The Global Common Good in a Divided World
David Hollenbach SJ
Presentation sponsored by The Australian Catholic University
and Uniya Jesuit Social Justice Centre
22 August 2005
ACU North Sydney Campus
The phenomenon of globalization is one of the most important signs
of the times in the early twenty-first century. It is one of the
central new realities that all countries, both developed and developing,
must address as we seek to chart our course into the future. My
thesis today is that the increased interactions among peoples in
a globalizing world require a deepened understanding of the common
good shared across borders. In particular, I will suggest we pay
particular attention to the link between the idea of the common
good and understandings of solidarity and justice.
I will present a three-part argument. First, a brief clarification
of the meaning of "globalization" will be offered. Second,
several key ideas about the linkage of the common good, solidarity
and justice developed in the tradition of Catholic social thought
that are relevant to these concerns will be outlined. Third, some
practical suggestions will be made about the way key institutions
can contribute to the solidarity and justice we need.
1. Dimensions of Globalization
First, a brief clarification of the meaning of globalization is
in order, since it is the focal point of considerable intellectual
and political controversy. Frequently in anti-globalization discourse,
especially in developing countries, the term is used to name economic
changes that are expected to lead to further impoverishment of those
who are already desperately poor. This usage of the term appeals
to recent economic developments that have been accompanied by both
increased poverty and inequality in developing countries. If globalization
is identified with such phenomena, the term takes on powerfully
negative connotations. On the other hand, more optimistic thinkers
point to the success stories among some developing countries to
argue that integration into global markets through trade and finance
can lead to positive economic outcomes. References were often made
to the east Asian "tigers" before the crisis of 1997.
A positive stance toward globalization also arises from the hope
that communications technology is bringing a worldwide human community
into being in a way that has never been seen before. The identification
of the meaning of "globalization" with such desirable
outcomes can give the term a very positive meaning.
In the midst of such controversies, the term "globalization"
needs to be defined. Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye have provided
some useful precision by defining globalization as the increase
in networks of interdependence among people at multicontinental
distances.  This
general description highlights the fact that globalization involves
complex networks of interdependence, not single strands of interconnection.
Globalization is occurring on multiple levels of social life—the
economic (including the diverse dimensions of trade, finance, investment,
production, and consumption), the environmental, the social-cultural,
the political, the military, and the technological.  Our evaluations of globalization
are in fact sharply influenced by which strand of the growing global
network we focus upon.
For example, economic globalization has been accompanied by both
increased poverty and increased inequality in some developing countries,
especially in Africa. The number of people worldwide with incomes
of less than $1 per day has been rising, despite the modest decline
of the percentage that are poor.
 The Structural Adjustment Programs of the IMF and World
Bank of the 1980s and early 1990s put constraints on the economic
decisions of the governments of developing countries through the
conditions they set for loans, debt relief, and other forms of financial
assistance. In hindsight, several economists highly placed within
the World Bank have written scathing critiques of the policies followed
by the major international financial institutions in the 80s and
early 90s.  In
their view, these policies have not alleviated and may even have
contributed to inequality, poverty, and suffering in parts of the
developing world. Such phenomena surely give the term globalization
a very bad name.
Such critiques have led to some new directions at the major international
financial institutions. For example, the World Bank’s recent efforts
to formulate a Comprehensive Development Framework and its 2001
annual World Development Report entitled “Attacking Poverty”
seek to put the issue of equality back on the development agenda.
 Indeed, this change of stated policy objectives has lead
some to argue that today’s World Bank leadership has become overly
ambitious in pursuit of equality and insufficiently committed to
free markets. 
The same critique has been directed at the Millennium Development
Goals established by the U.N. and Jeffrey Sachs’s strategy for achieving
Or consider aspects of globalization evident in the emergence of
environmental issues such as global warming or the health crises
due to the transmission of AIDS across national boundaries. A United
Nations Development Program study identifies protection of the environment
and human health as “global public goods.”
 An individual nation shares in a global public good precisely
because that nation is part of the global whole in which the good
is present. Thus the protection of the environment, climate, and
ozone layer for one country is intertwined with the global protection
of these realities. In an analogous way, we can speak of global
Thus ethical judgments with important policy implications must
be made on the basis of increasingly transnational information.
This might itself be called the globalization of the task of ethical
inquiry. This kind of globalization is highly desirable and we
do not have enough of it.
There are also explicitly political dimensions of globalization.
For example, the idea of universal human rights is raising complex
challenges to the sovereignty of nation states. The Universal Declaration
of Human Rights has become the charter document of an international
human rights regime composed of overlapping global, regional, national,
and nongovernmental institutions including Church-related institutions.  These institutions, often working
together, have raised increasingly strong challenges to the sovereignty
of states. A number of these agencies insist that human rights
are not limited to the civil political rights favored by the liberal
tradition but include the social and economic rights long stressed
in the Catholic tradition. The significance of this human rights
movement has been visible in the maneuvering that took place across
the borders of Spain, the United Kingdom, and Chile regarding the
fate of Augusto Pinochet. The establishment of the International
Criminal Court (despite U.S. opposition) is moving toward institutionalizing
such accountability for severe human rights abuses in a permanent
way. The political aspects of globalization also include consideration
of the legitimacy of humanitarian intervention to protect people
threatened by the gravest human rights violations such as genocide
and ethnic cleansing.
The role of human rights in the evolving international regime thus
directly challenges state sovereignty on the legal-political level.
At least as important in the long run, I believe, is the way the
idea of universal human rights stretches cultural understandings
of the scope of moral responsibility. In U.N. Secretary General
Kofi Annan's words: "State sovereignty . . . is being redefined
. . . by the forces of globalization and international co-operation.
States are now widely understood to be instruments at the service
of their peoples, and not vice versa."  In this way of thinking, human beings are,
first, members of the worldwide human community with rights that
derive from their humanity as such, and second, members of the communities
of existing nation states. Nation states, of course, are not about
to fade off the scene any time soon. Nevertheless, states do not
have impermeable boundaries that may never be legitimately crossed.
Annan argues that these boundaries indeed ought to be crossed, preferably
by diplomats, or in extreme cases by soldiers, to prevent massive
human rights violations, to protect refugees, to keep or make the
peace. This is in effect an appeal for the globalization of citizenship—for
granting membership in the human community a higher value than citizenship
in a particular nation state, at least in extreme situations where
humanity itself is threatened. Again, we see that the moral significance
of globalization depends on which dimension of the global network
we focus upon.
These economic, environmental, and political matters are but three
of the strands in the emerging network of globalization. The point
here is that globalization is a many-dimensional reality; it cannot
be reduced to a single line of analysis such as the economic without
distorting it in ways that will lead to serious misunderstanding.
2. What Kind of Globalization? Normative Considerations
Such trans-border interconnections in the economic, environmental,
and political domains are forms of de facto interdependence. The
key questions thus become how to move from patterns of interdependence
marked by inequality or oppression to conditions of interdependence
based on equality, solidarity, and reciprocity. Unequal interdependence
is evident where policies sustain poverty or deepen the gaps between
rich and poor. They are evident when whole nations are trapped
in a cycle of poverty by their debts to international financial
institutions.  To be sure, markets and trade can be engines of improved
well-being for those who already have access to them. The effort
to reduce European and U.S. tariffs on the agricultural products
of poor nations is based on the harm that restrictions on trade
can do to poor countries. When heavy subsidies to the agricultural
sector in the rich countries keeps developing country agricultural
exports meager, the benefits of trade will flow only to those who
are already better off.
Here it will be useful to say a few words about how Catholic social
thought can contribute to our normative reflection on globalization.
The idea of solidarity has an important place in the vision
of a just society in Catholic social ethics. John Paul II, for
example, often affirmed that solidarity is a prerequisite for a
democratic society characterized by human rights and that the individualism
of most theories of the free market is insufficient. To be sure,
the Pope acknowledged the efficiency and productivity of market
economies. But he often warned against uncritical support for liberal
ideologies that see markets by themselves as the solution to poverty,
political oppression, and violence. Catholic social thought has
long held that the market can create problems for democracy and
human rights unless it is regulated by norms of justice that emerge
from a vision of human solidarity – a vision that we are all in
the same boat together.
For example, during his 1998 visit to Cuba, John Paul II appealed
forcefully for human rights and democracy, as he did much earlier
in his native Poland when it was still under Communist rule. But
in Cuba the Pope also stressed that political freedom plus markets
is an inadequate formula for a just form of development. Here is
how he put it in Havana in the presence of Fidel Castro:
[V]arious places are witnessing the resurgence of a certain capitalist
neoliberalism which subordinates the human person to blind market
forces and conditions the development of peoples on those forces.
From its centres of power, such neoliberalism often places unbearable
burdens upon less favored countries. Hence, at times, unsustainable
economic programmes are imposed on nations as a condition for further
assistance. In the international community, we thus see a small
number of countries growing exceedingly rich at the cost of the
increasing impoverishment of a great number of other countries;
as a result the wealthy grow ever wealthier, while the poor grow
ever poorer. 
The Pope, of course, was no Marxist. Nevertheless, he observed
that in market-based societies it easily comes about that many persons
are unable to participate in the marketplace because they lack the
resources needed to do so – "if not actually exploited, they
are to a great extent marginalized; economic development takes place
over their heads.” 
This presents us with a formidable agenda. The shape of the world’s
evolving economic and political systems is still very much up for
grabs. One possible future is a new hegemony by the powerful over
the weak, in which the economic and military power of the few is
used to control and dominate the many. This, of course, is what
many of the critics of globalization fear is actually occurring.
But it also seems unlikely that efforts simply to withdraw from
the global web will secure a decent life for those who are presently
on the weaker side of the distribution of power.
Thus beyond the critiques of the negative consequences of globalization
we need to develop positive ways to envision living with it and
putting it to the service of the well being of all the people.
John Paul II has suggested the outline of such a positive vision
in his call for “globalization in solidarity, globalization without
marginalization.” He says that globalization of this kind requires
asking “Will everyone be able to take advantage of a global market?
. . . Will relations between States become more equitable, or will
economic competition and rivalries between peoples and nations lead
humanity toward a situation of even greater instability.”
 Giving positive answers to the first of these questions
means developing new forms of cooperation, partnership and solidarity
in the emerging global network.
How can we respond to this challenge to pursue a form of globalization
based on solidarity? I have several suggestions.
The Catholic tradition's stress on the common good and social solidarity
has important influence on the way we understand what justice requires
in the economic and political domains of the global network. An
adequate discussion of the meaning of justice is obviously impossible
here. The task can be simplified, however, by noting the United
States Catholic Bishops’ description of the bottom-line demands
of justice. They said "Basic justice demands the establishment
of minimum levels of participation in the life of the human community
for all persons." Put negatively, "The ultimate injustice
is for a person or group to be treated actively or abandoned passively
as if they were nonmembers of the human race."  Catholic social thought calls
this exclusion "marginalization" – exclusion from active
participation in the common good of the human community.
Such unjust exclusion can take many forms. There is political
marginalization: the denial of the vote, restriction of free speech,
the tyrannical concentration of power in the hands of a ruling elite.
The most extreme forms of such exclusion are evident in the ethnic
cleansing, and the abomination of genocide that we have witnessed
in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and that is occurring again
today in Darfur. Less dramatic are economic policies that sustain
or increase poverty, lack of education, no access to basic health
care, and unemployment. When we possess the resources to address
these deprivations but fail to do so, those who suffer the continuing
deprivation are effectively marginalized. The community implicitly
tells them: we don't need your talent, we don't need your initiative,
we don't need you. Put positively, we need a vision of
justice that maintains that every person counts, and that all have
a moral claim to participate in the economic, political, and cultural
life of their communities at least to the level needed to protect
the most basic requirements of human dignity. Injecting a vision
of justice such as this into the current debates about economic
relations in a globalizing world could be one of the chief contributions
we can make to the debates about globalization today.
3. Institutional Implications
This understanding of justice also calls for the development of
political and economic institutions that will give developing countries
and their citizens greater voice when decisions are being made about
indebtedness, trade, environment, labor standards, and other forms
of interdependence. As Keohane and Nye have pointed out, the venues
where such decisions are made presently often look like clubs with
membership limited to political and economic elites. Trade ministers
meet at the World Trade Organization, finance ministers at the International
Monetary fund, and heads of the most developed countries at G8 summit
meetings. Though these organizations are formally accountable to
the states that are their members, they represent only certain constituencies
within those states, frequently conduct their business in closed
sessions, and operate as distant bureaucracies. Votes in these
international agencies are often distributed in proportion to the
wealth or budgetary contributions of the member states and the poor
are rarely officially represented at all. This has been called
"globalization's democratic deficit."  Control over the decisions of these international
organizations by many of the people whose well-being they affect
is at best attenuated and at worst non-existent.  A normative understanding
of social justice, therefore, calls for greater transparency, accountability,
and access in these institutions than exists today.
Formal democratization of the governance of international institutions
is, however, only part of the solution. The situation also will
require strengthening the capacity of less formal modes of influence.
NGOs have the capacity to press both national governments and international
organizations for action on numerous issues.  They also have the capacity to influence the public debate
in the larger societies on these matters. The church and its many
agencies can and should be key actors in the effort to shape evolving
transnational and international institutions in ways that enhance
participation by poor countries. In the same way, the universities
and other centers of intellectual activity of our world have important
global reach that can have considerable influence for greater justice.
In fact there is some evidence that movement toward this greater
solidarity is not only a moral imperative but, in at least some
domains, an empirical reality. For example, Anne-Marie Slaughter,
the dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs at
Princeton, has argued that we need to “stop imagining the international
system as a system of states—unitary entities like billiard balls
or black boxes.”  Seeing the world as it is calls for recognizing
that the international system is a complex network whose many strands
are various parts of governments, as well as intergovernmental and
nongovernmental groups and agencies. Slaughter calls the trend
leading to this form of politics a movement to a networked world
and that the emerging global networks composed of parts of states
as well as NGOs can help contribute to more just and peaceful world
These networks help government officials see how national interests
and the interests of peoples elsewhere are often linked rather than
opposed. Similarly, nongovernmental advocacy groups are tied into
networks with each other and with both national governments and
 In an earlier work I described this picture of the emerging
global scene as “a network of crisscrossing communities.”
In such a world, positive engagement and solidarity with peoples
in other nations will often be necessary to achieve the good of
one’s own nation. Thus, in a hesitant but real way, the pursuit
of the national interest is becoming an increasingly transnational
task, precisely because the national good is increasingly a transnational
reality. This is one of the dimensions of the globalization phenomenon
that hold out genuine moral hope.
Let me conclude with what may be a provocative appeal to historical
memory. The distinguished Australian theorist of international
politics, Hedley Bull, has asked whether there may be an analogy
between the international system of the future and that which prevailed
in the West before the modern nation state had come into existence.
 In such a future, authority would be shared among numerous
overlapping communities, including national governments, intergovernmental
organizations, and transnational organizations and movements. The
significant actors in such a world would include not only states
but also intergovernmental actors like the Organization of American
States and the World Trade Organization, and also nongovernmental
bodies like Amnesty International, the international women's movement,
international scholarly associations, the Catholic church, the Islamic
community, and (more ominously) terrorist organizations such as
Al Qaida. Bull calls this neo-medievalism, because in the medieval
system political authority was diffused among multiple agents of
government, including barons and dukes, princes, the Holy Roman
Emperors, bishops, and the pope. Transnationalism was part of the
This does not mean, of course, that in our globalizing world the
European ancien régime can or should be reestablished. The
world is far too religiously and culturally pluralistic to revive
Christendom. The medieval analogy, however, does suggest a fruitful
way of thinking about the structural and political organization
of the future international system. This analogy is based on certain
similarities in the way the emerging structures of the world today
generate multiple and overlapping loyalties. Political and communal
loyalties today are becoming simultaneously more local and more
transnational than the focused loyalty that patriots and nationalists
of the modern era had to their state or their nation.
Today, an accountable form of governance will have to be multilayered,
including formal governmental bodies on local, national, regional,
and international levels, but also comprised of intergovernmental
regimes in which civil society-based NGOs play a key role.  Citizens in this world will have commitments to more than
one community, including patriotic loyalties to a nation state,
but also likely including loyalties to a cultural or ethnic community,
a profession, and one or more advocacy communities such as a labor
union or a normatively committed group such as Amnesty International.
 For many, these loyalties will include commitment to
a community of faith such as Catholicism, whose values transcend
all other loyalties but that advocates a form of universal solidarity
among all persons as fellow creatures of the transcendent God.
In light of this institutional evolution, is it far-fetched to
suggest that the Catholic tradition – with its strong commitment
to the common good and solidarity – could make a distinctive and
valuable contribution to greater justice in our globalizing world?
This contribution could be a vision of social solidarity and justice
based on the equal dignity of every member of the human family.
The links that connect ideas of the common good, solidarity, and
justice are especially important in the efforts to address the new
forms of economic, social, and cultural interdependence that come
with globalization. Because of its sensitivity to these links,
a case can be made that Catholic social ethics can make a creative
contribution in our globalizing world. So, at least, I would like
to propose and to hope.
 Robert O. Keohane
and Joseph S. Nye, “Globalization: What’s New? What’s Not? (And
So What?)” Foreign Policy (Spring, 2000), 104-119, at 105.
 For an in-depth
analysis of the diverse dimensions of globalization, see David Held,
Anthony McGrew, David Goldblatt, and Jonathan Perraton, Global
Transformations: Politics, Economics and Culture (Stanford,
CA: Stanford University Press, 1999). Similar though not identical
dimensions of globalization are distinguished and analyzed in Joseph
S. Nye and John D. Donahue, eds., Governance in a Globalizing
World (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2000),
Part One, "Trends in Globalization."
 See The World
Bank, World Development Report 2000 (New York: Oxford University
Press, 2000), Table 1.1, p. 23.
 See Joseph
E. Stiglitz, Globalization and Its Discontents (New York:
W. W. Norton & Company, 2002); William Easterly, The Elusive
Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the
Tropics (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001).
 See Ravi Kanbur and Nora Lustig, “Why Is Inequality Back on
the Agenda?” paper presented at the Annual Bank Conference
on Development Economics, World Bank, Washington, D. C., April 28-30,
1999. Kanbur and Lustig had oversight of the drafting of the World
Bank’s World Development Report 2000/2001.
 Jessica Einhorn,
"The World Bank's Mission Creep," Foreign Affairs
80, no. 5 (September/October 2001): 22-35, Stephen Fidler, "Who's
Minding the Bank?" Foreign Policy 126, (September/October
 See Inge Kaul,
Isabelle Grunberg, and Marc A. Stern, eds., Global Public Goods:
International Cooperation in the 21st Century (New
York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), especially the essays
on environment and health.
 See Ivan Vallier
"The Roman Catholic Church: A Transnational Actor," in
Joseph S. Nye and Robert O. Keohane, eds., Transnational Relations
and World Politics: An Introduction (Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press, 1973), and, for a more contemporary analysis,
J. Bryan Hehir, "Overview," in Religion in World Affairs,
findings of a conference organized by the DACOR Bacon House Foundation,
Washington, D.C., October 6, 1995, 11-24, esp. 16-18.
 Kofi A. Annan,
“Two Concepts of Sovereignty,” The Economist, September 18,
 See Administrative
Board of the United States Catholic Conference, "A Jubilee
Call for Debt Forgiveness" (April 1999), sec. I. Available
on the United States Catholic Bishops' Conference website, at http://www.nccbuscc.org
(downloaded July 24, 2001). This statement presents an overview
of a common-good based approach to the indebtedness of developing
 John Paul , Homily in the José Marti Square,
Havana, Cuba, Sunday, 25 January, 1998, no. 4. Downloaded from the
website of the Holy See, http://www.vatican.va.
 Pope John
Paul II, Centesimus Annus, no. 33.
 John Paul
II, “From the Justice of Each Comes the Peace of All,” World Day
of Peace Message, January
1, 1998, no. 3.
 National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Economic
Justice for All, no. 77, emphasis in the original. In David
O’Brien and Thomas Shannon, Catholic Social Thought: The Documentary
Heritage (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1992), 576-77.
 Joseph S.
Nye, Jr., "Globalization's Democratic Deficit: How to Make
International Institutions More Accountable," Foreign Affairs
80, no. 4 (July/August, 2001), 2-6.
 Robert O.
Keohane, "International Institutions: Can Interdependence Work?"
Foreign Policy 110 (Spring, 1998), 92. Keohane and Joseph
Nye develop the "club" characterization somewhat more
fully in their "Introduction" to Governance in a Globalizing
World, esp. 26-36.
E. Keck and Kathryn Sikkink, Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy
Networks in International Politics (Ithaca, New York: Cornell
University Press, 1998), 2-3, 16-25. For a similar breakdown of
the roles played by transnational NGOs see L. David Brown, Sanjeev
Khagram, Mark H. Moore, and Peter Frumkin, "Globalization,
NGOs, and Multisectoral Relations," in Governance in a Globalizing
World, Nye and Donahue, eds., 271-296, at 283.
Slaughter, A New World Order (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 2004), 5.
A New World Order, 19-22 and 10. For a study
of the emerging role of NGOs, see Margaret E. Keck and Kathryn Sikkink,
Activists beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International
Politics (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998).
 David Hollenbach,
The Common Good and Christian Ethics
(Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 229.
 Hedley Bull,
The Anarchical Society (London: Macmillan, 1977), 254.
 See Held,
et al., Global Transformations, 85, and Margaret E. Keck
and Kathryn Sikkink, Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks
in International Politics (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University
Press, 1998), esp. 209-217.
 The term
"multilayered governance" is from Held, et al, Global
discussions of these plural loyalties see Onora O'Neill, Bounds
of Justice (Cambridge University Press, 2000), esp. chaps. 9
and 10; Amartya Sen, "Global Justice: Beyond International
Equity," in Kaul, et al., Global Public Goods, 116-125.
Professor David Hollenbach SJ is the Margaret O’Brien
Flatley Professor of Theology and Director of the Center for Human
Rights and International Justice at Boston College.
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