Session 1: Ethics and Contemporary Capitalist Modernity

2nd Global Conference

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Friday 12th March – Sunday 14th March 2010
Salzburg, Austria


A “New Global Ethics”? UNESCO’s Cultural Diversity Convention
Ben Garner
Department of Sociology, University of Manchester, United Kingdom

The search for a “universal ethics” that can underpin regulatory action for the domain of culture has been one of the most divisive issues in the construction of the post-war international order. The main theatre of these controversies has been the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). This paper examines UNESCO’s recent measures regarding cultural diversity, which have declared a “new global ethics” and brought the organisation a level of international attention that it has not seen since the 1970s when it became the focus of Third World demands for a New World Information and Communication Order. After introducing the background to the recent measures adopted at UNESCO, it examines the attempt that was made to outline the principles of a new global ethics in the UNESCO commissioned report Our Creative Diversity (1995). It then goes on to analyse how these principles came to be taken up and recast as part of the campaigns for cultural diversity over the last decade. It is argued that it is precisely in how the articulation of this global ethics became intertwined with debates over trade and culture that has given the recent instruments at UNESCO their political and normative significance – and that, after two decades on the sidelines of international administration, have signaled the organisation’s rehabilitation in the contemporary global order.

Download Draft Conference Paper (pdf)


Public Policy Theories and Ethical Dimension
Arash Moussavi
National Research Institute for Science Policy, Iran

Public policy is a branch of political science with rather well-developed concepts and theories all pursuing a single objective: to model and explain how a typical collective decision, a policy, is actually made in today’s democratic societies. Thus far, public policy scholars seem largely to avoid taking explicit normative stances. It is not uncommon to hear public policy scholars claim that their job is to illuminate the processes by which public decisions achieve legitimacy rather than to reflect normatively on, and make judgments about those decisions. This avoidance of normative analysis seems to be not reasonable anymore as we enter a new era in which governments increasingly are challenged by serious ethical problems and dilemmas. For example, the rise of new high-techs such as life-preserving technologies, cloning technologies, and technologies for implantation puts governments and the public against challenging ethical problems and decision making situations. This new trend introduces a new dimension to the mainly descriptive field of public policy: a normative dimension. One way to address the challenge is to deal with the relation between the traditional discipline of ethics and the new field of public policy. Scholars like Rafael capurro (2002) have taken some inspiring steps in this way. The problem with that literature though lies in the fact that it remains in abstract philosophical deliberation and neglect the vast conceptual and theoretical resources of public policy literature. The main objective of the proposed paper is to bring those potentialities onto the scene. A dialogue between ethics and public policy will be initiated by asking questions like these: with respect to moral challenges, are public decision-making processes rational? Why there seems to be a tention between a public policy that is democtatically judged as being right and one that would be rationally assessed as right? Can concepts such as identity or responsibility be attributed and redefined with respect to public sphere?


Rooted and Flowing: Ethical Subjectivity in Late Modernity
Celia Grace Kenny
Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland

In this paper, the focus will be on the contemporary shift, in terms of ethics, from questions of ontology and epistemology to the area of cultural politics. In the face of the complexity of moral issues which arise in late modern society, I will claim that:

1. The pursuit of moral universalism runs antithetically to a genuine respect for diversity.

2. The contemporary ethical subject is likely to be reflexive in a way which was not possible in any previous era, and now openly responsive to multiple sources of authority. One of the consequences of this fundamental change is the experience of cognitive dissonance. Construed positively, cognitive dissonance (or epistemological rupture) can be interpreted as the ground of possibility which allows us to open up to ‘otherness’. The development of feminist critique during the last 50 years is a good example of this trajectory.

3. A philosophy of radical immanence should be cultivated as the antidote to a slide into relativism, which is commonly presented as the only alternative to universalism.

Referring, particularly, to the work of Richard Rorty, Kwame Anthony Appiah and Rosi Braidotti, I will focus on three ideas: 1. the notion of truth and its significance when we contextualize it within a philosophy/politics of immanence; 2. the notion of moral generosity, as I will bring that in conjunction with an ethic of radical doubt; and 3. Braidotti’s idea of ‘becoming minoritarian’, as I will apply that to the demands of ethical subjectivity for the 21st century.

Download Draft Conference Paper (pdf)