April 30, 2001
Real Threat Behind Globalization?
Economist Stefano Zamagni on Papal Appeal
VATICAN CITY (ZENIT.org) -
John Paul II was ahead of his time when he warned about globalization in his
1991 encyclical "Centesimus Annus," a leading economist says.
Italian economist Stefano Zamagni talked about the Pope's views on globalization
in the wake of the Holy Father's call for a humanization of globalization. The
Pontiff gave an address on the phenomenon last week to participants in a
conference of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.
"The Pope is not opposed to globalization as such, just as the Church, in
its social doctrine, has never exalted the poor," said Zamagni, an
internationally known economist with special interest in migration issues.
"Yet the Holy Father gives a warning: Globalization, carried to its
ultimate consequences, might lead us to live in a world that is, perhaps,
richer, but undoubtedly more unhappy."
From 1990 to 1999, Zamagni was a consultant to the Pontifical Council on Justice
and Peace. Since 1996, he has been the Italian bishops' representative to the
Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community (COMECE).
In Centesimus Annus, the professor said, "Wojtyla expressly mentioned
globalization. Secular scholars, instead, only began to focus on the problem in
the second half of the '90s."
--Q: Could we say, therefore, that the Pontiff anticipated the times on this
--Zamagni: Yes, the Pope was ahead of his times. Today he refers to the topic
again because, some characteristics of globalization, to which one cannot turn a
blind eye, are increasingly obvious.
--Q: Which in particular?
--Zamagni: I am thinking of the phenomenon of businesses that divest themselves
of their responsibility vis-à-vis the land itself. I am thinking of the
inversion of the causal relation between the economy and politics.
It is no longer politics that establishes the rules of the game. If someone
establishes them, it is economic figures. Lastly, we cannot underestimate the
sad fact that globalization presents another worrying aspect.
--Q: What are you referring to?
--Zamagni: Globalization reduces absolute poverty but increases relative
[poverty], that is, the inequalities among the different social groups. Not only
between the North and South of the world, but also in the developed countries
Or, said in another way, the increase in relative inequalities is damaging, to
the degree that it appears as a threat to peace and an attack on democracy.
--Q: John Paul II warned about the danger of globalization becoming a new
version of colonialism. Why has he made this last alarming cry?
--Zamagni: A great risk is implicit in globalization: that of cultural
homogenization. This is a subliminal process, insofar as it does not happen
through imperialist actions as in the past.
--Q: Are you referring to the era of classic colonialism?
--Zamagni: Yes. At that time, the hegemonic powers imposed their own will and,
as a consequence, the very lifestyle of colonial peoples, with power, laws and
the force of armies. Today, power is exercised in subtle, indirect ways, through
economic dependence, and trade in goods and products. However, the result is
always the same, the overturning of specific cultural identities.
--Q: What are the consequences at the global level, if this process is
consolidated and faces no obstacles?
--Zamagni: The principal negative aspect of homogenization lies in the
destruction of cultural diversity, in preaching that only one optimum way exists
for development, the so-called best way.
However, in this way the dialectic between cultures is destroyed, which,
instead, has always been the real spring for progress. If globalization takes
this current tendency to its ultimate end, people would really be much less
happy. Man's happiness is linked to a great extent to his own cultural identity.
--Q: Identity might seem a generic, abstract term. What does identity include?
--Zamagni: The norms of behavior, lifestyles, but also religious beliefs. This
is why one can understand why the Pope has called the world's attention
precisely to this aspect.
--Q: What is the position of the Catholic Church, as expressed in the Pontiff's
address, in face of globalization?
--Zamagni: I would say [it is one] of discernment, of distinguishing between the
positive -- which exists -- and the risky. Also, in face of the negative
aspects, the posture is that of someone who wants the process to develop by
being directed to the service of man and all men. It is not that of someone who
wants to halt it.