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Importance of Social Threefolding in the Age of the Empire Matrix[1]

By Nicanor Perlas[2] and Christoph Strawe[3] 

There are two great long-term tendencies for the development of human beings and the world. The first is the growing global interconnection of humans and their societies. This is the process of “globalization” broadly understood. Economics primarily drives this process but it affects all aspects of life. The second is the growing emancipation of the individual from racial, tribal, ethnic, linguistic, gender, national and other forms of group conditioning and constraints. This is the process of individualization or individuation, also broadly understood.

The presence of both these trends simultaneously is unique in history. They characterize our time. They affect every detail of life. While these two trends have a tendency to conflict with each other, understood more deeply, they can be harmonious, a living polarity that is characteristic of all living beings. The two trends conflict only when individualism is practiced as egotism and not as individual social responsibility. We can see this in the struggle between “community” and “individualism”, between “rights” and “duties”, between the individualistic West and the group-oriented East, again broadly speaking.

Understood more profoundly as a polarity, these two trends can be harmonized to create a better world. It can unleash the free, creative powers of the “individual” and place it in the service of the “community”, of the world. The diversity inherent in the individuation process can be encouraged to come together in ways that vitalize social life, leading it away from chaos.

However, just at this important juncture in history, a perversion of these two powerful tendencies and a malign integration of them are rapidly emerging in the world. This integration promises, not to bless the world, but to curse it with all kinds of sufferings.

At the pole of globalization, is the emergence of the first and most powerful global empire the world has ever known, the U.S. Empire. At the pole of individuationthe pole of increasing capabilities of human individualitiesis the accelerating process of technological “singularity” and the emergence of the human cyborg. This is the Empire Matrix, the dangerous and distorted integration of globalization and “individuation” in a form that will not liberate, but will enslave the human spirit and societies.


In the area of globalization, three trends have surfaced that have deeply affected the development of the world since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Iron Curtain and the collapse of the old world order based on the Cold War. These are neo-liberal economic globalization, the “clash of civilizations” and the U.S. unilateralism.

Economic Globalization

In the mid-1990s, the world saw the creation of the most powerful global economic institution of all times, the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO). A former Director General of the WTO, described the WTO Agreement as the constitution of the world. And he was not exaggerating. With the birth of the WTO also came the birth of the most relentless and aggressive effort to tear down economic barriers among and within nations.

Whether countries were prepared or not, the WTO unleashed radical agreements to tear down trade, investment, and capital barriers. It is now embarked on the desire to commodify education and health services, among others, in its insatiable rush to drag even cultural activities into the realm of economics and profits.

In the wake of the WTO, the economic and social fate of many nations crumbled. “Ruthless growth” expanded with the collapse of basic rural agro-industries and the increase in poverty. “Jobless” growth ballooned as the torrential flow of goods and services, coupled with migration of industries and automation, threw more people out of work. “Voiceless” growth also “prospered” as more and more nations experienced marginalization at the biannual meeting of ministers of the WTO. “Rootless growth” loomed larger as the cultural impacts of economic advertising and embedded foreign values in goods, services, and infrastructure, started to erode the traditions of countries. And “futureless growth” accelerated as the global economic machine continued to consume the bounty of and destroy nature.

Global debates on elite or corporate globalization, as this destructive form of globalization became to be known, alerted the global conscience to resist the corporate and elite takeover of the world economy, and thru this, the different nations of the world. But this was only part of a larger and more complex picture.

Clash of Civilizations

In 1993 Samuel P. Huntington gave expression to the U.S. establishment’s political ethics.[5] In his book, “Clash of Civilizations”, he envisions a world of perpetual future war of “the West against the rest”. In this world of conflict, “western Christian civilization” is founded on the maxim: “’Unless we hate what we are not, we cannot love what we are’ [. . .] We know who we are only when we know who we are not and often only when we know whom we are against.”[6]

Among the many contributions and variations an Huntington’s theme, is a book by Robert D. Kaplan, a prominent thinker who writes in a number of prestigious magazines and journals, including the Atlantic Monthly and Foreign Affairs. Kaplan, in his book Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos, argues that the U.S. should play the role of an imperial Power. Only then would there be some form of world order in the chaos brought about, among others, by violently conflicting world views. He recommends that the U.S. should carry “Churchill’s baton” and should apply a pagan (Greco-Roman) morality, more oriented toward “outcomes” than the Judeo-Christian ethic.

U.S. Unilateralism

U.S. policy makers seemed to quietly understand the need for a “pagan” ethic. They have basically snubbed many global agreements aimed at making the world a better place. The U.S., among over two dozen examples, is not a member of the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gases, the Convention on Biological Diversity aimed at conserving the world’s biodiversity, and the Treaty on the establishment of the International Criminal Court, a global deterrent to crimes against humanity.

And, if they see an egotistic advantage for them in a global treaty, then they plot either of two options. They join a treaty if they think they can use this treaty to their full advantage. This is evident in the case of the WTO Agreement, which proponents defended, in the U.S. Senate, as really an agreement among the Quad—the U.S., E.U., Canada, and Japan.

Or they participate in a treaty to reduce the potential damage the treaty can have for them. This was the case with the recently concluded Convention Framework for Tobacco Control inaugurated under the auspices of the World Health Organization. The U.S. tried to torpedo the whole Convention but did not succeed in watering down the provisions of the Convention due to the strong tactical alliance between ministers and leaders of global civil society.[7]

This trend of “cowboy” rugged egotism in world affairs that threatens to destabilize the nation-state system, has earned the U.S. the distinct label “U.S. Unilateralism”. This approach has also been a “wonderful” preparation for the mutation of U.S. unilateralism to its worst possible but logical conclusion—that of the world’s first global Empire.

Mutation of U.S. Unilateralism to U.S. Empire

Recently, the U.S. Empire has emerged and is starting to integrate these three broad societal tendencies into a new and dangerous kind of globalization, that of Empire. We can call this new kind of globalization, “imperial globalization”. The U.S. Empire would harness these economic, political and cultural developments to create a new world order based on domination and control. The unprovoked war on Iraq and, in this context, the erosion of the role of the UN, is a vivid illustration that we have crossed the threshold into a very different world.[8] 

The rationalization for a U.S. Empire is captured in the words of British journalist Sebastian Mallaby. In an interview in the Jan. 12, 2002 “Arts and Ideas” section of the New York Times, Mallaby’s says: “A new imperial moment has arrived .... The chaos out there in the world is too threatening to ignore, and the existing tools for dealing with the chaos have been tried and found wanting.” He then encourages the establishment of a global imperial order by the United States.

Briefly, the U.S. Empire operates using these “principles”[9]

  1. “Distinct American Internationalism” Based on Raw Power

  2. Unilateral, Preventive War Against Rogue States

  3. Shadow Multilateralism and Coalitions of the Willing

  4. Iraq as Demonstration Case and Part of Network of Bases

  5. Suppression of Military Competition and Global Police

  6. Systemic Societal Approach of Domination

  7. Suppression of Internal Dissent

  8. Disinformation to Legitimize Empire

We will discuss these principles in greater detail below where we show that these imperial principles are a distortion of healthy social threefolding processes and substance.


In the area of individuation, a similar drastic development is taking place. Three technologies—information technology/artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, and nanotechnology, are converging into a “technological singularity”, beginning the radical reconstruction of humans into a new kind of transhuman species, the very opposite of real individuation where humans develop an increasing sense of responsibility for themselves and the world.

This will usher in the era of human cyborgs and, some hope, super-intelligent machines that will replace human as the next apex of natural evolution. In the latter case, scientists expect technological developments to cascade so rapidly that super-intelligent machines will run out of control by humans. Worst, the super-intelligent machines will either enslave humans or make humans obsolete. “Cyborgization”, to coin a term, deconstructs the healthy process of individuation and is really a form of “deindividuation”.

Scientists expect this development to take place within the next 30 to 50 years or 2030 or 2050. Some argue that it will take place sooner than 30 years. As expected, the prospect of replacing Homo sapiens from its top position in evolution has touched off one of the most vigorous debates in the scientific community today.

However, a group of intellectuals, scientists, and engineers are not deterred by the prospect of controversy. Recently, from June 27-29, 2003, the World Transhumanist Association hosted a “transvision” conference to explore the prospects of a post-human world.

The conference explored a range of topics. Speakers supported the notion of cloning and genetically engineering human beings; human-animal chimera; human-machine interface; and the creation of super-intelligent machines, among others. In the words of one of the conference presenters, “Let us call the ‘date of super-intelligence’ the date at which a ‘human-fathered’ robot/computer first has full human-style capabilities”.

“Transhumanism is the belief that it is possible and desirable to use technology to transcend the limits of the human body”, explains James Hughes, a professor of public policy at Trinity College and secretary of the World Transhumanist Association. “We look forward to living in that age.”[10] Among others, transhumanists want to attain immortality through advances in technology, including the prospect of embodying consciousness in machine.

This development is tragic especially when we realize the deeper impulses that also live in the process of individuation. For the true cultural message of individuation, is not scientific materialism, which came up as a consequence of the elaboration of self-consciousness and is dominating our culture at present. Rather, individuation also carries with it the new capacity to scientifically access the spiritual foundations of humanity and the world. These new faculties can then enable humanity to create new communities based on spiritual freedom, not bloodline instincts. Falling into the trap of the human cyborg means destroying the very scientific and individuated capacities that can help humanity create a truly more different and dignified world.


Globalization turning into Empire, humans morphing into cyborgs or super-intelligent machines - this is the Empire Matrix. This will be the end of history as we know it, for the Empire Matrix will radically break with the past. No tradition will be spared in the aggressive search for domination of the global commons and the nature and essence of the human being itself.


The question of how to resist such tendencies has intensified in Europe[11], Asia, Latin America and in other parts of the world. Global civil society has emerged as a decisive force of resistance and as a potential promoter of alternatives.

In the wake of its emergence as a third global power, global civil society is de facto threefolding societies where it is active. Threefolding refers to the active presence and activity of the three powers - State, Market and Civil Society, in determining the future of societies.

“Threefolding is key to understanding the new social landscape and what goes on within it. The term integrates and sheds light on many of the new concepts in the tri-polar world.” The world is tripolar, because “there are now three contending institutional powers that reside in the world-global civil society, government, and business. […] Through its emergence, civil society also gives birth, consciously or not, to cultural life as an autonomous realm within larger society.” We can “connect the three institutions to the three realms of society. From social science, we learn that there are three realms in social life or three subsystems in society-cultural, political, and economic. The interactions of these three realms determine what kind of social life or society we have. We live in a healthy society if the three realms mutually recognize and support each other and develop their initiatives with awareness of their potential impacts on the other realms. We live in an unhealthy society if one realm dominates and tries to subjugate the others.”[12] The state of society is all the more healthy as the life of the cultural sphere is based on cultural creativity and responsibility of the individual human being, as in the political sphere human rights and real democracy are realized, and as the economic sphere is really serving the people instead of being oriented at the profit interests of corporate powers.

In de facto threefolding, the interaction among the three societal powers is mostly antagonistic of each other, especially between Civil Society versus the State and Market.

However, this is not the only interaction possible among the three powers of society. There are also increasing numbers of individuals in the Market and State who are questioning the Empire Matrix. These individuals can often be characterized as “cultural creatives”[13] active in the realm of Polity and the Economy respectively. They share many ideas and values with activists in Civil Society. Individuals in the State, Market, and Civil Society can therefore form strategic alliances to advance an agreed-upon vision of society, especially one different from the Empire Matrix. They can therefore initiate conscious and advanced forms of social threefolding to realize a different world order, different from the Empire Matrix.[14]

Obviously the Empire Matrix is the anti-picture of a healthy society. Thus, challenging Empire Matrix means understanding more deeply the power of social threefolding in shaping a new world. At the same time this is a challenge for threefolding itself. If social threefolding is to be of any significance in the world process, then it has to struggle to resist and transform the Empire Matrix. Or social threefolding itself will join the dustbin of Homo sapiens, a good idea that was never realized.


One way to draw out the relevance and importance of social threefolding for resisting and transforming Empire is to use the different manifestations of social threefolding processes as a framework. We can identify three broad categories: mobilization, temporal, spatial/geographic aspects of social threefolding.

These categories are broad ones and are not meant to be restrictive. Social phenomenon is often a cluster of several of these categories functioning together. We shall illustrate this below in the case of functional and temporal aspects of social threefolding.

Mobilization Aspects of Threefolding

·        Resistance of Civil Society (Demonstrations, etc.)

·        Alternatives by Civil Society (Local fair trade, etc.)

·        Cohesive and Strategic National Civil Society Movements (The creation of dense networks of civil society to achieve parity status with State and Market, facilitating the pursuit of comprehensive sustainable development.

·        Societal Revolution (This is the comprehensive overhauling of a nation starting from the realm of culture itself via civil society. The State and Market are deeply affected by the initiatives of civil society. Civil society creates strategic alliances with key individuals and institutions in the State and the Market.)

·        Cohesive and Strategic Global Civil Society Movements (Dense networks of civil society all over the world cooperating with each other to pursue specific goals.)

Temporal Threefolding

·        De Facto Threefolding

·        Conscious Threefolding

·        Advanced Threefolding

Temporal Threefolding and Its Relation to Mobilization Aspects

·        De Facto Threefolding - Resistance, Alternatives, National and Global Civil Society Movements. De facto threefolding results when any of these functions (resistance, etc.) is active. The reverse is also true. Functional activities by civil society results in de facto threefolding.

·        Conscious Threefolding - Alternatives, National and Global Civil Society Movements, Tri-Sectoral Dynamics.

·        Advanced Threefolding - Alternatives, National and Global Civil Society Movements, Authentic Threefolding Dynamics, Societal Revolution 

Spatial Threefolding and Geographic Strategies

·        Reconceptualizing societal units below the Nation State

·        Reconceptualizing Nation States

·        Reconceptualizing America

·        Reconceptualizing Europe

·        Reconceptualizing the Middle East

·        Reconceptuializing Asia

·        Reconceptualizing Global Institutions

We need to note that spatial/geographic aspects of social threefolding assume that civil society has achieved a certain critical mass of cohesion and agreement on what to pursue locally, nationally, regionally, and globally. Groups like GlobeNet3 can help facilitate this cohesion around a specific global objective with various supportive activities. These can include awareness building activities where participants discuss civil society strategies versus the global U.S. Empire.

Before going into the details of the various threefolding processes, it is essential to turn first to the other aspect of social threefolding, its substance.


All social threefolding processes assume the articulation, advocacy and advancement of a different world, in this context, a world different from the Empire Matrix. Lack of clarity in the substantive dimension of social threefolding will result in ineffective and even hijacked threefolding processes. Before taking a detailed look at threefolding substance, we would like to raise two words of caution.

First, we can cognitively differentiate between social threefolding process and substance. However, in reality, these two aspects of social threefolding are present together, influencing and complementing each other.

Second, the examples below do not exhaust the possible kinds of threefolding substance necessary to create a different world. They are illustrations of the kinds of cognitive pre-requisites to advance social threefolding and to transform the Empire Matrix.

Globalization and Civil Society’s “Definition Power”

Civil society wields cultural power. One of the most potent forms of cultural power is “definition power” (Michel Foucault), the manner of interpreting and actual framing of concepts and paradigms.[15] 

The best example is the meaning of the term “globalization” itself. Is its present neo-liberal form identical with the essence of globalization as such? If we do not resist this kind of neo-liberal “definition power” emanating from the Market, global civil society will be forced to see and limit itself as basically an anti-globalization movement. It will narrowly define its own reality around the definition of others.

In answering this question, it is important to understand that the tendency towards globalization lies at the bottom of the whole of our modern cultural epoch. The emergence of the term in the 1980s simply meant giving a name to a process that was already occurring. This development was consciously conceived on a political level as a project of a “new world order”. After the period of political colonialism the economy took over the role as the factor for global integration. The large global comprehensive contracts, like the WTO Agreements, were intended to position the economic order of neo-liberalism promoting globalisation even above socio-cultural and political order. The events in Seattle and Cancún have, temporarily, put a halt to this development.

The one who has “definition power” will inevitably have a kind of “cultural hegemony” (Gramsci). States want to achieve this through propaganda and censorship of ideas. Markets want to achieve this through aggressive “branding” activities, including massive expenditures in advertising. The one, who wants to persuade the people of the necessity of changing the social condition must question this hegemony by confronting “definition power”.

But for civil society there is an even more important consideration beyond the tactical one. It is the question of cognition and truth and living in the truth, to ask: What is the true nature of the phenomena in question?

A better and deeper understanding of the concepts of “Empire”, “Clash of Civilizations”, “Globalization” and “Individualization” has great importance for the civil society movement. Civil society needs a cognition of globalization beyond the horizon of neo-liberal understanding, which reflects the ruling economic interests.

This understanding must include also the cultural, spiritual, legal and political dimensions of globalization which are neglected or denied by the neo-liberal ideology. And it must include a deeper understanding of economy and its ecological dimensions.

Globalization asks for a holistic approach in thinking. In the peace movement and the movement for a more just form of globalization, we discern a kind of feeling, an arising sense, for the necessity of such a holistic approach.[16]

Reframing[17] the Clash Of Civilizations

Huntington’s thesis includes several premises which have to be questioned. Is hegemonic superpower politics a possible political option in our times? Is the whole western system worth defending and sustaining?

Although Huntington criticizes Fukuyama and his thesis of the “end of history”, he agrees with Fukuyama on one thing: There is no necessity to ask how the occident has to change itself to be able to play a justifiable role in today’s world. He denies that there is a question of the need for perestroika also for the western countries. Does the West have to fight the rest?

Huntington identifies the state of realization of the so-called western values of individualisation, democratic equality, human rights etc. with those values themselves. So, in Huntington’s view, it is not necessary to realize the value of freedom by self-organisation of the cultural sphere. For the ideologues of the “clash of civilization”, there is no necessity of changing the economic order, the ways to handle property, money, etc., in accordance with the value of social justice. For them, the West also does not need to reform its political institutions to realize equal human rights and democracy.

But why should the rest of the world be impressed by this given state of the West? For the “rest”, individualization is only egotism and human rights are only an instrument of hiding the real aims of power politics. The West is not taking “global responsibility”[18]. And as a result the “rest” is opposing the West.

In a certain sense, Huntington’s thesis is a self fulfilling prophecy. But if the West cannot show that individual freedom is a principle of responsibility and community-building, the rest will be disposed to see community orientation and individualization as a contradiction.

So Huntington’s approach makes it impossible to develop a fruitful and peaceful relationship between the different areas of cultures/civilizations in the world. It hinders the appreciation that freedom, equality and solidarity, among others, are values shared by modern humanity all over the world. It blinds many from realizing that, as every individual human being develops his/her creative abilities according to her/his own cultural roots, she/he simultaneously has to develop a better understanding and deeper appreciation for the cultural roots of others.

Reframing the Understanding of Universality Within Diversity

The question of culture cannot be answered well in terms of nationalism, the forces of which can no longer be the starting point, as they tend to produce incompatibilities. As we can see clearly in the tragedy connected with the upsurge of ethnic wars within nation states, nationalism and related forces provoke downright cruelties, both within states with mixed populations and internationally. The new concept of culture can only begin in every single human being Therefore culture ultimately cannot only be national or international, multinational or supranational, but only human in the fullest and universal sense of the word.

Healthy globalisation requires the sense for the whole of humanity while, at the same time, valuing the unique individuation process of each human being. The meaning of the human rights is not the demand for the greatest happiness of the largest number of people. Human rights, instead, is based on the concept that nobody can really be happy as long as one single human being is sentenced by prevailing social conditions to be in misery.

The social catastrophes of the 20th century are connected, among others, with the widespread influence of mass psychology. If we want to transform the social world so that it becomes a place of dignified development for all humans, then we must create new social forms that empower individuals while at the same time enhancing their social responsibilities. The world will then have as many centres as there are human beings living within it.

Globalization is abolishing the old geographical frontiers between cultural areas. Every culture now has the possibility to be present worldwide. It is against the stream of history and the process of individuation if we try artificially to re-establish old cultural frontiers in situations where human beings no longer live within tribal consciousness.

Tradition understands diversity as communities - groups or states - different from each other, and claiming their territory on the basis of these cultural differences, whether it be racial, ethnic, linguistic, or religious. However, today, the question is how cultures can live with each other and in each other. Diversity is not so much between geographical areas than within the diverse substance of culture around the world.

The state with its top down principle, also in the form of majority rule, cannot be the sovereign or domain of culture. That is the painful lesson that the end of the “real socialism” and its socialist state culture, has taught us. The geopolitical treatment of cultural questions can only lead into catastrophes today. Cultural questions have to be separated clearly from questions of state power.

Similarly, a profit-oriented economy has its own purpose and dynamics. But it also tends to spill over its functional domain into culture, destroying cultural diversity all over the world (McWorld phenomenon)[19]. The neo-liberal economy thereby ends up becoming a new form of totalitarianism. This new economic totalitarianism is no better than a state totalitarianism.

Globalization does not demand any kind of “Empire” especially one where it will divide and politicize the world into “civilizations”. This is an abuse of globalization which has the potential to build new social forms around the unique insights, talents, and social sensibility that is starting to emerge among individuals around the world.

There is no question that one civilisation should prevail over another one. The question is to allow each cultural impulse to develop its own possibilities. Nobody can be allowed in our time to force a certain culture upon other people. But everybody must be allowed to live with the cultural impulse, one wants to live with.

The true “multicultural” approach is the recognition of the fact that every human being has the possibility to develop cultural creativity. So we have to enable as many “cultures” as individual human beings are contributing. And at the same time, this “multi-culture” will be a global culture of humankind, colourful and diverse, but diverse not in the sense of atomisation but in the sense of mutual understanding and deep appreciation of each other’s culture.

The question of diversity is also the question of the protection of minorities. It means, among others, encouraging individuals to participate in groups they want to be involved with. The most radical minority is the single human individuality. Its protection is the centre of what we call human rights.

Reframing Elite Economic Globalization

Dealing with elite forms, including corporate, globalization, of course, means dramatic action. However, if these actions are to be based on reality, there is need for a deeper understanding of the problems elite globalization in an era characterized by the twin mega-trends of individual freedom accompanied simultaneously by a growing together of all humanity, or globalization broadly understood. Among others, this will need new social forms and processes where solutions do not come from a few, as abstract, top-down programs, but come from human beings in association with each other, innovating on the basis of lived experience.

In the globalized economy human beings are connected in a real global network of cooperation and harmonization of differentiated products of talent and labor. The neo-liberal economic order is based on rivalry and self-gain instead of cooperation. But economic globalization by its own nature demands a new form of a fair and socially-oriented “associative economy”. This economy relies on human interaction of the major groups in the economic sphere of society: producers, traders, creditors and consumers, and not on an abstract world market governed by a few “global players” or a centralized bureaucratic planned economy. Such a kind of a healthy economy which allows human beings all over the world to work for each other, demands also a new approach to the handling of handling money, land and capital.[20]

These are the points where resistance to neo-liberal globalisation meets with the quest for creating building blocks for such an open, formable society.

The International Forum on Globalization (IFG), among others, has tried to stimulate this discussion and debate at the global level. They have issued a discussion report, A Better World is Possible[21], to stimulate world wide discussions on how to create a different world including a new kind of economics.

We must view the IFG report, however, as a beginning, thereby necessitating a critical inquiry into the nature and contours of “another world”, including a different economic system. For example, the IFG recommendations on “The Commons”, “Localization”, “Control or Dismantlement of Concerns”, the issue of abolishment or reform of the “Trinity” Institutions, (IMF, World Bank, WTO), the regulation of capital flow, among others, need further re-thinking and refinement.

What is most important, however, is that the IFG Report gives us an overview of what kind of global effort we need, what kind of social threefolding substance we must mobilize, to creatively respond to the challenge of elite/corporate globalization.

Reframing U.S. Unilateralism

The cornerstone for addressing the problem of U.S. unilateralism and the need for a new political governance is the reality of human rights. Human rights are not relative to the cultural context. Cultural diversity, the coexistence of different cultures is only possible under the conditions that we accept other people’s freedom, which means under the conditions of accepting the reality of human rights. These rights, of course, are not only rights to individual and cultural freedom, but also citizens’ participatory rights and social rights. Human rights are individual, and at the same time, global and universal.


Within the political sphere we also have to respect the principle of subsidiarity and of grassroots democracy. This means, therefore, that we need encourage multilateral arrangements within and among states and not bureaucratic institutions of a world government. This also means that true democracy includes, among others, “direct democracy”, the right to introduce bills by initiatives and to vote on them through referendum in addition to participation in general, free, equal, peaceful and secure elections.

The pursuit of a global U.S. Empire is totally opposite to the construction of a new world order on the basis individuation, grassroots democracy, and subsidiarity. We need the rule of law, especially of human rights on the global level, laws that reflect the collective wisdom of the community of nations around the world and the voices of their people. In this context, we need institutions such as a reformed United Nations, the International Criminal Court, treaties on the protection of the environment and sustainable development and so on.

What we do not need is the reestablishment of law-making by the imperial elite and arbitrary decision-making by one superpower at the global level. Instead we need global governance by means of social threefolding processes and not by centralized structures. We have to allow the cultural, economic and political spheres to develop in accordance with their specific needs. This means global networking of cultural initiatives and institutions, a strong sector of political institutions safeguarding human rights and the environment and economic networking within the context of ecological and social responsibility. The coordination between the three spheres of society should be achieved through bottom up approaches including strategic tri-sectoral partnerships.

Reframing Civil Society Itself

We have seen that, in the discussion of globalization and the Empire Matrix, it is essential not only to look at peoples, states and markets. Equally important we need to focus also at the very human level itself, on the potentials of development for each human individual anywhere on the planet. The term “universal human” is not an abstract concept but actually invites us to understand humans in their actual concrete individuality. Then we will realize that every human is an individual being with a vast range of inner and social potentials waiting for actualization.

This understanding has tremendous implications for civil society itself, the key societal force that can transform the Empire Matrix. With this insight, we also begin to understand the important individuation dynamics driving the new social movements.

Goethe once wrote: “An individual helps not, but he who combines himself with many at the proper hour.”[22] Such a union will not produce a ‘mass’. Rather it will create an alliance of free spirits. The era of economic classes or groups as the agents of social change is fast ebbing away.

If civil society wants to remain true to itself, it must stay away from the old style mass movement. Rather, it must see itself as a cultural movement characterized by diversity and respect for the individual. It is in this sense that civil society must define itself as a cultural force.

This new self-understanding also has implications for the capacity of civil society to truly create a different world. Seattle marked the appearance of civil society as a third global force for change. Initially, Civil Society defined itself by negation, through its non-identity with State and Market. But it has the potential to become a pro-active movement, to proceed to a positive definition, projecting visions for a new world for which it can act constructively.

But this can only happen copiously and effectively to the extent activists have individuated themselves in a healthy manner. Creativity, especially innovative ideas for a new future, is intimately connected with the extent to which individuation has occurred in the activist. Effectiveness of a new approach is connected with its inherent appropriateness and fruitfulness to a given situation, not whether an idea is politically correct or aligned with a prevailing ideology.

To the extent that an activist is unnecessarily fettered to an inappropriate group identity, to a dead standard, to that extent will the activist continue to establish his or her identity through negation as well as continue to remain barren when faced with the feverish creativity of the Empire Matrix.

Civil society creativity will also be crucial in anticipating and establishing, within itself and among its members, the future forms of communication and cooperation it wants to realize as an alternative to the communication forms of the Empire Matrix. Gandhi succinctly put it. “We need to be the change we want to see in the world”.

In addition, civil society should be able to point to functioning institutions in the cultural, political and economical spheres of life as living examples of how a transformed society could look like.

In the final analysis, the future of dignified individuation and a healthy form of globalization depends on whether we reject “systemic solutions functioning regardless of the human being” and instead take up “solutions which enable and promote human development”, including its key role in developing a new global civilization and a new relationship to the planet. Only the latter can carry the future.


We may have accurate and fruitful ideas. But this threefolding substance will remain ineffective in the world unless we engage and change the world through social threefolding processes.

First Generation Mobilization Strategy: Resistance

The first area of struggle is the self-defence of cultural life against the cannibalism of economic and political powers against culture. This is truer now under the age of Empire. In a sense a social space of culture for new ideas, for new visions for the world, are defended. [De facto threefolding]

The dynamics against Empire has always been about the consolidated power of the Empire over the State versus elements outside the consolidated imperial State. Hegel called those elements outside the State, “Civil Society”, where economic institutions were still included with cultural institutions.

Now, the economy differentiated, leaving civil society in the defense of Society. In Empire, the State has reabsorbed the Market into its imperatives. Or they mutually build upon each other’s dominance. So the task of self-defense of Society is left with civil society and it starts with culture. [De facto threefolding]

The Empire is a powerful attack on the Human Spirit. This is a deep cultural challenge. The presence of the Empire intensifies the discourse on and the need for spirituality. Social threefolding points to the reality and central importance of spirit and culture. Threefolding also systematically brings about the freedom of the cultural sphere where questions of the human spirit can be pursued systematically. [De Facto Threefolding.]

In all resistance strategies, the “Dracula Principle”—the vampire dies when exposed to the public light—has shown its power in the repudiation of onerous developments in world affairs. This tool will remain important as the need to publicize scandalous developments such as the commercialization of water supply or health care, will remain. Often conventional politics quickly reacts to potent expressions of public opinion.

Second Generation Mobilization Strategies: Alternatives

Cultural spaces which are defended then become starting points for the actual implementation of a new vision of the world. In de facto threefolding, alternatives are built without regard to the involvement of the other realms of society. In conscious threefolding, alternatives are built by bringing in, where appropriate, actors from the other realms of society. In both instances civil society builds its vision of reality “now”, especially in the cracks of the imperial stronghold. Alternatives born out of conscious threefolding, however, have a greater chance of success.

Empire uses terrorism to impose draconian national security measures. Such measures trigger the national security state syndrome. Many other aspects of social life are on hold. Opinions of a nation’s citizens rarely count. Threefolding, with its emphasis on freeing the cultural spiritual life from either state and/or market totalitarianism, creates a space for citizens to self-organize their own gatherings and assemblies, where they develop and implement a different approach to peace than the State. [De Facto threefolding.] When these gatherings of civil society and their alternatives become more visible and powerful, they may make a dent in the defense of an imperial vassal or tributary state and lead to the possibility of conscious threefolding where new and more potent national security measure can be explored and implemented.

Empire also deepens the problems of elite economic globalization. Civil society advocates alternative approaches to economics. Advanced threefolding pursues associative economics, a new form of economics that is even more potent than neo-liberal economics.

Third Generation Mobilization Strategies: Tri-Sectoral Approaches, Authentic Threefolding Dynamics, Reflexive National/Global Civil Society Formations, and Societal Revolution

Resistance protects social space. Alternatives implement alternatives in these protected social spaces. Third generation approaches, especially the advancement of conscious and advanced threefolding, has the more difficult task of enabling civil society’s new vision of the world to actually enter into contested terrain of society, especially in the realm of the market and the state. This actually expands and advances the foothold of civil society into contested terrain, moving the latter from the grip of Empire.

An Overview as Prelude

Robert Wright’s, Non-Zero: The Logic of Human Destiny, and similar books by other authors, show that the pattern of evolution is moving towards greater and greater complexity, cohesion and cooperation. He characterizes the process of evolution as a non-zero game where all “players” benefit. In contrast, the game of Empire is a zero-sum game. The Empire wins and everybody else loses.

The implications for social threefolding are staggering. Extrapolating from Wright’s thesis, threefolding, especially advanced threefolding, with its deep ethic of principled cooperation, where appropriate, is the next evolutionary social form. In this reading, Empire is a global force that actually tries to reverse this directionality in history. But it is also possible the Empire will collapse under the weight of historical momentum towards greater and more sophisticated forms of cooperation, as can potentially be embodied in a threefolding approach. However, as with all human endeavors, the free will of individuals and collectivities does not guarantee that historical momentum alone will carry the day against Empire.

Threefolding is the embodiment of novel forms of cooperation within the different spheres of society: associative economics in the economic sphere; strategic governance in the sphere of politics; networks of open source knowledge and free creativity in the cultural sphere. Not only this. Social threefolding is also meta-cooperation, the solidarity of the different societal domains (culture, polity and economy) among themselves. This meta-cooperation produces a very powerful form of social capital that can potentially be a very powerful antidote against the logic of competition and domination by Empire of all spheres of society. Threefolding presages the birth of a total new and unprecedented form of integral society, just as the U.S. Empire has no parallel in history.

In short, if cooperation is the driving force of the evolutionary process, then social threefolding is the next stage of the world process! This is the importance of such books as Robert Wright’s Non-Zero; The Logic of Human Destiny, the Global Brain, and other similar books.

Tri-sectoral Partnerships

One of the embryonic forms of the new social form of cooperation that is finding widespread acceptance is tri-sectoral partnerships. In tri-sectoral partnerships, the three key global powers—the State, Market, and Civil Society—enter into a tactical critical engagement with each other to address burning social issues. Tri-sectoral partnerships are a form of conscious social threefolding.

Tri-sectoral partnerships are trickier and more dangerous. So by their very context, tri-sectoral partnerships are tactical in nature. The parties involved do not share the same worldview, but are deeply embedded in the paradigm and guiding values of their own domain and realm of practice. This is the reason why tri-sectoral partnerships have become an arena of mistrust, conflict and co-optation at the same time that they have the potential to move conflicting parties towards constructive action.

At the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, for example, the debate over the value and appropriateness of tri-sectoral or so-called Type II partnerships, threatened to split global civil society within itself as well as divide it from both the State and Market. Some argued that sustainable development needed a comprehensive approach that required the participation of all key actors in society. Others argued that tri-sectoral partnerships removed responsibility from the State for failures to advance sustainable development. Worst, others feared that tactical tri-sector partnerships would only co-opt civil society to support questionable goals by both the State and the Market.

Nevertheless, in situations where the advantages are clear to all, tri-sectoral partnerships are important in advancing the consolidating resistance to the Empire Matrix not only in Civil Society, but also in the State and Market.

Authentic Social Threefolding Dynamics

When tri-sectoral partnerships become more strategic, then authentic or advanced threefolding can start to function. Advanced threefolding can only occur once civil society has reframed its own self-understanding, as discussed above and also below. Then Civil Society will appreciate, among others, that it is not the sole possessor of societal truth.

Activists in Civil Society will realize and be thankful that there are, even if in lesser numbers, other individualities active in the Market and the State, individuals who are as equally committed as them to the task of creating a better world. These creative individualities, in the domain of the State and Market, resist the Empire Matrix with equal innovativeness and passion as activists in Civil Society.

Finding these individualities in the State and Market, means, above all, letting go of deep-seated biases which dictate to the activist that all people in the State and Market are pawns of the Empire Matrix. Not only does this almost religious belief have no bearing with reality. It predisposes Civil Society to be totally unable to truly create a new society, a new world. For to advance a world different from the Empire Matrix, means to mobilize all equally concerned individuals, in all domains of society, to do their part in resisting the Empire Matrix and creating a different world where they are.

When the strategic tri-sectoral partnerships of advanced threefolding are set in motion, then Civil Society is able to expand the zones of liberation in the domains of culture, polity and the economy that were once under the control of the Empire Matrix. Then threefolding substance, examples of which we discussed above, can enter more fully and help in the process of reconstructing society and a new global civilization.

Advanced threefolding is also the means to an important social innovation of our times, that is, societal revolution, the most dangerous nemesis of the Empire Matrix.

Systemic Societal Revolution versus the Empire Matrix

Empire increases the death process of Nation States. It turns nation states from being their own self-organizing societal entities into vassals and tributaries of the Empire Matrix. A nation state that is compromised can no longer protect its citizens from the Empire Matrix. State-centered counter approaches are historically bankrupt and will not work. Only peaceful societal revolution will do the job.

Societal revolution mobilizes all realms of society, not just the state, towards a new mode of existence that can resist Empire. Social threefolding, just by its very nature—awareness of and advocate of the involvement of all realms—is the most potent means to and form of societal revolution.

All Empires are violent and destructive systemic societal revolutions. They fuse all realms into one—into the almighty and all powerful Society that dictates what all realms of society will do, what all citizens in those different realms will do. Social threefolding is equally about systemic societal revolution, only of a different kind. Instead of unsustainable coercion and domination, it advocates comprehensive sustainable development, achievable only with the involvement of all spheres of society.

A brief look at the history of the decline of Empires can also point to the power of societal revolution advanced through threefolding.

The Lesson of History: Networks of Power Versus Empire

Michael Mann, author of The Sources of Social Power, documents how alternative networks of social power defeated past Empires. Mann identifies four sources of social power: economic, political, military, and ideological. In threefolding language, this is economic power, political power (including military) and cultural power (including ideological).

Threefolding’s strategic partnerships can actually also be understood as the coming together of networks of social power from business, government, and civil society to create a different world.

The dynamics between State and Society already found earlier expression in the dynamics between Empire and aristocracy. Empire centralizes power. Aristocracy, as compared to Empire, diffuses power and relies on decentralized networks of power.[23] Today, the economic basis of society has differentiated itself from both culture and the state, leading towards a form of de facto threefolding.

In other words, social power that has been effective against Empire is the networking of cultural, economic, and political power. This shows the potential of strategic threefolding partnerships in advancing and attaining societal revolution.  

We have carefully drafted the last paragraph to emphasize a key point to hold in mind in this historical comparison. Social threefolding is a modern-day phenomena deeply associated with the two polar trends of globalization and individuation, trends absent in the social conditions of past Empires. Nonetheless, the historical reference is useful because it demonstrates that the mobilization of networks of cultural, political and economic power can defeat empires.

Reflexive National and Global Civil Society Movements

It is now appropriate to bring to consciousness an assumption underlying this discussion of third generation strategies as a potent antidote to the Empire Matrix. Third generation strategies require a new mode of being and acting for Civil Society.

First and most obvious is that civil society groups cannot remain splintered and in isolation from each other. The State is consolidated. The Market is also quite organized. Civil Society often borders at the edge of anarchy.

But societal revolution requires that civil society organizations must reach a stage of networking and cooperation so as to be able to mobilize and act in unison at the national and global levels. With national civil society movements, societal revolution will remain an empty dream while the Empire Matrix makes significant strides in consolidating its control of the nation states of the world. As we shall see below, civil society also has to improve its global networking to address the geopolitical maneuverings of the Empire Matrix.

There is a second and more subtle aspect to this demand for a new mode of being and acting in civil society. This is the aspect of reflexivity in civil society.

Reflexivity is the capacity not only to honestly reflect upon the results and impacts of one’s action. It also means understanding the context of one’s action and the deeper motives underlying one’s behavior.

The struggle against the Empire Matrix is, among others, the struggle for the freedom of the human spirit. To remain unreflective in this struggle, means essentially to have no inwardly secure basis to create freedom and liberation in the world.

Reflexivity is already required in less advanced stages of social threefolding. But in the arena of societal revolution, the absence of authentic and honest reflexivity can only mean the distortion or abortion of societal revolution.

One area requiring reflexive capacities and engagement is the way civil society self-constitutes and organizes itself. Civil Society must resist the temptation of coordinating its forces by conventional organizational patterns, that is, by centralism. Instead civil society needs to pursue flexible social forms which allow diverse new forms of organization to emerge among the thousands of individuals and institutions of civil society. This means, among others, maintaining network relations with all independently organized groups that pursue their own unique form of struggle against the Empire Matrix.

This, in turn, necessitates active tolerance and understanding within Civil Society of different tactics and strategies against the Empire Matrix. For example, some situations call for resistance. Other situations require critical engagement with the “enemy”. Civil Society should constitute itself in such a way that it can understand and equally support who should do one or the other approach, especially if objective conditions require such a diversity in approaches.

To achieve this, Civil Society needs to encourage new forms of authentic dialogues within its formation. Civil Society needs real dialogue not just on social forms and approaches adapted to human dignity. In addition, Civil Society needs to cultivate active tolerance, warmth and attention to others by the very way in which it carries on these dialogues. An important part of this new approach is the perception of the other person’s contributions, both in thought and in practical action.

Active appreciation of diversity of social forms and approaches, however, does not mean composing a potpourri of everything desirable. Rather it means working seriously towards the development of new thinking and approaches that will work given the real concrete needs in social life. Many hope that a new world might emerge from its critique of the old world. But even more are realizing that Civil Society needs to go beyond critique to the creative process of authentic social innovation.

Reflexivity, when understood cognitively and epistemologically, is at core a spiritual process. This means that Civil Society will need to find a creative way to hold together, in creative tension, the traditional and mutual prejudices and opposition among those who hold a more spiritual approach to change versus those who rely purely on social means to counter the Empire Matrix. Civil Society will need to see that social and spiritual engagements are not opposites, but mutually reinforcing perspectives of the same reality.


Once the various third generation approaches are underway, threefolding begins to dismantle the structural violence associated with the Empire Matrix.

Empire promotes and practices structural violence. Threefolding, in its advocacy for strategic, authentic cooperation, where appropriate, is the systemic non-violent antidote to Empire Matrix. One can actually call social threefolding a modern-day and upgraded potential successor of Gandhi’s active non-violent approach that dismantled the British Empire.

Gandhi advocated non-violent resistance. But he even placed greater importance on creating the alternative world we all want in our daily activities. He continuously argued that we needed to embody the change that we are fighting for in the world.

Thus, Gandhi’s approach is equivalent to the perspective of threefolding’s two tasks for civil society: resistance and creating alternatives. In addition, conscious threefolding enables proponents to actually advance their alternatives, in a peaceful and non-violent manner, into the other realms of society. And finally, when cohesive national civil society formations arise, advanced threefolding triggers societal revolution and starts to guide societal evolution without a violent capture of state power.

There is another way to understand why threefolding makes the historically effective, non-violent approaches of Gandhi against Empire, even more strategic and comprehensive. For example, the strategy of non-violent “parallel structures” employed in Eastern Europe which brought down the Soviet Empire is strongly convergent with the essence of social threefolding, with its creative mobilization of all spheres of society. Similarly, the Committee of Correspondence was a form of non-violent societal revolution before the armed conflict of the American Revolution broke out. (See Jonathan Schell and his new book on, The Unconquerable World.)

In a certain sense, Gandhi wanted to incarnate compassion and love in the social system. Social threefolding has the capability of doing just this, especially with its dialogic approach where catharsis in social processes is achieved through intentional listening and profound respect for the views and perspectives of the Other.

There is a further aspect to this. Imposition is at the heart of the Empire Matrix. All spheres are collapsed under its dominant control. The Empire Matrix becomes the Society. In contrast, dialogue and associational processes are at the heart of conscious and advanced social threefolding. Integration that is achieved by Empire through forced and dominated fusion, is achieved in threefolding through dialogue and free association. Threefolding practice in itself thus produces an immunization process against the culture and practices of the Empire Matrix, thereby already loosening the hold of Empire Matrix.

When there is profound dialogue, genuine strategic partnerships can develop, even among parties of very different backgrounds, practices, and inclinations. Partnerships are important in a complex world and are really another form of non-violence in practice. It is almost universally recognized now that, to achieve comprehensive goals, it is important to mobilize perceptions, expertise, resources, and skills not normally found in one’s normal sphere of interest and competence. The Empire Matrix achieves this through coercion, through a hierarchical structure of vassal and tributary states. Threefolding achieves this through strategic partnerships.

The Empire Matrix is weakened by the proliferation of strategic partnerships innate in conscious and advanced threefolding. Strategic partnerships isolate those sectors in business and government that inwardly have no inner connection to the Empire Matrix. This is the reason why resistance cannot always be the strategic approach in all circumstances.

Furthermore, threefolding enables civil society to link with important progressive movements in the economic and political domain that also advance a complementary concept of social threefolding and societal transformation. In the business world, the societal learning movement has ideas and approaches convergent with social threefolding. In the domain of government, tri-sectoral policy approaches also converge with certain aspects of conscious threefolding.

In the Empire, most businesses are fused with the State. Threefolding emphasizes and encourages the independent logic of the Market, constrained only by the appropriate boundaries of State and Civil Society. In effect, the framework of threefolding itself already produces a tendency to break apart the unhealthy collusion of the State and the Market as well as the State and institutions of Culture.


Perhaps one of the most powerful cases for the importance of threefolding to resist and transform Empire is that the Empire itself, is the distorted image of social threefolding.

Examine closely the National Security Strategy of the United States of America, also known as the Bush Doctrine on the US as Empire. One makes a remarkable observation. All the key elements of the Bush Doctrine are distortions of the healthy impulses that animate social threefolding.

This can only mean two things. First, on the basis evolutionary movement of social forms discussed earlier, social threefolding is the next healthy stage for human civilization. The distortion of the Bush Doctrine on Empire is that it hopes to divert the emergence of threefolding as the next stage in human social evolution. Second, this can only mean that threefolding is a powerful antidote to Empire, since the very substance of Empire is a distorted derivative of social threefolding.

Let us now examine how the Bush Doctrine on Empire is a distortion of social threefolding.

Distinct American Internationalism. On the spatial/geographic dimension of, the Bush Doctrine speaks about a “distinct American internationalism”. As will be seen shortly, this distinct U.S. approach to the world is a distortion of a new kind of differentiated global relationship that social threefolding would like to establish on a global level. In brief, social threefolding would like to see the autonomous cultural realms of the different nation states of the world establish their own relationships on the basis of the inherent requirements of culture.

That this is possible has already been done in the realms of both the Polity (the United Nations, for example) and in the realm of the Economy (the World Trade Organization). The reference here to the WTO is NOT a support of the WTO, but to show that it is possible to establish differentiated economic arrangements at the global basis (for example, fair and sustainable trade).

On the other hand, the Empire has a simple approach to rule over the potential of conscious, just and associative global relationships that social threefolding would wish. Empire simple imposes its “distinct American internationalism” which basically says “Do what we want because we have the power.”

Rogue States. The U.S. Empire labels other countries as rogue states. Social threefolding practices strategic appreciation of the value of the differences in culture among countries and, within certain limits, the different approaches to governance and economic management. Threefolding, for example, does not support the repression of citizens of nation states.

Preventive War of Empire on “Rogue States”. The U.S. Empire imposes the illegal practice of “preventive war” on “rogue states”. Social threefolding advances preventive and non-violent structural peace as discussed above in the section comparing social threefolding with Gandhi’s strategy for dismantling the British Empire in India.

Shadow Multilateralism and Coalitions of the Willing.  The U.S. Empire ignores legitimate global bodies like the United Nations and mobilizes vassal and tributary nation states to support its imperial ambitions. Social threefolding advances strategic alliances that encompasses all spheres of society in nation states and among nation states, and not just of vassal, tributary and corrupt States pretending to represent their whole society.

Systemic Societal Approach. The Empire has detailed plans to mobilize cultural, economic, and political power to achieve global hegemony. Social threefolding advocates non-violent societal revolution where social cohesion is gained through voluntary, conscious agreement and consent of all spheres of society towards comprehensive sustainable development.

Network of Military Bases. The Empire launches its “preventive wars” like the one against Iraq to secure its Middle East node for its global network of military bases. These military installations are essential in advancing the dreams of Empire. Social threefolding relies on national and global networks empowered civil society to resist and/or creative alternatives as well as advance societal revolution in their search for a better world.

Suppression of Military Competition. The U.S. Empire also aims to achieve its decadent mission by ensuring that it will have no military rivals. Its network of military bases is only one component of its overall plan for securing military superiority around the world. Social threefolding relies on the spiritual superiority of Truth, Compassion, and Morality to mobilize the hearts and minds of millions around the world, not only to resist Empire, but to create a better world. This excellence of the human Spirit, active in millions around the world, constitutes the “unconquerable world” of human beings around the world that will ultimately triumph against the military superiority of the Empire.

Suppression of Dissent. Empire seeks to achieve its goals through lies, deceit, and force. Social threefolding want to achieve a better world through truth, persuasion, dialogue, and strategic partnerships.

Disinformation. The Empire makes a special effort to advance psychological and propaganda warfare through its control of the media and other sources of information dissemination. Social threefolding champions the spiritual freedom of the cultural sphere of societies to make citizens immune to disinformation and manipulation and to advance its purposes through information and education.

Time Horizon. Even in the dimension of time, the Empire mirrors social threefolding. The time horizon of Empire is strategic and all encompassing, leaving very little to chance. Its systemic societal approach has built in long-term, strategic perspectives in many of its programs. Social threefolding champions the strategic approach even as it appreciates the short-term tactical impact of demonstrations and certain kinds of alternatives.


The U.S. Empire has geopolitical imperatives in the different regions of the world. Zbigniew Brzezinski, in his book, The Grand Chessboard, has clearly laid out what this geopolitical imperative is.[24] The grand aim is to prevent a grand alliance between China and Russia, and their satellites, and use Europe, the Middle East/India, and Japan, North Asia and Southeast Asia, to contain any expansions by Chinese and/or Russian powers in these parts of the world.

It is therefore important for global civil society to begin thinking strategically in a geo-strategic sense. The Empire has regional plans in motion. These regional plans contextualize what happens at the level of the nation state. Global civil society has to have an appropriate response, instead of just moving from one global demonstration to another, even if the importance of such a mobilization is appreciated.

To achieve this level of mobilization, civil society, alone or in partnership with strategic allies in the state or market, has to articulate a clear vision of the task of the different regions of the world. In a deep sense, it will need to address the identity question of a nation state or regional grouping of nation states. To a great extent, the Empire is the different regions of the world to find their identity.

If Europe, for example had a very strong vision of what it wants for itself and its role in the world, then the covert and overt persuasions and pressures from the U.S. Empire will have very little effect. Failing this, Europe will then be just another appendage to the US Empire.

This united sense of direction and purpose, unfortunately, is presently not the case. On the one hand, France, Germany, Netherlands, and the Scandinavian countries have different aspirations and perspectives on the U.S. Empire when compared with the United Kingdom, Spain, and Italy on the other.

So what is the last remaining force questioning the geopolitical ambitions of Empire? That force is in Global Civil Society, in the different civil society formations of the different countries around the world. The resistance will be coming from the autonomous spiritual-cultural life of countries, especially the institutions of civil society active in culture.

So, in a struggle like this, social threefolding is relevant in two ways. First, through de facto threefolding, as a beginning, civil society frees cultural life to enable it to take up the question of identity. Second, using approaches crucial in conscious and advanced threefolding, civil society, through tri-sectoral processes and societal revolution, if necessary, can have this identity operative at the level of the nation state and the region.


A broad look at the panorama of history will show that there has been an increasing process of healthy individuation in humanity at the same time that humankind’s social forms are leading to greater and greater cooperation. In many social situations, this often results in the conflict between the individual and the community.

But this is precisely where the strength of the threefolding approach lies. It is able to balance increasing individuation and social cohesion, at the same time. It encourages individual freedom and spiritual innovation in the cultural sphere while, at the same time, encouraging a greater sense of community to prevail in the two other realms, especially the economic.

It is this healthy synthesis that Empire wants precisely to destroy. Its doctrine of neo-economic liberalism, in fact, is a distortion of this healing and balanced approach of social threefolding. Empire encourages egoism in the economic realm, where increasing solidarity is the actual operative principle.

There is also a very powerful social dynamic which results from this increasing process of individuation in humanity. With spiritual individuation comes the dawning of spiritual consciousness and freedom with a search for community at the same time. Institutions in society that are contrary to this, especially those of Empire Matrix, are experienced as an alien body inside the consciousness of the individual. The individual will reject irrelevant social forms and technologies and search for new meaning and new ways for achieving human potential and for humanity to relate together.

In practical social terms, this process results in the alienation of the individual from traditional, top-down, violent, dominating, power-hunger and wealth-greedy society. They rebel, re-frame their social experience, and create new social movements in the process. The net result is the flourishing of activism that we see around the world today. The institutions of modernity, especially of the Empire Matrix, are alien to the emerging spirit of millions of individuals around the world.

Social threefolding is intimately connected with individuation and the necessary alienation of individuals from structures in society that are authoritarian and destructive in nature, including totalitarian tendencies in the State and the Market and within Civil Society itself—especially universities that generate materialism in all its forms. This alienation produces the human substance of Civil Society, thereby beginning the de facto threefolding process with the increasing freedom of the cultural life from its own imperfections and the dictates of the State and the Market, especially those of Empire Matrix.

This whole complex of process connected with individuation and social threefolding is therefore the enemy of Empire. Why? Empire seeks to stop this process of individuation, which is the Achilles Heel of Empire. However, social threefolding is substantively grounded on this process of individuation of humanity and therefore enhances it through the conscious differentiation of the three realms of society, freeing culture to nurture this process of individuation and all its fateful consequences for Empire and the future of Humanity.

[1] This essay was originally prepared as a research paper for the annual meeting of the Global Network for Social Threefolding (GlobeNet3 or GN3) in September 2003 in Germany. The authors have reworked the essay to make it available for the GN3 website ( and the general public.

[2] Nicanor Perlas is President of the Center for Alternative Development Initiative ( based in Metro Manila and Iloilo City, Philippines. He is author of many publications including the book, Shaping Globalization: Civil Society, Cultural Power, and Threefolding, translated in 9 languages and most recently, the 2003 Awardee of the Right Livelihood Award.

[3] Christoph Strawe is executive chairman of the Institute for Social Contemporary Questions, based in Stuttgart, Germany, and editor of the “Threefold Social Organism Newsletter” ( He is author of many publications including the book “Marxism and Anthroposophy”.

[4] We are taking up the term “Empire” in the sense in which it is used by the protagonists of the prevailing policy of the U.S. At this point we are not going into the discussion of the “Empire”-concept of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri (in their book “Empire - the new world order”, published 2000.) “Empire” is here a networked new world order, a network in economic, communicative and political regard. This new order escapes the categories of the classic imperialism in which territorially defined nation-states assimilated territories and divided the world up under themselves. The new order is different: it has no limits and no centre - globalization makes the whole world “inside”, so that there is no longer an outside view. Therefore there isn’t any further expansion of the “capitalism” in the classic meaning either. For Hardt/Negri the U.S. are at top of the global power pyramid. But they think that the U.S. prefer to operate under the umbrella of the UNO. In this respect the situation has changed at the latest since the 11th September and these changes are reflected in the Concept of the “New American Empire”, with which we are dealing in this paper. Also, the literature on the pros and cons of Hardt’s and Negri’s position is too vast to adequately and fairly summarize in an essay with a different emphasis. Finally, the paper’s strategic recommendations can respond to the wide range of possible understandings of “Empire”. The writers wish to acknowledge the contribution of Regine Andersen of Norway on this point, which she is currently addressing in her doctoral dissertation to be issued in 2004.

[5] The Clash of Civilizations, Foreign Affairs, Summer 1993, v72, n3.

[6] Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, New York 1996, pp. 20-21

[7] This was the direct experience of the Center for Alternative Development Initiative (CADI) which participated in the delegation of global civil society leaders active in the Convention process.

[8] As with Hardt and Negri (see footnote above), we are also not going deeper into the question of the decline of U.S. Empire as it was raised by Immanuel Wallerstein in his article “The Eagle Has Crash Landed” (Foreign Policy. The Magazine of Global Issues, Economics, and Ideas July-August 2002, There is of course a latent weakness of the Empire, but even this weakness leads to increasing aggressiveness in fighting social renewal and progress. Suffice it to say that the US, to use the language of a US State Department official, has both an “imperial” and “imperialist” trajectory. The “imperialist” face is the one Wallerstein describes as weakening. However, the structural “imperial” tendency of the U.S., or a kind of multilateral imperialism, practiced for over 5 decades, is still intact.

[9] For a more detailed treatment, see Nicanor Perlas, 2003. The Bush Doctrine of the U.S. as a Global Empire. CADI Briefing Paper. August 2003 This is now posted in both the webside of CADI at and the Global Network for Social Threefolding at

[10] Patrick Rucker, “Alive and Ticking; The engineers of human souls at a Yale conference on Transhumanism” Hartford Advocate, June 26, 2003.

[11] See, for instance, the initiative of Jürgen Habermas und Jacques Derrida, who, on May 31 2003, issued a joint declaration, “After the War: The Rebirth of Europe” in Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and France’s La Libération.


[13] See Paul Ray and Sherry Anderson. 2001. Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World. New York: Harmony Books.

[14] For more details on de facto, conscious and advanced threefolding, see Nicanor Perlas. 2001. Shaping Globalization: Civil Society, Cultural Power, and Threefolding. See also related discussion below.

[15] See also, Paul Ray and Sherry Anderson. 2001.

[16] See W. Filc, U. Herrmannstorfer, H. Spehl, C. Strawe, 2002. A holistic approach: Conceptual Building Blocks for a Human and Just Globalisation,

[17] We are using the term “reframing” in the sense of its usage in the sociology of social movements. There, reframing is understood, not only as one of the central elements in the identity construction of individuals and social movements. Social scientists also understand it as the beginning of a radical restructuring of the social order on the basis of a totally new way of understanding a given problem or issue area. For example, the reframing by Rachel Carson of the pesticide problem, not simply as a health problem, but as the “death of nature” launched the worldwide environmental movement that continues to deeply impact the direction of national and world affairs. When we reframe in this radical sense, we create new possibilities for the social order beyond mere reformism.

[18] See Yeshayahu Ben-Aharon. 2003. America’s Global Responsibility. Herndon Press.

[19] See Benjamin Barber. 1995. Jihad vs. McWorld. This book describes the clash between globalism and tribalism.

[20] See Nicanor Perlas: Associative Economics – Responding to The Challenge of Elite Globalization, Quezon City; CADI.1997. Udo Herrmannstorfer: Scheinmarktwirtschaft - Arbeit, Boden, Kapital und die Globalisierung der Wirtschaft („Pseudo Market Economy - Land, Labor, Capital and the Globalization of Economy, Stuttgart 1997 - Only available in the German language)

[21] See

[22] The Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily, Translated by Thomas Carlyle (1832),

[23] However, aristocracies that triumph over Empire often become the new imperialists.

[24] The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives. New York 1997.


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