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Foucault, Baha’u’llah, and the Politics of International Relations

Navid Pourmokhtari | Nov 6, 2022

PART 1 IN SERIES Toward an Upright Global Government

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Navid Pourmokhtari | Nov 6, 2022

PART 1 IN SERIES Toward an Upright Global Government

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

One central theme infuses the entire Baha’i revelation: the oneness of humanity, and the way in which that oneness can potentially develop into a system of global governance for a newly united world.

Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, wrote that:

Every Prophet Whom the Almighty and Peerless Creator hath purposed to send to the peoples of the earth hath been entrusted with a Message, and charged to act in a manner that would best meet the requirements of the age in which He appeared. God’s purpose in sending His Prophets unto men is twofold. The first is to liberate the children of men from the darkness of ignorance, and guide them to the light of true understanding. The second is to ensure the peace and tranquillity of mankind, and provide all the means by which they can be established … that, through the spirit of oneness, they may heal the sickness of a divided humanity.

This series of essays on that essential theme will attempt to reveal how the thought of the philosopher Michel Foucault can aid us in understanding, in all of their richness, relevance and implications, the teachings on global governance of Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith.

These essays also hope to show how Baha’u’llah’s teachings transcend Foucault’s concept of governance – what he called “governmentality” as the basis for creating a global order capable of establishing universal peace and transforming the politics of international relations. 

Examining and interrogating the works of these seminal thinkers – one an influential philosopher and the other a divine messenger who created the newest global Faith – opens up possible avenues and intersections for mapping the contours of a completely new modality of governing. That new way to govern humanity holds forth the promise of an all-inclusive global peace, what Bahaʼu’llah described as “the Most Great Peace,” an inclusive, lasting global peace “the like of which mortal eyes have never witnessed.” 

To get started, let’s briefly discuss the thoughts of the philosopher and the prophet.

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The Influential French Philosopher Foucault

One of the most creative and influential figures within the field of critical social theory, Michel Foucault produced a large corpus of work focusing on power and governance, one that few contemporary thinkers can rival. Foucault coined the term “governmentality” to refer to a radical new way of organizing and managing the interaction of human beings that goes beyond the traditional sovereign power model. In the process Foucault offered up a multifaceted mode of governing individuals and populations, and by implication nations.

Baha’u’llah, the Prophet and Founder of the Baha’i Faith

Baha’u’llah, the holy messenger who founded the Baha’i Faith in the mid-19th century, set in motion a new revelation, a new global religion, and a sequence of unfolding world events destined to knit the nations, races, and religions together. 

Shoghi Effendi, in a statement he wrote about the Baha’i Faith for the nascent United Nations in 1947, gave a brief one-paragraph summary of Baha’u’llah’s life:

Mirza Husayn-Ali, surnamed Baha’u’llah (the Glory of God), a native of Mazindaran, Whose advent the Bab had foretold, was assailed by those same forces of ignorance and fanaticism, was imprisoned in Tihran, was banished, in 1852, from His native land to Baghdad, and thence to Constantinople and Adrianople, and finally to the prison city of Akka, where He remained incarcerated for no less than twenty-four years, and in whose neighborhood He passed away in 1892. In the course of His banishment, and particularly in Adrianople and Akka, He formulated the laws and ordinances of His Dispensation, expounded, in over a hundred volumes, the principles of His Faith, proclaimed His Message to the kings and rulers of both the East and the West, both Christian and Muslim, addressed the Pope, the Caliph of Islam, the Chief Magistrates of the Republics of the American continent, the entire Christian sacerdotal order, the leaders of Shi’ih and Sunni Islam, and the high priests of the Zoroastrian religion. In these writings He proclaimed His Revelation, summoned those whom He addressed to heed His call and espouse His Faith, warned them of the consequences of their refusal, and denounced, in some cases, their arrogance and tyranny.

RELATED: Citizens of One Common Fatherland

Baha’u’llah taught the oneness of humanity, the elimination of all prejudice, the agreement of science and religion, the equality of the sexes, the adoption of a universal auxiliary language, and the essential harmony and unity of all religions. He said “The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.” Baha’u’llah initially proclaimed his new Faith in 1863 and passed away in 1892. Since then, many millions of people in every country on the planet have become Baha’is.

In order to articulate with clarity and precision Baha’u’llah’s writings, and in particular his concept of global governance, this series of articles references works by his son and successor Abdu’l-Baha, and his great-grandson and subsequent Guardian of the Baha’i Faith Shoghi Effendi, “the authorized expounders” of his world order. These two individuals dedicated their lives to devising and carrying out a multifaceted plan for realizing the future global society Baha’u’llah designed and foresaw. Baha’is around the world accept that their exposition of Baha’u’llah’s world order, in particular its political and administrative aspects, remains true to his original intent. 

In the next essay in this series, we’ll begin to delve into the parallels and similarities in what Baha’u’llah and Foucault both proposed for an entirely new way to govern humanity.

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