romanian literary monthly

~ Theodor Damian: „Globalization as Reconstruction of the World: The Theological Value of Recapitulation“

Preliminary Considerations

Globalization is one of the most debated and hot topics today. The strong reaction people have at World Trade Organization meetings is one indication of that. Another one is the quantity of writing on the topic. According to internet resources every field of life is affected by globalization. Only Google – to mention just one tool of research – gives 6.560.000 entries for the word.

If globalization would not drastically affect people’s lives there would probably be less interest for it. Because of its implications in human life at all levels, those who are happy with it are quick to praise and preach it, whereas those who are unhappy and skeptical are quick to protest, warn and discourage.

In this presentation I will try to look at this phenomenon not so much from the point of view of its external manifestations that have to do with technology, economics, politics (Americanization for many), but from the point of view of its inner forces, drives, and characteristics. In doing that I will make an appeal to theology and metaphysics that can facilitate a new understanding and interpretation of it.

Man is a globalizing being

Globalization falls upon us like an avalanche. We can not stop it, we can only adjust to it. It is like a system and we are its parts. Every system is global in character. It encloses and holds together all the parts that make it what it is. The part cannot escape it. The system is part of its destiny. So is globalization part of our destiny.

Globalization has two dimensions: one physical, visible, epidermic; the other one, hidden. One is epi, the other is meta. It is important to pay attention to its external manifestations because they affect us in many ways, but maybe it is at least equally important if not more, to pay attention to its inner forces and drives.

In a love relationship between two people we see the external manifestations based on which we judge, interpret, evaluate. It is hard, if not impossible, for us to see the inner workings of the chemistry that is at the basis of that relationship.

However, in order to better understand the phenomenon we need to go into the meta of it. But one cannot study the metaphysics with the tools used for the study of physics. Just as one cannot define man based on the external manifestations alone, and one needs to go to the psychological level as well, so with globalization: one has to go to the meta which is the ground and raison d’etre of the epi. In order to do that theology can be of significant help.

When Pico della Mirandola wrote that God placed man in the middle of the world in order to better understand it (Oration on the Dignity of Man, Gateway, Chicago, 1956, p. 7), he indicated that man was meant to englobe in his or her embrace the entire creation of God. To understand means to affect because understanding generates attitudes. Attitudes are equivalent to actions that one takes toward the subject of one’s understanding.

Being placed in the middle of creation in order to better understand it, man was indeed destined to be the crown of it all; to be its crown, which is to master it, implies to know it. Indeed understanding implies a certain degree of knowledge, and knowledge is the ground of power, of mastering. This is consistent with the theological doctrine according to which man was created in the image of God. If we were to define God etymologically, then one can say that God is the Seer. In Greek, Theos comes from theastai = to see. The more you see, the more you know, and the more you know the more powerful you become. God is the Seer of all, that is why He is all-knowing and almighty. But man is created in God’s image. That means he or she is supposed to see, and from seeing to get knowledge and then power.

This is why God placed man, as Pico della Mirandola says, in the middle of the world, in order to help him or her to better see the world. And seeing it – knowing, understanding it, he gets power over it, masters it, and consequently affects it. And that is what man did progressively, by degrees, since the beginning of his existence: to try to control and master the world, the universe, to put his or her print over everything he touches. And he wants to touch everything.

Indeed man is a globalizing force.

Divide et Impera Versus Recapitulate and Master

The Spirit of Division

Karl Barth was very skeptical about man’s ways of dealing with the world. Chased by the spirit of possession man’s main desire resides in constant acquisition: to get, to have. That is why Nietzsche wrote that man’s goal in life is to bring everyday something home. According to Blaise Pascal it is the spirit of possession that generates man’s tragedy. One of the reasons for this is the fact that man identifies himself with what he or she possesses, which leads to his being’s reification.

In this equation to be is in competition with to have and to have is the winner. Then, man defines himself quantitatively instead of qualitatively.

The same Karl Barth observes with a note of sharp skepticism that whatever man possesses he destroys. And of course, when he himself is a quantity and identifies himself with his possessions, by destroying them he destroys himself. That is why E.Cioran described man as being a self proclaimed destructor.

The spirit of acquisition leads to division, separation and fragmentation. Division helps in the process of conquering. It becomes a strategy. The best one. That is why the old Latin adage advises: Divide and conquer! Divide et impera!

However, this only tells about how the world is, not how it is supposed to be. Conquering the world by dividing it, conquering it chased by the desire to possess it is not what the world needs and not what man needs, certainly because the destruction of what he possesses is going to be his own destruction. Man needs to conquer, to master the world in a totally different way, paradoxically, by offering himself or herself to it.

Globalization is not where you got the entire world and brought destruction upon it. That is the epi attitude, philosophy, Weltanschauung. The real conquering of the world which does make man a master as he was meant to be, but which does not bring about destruction, the real globalization is when man understands the original purpose of the world, and his own vocation in relation to it.

Pico della Mirandola again: God placed man in the middle of the world in order to better see it and to consequently understand it. If you understand something you help the thing reach its own fulfillment according to its nature, destiny and destination. If you go against its nature you did not understand it. That does not help.

How do we understand? The word itself tells it: to stand under. Not above. To stand above runs two risks: that of superficiality, you just see things from above, you will never get into, you will never know and understand. To see from above, is the epi, in the detriment of meta.

The second risk of seeing from above it that of arrogance. That will never help me get in communion. Arrogance closes doors. It does not open them. Treated arrogantly things will resemble a citadel on a rock that never opens its doors to the one who shows no consideration to it.

On the contrary, when I try to under-stand, I will stand under. That is humility. This is the slide that brings me to the meta. Inside the thing is the heart of it. When I am there, beyond appearances, this is when I am in communion, the real communion. Of course, when I am allowed to or I have the chance to enter somebody’s heart, I have to take my boots off. That is like the holy ground where Moses had to enter with no shoes.

The principle of globalization is participation, not imposition. Participation in turn makes authentic communion. If globalization is based on the spirit of possession, it brings about division and destruction. Then I don’t need it. If it creates communion, mutual growth and is applied with dignity, then I need it.

In other words globalization as arrogance is epi: surface, appearance, superficiality. It is not authentic. In contrast, globalization as humility is meta, it is real, profound, healthy and stable.

Recapitulation (anakephalaiosis)

Paradoxically, one becomes a master by practicing humility. I will allow you to take me when I see that you love me, you want to serve me, you treat me with dignity. Thus you are my friend. Otherwise you are my enemy.

That is why it was said that the best master is the one who knows to serve best. God is the perfect master because He is the perfect servant. That service to humanity culminates in Jesus Christ Messiah, who according to Isaiah and the Jewish prophetic tradition is Yebed Jahwe, God’s servant, but man’s servant at the same time.

Christ brought salvation to the entire world by coming to serve it, by dying for it, by being in communion with it, by recapitulating it. St. Irenaeus of Lugdunum (in the 2nd century) is one of the most prominent theologians who explained the concept of everything’s recapitulation in Christ. “Jesus”, he says, “came all the way of the universal economy (oikonomia) by recapitulating everything in Himself” (Contre les Hérésies, I, 2, critical edition by A. Rousseau and L. Doutreleau, Cerf Publishers, “Sources Chrétiennes”, Paris, 1979, pp. 135-157). In other words, if we want to use our topic’s vocabulary, we talk here about Christ’s globalizing work for the salvation of the world.

This is the type of globalization that our world needs today when destruction is at hand and at the door. This is how Irenaeus explains Christ’s recapitulative salvific work: by taking on human nature the Son of God came in direct communion with man. Every one who accepts Christ, comes in communion with Him, participates in His theandric life and being. When Christ allows everybody to come and participate in His theandric life, He recapitulates everyone. He is like taking one by one and purifying, saving, deifying them all. Christ is thus fulfilling his globalizing mission in the world.

However, to re-capitulate is to capitulate again. So recapitulation is based on capitulation, which is to give up, to renounce, to abandon. In other words, if you want to win the world, to conquer it in order to save it, you need to capitulate before it. This is the exact paradoxical sense of the crucifixion, without which there is no resurrection and final victory. Capitulation is humility. I mentioned earlier that Christ was called Yebed Jahwe, God’s servant, and then the servant of the world, of man. By serving God and man He reconciles God and man.

As St. Paul explains in his letter to the Philippians, Christ indeed capitulated in the sense that His kenosis was a renunciation to his divine glory and prerogatives. Capitulation means head down, bowed down, humility, service. It was by humbling Himself to death, and even death on the cross (Philippians, 2, 8) that He entered the world to its heart, in its unfathomable depth, and won man’s heart.

Following this paradigm one can say that if we want a globalization that is beneficial to our world, we need to understand what globalization really is, how it can be done in a way that does not harm the world. We have to reinvent or rediscover the communion. We need to conquer the world by humility and service, not by arrogance and individualistic profit. In other words, if we want to become agents of globalization in the authentic sense of the term, as René Descartes in his Discourse on Method teaches, we need to conquer ourselves first before trying to conquer the world. And this is the most difficult thing to do.


According to many analysts our world does not go in the right direction. Greed is one of the causes that produce war among nations and conflict among individuals. There is visible war and invisible war, hidden, camouflaged. There is so much destructive potential on earth that even if only part of it were used, we could be the last generation in the world.

That it why we need reconstruction and we have to reinvent ourselves, our concepts, beliefs, and definitions.

The process of globalization, the way we see it in our time, needs to be based on stable values. We need to recapitulate what we had and lost. Religion, the most powerful values generator in the human world can be of significant help, if taken very seriously. It is only a globalization that grows out of religious values that can promise us a future.


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