Santa Clara University


Social Justice in The Global Economic System

1. Brief Introduction
2. A Short Introductory Course
3. Other Resource Materials
4. Recent Articles

Brief Introduction

The global economic system is integrated by the worldwide flow of goods, information, money, and people. Modern technology facilitates the almost instantaneous transfer of money and information and the rapid transfer of goods and people. Rising commodity and energy prices, plus national protectionism, especially of agricultural products, discourage the global transfer of goods. The WTO's Doha Round broke down in November 2008.The global economy can be analyzed under three headings: the entire system; global competition among various regions of unequal strength; and the relations of the economically advanced countries with the developing ones. See analysis in Hanson, Religion and Politics in the International System Today (Cambridge, 2006), “The Global Economic System,” (pp. 21-28), and “Social Justice in the Global Economic System,” (pp. 60-62). In terms of the analysis of recent developments, the principal considerations are the longterm rise of commodity prices and the  shock to the entire economic system of the financial crisis in fall 2008. See individual countries for specific impacts.

At the global level the economic emphasis in multilateral organizations has broadened as the world economic has become more complicated. In 1975 the G6 was formed of France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Canada joined in 1977 and Russia in 1997, producing the G8. As time went on, these countries often invited Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and South Africa. Finally, in 1999 the G20 met for the first time. That group includes the finance ministers and the central bank governors of the prior countries and Argentina, Australia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Turkey, and the E.U. Ex-officio members represent the World Bank and the IMF. In the recent crisis, the G20 has become the most relevant multilateral economic form. 

From the religious and ethical viewpoint, the major issues revolve around social justice in a very unequal world. For the 2000 United Nations Millennial Development Goals, see Sachs (2005), 210-25. For annual changes to the world and national situations, see the yearly United Nations Human Development Report and the annual "The State of the World" report from the Worldwatch Institute of Washington, D.C. Analysts have recently emphasized the interdependence between social justice and environmental degradation since the poor suffer disproportionately in both cases. See, for example, United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report 2007/2008, Fighting climate change: Human solidarity in a divided world (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).

A Short Introductory Course:

Read Friedman and the International Forum on Globalization for two very different perspectives on the phenomenon. Then read the economists Sachs, Stiglitz, and Collier for practical analysis. Recent thought has emphasized both the salience of environmental issues and the crucial role of agricultural development. See this site's separate entry for the former and the World Bank study below for the latter. Finally, read Coleman and Ryan for the ethical perspectives of Catholic Social Thought. 

Friedman, Thomas L. The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005.

International Forum on Globalization. Alternatives to Economic Globalization: A Better World is Possible. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2002. John Cavanagh and Jerry Mander co-chaired this committee which including many prominent critics of globalization.

Sachs, Jeffery D. The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time. New York: Penguin, 2005.

Stiglitz, Joseph E. Making Globalization Work New York: W.W. Norton, 2006.

Collier, Paul. The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. Collier shows the flaws in aid programs, especially to Africa and the poorest.

World Bank. World Development Report 2008: Agriculture for Development. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank, 2007.

Coleman, John A., and Ryan, William F., eds. Globalization and Catholic Social Thought: Present Crisis, Future Hope. Ottawa: Novalis, 2005.

Other Resource Materials:

Aristide, Jean-Bertrand. Eyes of the Heart: Seeking a Path for the Poor in the Age of Globalization. Monroe, Me.: Common Courage Press, 2000.

Bane, Mary Jo, and Mead, Lawrence M. Lifting Up the Poor: A Dialogue on Religion, Poverty, and Welfare Reform. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Press, 2003.

Beaudoin, Tom “The Cost of Economic Discipleship: U.S. Christians and Global Capitalism,” Santa Clara University Lecture Series, November 4, 2001.

Bergsten, C. Fred, Gill, Bates, Lardy, Nicholas R., and Mitchell, Derek. China: The Balance Sheet. New York: Public Affairs, 2006.

Blank, Rebecca M. and McGurn, William. Is the Market Moral? A Dialogue on Religion, Economics, and Justice. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Press, 2004.

Blustein, Paul. The Chastening: Inside the Crisis That Rocked the Global Financial System and Humbled the IMF. New York: Public Affairs, 2001.

Eichengreen, Barry. The European Economy Since 1945: Coordinated Capitalism and Beyond. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007. Review by Sheri Berman in New York Times Review of Books, March 25, 2007.

Farmer, Paul. Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2003. This doctor-public anthropologist writes of his experience with the lack of health care in developing countries, especially Haiti, Russia, and Chiapas (Chapter Three). For those interested in Catholicism, he discusses Liberation Theology in Chapter Five. Forward by Amartya Sen.

Ferguson, Niall. The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World. New York: Penguin Press, 2008. Fine summary of the development of financial instruments, ending with the global recession.

Friedman, Thomas L. The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1999.

Kliksberg, Bernardo. Social Justice: A Jewish Perspective. NewYork: Gefen Publishing House, 2003.

Marshall, Katherine, and March, Richard. Millennium Challenges for Development and Faith Institutions. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank, 2003.

Schweiker, William, “Responsibility in the World of Mammon: Theology, Justice, and Transnational Corporations,” in Max L. Stackhouse and Peter J. Paris, eds., God and Globalization: Religion and the Powers of the Common Life (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity International Press, 2000), 105-39.

Stiglitz, Joseph E. Globalization and Its Discontents. New York: W.W. Norton, 2002.

Sundstrom, William A. “Addressing Disparities in Income and Wealth,” Santa Clara University Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, October 23, 2003.

Worldwatch Institute, The State of the World 2007: Our Urban Future. Washington, D.C.: Worldwatch Institute, 2007.  home site of Journal of Buddhist Ethics.See Markkula Links for Agricultural and Food Biotech (9 entries) and Business Ethics (52 entries)

Recent Articles:

“Trade Talks Fail Over An Impasse On Farm Tariffs,” New York Times, July 25, 2006. WTO Doha Round talks suspended over farm subsidy impasse. Positions of major nations and blocks.

“Agricultural Discord Stymies World Trade Talks’ Revival,” New York Times, September 11, 2006. G-20, led by Brazil and India, meets at Rio. U.S. and E.U. joins, but unable to reach agreement.

“2 Foundations Join in Africa Agricultural Push,” and “Philanthropist Gives $50 Million to Help Aid the Poor in Africa,” New York Times, September 13, 2006. Gates and Rockefeller Foundations join to increase agricultural productivity in Africa. Soros supports Sachs’ Millennium Promise effort to jump-start African villages.

"Global Support for Trade, Mixed With Some Doubts," New York Times, October 5, 2007. Results of Pew Global Attitudes Project survey of 46 countries and Palestinian territories. Majority support global trade, but growing concerns about environment, traditional way of life, and immigration. Results, from U.S. (59% good) to Senegal (95% good).

"World Bank Report Puts Agriculture at Core of Antipoverty Effort," New York Times, October 20, 2007. World Bank World Development Report 2008: Agriculture for Development shifts emphasis to providing seeds, fertilizer, rural roads, etc. to help peasants. It was preceded by a very critical inside report (New York Times, October 15, 2007) that criticized strategy of counting on markets for those functions.

"World Food Supply Is Shrinking, U.N. Agency Warns," New York Times, December 18, 2007. Food and Agricultural Association (Rome) reports food index rose by more than 40 percent this year due to less supply, influenced by climate change, and more demand. Josette Sheeran, executive director of the World Food Program, called it "the perfect storm for the world's hungry." The FAO plans a new initiative that will offer farmers in poor countries vouchers for seeds and fertilizers and help them adapt to new climates.

"Leaders Speak of Their Own Issues at a Conference Addressing Food Shortages," New York Times, June 5, 2008. FAO meets in Rome as participants debate causes for both short term and long-term food crisies. Kofi Annan stated, "The era of food aid is over--there is no more sending food from America to Africa." Emphasis should be on improving agricultural practices in Africa and Asia.

"Hoarding Nations Drive Food Costs Even Higher," New York Times, June 30, 2008. At least 29 countries are restricting food exports. Article provides fine summary of current trade in agricultural products.

"U.S. and Global Economies Slipping in Unison," New York Times, August 24, 2008. The I.M.F. in July World Economic Outlook, "The global economy is iln a tough spot, caught between sharply slowing demand in many advanced economies and rising inflation everywhere."

"Crisis Jolts Poland, and Other Go-Go Markets," New York Times, October 27, 2008. Credit crisis even affects Poland, one of the strongest emerging markets.

"After 7 years, Talks Collapse on World Trade," New York Times, November 20, 2008. The collapse of the Doha Round, with its emphasis on agricultural products. Politics of blame.

"Disagreement Over Goals At a Meeting On Hunger," New York Times, September 17, 2009. Debate between developed and developing countries over food policy at U.N. summit. Attended by Pope Benedict XVI, Berlusconi of Italy, da Silva of Brazil, and Qaddafi of Libya.

"Agro-Imperialism?" New York Times Magazine, November 22, 2009. Article by Andrew Rice on foreign, especially Middle Eastern, buying of land in East Africa, especially in Ethiopia, to attain food security. Debates over equity, size of parcels, etc.

"Report Offers Optimistic View of Africa's Economies," New York Times, June 24, 2010. Recent progress in Africa, tied to commodity price rises.

"Latin Economies Racing Forward As Others Creep," New York Times, July 1, 2010. Recent economic growth on continent, led by Brazil.

August 9, 2010.