Globalization is a complex and multifaceted process that essentially refers to the growing interdependence of peoples, cultures, nations and economies around the world. Every discipline is included in this phenomenon including theologians, sociologists, economists, political scientists, philosophers, environmentalists, and business leaders as they seek to understand what it means to be human within a new and shifting framework. And, like other multi-layered occurences, it is contrasted by both good and ill effects that are deeply entrenched with one another. Consider this observation by Prof. Prabhu Guptara, an influential banker and professor at UBS in Switzerland:
as a result of the impact of changes in the nature and effects of technology, we live, for the first time in history, in a world of global overproduction as well as of global starvation; we live in a world of capitalist booms and busts which should not, in theory, exist; and we live in a world of global interdependency where we all benefit from the strongest economies in the world but where simultaneously we are exposed to the world’s weakest economies. We live therefore in a world in which individuals, families, nations, regions, and indeed global society need to prepare for all eventualities-an impossibility for human planning. (Prabu Guptara, http://www.cpjustice.org/stories/storyReader$1327)
On the positive side, many argue that globalization and free trade have in fact reached many human development goals like increasing literacy, decreasing child mortality and protecting the rights of women. Freedom House reports that the number of the world’s population that enjoys civil and political freedom has jumped from 35 percent to 44 percent since 1972. And, Jaqdish Bhagwati, former advisor to the UN on globalization, in his 2004 book, In Defense of Globalization , uses statistical evidence to counter the claims of anti-globalization discontents. For example, supported by statistics from the Asian Development Bank, he argues that in China the “aggressively outward economic policies” that characterize globalization reduced poverty from 28% of the population in 1978 to 9% in 1998.
However, such positive effects have occurred alongside equally disturbing ones. Again from Prof. Prabhu Guptara,
Take the worldwide decline of the middle classes and the increasing tendency for societies to split into richer and poorer; or for societies to be divided into an increasing number who have no jobs and the few who have jobs but are forced to work incredibly long hours; or the curious fact that we have more wealth than at any other time yet we also have more poor people than ever before in the recorded history of the world; or our increasing technological proficiency alongside the apparently decreasing sense of responsibility for nature, especially in the USA and China; or the division of the world into the owners of capital (largely in the North) and the workers in the factories of the South (increasingly in China).
What are we to make of globalization then? We should see it for the mixed bag that it is and not waste time demonizing or idolizing it. Rather, we should strive to understand it in all its complexities and seek to use globalization for the work of justice for the vulnerable while harnessing and regulating its tendency towards autocracy and exploitation.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
What are your opinions on globalization? What resources, people, experiences have shaped these views?
Try to articulate both sides of the debate over globalization and discuss their strengths and weaknesses.
How would your impressions of globalization differ if you lived in, for example, Sudan?
Globalization is a force that cannot be stopped, though it can be managed and changed for good or ill purposes.
Christians should not be surprised by globalization. God sent Adam and Eve out to cultivate the earth and build civilization. There is a natural movement toward growth and unification of peoples and cultures. Moreover, because of the fall, we understand that this process will always be marred by sin resulting in exploitation, oppression and wars.
Youth and children are often the ones who suffer the ill effects of globalization, but they are also some of the primary change agents for shaping globalization into the future.