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

Star Trek or Revolution

Written by: on February 1, 2013

For a long time, I have been a fan of Star Trek.  Through the many television renditions of the enduring story of “to boldly go where no man has gone before,” there is a constant theme – that of the future (at least on the part of the Federation) being an orderly place, a partially utopian society that needs to be protected by the magnificent starship Enterprise!

Karl Polanyi, in his book The Great Transformation leads us to believe that under current globalized economic thought, the above scenario will never be possible.  He explains that, although many believe that an economy not embedded in society but rather functioning in an interlocking system of free markets, with all corrections and adjustments enacted through simple supply and demand will produce this type of Utopian existence – it’s a fallacy.

While some believe that complete freedom in a market system will produce market self-regulation, and that “total freedom equals total opportunity,” Polanyi insists that history has shown that it will only hurt the vulnerable and marginal.  He goes even further to state that militant and religious fundamentalist look for the disorder that economic globalization provides and use the chaos for their purposes of destabilization.

There are no current Star Trek episodes for me to watch these days so I have begun viewing another show that also takes place in the future – Revolution.  But this show is different.  Instead of the utopian potential that science and technology lead us to believe is possible in Star Trek, in Revolution we see apocalyptic anarchy and destruction in a culture with no societal regulations.

This is the future that Polanyi envisions when we rely on self-regulated markets – a place where we are on the verge of annihilation and people are treated as objects with even their worth determined by market values.  To combat the future Revolution suggests, there needs to be state intrusion.  Only when there is a structure of global regulation will prosperity for all and international economic order be achieved.

He believed that we need to submit to democratic processes and allow a degree of regulation, for globalization to occur in a manner that will perpetuate progress for everyone on the globe. 

Looking back four years, he could have been President Obama’s speech writer.  I remember the atmosphere leading up to the elections, then Senator Obama travelled the world, speaking to millions in countries on each continent.  I sensed a possibility of global order, a united system of government, a utopian society – many of us did.  I imagine that Polanyi was smiling from his grave at the outpouring of international hope based upon a sort of “global societal structure.”  Polanyi’s philosophy however never was embraced, and maybe never will be. 

Wrong or right, only the future will tell.  Will we live like the characters in Star Trek or as those in Revolution?

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