Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 1, 2003
Global economy collapsing -- scholar
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
It was in the summer of 1969 that American theologian Prof. John Cobb Jr. had a conversion experience that shattered his self-described complacency.
"That summer, quite abruptly, I was forced to the awareness that the structures of society and the patterns of development which I had taken largely for granted are leading humanity toward global self-destruction," he later wrote.
Until then, Cobb believed that encouraging greater generosity on the part of developed nations would speed up the process of development elsewhere. Now he's convinced that the global economy will collapse, regardless.
"It's inherently unsustainable," says Cobb, emeritus professor at the Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Graduate School and one of the co-directors of the Centre for Process Studies, in Claremont, Ca. "If you asked me what would be my preferred way for it to collapse, it would be the way in which it has collapsed in Argentina."
Speaking as a panelist in a discussion of the "common good" at Saint Paul University recently, Cobb said that while the "paper economy" in Argentina has collapsed, there has not been mass starvation.
"There are other ways it can collapse where there would be horrible human suffering," he said.
If the economy of the United States collapsed as the Argentine economy has, there would be great disruption of the global economy and many people would suffer, he said.
"I do not believe that we will have deep change without great suffering," said Cobb. "The question is how much?"
However, when things get bad enough a "moment of opportunity" arises and society should be prepared for it he said. "If we had ideas put forward to meet our basic needs I think that instead of just fighting each other over the remaining scraps that we might actually be able to move in a positive direction."
The American religious scholar also said U.S. president George W. Bush "may be doing us a favour." Unlike the "veiled imperialism" of the U.S. under former president of Bill Clinton, Bush has brought it out into the open, suggested Cobb.
"The U.S. has been an imperialist nation for a long, long time, ever since we started conquering and driving the natives off the turf of the United States. So it's not a new thing that we are an imperialist nation. But now it's public knowledge."
The term had long been avoided in the U.S. because it elicited negative images for those who supported U.S. policies, he said. "But now the danger is that it's going to elicit a positive image. 'Yes, isn't it nice to be an empire: we hadn't thought about that before.'"
Glimmer of hope
The danger is present, but there is also a moment of possibility, Cobb said. There are many people in the U.S. who don't want their nation to be imperialistic and that can lead to open discussion, he said. "That's an example of when things get bad enough, then there's a moment of opportunity."
Cobb's books include Sustaining the Common Good and The Earthiest Challenge to Economism (1999).