Prospects for Truth and Freedom: A Religion Professor Offers Three Scenarios for Globalization's Effects on Freedom

By Cohen, Aaron M. | The Futurist, May-June 2010 | Go to article overview

Prospects for Truth and Freedom: A Religion Professor Offers Three Scenarios for Globalization's Effects on Freedom


Cohen, Aaron M., The Futurist


What would life be like if globalization were to reach its full potential? What about if it fell short or suddenly reversed course?

In his new book, The Future of Truth and Freedom in the Global Village (Praeger, 2010), North Central College religious studies professor Thomas McFaul envisions three different paths that the future might take.

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Scenario 1: Fragmentation and Fundamentalism

In the worst-case scenario, globalizing technology produces too much change too quickly, and the frightened masses retreat to the perceived safety, social stability, and unity of their own separate enclaves. People from different religious, ethnic, national, and tribal affiliations voluntarily segregate themselves from each other.

Their cultural traditions, religious world-views, values, and boundaries bring them respite from encroaching foreign mind-sets. However, the respite is short-lived, due to growing hostility and intolerance between groups with different belief systems. Multiculturalist viewpoints take a backseat to xenophobia. Fundamentalist ideas gain prominence and lead to a rise in terrorist attacks. The first half of the twenty-first century would be characterized by less separation between church and state--and less religious freedom in many countries. If this were to happen, then the democratic growth trend would reverse itself, giving rise to new authoritarian regimes.

Economically, the opposite sides of the spectrum would pose the biggest problems, in McFaul's view: Greater market deregulation would widen the gap between haves and have-nots and inflict serious structural damage on the middle class ("the foundation for social stability"). On the other hand, excessive regulation, taxation, and nationalization of industry would cause entire economies to stagnate.

All of the above would negatively affect the rate of technological progress.

Outcome for freedom and democracy: "By 2050, the two-centuries-old trend towards democracy also started backing up, as the number of authoritarian and semi-authoritarian regimes expanded around the planet."

Scenario 2: Diversity and Harmony

Just because different cultures don't interact doesn't mean that they can't all get along. In McFaul's second scenario, social integration slows to a crawl at every level, from local to global. As different groups work to preserve their unique cultural identities, they nonetheless peacefully co-exist, at least for the most part. …

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