one whose application across politics and philosophy could represent a paradigm shift in thinking.