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Alternatives to Neoliberal Globalization

by Ulrich Duchrow Saturday, Aug. 11, 2007 at 2:37 AM

Refusing to work out historical sins like colonialism, fascism and apartheid repeats the historical model of conquest, domination and exclusion. Kairos Europe is directed against a system and its structures. Its positive goal sets life and people in first place.



By Ulrich Duchrow

[This article is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, . Ulrich Duchrow is a professor and author of liberation theology in Heidelberg..]

Kairos Europe, the European base movement that I represent here, was founded by ecumenical groups and networks after the 1st Ecumenical Assembly in Basel in 1989. Its goal was to stimulate the participation of the churches in the “conciliar process of mutual obligation for justice, peace and preservation of creation.” Kairos joined North-South and East-West questions with the questions of economic justice within Western Europe before the term “globalization” became a fashion. We try to form alliances between churches and social movements with the participation of victims of neoliberalism. This approach goes beyond general declarations and develops clear analyses and alternatives for building a society where all people now and in the future have a place in harmony with nature and no one is excluded from the possibility of living in dignity.


In Kitwe/Zambia in 1995, the Reformed World Alliance (RWA) declared that the current neoliberal ideology and its economic system represent a status confessionis for the churches like National Socialist fascism and apartheid in the 20th century. The RWA in 1997 and the World Council of Churches (WCC) in 1998 at their plenary assemblies called member churches to a Processus Confessionis in the context of economic injustice and destruction of nature. [cf. U. Duchrow/L. Dietz ed. “Dienst Gott, night dem Mammon” Texts on the Ecumenical Process for Alternatives to Neoliberal Globalization, in: epa-Dokumentation Nr 22, May 28, 2002, p.10-13] How should we respond to this challenge?

1. Status confessionis is an ecclesiological term in the churches of the Reformation. This term distinguishes between affairs demanding a clear decision because they concern the essence of the gospel and the existence of the church and on the other side affairs in which a plurality of opinions is possible. Different church traditions express this necessity for an unequivocal decision in different biblical terms and symbols. For example, Baptists speak of life and faithful perseverance in God’s covenant, orthodox of social consequences of the Eucharistic community in the one body of Christ and historical peace churches like the Mennonites of radical discipleship. In any case, the central point is the necessity of making a clear corporative decision for clear witness in the word, praxis and form of the church [cf. the 1934 Barmen Theological Declaration, Articles 2 and 3]

2. The basis of this church decision can only be the clarity of biblical reasoning. Alongside analyses and alternatives, Kairos concentrates on study of the Bible. Since his self-revelation as Liberator from slavery (Exodus 3ff), God will win his people for alternatives of life in the context of systemic oppression, exploitation, injustice and destruction. The prophets, the law, resistance histories and practical alternatives reflect the struggle for life-friendly economies and solidarity against enslaving and destructive powers. [cf. U. Duchrow, Alternativen zur kapitalistischen Weltwirtschaft – Biblical remembrance and political approaches to overcome the life-threatening economy, 1994,1997 and U. Duchrow/ F. J. Hinkelammert, Life is More Than Capital – Alternatives to the Global Dictatorship of Property, 2002] Because Kairos Europe is open for all people, Kairos is also engaged in the inter-religious dialogue as for example in the 2000 colloquium “Faith Communities and Social Movements in the Conflict with Globalization” [cf. documentation in: Junge Kirche, September 2000]

3. To develop and practice a spirituality of resistance and solidarity in this situation, Kairos cooperates with communities like “Religious for Peace” that live the unity of “struggle and contemplation.”

4. Understanding the similarities and differences in comparison to fascism and apartheid helps the churches join the Processus Confessionis. In National Socialism and apartheid, visible and audible totalitarian acts caused the exclusion of people, murder, separation and discrimination. In the global deregulated market, the system indirectly destroys life and causes the death of people and nature. The system explicitly promises wealth as a foundation for general welfare. However the production of this wealth excludes on principle those with neither income nor paid work who are without purchasing power. This leads to hunger and even death in countries without a social net. In its basic approach, this system is oriented towards maximization of profit for owners of capital, not satisfaction of basic needs and public welfare. At the same time this system makes itself absolute (“there is no alternative”) which is equal to idolatry. The increasingly totalitarian character of this idolatry is allied with dogmatic political measures like those of the International Monetary Fund and with imperial military – and secret service interventions of the US and its allies around the globe – all in the interests of the rich. In Western Europe, the social and ecological regulations of the so-called “social market economy” are more necessary than ever because the social and ecological welfare is constantly threatened and dismantled in the course of neoliberal globalization. The clear and unambiguous position of the churches could strengthen the forces fighting over the course of the welfare state and for a life-friendly economy in the future. Kairos Europe is also occupied with processes of “truth and reconciliation” because refusing to work out historical sins as for example colonialism, fascism and apartheid creates a mechanism that repeats the historical model of conquest, domination and exclusion (Johann Galtung: “Fascism is western civilization in the extreme”)

5. Kairos Europe tries to make clear the necessary decision of the churches is directed against a system and its structures, not against persons and that the goal of this decision is a positive one, namely to cooperate in developing economic alternatives that set life and humankind in first place.


1. God created the earth for life. Jesus Christ came to give “life in abundance” (Joh 10,10). God’s spirit is the breath of life and the power of love among people. Therefore all human economies are called and obligated to serve the life of the earth and humankind if they do not want to oppose God.

2. Therefore the churches must reject the neoliberal ideology and praxis. Enforced with more and more economic, political, military and media power, this ideology and praxis subjugate all life and all economies to the logic of the boundless multiplication of capital wealth. The social, ecological and democratic obligation to public welfare is eliminated. This system

- systematically excludes people who do not own property and are denied paid work;

- systematically exploits those with paid work;

- subjects base communal and public services like water, energy and so forth to the logic of capital accumulation (privatization);

- only considers ecological carefulness under the aspect of avoiding costs and thus destroys the life possibilities of future generations;

- explains all negative consequences as unintended indirect effects (collateral damage) and thus veils who is responsible.

3. Kairos Europe proposes rejecting all religious, mostly individualistic forms of piety and faith that – directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously, passively or actively – legitimate the neoliberal ideology. This is reflected in the spirit, logic and praxis of the boundless multiplication of capital wealth through deregulated markets and its absolutizing and enforcement with imperial power. A faith that does not reject this ideology contradicts the clear testimony of the Bible. This ideology can be found above all in the US and also – usually hidden – in Western Europe.


1. Churches could change their structures so their savings and reserves are invested in a socially and ecologically responsible way and not simply profitably.

2. Churches could withdraw their money from all commercial banks whose speculative financial enterprises are only intent on wealth multiplication. They could invest their money in their own cooperatives, local-regional banks that do not operation the world market or in alternative banks whose interest rates are not higher than the growth of the real economy and that invest in a socially and ecologically responsible way.

3. The churches could sell all shares of corporations that gain their profits according to the rules of the global market, that is without property’s social obligation and obligation to life and instead invest only in projects of the ecologically responsible social economy, in enterprises that do not make speculative profits at the expense of workers and nature.

4. Churches could call their communities and members to act responsibly toward banks and firms.

5. The churches could reconsider their common property under the same criteria.


Many persons and organizations in civil society have understood the signs of the times and become active. For example, Kairos Europe together with WEED (world economy, ecology and development) and Pax Christi created a “network” for the “democratic control of the financial markets” in January 2000. The echo was breathtaking. The network that has called itself Attac Germany (in cooperation with attac in France and elsewhere) since 2001 has more than 7500 members and 130 regional groups. New members and groups come every week. Many organizations are added: NGOs, unions and church-allied organizations like the Reformed Alliance, Evangelical Academics, Bavarian youth works and so forth. Communities, synods and churches must forge alliances with these social movements. This is a central goal of Kairos Europe. [cf. The European Kairos document in: Junge Kirche, May 1998] Pressure to gain new political possibilities for regulating the economy in service of life – against the ideology that the markets automatically produce prosperity for everyone – can only arise through concerted efforts of civil societies on national and international planes.

Strong forces in the European Union (EU) press for more liberalization and deregulation (for example in the context of the WTO) in contrast to the social traditions in Europe. This must be emphasized for western European churches. The churches in cooperation with the social movements have many possibilities on all planes.

1. the churches in Western Europe could urge their governments (and the EU) to end their neoliberal policy nationally and internationally since this totalizes the world market. To realize this vital constitutional transformation of policy toward economic interests, they could support the demands of civil society including

- combating speculation on the financial- and currency markets, with means like the Tobin tax, controls on capital transactions and derivative regulations;

- preventing tax evasion and combating the tax flight of owners of capital on national and international planes, since withholding taxes damages the public welfare directly and indirectly through the resulting state indebtedness;

- reintroducing progressive taxation on incomes from corporate activity and assets in the sense of the constitutional obligation of performance-based contributions to the community and extension of this system to the world plane.

- Ending the monetarist monetary policy introduced in 1979, i.e. the re-regulation of interest rates on the transnational markets to adjust real interests to the level of real growth;

- Promoting communal and cooperative property on local-regional planes to give affected people the possibility for organizing production and services for the satisfaction of basic needs in the context of their respective ecological and cultural conditions, immediately ending the GATT negotiations in the scope of the WTO that aim at privatizing and liberalizing public services, in particular the privatization of the water supply has life-threatening consequences since the poor are excluded from the most essential human right to still their thirst with drinking water in poorer countries through the transformation of water into a means for accumulating capital wealth.

- canceling the WTO-TRIPS agreement on patenting “intellectual property” in seeds and living creatures, guaranteeing the protection of the person and his genes from patenting to prevent the monopolization of life, the threatening world food crisis and the commercial manipulation of the future of humanity;

- transferring environmental assets to public stewardship or cooperative common property with strict social and ecological conditions for economic use;

- binding productive private property to strict criteria of charitable non-profit status, joint-determination of employees and concerned as well as special promotion of investments in the production of simple durable consumer goods;

- immediate abolition of the structural adjustment policy of the IMF and the World Bank that plunges whole societies in poverty and distress for the sake of compound interest to owners of capital and cancellation of all illegitimate debts;

- gradual restructuring of the international system into democratic institutions in the scope of a reformed UN.

If the governments do not implement property’s constitutionally-ordered public interest obligation and continue dismantling this central constitutional imperative through the decontrol of the capitalist world market mechanism, the churches could apply the proper legal means for example initiating a constitutional complaint together with the social movements and other concerned groups.

All these demands and proposals set the economy and markets in service of the self-determined life of all present and future people and liberate them from the pressure to transform humankind, culture and the earth into means for multiplying private capital which leads to destruction of all life and thus self-destruction.

These demands and proposals are not conceived as laws but should show the direction and goals to help churches develop demands necessary in the Processus Confessionis of their respective context. Everything they do in this direction should promote the necessary public processes of consciousness and transformation and strengthen the struggle of the victims of the system and the social movements.

In confessing their faith in the God of life, the churches in Western Europe will have conflicts with power and wealth. But they will credibly attest the gospel, the “Good News for the poor” (Lk 4,18) in community with the churches of the South and the East.

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