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Ethical globalisation

30 November, 1999

 Globalisation has integrated the world economy and brought prosperity to some countries, but left many others on the margins. This book examines the phenomenon of globalisation and argues that, to make it ethical, values of solidarity, preferential for the poor, promoting human dignity and the common good should guide the actions of all involved.

92 pp, Veritas, 2005.  To purchase this book online, go to www.veritas.ie .


Foreword – Bishop John Kirby, Chairman of Trócaire
Introduction – Enda McDonagh, Series Editor
Executive Summary

Chapter 1:  Global context (Lorna Gold)  
Introduction – A world of growing inequality – Fragile progress and setbacks – The global challenge of HIV/AIDS  – Signs of hope – The need for a new response

Chapter 2: Making Globalisation Work for the World’s Poor (Bryan Hehir)
Globalisation and world politics – A historical perspective – Old wine in new skins – Drivers of globalisation – 11 September and its aftermath – The Catholic Church as an actor in the globalisation process – Centrality of human dignity – The Second Vatican Council – Teaching of Pope John Paul II – Making globalisation work for the world’s poor – Global governance

Chapter 3: Values and Principles in the Governance of Globalisation (Lorna Gold)
Introduction – The light of faith as a lens to see the world – Core principles – Entry point – Process – Content –
Future vision – Conclusion

Chapter 4: Ethical Globalisation and Globalising Ethics (Enda McDonagh)
1. Ethical globalisation and globalising ethics
Ethical globalising – Economics and ethical globalisation – Ethical globalisation and international law – Human rights – Ethical globalisation from below – Tackling discrimination on a global scale – HIV and AIDS – War and peace – Technology
2. Globalising ethics
The need for conversation – Truth and recognition of difference – The global value of freedom – From truth and freedom to justice and peace – Globalising, ethics and religion

Chapter 5: Final Theological Reflections (Enda McDonagh)



Globalisation has a logic but lacks an ethic, therefore ethical globalisation demands we recognise our interdependence. The authors argue that values of solidarity, preferential option for the poor, promoting human dignity and the common good should guide the actions of all involved in globalisation. This includes the Catholic Church, whose area of influence runs from grassroots communities through to international policymaking fora.

Ethical globalisation needs effective institutions and accountabilities. This in turn demands an active citizenry, global solidarity and alliance building between civil society organisations to monitor the impact of decisions made by states, international agencies and transnational corporations. Globalisation from below means policymakers will take account of the views of global civil society, especially poor and marginalised groups. It is a challenge to harness the Church’s ideas, institutions and religious communities to achieve this and secure human rights for all.

This book will be an essential resource for a broad range of readers concerned about globalisation, including committed citizens, development practitioners, religious groups, academics and political representatives.

CHAPTER TWO: Making Globalisation Work for the World’s Poor

By Bryan Hehir
(Note: This chapter is an edited version of Professor Hehir’s delivery of the 15th CAFOD Pope Paul VI Memorial Lecture, London, 16th November 2001)

Globalisation and world politics
Globalisation is a loaded term and is never used neutrally. Its invocation can run from those who see it as self-evidently beneficial for whom the only question is how to promote it to the maximum, to those who are equally sure it is something to be overcome. An economist at Princeton University, Robert Gilpin, provides an insightful analysis of current perspectives on globalisation. It is useful to outline his framework, not necessarily agreeing with it, but because it is helpful in making sense of this subject area.

Gilpin points out that among the spectrum of people who debate globalisation there are three main groupings. The first are free marketeers. This group believes globalisation is an unmitigated good and transference to the world’s stage of the principles that operate in the major liberal capitalist economies of the world will eventually be for the welfare of all. Therefore, the real task is to proceed and to do so quickly. The second group contains people in advanced industrial nations, from both the left and the right of the political spectrum, who are united in one key respect: they are economic nationalists. This group views globalisation as a direct threat to the integrity of their economies and therefore lays the blame for multiple problems, including job losses in advanced industrial nations, at the doorstep of globalisation.   A third group, communitarians, believe that what is local rather than what is global is best; that values are being threatened by the global market and that the world operates under the growing influence of multinational corporations rather than democratically elected governments.

While these three perspectives do not cover the whole spectrum they do serve to show that globalisation is a loaded term and it is far from self-evident what it actually means. Even Gilpin’s categories do not capture what is found in the discussion within Roman Catholicism on globalisation: a more structured ethical argument, different from that of the communitarians and an ethical framework seeking changes in the major structural elements within globalisation.

Defining the problem
Mindful of these divisions, is it possible to formulate a working definition even if it is not agreed by everyone? It is useful to invoke the principle of parsimony. This is an old scholastic idea that says to define something, first of all define it narrowly and then build on and expand the definition in a disciplined way. Let us take this narrow definition, a very narrow one, from a place that is itself a contested source, the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The IMF describes globalisation in the following way: “Globalisation refers to the growing economic inter-dependence of countries worldwide through the increasing volume and variety of cross-border transactions in goods and services and of international capital flows, and the more rapid and widespread diffusion of technology.” This is a narrow definition because it is almost wholly economic. It focuses on purely material elements, but does give a sense of the material meaning of globalisation, the increasing scale of the transactions of goods, services and capital across borders and the speed of technology diffusion.

This definition needs to be expanded to encompass a political understanding of globalisation and then a cultural understanding of it. United Nations (UN) Secretary General Kofi Annan highlighted this political understanding of globalisation in an address at Harvard in 2000. A key message was that while we hear much about the economics of globalisation, we hear too little about the political context within which to understand it. Annan’s point is that the failure to talk about globalisation in political terms means that we often do not grasp how it appears to people who suffer from its downside.

Annan stated: “Today globalisation is losing its lustre in parts of the world. Globalisation is seen by a growing number of people not as a friend of prosperity, but as its enemy; not as a vehicle for development but as an ever tightening vice increasing the demands on states to find safety-nets while limiting their ability to do so”. This sentiment was expressed in a talk designed to be basically positive about globalisation, his message being that any purely economic definition is not enough to understand the pluses and minuses of globalisation.

The cultural meaning and significance of globalisation is perhaps even less attended to than its political dimension. In an address to the Holy See’s Advisory Committee on Science, Pope John Paul II pointed to the cultural dimension of globalisation. Stating that of itself it was neither good nor bad, he went on to point out that globalisation must not become a new version of colonialism. It must respect the diversity of cultures which, within the universal harmony of peoples, are life’s interpretative keys.

A historical perspective
It is useful to see how globalisation has emerged and evolved. To understand the situation we are dealing with today and the phenomenon we are seeking to give direction to, we should step back and explore a three stage development process which has brought us to our globalised world. This began as long ago as the 17th century with the rise of the modern state system and continued on to the 20th century. Sovereign states emerged as the principal actors in world politics and to some degree they are still understood in that way. Until the first half of the 20th century, this view of the sovereign state as the basic unit of world politics often meant that economics was not seen as the state’s business. International economic relations were seen as a form of private activity which took place in a sphere beyond the state while the state dealt primarily with politics and war.

In this phase economics was not regarded as central to world politics. When I undertook my doctoral work at Harvard I studied under Henry Kissinger. I took world politics from Kissinger for a whole semester yet we never talked about economics, only war and politics. A good friend Fred Burkston, one of the leading economists in the United States, went to work as economic advisor to Kissinger when he was National Security Advisor. Burkston quit in frustration after a few months saying that being economic advisor to Henry Kissinger was like being in charge of strategic weapons for the Swiss Guards. In other words, the topic just did not cross his mind.

This dichotomy with the economy operating outside the state was a false one. For instance states had fostered colonialism which had a good deal to do with economics. The basic understanding of international politics was a state-centred one. This system underwent change at the time of the founding of the UN which did not displace the state but sought to build upon it. It aimed to embed sovereign states and their relationships within a broader framework of international law, institutional structures and policies. The primary original function of the UN was to foster and maintain political and military security. It grew out of memories of the 1930s and the inability of the international community to organise effectively against the Nazi threat. But the UN soon took on other functions besides political and military security. Economic functions were incorporated into the system with the establishment of the World Bank and the IMF as UN associated bodies and the other organisations such as the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Committee for Trade and Development (UNCTAD). In 1948 there was another very decisive change – the emergence of an internationally agreed human rights framework under UN auspices. All these developments had a major bearing on globalisation and will continue to have a bearing on its future direction.

The UN system broadened the modern state system without doing away with it. Then, finally, in the 1960s a journey from interdependence to globalisation began. This ran from the 1960s to the present day, because new cross-state boundaries are emerging, partly the product of state actions but even more so of private actors and international agencies. A whole fabric of transnational relations has developed in which the driving forces include technology, communication and travel and increasing integration of national economies through trade and financial markets.

The increasing interdependence of the 1960s and 1970s led to the term interdependence making its way into the standard academic literature of international relations. It also made its way into Catholic Social Teaching (CST). beginning with Mater et Magistra, Pope John XXIII’s 1961 encyclical.  Interdependence is the foundation and basis of globalisation but globalisation, as it has emerged during the past 10-15 years, is a stage beyond interdependence. It introduces qualitatively new phenomena; it is a new problematic. This brings us to the present, to our interdependent global system built on the state system which has changed it significantly. Increasing flows of goods, services, finance and technology have created much greater integration of economies, even across state boundaries.

A key question is how new and how different is this present manifestation of globalisation? We cannot make sense of how to direct and organise globalisation unless we understand it. It would be a mistake to think this is the first time the world has confronted a global market or that this is a unique period of intensive integration among national economies. Between 1870 and 1914, right up to the cusp of World War I, there were very high levels of global market integration with data from that time showing converging grain prices and very high international migration.

Old wine in new skins?
So, in one sense, globalisation and integration are not entirely new, but in another they are. Those who espouse globalisation without limits or are very enthusiastic about it will often summarise its meaning by equating it with integration  – faster, further and deeper global integration. That is to say it is integration among a greater number of actors which moves more quickly than in the past and this involves the in-depth tying together of economies across state boundaries. While it is possible to say that there was integration in the past the experience of investment bankers and peasant farmers testifies to the fact that something new and different is with us today. Not entirely new, but new enough to require new thinking, new ideas and new institutions.

Professor Danny Rodrik of the Kennedy School of Government in Harvard has written intelligibly and intelligently about these questions. His argument is that while there was integration in the past, there are now three new elements which make today’s integration different. Although there was integration through trade and to some degree among financial markets, there was also much more integration of labour markets. That is, there were fewer restrictions on immigration so people could move freely across boundaries even as goods and capital and services were moving. That is not true today with more severe immigration restrictions. Secondly, nowadays there is more international competition around the same products. This was not a feature of the old trading pattern where one set of countries was the source of raw materials while another set was the main source of manufactured exports. Many countries have developed more diversified patterns of exports and imports. The third and perhaps the most visible difference is that governments in the 19th century were not expected to fulfil social welfare functions, to provide social safety nets and social insurance, the very things now taken for granted, at least in more advanced industrial democracies. Globalisation makes these safety nets more necessary as everyone in rich and poor countries tries to adapt to its rapid pace. Yet the process of globalisation can actually make the delivery of these functions ever more difficult.

Globalisation also brings together some of the most powerful forces of modernity: science, technology, private corporate structures and the apparatus of government, all melded together in an intricate web of relationships. Some of those concerned about the impact of globalisation ask whether it could ever be beneficial or whether it would always be inevitably harmful to the poor. Others contest the process of globalisation in a different way, by critiquing its procedures and outcomes. The title of this chapter belongs to that second category. The procedures and outcomes associated with globalisation are complex. On the one hand, globalisation has produced an enormous increase in aggregate wealth while on the other the highly unequal distribution of this wealth is what brings many together in their concern over the impact of globalisation on the poor.

Drivers of globalisation
There are questions about who drives globalisation, how decisions are made and the legitimacy of the process. Legitimacy, in this context, stems from those affected by it believing it is being fairly carried out. One way to address the challenge of making globalisation work for the world’s poor is to try to put an ethical structure and framework around the process. This by itself will not be enough, it will have to be complemented by a process of global governance.

Put simply, the challenge is that globalisation has its own logic but not its own ethic with a power and momentum not unlike technology. Technology has its own logic but lacks its own ethic. That is to say, the drive of technology and of globalisation is to cross the next stream, to climb the next mountain, to conquer the next field. This does not mean globalisation is a force of nature which cannot be moved, shaped and developed; it can. It will have to be shaped and how we shape it and who will direct that shaping are critically important to achieve ethical outcomes. This has been done before; the world has confronted phenomena which have had their own logic but not their own ethic. We have contextualised those phenomena and placed them within a structured framework designed to give them direction.

The sovereign state emerged in the 17th century. At that time, some of the great names in the Catholic moral tradition, Suarez together with Grotius and the Protestant tradition, knew they were confronting something brand new. They set out to give it direction, to provide limits on its powers and to set mandates for it. The same kind of phenomenon occurred in the Christian tradition regarding the use of military force. This dates back as far as the 4th century from when there has been a systematic effort to recognise that in a world, fallen and not yet fully redeemed in all its activity, force might be used and this requires an ethical framework. Finally, in relation to the law itself: positive civil law has been given direction by a larger framework of moral argument which sets out the ethical framework for legislation, known as jurisprudence.

Thus the first major task is to set out the ethical framework around globalisation, a process which has its own logic but lacks its own ethic. Later this chapter explores how to define that ethic and how to complement it through developing a framework for global governance.

11 September and its aftermath
What, if anything, does 11 September tell us about globalisation? In attempting to deal with this question it is useful to ask a second question: globalisation is a fact, a phenomenon and a major force in world politics today but does it explain all of world politics? Globalisation is not an adequate lens to make sense of the world or to explain all of the key moral and political tasks faced by the world. In spite of its power, its scope, its complexity and its critics and supporters, globalisation is only a. part of world politics.

While economic interdependence grew during the Cold War it was clearly subordinate to politics and the threat of war.  Pope John Paul II in looking back on that time pointed out that the dominant factor in world politics was what he called the logic of the blocks. This was not primarily an economic but a political and military phenomenon.  By the end of the Cold War with the collapse of competition between the superpowers, many thought and hoped, that economics would be at the centre of world politics, and that understanding the dynamics behind economic relations would help us understand the world as a whole.

But it seems this is not the case, that in addition to the political and economic dimensions of globalisation, the challenge of how to maintain global security is a central aspect of international relations. The events of 11 September and their aftermath have brought this security dilemma more to the fore and have done so for the major players in world politics, powerful advanced states who are very vulnerable to terrorism, precisely because of their sophisticated and technological societies. There is in 11 September a reminder of the fact that global politics in its totality is about politics, wealth and poverty – all themes that run through the globalisation debate. World politics is also about politics and security but a different kind of security question which is not like the nuclear question.  Moreover, it is not like the challenges the world struggled with during the 1990s when a major security issue was whether or not to undertake humanitarian military intervention where there was great internal conflict. With terrorism the world is facing a different kind of security question.

The implications are that in addition to grappling with globalisation the world will continue to grapple with another side of the phenomenon of international affairs, namely, the relationship between politics and security. States are the primary actors here and there is a new phenomenon – a non-state actor, not new in historical terms but new in relative terms, which can do damage in specialised ways. There are linkages between the debate on globalisation and on global security.  People have said, and understandably so, that part of the United States’ response to 11 September should be to look at the world policies it pursues which generate strong opposition.  Prior to 11 September there was a whole range of policy questions which the United States needed to address in moral and political terms. These of course do not justify a direct attack on 5,000 civilians but now it has occurred, there is still a need to analyse this policy agenda. This includes questions on the policies which underpin globalisation and growing opposition to aspects of it.

Both the globalisation debate and that about 11 September and its aftermath have raised one other theme: the role of religion in world politics.  In the United States and beyond, since 11 September people have grappled with the challenge of relating religion to world politics and found they are not well prepared to do so.  In the debates around globalisation the role of religious communities in advocating on issues such as debt relief and fair trade rules, has demonstrated there are actors in the world, who are not states but comprise organised communities which can play a significant role in influencing complex policy agendas.

The Catholic Church as an actor in the globalisation process
Seeking to relate religion to international affairs in today’s world is not an easy task because for a long time most of those who studied, taught and indeed practised world politics thought there was no need to understand religion to understand global affairs.

The roots of this go back to the beginnings of the modern state system in the 17th century. They included a century of religious wars which killed one third of the population of Central Europe. It was not surprising that those who designed the modern state system thought it best to take religion out of politics entirely.  For them any mixing of these two forces risked creating a combustible, uncontrollable mix.  A major effort followed to secularise world politics, to take religion out of politics.  This has had long term consequences until the present day and no major textbook in international relations or world politics treats religion seriously.  This secularisation extends into the practice of world politics where it is assumed one does not need a systematic understanding of religion to understand the world.  So religion is not treated as a serious topic in those places where people are prepared to think and learn about world politics nor where they think and act on it.

There is another explanation for this secularisation of world politics: the belief that while religion may be deeply significant to people’s personal lives it does not have broad public relevance and consequences.  The idea is that one can understand the world if one understands politics, economics, military strategy, law and culture, but one can treat religion as a black box.  The difficulty with that perspective is that it does not explain the world of the past 25 years.  It does not explain how you could possibly understand the politics of Latin America without taking account of the role played by the Catholic Church.  How could one understand the peaceful transition in South Africa without Bishop Tutu?  How could one understand the collapse of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe without a Polish Pope and Solidarity?  None of these phenomena can be excluded in explaining and understanding the changes in world politics in our time..

Understanding the role of religion in world politics and in globalisation is important.  The Catholic Church can contribute to discussion on this topic because it has the capacity through its dialogue to convince political analysts and political decision-makers that it is possible to understand religion in analytical terms and to relate religious communities to other aspects of world politics.

We do this first of all by understanding that in our globalised interdependent world among the major phenomena of interdependence are transnational actors, that is to say, organisations that are not states but exercise influence in the world similar to states in the post.  Transnational actors have certain characteristics: they are based in one place, present in several places, have a trained corps of personnel, a single guiding philosophy and a sophisticated communications system; for example – IBM, Phillips Corp. and the Jesuits.  All these actors have a capacity to function in today’s world in a way that was hitherto unknown.  All the major religious traditions, including Islam, have this transnational capacity.  Discussions about the Islamic Nation cutting across national boundaries and the idea that if one Islamic state attacks another that this is a religious failing, are factors which world diplomats need to understand whether they like it or not.

Recognising religions as transnational actors, it is possible to ask how do religious groups exercise their influence within societies and across societies.  Religious communities bring three things to bear on their societies: ideas, institutions and a community.  Religious traditions help people to think about and interpret the world, that is the intellectual content; religion gives people reasons to live, reasons to suffer, reasons to expand their generosity but can also give people reason to kill and to build barriers.  Religious communities bring institutions.  Looking around the world including those countries in great turmoil, whether the conflict is economic, political or civil as prevalent in the 1990s, in either case religiously grounded NGOs (nongovernmental organisations) are part of the civil society network of institutions.  They are often the most significant and responsible actors in societies which may be collapsing about them.  Religious communities bring ideas and institutions and they bring a community of people together who draw strength from these ideas and support these institutions.

The Roman Catholic Church is not a new player on the evolving world stage but illustrates this intersection of ideas, institutions and community in a powerful way.  The reason it holds a particular place in today’s world is because the last century of Roman Catholicism has prepared the Church to deal with the world with a different substance and style and this has a direct bearing on its ability to influence globalisation.  It is useful to examine how and why the past century has shaped Catholicism for this role.

In this time the social awareness and social fabric of Catholicism have been strengthened and deepened. There were three main steps in the process: the legacy of the social teaching itself and through the papacy; the catalyst of the Second Vatican Council; and the pontificate of Pope John Paul II.  It is helpful to get a sense pf this development to understand the tools which the Catholicism is now bringing to bear on globalisation.

The social teaching of the Church tried to respond to three different phenomenona: the industrial revolution; the internationalisation of world affairs which followed World War II; and the rise of the post-industrial society.

These three stages of development gave rise to three sets of questions which CST sought to address.

i) What are the moral consequences of the industrial revolution?  Who needs to be protected?  What needs to be re-shaped?

ii) What does it mean when moving from a vision of society that is primarily about your own state to the truly global international system after World War II?

iii) What are the unique questions or issues that arise in post-industrial societies in which the ideas and the institutions which shape globalisation have their origins?

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