Globalization and Political Economy



Exchange and Interdependence


The terms internationalization and globalization now form part of the current vocabulary. At a very general level, the two terms are, so to say, interchangeable. They signify that at the world level trade or other forms of exchange have multiplied, and that this proliferation has taken place rapidly. That is manifestly the case in the scientific, technological, and cultural fields. This proliferation of trade and exchange is made possible thanks to evermore efficient, and largely instantaneous, systems of communication.


Again in this first current sense of the term, the terms internationalization and globalization evoke the interdependence of human societies. An economic crisis in the United States; OPEC's decisions regarding the price of petrol; the tensions between Palestinians and Israelis - just to cite one or two examples - have repercussions of global magnitude. We are concerned, challenged, and even affected by the disasters that take place in countries far away from us; we feel our responsibility for famine and disease anywhere in the world.


Religions themselves increasingly dialogue together. Even within the Catholic Church, communications have intensified.


We have thus acquired a keener consciousness of our belonging to the human community. In this first familiar sense, we speak of integration. In common parlance we say that "distances no longer count"; that "travel brings people together" and "that the world has become a global village."


The world is tending toward greater unity; in principle, we can only rejoice about this. It is normal, moreover, that to aim at this goal, new political and economic structures capable of responding to these new needs should be envisaged, but not just at any price or on any conditions.



Political Unification, Economic Integration


Throughout the last few years, the meanings of the words internationalization and globalization have become slightly more precise. By internationalization (in French: mondialisation) we mean the tendency leading ultimately to the organization of a single-world government. The emphasis is therefore placed on the political dimension of the unification of the world. In its actual form, this tendency has been developed in several currents studied by internationalists. In the present context, it will suffice to cite two examples. The first model can be traced back to the late 1960s and is attributable to Zbigniev Brzezinski.1 According to this model, the United States should assume world leadership, and reformulate its traditional messianism; it should organize particular political societies, taking into account a classification system that classifies these societies according to their degree of development. Internationalism is here defined on the basis of a hegemonic project whose objective is clear: imposing the Pax Americana on the world or sinking into chaos.


At the end of the 1980s, another internationalist project arose. One of its main exponents was Willy Brandt. The North (developed) and the South (developing) have a need for each other; their interests are reciprocal. It is urgently necessary to take new international measures to bridge the gap that separates them. These measures should be taken at the political level; they should aim first and foremost at the monetary system, disarmament, and the alleviation of famine. According to the Brandt Report's "program for survival," "a high-level surveillance body" needs to be set up. Its mission would especially be that of making the UNO more effective and consolidating the consensus that characterizes it.2 The concept of internationalization that appears here is not connected in any way with a hegemonic project. It is situated, rather, in the tradition of socialist internationalism. No doubt it does not go so far as to recommend the suppression of States, but their sovereignty would have to be curbed and placed under the control of a world political authority if the survival of humanity is to be ensured.


At the same time that the term internationalization was acquiring a rather political connotation, the term globalization was acquiring a rather economic one. The proliferation of world trade, the improvement of international communication led to people's speaking of an integration of world economic agents. Economic activities would be distributed between the various States or regions: The work would be shared. To some would be given, for example, tasks of extraction; to others, tasks of transformation; to others, again, tasks of technological production, world coordination, decision-making. This view of globalization is of frankly liberal inspiration, but with one precise proviso: If it is largely a question of the free circulation of goods and capital, it is less a question of the free circulation of persons.3


Globalization and Holism


In the recent documents of the UNO, the theme of globalization appears more frequently than that of internationalization, though without these issues competing with each other.


The UNO has taken on board the current concepts of the two themes we have briefly recalled heretofore. At the same time, however, it has profited from the momentum offered by the current concept of globalization to submit this term to a semantic alteration. Globalization is thus reinterpreted in the light of a new view of the world and man's place in it. This new view has been dubbed holism. This word means that the world constitutes a whole and that this whole has greater reality and greater value that its constituent parts. In this whole, moreover, the appearance of man is only an avatar: a manifestation of the evolution of matter. Man only has reality by virtue of his belonging to matter and he will finally return to matter. Man's destiny is death: It is to disappear ineluctably into the Mother Earth from which he emerged.


The great whole, let us simplify matters by calling it "Mother Earth," therefore transcends man. Man must yield to the imperatives of ecology, to the needs of nature. Not only must he be willing to submit himself to the surrounding world and no longer to rise above it, he must also accept to be no longer the center of the world. According to this interpretation, the "natural" law is no longer that inscribed in his mind and in his heart: it is the implacable law that nature imposes on man. The ecological gospel presents even man as a predator, and like all populations of predators, the human population must be contained within the limits of sustainable development. Man must therefore accept the need to sacrifice himself to the imperatives of Mother Earth not only today but also in the future.


The UNO is in the process of formulating a very important document systematizing this holistic interpretation of globalization. It is called the Charter of the Earth, or which, several drafts have already been published, and whose editing is now in its final phase. This document will not only be called to supersede the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, but, according to some, is also destined to supplant even the Ten Commandments themselves!


Here, by way of example, arc some excerpts from this Charter:


"We are at a critical moment of the history of the Earth, the moment of choosing its future… We need to unite to establish a durable global society, based on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and the culture of peace..."


"Humanity is part of a vast evolutionary universe… The global environment, with its finite resources, is a common concern for al peoples. The protection of the life, diversity and beauty of the earth is a sacred duty…"


"An unprecedented growth of the human population has overburdened economic and social systems…"


"Here is our choice: to form a global society to take care of the Earth and to take care of each other, or to expose ourselves to the risk of destroying ourselves and destroying the diversity of life..."


"We have an urgent need for a shared view of the basic values that offer an ethical foundation to the emerging world community..."



Religions and Globalism


To consolidate this holistic view of globalism, certain obstacles need to be removed and instruments put in place.


Religions in general and, in the first place, the Catholic religion, are comprised among the obstacles which, in this view, need to be neutralized. It is in response to this aim that the Summit of Spiritual and Religious Leaders was held, as part of the millennium celebrations. It launched the "Joint Initiative of Religions" whose objectives include the protection of the holiness of the earth and that of all living beings. Strongly influenced by New Age, this project aims, in the long run, at the creation of a world religion that would also involve banning any other religion from engaging in proselytism. According to the UNO, globalization ought not to concern merely the political, economic, and juridical spheres; it ought to concern the global soul. Representing the Holy See at the Summit, Cardinal Arinze could not sign the final document that put all religions on the same footing.4



The World Economic Pact


Of the numerous instruments put in place by the UNO with a view to globalization, the World Economic Pact deserves to be mentioned here. During his opening address to the Millennium Forum, Kofi Annan repeated the invitation he had made to the World Economic Forum in Davos in 1999. He proposed "the acceptance of certain essential values in the fields of labor provisions, human rights and the environment." The UN Secretary General declared that only thus would the negative effects of globalization be reduced. More precisely, according to Mr. Annan, to close the North-South divide, the UNO must largely appeal to the private sector. What is needed, he said, was to obtain the acceptance of this pact by a large number of economic and social players: companies, businessmen, trades-unions, NGOs. This Global Compact or World Compact would be essential to regulate world markets, to widen access to vital technologies, to distribute information, to satisfy basic needs in the field of health care, and so forth. This Pact has already received numerous promises of support, including that of Shell, Ted Turner (owner of CNN), Bill Gates, and even of several international trade-union movements.


The World Pact undoubtedly raises serious questions: Can one rely on major world companies to resolve problems that they could have contributed to resolve a long time ago if they had wanted? Does the growth of world trade itself justify the progressive establishment of a centralized authority to regulate international economic activity? What freedom would still be retained by trade-union organizations if labor legislation, incorporated in international law, had to submit to "global" economic "imperatives"? What powers of intervention would the governments of sovereign States still have at their disposal to intervene, in the name of justice, in economic and social questions? Even more serious is the question: Since the UNO is always hovering on the verge of bankruptcy, does it not risk falling victim to a takeover bid by a consortium of big international corporations?



A Political Project Served by the Law


It is, however, at the political and juridical level that the UN globalization project is most disquieting, In proportion, as the UNO, influenced by New Age philosophy, develops a materialist, strictly evolutionist view of man (in the way we have described), it necessarily replaces the realistic concept of man implicit in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. According to this materialist view, man is pure matter and is utterly incapable of saying anything at all true about himself and about the meaning of his life. He is reduced to basic agnosticism and skepticism. The why? of life has no sense for him: all that matters is the how?


The Declaration of 1948 presented a wonderful originality in its wish to base new international relations on the universal extension of human rights. That ought to be the foundation of peace and development. That ought to be the basis that legitimizes the UN's existence and justifies its mission. The world order ought to be built on founding truths recognized by everyone, protected and promoted progressively by all States.


Today the UNO has replaced these references to founding truths. Today, human rights are no longer founded on a truth applicable to everyone and freely recognized by everyone: the equal dignity of all men. Human rights are now the result of consensual procedures. Since we are incapable - so the argument goes - to attain a solid truth concerning man, and since such a truth is either inaccessible or does not even exist, we need to put our heads together and reach a decision, by an act of pure will, on what is the right course of action, since the need for action impels us. However, we are no longer going to decide by a universal reference to values that impose themselves on us by the sole force of their truth. Henceforth we are going to begin a consultation procedure, and after having heard everyone's opinion, we are going to settle the question once and for all; we are going to make a decision. This decision will be considered the right one, because it will be the actual result of the consensual procedure.


The "new human rights," according to the UNO today, are the result of consensual procedures that may be reactivated indefinitely. They are no longer the expression of a truth about man; they are the expression of the decision-makers' will. In the future, it does not matter what may be presented as a "new human right" at the end of this procedure: the right to homosexual marriages, to divorce, to single-parent homes, to euthanasia - while awaiting the right to infanticide, the elimination of the handicapped, eugenic programs, and so forth. That is why, in all the international assemblies organized by ONU, UN personnel strive with all their might to arrive at a consensus, for once acquired, the consensus is invoked to ensure the adoption of international conventions that acquire force of law in the States that ratify them.


A System of Positive International Law


Such is the crux of the problem posed by the UN globalization project. By its conventions or by its normative treatises, the UNO is in the process of putting in place a system of purely positive international law that bears the strong imprint of Kelsen.5 A basic tendency can be increasingly observed: The provisions of state laws are only valid if they are endorsed by supranational law. As Kelsen had anticipated in his famous Pure Theory of Law, the power of the UN is concentrated in a pyramidal fashion. Purely positive international law, shorn of any reference to the Declaration of 1948, is the instrument used by the UNO to establish itself as a super-State.



An International Penal Tribunal


By controlling the law, by even posing itself as the sole source of law, and by being able to verify at any moment whether this law is being respected by the executive organs of government, the UNO has established a One Thought system. It thus endows itself with powers as a tribunal in proportion to its appetite for power grows. Thus, crimes against the "new human rights" could be judged by the International penal court established in Rome in 1998. For example, in proportion that as abortion fails to be legalized by such-and-such a State, the State in question could be excluded from the "global society"; in proportion as a religious group is opposed to homosexuality, that group could be condemned by the International penal court for violating the "new human rights."



Global Governance


We are thus in the presence of a gigantic project, whose ambition it is to realize Kelsen's utopia, by aiming to "legitimize" and to put in place a single world government, of which the agencies of the UNO could become ministries. It is urgently necessary - we are assured - to create a new world political and legal order, and take urgent steps to find the funds to realize this project.


This global governance had already been envisaged in the Human Development Report in 1994. Drawn up at the request of the UNDP by Jan Tinbergen, winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1969, this text has all the appearance of a manifesto commissioned by and for the          UN. Here is an extract from it:6


The problems of mankind can no longer be solved by national governments. That is why there is a need for a world government.


The best way of achieving it is to reinforce the system of the United Nations. In certain cases, this would mean that it would be necessary to change the role of United Nations agencies and that they would become executive, and no longer consultative bodies. Thus, the FAO would become the World Ministry of Agriculture, UNIDO would become the World Ministry of Industry, and ILO the World Ministry of Social Affairs.


In other cases, completely new institutions would be necessary. They might comprise, for example, a permanent World Police Force, which could summon nations to appear before the International Court of Justice, or before other specially created courts. If nations fail to respect the Court's sentences, it would be possible to apply sanctions, both non-military and military.


Undoubtedly, in so far as they exist and perform their role well, particular nations do protect their citizens; they enforce respect for human rights and use appropriate means to this end. At the present time, in the UNO and its agencies, the destruction of nation States seems to be an objective to be pursued if the anthropocentric conception of human rights is to be stifled once and for all. By putting an end to the intermediate body formed by the national State, an end would also be put to subsidiarity, since a centralized world State would be put in place. The way would therefore be open for the arrival of globalizing technocrats and other aspirants to world governance.



Reaffirming the Principle of Subsidiarity


Positive international law is thus the instrument used by the UNO to organize a global world society. Under cover of globalization, it organizes world "governance" to its own advantage. Under cover of "shared responsibility," it invites States to curb their rightful sovereignty.


The UNO globalizes by increasingly posing as a world super-State. It tends to rule over all the fields of life and human activity by putting in place an ever more-centralized control of information, of knowledge and technology; of food, of human life, of health, and populations; of the resources of the soil and of the subsoil; of world trade and trade-union organizations; and last, and most important, of politics and law. Exalting the neo-pagan cult of Mother Earth, it deprives man of the central place that the major philosophic, juridical, political, and religious traditions have accorded him.


Faced by this globalism built on sand, we need to reaffirm the urgent need to base international society on the recognition of the equal dignity of all men. The juridical system that predominates in the UNO makes this universal recognition strictly impossible, given its assumption that law and human rights can only proceed by voluntary determinations. The primacy of the principle of subsidiarity, in the way it should be correctly understood, thus needs to be reaffirmed. This means that the international organizations should not deprive nation States and intermediate bodies of their natural rights and jurisdictions, but, on the contrary, should help them to exercise them.


As for the Church, she can only rebel against this globalization, which implies a concentration of power with a totalitarian flavor. Faced by the impossible "cohesion" - the "globalization" that UNO is doing its utmost to impose by pleading for a "consensus" that must always remain precarious, it is essential that the Church appear, in the image of Christ, as a sign of division.7 She can support neither a "unity" nor a "universality" that would be suspended at the subjective wish of individuals or imposed by some public or private authority. Faced by the emergence of a new Leviathan, we can remain neither silent, nor inactive, nor indifferent.




  1. Brzezinski, Zbigniev, Between Two Ages: America's Role in the Technetronic Era  (Harmonsworth: Penguin Books, 1970).
  2. North-South: A Programme for Survival (London: Pan Books World Affairs, 1980). See, in particular, chap. 16, 257-66.
  3. Among the first "modern" theoreticians of this concept one may mention Francisco de Victoria (with his interpretation of the universal destination of goods) and Hugo Grotius (with his doctrine of freedom of navigation).
  4. It was on this occasion that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published its declaration Dominus Jesus.
  5. Cf. Kelsen, Hans, Théorie Pure du Droit, trans. Charles Eisenmann (Paris: LGDJ, 1999).
  6. This text is included in the Human Development Report 1994 (New York and Oxford: UNDP, 1994); the quotation is from p. 88.
  7. Cf. Luke 2:33f; 12:51-53; 21:12-19; Matthew 10:34-36; 23:31f; John 1; 6; I John 3:22-24; 6.



PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR THE FAMILY - Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, Globalization, Economics, and the Family. Proceedings of the International Conference on Globalization, Economics, and the Family. Vatican City, November 27-29, 2000; Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Città del Vaticano, 2001.

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