The Capitalism Project at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity recently brought together this book of papers by a group of noted academics, religious leaders and business people to discuss the contexts and challenges present in the modern phenomenon of Globalisation. Arising out of several different conference occasions, the topic was covered in settings that brought together diverse groups of interested thinkers and actors. According to the editor Peter Heslam, globalisation is a current buzzword in many fields religious and secular, but what exactly is meant by this? Economists, sociologists, politicians and political scientists, academics, corporate and business leaders – all these groups use the term and have some basic defining principles, but is this enough for understanding?
There are contradictory trends in globalisation, which make definitive statements all the more difficult. The book, divided into three main sections, makes an attempt to give defining markers, some of which are positive and others negative, of globalism on the world stage. The first section looks at the broad trends, including perspectives from corporate and financial centres on a multinational level, discussing the increasing power of this sector over against more traditional political power definitions and divisions. Globalisation is sometimes seen as a great boon to prosperity, but particularly in the lesser developed world, as Clive Mather points out, globalisation is sometimes seen as an enemy, a variation of older historical patterns of imperialism.
The second section looks at critical analysis and alternatives in the broad area of globalisation. Sometimes multinational business developments sound distinctively theological, as they look for the ‘right relationships’ and the ‘spirit’ of the venture, increasingly including elements that do not make direct, short-term impact on financial statement bottom lines. The authors in this section look specifically at images and metaphors that are biblical or derivative of Christian historical tradition and practice.
The final section explores areas of change. This involves a great deal of insight and skill, as well as openness for negotiation – Michael Taylor highlights the dualistic position of globalisation as potential saviour and great satan, but hold common beliefs in the abhorrence of poverty and a desire for a larger base of power-sharing and responsibility. The prophetic voice of the church is encouraged here as an institution that can in many ways be taken seriously in a call for social and economic justice in many parts of the world.
Editor Heslam concludes with an epilogue that draws various strands together, including his own idea of synthesis that looks for a sustainable global capitalism that works in aid of all the people, through technological developments that can solve many worldwide problems as well as an empowerment of peoples that can give others a sense of sharing in the global community. Heslam emphasises the biblical creation story and humanity’s responsibility toward creation as a call to use natural resources (he uses the term ‘natural capital’) much more wisely and efficiently in sustainable ways.