The AJ Constant and my CAILian Approach to Life

The AJ Constant as a Hierarchy of Needs

While global issues seem to be in a state of flux, I find that four constants emerge, which highlight the foundational nature of the goal of identifying “space benefit” (why space and its applications are important). That is, the basic and inherent features, character or quality that makes it what it is. Characteristics or elements that remain the same are referred to as constant, so in the context of “space benefit”, regardless of where a given State is on its development path, the Constant components, which I call the AJ Constant are the desires and needs that exist in every potential space actor or user. These are: The need to be connected, the need to be data rich and therefore informed, the need to be respected and the need to be secure. While space benefit may seem far removed from everyday life, this concept also has a direct influence on understanding how we go about our day to day lives.

 Hierarchy of Needs

In Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s seminal work on the hierarchy of human needs, which is essentially a model of human motivation, it represents the idea that human beings are propelled into action by different motivating factors at different times – biological drives, psychological needs, higher goals. After fulfilling basic needs of esteem, friendship, love, security and physiological needs, Maslow’s top level need for mankind is self-actualization, which requires what he calls “meta-motivation”. This hierarchy of human needs inspires and is reflected in needs met through “space benefit” that I call the AJ Constant, because the most basic level of needs must always be met before an individual/State will strongly desire the second level or higher level of needs.


The components of the AJ Constant in themselves however will not produce benefit, without a method, suggested outcome and identification of limitations. But, the act and effort towards ensuring the spread and sharing of benefit is the way the benefits will manifest themselves towards desired outcomes and to reach “actualization”.  At this point, there is true and “full” benefit sharing for mankind, which is to focus on ensuring that the space domain/application (or whatever benefit desired) can also be used for the benefit of all, including of future generations. In essence, all prior needs (the need to be connected, informed, respected and secure) must be fulfilled in order to achieve actualization of common benefit.

understanding the aj

A few points must be kept in consideration to understand the components of the AJ Constant. The need to be connected is a deficit need about survival. We cannot survive without community. The need to be informed is a growth need. We can never get enough. We always need to know more. As politics is ever present in human affairs, even the weakest have a need to be respected and accepted as equals at the least and while security needs would appear more basic and fundamental, requiring that it should be an earlier priority, the need to be in control of security substantially increases as responsibility, through achieving “developed” status  increases.

While the AJ constant components, as with Maslow’s hierarchy, begins individualistically based on deficit needs, at the top level, beyond the need for security is a deeper need for actualization of “common benefit”. In essence, the end goal of “development” must always be collectivist to fulfil the purview of the law that suits the purposes of humanity.  I call this objective “collective actualization”, and in the space context, “space sustainability”.

Collective Actualization

The more widely distributed conceptualization of Maslow’s hierarchy appears to overlook the level above the need for self-actualization that I call collective actualization where essentially  the goal here of moving up the AJ Constant hierarchy is to achieve collective actualization of common benefit for all. In order words, contra Maslow’s objective of self-actualization as the ultimate goal of human motivation as a peak that few may attain, the flow of the AJ hierarchy moves upwards and outwards representing increasing time and an expanding universe.  It can only flow this way if more and more participants are expected to engage in the climb up the hierarchy as opposed to the expectation that few will reach the peak. To that end, it may be easier to visualize if we turn the Maslow Hierarchy image to an upside down triangular mode to reflect the position of the steps of the AJ Constant Hierarchy.

the AJ constant hierarcy But, if self-actualization is seen as an ongoing and continuing process and not an end goal however, the real question becomes how can we balance these two seemingly conflicting objectives: self and common actualization, and can we see the effort to attain both as one and the same objective? If we turn to Maslow’s later works in the 70s, we find that his concept of “self transcendence,” which is the need to experience, unite with and serve that which is beyond the individual self: the unity of all beings, could actually be in line with the AJ vision of collective actualization.

For more on Maslow’s work on human motivation and references to the AJ Constant, see:

  • Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370 –396.
  • Maslow, A. H. (1954). Motivation and personality. New York: Harper.
  • Maslow, A. H. (1969). The farther reaches of human nature. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 1(1), 1–9.
  • Maslow, A. H. (1971). The farther reaches of human nature. New York: Viking.
  • Koltko-Rivera, M.E. (2006) Rediscovering the Later Version of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Self-Transcendence and Opportunities for Theory, Research, and Unification. Review of General Psychology, 10(4), 302–317.
  • Aganaba-Jeanty, T. (2015) Unpublished PhD Dissertation, McGill University

from twail to cail

The CAILian Approach to Life

I have gained a lot from the study of the works of socio-legal and philosophical thinkers such as Harvard Professor Duncan Kennedy, namely: to not be fooled with “signs” that may be there just to stop one from recognizing the immense potential that they have, however these are packaged! If we have the time, effort, strategy and skill to achieve a goal, we can start using available materials to change what we do not like in life. As such, the CAIL Approach that I have developed and will explain below has exposed to me certain principles, applicable to life, if I take my own subjectivity into account:

cailian principles

1) We all need a firm foundation not based on religion but on relationship! To find and build that relationship we need to first, Love your neighbor and Love God!

2) There are 4 main steps to achieving goals. Firstly, work hard and do your very best, seek counsel, pray, then wait! Understand that delay may mean there is something you do not understand!

3) Recognize what is your DAILY BREAD and what are the gods that you serve: the grass is greener on the side you water it!

4) Believe in yourself! Start developing your own ideas and THEN research… The other way round of research, then develop ideas is flawed, because you can be pushed whichever way the wind blows. This is of course a double edged sword that’s why its at the peak!

Despite that these principles serve as the basis on which I live my life, CAIL is actually a legalistic concept that I developed help analyze and understand the issue of benefit sharing in the context of the suggested tension  between established space faring nations and emerging and aspirant States.

Explaining the Foundations of CAIL

Here, I seek to introduce a new method, approach or possibly school of thought that I call CAIL, or Cosmopolitan Approaches to International Law, or when I’m feeling less academic, a Cosmopolitan Approach to an Interesting Life!  While Cosmopolitanism is a recognized and old concept, this new approach I propose is inspired primarily by TWAIL (Third World Approaches to International Law) while trying to avoid the shortfalls of TWAIL and theories of classic Cosmopolitanism.

TWAIL as Inspiration

TWAIL inspires me because it has the commitment to taking world history as opposed to merely western history much more seriously than most internationalists tend to – “Centering the rest not the west!”. Its primary concern is to map the continuities and discontinuities in the historical development of international legal norms, structure, claims or rules in order to better understand the ways in which they facilitate the disadvantages that third world people now suffer. TWAIL scholars therefore seek to map the techniques and devices used by global powers in the past to not only recognize the presence of similar techniques in contemporary international relations; reveal how those techniques continue today and ultimately write the third worlds’ shared historical experiences into the processes and outcomes of international thought and action.  Professor Okafor, a leading TWAIL thinker, highlights the insistence among TWAIL scholars on thinking through the various ways of offering epistemic and ideational resistance to the global hegemonies that their work explains and the effects that such resistance has had on law and institutions.  As has been argued,  a TWAIL counter reading can not only help explain how a system based on equality can co-exist alongside increasing inequalities in power but using a TWAIL approach can guard against taking legal concepts at face value urging instead the deconstruction of meaning and examining the underlying premises of disciplinary debate.

The Limits of TWAIL

While TWAIL argument can indeed be persuasive, it does not take away that the ordinary imagery that the concept “Third World” denotes; that of the “Afropessimistic” sentiments of the 90’s, where continents like Africa were depicted simply as places of famine, disease and war. As much as academic and philosophical thinking tries to explain that that is not what it means, the power of suggestion, imagery and semantics engraved in the average mind prevent the use of the term having a positive meaning in today’s climate. Secondly, it is clear from earlier TWAIL assertions that scholars that identify with the TWAIL School often take a skeptical approach to international law issues, which I take issue with. Perhaps there is a more positive way to look at problems identified by TWAIL and a new approach can deconstruct the existing agenda in light of it obscuring the idea of shared benefits without attributing blame, skepticism or negativity?  Despite that I agree with the basic tenets of TWAIL, TWAIL scholarship cannot in its current form adequately address this issue because, despite assertions I may have made to the contrary in my enthusiasm, some topics that I think about ( like outer space issues) may still be too nuanced and “out-there” for the mind-set of the majority of those thinking of third world issues. TWAIL can be a polarizing position with ideological baggage that can be quickly discounted or rejected without engaging and because of this negative quality, fail to produce constructive change. Its characteristic therefore seems to marginalize the very people it seeks to speak for.

Distinguishing CAIL from Cosmopolitanism

Of course the concept of Cosmopolitanism has been around for centuries. According to Nussbaum, it’s focused on the understanding that “we should regard our deliberations as, first and foremost, deliberations about human problems of people in particular concrete situations, not problems growing out of a national identity that is altogether unlike that of others”.  According to Pogge, all theories of Cosmopolitanism have three components in common. The ideas of individualism, universality and generality, neatly distinguished into two categories of legal cosmopolitanism and moral cosmopolitanism. While legal cosmopolitanism is committed to a concrete political ideal of a global order under which all persons have equivalent rights and duties and are fellow citizens of a global republic, the literature focuses on moral cosmopolitanism, a more abstract and weaker strain that holds that all persons stand in certain moral relations to each other and thus should respects one another’s status as ultimate units of moral concern.  While CAIL accepts the foundational ideas of Cosmopolitanism and Pogge speaks of an institutional conception of moral cosmopolitanism which CAIL borrows ideas from, CAIL differs from Cosmopolitanism in respect to the space dialogue in two significant ways: (the focus on individualism and global citizenship and on some conceptions of the importance of universality.)

The Concept of CAIL

The CAIL technique is the application of theoretical concepts using legal, social and political theory to develop practical solutions to scenarios facing the universe at large on the one hand (such as Space Sustainability) and the immediate issues of new or aspirant space actors.  It’s this marriage of deep theoretical exploration that is grand and forward looking with concrete practical questions that affect all including novices ( (by centering on non-classic perspectives) that forms the essence of CAIL.

However, in looking at diverse range of actors, the CAILian approach to life does somewhat recognize the role of the individual in all this deep theoretical exploration. Ewick and Silbey highlight categories that reveal three distinctive schema of how individuals define their relationships to the law, how they view themselves in the world and how they participate in the construction of legality.  They suggest that  three narratives, or forms of legal consciousness, will demonstrate the experience of law as (1) before the law, where law is separate and discontinuous from everyday life and is a “formally ordered rational and hierarchical system of known rules and procedures” that is fixed impartial and objective  (2) with the law, where law is to be engaged with, is interlaced with everyday life, and is a game that may be played strategically for particular gains,  with lawyers as highly skilled experts in the game,  and where there is an effective and powerful benefit to collective/team action;  or (3) against the law, where law is to be passionately resisted or fleetingly avoided and where respite must be sought from its power in order to maintain a sense of dignity.  CAIL proposes a fourth schema, that there is an emancipatory potential to the law that they can effect, that I will call truly in the law. The work of Duncan Kennedy, a Critical Legal Studies Scholar, is instructive in further understanding what it means to be in the law.

Kennedy and Exposing Subjectivity

Kennedy’s thesis is that the main barrier to social transformation is the reification and “fetishization” of the law that society has, and that fundamentally, there are two important issues that arise from the indeterminate character of the law that is portrayed by “the system” and society as largely determinate. Firstly, the pretense that law is determinate mystifies social life encouraging people to think that the practices codified in law are fixed and frozen, and that so long as their immediate or fundamental rights are protected they cannot/ should not complain. This in turn discourages them from political action aimed at transforming the content of rights so as to realize the emancipatory potential of law. Secondly, it maintains the status quo which is to the benefit of capitalism and the bourgeoisie because “the system” knows how to hide or use that indeterminacy to its advantage. The system has created discipline in that most people are not willing to challenge it as they have been conditioned to accept the ideologies of capitalism.  He posits that in some cases of apparent determinacy, we can predict a result because we anticipate that no destabilizing work will be done (especially if there is agreement with the initial apprehension or the outcome is not worth destabilizing). Or, we anticipate that work done to destabilize the initial apprehension will fail, particularly where the time and resources expire. In this instance as tit is argued that many benefits have been recorded from the space activity of established players and no State has asserted claims under the space law treaties to results obtained through the space activities of States, it makes the provision it seem like it is not worth attempting to destabilize the status quo. However, a clear understanding of the nature of destabilizing  work vital as well as an understanding of the characteristics of those who will carry out this work.

According to Kennedy, legal work aims to transform an initial apprehension of what the system of norms requires, given the facts, so that a new apprehension of the system, as it applies to the case, will correspond to the extra-juristic preferences of the interpretive worker.  When performing legal work, the worker strategically pursues a goal and it is the combination of time, strategy, skill and of the essential attributes of the rule that one is trying to change, as those appear in the context of the facts presented that will determine how successful one will be to achieve his goal (whether an outcome seems self-evident or not.)  Whilst arguably it is great that his work seeks to unmask just how plastic and contextualized any norm is so as to open up the possibility of seeing other possible orders – is this too much for the common man? Perhaps as so well stated by Jack Nicholson in the movie A Few Good Men, – we cannot handle the truth! Could the truth lead to a legitimacy crisis?

That’s your call!


  • Obiora Okafor, Newness, Imperialism and international Legal Reform in Our Time: A TWAIL Perspective, Osgoode Hall Law Journal, 43:1/2 (Spring/Summer 2005).
  • Patrick Ewick & Susan S Silbey, The Common Place of Law: Stories from Everyday Life (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998).
  • Duncan Kennedy, A Left Phenomenological Alternative to the Hart/Kelsen Theory of Legal Interpretation, in Legal Reasoning, Collected Essays (The Davies Book Publishers, Aurora CO, 2008).
  • Thomas Pogge, Cosmopolitanism & Sovereignty, Ethics, 103:1 (October 1992)
  • Martha Nussbaum, Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism, Boston Review, (1 October 1994), Online
  • Timiebi Aganaba-Jeanty, Unpublished PhD Dissertation, McGill University (2015).

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