Globalization is much on peoples’ minds these days. Robert Schreiter says that globalization refers to “the increasingly interconnected character of the political, economic, and social life of the people of this planet.” Robert J. Schreiter, The New Catholicity: Theology Between the Global and the Local (Maryknoll NY: Orbis Books, 1997), p. 5.
Saint John Paul II noted that “[t]he ethical implications [of globalization] can be positive or negative.” Ecclesia in America, no. 20. This is plain to see. For example, we now can communicate instantly with others in all corners of the world. At the same time, transnational corporations often treat workers as mere commodities.
Globalization can breed indifference
Pope Francis calls out “a globalization of indifference”:
Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.
Evangelii Gaudium (EG) no. 54. Significantly, a globalization of indifference divides people and nations. It puts tremendous wealth and power in a few hands, and leaves the vast majority outside. It isolates and alienates. Thus, a globalization of indifference is not an ethical globalization.
Solidarity is the key to meeting globalization
Solidarity is ours as persons with human dignity
In the mid-twentieth century, Romano Guardini foresaw a globalized world. Perceptively, he said that “the economic, social, national conditions of one country [would ] have repercussions all over the world.” Romano Guardini, The End of the Modern World (Wilmington DE: ISI Books, 1998), p. 185. In this world, individuals are “‘replaceable’ to a terrifying degree, and … all to easily fall[ ] victim to power.” Id. at 162. In response, Guardini said that our human dignity as persons requires that we be in solidarity with one another. Id. at 66.
Similarly, John Paul II said: “[W]e must never lose sight of the human person, who must be at the centre of every social project. … The challenge … is to ensure a globalization in solidarity, a globalization without marginalization.” Message for the 1998 World Day of Peace, no. 3 (emphasis in original).
Aspects of globalization in solidarity
Catholic social doctrine demands global solidarity as much as solidarity between individuals. To this end, Saint Paul VI emphasizes global solidarity. To begin with, solidarity obliges richer nations to aid developing nations. Populorum Progressio (PP) no. 44. “[N]o nation may dare to hoard its riches for its own use alone.” PP no. 48. In addition, solidarity among nations fosters peace. PP no. 52. Nationalism and racism are obstacles to solidarity. PP no. 62. “An ever more effective world solidarity should allow all peoples to become the artisans of their destiny. PP no. 65. Moreover, solidarity imposes a duty to welcome foreigners. PP no. 67. Finally, government leaders have the task of building closer ties of solidarity with all men and women. PP no. 84.
The ethical limits of globalization
Pope Francis points out that some people “defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation.” EG no. 56. John Paul II reminds us that before globalization took hold, market forces were “controlled by the community …. Now that commerce and communications are no longer bound by borders, it is the universal common good which demands that control mechanisms should accompany the inherent logic of the market. Address to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences (Apr. 27, 2001), no. 2. He identifies two principles to guide ethical globalization:
First, the inalienable value of the human person, source of all human rights and every social order. The human being must always be an end and not a means, a subject and not an object, nor a commodity of trade.
Second, the value of human cultures, which no external power has the right to downplay and still less to destroy. Globalization must not be a new version of colonialism. It must respect the diversity of cultures which, within the universal harmony of peoples, are life’s interpretive keys. In particular, it must not deprive the poor of what remains most precious to them, including their religious beliefs and practices, since genuine religious convictions are the clearest manifestation of human freedom.
Id., no. 4.