An Ethical & Anthropological Evaluation
Thomas R. Rourke
rooted in liberalism cannot
The economic revolution called globalization is heralded everywhere as the next great wave of human progress. Even the more skeptical tend to see it as at least inevitable, and as setting the parameters within which any realistic search for economic, political, and social order must operate. The alleged benefits of globalization encompass all dimensions of social life. Echoing the assumptions of the liberalism upon which it is based, the proponents of globalization assure us that all good things go together--that is, the growth of the market, increased profits, democracy, and the expansion of personal freedom at all levels. Clearly, globalization is brought about by changes in the economic sphere; and technological developments in manufacturing and finance are what make globalization possible. These are characterized as evidence of human creativity, even as examples of virtue. We are constantly reminded that globalization, by expanding markets, will increase the production of wealth for the benefit of all peoples. Moreover, these benefits will supposedly spill over into the political and cultural spheres. The freedom associated with enterprise and the expanded awareness of the modern world that it is claimed to bring will prompt people everywhere to demand a broader range of freedoms in the cultural and political spheres, ensuring the spread of democracy. Liberties in the economic, political and social orders are mutually reinforcing.
The burden of this paper will be to put forth a case against globalization in its current manifestation. It will do so by contending that globalization is in fact often a manifestation of policies and behaviors rejected by the Church's social teaching and ultimately rooted in the false anthropological assumptions of liberalism. Hence, to change the drift of globalization we have to go to its very roots; it cannot be satisfactorily ameliorated simply by appeals to personal conversion. Contemporary globalization in fact involves multiple structures of sin.(1)
There are four definite requirements that any social would have to fulfill in order justifiably to claim to be compatible with Christianity. First, the conception of the common good must be rooted in a strong sense of service and an efficacious desire to realize the good of all members of the community. In other words, the only society compatible with Christianity is one oriented toward a civilization of love. This is far beyond any mere coincidence of egoisms, or mutual self-interest. Insofar as a civilization is grounded in nothing above self-interest, it is not compatible with a Christian worldview. Second, society would have to reject consumerism and materialism, working to prevent them from becoming in any way "structuralized." Created in the image and likeness of divine persons, human persons must transcend materialism and consumerism precisely so as to realize their vocation to love and to service. Third, although a Christian anthropology does not forbid profit-making, the latter cannot be the determining factor governing the behavior of any particular enterprise or of the economy generally. Hence, an economic system in accord with Christianity would have to make values such as solidarity, service through work, full employment, and living wages the context for profit-making. Fourth, a society compatible with Christianity would have to be united around a moral vision that gives public preference to all features associated with the common good understood as universal solidarity. To permit some members of society to be without access to society's economic, political, and cultural goods under the guise of "pluralism" would be completely unacceptable.(2)
I. Globalization and Economism
Pope John Paul II's discussion of "economism" in Laborem Exercens is valuable in coming to grips with contemporary globalization. "The error of economism," the Pope writes, is "that of considering human labor solely according to its economic purpose." It is an anthropological error, "an error of materialism, in that economism directly or indirectly includes a conviction of the primacy and superiority of the material, and directly or indirectly places the spiritual and personal (man's activity, moral values and such matters) in a position of subordination to material reality." Concomitantly, "capital [is] set in opposition to labor, as though they were two impersonal forces, two production factors juxtaposed in the same 'economistic' perspective." Historically, the Pope notes that economism developed with the economic and social practices of the period of industrialization, the time of primitive capitalism and liberalism, when the rapid and vast increase of material wealth erroneously transformed that wealth into the end of society rather than a means. The true end, the good of man, was ignored. The Pope warns that this cannot be simply looked at as an historical artifact. Rather, "the same error . . . can nevertheless be repeated in other circumstances of time and place if people's thinking starts from the same theoretical or practical premises."(3)
Although the anthropological error the Pope speaks of was modified to a degree in many countries, globalization is surely causing it to be repeated at a much broader level. One of the strongest propellers of the globalized economy has been the movement of production and jobs from high-wage to low-wage areas. Producers thereby reduce their costs and increase their profits. In the process, not only are jobs lost, but entire communities are devastated by the loss of their economic base. On the other side of the coin, there is a global market of low-wage laborers, increasingly women and children, who work long hours without benefits. Americans wishing to see what globalization means merely need to drive across the border into Mexico where more than 2,000 factories have been set up, employing the same practices we associate with nineteenth-century capitalism: low wages (in many cases under U.S. $4.00 per day), absence of social obligations, unhealthy working conditions, environmental destruction, and the exploitation of adolescent labor. Wages are so low and conditions so bad that worker turnover is very high. As Mexican professor Gueramina Valdés-Villalva puts it, "[w]e have begun to see more fourteen-year-olds in the plants. . . . Workers do not age in this industry--they leave. Because of the intensive work it entails, there's constant burnout. If they've been there three or four years, workers lose efficiency. They begin to have problems with eyesight. They begin to have allergies and kidney problems."(4) To make matters worse, global firms increasingly seek to employ women and children, who are ideally suited to cost-cutting "flexible production" practices. They do short-term contract labor at home, cutting rubber, punching data, weaving carpets, stitching and sewing clothes, without benefits and with no commitment from the business for continuing employment. Of course, all of this only makes it more difficult for adult men to find steady, regular employment at a living wage.(5) While the offloading of production from high-wage to low-wage areas has been a phenomenon known to workers in the United States for twenty-five years, globalization is accelerating to the point that recourse to the global labor pool puts downward pressure on wages in all economies. In the past generation, for example, toy manufacturers and others have hopped from nation to nation searching for what are, from a laborer's standpoint, the worst conditions. Starting in Hong Kong, Korea, and Taiwan, they moved to Thailand and Indonesia, then to China, Vietnam, and Bangladesh. China is increasingly the favorite target of international firms, with wages as low as twenty dollars a month. Even the First World is increasingly subject to the same dynamic; in the past twenty years, sweatshops apparently have opened in most major cities in the United States. As Newsweek reporter Sharon Begley describes it, "cutthroat competition from abroad has made it imperative for makers to slash costs." Therefore, again, "pieceworkers attach beads to belts in decrepit manufacturing lofts in Manhattan where piles of fabric block fire exits; seamstresses stitching together denim togs in El Paso are denied wages when owners make ends meet by stiffing their workers."(6) Neither wages nor working conditions are improving under globalization, nor are they likely to do so given the existing pattern of incentives, which clearly emphasize competition at the expense of solidarity. John Paul II's principle of the priority of labor over capital is clearly losing ground.
The resulting priority of capital over labor is also very much driven by a certain technological reductionism that is also a concern of John Paul II. The Pope acknowledges that, so long as the principle of the priority of labor over capital is maintained, "technology is undoubtedly man's ally." In the absence of this principle, however, when the sense of the person as the end of work is compromised, "technology can cease to be man's ally and become almost his enemy, as when the mechanization of work 'supplants' him. . . when it deprives many workers of their previous employment, or when, through exalting the machine, it reduces man to the status of slave."(7) Technology unites with economism in ways that imperil the common good. The environment of ruthless competition not only encourages lower wages, it also compels firms to produce more while simultaneously cutting production costs. This is where the great technology contest enters the picture. In order to produce more with less, corporations are forced to develop new technologies to cut manufacturing costs. In what is fashionably termed "restructuring" or "downsizing," existing plants are closed, workers are discarded by the thousands, and newer, more technologically sophisticated plants are opened in other areas. Workers in the United States have been familiar with the process for twenty-five years, since manufacturing industries, most notably automobiles and steel, have lost jobs numbering in the hundreds of thousands. In addition to job loss, the technology-driven competition has encouraged the wave of mergers we continue to see. These, too, often result in further job losses. In mid-December, 1999, Exxon and Mobil announced a merger that will eliminate 16,000 jobs as it expects to reap $3.8 billion in stock profits.
Far from being aberrations, all of the aforementioned practices are directly linked to cost-cutting, and the cost-cutting imperative is part and parcel of globalization. Corporations that do not cut costs will simply be undercut by those that do. We can therefore see how woefully inadequate is any argument that would claim that the problem occurs primarily at the level of the individual firm, and can therefore be resolved essentially by an appeal to the moral principles of individual managers and firms. To argue in this way is to fail to understand the systemic nature of the problem. Nor, surely, is it an argument that managers of global corporations would make. Even the very largest firms, such as General Motors, IBM, and Eastman Kodak, have experienced the merciless nature of global competition. To fail to reduce costs entails the loss of investor confidence, followed by ousted managements, and thousands of lost jobs. The situation is even worse for workers, who now must face the fact that job cuts are alternately both indicators of corporate failure and a sign of good management practice. Globalization, as a manifestation of economic liberalism, is in fact a system governed by the rule of competition. Firms that fail to cut costs will be undersold and put out of business by those that do. Owners of capital are generally not willing to risk extinction by paying their workers living wages or refusing to introduce cost-cutting technologies.
Again, what is at issue is not primarily the morals of individual corporate managers or even firms, but a system that is ultimately governed by the pursuit of profit and that disciplines and eventually eliminates firms that fail. A common refrain here is the claim that the profit motive is constitutive of any sound economic system. The claim is not entirely false, but it misses the point. The Church's social teaching affirms profits as part of the economic system, but it is precisely here that the anthropological visions of the Church and contemporary globalization diverge so significantly. In Centesimus Annus, John Paul II clearly affirms the legitimacy of profit, but only in the context of an understanding that "the purpose of a business firm is not simply to make a profit, but is to be found in its very existence as a community of persons who in various ways are endeavoring to satisfy their basic needs and who form a particular group at the service of the whole of society." This implies the commitment on the part of the firm to the common good, which includes a broad range of other goals, such as "a sufficient wage for the support of the family, social insurance for old age and unemployment, and adequate protection for the conditions of employment."(8) No serious analyst of economic globalization in the past twenty years would want to argue that globalization does anything other than render all of these other commitments optional.
At the root of globalization, then, we have to recognize the ongoing exclusion of non-monetary values from public policy making. Proponents of globalization are everywhere politically ascendant largely because of their success in determining the universe of discourse. For example, consider the quality of public debates on economic liberalization generally or free-trade agreements more specifically. Proponents point to evidence suggesting that there will be an increase in the overall production of national wealth and downward pressure on the prices of consumer goods. Far more often than not, these arguments carry the day. The unspoken assumption is that these are the criteria that should ultimately determine public policy. Though other factors are no doubt considered, such as job loss and the economic ripples this might cause in a given community, nonetheless, all the criteria used in the discernment are empirical and economic.
As part of its commitment to building up the culture of life, the Catholic contribution to public discourse should be to press for more discussion of non-measurable goods. Perhaps the most important of these would be the common good itself. The common good is the result of real communion of intention; it is real only if it exists in the hearts and minds of people. Unless members of a political community share an awareness of a good that transcends their individual pursuits of particular goods, there is no common good.(9) But, clearly, the globalization agenda will tend to eliminate this central political value from consideration.(10)
II. Globalization, Political Authority and the Common Good
Global economic integration is driven by possibilities opened up by technology, cheap labor, rapid movements of capital, and expanded markets. This process in many ways pressures governments to adjust their policies to meet the demands of the global marketplace in general and the large corporations and banks in particular. As a result, the very nature and role of government is being changed in morally troubling ways. Public policy increasingly becomes the servant of market demands, with little or no regard for other values. This goes to the point of government making highly irregular arrangements with powerful private interests that benefit the latter. Multinational corporations and banks are often powerful enough to impose terms in their dealings with governments in the Third World, most notoriously in the case of the debt crisis. Today, we witness similar trends with respect to governments in the First World. Typically, with little regard for the common good, governments grant corporations large subsidies, guarantees of tax exemption, agreements to deny workers their rights, and various other privileges. These concessions, combined with the well-known role corporate money plays in influencing elections and political decisions, make a mockery of the modern liberal claim that Western democracies are "pluralistic." The theory of pluralism, which in the United States is rooted in the thought of James Madison, holds that in a large, democratic republic, a variety of interests constantly play off against one another, forming one set of alliances one day, reforming into different coalitions the next. In theory, no one interest dominates. However, as E.E. Schattschneider noted even prior to the age of globalization, "the flaw in the pluralist heaven is that the heavenly chorus sings with a decidedly upper-class accent."(11) How much more true the statement rings today!
The favors granted to corporations have become so commonplace that they attract little attention. As globalization is clearly not solving but creating a global job crisis, the political pressures in favor of job creation become very high. Governments will concede special favors of all sorts to businesses that promise jobs.(12) To take one recent example, the state of Alabama pledged over $300 million in tax breaks and subsidies in order to attract a Mercedes factory that would create only 1,500 jobs. This included $60 million to send the workers to Germany for training, at tax-payers' expense. In total, the Alabama government put up over $200,000 for each job created. At the same time, corporations have developed a new practice, politely referred to as "corporate retention," by which they extract additional benefits from state and local governments by threatening to leave. Minnesota put up $828 million to prevent Northwest Airlines from leaving. Illinois gave $240 million in land and bonuses to Sears to prevent their threatened departure from the Chicago area. But despite the outpouring of millions of dollars in favors, many corporations relocate anyway, leaving behind unemployed workers and devastated communities. This is clearly one of the starkest examples of the absence of any sense of social responsibility--bleeding communities for millions in favors in benefits, then leaving them with nothing. Governments lament the trends, but in a context of millions of departing jobs, they feel helpless to do much else other than to yield to the threats.
The sundering of the moral connection between political authority and the common good is also seen in the global breakdown of morally defensible policies concerning taxation and tax collection. Corporations are allowed to skirt billions of dollars of taxes around the world by manipulating the prices of their products as they transfer them across national borders. The practice, known as "transfer pricing," is done by declaring profits where taxes are low and declaring little profit or losses where taxes are higher. This sets up a global dynamic similar to the search for lower wages; countries that do not grant "tax holidays" or that challenge the existing practices will not attract the new investments upon which both economic and political success depend. Nowhere has the transformation of the government away from service of the common good to service of private interests been more striking than in the Third World. For the last two decades, Third World governments, in what can only be called a wholesale loss of sovereignty, have made virtually all public policy subject to the demands of foreign creditors: public spending, taxation, wages, valuation of currency, education, public health, and programs for literacy and nutrition.(13) After years of following the neoliberal prescriptions imposed by the banks and the International Monetary Fund, parts of which were explicitly intended to resolve the external debt problem, Latin American nations will this year owe more than $700 billion. In 1980, the figure was just over $200 billion. Latin American governments will pay $123 billion in debt service alone this year. From 1982 to 1996, the region sent $739 billion to foreign banks and international monetary institutions.
Again, it is necessary to underline that what is being discussed here is not an aberration, but a systemic feature of the global political economy. The logic of globalization tends to undermine not only the common good, but also the role of national/political authority in protecting and promoting the common good. An analogous tendency emerges also in the domain of subsidiarity.
III. Globalization and Subsidiarity
There can be no serious doubt that globalization is bringing about an unprecedented conglomeration of economic and political power that should be of great concern. Well over a trillion dollars daily turns over in global currency markets, dwarfing the reserves of central banks and making the traditional methods of economic regulation obsolete. Speculation in these markets can undermine the value of national currencies and alter the value of millions of people's savings and retirement programs. Moreover, oligopolistic concentration is intensifying. To cite some examples:[I]n the auto industry 12 companies are responsible for 78 percent of worldwide production, in data processing 10 companies are responsible for 100 percent of production, . . . in medical materials 7 companies are responsible for 90 percent of production, . . . in automobile parts 7 companies are responsible for 88 percent of production, and in tires 6 companies are responsible for 85 percent of worldwide production.(14)
Far from representing anomalies, these figures represent the general trend under globalization, after years of mergers and acquisitions. In the financial, banking, and service sectors, the intensity of concentration is even greater.
In light of these trends, we can see the relevance of the principle of subsidiarity, which is one of the most distinctive features of Catholic social thought, and one that can be brought to bear fruitfully in debates over globalization. In the words of Pope Pius XI, it means that "it is an injustice . . . to assign to a greater and higher association functions that lesser and subordinate organizations can do."(15) It is often understood by Catholics as a reason for objecting to an expansion of the power of the state when there are good reasons to think that private organizations or lower levels of authority can perform the tasks in question. While concurring with this interpretation, I also believe the Church needs to think in terms of a broader understanding of this principle as applying within the private sector. This would seem very much in accord with Joseph Komonchak's interpretation of subsidiarity as preserving "the priority of the person as the origin and purpose of society," and more broadly preserving the autonomy of smaller, local forms of organization against larger and more socially distant ones.(16) In the course of my rejection of the Catholic neoconservative position, I have argued elsewhere and here reiterate my contention that a solid argument can be made in terms of subsidiarity against the destruction of small, local businesses and farms brought about by competition from huge conglomerates and agribusiness.(17) Small farms have suffered the most with the least amount of attention, but many more people are beginning to question the wisdom of permitting huge conglomerates like Wal-Mart to come into a community and undermine all of the local enterprises. Proponents of globalization will protest this claim on the basis of an alleged superiority of the corporate oligopolies in terms of "efficiency," but the principle of subsidiarity itself suggests an alternative account of efficiency that challenges the narrow, materialistic, and utilitarian understanding of the term as used by more liberal economists. Given the reading of subsidiarity advanced here, the principle cannot be misused by the proponents of globalization as an a priori argument against state intervention into the global market. Of course, even if my reading of subsidiarity were wrong, subsidiarity does not simplistically support economic liberalism, since the principle of non-intervention only holds so long as the lower level of organization is adequate to fulfill its task. When the latter condition fails to hold, intervention is required. For example, John Paul II states that globalization requires "effective international agencies which will oversee and direct the economy to the common good. . . ."(18) Moreover, Third World nations relying most strictly on economic liberalization have clearly fared the worst in ameliorating conditions for their poor. Nations achieving successes in this regard, such as South Korea, have had highly interventionary states.(19)
In accord with the demands of subsidiarity, everything possible needs to be done to revive local communities and local economies. There is a pressing need to attack the now deeply embedded economic prejudice against what is small as part of the broader goal of promoting the widespread distribution of land and the ownership of productive resources generally. In other words, we need to move in approximately the opposite direction of where globalization is currently taking us. Globalization has done and continues to do immense harm to the agricultural sector of our planet. Some of the problems here are indeed empirically measurable, in particular the alarming spread of malnutrition in the Latin American countryside in recent decades, as more and more nations lose self-sufficiency in food production.(20) But there are many other lost goods that are rarely discussed. There is the destruction of an entire way of life and culture connected with the decline of the rural sector. Unfortunately, because of the utilitarian values of globalization, the loss is rarely lamented. Farming has a very low public standing, and not just in the United States. There is very little appreciation for the varieties of knowledge necessary to farm well, as well as the values associated with it, including good husbandry, stewardship, and trusteeship of the land. Globalization has replaced these with a new standard, uncritically referred to as "efficiency." This standard has led to the destruction of the farm population, replacing it with machines and toxic chemicals, the long-term effects of which destroy topsoil and deplete the land's natural fertility. In reality, efficiency means nothing more than sacrificing everything to the standard of cheapness and quantity. Indeed, as Wendell Berry notes, the attempt to universalize the "growth economy" via globalization means we must be "willing to sacrifice everything but money value, and count that sacrifice as no loss":Real efficiency is something entirely different. It is neither cheap (in skill or labor) nor fast. Real efficiency is long-term efficiency. It is to be found in means that are in keeping with and preserving of their ends, in methods of production that preserve the sources of production, in workmanship that is durable and of high quality. In this age of consumerism, planned obsolescence, frivolous horsepower and surplus manpower [in short, the age of globalization], those salesmen and politicians who talk about efficiency are talking, in reality, about spiritual and biological death.(21)
Having stated this, it is vitally important to emphasize that the grounds of the argument in favor of local communities and businesses are neither simply aesthetic nor an escape into an impossible pre-modernity; instead, the arguments are founded on solid moral, economic, and political reasons. First, big business tends to exploit land and resources in the short-term as cheaply as possible, thus exhausting them in the long-term. On the ethical side, it tends to be ubiquitous in terms of pursuing its advantage, but nowhere in terms of local accountability; corporations do not wish to be held responsible for their impacts on the land or the communities within which they operate. Smaller businesses and farms with definite local ties, whose lifeblood is connected to the well-being of the locale and the health of the land, are, by contrast, pillars of a sustainable use of land and resources in the long-term. A second, practical benefit of the preference for small enterprises and farms is that it will slow down the current juggernaut whereby cost-cutting technologies are introduced for their own sake. Reversing this trend is a necessary condition for making the priority of labor over capital anything more than a pure abstraction in contemporary economic life.
To preserve the family-size farm in particular and small business in general is also important for the much-invoked concern for democracy. In fact, it may be taken as a general principle that one's degree of commitment to the latter may be measured by one's commitments to the former. Here we touch on what we might describe as something of a lost tradition in democratic thought, although it is held firmly by thinkers as diverse as Thomas Jefferson, G.K. Chesterton, Yves R. Simon, and Wendell Berry. In the United States, Jefferson articulated the ideal of a democratic polity rooted in the practice of direct democracy on the part of small landowners living in vibrant local communities. In his view, the small landowner--someone who has a real stake in society, engages in the practice of self-government, and considers the long-term--is most deeply bonded to the common good. Therefore, he wrote, "legislators cannot invent too many devices for sub-dividing property" so that "as few as possible shall be without a little portion of the land." In 1814, commenting on the social order, he marveled that those "who possess nothing" were "too few to merit notice as a separate section of society." The laborers and landowners were many; the rich were few "and of moderate wealth."(22)
More recently, in his classic work, The Philosophy of Democratic Government, the great Thomist Yves R. Simon forcefully reminds us of the connection between rural life and democracy, and the threats technology poses to the latter. First, in maintaining the connection between man and nature, rural people keep alive the important ideal of the pursuit of happiness, an important check on "the unbridled lust for power" so characteristic of the industrialized society. Second, the small farm is itself a school in the art of self-government; having the opportunity to govern oneself in the process of labor greatly contributes to the capacity to govern oneself in the political order. The extension of the division of labor in industrialized society is therefore "unfavorable to the training of men in self-government." Third, rural life is favorable to the sense of autonomy which creates a healthy recognition of one's personality and uniqueness. Such recognition "stimulates the urge to self-government." Fourth, in the absence of the kind of direct democracy practiced in rural communities, representative democracy might degenerate into oligarchy. "A democratic polity," he writes, "is hardly possible in a nation in which the countryside is subjected to oligarchic rule . . . by companies." Fifth, rural life enhances the experience of community life that technology erodes. Technological society, as it has weakened human bonds even to the level of the family, has created much fodder for anti-democratic movements.(23)
What we are urging here should not be taken as a naive call for a universal return to the land, as if everyone ought to become a farmer. The point is rather that an economy that tends systematically to undermine the tenure of local and, therefore, small businesses and farms tends just so far also to embody a conception of economic efficiency that, abstracting from long-term stewardship, is ultimately self-destructive.
IV. Globalization and the Emerging Global Culture
Although its shortcomings at the economic and political levels are severe, it is probably in the cultural area that the impacts of globalization are the most pernicious. As globalization introduces profound economic, political, and cultural changes, traditional life and institutions are in disarray around the world. The decay in family and community life, although not occurring at the same rate everywhere, is nonetheless a global phenomenon. It is perhaps most strikingly accompanied by a loss of faith in those same traditions and institutions. What enters to fill its place is the commercially exportable products of the United States: pop culture, music, videos, films, books, and trips to Disney World. Indeed, the competition arising in these arenas is overwhelming. Exposure to the commercialized culture seems only to encourage young people to take less of an interest in their own heritage.
As everyone knows, the message being purveyed by these products is in rather stark contrast to the moral message of John Paul II. Nonetheless, too few observers from the developed world of regions such as Latin America see the depth of the cultural destruction that is taking place. It is a sign of a degeneration within Catholicism itself that we have largely forgotten what used to be a rather commonplace insight, namely, that there is a fundamental tension between the bourgeois and the Christian spirit. When this contrast is lost, it opens the door to the far more shallow critique that what is occurring today is merely an aberration from an allegedly sound bourgeois culture. This then makes possible the even more fallacious contention that all of the problems with globalization are restricted to the allegedly isolated dimension of culture, a contention that fundamentally misunderstands the depths of what is occurring.
The conflict, then, is moral insofar as it is anthropological: the bourgeois person is the free and independent individual whose freedom is thought to consist in the ability selectively to enter into relationships with others. The selectivity implies, in turn, a priority of calculation based upon the coincidence of egoisms. The culture of globalization is, I would argue, the bourgeois culture as it manifests itself in the United States today, and this is the deepest, anthropological root of the problem.(24) That this culture can spread with hardly a whimper of protest from Catholics in the economically developed world is testimony to the influence of the bourgeois spirit even within the Church. Virgil Michel saw this tendency even prior to the age of globalization, aware that the "bourgeois spirit of capitalism in the United States had the power to reach into the very sanctuaries of Christian Churches and influence the preaching of the Gospel and the celebration of the Eucharist."(25)
Such trends are by no means absent today. The fact that globalization means the increasing influence of the bourgeois culture of the United States exposes one of the most pernicious myths associated with globalization, namely, that it is both being fueled by and fueling what elites in government and academic circles are fond of calling "multiculturalism," a term that allegedly means a broader recognition of the contributions of the world's various cultures, a decline in cultural imperialism and ethnocentrism, and ultimately more respect for all cultures. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that all ethnic groups willing to conform to the rules of the game are welcome, so long as they leave behind any features of their culture which do not fit in. For example, Latin Americans advancing in the system are strongly encouraged to leave behind constituent features of their Catholicism. The result, then, is that so-called "multiculturalism," far from safeguarding and promoting local cultures, tends to absorb them into a single global monoculture.
V. Globalization and Liberalism
Keeping in mind all of the features of globalization brought to light in this essay, we have begun to see that globalization does not lead to a social order that preserves the distinctiveness of different cultures. At this point, however, I wish to advance the additional proposition that globalization rooted in liberalism cannot be rendered compatible with a Christian worldview without deep transformation because the underlying anthropologies have opposing starting points. The sense of life as gift is at the core of any Christian approach to the social order. The "givens" of this approach would include not just the physical environment, but the moral and cultural "environment" as well. Liberalism tends to give primacy to a freedom of choice that wrongly abstracts from constitutive relation to God. Liberalism's wrong abstraction from the gift-character of existence is both logically and historically related to the tendency to trample the givens that sustain life and to treat other people, not as gifts from God, but as instruments for the pursuit of self-interest.
Liberalism is equally incompatible with Christianity in its conception of self-interest. To be sure, the liberal economic thinkers from Adam Smith to Milton Friedman have never argued that capitalism is about engaging in enterprise primarily to serve others. As Smith himself puts it, "[i]t is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity, but to their self-love. . . ."(26) This is not to deny that capitalism does in fact perform services and satisfies genuine human needs; it does. However, it also effectively reinterprets the meaning of these needs in a way that falls far short of a Christian vision of economic life. First, an authentic sense of enterprise would primarily be a response to a call to serve the needs of others. Of course, a byproduct would be a legitimate profit, but there is a huge gap between producing primarily for the sake of service and primarily for the sake of profit. This gap is best understood when we consider that production for the primary purpose of profit is the source of the moral problems of capitalism. Because the link between production and service has been severed, currently only a fraction of what is produced is a response to genuine human needs. Production for profit opens up the door to the well-known phenomenon of production that does not correspond to human needs, the proliferation of unnecessary goods, the absence of needed ones, illusory services and rampant speculation. In each case, it is important to see not only the injustice involved, but the connection between the injustice and the logic of the system itself. This is why John Paul II insists that enterprise be governed by non-liberal principles such as being a true community of persons oriented to serve society in a context of a social commitment to living wages and protection for the conditions of employment. Twist and turn as one may, there is nothing within the logic of liberalism itself that would rule out the tendency for businesses simply to pursue profits in the absence of all the qualifiers on which Christianity, for its part, must continue to insist. Solidarity in the sense of radical commitment to the love and service of others is in the end not intrinsic to the logic of liberalism. Thus, within liberal social orders, solidarity exists only in an attenuated form, in what amounts to a mere optional pursuit, rather than an internal feature of what is meant by "economic law" in the first place. The consequent failure to inscribe solidarity within the economic order itself is also at the root of all the injustices described herein.
In an important development in Catholic social teaching, Pope John Paul II has both acknowledged and condemned this destructive ideology, which is inextricably intertwined with contemporary globalization:More and more, in many countries of America, a system known as "neoliberalism" prevails; based on a purely economic conception of man, this system considers profit and the law of the market as its only parameters, to the detriment of the dignity of and the respect due to individuals and peoples. At times this system has become the ideological justification for certain attitudes and behavior in the social and political spheres leading to the neglect of the weaker members of society. Indeed, the poor are becoming ever more numerous, victims of specific policies and structures which are often unjust.(27)
Globalization is a world-transforming set of economic, political, and cultural processes, which should galvanize considerable Catholic opposition. Rooted in materialism, economism, and technological reductionism, globalization as currently practiced is largely indistinguishable from what John Paul II has condemned under a variety of rubrics, including neoliberalism. Moreover, globalization is transforming the nature of politics in such a way that states increasingly serve not the common good but the needs and demands of large corporations. Third World regimes in particular are often without means of effective resistance. Globalization, accompanied by the increasing power of global financial and industrial conglomerates, is also in deep tension with the principle of subsidiarity. The problem calls for the return to a real practice of rebuilding political, economic, and cultural life from the bottom up. On the cultural front, globalization promotes ethnic tolerance within a framework of cultural imperialism, demanding conformity to the rules established by technology, the market, and the profit motive, cultural differences notwithstanding. The foregoing essay has attempted to lay bare the roots of this disturbing trend, to show that these roots lie in an inadequate anthropology. The critique of this anthropology does not aim simply at moralizing an otherwise autonomous domain of purely economic laws, but precisely at challenging liberalism's supposed monopoly on the definition of what counts as sound economics. Christian morality, which includes the integral flourishing of the humanum, is not a utopian option, but offers a key to unlocking the very meaning and order of the economic sphere.
1. For the meaning of this term, "structure of sin," see John Paul II, Dominum et Vivificantum.
2. It should be emphasized, however, that what is at issue is not simply the novel disciplining of an economy operating according to what are essentially self-contained "laws," but the very conception of what constitutes an authentic economy precisely on its own specifically economic terms.
3. John Paul II, Laborem Exercens, 13.
4. G. Valdés-Villalva, quoted in William Greider, Who Will Tell the People? (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992), 383.
5. Richard Barnet and John Cavanaugh, Global Dreams: Imperial Corporations and the New World Order (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994), 294-96.
6. Sharon Begley, "The New Sweatshops," Newsweek (10 September 1990): 51-52.
7. John Paul II, Laborem Exercens, 5.3.
8. Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, 34-35.
9. The best treatment of the meaning of the common good in the social order remains Yves R. Simon, Philosophy of Democratic Government, reprint ed. (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1993), 36-71. Simon demonstrates that communion in intention is a requirement of the common good, but this does not mean that all people intend concretely the same particular set of goods. Normally, it is perfectly legitimate and a requirement of the common good itself that there be a proliferation of particular goods by individual persons. Moreover, it is not the function of the individual citizen to intend the common good materially considered. Nonetheless, there remains a formal commitment to the common good, which consists in the desire for it to be realized. It is the special function of political authority to determine the material content of the common good, and citizens are morally bound to adhere to its judgments so long as these judgments do not clearly violate higher order principles of the natural law.
10. Specific ways in which globalization undermines the common good will be discussed in the next section.
11. E.E. Schattschneider, The Semi-Sovereign People, (Glenview, IL: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1959), 35.
12. The following examples are drawn from William Greider, One World Ready or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997), 81-102.
13. The following discussion of the external debt comes from the proceedings of Tegucigalpa, a Conference on Canceling the External Debt, held in Honduras on Jan. 25-27, 1999, as reported in Latin American Documentation, Vol. 29, No. 5: 1-11.
14. Oliver Costilla, "Power, Democracy and Capital Globalization," Latin American Perspectives 27, no. 1 (2000): 89.
15. Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno, 79.
16. Joseph Komonchak, "Subsidiarity in the Church: The State of the Question," The Jurist 48 (1988): 298-300.
17. Thomas R. Rourke, A Conscience as Large as the World (Lanham, MD, and London: Rowman and Littlefield, 1997), 183-84.
18. John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, 58.
19. I am not endorsing the models used by South Korea and other "Asian tigers" such as Taiwan. In these nations, the state has been extremely active in orienting their national economies to insert themselves into the global economy in directed ways. They therefore do not in fact constitute an argument in favor of liberalism, but of interventionism. Nonetheless, given the broader set of views a Christian needs to consider, these nations also can be critiqued in terms of economism and narrow conceptions of the common good.
20. In one of the worst cases, Brazil, the increase in food imports and malnutrition took place when the government neglected agriculture in favor of industrialization. Later, after the recognition of the debt crisis, the pressures were on Third World nations to make the land more commercially viable, hence the move away from subsistence agriculture to the production of export crops. Farmworkers who could not find jobs in the newer, commercial agriculture moved to the cities, went hungry, or both.
21. Wendell Berry, The Gift of Good Land (New York: North Point Press, 1981), xi; A Continuous Harmony: Essays Cultural and Agricultural (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1972), 94-95.
22. Thomas Jefferson, quoted in Wendell Berry, A Continuous Harmony, 104-05.
23. Yves R. Simon, Philosophy of Democratic Government, 295-96, 299, 302, 307, 316.
24. The author concedes that the bourgeois spirit is not simply monolithic, but would insist that the various manifestations of it are bound together by the criteria discussed. One bourgeois may spend more and another save more, but all are devoted considerably to the acquisition of wealth.
25. Quoted in, "Virgil Michel Crucial to CW Thought and Life," Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XX, No. 1 (Jan.-Feb. 2000): 1.
26. Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (New York: Modern Library, 1937), 14.
27. John Paul II, Ecclesia in America, 56.