Northern Country

How globalization changes capitalism, the economy and politics

Obama’s Russia trip reveals search for true world political authority

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In the tradition of American pragmatism that seeks the meaning of truth only in those issues that relate to practical real-life consequences president Obama’s official trip to Russia is significant and can offer some insight into how and what the new world order in the twenty-first century will be like. Yesterday’s official release of the first social encyclical by Pope Benedikt XVI is another important milestone to that very same subject. The publication of the encyclical the day before political authorities from the World’s most powerful nations meet in Italy and president Obama is scheduled to meet the Pope for the first time, is testament to the daunting issues and problems that face all nations today.

President Obama’s two days in Russia were at best a mixed bag where the foundations of a lasting partnership may have been forged but the president himself admits that on divisive issues ‘a meeting of the minds won’t happen anytime soon’. Surely on issues of reducing nuclear arms and non-proliferation there was some progress but on others like Iran, NATO membership of Georgia and Ukraine, and democracy itself all efforts seem for naught.

let’s focus on the speech president Obama gave on US-Russian relations at the New Economic School graduation in Moscow. I will spare the issues of security, non proliferation and defeating violent extremism since these serve only as diversion from the real problem of global prosperity in a time of economic turmoil. That is not to say that issues like violent extremism and nuclear proliferation are not important, they certainly are, only not as important as others in the moment.

Like so many times before we could expect this president to plant the glimmer of hope into the hearts of people with the mere weapon of his words. Famous German philosopher and sociologist Jürgen Habermas once emphasized the importance of words in his main work about ‘The Theory of Communicative Action’:

“A higher degree of communicative rationality within communicative societies increases the latitude of unconstrained coordination of actions and consensual reconciliation of conflicts.”

So in this context it is worth noting that his speech was well received among young graduates who according to the president’s own words represent the future of their country and are therefore crucial in advancing US-Russian relations in the form of a global partnership. Obama called for a reset in relations between both countries to identify mutual interests and expanding dialogue and cooperation.

In front of an audience of young economists and future businessmen he stressed that economies only function within the rule of law. “People everywhere should have the right to do business or get an education without paying a bribe – that’s how people and countries will succeed in the 21st century”, Obama said.

On the issue of democratic governments the president was very forthcoming when he admitted that America should not impose any system of government on any other country, but we haven’t always done what we should have on that front. Alleging to the situation in Georgia and Ukraine, Obama emphasized the right of nations to have secure borders. “State sovereignty must be a cornerstone of international order”, he said. The question of NATO membership should be entirely up to the free will of a nation’s majority of its people. “NATO should be seeking collaboration with Russia, not confrontation.”

In his speech the president recognizes that no one nation alone can meet the challenges of the 21st century. It is therefore important to have an international system where all nations can pursue their interests peacefully.

President Obama: “…..a system where the universal rights of human beings are respected, and violations of those rights are opposed; a system where we hold ourselves to the same standards that we apply to other nations, with clear rights and responsibilities for all.”

Of course the president does not identify the specifics of such an international system but it is significant that he acknowledges the importance and necessity of it. One day before the world’s greatest nations gather in Italy it becomes increasingly obvious, the neoliberal movement in the US is broken. The economic crisis that is tormenting the global economy has forced the neo-conservative agenda to its knees. That’s the yin and yang of our political system: We get change for the better only if bad things happen first.

German philosopher and sociologist Habermas urgently advocated need for change a long time ago. In an interview with the newspaper Die Zeit in November last year, he acknowledged the demise of neoliberalism with far reaching consequences and at the same time encouraged engagement in an new world order. To fix what is broken the United Nations in its current form are according to Habermas not suitable enough. His great hope for a new revolutionary World domestic policy still remained the US, as the only liberal superpower left. Though for the US to lead this epochal effort and to take this chance of reason it would be necessary according to Habermas to thoroughly revise its neoconservative agenda.

Pope Benedikt XVI in his first social encyclical, Caritas in veritate, also stresses the importance of a true world political authority based on the rule of law and the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity. He calls for a reform of the United Nations Organizations, economic institutions and international finance to avoid a deterioration of the present crisis, to bring about disarmament, food security and peace, to protect the environment and to regulate migration.

From the encyclical:“The integral development of peoples and international cooperation require the establishment of a greater degree of international ordering, marked by subsidiarity, for the management of globalization. They also require the construction of a social order that at last conforms to the moral order, to the interconnection between moral and social spheres, and to the link between politics and the economic and civil spheres, as envisaged by the Charter of the United Nations.”

In today’s world of social and economic interconnections where borders and strict nationalism are increasingly counterproductive Pope Benedict, Jürgen Habermas and Barak Obama recognize the new challenges in the 21st century. The economic crisis that has spread to all nations is demanding a comprehensive readjustment of our common values. The answer we get from Pope Benedict’s encyclical is already in the title. Salvation, rescue and maybe even survival of mankind depends on it, a new felt devotion and passion towards honesty. Caritas in veritate- Charity in truth – would have prevented financial shenanigans from carelessly toying with the livelihood of millions. As Pope Benedict says in his encyclical there is nothing wrong with capitalism, there is nothing wrong with the desire of people to improve themselves, but it must not happen without charity in truth. It is urgent that our political leaders take notice. President Obama seems to understand, others may hopefully follow when they have the chance to read the Pope’s encyclical. It would be great if they do so before they gather at a meeting of the G8 and G20 this weekend.

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  1. […] could be called into question. So could his commitments he made during his Moscow speech (see also here), to the establishment of an international body together with and under the leadership of the […]


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