Religion, Culture, and Globalization

Chapter by Dr. Douglas M. Johnston


One of globalization’s major side effects has been the accelerated revival of religious and cultural identities that were once thought to be in decline as a result of the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, and the technological advances of the twentieth century. In his insightful article “Jihad vs. McWorld,” Benjamin Barber describes the contemporary world’s dynamics as a clash between tribalism and globalism—between “a Jihad in the name of a hundred narrowly conceived faiths against every kind of interdependence, every kind of artificial social cooperation and civic mutuality” on the one hand and “one McWorld tied together by technology, ecology, communications, and commerce” on the other. “The planet,” Barber writes, “is falling precipitantly apart and coming reluctantly together at the very same moment.

This chapter looks at the religious and cultural realities of globalization and attempts to chart a viable via media between these interpretations. Contra Jihad, it will discuss how religion can be a force for good as well as a divisive cause of conflict. Contra McWorld, it will point out the dangers of exiling religion and culture to the private sphere and show how the failure to take these factors into account analytically constitutes a serious error both normatively and descriptively. Finally, it will provide suggestions for shaping public policy with respect to these issues. …



Chapter in The Global Century: Globalization and National Security
2 volumes, Washington DC: National Defense University Press, April 2002.

Click here to download a PDF of the full chapter.

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