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.