Prof. Dr. Heinz Theisen


European Values and Globalization

Vortrag an der Universität Ghom, August 2014      Druckversion

Towards a Multicultural World Order of Coexistence and Cooperation

Limits to Globalization
European Values and Structures
The European Union as a Model of Coexistence and Cooperation
Coexistence and Reciprocities between Cultures
Rule of Law and Education as Minimum Consensus of Civilization



For a multipolar and multicultural world order we need ways beyond the extremes of political or cultural universalism and global free market on the one hand and new nationalism and cultural particularism on the other hand. The European values and the structures of the European Union could be a model for new paradigms beyond universalism and particularism. At the core of the European culture lies the reciprocities between idealism and materialism, rights and duties, individual and common interests, national and supranational interests, global competition and social market economy. These reciprocities could define a basis for a minimum consensus in a multicultural world order.

The complexities of the modern world cannot be explained and arranged anymore by the one-sidedness of old ideologies. The relationship between the extremes should not be an either-or, but rather a balancing “as-well-as” and putting thoughts into a supplementary correlation. And in the long run the way “between” should lead to a way “beyond” old and incommensurable paradigms.


Limits to Globalization

The beginning of the twenty-first century will be remembered for a whole new age of globalization - a “flattening of the world” (Thomas Friedman, 2005). For most of the developing countries the processes of globalization help to find ways of economic growth to a certain wealth. Nowadays five billion people are doing better than in former times and are living in societies which have profited from globalization. But still up to two billion people don`t participate enough.

The global free market economy is not the result of competition between different economic systems. Like the free market that was created in England in the mid-nineteenth century, it was established and maintained by political power. Unlike its English precursor, the global free market lacks checks and balances. Insulated from any kind of political accountability, it is much too brittle to last for long. Finance speculations and high deficits even within the richest western banks and states signal that something went wrong. Instead of a new world order we suffer from new disorder, from anarchy and separatism, from clashes between cultures.

The utopian dream in the global free market all limits to growth will disappear has gone. Nowadays the limits to growth return in the form of energy politics. 21st century wars over resources will be more dangerous and intractable by being intertwined with ethnic and religious enmities.

Nowadays the global free market is no longer the priority. The Europeans and the United States of America recognise that China use the best of globalization and leave the rest. They try to establish a transatlantic free- trade area. It is probably only a matter of time when trade will return to being a matter of negotiations among governments. At worst, a tit-for-tat protectionism and nationalism would be the other extreme to globalization.

There is a tension between two spheres of globalization. In Europe and North America free capital flow coexists with stringent restrictions on the movement of people. Since the late nineties, this combination was leading to large-scale illegal immigration. At the beginning of the 21st century, the pattern of global conflict is shaped by growth of population, shrinking energy supplies and irreversible climate change, ethnic and religious enmities as well as the collapse or erosion of the state in many parts of the world.

The modern state is defined by its monopoly of organized violence. But in many parts of the world it does not hold the monopoly anymore. Governments are at risk of losing control over weapons of mass destruction. Private military corporations and warlords are fighting in many regions of the world.

Hundreds of millions of people are living in conditions of semi-anarchy. In much of Africa, parts of post-communist Russia, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, here in the Middle East in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, in Latin American countries such as Columbia and Haiti and in regions of South East Europe, such as Bosnia or Kosovo, there is nothing resembling an effective modern state.

The most important lessons to be learned are what we should not learn from each others. Russia has failed to catch up with the West. The transition from central planning to western-style free market has failed, but the mafia-based economy that emerged from the ruins of the Soviet state has evolved into a hypermodern type of predator capitalism. Because of its origin in crime, Russian capitalism is well adapted to grow at a time when the fastest growing sectors of advanced western economies are illegal industries such as drugs, prostitution and cyber-fraud. Furthermore Russia can exploit its energy resources for a new kind of power through energy politics, as it already did towards the Ukraine. The world wide spreading of corruption is the antithesis to social and cultural sustainability.

Global competition creates Neoliberalism. But we should not learn from market fundamentalism of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). As it does everywhere, the IMF demands fiscal austerity. However different the problems, their solutions are always the same. The IMF aims to install the same kind of capitalism everywhere. Inevitably, given the diverse histories and circumstances of the countries that have been subject to its policies, this goal has proved an illusion.

European Values and Structures

The Neoliberals of the post world war period in Germany took the prevailing best ideas from the traditional viewpoints and transported them into a cooperative relationship incorporating competing ideas. Social Market Economy takes from Socialism the accentuation of the social aspect and the dignity of labour, from Classical Liberalism the freedom of the individual and the coordination of decentralised decisions by the market, from Catholic Social Doctrine the unempeachibility of a person, the subsidiary and the idea of property serving public interests and from the Evangelical Social Doctrine the professional ethics and the thrift.

The putative contrasts should not be annulled by utopian dialectic, but should be supplemented in a tension-rich cooperation. The originality of the Social Market Economy finds its reason not in a specific idea, but in the mutual complementation of ideas regarded as incommensurable before. Instead of social conflicts cooperation becomes the prevailing organization in both the economical and social spheres.

By losing the balance between the extremes we become utopians and those who try to implement utopia become necessarily totalitarian. We can interpret the totalitarian answers as an attempt to enforce the recombination of the separated subsystems. But this will destroy the complexities for complementarities. It destroys pluralism.

On the other hand, the separation of the functional systems constitutes a moral crisis. If there are no interactions between religion and politics, economy and ethics, science and culture, individualism and society, the sustainability of this culture is in real danger. A lot of people even in the West believe that this pluralistic culture is in a moral and cultural decline. The Western culture has a lot of sociocultural problems like aging populations, huge government deficits, declining work ethics, social disintegration, drugs and crime.

The European Union as a Model of Coexistence and Cooperation

Nearly up to the end the 20th century had been an age of extremes. On the other hand, there had been better times based on negotiation and mixed programs, which are public and private affairs as well as state and society interacting with each other. We needed two World Wars to learn the new rules of cooperation between states.

Since its birth, in the rubble of World War II the origin of the vision of a united Europe has evolved dramatically from a coal-and-steel trading arrangement to a common market and to a community of today’s European Union. The European Union has the charter of a supranational community that means the competence of setting regulations and laws by the legislative of the Union. This is a new kind of state in which the member nations have handed over much of their sovereignty to a transcontinental government in a community that is becoming legally, commercially and culturally borderless.

The EU, with a population of half a billion, and stretching from Ireland to Estonia, has a president, a parliament, a central bank, a bill of rights, a unified patent office and a court system with the power to overrule the highest courts of every member nation. It has an 80,000-page legal code governing everything from criminal trials and corporate taxation to peanut butter labels.

In the 1990s the EU grew in size as well as in influence. On the one side, the member states agreed to a common currency, a single central bank, borderless travel, common food and health regulations and numerous other changes that increased the power of the EU government in Brussels and decreased the power of the national members to govern these issues individually.

On the other hand, the fifteen members opened their arms to their eastern cousins thus making their union broader by the enlargement. The EU incudes now 28 member states. It is a big, but not yet a global market. With the project of new members like Turkey, the West Balkan states and the Ukraine the European Union would be in real danger of overstretching and of just being a branch of the globalized economy.

The development of the European Union started historically with the integration of economy. After endless political quarrels it was the best to change the vision. First it was the economy. Later political cooperation took place. The European Union seems to be a good way for the restructuring of technologies, national economies, different nations and religions which were divided over the centuries.

The European Union means competition and cooperation at the same time, means the cooperation between nations and a supranational kind of state. In a way these are structures for the European dialectic of state and religion, idealism and materialism, universalism and particularism. (Reid, 2004).

We can learn from the European Union that former enemies can cooperate at first in the field of economy and later in the field of politics, despite of borders, despite of the fact of different national cultures which were in former times as important as the religious identities of today.

There are other European institutions. In the 21st century Europe is bound together by an extraordinarily dense complex of international institutions: the European Union, NATO, Council of Europe, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OECD) and others. In the long term the Middle East needs similar institutions able to moderate conflicts.

Coexistence and Reciprocities between Cultures

The national conflicts between Germany, France or Poland nearly destroyed Europe. The modern ideological conflicts between democracy and socialism nearly destroyed the world. In a multicultural world we have to search for new correlations between the different cultures of the world.

Different cultures are characterized by different value systems. In case they meet one another in the globalization process, this will increasingly result in value and identity conflicts. This does not apply equally to all cultures, and the conflicts therefore do not always result in a clash of civilizations. Many world cultures, as the Chinese or Indian, make no claim to universality and are only in certain areas a challenge for the West.

The „Clash of Civilizations“(Huntington, 1996) means a clash of different values and worldviews. This clash happens not only between Western and Muslim societies, it can also happen within the Islamic or the Christian and Jewish world itself. It is not the religion but the misuse of religion for political interests which create the clashes.

The recurrence of cultures also means the return of borderlines. In the ethnic separatism, which has led to secessions, to new nationalism, and to Islamism: what matters for them is to retain their own, particular, special reality in face of the global boundlessness. The recurrence of borderlines limits a "global civil society", "global governance", and the "universality of human rights." Boundaries belong to the realities of life at every level. They enable the diversity of cultures and civilizations.

In the contrary to universalism, this could result in a new policy of particularism, which already between 1914-1945 has driven the world in the abysses of nationalism. Since the Second World War, the number of states has tripled from 74 in 1946 to 204 today. Some of those states became impoverished after the separation from the powerful core country; others are now richer and better governed than the former great empire, in which the common welfare has been sacrificed to most diverse interests.

A multicultural and multipolar world order should combine aspects, which were seen in modern times as contradictions in a complementary manner. The European dialectic could help to find new reciprocities between

  • Nationalism and Globalization

  • Collective identities and individual economic interests

  • Particular value systems and a world wide civilization

  • Modernity and tradition

  • Closeness and distance.

However, we need the balance between closeness and distance instead of strictly dissociating ourselves from each other. Some aspects of culture are especially relevant for the economy. One aspect is how outward oriented a culture is: To what degree it is open to foreign influences, best practices and ideas? How well does it „glocalize“? The other aspect is how inward a culture is. To what degree is there a sense of national solidarity and a focus on development, to what degree is there trust within society?

Local cooperation in times of globalization is called “glocalization”. The more degree a culture naturally glocalizes the greater the advantage it will have in a flat world. The natural ability to glocalize has been one of the strengths of Indian culture, American culture, Japanese culture and, lately, Chinese culture. They haven`t lost their identity by joining the process of globalization. They try to take the best and leave the rest (Friedman, 2005).

The western universalism accepted no different value systems, opponents and contradictions and thus contributed significantly to the overextension of our material and spiritual capabilities. The universalism is now helplessly faced with the erupted particularistic culture struggles. Those who recognize the borderlines accept the need for a multipolar and multicultural world order. It can only be built and controlled by many power centers. This pluralism is preferable to a unipolar world order; it is controlled by one major power, for the reason that it enables the competition of ideas.

Europe and the West have to say goodbye to its predominance, and fit into a multipolar world order that has to be established. The former colonies forge ahead demographically, economically and politically. The West should stick to its ideals and self-critically deal with its history. It has been for long periods a history of violations of its own ideals. For this reason alone we should replace a universalist moralism by an "ethical realism". It includes rules of conduct such as caution, humility towards inevitabilities, studying cultures, responsibility for the consequences, and acceptance of the value systems of other cultures.

International police operations, in which policemen must be protected against the entire population, are no longer open to debate. The new military modesty becomes apparent in the recent refraining from a military intervention in Syria, and in the case of Mali in the fact that there will be no Western nation building. The local powers have to take over the task of stabilizing their regions and their nation.

As the Western defense alliance, the NATO has on the one hand refrained from interventions in the Soviet system, on the other hand drawn clear borderlines of its own sphere. In the ideologically antagonism of the East-West conflict, there was no other way than the simultaneity of deterrence, containment, and - where possible - relaxation. The attractions of trade helped to develop the enemy to an opponent and afterwards to a partner. In the end, history decided.

A moral realpolitik seeks the balance between ideals and interests. It recognizes that states pursue other topics than morality: stability of the international order, security against attacks of all kinds, unrestricted commercial routes, and a reliable supply of raw materials. Such an orientation towards what is necessary and possible means no reduction to mere interest politics. Similarly, different identities, cultures and religions can not be left out of account. Realpolitik of cultures includes the spiritual and cultural components as essential factors in today's world, without exalting them as the sole, decisive element.

In a multicultural and multipolar world order the West is dependent on the cooperation with other major powers. Especially the United States should neither poach states from their environment for alliances nor act the teacher towards them. We are no longer able to afford to use the universality of our ideals as a benchmark for the evaluation of Russia, China, Pakistan or Iran. Against non-political forces of the economy and also of crime, the world of states is long since on the defensive and must join forces. The “Islamic State” in Syria and the Iraq is an enemy of all cultures and even the end of civilization at all. For the containment of this evil, new coalitions like between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the USA are needed. Beyond cultural and political differences we have to secure the minimum consensus of a world wide civilization.

Rule of Law and Education as a Minimum Consensus of Civilization

Only the rule of law can limit the damage of globalization. As long as there is no world wide rule of law we will need the nation states. Although states need to be restricted in certain areas, they simultaneously need to be strengthened in others. The state-building agenda is as important as the state-reducing one. The problem of Neoliberalism lies in a basic conceptual failure to realise the different dimensions of stateness and how they relate to economic development (Fukuyama, 2004).

Real property rights exist only in constitutional states, in combination with the rights of freedom of the individual and in combination with their protection by the state. The rule of law is even more important than democracy. It is the framework for development. Democracies without rule of law are mostly even more corrupt than dictatorships, because a lot of different parties are trying to exploit the resources of the nation. The implementation of Islamic Law in many parts of the world means surely an answer to the spreading of corruption.

About the different value systems of our cultures and religions and even about the different kind of democratic structures we have to agree to disagree. But we can agree with the importance of the rule of law for every culture and nation. It helps to combine the different functional systems of a society and it even embodies the ideals of Good Governance,

  • Separation of private and public interests

  • Transparency of political decisions

  • Universality of decisions

  • Priority of efficiency and effectiveness

  • Cooperation instead of corruption

  • Control over and sharing of power in politics and civil service.

A law state or a constitutional state is not a secondary condition for democracy and market economy. Instead, it is the precondition of both. Without a constitutional state, there is no security for private property and investment. Without an independent system of justice and an effective civil service, there will be neither stability nor sustainable development. A market economy without a framework by the state means not freedom but anarchy.

In Europe it is no longer important whether land belongs to Germany or Poland – as long as they work together. However it is important that the land belongs to an individual person with rights and duties. Without personal property rights there will be no ambition to develop this land.

And we recognise another world wide minimum consensus. In the materialistic Marxist or Neoliberal belief, economy is the basis of culture. But in the age of knowledge-based economies, it seems to be the other way around. Education and culture will become the basis of politics and economy more and more. There will be more losers than winners as long as there are more market victims and market objects than participants. The hopes of free traders in comparative advantages of competition will be fulfilled only for those who are competitive, but not for the others. The modern individual increasingly needs to make his living without the help of ethnic groups or pressure groups.

Never before in history there have been so many well educated young women and men in the world. In the post-modern society and economy the old vision about the property of land is less important than the possession of knowledge. Education is a precondition for investments.

In the long term, the old paradigms, the old thought patterns and models for understanding of culturalism and of collective identities will give more way to economic interests and individual emancipations. The importance of culture for a society should not be made absolute. A human being is admittedly a cultural being, but in life and in living and working together also other things are of outstanding importance. In addition to the Holy there is also the profane reality. The absolute entities are accompanied by relative entities. The tendencies to standardize are confronted with the will for diversity. In this area of tension, new things constantly develop.

The cultures of the One-God-Belief have not only the task of preserving their intrinsic value. They should also empower and motivate people to contribute to a world wide civilization. If collective ethnic or religious "identities" are paramount, this means endless violence. If, however, science, technology and personal development opportunities are promoted, from it opportunities arise also healing powers between different cultures and nations.

In the long run, education and culture will be more important for the development than politics. But of course, after their education the young generation needs more participation. And instead of a brain drain from the South or the East to the North we need a brain circulation as it is working between East Asia and North America today.

May be our lecture can help a little bit to establish a brain circulation between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Europe.



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