Forming a Global Community

by Joseph de Rivera (Clark University)

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de Rivera has written a scholarly book that is both important and hopeful. It is based on the premise that we humans are arguably the most social of all social animals—for better and for worse. Yet, the great majority of us tend to think of ourselves as individual conscious beings. The author argues that this assumption is a fundamental mistake—with tragic consequences. According to the author, the most fundamental social motives are caring for others, fear for ourselves, and an aggressive insistence on what ought to exist. These motives are present in all of our interactions, and at any moment, the most essential fact is whether the love for others or fear for the safety of the self is dominant. When love is dominant, persons are authentic, assertive, and able to have open mutual relationships. When fear is dominant, it is managed by submissive conformity or aggressive dominance—preventing persons from fully being themselves. It also motivates them to reduce cognitive dissonance in irrational, self-serving ways that are destructive to trust and intimacy. The alternative lies in the unification that occurs in societies where caring for others dominates fear for the self and enables aggression to intend justice rather than violence. Such societies are communities and have rituals that express the joy of being together rather than the thrill of dominating. In a brilliant, original manner, de Rivera utilizes material from philosophy, psychology, economics, sociology, anthropology, and religion to show how such a community is possible.
[...] Anyone searching for solutions to our current problems will be interested.
Elliot Aronson
Professor Emeritus, Psychology Department
UC Santa Cruz

Have you ever wondered about what is wrong with the world you live in: the deteriorating climate, the politics, your neighbors, inflation, racism, depression? You must have thought, at times, what can be done about it, them? Are we ever going to solve the obvious and simple, much less, the potentially disastrous problems that we face? Maybe unfair, silly questions, but have you?
I admit I have no direct evidence, but certainly, many of us have, and for the most part, sooner or later, we came to the bleak conclusion: it is useless. We repeatedly discover we are essentially powerless to make a difference, possibly because there are no solutions, at least none
available to folks like us. The author of this volume de Rivera, together with Carlson, however, never gave up; instead, inspired by a Scotch Philosopher, John MacMurray, they convinced editors that their efforts had uncovered a path to mastering all the major threats to our survival and specific fears that haunt us.
Their solution for overcoming all that is evil and frightening involves forming a global human community consisting of an elaboration of socio-emotional mutual relations where love dominates over fear. According to MacMurray, those fundamental socio-emotional relations of love and fear first appear between infant and mother, and they continue as “emotional strands” to shape the rest of our lives.
I confess their citing and elaborating upon MacMurray was all new stuff for me, but It was well worth reading what they have to offer if, for no other reason, you will discover that we are really the solution to our problems. But you deserve forewarning: you will continually recognize that as they describe where MacMurray has led them, they have no fears or self-doubts, especially those involving fundamental concepts in the psychological and social literature. In describing what needs to be done for the sake of our survival and how it can be accomplished, the creation of a global community, they demonstrate through copious footnotes that they have consulted and analyzed examples of the best thinking and evidence available. Their supporting footnotes are so thorough and extensive that I would not hesitate to use this book as a main text in an advanced-level course in social psychology, sociology or political science, e.g., “ Civilization and its Discontents.”
To be sure, the range of issues and enormously ambitious scope of this effort to solve our world-level problems, whatever negative responses, or lingering doubts, must be accompanied by enormous respect and admiration for the authors’ obviously wise and thoughtful scholarship.
They will take you through several similar difficult but intriguing and promising fundamental conceptual issues. Have you thought, for instance, of what a person versus self or identity could mean? Or the importance of “mutual relationships,” and the central concept of the “Other” and “Otherness” in human relations? How are the emotions and experiences that appear in infancy and childhood related to what appears among adults? Is it possible for a religion to be “rational” and sacred? Is it possible, maybe necessary, for the mutually supportive and caring relationships that often appear in small close communities to be extended and organized into a global community?
The authors provide creative and thoughtful answers to those and many similarly intriguing issues in describing how and why we need to create a global community.

Dr. Melvin J Lerner
Social Psychologist
Florida Atlantic University

De Rivera, with the help of Carson, has given a great deal of thought to the question of how we might extricate ourselves from the shackles of a global constellation of states that are in competition for power. They argue that a global community based on cooperation would be far better suited to address problems that bear on human survival and well-being. Their analysis has multidisciplinary moorings, drawing on theory and research in economics, political science, cultural anthropology, political economy, sociology, history, religion, and psychology. The emotional quality of human nature is foregrounded in many analyses, noting, for example, how the presence of justice depends on the dominance of love over fear, how fear and anger adversely affect rational decision making, how liberty engenders freedom from the fear that basic needs will not be met, and how problems arise when fear for oneself weighs more heavily in decisions than love of others. While the creation of a global community may sound like a utopian ideal, the authors offer a realistic proposal that calls for the transformation of our usual patterns of thoughts and feelings about ourselves and others so that love dominates fear and relationships are suffused with dignity and worth.

Daniel J. Christie, Professor Emeritus
Ohio State University

“Forming a Global Community” by Joseph de Rivera (with the help of Harry A. Carson) is not only a thought-provoking book but a daunting task, as well, given the current state of global affairs. But, if you want to get an idea of how to get from ‘here’ to ‘there’ the author presents a kind of blueprint of the challenges we must face, and the kinds of changes we must make in our conceptualizations of ourselves, our cultural institutions, our belief systems, and our ways of understanding and valuing the relationships we create with our fellow inhabitants of this planet.
Drawing on the philosophical writings of John MacMurray, a Scottish minister and humanist and drawing from current empirical research and recent theories in the social sciences, the authors highlight the problems with the current, entrenched way we conceptualize our sense of self, world, and others, and the revolution in thought required to overcome the current ‘reality’ it has created. MacMurray's thinking moves away from thinking about people as independent, monadic selves, to persons as, first and foremost, agents acting in the world with other agents within the context of a community; a requirement for the betterment of all.
If we are to survive as a species, which requires not only a healthy planet but a collaborative human ethic and practice, effective conflict resolution, love and respect, rather than fear of the other, an overhaul of systems of economics, governance, and religious rituals, the authors argue that we must understand that our existence is, first and foremost, sustained by our interdependence with each other. The authors, for example, present research from the earliest moments of a child's life that there is at work in mother/infant relating a primary intersubjectivity that creates the possibility for sensory motor communication and collaboration in perceptual and gestural understanding between infant and mother even before the child develops the cognitive capacity to recognize herself as a being separate from her mother. It is this kind of fundamental shift that can inform the societal institutions of the direction they need to move toward, to create the possibility of developing a global community and cultural consciousness that promotes a more egalitarian and just society, and move us away from the global splintering, chaos, exploitation, repression and oppression we experience today.
The authors make it very clear that they do not see a global community as leveling of all individual and cultural differences but, in fact, as another level or dimension of one's way of identifying oneself as part of a community. The ethic of respecting individual differences within a community and the cultural differences between different communities is a high value.
Processes and rituals for the resolution of conflicts that may develop among differences would be enacted. There is a recursiveness to the hierarchy of communities, linking the most local ways people actively organize themselves to survive and thrive in the places where they live with each other and the unique cultures they develop to sustain the community, to the most general and, in some ways the most ‘abstract’ form of community that of identifying oneself as an agent within the largest community on earth, the global one. In this way, the authors open the door for us to think about our actions in regard to our local concerns as having global implications, that our place is also a global place; that my plot of land and how I take care of it is not just my and my local communities concern; that on another level this plot of land belongs to the global community and I am currently permitted to be its caretaker. How one heats one's home, how one gets to work, the kind of work one does, the resources one consumes, economic decisions about taxes and infrastructure, concerns about safety and security, may not only affect your neighbor in your local community, but likely affect and are affected by similar concerns that stimulate actions, work, and decisions, of the neighbor one has never met and likely never will on the other side of the globe, who is an agent not only in his/her local community, but the global community to which we all belong.
When we are able to develop a global consciousness that informs our cultural practices and structures, that are based, for example, on love for the other rather than fearing the other, as the authors of this wonderful book argue, by taking actions to save each other, we may in the process save ourselves and the planet that sustains us; our global neighbors and neighborhood. I highly recommend this book.

Dr. Bruce A. Levi
Clinical Psychologist

To address global problems such as pandemics, warming, economic inequality, mass migration, and widespread terrorism, Joseph de Rivera argues that we must form a global community. A community of eight billion humans is difficult to conceive. However, it can be imagined and created if we transform our understanding of who humans are and what ‘community’ entails. We can understand who persons are, how they are motivated, and how a community can be conceived in a way that offers an alternative to individualism and collectivism. The “mutualism” that is proposed provides a moral compass for navigating the challenges that confront us and encourages specific governing structures, political economies, and rituals that will further the formation of a global community.

Based on the philosophical analysis of John Macmurray, the author’s argument relies on an extensive review of the current literature on self, personhood, emotional motivation, social identity, forms of community, and religious and secular rituals. Interdisciplinary in nature, it aims to direct philosophy and the social sciences to the challenges of globalism and the creation of a global community.



1 The Challenge of Globalization

2 The Self

3 The Person

4 Love, Fear, and Aggression

5 Society, Social Identity, and Objectification

6 The Nature of Community

7 Religion, Rationality and Faith

8 Creating a Global Community



Joseph de Rivera (PhD. Stanford, 1961) is Professor Emeritus at Clark University. A founding member of the International Society for Research on Emotions and a fellow in three different divisions of the American Psychological Association, he taught at Dartmouth and NYU before coming to Clark and founding their Program in Peace and Conflict. The author or editor of six previous books, he is currently engaged in research on celebrations that promote global community.

Harry A. Carson is a retired Professor of Philosophy and Dean of Humanities and Contemporary Culture
Studies at Sacred Heart College (Detroit, MI). A founding member of the International John Macmurray Society, he authored the Introduction to the 2004 edition of John Macmurray’s 'Freedom in the Modern World'.

United Nations, international community, love, fear, aggression, personhood, social identity, global identity, agency, will, responsibility

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Book Title

Forming a Global Community





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Publication date

May 2023