Friday, March 27, 2009

Christianity and Globalism

In John Ralston Saul’s book, "The Collapse of Globalism and the Reinvention of the World", the reader is inundated with the author’s views on the historical growth of the concept of globalism and the consequences of that growth. In addition, Saul argues of the slow, but inevitable demise of globalism. Saul defines, after much debate and analysis, the notion of globalization as “an inevitable form of internationalism in which civilization is reformed from the perspective of economic leadership. The leadership here is provided not by people, but by the innate force of economics at work; that is the marketplace.”[1] It is significant to note, that Saul includes in his definition the thoughts of Thomas Friedman. Specifically, the idea of the “diminished competence of states”[2]. Friedman envisioned “the inexorable integration of markets, nation-states and technologies to a degree never witnessed before.”[3] John Ralston Saul bases his inevitable “collapse of globalism” theory on globalism’s propensity to result in extreme profitability/wealth for some nations, as juxtaposed to the mounting debt/poverty in so-called “Third World” nations. As a follower of Jesus Christ, if proven correct this innate injustice/inequality would be at the heart of my opposition to globalism. Consequently, it would seem to demand my participation in the destruction of such an economic concept. However, it is my observation that Saul ultimately fails to convince the reader of not only of the collapse of globalism, but whether it is inherently evil. In fact, I submit that globalism is alive and well and the premature reports of its demise are greatly exaggerated by academics and theologians alike.
The ultimate question theologians/ministers must ask is whether globalism is a tool or catalyst for the oppression of people utilized by imperial powers. Specifically, the oppression of the so-called “Third World” nation-states” In contrast, the theologian must inquire whether globalism is in fact a runaway train or economic force that inevitably will run its course, but nevertheless is beneficial to bringing together a global community. Consequently, eradicating and destroying barriers between varying cultures. If the latter be the case, is globalism the key to the annihilation of such worldwide problems as poverty and poor health care?
Saul’s argument concerning the potential abuse of globalism is surprisingly illustrated by that fairly new global invention called the internet. Saul reports that this “version of modernity is little more that a prolongation of the original Industrial Revolution idea of technology as an argument for exclusion. It is often an artless and disingenuous reworking of the old imperial technological determinism that Sven Lindquist described: “Technical superiority provides a natural right to annihilate the enemy even when he is defenseless”. Annihilate can mean anything from rationalize to marginalize to exclude to let fall into poverty to starve to kill. The heart of the global argument as an inevitability driven by technology probably lies in the continuing struggle over the internet and intellectual property”.[4] I contend with simplicity that any tool can be used for the destruction of humankind. However, I submit that the same tool can be utilized to build a beloved community. This is true of the internet and the economic force called globalism. I submit that economic forces are controlled and determined by the decisions of individuals These forces aren’t analogous to uncontrollable forces of nature such as tornadoes or hurricanes , but are forces that are controlled by individuals or nation states for their own oftentimes selfish needs and purposes. Globalism is not an “inevitable” or uncontrollable occurrence. Globalism is an economic concept, that is controllable and can be either fortified or destroyed by individuals. Yes, John Ralston Saul is correct that the economic force of globalism is currently under the firm grip of “transnationals”. However, Saul couples this notion with the “arrival of the false rationality of managerialism”.[5] This blatantly real concept of managerialism caught my attention. Saul historically places the birth of this managerial class and globalization at a gathering in Davos, a town in the Swiss Alps in January of 1971. This was an attempt “to galvanize the European business technocracy into stronger competition with the United States.”[6] In my estimation, this concept of manegerialism opens the door to individual responsibility and removes the concept of globalism out of the hands of ambiguous conglomerations/corporations called “transnationals”. It firmly puts the control of globalism in the oftentimes soiled hands of individual practitioners of this “rationality of managerialism” as defined by Saul. Saul quotes M.G.Smith's words to illustrate this concept of managerialism “the basic fallacy of the view that all-dominating bureaucracy is a more rational or superior organ of government than a controlled bureaucracy.”[7] He fortifies this statement with the words of Albert Camus’ “Nothing being true or false, good or bad, the measurement will be the most efficient, that is the strongest. The world will no longer be divided between just and unjust, but master and slaves”.[8] The managerial class became the “servant of inevitability”. This notion of the rationality of managerialism has divided the world into masters and slaves and runs in direct opposition to the spirit of the gospel of Jesus The Christ . The bible says “no person can serve two masters.” As a minister of the gospel, if one is to serve only God. Then it behooves one to dismantle any organization, concept that is not rooted in “loving thy neighbor as thyself”. This belief is clearly manifested in the personhood of Jesus Christ. Can I see love and justice in the concept of globalism ?
Saul’s article reminded me of the need to constantly analyze and observe my social, political, and economic context, particularly from a global perspective. Also, it reminded me that if I am to practice my biblical hermeneutics, it is essential to understand the currents and undercurrents of a global economy. It must be said that this doesn’t mean that one should reduce themselves to a “prosperity gospel’. In my opinion, which is an prime example of poor hermenutics coupled with inferior exegesis and rooted in an arrogance , that utilizes the biblical text as a personal sounding board. No, it points the Christian, as Robin Lovin notes in his book Christian Ethics to Reinhold Niebuhr’s call for Christians to “give up their appealing moral idealism for a more tough-minded Christian Realism that would pay more attention to the real dynamics of social change as well as ideals of peace and justice”. ”[9] Lovin is on the mark when he says that “Christians do not stand at the edge of their society, testing its temperature by a pure biblical standard to decide whether or not it is safe to jump in. We are in it with both feet…..”[10] We must impact the lives of the global community. This is not the “other” , this is us. Is it too big of a dream. The realization of a global world community that is concerned and dictated by true brotherhood and sisterhood. Is it just a thought on a philosopher’s page? Is it just a dream written by a poet. Can it become a reality? It is the church’s mission to make the dream of a world free from oppression
[1] The Collapse of GlobalismP 19
[2] p19
[3] p19
[4] p95
[5] p92
[6] p66
[7] p93
[8] p93
[9] P109
[10] P109