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Public Theology: Interpreting Globalization
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Interpreting Globalization
An adult class in three sessions on three dimensions of globalization.

By Ed Knudson

To guide the presentation and discussion the following matrix was placed on the flipchart along with a map of the world.

Globalization Matrix Cultural Political Economic
Beliefs 1.1 World religions continue to influence beliefs of persons, though Christianity has been privatized in western societies. European cultures during Age of Discovery claimed to be "civilized" and superior to those in the "new world" and Africa. Cultural beliefs are carried by grand narratives (stories) which were once powerful in creation of personal identity, but are now declining in influence according to "postmodern" theories. 2.1 Enlightenment provided basis for modern political thought, individual rights, revolutions in US, France and England. Thomas Jefferson wrote Declaration of Independence in 1776; classic liberalism places much faith in "nature and nature's God". Historic meanings of "conservative" and "liberal" have nearly reversed in last years; enlightenment beliefs have created enlightenment institutions which fight against one another, such as current battles between government and corporations which define the political parties in the US. 3.1 Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations; neo-classical economics; end of the cold war means capitalism is reigning economic philosophy; belief that economic activity is self-regulating
Institutions 1.2 Western Media; Roman Catholic Church is a global institution; World Council of Churches, Lutheran World Federation; non-governmental, non-profit agencies. Islam has no "church" concept per se; it depends on the state for propagation and maintenance of its teachings. 2.2 The modern nation state; constitutional democracies which separate church and state; United Nations and global governance structures; World Court 3.2 Multi-national corporations; global patterns/structures of commerce, investment; World Bank; International Monetary Fund; World Trade Organization
Future 1.3 Substantial growth of Catholic and Pentacostal churches in the developing world; decline of European religious activity; religious right in US is having substantial political influence, support of Israel, strongly against international organizations. 2.3 The role and influence of the nation state is declining relative to the growth of international activity due to rapid changes in transportation and communication technologies. In the United States government is more and more in the hands of a ruling oligarchy which controls the media, to which vast amounts of money must be paid by politicians to get their message to the people. Loss of power, and thus communicative capacity, at local community levels will mean greater instability as the rate of change caused by centralized economic institutions increases so fast that social structures weaken and create need for more police and formal processes for criminal justice and social control. 3.3 Very substantial increase of inequality in the distribution of economic benefits if corporate institutions are not regulated by global political structures. Those with wealth invest where the highest rate of return is gained, and that is going to be China in the future. International investors who helped create the Wall Street bubble during the 1990s will be turning away from the United States and thus helping to encourage its decline. China is not a democracy so its adoption of capitalist economics can be promoted more effectively than many other places around the world.


When the term "globalization" is used today the most common reference is to the greater and greater integration of the world economy; it is an "economic" phenomenon. But this is an assumption made by those who believe economics is a kind of self-regulating activity. As the matrix indicates, economic factors are only one of three dimensions of globablization.

Cultural beliefs and governmental organization are also key aspects of globalization.












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Date Added: 11/16/2002 Date Revised: 11/16/2002

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