A Global Ethic for Global Politics and Economics

By Rankin, William W. | Anglican Theological Review, Summer 1999 | Go to article overview

A Global Ethic for Global Politics and Economics


Rankin, William W., Anglican Theological Review


A Global Ethic for Global Politics and Economics. By Hans Kung (English translation by John Bowden). New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998. xvii + 315 pp. $32.50 (cloth).

It is by now a cliche-not less true for that fact-that the planet is "shrinking," meaning that formerly remote world events hold increasing potential to affect people elsewhere. This review, for instance, is being written on the day when news reports announce major bomb attacks upon U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam-the one in Kenya and the other a Tanzania Indian Ocean seaport-and the consternation this is causing around our country.

Hans King has long been asking Christian theologians and religious leaders to face up to globalization, to fathom its implications for our lives. All this, and the ethical considerations of how we intend ourselves within that context, is incisively presented in the book under review. It is a fine, readable assessment of everyone's global predicament and it is a sound argument for a global ethic.

The book's two major divisions contemplate "Realpolitik" and "Idealpolitik," to advert to the original German. (The translator has rendered these as "Real Politics" and "Ideal Politics," which is irritating, but Bowden recognizes the clumsiness of this, explains his predicament, and begs forgiveness.) Using Henry Kissinger's works (can you believe this man was awarded a Nobel Peace prize?) as representative of "Realpolitik," King finds this and the earlier theories of Richelieu and Bismarck to be wrong both politically and morally. No surprise, but the analysis is keen and worth attending to.

The "Ideal Politics" of Woodrow Wilson is considered next, along with an ambivalent scrutiny of Hans Morgenthau's post-World War II political theories. Kung's own contribution is "Responsible Politics. …

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