Monday, April 25, 2005

Coleman On Globalisation And Ethics.

The University of Western Australia recently hosted a lecture by Dr Peter Coleman, a visiting Chair, on the topic of globalisation.

Coleman’s argument seems to be the way to redress the negatives of globalisation is through the ‘globalisation of morals’. He is, like most on the subject, aware that the processes of globalisation have both positive and negative impacts, including the impact that globalisation has had on nation states (a topic that Habermas has written an interesting work on). Coleman claims that these processes pose three challenges I) to adequate global governance for the common good, II) to a sustainable environment, and III) to solidarity with the poor and developing world. Coleman’s solution to these problems is to reinforce the notion of community, and the concept of nation that is derived from it, and from these notions to attempt to construct trans- and international consensus on other issues.

There are two main problems with this ‘modernist’ system of thought. It is ‘modernist’ because it seems to invoke the Kantian ideal of perpetual peace, though a consensus derived from rationality. Firstly, it fails to realise the complexities of the contemporary political environment – there is too much idealism in a mix where realism is better suited – where international consensus is hard to build unless it proves politically advantageous; gone are the days when many nations would rally to a global agreement, simply because it was a global agreement. Secondly, the very notion of globalising morals seems problematic – how do you develop an international consensus on such diverse things as norms? Even within the western world there are staggering differences between nations on which norms are acceptable, and these go beyond simply liberal-conservative divides. It is here that the challenge of solidarity with the poor of the developing world falls down, since the norms of contemporary society make it difficult for most people to have solidarity with the poor of their own nation, let alone the poor of other nations.

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