Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Reflections from ‘Contemporary Social Theories’ by Anthony Elliot (Chapters 6-10)

Written by: on September 27, 2012

The second half of the book deals with the contemporary social theory, feminism, post modernity and networks and globalization which are social phenomena after the 1970 and projected into the future. Habermas wrote about the democratization of society where the public was open to dialogue and form opinions on issues that affect them in society. Habermas began writing in the 1970s and has continued to comment on current issues from critiques on feminism, social rationalization and later in the 1990s on globalization. Feminist social theorists have reflected on the scripts that have been developed about women especially Freud’s discourse female gender. Post modernity was the most controversial and at the end of the reading the conclusion is that ‘post modernity is modernity reconciled to its own limitations’. The final chapter on globalization gave three theoretical approaches which I seem to adhere to all three; I am a global skeptic, a radical globalist and a global transfomationists; it is hard for a true global citizen to adopt one approach.

As I read the book some of the questions that came to mind concerning my context in Africa were plenty. What is the social rationalization and capitalist commodification in Africa? How does it look like? In the west, it seems to be ‘seductive consumerism’ resulting from the ‘rise of corporations’ and ‘fragmentation of social consciousness’ resulting in ‘pervasive cultural rationalization’. Africa is young and poor and the urge to live for today is more important than acquiring wealth for tomorrow. Many will not have the chance to evade the cycle of poverty and engage in consumerism. What are the fundamental convictions and traditions subject to administrative and bureaucratic control? Could such an institution include the church or should it be left to para-church organizations? Habermas advocates the need for global solidarity. What attempts are being made in partnership to respond to the myriad of social issues? One of the ways in which deliberative democracy has been implemented in Africa was the rotation of the presidency in Nigeria between the northerners and the southerners due to religious and ethnic tensions. This is a way to obtain balance in the political and economic spheres of the society. Who are the victims of disrespect in our society today?

Feminism is a subject that is gaining ground in its study in Africa where ‘gender identity is tied to loss’. What is the emerging identity of an African woman in society today, in grassroots and also on the global platform? Is she a victim of disrespect and if yes, what is her loss? A woman identity is related to her external appearance; right from what she wears. There has been a very public debate on what women should wear and I tend to wonder what Jesus would say about clothes since he seems not to be concerned with what women wore but how men looked at women. In July, 2012 a group of high school students went on strike demanding comfortable and modern clothes. The Ministry of Education in charge of administering education policies in Kenya has now an official policy; a high school girl’s skirt should be two inches below the knee.

Even with the positive advancements of post modernity, the reality is that very few global citizens enjoy the benefits. How will the world respond to the 1.2 billion who live on less than a dollar a day? ‘Today, there is little widespread belief in the possibility of a fundamental moral code’ that could help respond to the issue of postmodern ethics. One of the issues that I grappled with as I read on networks, risks and liquids is the dehumanization of the consumer. What about people? They must eat, go to school, visit hospitals and wear clothes, live in homes yet there seems to be an emphasis on communication, service and finance at a macro level. As the nodes in the networks are discussed, I wondered what node Africa is. My answer is; it is the dumping node for sub-standard goods, waste, environmental degradation, aid, extraction of mineral and other essential metals for the technology age. Even though the network has no center, the disfranchised will not have a voice and their node will be ignored. Who will speak for the node that is Africa?

I read the book and I remained with more questions than answers. A contemporary social theory for Africa remains at the sidelines, it needs to connect to the rest of the world even with the realities of hunger, ethnic war and religious fundamentalism.

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Joy Mindo

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