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

The Blind Side

Written by: on February 3, 2013

Everything is abuzz around me as I wait to board a flight out of a very posh terminal at the Bangalore airport in southern India.  This terminal would compare to any other modern airports in the western world or even surpass them in quality, ambiance and service.  Just a little over a decade ago it was impossible for me to even imagine there would be an airport of this standard anywhere in India and that I would have this experience in my life time.   The Government’s restrictive economic policies built around a socialist framework until the early 1990’s had considerably slowed the country’s progress. Surprisingly within a very short span of time this country has changed.

One of the significant factors for such development is the liberalization of the market and growing capitalism in India.  This has had both a positive as well as a negative impact upon the country.   Yes, there certainly is a downside to free market and capitalism.  What I seek to discuss now is the development free market has brought to my country.   Relating my reading this week , The Great Transformation – The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time by Karl Polanyi ,  and pondering over the present leads me to question Polanyi’s thesis that free markets led to “political and social collapse”.   If Polanyi’s thesis were true, I would not be where I am and my present experience would not be true either.  It is difficult to be convinced that Polanyi’s view of the free market as the ‘enemy’ of humanity and as the harbinger of inequality, war, oppression and social turmoil to just and peaceful societies can be right.  History of this past century proves otherwise.

Many people have the tendency to consider the past as the ‘golden era’ regardless of any development and progress  made in the present.  I am reminded of my father’s oft repeated complaint.  He used to say that his boyhood days were the golden era of India.   He would talk to me about the deterioration and decline of societal values and the collapse of everything good at the present time.  Sometimes I tend to think the same way as well about my boyhood days. 

The anguish of Polanyi is quite sustainable.  Having experienced the turbulence of the times in which he lived – the first World war, the Russian Revolution, the happenings in Hungary, the economic turbulence of the 1920’s in Austria and Germany, the collapse of the international gold standard, the Great Depression, the rise of Nazism, and then once again World War II.   These were unimaginable in the previous century and experiences that were unprecedented and without parallel.  That is indeed a lot to take and absorb in one life time for anyone.   It is no wonder that Polanyi opens his writing with the sobering yet sweeping remark: “Nineteenth-Century civilization has collapsed.” (Clarke n.d.)

In that ‘collapse’  we also see the beginnings of the dawn of a new day.  Does Polanyi  recognize and appreciate that that?   I need to read and research further.  That death and life are closely related is the paradox of life itself.    In reality aren’t  markets are more ancient that what Polanyi believes?  Perhaps not ‘free’ as defined in the present time.  It must be reckoned that past values related to individual, community, nature, the construction of  wealth and resources were also different from what they are now. If one argues that  Polanyi’s theory is true and that we are presently seeing another  ‘collapse’ of the free market, I would attribute it to the drastic shift in these values during the past century.   The market, capitalism, industry, social, political, spiritual and religious thought and values are interrelated and interdependent.   Corruption and deterioration of one of these greatly influences the other.  None of these can be seen and addressed independent of the other.

Having said all the above, I conclude in agreement with Polanyi  in his notion  that human societies and nature is pushed to the point of eruption when markets have a distorted view of nature and human beings and treat them as mere commodities.  Do external controls and imposed regulations alone have the competence  to correct this?  This leads me to deliberate more genuinely on my daily prayer, “Thy Kingdom come” for therein lies the foundations and framework of a laissez-faire economy over which my call to leadership and I are both held responsible and accountable. 

Clarke. “Reconsiderations-The Great Transformation by Karl Polanyi.”    http://www.nysun.com/arts/reconsiderations-the-great-transformation-by-karl/79250/      (accessed feb 1, 2013).

 #dminlgp #lgp3 #polanyi

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