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III. The World Economy Today

Chapter III identifies nine issues which challenge churches and Christians to resond to economic questions. These issues arise within a world context which influences them in three ways: (1) the increasing globalization of economic systems integrally connects the local and international aspects of problems, which must be addressed at the international level; (2) recent economic and political changes have created a new world situation with the problems and possibilities presented by systems in a state of collapse and/or reconfiguration; (3) the interconnected nature of all of these issues complicates the search for solutions to any of them.

This paper identifies and briefly describes several of the main issues in the global economy that deserve careful study and caring reflection with a view to fresh action on the part of all concerned, not least Christians.
Inevitably there is bias and selectivity in any summary of complex realities, but what follows reflects the insights of many different people from many different contexts. That many refinements could be brought to the generalizations in what follows does not detract from the fact that these are issues whose urgency we neglect, down-play or cover up at our peril.
These pages deal with interlocking and worldwide realities, which require worldwide processes of handling and solving. It may sound somewhat unreal to speak in these terms when the "normal" contexts of thought and action for most people are the smaller units of family, village, tribe, township or region, and where so much power of decision -and of the educational and ideological shaping of decisions -- resides in the nation-states whose common forum in the United Nations system is still far from growing into the forerunner of a world government. Yet one of the unmistakable features of our time is that the trend to greater "globalization" seems irreversible. Environmental threats pay no respect to national borders. Neither do diseases such as AIDS or problems such as drug addiction. Global problems must be seen for what they are, however difficult it is to know how to resolve them.
There seems in 1992 to be a widespread sense of living at a kairos in history, a peculiarly intense moment of opportunity for fresh imagining and fresh deciding, if the future is to live up to what we can dimly see as its promise rather than rush headlong into what seems its all too probable doom. This sense has something to do with the high symbolism of the year 1992, with its fifth hundred anniversary of Columbus' voyage and its tragic consequences, and its heralding of a breakthrough in the undisputed sovereignty of the separate nation-states in the Western European Economic Community and the questions what this might mean for countries in the South. Our sense of opportunity probably has also to do with the mixture of relief and apprehension around the world at the crumbling from within of the communist "super-power" of the USSR, and its "bloc" of satellite states, thus abolishing the rivalry between "East" and "West'. This rivalry has dominated and in many ways distortingly fixated the whole world since the end of the second world war. Humanity is offered -for how long? -- a window of opportunity not just for fresh policies in the field of common security but also for wide and peace-promoting thinking about common priorities and policies across the political and economic board.


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