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Reflection on
Global Dreams: Imperial Corporations and the New World Order  
by Richard  J. Barnet and John Cavanagh, New York: Touchstone, 1995.  pp. 13-22 and 419-430.

 

 

INTRODUCTION
We are living in a new age of globalization.  In this new age, changes do not follow what have been imagined and are so drastic thus becomes unpredictable.  In the process of globalization, the uncertainty about future leads people to have different dreams of their own which we call "global dreams."  The rich people dream to be richer and the people with the political power dream to have more power.  There are poor people who dream to be rich enough to have daily bread while others do not even want to dream of the kingdom of heaven being realized in this world since they think that they have already lost too much.  Some Christians dream to have koinonia of the whole people, rich and poor. However, it is a long way to go.  In the world of diversity and separation, people speak in their own fonts to convince their own value system.  If we can say our hope is in koinonia, it would be realized by communication, in its first step, listening to the voices of the people with less power or powerless.

Richard J. Barnet and John Cavanagh uncover and envisage the global dreams by analyzing the process of globalization focused on its suprastructure, i.e., world's dominant power which is "imperial corporations", and the coming new world order which is formed by these economic powers.  In this reflection, I am going to focus on the authors' analysis of globalization through my faith to live out the good news of Christ for the poor in this changing world.
 

 

PROBLEMS OF THE GLOBALIZATION
The authors analyze the global economy by focusing on socio-economic factors in the process of  globalization: the global cultural product; its distribution; dynamic of the workforce; and the structure of financial network (p. 15).  Their analysis enables us to perceive the dynamic of the global system, how the economic power is taking over the political power, and what the vision of the innovative multinational corporations is.

The globalization in our contemporary world is the product of advanced capitalism which is characterized by uneven development, hence the separation between northern rich countries and the southern poor countries face a serious problem.  The more serious problems which we perceive through the authors' analysis are that the development of technology and production system which results in over production and job crisis (16-18).  Over production causes the ecological problem and job crisis widens a huge gap between the beneficiaries and the excluded poor and marginal.

In this complex situation, the authors point out, the expansion of national governments is still under the influence of economic consequences.  The process and result of globalization led the national officials to function in relation to the benefit of the multinational corporate and thus carry out the policies on behalf of this leading minority. As a result, the political social structure of the world is determined by the global corporate leaders only for their benefit of financial gaining, thus the majority of the global population are neglected and excluded from the benefit of the global industries.   

The world nowadays experiences poverty in abundance.  How can we name those who suffer poverty? They are the people who bears the sin of the world without sin.  Jon Sobrino names these people as "the crucified people" since they experience death in poverty, which is slow but real death.  The crucified Jesus, who is the poor, teaches us, through his life story, to be in solidarity with the poor.  One of the examples is in Mark 2:23-28.
     One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made
     their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. The       
     Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful
     on the sabbath?" And he said to them, "Have you never read what
     David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of
     food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest,
     and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any
     but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions." Then
     he said to them, "The sabbath was made for humankind, and not
     humankind for the sabbath; 28 so the Son of Man is lord even of the
     sabbath."

When  this story is viewed from the poor and marginal people, the message is not the kerygma about Sabbath, but rather Jesus' being in solidarity with the people who are hungry.  Against the Pharisees claim to keep the law of the Sabbath, Jesus proclaims that the "Sabbath is for the poor" by engaging himself with the starving disciples.[Byung Mu Ahn]  Here we find the basis of "the option for the poor" which is revealed in Jesus' mission.

The church faces many challenges: how the church can be a centre for those who suffer poverty; how church can influence the government's social policy. The church must ask questions  "who gets the benefit out of the globalization" and proceed with concrete action for the resolution.  However, it is not a simple and easy way.  As the authors mention, the global corporations are using all the information only for their benefit. It implies that the idea of structural change will end up as a mere ideal and may not be effective for the holistic well being of the whole global population. Global integration has many positive aspects, however, it brings unparalleled prosperity to rich and poor.  It thus creates a new form of global community which will confront the problems, not from the political conflict between nations or leading economic forces, but from that between the wealthy forces of globalization and the marginalized forces of localization.

Most of the world's leading corporations have positive social force, however, they do not take responsibility on the long term social or political consequences of their business activities. Hence, the oppressive structure in our new global system excludes the poor and marginal from the benefit sharing thus widens and hardens the gaps separating rich and poor.  The authors' claim is true that says that "no world authority exists to define global welfare, much less to promote it", and it reminds us the direction of the church's mission to seek for the holistic welfare for the poor.  
 

 

RESOLUTION OF THE CRISIS IN THE PROCESS OF GLOBALIZATION
For the resolution of these problems, the authors offer three strategies: structural change of the suprastructure of global system; educating the leaders; and globalization from below. The suggestion, "bringing global economic institutions under the authority of political institutions is essential" (p. 421) is ideal, however it leaves the question of how this is possible and when this happens are the political power truly work for the benefit of the less powered people and nation. The multinational corporations have dominant power in the global system and the leaders of these corporations would not give up their power by risking their primary goal.  The very unfortunate consequence within the present global system is, that neither political leaders nor global corporate managers are willing or able to solve the global crises and to change the systems for global welfare.

As the authors noted, the CEOs of the leading business of the world have a capacity for global thinking far greater than that of most officials of national government.  This means that the leaders of the global corporations have the power to lead the situation.  However, since their primary goal is to maximize the profit, in the concrete steps of  forming  the structure, the structural change can only be for the benefit of their businesses.

The authors find hope in education and nurturing of leadership in both government and the business world.  Once again the problem is, whether the self-transformation of the leaders is attainable through education. The authors sense that the cause of the global problems comes from world leaders' lacking the responsibility, therefore, suggest that a solution is to "educate the leaders" who have economic and political power.  However the nature and primary goal of multinational business is to be a winner for their benefit rather than global welfare, thus self-transformation of the economic leaders by education is hard to expect and is unrealistic.

The authors' suggestion "globalization from below" (pp. 429-430) speaks a positive way to the resolution. "Globalization from below" means empowerment of the people of infrastructure. "Globalization from below" certainly is one of the most fundamental element and the crucial factor, and in this process, inter-subjective relationship of mutual respect is realized.  Since people's power rises from the grassroots rather than from the top of the organized structure, it is necessary to mobilize the spiritual heritage of the people who are suffering and struggling for their long term benefits.  

Whether the separation between rich and poor comes about gradually or rapidly, it cannot be eliminated by either evolutionary reform of existing system, or by revolutionary reversal through violent uprising from below.  The fundamental shift in world view of supra-structure enables us to achieve the resolution of the global crisis.  Since the global corporation is sensitive and responds to daily reaction of the world situation and dynamics of change, it is crucial to make them to count the power of the people within infrastructure.

Considering the drastic change of global system and its dynamics, we need a multi-faceted strategy rather than a simple fundamental concept.  The resolution of the global problem is only possible by communication through a direct interaction between the dominating power and dominated powerless.  Whether it includes violence or not is a matter of strategy for the efficiency of communication.  Although it is doubtful about effectiveness, educating the leaders of the global economic and political power is still necessary.  The more efficient way is, through Christian education, to encourage and to support more Christians to be able to involve in that leading group.  

 

CONCLUSION
As Christians, we must address the problems and take the responsibility for the consequences of the global economic and political activities. The key factor for the resolution of the problem of globalization is how to build the power of the infrastructure.  The church should encourage the people of faith, especially theologians, to be equipped with specialized knowledge and information, and educate the grassroots necessary knowledge and skills.  "Globalization from below" can be a fundamental element that enables the infrastructure to build the power which makes the leaders of the supra-structure listen to the stories of the poor. The equilibrium of the power in the supra- and infrastructure makes the communication possible.    

Hope is in God who loves the world and is with us. Change is the key. To fulfill this mission, the church must realize that the structural change by transforamtion of present power is impossible. It is possible by the alternative whole new power in a different dimension, i.e., neither political nor economical power, which will lead to communication for koinonia. To communicate with the economic and political power, we need to be equipped with higher knowledge and information that are filtered through the good news of Christ for the poor.  Through this way, people will listen to each other and share the stories of the poor that enables koinonia, and will seek for the global welfare as the whole people of God.

 

 

 

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