Tag Archives: Globalization

Global and Local

This chapter of Being Consumed concerns globalization. In particular Cavanaugh explores the relationship of the universal to the particular. This is an age old philosophical problem of the one and the many. How should the local and global, one and the many be related?

In Christianity, we claim to be a universal faith, but one marked by the particularity of Christ. This paradox is difficult to overcome…or live into. At different extremes Christians can be exclusivist and deny God’s presence even in the world, while others claim a radical inclusivism that renders the particularity of Christ null and void. Neither stance is faithful to Jesus or helpful in fulfilling our mission of embodying God’s mission to the world in communities of reconciliation.

Cavanaugh goes on to talk about this paradox in globalization. Globalization at once attempts to claim both diversity, and universal dominion. There is a global system of ordering our lives that dictates the terms by which people, countries and corporations can participate in the economic order. It is universal and all-encompassing. Proponents point out that this is expressed in a myriad of ways and really produces diversity of choices and cultures.

However, I would argue with Cavanaugh that this diversity of choice is an illusion masking the worldview that it is ultimately offering to the world…consumerism. There are unlimited forms of culturally relevant, contextualized products and choices, but in the end the product they are selling is the belief in consumption. This passage really drives home the point,

The giant brewer Miller responds [to advertising by "microbrews"] with an ad touting the virtues of good old macrobrew: “It’s time to drink beer made in vats the size of Rhode Island.” What we don’t see is that Plank Road and Leinenkugel are both owned by Miller, which in turn is owned by a South African conglomerate. So much for diversity. The surface appearance of diversity in fact masks a stifling homogeneity.(69)

The Eucharist is also an antidote to this problem. Christ is the “concrete universal.” In the Eucharist the body and blood of Christ are offered to the local gathering in order to unite them with the Body of Christ. “The closer one is attached to the particular community gathered around one particular altar, the more united one becomes to the universal” (71). He contrasts this with the effect of consumerism. The consumer “becomes a kind of empty shell, itself dependent on the constant novelty of the particular for its being, yet itself simultaneously destroying the particularity of the many and thus negating its own being” (74-75). Whoa! That sounds serious.

It is important to point out that this is not an anti-capitalist rant. “The call to Christians is not so much either to embrace or try to replace abstractions such as ‘capitalism’ with other abstraction. It is rather to sustain forms of economy, community and culture that recognize the universality of the individual person” (86). Once again Cavanaugh draws on a relevant example to this blog in order to illustrate how the church can overcome the problem of globalization in practice, Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs). We can create alternative economies by connecting farmers and eaters, overcoming the abstraction of consumerism. Food no longer comes from some anonymous distant place; rather it comes from another particular human being, and the consumer enters into a relationship with that producer” (87).

Being Consumed

I recently picked up a thin little book by William Cavanaugh titled Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire. I’ve only read the introduction, but the first two sentences hooked me. “Some Christians may be tempted to assume that economics is a discipline autonomous from theology. Many Christians, however, intuit that what we do with our money and our stuff should be directly informed by how we relate to God.” This is really the heart of this blog and the idea behind asking What Would Jesus Eat?

Even though this is a thin book (99 pages), each sentence is packed with thought and meaning that another author might take a chapter to unpack. I’ve found myself re-reading sentences and paragraphs to fully swallow and digest what is being said. This is the kind of theological writing I love, because you can just feel how much thought went into what’s being said.

I would like to promise a series of posts really digging into this book in detail, but there are a number of series started here that I’ve left dangling (Ethical Eating, Cheap Food Isn’t, World Hunger Myths and Food in the Bible is often neglected). The book addresses four issues in relation to its overall theme: the free market, consumerism, globalization and scarcity. Each topic is distinct and interesting enough that I think it will be worth a post each. So, no promises, but hopefully I will get a chance to think through this dense book with you soon.

Waste Not: Food Crisis Edition

I actually wrote this back on July 11 this summer. The news is not exactly recent, but I think still relevant.

Apparently the good folks at the G8 summit on the food crisis were treated to an 18 course dinner this week, including milk-fed lamb, sea urchins, caviar and a lot of other foods that you and I could pick up at McDonald’s if we really wanted. Something Jesus said about the “least of these” makes me think he would skip the 18 course meal in solidarity with the good people of Haiti who have been reduced to eating mud pies with a dash of salt.

In addition to the Power’s shenanigans in Japan we’ve been hearing a lot about our personal waste being the cause (and/or solution) of the food crisis. Gordon Brown recently urged Britains to curb their food waste in an effort to alleviate suffering around the world. So, we’re back to the clean your plate because kids in Africa are starving debate.

I am all for reducing our waste. Every little bit helps and I would never want to discourage individuals from taking those steps to make a difference. However, it is disingenuous for the world’s leaders to lay the blame at the door of consumers. The truth is that the individual food waste of consumers is miniscule compared to the waste of corporations and other institutions.

Let’s not forget either that there is no food shortage involved in this food crisis. The world continues to produce more than enough food to feed everyone.

Déjà chew

The Ethicurean recently featured a post by Daryll E. Ray that puts the food crisis in context and explains a lot of technical economics in a way that is easy to read and understand, Déjà chew: The food price crisis in context. He compares the current crisis with a similar situation in 1974 that led to recommendations that were never implemented. So, here we are again. I really would not do it justice by trying to summarize so please go read it. He concludes with this…

The problem is more than food vs. feed. It is more than food vs. fuel.

Who Feeds Us?

Who Feeds Us? is a new series from Eat. Drink. Better. which according to the site attempts “to investigate the lives of our farm workers. Who picks our crops and packages our meals and how are they treated in our name? What do we implicitly sanction as we swipe our debit cards through the checkout line?” The first installment considers women in the field including Olivia Tamayo, “who made history last week when she became the first female migrant worker to successfully bring a sexual harrassment suit against her employer to a federal jury.”