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Contemporary Situation:

Globalisation,
Postmodernity, and
Consumerism
Michael Goheen
IDIS 102, TWU
Which foundation will you build
your life on?
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine
and puts them into practice is like a wise man who
builds his house on the rock. The rain came down,
the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat
against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had
its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears
these words of mine and does not put them into
practice is like a foolish man who built his house on
sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the
winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell
with a great crash (Matt.7.24ff.)
Overview of lectures on Western
Story and Worldview
 First: Examined modern humanism as
worldview
• Dewey’s ‘confession’
• Two diagrams
• Way we label historical eras
• Brief definition
 Last time: Looked at western story and
development of modern humanism
 Today: Examine postmodern humanist
challenge and global spread of modern
humanism
Our Contemporary Situation
 Modern story: Faith in science and
technology to enable us to progress
toward a better world
 Three mutually reinforcing trends:

• Globalisation: Global spread of modern


(liberal) story around world
• Postmodernity: Challenge to the modern
(liberal) story in West
• Growth of consumerism
First trend

Globalisation: Global spread


of modern, liberal, humanist
story
20 Century Background
th

 20th Century: Bipolar—Two forms of


Enlightenment Humanism (Liberalism
in US +, Communism in USSR +)
Two Forms of Enlightenment
Eurocentric
Globalizing

Humanism Autonomous Technology


Reason Science New world
(Non-human)
! Material
Rational organization of prosperity
society (Human) ! Justice
! Truth
! Democracy/ ! Happiness
Communism ! Freedom
! Free enterprise/ OR
Command economy/ ! Equality
20 Century Background
th

 20th Century: Bipolar—Two


forms of Enlightenment
Humanism (Liberalism in US,
Communism in USSR)
 Fall of Communism (1989)

 Global spread of liberalism


Why is it important to understand
globalization?
The reality of our world is not the end
of grand narratives, but the increasing
dominance of the narrative of economic
globalization. . . . This is the new
imperialism . . . (Richard Bauckham)
Economic globalization is the greatest
challenge that the Christian mission
faces (Rene Padilla).
Enlightenment Vision: Seeds of
Economic Globalization
 Progress
 Paradise images
 Material prosperity
 Reached by reason
 Discerning natural laws
 Translated into technology
 Society reorganized according to reason
 Exaggerated place of economics
Late Modern Story
Globalization is ‘a form or method of
modernization on a global scale.’

‘Possibly never before has modernity


received higher expression than in today’s
process of globalization.’

‘ . . . the word “modern” is not neutral; it


cannot be divorced from a specific view of
life, humanity, the world, and ultimate
meaning.’
- Bob Goudzwaard
Global Story?
 Progress: Spread this vision around
world so whole world can move
toward this goal
 Science: Scientific global community

and western educational institutions


 Technology: Information technology

and global connectivity


 Economism: Global economy
Brief Evaluation
 Good: Much in western culture is
beneficial (e.g., rights, science,
technology, democracy, etc.)
 Evil: Idolatry of economy producing

environmental destruction and


growing gap between rich and poor
Second trend

Postmodernity: Challenge to
modern, liberal, humanist
story
Breakdown of Modernity
Critical Factors in Dillusionment
 Environmental destruction
If the whole world lived at
the level of North
Americans…

… the world’s resources


would last about ten years
Breakdown of Modernity
Critical Factors in Dillusionment
 Environmental destruction
 Growing poverty
At the beginning of the development
decades (1960) the world’s richest 1
billion were 30 x richer than the
world’s poorest 1 billion.

At the end of the development


decades (1990) the world’s richest 1
billion were 60 x richer than the
poorest 1 billion
Breakdown of Modernity
Critical Factors in Dillusionment
 Environmental destruction
 Growing poverty

 Nuclear threat

 Economic problems

 Psychological, social disorder


Don’t believe modern stories!

“Simplifying to the extreme,


I define postmodern
as incredulity toward
metanarratives.”
-J. F.Lyotard
Postmodernity: Challenge to
Modern Humanist Story
 Challenge to optimism
Challenge to Optimism
 Maybe human being are not so good
 Maybe we aren’t moving toward a

better world
Postmodernity: Challenge to
Modern Humanist Story
 Challenge to optimism of story
 Challenge to centrality of reason
Non-rational Dimensions of Humanity
Pushed Down and Springing Back
 Body
 Emotions

 Senses

 Subconscious

 Desire, passion

 Religious

 Imagination

 Instinct, intuition
Postmodernity: Challenge to
Modern Humanist Story
 Challenge to optimism
 Challenge to centrality of reason
 Challenge to objectivity of knowledge
Neutral Reason?
Subjective factors affecting knowledge:
Social Personal
-Tradition -Feelings
-Community -Imagination
-Language -Subconscious
-Culture -Gender
-History -Class
-Faith -Race
Postmodernity: Challenge to
Modern Humanist Story
 Challenge to optimism
 Challenge to centrality of reason

 Challenge to objectivity of knowledge

 Challenge to injustice created by

modern story
Injustice created by modern story
 Toward minorities with different
stories (gender, class, sexual
preference, ethnic group, religion)
 Toward third world cultures

 Toward poor

 Toward environment
Postmodernity: Challenge to
Modern Humanist Story
 Challenge to optimism
 Challenge to centrality of reason
 Challenge to objectivity of knowledge
 Challenge to injustice created by modern
story
 Challenge to secularism

Religious smorgasbord/pluralism: . . . New


age, psychics, astrology, gnostic religions,
eastern and native spirituality, occult, etc...
Brief Evaluation of Postmodernity
 Recovering insights that have been
lost in modern story . . . E.g.,
• Non-rational aspects of human beings
• Factors affect knowledge
• Goodness of diversity and plurality
 Emergence of new dangerous idols .
. . E.g.,
• Pluralism
• Relativism
Third Trend

Growth of Consumer
Society
Consumerism: Central to Western
Life
“The postmodern is rightly associated with
a society where consumer lifestyles and
mass consumption dominate the waking
lives of its members.” (David Lyon)

“From rock music to tourism to television


and even education, advertising
imperatives and consumer demand are no
longer for goods, but for experiences.”
(Stephen Connor)
Consumerism and Globalization
 Related to globalization: Western
side of economic globalization
• Economic structures have enriched West
at expense of non-West
Consumerism and Postmodernity
 Related to globalization: Western
side of economic globalization
 Related to postmodernity

• Consumption fills void created by loss of


story
Consumerism as “Our Story”
If there is an overarching metanarrative that
purports to explain reality in the late 20th
century, it is surely the metanarrative of the
free-market economy. In the beginning of
this metanarrative is the self-made, self-
sufficient human being. At the end of this
narrative is the big house, the big car, the
expensive clothes. In the middle is the
struggle for success, the greed, the getting-
and-spending in a world in which there is no
such thing as a free lunch. Most of us have
made this so thoroughly ‘our story’ that we
are hardly aware of its influence. (Susan
White)
The Religion of Our Day?
Consumerism appears to have
become part and parcel of the very
fabric of modern life. . . . And the
parallel with religion is not an
accidental one. Consumerism is
ubiquitous and ephemeral. It is
arguably the religion of the late
twentieth century. (Miles)
Sacred order?
“. . . we cannot fully appreciate the depths
of materialism unless we understand how
economic behavior supplies us with
meaning, purpose, and a sense of the
sacred order.” (Roberth Wuthnow)
“The accumulation of wealth is one of the
great idols of our day and huge amounts
of energy are spent every day in seeking
meaning through great and greater
accumulation of wealth and possessions.”
(Craig Bartholomew)
Christian Community in
Contemporary World

 Modern story is not working


 Globalization is creating massive

injustice
 Postmodernity offers no meaningful

story
 How can Christian community live in

healing way?