globalization: advantages and disadvantages (2001)
Gregor Paul, Karlsruhe
When we speak of globalization,
we usually refer to economic globalization. Then the discussion focuses on
such topics as the international share holder value ideology and the limited
possibilities of national politics to cope with the problems of a gobalized
market. Of course, the problems of a global market and of share holder value
ideology are also cultural problems. At least they are also a function
of cultural factors. For example, the goal to maximize one’s own profit
usually implies working against the welfare of other people. More generally
speaking, as far as economic globalization is a function of morals
or ethics, and as far as morals and ethics are cultural achievements, economic
gobalization is a kind of cultural globalization. Besides economic globalization,
there is another well known variant of globalization which is more clearly
a kind of cultural globalization. In Germany, it is often called Americanization,
and it can be characterized by such names and words as Coke, McDonald’s,
fast food, (blue) jeans, T-shirts, wellness, aerobics, etc. This globalization
might be termed popular globalization.
However, I will mainly
discuss kinds of cultural globalization which concern philosophy, religion,
theology, ethics, rights, arts and music, and not enter deeply into the
questions of economic and popular globalization.
Now, the following points
seem quite clear: (1) The fact that we are all human beings favors
the idea of equality, i.e., the notion of principally equal rights
and duties and the notion of principally equal treatment of all human
beings. (2) This does not, and should not, imply that all of us must follow
the same identical rules or must be submitted to the same identical treatment.
For instance, it would be ridiculous to ask all artists to paint the same
identical pictures. Not only does diversity in art usually pose no great problem,
in most cases such diversity is even welcomed. There are, however, cultural
differences in philosophy, religion, and moral convention which do, or seem
to, contradict ideas of equality. Also, if a cultural tradition regards its
ethical norms and values as universally valid and tries to realize them in
cultures that recognize different norms and values, problems arise. Today,
at the beginning of the 21st the century, certain governments indeed hold
that the fundamental ethics and morals they regard as valid are of universal
validity and hence ought be acknowledged by other governments and other peoples
too, and they even try to enforce these ethics and morals on other governments
and peoples. Further, since about 1990, some ethical and moral teachings have
spread from certain politico-cultural realms over large parts of the globe.
I am referring to the spread of ideas of human rights and democracy in the
states of Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, Taiwan, South Korea
and – though to a more limited extend – in the Peoples’ Republic of China.
Also, most, if not all middle American and South American states have accepted
the fundamental ideas of human rights and democracy. And this also applies
to some states in Africa. Thus, there is indeed a cultural globalization
that has far reaching practical consequences, namely a widespread, (seemlingly)
ever growing acceptance of ethical, moral, and political norms and values
which are often labelled distinctively “Western,” and there exist indeed
some states, particularly Western states, which even exert pressure to further
strengthen and speed up this development. When critically labelled “Western,”
the norms and values at issue are conceived of as being functions of distinctively
Western cultural specifics and hence valid only for people in Western
cultures. This view then reflects the fundamental problem one has to deal
with when discussing cultural globalization.
Is validity a function
of culture? Does the validity of a certain view, conviction, belief, hypothesis
depend on the genesis of this view? Apparently, the theorem of Pythagoras
is valid independently of time, place and authorship of its origin. Does
the same apply to certain ethical and moral norms and values? And if this
were true, would it justify respective kinds of cultural globalization?
If it were false, cultural globalization would of course be unjustifyable.
If different cultures follow fundamentally different but neverthesless equally
valid moral rules, then there is no justification to replace one set of
these rules by another. In this case, mutual understanding and mutual tolerance
would be the appropriate reaction.
But if validity is independent
of origin, then it could be possible that certain culturally specific
norms are indeed invalid, even if they have existed and have been acknowledged
for a long time. Actually, old and died out cultures which used to sacrifice
human beings for religious purposes provide examples that certain cultural
norms and practices can be wrong or invalid, and that they might be abandoned
even as a result of inner-cultural developments.
Having said all this, I
am perhaps able to explicate the question regarding the advantages and
disadvantages of cultural globalization in a more precise way.
1. Are there
cultural convictions, norms and values which are universally valid?
Before expressly naming
some norms and values which are often called universally valid, I
should like to distinguish between different kinds, and views, of
validity, namely (1) validity based on argument, and (2) validity based
on authority. (3) Mixed notions of validity are also possible.
(1) A doctrine, conviction,
“belief,” hypothesis, or what else term one may use, can be valid because
of logical, mathematical, scientific, and/or empirical reasons. In most
cases, such kind of validity is easily accepted by everybody. However, the
validity of ethical rules cannot be proved with the same certainty as,
e.g., the validity of the theorem of Pythagoras, or as the validity of the
proposition that I have money in my shoes. Nevertheless, I am convinced
of that the validity of an ethical norm can be shown by a way of argument
that in particular utilizes logic, pragmatic concepts of causality, the notion
of anthropological universals, and general human experience.
(2) Often, validity is (also)
seen as a function of authority. The best known example is religious truth
based on divine revelation. As long as secular truth and religious truth
are compatible with each other, there is no problem, but if they are
not, there can arise serious conflicts. For instance, Roman Catholicism
(still) teaches that the Christian god is all-benevolent and almighty.
This is a self-contradictory notion. As long as the Catholic church
and its members simply tolerate men who do not believe in the Catholic
god, no problem arises. However, in the European middleages the Catholic
church even burned some such unbelievers at the stake. This is not
to say that the notion of divine revelation must give rise to conflict.
Even some modern Catholic theologians maintain that the teachings
of what they call the great religions are equivalent in all relevant
respects. According to them, they are different but equally valid and
equally incomplete expressions of the same identical salvational truth
which can never be fully revealed (SThZ 2/2000). Such a theological position
paves the way for religious tolerance across the different religions.
Now, what kind of cultural
globalization should be accepted or even furthered? And because of what
reasons? What are the advantages, what are the disadvantages? What kind
of globalization, or attempts of globalization, should be rejected? And
because of what reasons?
Some answers seem to be
quite clear. If ethics and morality count economic globalization, in particular
economic globalization determined by share holder value ideology, must be
subjected to international, i.e. global, control. International politics
should do everything to work against the inhumane consequences of economic
globalization. In this sense, there seems to be no alternative to a global
moralization -- or, more precise, morally determined institutional regulation
-- of international politics. In the short run, share holder value oriented
behaviour and politics may enable the rich to become even richer, and some
lucky social upstarts to make a fortune, but in the long run it may become
a cause for social unrest, political revolutions and war.
can be a rather unimportant phenomenon. However, if it is seen as an expression
of a secular ethics which contradicts one’s own religious norms and beliefs,
serious conflicts may arise. For instance, a young Iranian woman who
likes to listen to American pop music and who likes to wear jeans and
T-shirts, may encounter some difficulties. On the other hand, a so-called
secular state may even forbid certain religiously motivated conventions.
In Germany, a state which claims that it treats all people equally without
regard to their religious beliefs, in 2000, a female Muslim school teacher
who insisted on wearing a shador in class was not permitted to teach in
public schools. This, by the way, was not consistent with the fact that
many German Christian teachers openly wear a necklace with a crucifix.
Especially in Bavaria, many class rooms are decorated with a crucifix.
But what about human rights
and democracy? As already pointed out, if one does not regard validity
as a function of culture, there can be universally valid human rights.
Often, the claims to an inalienable human dignity, the right to
life and the right to freedom (based on moral autonomy) are regarded
as universally valid human rights. If they are indeed universally
valid, then they should of course be respected by all people of
all cultures. It would be of great advantage if all human beings
abided by universally valid ethical rules and norms, for such a behaviour
would once and for all preclude the use of force, or at least significantly
reduce it. It would strongly enhance intercultural understanding. This
notwithstanding, no culturally distinctive features that do not
contradict these rules and values would be threatened, or even extinguished.
Different languages, different (non-fundamentalist) religions, different
conventions of politeness, different ways of clothing and eating,
different traditions of literature, painting, architecture, and
music, etc. could continue to florish. Also, arguing for a realization
of universally valid principles does not mean, or imply, that these
principles ought be realized at once and without taking into consideration
existing cultural traditions which work against the realization. In particular,
if realization of a universally valid principle actually increases existing
problems and suffering, e.g. giving rise to war, it should be suspended,
at least for the time being.
As far as the notion of
democracy is concerned, the argumentation would be similar. If such
principles as the division of power and the checks and balances of
power are the best ways to realize universally valid morals, especially
universally valid human rights, they should be put into practice.
Again however, this must not be done without taking into account antagonistic
cultural traditions, for such a procedure could be inhumane and could severely
harm many people.
As to religously distinctive
truth, it can be globalized, in the full sense of the term, only by force.
This is so for many reasons. It cannot be conveyed by way of mere argument,
i.e., by using means which all people possess and can master. Also, it
very often contradicts universally valid logical principles. I have mentioned
the example of the Roman Catholic notion of an almighty and all-benevolent
god. Many people can only be forced to acknowledge the truth of logically
contradictory concepts and propositions. Further, religious truth often
contradicts causal principles and human experience. For instance, Christianity
teaches many miracles. Again, many human beings can only be forced to believe,
or at least to say that they believe, that miracles are possible. In Sino-Asian
cultures, for 2000 years, most of the scholarly elite did not believe
in gods, in an afterlife, or in the truth of contradictions and the possibility
of miracles. In the 21st century, the same applies to most Chinese Communist
caders. Also, history of religion strongly indicates that religious globalization
would be possible only by religious war. Seen from a Catholic point of
view the question is whether (the realization of) Catholic truth is more
important than abidence by peace and/or common-sensical and secular notions
of humanity, or more important than secular notions of validity and truth
such as logicalness and empiricalness. It is perhaps only because the Christian
church is subject to secular law that Christians do (no longer) force
their religious belief on others. Theoretically one can of course make
a sharp distinction between secular and religious (or salvational) truth,
maintaining that they have nothing do with each other, but this also gives
rise to certain problems. Perhaps one must simply admit that, generally
speaking, religious tolerance – however it might be justified or motivated
– is the only way to preclude religiously motivated cruelty, and that,
therefore, religious tolerance is a must. In other words, one must give
up the idea of a religious globalization.
One may however object,
that there is no universally valid and universally known methodology of
argumentation and of deciding whether a (moral, ethical, politcal)
proposition, view or doctrine is universally valid or not, and that
it hence meaningless to talk about universal validity. Such an objection
would be mistaken. To list only some universally valid and universally
conveyable methods of argument:
(1) principles of
logical form such as the laws of non-contradiction, the excluded middle,
and the law of transitivity,
(2) pragmatic rules
(3) kinds of everyday
(4) reference to
anthropological universals, e.g., human abhorrence of pain, hunger, thirst,
poverty, etc., and human hope for a comfortable and
(5) the distinction
between validity and genesis (origin),
(6) the distinction
between is and ought, e.g., actual tradition as a mere fact and moral
(7) reference to the
formulation of similar moral rules and norms in different cultures,
e.g., versions of the Golden Rule in Indian, Chinese,
Islamic (cf. Khoury, pp. 34-36)
and European cultures.
2. Are there cultures that
do not acknowledge these values?
3. Given that there are such
cultures, should they take over all or some of these universally valid
norms and values, or should they even be forced to do so?
4. Given that at least some of
these universally valid norms and values should be accepted by all cultures,
except for just realizing universal morals, would there be other
advantages? Would there also be disadvantages?
5. Does actual cultural globalization
indeed improve the life of all the people concerned? Or does it not, at
least in some cases and for a certain span of time, increase the problems
and difficulties of many people? Are governments, or other groups, institutions
and persons, morally and/or politically legitimized to press for certain
forms of cultural globalization?
There are other important methods too. It may be of some significance
that all listed seven rules are by no means a “distinctively Western”
invention. They have actually also been formulated, e.g., in classic Chinese
texts, though of course in a different way, in different works and different
contexts. One will not find a similar list. Further, I suspect that most,
if not all of the listed rules, have been formulated by Muslim scholars
too. I only quote al-Kindi (801?–866) who at least implicitly maintained
that truth (i.e., validity) is independent of origin:
We should not be ashamed
to acknowledge truth, no matter what its source (origin) may be, and even
if it is brought to us from earlier generations and foreign people. (Ya’qub
ibn Ishaq al Kindi, p. 103. R. Walzer (trans.), p. 12. Cf. also:
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein, and Oliver Leaman, eds., vol. 1, p. 171.)
From an analytical and
theoretical point of view, the most important problem of cultural globalization
seems to be whether one regards, or accepts, logicalness as a necessary
criterion of truth. If one does, then most versions of religious truth
prove untenable. As far as belief in a god or gods is concerned, only
very general and abstract concepts of a god or gods, i.e., philosophical
notions of god(s), remain possible. If one goes further and also regards
empiricalness as a necessary criterion of truth, then miracles – i.e.,
occurrences that contradict natural law(s) – must not be accepted. Only
if one once and for all denies respective relevance of logicalness and/or
empiricalness, one can maintain that e.g. divine revelation is of greater
importance than logically and empirically acceptable views, theories, convictions
etc. But if one does, this is of far-reaching and most serious consequences.
As indicated, one can no longer decide questions of truth by way of mere
argument. Also, it becomes almost impossible to clearly distinguish between
questions which can be subjected to argumentation and such which can not.
One can then talk and behave arbitrarily and wilfully. Since from a religious
point of view there is simply no reason not to teach and to defend salvational
truth – for this truth is clearly more beneficial to men than peace and painlessness
– use of force seems not only justified but even obligatory. In short, (i)
abidence by logic and (ii) belief in a religiously specific (particular)
divine revelation are incompatible. Since many people, among them scholars
as well as fundamentalists, were or are aware of – or at least unconsciously
know of – this basic incompatibility, rational theology has always been
(regarded as) either a welcome option or (as) a hated, and bitterly fought,
heresy. Jesuits like Matteo Richi could not be tolerated by traditional
Catholics. Al-Ghazzâlî was compelled to criticize al-Fârâbî
who defended the universal validity of logical principles (Nasr, Seyyed
Hossein, and Oliver Leaman, eds., vol. 1, p. 180 and pp. 261-262). Since
it will never be possible to logically reconcile so-called secular and so-called
religiously specific truth, I again arrive at the already indicated conclusions
that (1) religious globalization is impossible, that (2) religiously specific
belief theoretically precludes cultural globalization, particularly secularization,
that (3) theocracy or, more general, religious government theoretically precludes
democracy, and that (4) the potentially dangerous forces of religious power
must be dealt with very cautiously. Only if one does not “make things (even)
worse,” one ought subject religious power to argumentation, criticize it,
and (finally) subject it to institutional control.
However, one need not be
too pessimistic. After all, all human beings try to think logically,
regard self contradiction as self-refuting, know that fire burns,
eat when hungry, prove that they have money in their pockets by showing
it. All men know how to argue for their views and how to justify them, and
all men righty trust that, in principle, their arguments and reasons
can be understood. That in many cases we do not give in to
a valid argument, is a different problem. As a practical force, argumentation
is notoriously weak. Leaving aside the already sketched question
of logic, empiricalness, and religious truth, the following points deserve
mention. To a far extent, actual practice is determined by (thirst for)
power, indoctrination, intimidation, rhetoric, habits, affection,
human relations, socio-political institutions, etc. rather than by
argument. Even in private life we find it difficult to accept a valid
argument that conctradicts our hopes and feelings – as Nietzsche remarked,
a behaviour only all too human.
More precise, ethically
justified cultural globalization, and global discourse about ethically
justified cultural globalization, are hampered by the following factors.
First of all, particularistic political and economic interests make
international ethical control of the global and inhumanely capitalist
market virtually impossible. This is to say that the egoistic interests
of nations and companies in political and economic power and its respective
benefits almost preclude creating international institutions that would
limit and control these interests. Creation of such institutions is further
impeded by the huge number and complexity of the political, economic and
technical problems involved. Now, since it is mostly the people in underdeveloped
and undemocratic states who suffer from economic globalization, and since
it is the rich states and the global players which are mainly responsible
for the inhumanity of economic globalization, these states and global players
seem to lack the moral legitimation to ask undemocratic governments for democratic
reforms. In short, since the so-called Western states and Western global
players refuse to pursue a morally acceptable international politics and
economics, undemocratic and fundamentalist governments can justly accuse
them of hypocrisy and of following double standards. This leads to the second
point, namely that undemocratic and fundamentalist governments can use “Western”
morally inconsistent politics as an excuse for their own inhumane regimes.
Referring again and again to “Western” egoism and hypocrisy, and in particular
to the hypocrisy of the most powerful states and global players, they exploit
these features ideologically and as a means for indoctrination. Shifting
attention to the moral shortcomings of their critics, they succeed in avoiding
any discourse about the (contents of the) criticism itself. This behavior
follows a well know rule and pattern. If one wants to avoid discussing whether
a certain criticism is justified or not, one only needs to stress that the
critic himself could be subjected to the same criticism, and is hence in
no moral position to attack others. In other words, if one wants to succeed
in convincing others that they should realize – put into practice –
certain moral norms and values, one must be upright, honest, trustful, reliable
etc. Though this sounds very old-fashioned, it is simply true. But states,
governments, global companies and their influencial representatives are not
sufficiently “honest.” Intelligent politicians and political scientists know
all this very well. It is precisely because of such problems that humane government
and humane politics is the result of efficiently working political, social
and economic institutions rather than of mere moral argument, be it as
valid as it can be. Third, fundamentalist and undemocratic states and governments,
and their main representatives, have a natural interest in the status quo.
Cultural globalization, e.g., democratization and acknowledgment of human
rights, would significantly restrict their power and all the benefits that
result from it, namely prestige, richness, comfort, etc. Hence, these states
and governments, and their representatives, are inclined to use all means
necessary to secure the status quo. Besides discrediting external influences
as being questionable attempts of morally questionable instances, they try
to further ideologically indoctrinate, and even to intimidate their people.
They try to monopolize information. Accordingly, the public media, the
internet, and even arts and literature are censored. Those who dare
to protest are persecuted, imprisoned, and even tortured. Foreign criticism
is further discredited by denouncing it as an attempt of political, ideological
and cultural imperialism and colonialism. It is depicted as something
unapt for, and even opposed to, the welfare of one’s own state, people and
“original” culture. Internal critics are accused of violating the countries
interests, of being political enemies, and so forth, and again are persecuted.
One’s own state and culture are elevated to the highest goods, at least
they are placed far above universal, international, or cross-cultural values.
In the first place, people must “love” their motherland and unconditionally
submit to the wishes of its “enlighted” leaders. This is a very efficient
politics, for it answers the interest and inclination of human beings to
be acknowledged as something besonderes. It thus also answers their interest
in belonging to a class of men characterized by an important cultural identity.
As long as the (nation) state is regarded as a kind of highest good,
cultural globalization – in particular global realization of human rights
– is virtually impossible. In this context, I like to quote the former
German president Gustav Heinemann who, once asked whether he loved
Germany, answered: “No, I only love my wife.”
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