Monday, October 13, 2003

Jürgen Habermas and Post-Secular Societies

Jürgen Habermas and Post-Secular Societies

Among 19th-century thinkers it was an uncontestable commonplace that religion's cultural centrality was a thing of the past. For Georg Hegel, following in the footsteps of the Enlightenment, religion had been surpassed by reason's superior conceptual precision. In The Essence of Christianity (1841), Ludwig Feuerbach depicted the relationship between man and divinity as a zero-sum game. In his view, the stress on godliness merely detracted from the sublimity of human ends. In one of his youthful writings, Karl Marx, Feuerbach's most influential disciple, famously dismissed religion as "the opium of the people." Its abolition, Marx believed, was a sine qua non for human betterment. Friedrich Nietzsche got to the heart of the matter by having his literary alter ego, the brooding prophet Zarathustra, brusquely declaim, "God is dead," thereby pithily summarizing what many educated Europeans were thinking but few had the courage actually to say. And who can forget Nietzsche's searing characterization of Christianity as a "slave morality," a plebeian belief system appropriate for timorous conformists but unsuited to the creation of a future race of domineering ـbermenschen? True to character, the only representatives of Christianity Nietzsche saw fit to praise were those who could revel in a good auto-da-fé -- Inquisition stalwarts like Ignatius Loyola.

Twentieth-century characterizations of belief were hardly more generous. Here, one need look no further than the title of Freud's 1927 treatise on religion: The Future of an Illusion.

Today, however, there are omnipresent signs of a radical change in mentality. In recent years, in both the United States and the developing world, varieties of religious fundamentalism have had a major political impact. As Democratic presidential hopefuls Howard Dean and John Kerry learned the hard way, politicians who are perceived as faithless risk losing touch with broad strata of the electorate.

Are contemporary philosophers up to the challenge of explaining and conceptualizing these striking recent developments? After all, what Freud, faithfully reflecting the values of the scientific age, cursorily dismissed as illusory seems to have made an unexpected and assertive comeback -- one that shows few signs of abating anytime soon.

Jürgen Habermas may be the living philosopher most likely to succeed where angels, and their detractors, fear to tread. Following Jacques Derrida's death last October, it would seem that Habermas has justly inherited the title of the world's leading philosopher. Last year he won the prestigious Kyoto Prize for Arts and Philosophy (previous recipients include Karl Popper and Paul Ricoeur), capping an eventful career replete with honors as well as a number of high-profile public debates.

The centerpiece of Habermas's moral philosophy is "discourse ethics," which takes its inspiration from Immanuel Kant's categorical imperative. For Kant, to count as moral, actions must pass the test of universality: The actor must be able to will that anyone in a similar situation should act in the same way. According to Kant, lying and stealing are immoral insofar as they fall beneath the universalization threshold; only at the price of grave self-contradiction could one will that lying and stealing become universal laws. Certainly, we can envisage a number of exceptional situations where we could conceivably justify lying or stealing. In Kant's example, at your door is a man intent on murdering your loved one and inquiring as to her whereabouts. Or what if you were too poor to purchase the medicine needed to save your spouse's life?

In the first case you might well think it would be permissible to lie; and in the second case, to steal. Yet on both counts Kant is immovable. An appeal to circumstances might well complicate our decision making. It might even elicit considerable public sympathy for otherwise objectionable conduct. But it can in no way render an immoral action moral. It is with good reason that Kant calls his imperative a categorical one, for an imperative that admits of exceptions is really no imperative at all.

Habermas's approach to moral philosophy is Kantian, although he takes exception to the solipsistic, egological framework Kant employs. Habermas believes that, in order to be convincing, moral reasoning needs a broader, public basis. Discourse ethics seeks to offset the limitations of the Kantian approach. For Habermas, the give and take of argumentation, as a learning process, is indispensable. Through communicative reason we strive for mutual understanding and learn to assume the standpoint of the other. Thereby we also come to appreciate the narrowness of our own individual perspective. Discourse ethics proposes that those actions are moral that could be justified in an open-ended and genuine public dialogue. Its formula suggests that "only those norms can claim to be valid that meet (or could meet) with the appro-val of all affected in their capacity as participants in a practical discourse."

Until recently Habermas was known as a resolutely secular thinker. On occasion his writings touched upon religious subjects or themes. But these confluences were exceptions that proved the rule.

Yet a few years ago the tonality of his work began to change ever so subtly. In fall 2001 Habermas was awarded the prestigious Peace Prize of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association. The title of his acceptance speech, "Faith and Knowledge," had a palpably theological ring. The remarks, delivered shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks, stressed the importance of mutual toleration between secular and religious approaches to life.

Last year Habermas engaged in a high-profile public dialogue with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger -- who, on April 19, was named as Pope John Paul II's successor -- at the cardinal's behest. A number of the philosopher's left-wing friends and followers were taken aback by his willingness to have a dialogue with one of Europe's most conservative prelates. In 2002 Habermas had published In Defense of Humanity, an impassioned critique of the risks of biological engineering and human cloning. It was this text in particular, in which the philosopher provided an eloquent defense of the right to a unique human identity -- a right that cloning clearly imperils -- that seems to have piqued the cardinal's curiosity and interest. Yet if one examines the trajectory of Habermas's intellectual development, the Ratzinger exchange seems relatively unexceptional.

Glance back at Habermas's philosophical chef d'oeuvre, the two-volume Theory of Communicative Action (1981), and you'll find that one of his key ideas is the "linguistification of the sacred" (Versprachlichung des Sakrals). By this admittedly cumbersome term, Habermas asserts that modern notions of equality and fairness are secular distillations of time-honored Judeo-Christian precepts. The "contract theory" of politics, from which our modern conception of "government by consent of the governed" derives, would be difficult to conceive apart from the Old Testament covenants. Similarly, our idea of the intrinsic worth of all persons, which underlies human rights, stems directly from the Christian ideal of the equality of all men and women in the eyes of God. Were these invaluable religious sources of morality and justice to atrophy entirely, it is doubtful whether modern societies would be able to sustain this ideal on their own.

In a recent interview Habermas aptly summarized those insights: "For the normative self-understanding of modernity, Christianity has functioned as more than just a precursor or a catalyst. Universalistic egalitarianism, from which sprang the ideals of freedom and a collective life in solidarity, the autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, the individual morality of conscience, human rights, and democracy, is the direct legacy of the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love."

Three years ago the MIT Press published Religion and Rationality: Essays on Reason, God, and Modernity, an illuminating collection of Habermas's writings on religious themes. Edited and introduced by the philosopher Eduardo Mendieta, of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, the anthology concludes with a fascinating interview in which the philosopher systematically clarifies his views on a variety of religious areas. (A companion volume, The Frankfurt School on Religion: Key Writings by the Major Thinkers, also edited by Mendieta, was published in 2004 by Routledge.)

On the one hand, religion's return -- Habermas, perhaps with the American situation foremost in mind, goes so far as to speak of the emergence of "post-secular societies" -- presents us with undeniable dangers and risks. While theodicy has traditionally provided men and women with consolation for the harsh injustices of fate, it has also frequently taught them to remain passively content with their lot. It devalues worldly success and entices believers with the promise of eternal bliss in the hereafter. Here the risk is that religion may encourage an attitude of social passivity, thereby contravening democracy's need for an active and engaged citizenry. To wit, the biblical myth of the fall perceives secular history as a story of decline or perdition from which little intrinsic good may emerge.

On the other hand, laissez-faire's success as a universally revered economic model means that, today, global capitalism's triumphal march encounters few genuine oppositional tendencies. In that regard, religion, as a repository of transcendence, has an important role to play. It prevents the denizens of the modern secular societies from being overwhelmed by the all-encompassing demands of vocational life and worldly success. It offers a much-needed dimension of otherness: The religious values of love, community, and godliness help to offset the global dominance of competitiveness, acquisitiveness, and manipulation that predominate in the vocational sphere. Religious convictions encourage people to treat each other as ends in themselves rather than as mere means.
One of Habermas's mentors, the Frankfurt School philosopher Max Horkheimer, once observed that "to salvage an unconditional meaning" -- one that stood out as an unqualified Good -- "without God is a futile undertaking." As a stalwart of the Enlightenment, Habermas himself would be unlikely to go that far. But he might consider Horkheimer's adage a timely reminder of the risks and temptations of all-embracing secularism. Habermas stressed in a recent public lecture "the force of religious traditions to articulate moral intuitions with regard to communal forms of a dignified human life." As forceful and persuasive as our secular philosophical precepts might be -- the idea of human rights, for example -- from time to time they benefit from renewed contact with the nimbus of their sacral origins.

Last April Habermas presented a more systematic perspective on religion's role in contemporary society at an international conference on "Philosophy and Religion" at Poland's Lodz University. One of the novelties of Habermas's Lodz presentation, "Religion in the Public Sphere," was the commendable idea that "toleration" -- the bedrock of modern democratic culture -- is always a two-way street. Not only must believers tolerate others' beliefs, including the credos and convictions of nonbelievers; it falls due to disbelieving secularists, similarly, to appreciate the convictions of religiously motivated fellow citizens. From the standpoint of Habermas's "theory of communicative action," this stipulation suggests that we assume the standpoint of the other. It would be unrealistic and prejudicial to expect that religiously oriented citizens wholly abandon their most deeply held convictions upon entering the public sphere where, as a rule and justifiably, secular reasoning has become our default discursive mode. If we think back, for instance, to the religious idealism that infused the civil-rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, we find an admirable example of the way in which a biblical sense of justice can be fruitfully brought to bear on contemporary social problems.

The philosopher who addressed these issues most directly and fruitfully in recent years was John Rawls. In a spirit of collegial solidarity, Habermas, in his Lodz paper, made ample allusion to Rawlsian ideals. Perhaps Rawls's most important gloss on religion's role in modern politics is his caveat or "proviso" that, to gain a reasonable chance of public acceptance, religious reasons must ultimately be capable of being translated into secular forms of argumentation. In the case of public officials -- politicians and the judiciary, for example -- Rawls raises the secular bar still higher. He believes that, in their political language, there is little room for an open and direct appeal to nonsecular reasons, which, in light of the manifest diversity of religious beliefs, would prove extremely divisive. As Habermas affirms, echoing Rawls: "This stringent demand can only be laid at the door of politicians, who within state institutions are subject to the obligation to remain neutral in the face of competing worldviews." But if that stringent demand is on the politician, Habermas argues, "every citizen must know that only secular reasons count beyond the institutional threshold that divides the informal public sphere from parliaments, courts, ministries, and administrations."

With his broad-minded acknowledgment of religion's special niche in the spectrum of public political debate, Habermas has made an indispensable stride toward defining an ethos of multicultural tolerance. Without such a perspective, prospects for equitable global democracy would seem exceedingly dim. The criterion for religious belief systems that wish to have their moral recommendations felt and acknowledged is the capacity to take the standpoint of the other. Only those religions that retain the capacity to bracket or suspend the temptations of theological narcissism -- the conviction that my religion alone provides the path to salvation -- are suitable players in our rapidly changing, post-secular moral and political universe.

Richard Wolin is a professor of history, comparative literature, and political science at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His books include The Seduction of Unreason: The Intellectual Romance With Fascism From Nietzsche to Postmodernism (Princeton University Press, 2004).

from here

Monday, September 15, 2003

Ein mehrdimensionaler Gerechtigkeitsbegriff ist unverzichtbar

Ein mehrdimensionaler Gerechtigkeitsbegriff ist unverzichtbar

Für den Philosophen Axel Honneth haben allein die Grünen die intellektuellen Ressourcen, um den gegenwärtigen Strukturwandel der Politik zu begreifen

Axel Honneth (FR)

Frankfurter Rundschau: Herr Honneth, Sie haben vor drei Jahren mit einer Art philosophischen Beratung versucht, den Grünen auf die Sprünge zu helfen. Inzwischen deutet einiges auf ein baldiges Ende der rot-grünen Koalition hin. Ist das rot-grüne Projekt gescheitert und wenn ja, woran?

Axel Honneth : Von einem Scheitern der Regierungskoalition lässt sich wohl kaum sprechen, weil das ein klares, wohldefiniertes Aktionsprogramm voraussetzen würde, dessen Durchsetzung misslungen oder fehlgeschlagen wäre - davon aber kann keine Rede sein. Zwar hatte der kleinere Koalitionspartner zu Beginn der Regierungszeit eine Reihe von äußerst sinnvollen, überfälligen Reformprojekten ins Auge gefasst, vor allem im Bereich der Bürgerrechte und der ökologischen Wachstumsbeschränkung, von denen im Laufe der Jahre dann Gott sei Dank einige auch umgesetzt werden konnten; insgesamt aber geriet die Regierungspolitik schnell unter den Druck einer ständigen, geradezu atemlosen Anpassung an die vorher unterschätzten Herausforderungen der wirtschaftlichen Globalisierung und des demographischen Strukturwandels, so dass weder das Potenzial noch die Zeit für eine aktivere Gestaltung blieb. Tatsächlich ist es der Regierungskoalition nie gelungen, den Verdacht der stets bloß nachholenden Strukturanpassung loszuwerden, immer standen beide Parteien als Verräter ihrer ehemaligen Ideale und Visionen da.

Ist denn vom intellektuellen, kulturellen Profil etwas geblieben?

Immerhin hat diese Handlungsblockade bei den Grünen doch wohl die gedankliche Flexibilität, die parteiinternen Spannungen und die politische Umsicht so anwachsen lassen, dass dort heute die intellektuellen Ressourcen gegeben sein dürften, um ein tragfähiges Programm für einen sozialpolitischen Strukturwandel mit zivilem Antlitz zu erarbeiten - denn darauf wird es ankommen, die Sozial- und Sicherungsssysteme so umzugestalten, dass die gewachsenen Anforderungen an individuelle Leistungen und Mobilitäten mit unseren Vorstellungen von sozialer Gerechtigkeit, der Garantie von individueller Autonomie und sozialer Inklusion für alle, vereinbar bleiben.

Eine der Kernfragen des Wahlkampfes ist die scheinbare Übermacht der Wirtschaft und die Möglichkeiten ihrer politischen Regulierung. Steht die Politik insgesamt vor einem fundamentalen Strukturwandel?

Nicht, was die Aufgaben, aber wohl doch was ihren Organisationsmodus, ihre institutionelle Existenz anbelangt. Die zentrale Aufgabe der Politik in den nächsten Jahren wird wohl die bleiben, die durch die Globalisierung ermöglichte Enthemmung der kapitalistischen Akkumulation durch die Regulierung zentraler Märkte einzudämmen, so dass die Bürger und Bürgerinnen ein Leben in Anstand und Würde ohne ständige Drohung von Kündigung, Verelendung und Abstieg führen können. Aber das ist wohl nur durch eine stärkere Internationalisierung der Politik möglich, zumindest eine Europäisierung der Wirtschafts- und Sozialpolitik.

Ist unsere Politik denn auf solch einen Orientierungsrahmen ausgerichtet?

Darauf ist keine unserer Parteien wirklich eingestellt, ja, die ganze Politik, die Existenzweise politischen Handelns, ist noch immer vollständig in nationalen Grenzen eingehegt. Das beginnt mit der Keimzelle unseres politischen Systems, den politischen Parteien, die von unten bis oben personell und thematisch rein national orientiert sind, setzt sich in den Parlamenten fort, deren Debatten kaum einen Blick über die Grenzen hinweg unternehmen, und endet schließlich in der politischen Öffentlichkeit, deren Medien und Zirkel ebenfalls ausschließlich auf national definierte Themen gerichtet sind. Es bedürfte einer Revolutionierung dieser politischen Aktionszentren, eines Strukturwandels der Politik durch die personelle und thematische Transzendierung nationaler Grenzen, um die Herausforderungen der nächsten Jahre tatsächlich meistern zu können. Die Aktionszentren politischen Handelns müssen den Schritt zur transnationalen Organisationsform nachvollziehen, den die Wirtschaft längst vollzogen hat, um ihr durch vernünftige Grenzziehungen Einhalt gebieten zu können. Nur ganz wenige Gestalten unseres politischen Lebens haben diesen notwendigen Schritt zur Entnationalisierung der Politik bereits vollzogen, an oberster Stelle vielleicht Cohn-Bendit, den seine Lebensgeschichte darauf vorbereitet hat.

Im aktuellen Wahlkampf geht es viel um das Gesundheitssystem, Steuer- und Arbeitsmarkt-Fragen. Dennoch hat man den Eindruck, als komme die soziale Frage zu kurz. Kann die Politik der sozialen Gerechtigkeit noch Rechnung tragen?

Die soziale Frage

Die Reform des Gesundheits-, Steuer- und Arbeitsmarktsystems zieht so viele Kontroversen auf sich, weil die Parteien für die ihr zu Grunde liegende soziale Frage kein Konzept besitzen. Nach Sighard Neckel (6.9.) und Susan Neiman (10.9.) äußert sich heute Axel Honneth.

Axel Honneth ist Professor für Philosophie an der Frankfurter Goethe-Universität und Direktor des Instituts für Sozialforschung. Bei Suhrkamp erscheint diesen Herbst seine neue Studie "Verdinglichung". FR

Hier habe ich eine ganz andere Wahrnehmung - alle diese scheinbar technischen Fragen, um die der Wahlkampf sich primär zu drehen scheint, die nach der notwendigen Reform unseres Gesundheits-, Steuer- und Arbeitsmarktsystems, sind deswegen so schwer lösbar, ziehen deswegen so viele Kontroversen auf sich, weil sie schon im Ansatz mit Fragen der sozialen Gerechtigkeit unmittelbar verzahnt sind. Wahrscheinlich war kein Wahlkampf in den letzten 20 Jahren untergründig so sehr von der sozialen Frage beherrscht wie der jetzt gerade zu Ende gehende. Das Problem ist nur, dass keine der Parteien schon ein Konzept von sozialer Gerechtigkeit besitzt, das komplex, vielschichtig genug wäre, um die verschiedenen, von den unterschiedlichen Fragen mitberührten Aspekte der Chancengleichheit, der Angewiesenheit auf Arbeit, der Generationenbenachteiligung und der ökologischen Rücksichtnahme in ein vernünftiges und überblickbares Verhältnis zu bringen - fast alle Parteien operieren noch mit einem eindimensionalen Gerechtigkeitsbegriff, in dem etwa allein auf Leistung, auf Chancengleichheit oder auf Bedürftigkeit gesetzt wird, anstatt den Schritt zu einem mehrdimensionalen Gerechtigkeitsbegriff zu vollziehen, der für die Zukunft unverzichtbar sein wird. Hier ist noch viel mehr intellektuelle Arbeit zu leisten, als sich das die Chefdenker der verschiedenen Parteien heute ausmalen können.

Interview: Harry Nutt

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Declaration on Globalization

The development of economic, political and social relationships over the past few decades has acquired dimensions and characteristics that are gradually rising above frontiers and State powers, ignoring the administrative and political divisions between peoples.
  Individual acts and decisions, however remote, can be transported by the media, the new information technologies, economic networks and movements of people in a manner that can affect the life and destinies of distant peoples anywhere in the world.
  Many human activities now take place at global level. We are active and passive agents in a great river of interactions in a global society. To express this new reality, we use the generic term globalization’. However, we should not forget that it is a complex, many-faceted network that is increasingly more vast and intense. There is an economic globalization consisting primarily in the globalization of financial markets, the expansion of an international market of goods, services and workers. Obviously, we are facing the birth of a super state or transnational economy that largely escapes State authority. Economic globalization is making the social ills of our times even worse.
  However, this is not only an economic issue. There is also a globalization of cultural patterns, of environmental effects, of communications and also of insecurity and conflicts.
  We know that the outcome of this complex increase in human exchanges has been an increase in economic well-being and a cultural enrichment for some segments of the world population. However, at the same time, we are witnessing the appalling suffering, lack of culture and marginalization that threatens millions of human beings. Lack of food, lack of access to drinking water, endemic diseases, illiteracy and superstition are the only horizon in the lives of entire populations. Global economic ties between countries, large corporations and all kinds of economic agents are frequently accompanied by financial speculation beyond all control, wicked exploitation of workers, the persistent and increasing exploitation of children, discrimination of women and entire peoples dispossessed of their natural resources through corruption and bribery of illegitimate political authorities.
Thus, the globalized society is a poorly structured society with a perverse effect on hundreds of millions of human beings. Following the terminology in vogue, we could talk of ‘global injustice’.
  There can be no doubt that such injustice and social imbalances give rise to unstoppable flows of immigrants who, pushed by extreme need, attempt again and again to enter foreign countries, against all hope. However hostile these countries may be, they offer a remote possibility of survival with dignity.
The unstoppable invasion of messages and communications of all kinds via computer networks, with their wonderful cultural and scientific logos, do not manage to hide the fact that thousands of human beings, alienated from a strange culture, turn to their traditions and beliefs in search of refuge. This reaction may promote ethnic intolerance, aggressive nationalism and religious fundamentalism, with an obvious increase of strained international relationships and the eventual appearance of terrorism and war.
  We also observe increasing threats to the environment, the irrational exploitation of natural resources and an uncontrolled consumption of an irreplaceable environmental heritage.
  The new system of economic, social and cultural relationships demands a new international order. Among other things, globalization means a social process under scant control and governance, frequently lead by powers with little or no democratic legitimacy. Until now, the power of nation-States had achieved some degree of social justice, at least in the developed States. The breaking up of state borders and serious social ills that state powers may no longer be able to solve demand more effective authority and governance. Above all, they must be more legitimate. In a sense, it could be said that globalization is a new social phenomenon that has placed the international society in a kind of wild state that requires a degree of rationalization. The paradigm of state democracy has become insufficient, although States are still the main players in the international order. They may still work effectively to stop the perverse effects of a new system of economic, political, social and cultural relationships that is becoming a reality beyond State boundaries. The law and justice that presides international relations becomes increasingly complex and diverse each day but they do not manage to become stronger. The international organisations that encourage them are incapable of implementing them. Their discoursed is reduced to mere exhortations, whereas actual international exchanges have become unpredictable and anonymous. Injustice and inequality are growing. Non-governmental organisations and the individuals and groups that make up global civil society are playing an important role in denouncing these situations, but they can do little more.
  Likewise, international authorities and institutions suffer very serious democratic deficiencies. We need to strengthen and give more legitimacy to current international institutions, whether they are strictly political or economic. We need to create new institutions that will be capable of lessening the weakness of democratic States in the face of these new social situations.
  It is essential to make political debate more honest and more concerned with important problems, instead of strategies and slogans. Therefore, we feel that it is our duty to call our governments and fellow citizens, international organisations and the big international institutions to adopt a new and decisive attitude, and to integrate equality and freedom as effective values for all human beings so that all aspects of globalization will be subject to the rule of law. Increasingly, this law should obey the will of people in general and not the will of a few. The 21St century faces the huge challenge of constituting a new world order in which human rights will be the real foundation of law and politics. To achieve this, we feel that it is essential to return to politics in the noblest sense, and for citizens to recover their awareness and appreciation of their rights.
Jürgen Habermas, Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Francisco J. Laporta, Nicolás López Calera, Manuel Atienza, William Twining, Robert Alexy, Luigi Ferrajoli, Elías Díaz,Neil MacCormick, Paolo Comanducci, Zhan Wenxian, Uma Narayan, Larry May y otros participantes en el 22º Congreso Mundial de Filosofía Jurídica y Social – 2005.

El desarrollo de las relaciones económicas, políticas, sociales y culturales ha adquirido en las últimas décadas una dimensión que se eleva por encima de las fronteras entre los Estados e ignora las divisiones administrativas y políticas que se han establecido entre los pueblos. Transportadas por los medios de comunicación, por las nuevas tecnologías de la información, por las redes económicas y los flujos de personas, las acciones y decisiones de cada uno, por remotas que sean, pueden llegar a afectar la vida y el destino de poblaciones lejanas en cualquier lugar de la geografía del planeta. Somos agentes activos y pasivos en el gran río de las interacciones de la sociedad mundial.

Para expresar esa nueva realidad utilizamos genéricamente el término "globalización", aunque no debemos olvidar que se trata de un complejo entramado de creciente extensión e intensidad que presenta multitud de caras y facetas. Hay una globalización económica, que es ante todo globalización de los mercados financieros y expansión del mercado internacional de bienes, servicios y trabajadores. Estamos evidentemente ante una economía transnacional que en gran medida escapa al control de los poderes de los Estados. Pero no se trata sólo de un fenómeno económico. Hay una globalización de las pautas culturales, una globalización de los efectos medioambientales, una globalización de las comunicaciones, y también una globalización de las inseguridades y las luchas.

Sabemos que esa compleja multiplicación de los intercambios ha dado como resultado el incremento del bienestar económico y la riqueza cultural en grandes segmentos de la población mundial, pero somos también testigos de que, a su lado, una pavorosa realidad de sufrimiento, incultura y marginación atenaza a millones de seres humanos. La carencia de alimentos, la falta de acceso al agua potable, las enfermedades endémicas, el analfabetismo y las supersticiones conforman el horizonte vital de pueblos enteros. Las relaciones económicas globales entre países, grandes corporaciones y agentes económicos de todo tipo van con frecuencia escoltadas por la especulación financiera sin control, la explotación inicua de los trabajadores, la persistencia y el incremento de la ocupación de niños en labores extenuantes, la discriminación de la mujer y el despojo a pueblos enteros de parte de su riqueza natural mediante corrupciones y sobornos a autoridades políticas ilegítimas. También observamos crecientes amenazas al medio ambiente, explotación irracional de los recursos naturales y un consumo incontrolado del patrimonio irremplazable del entorno natural.

La sociedad globalizada es, pues, una sociedad mal estructurada y con efectos perversos sobre centenares de millones de seres humanos. Puede, por ello, hablarse también, siguiendo la terminología acuñada, de "injusticias globales". Nadie puede dudar que son esas injusticias y desajustes sociales los que dan lugar a flujos incesantes de inmigrantes que, empujados por la extrema necesidad, tratan de ingresar una y otra vez y contra toda esperanza en países extraños y hostiles que, sin embargo, les ofrecen una posibilidad remota de sobrevivir con dignidad.

La invasión imparable de mensajes y comunicaciones de toda naturaleza a través de las redes informáticas, con sus maravillosos logros culturales y científicos, no puede ocultar tampoco que, enajenados ante una cultura extraña, miles de seres humanos vuelven su rostro hacia sus tradiciones y creencias en busca de un refugio que se torna a veces en intolerancia étnica, nacionalismo agresivo y fundamentalismo religioso, con el patente incremento de la tensión en las relaciones internacionales y la eventual aparición del terrorismo y la guerra.

El nuevo sistema de relaciones económicas, sociales y culturales demanda un orden internacional nuevo. La globalización es también un proceso social con falta de control y regulación, conducido frecuentemente por poderes de escasa o nula legitimidad democrática. Hasta ahora los poderes de los Estados nacionales, al menos los Estados desarrollados, habían logrado ciertos niveles de justicia social. El desbordamiento de las fronteras nacionales y la existencia de problemas humanos graves que ya no pueden encontrar solución en el marco estatal exigen una gobernanza y unos poderes más efectivos y, sobre todo, más legítimos. La globalización es un fenómeno nuevo que ha colocado otra vez a la sociedad internacional en una especie de estado de naturaleza que necesita ser sometido a regulación. El paradigma de la democracia estatal se ha hecho insuficiente pese a que los Estados siguen siendo protagonistas del orden internacional y pueden todavía actuar eficazmente para frenar esos efectos perversos del nuevo sistema de relaciones económicas, políticas, sociales y culturales que se hacen realidad más allá de las fronteras estatales. Las pautas de derecho y justicia que son invocadas en las relaciones internacionales aumentan cada día su complejidad y su diversidad, pero no aciertan a incrementar su fuerza.

Los organismos internacionales que las animan son incapaces de imponerlas, y sus discursos son cada vez más meras exhortaciones mientras la realidad de los intercambios internacionales tiende a hacerse imprevisible y anómica y crecen en ella la injusticia y la desigualdad. Además, los poderes e instituciones internacionales sufren de carencias democráticas graves. Hay que fortalecer y dotar de mayor legitimidad a las instituciones internacionales vigentes, tanto las estrictamente políticas como las económicas, y crear otras nuevas que sean capaces de aminorar las debilidades de los Estados democráticos ante estas nuevas situaciones sociales. Las organizaciones no gubernamentales y los grupos e individuos que conforman la sociedad civil global están cumpliendo un importante papel en la denuncia de esta realidad, pero no pueden ir mucho más allá.

Nos sentimos en el deber de hacer una llamada a nuestros gobiernos y nuestros conciudadanos, a las organizaciones internacionales y a las grandes instituciones globales, en favor de una actitud nueva y decidida para incorporar la libertad y la igualdad como valores básicos de los seres humanos, y para que todas las dimensiones de la globalización estén sometidas a las exigencias del imperio de la ley, de una ley que sea cada vez más voluntad general y no sólo voluntad de unos pocos. El gran reto de este siglo XXI es configurar un orden mundial nuevo en el que los derechos humanos constituyan realmente la base del derecho y la política.
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