The Annual of the Society of Christian Ethics

Volume 21, 2001

Douglas A. Hicks
Pages 63-80

Inequality, Globalization, and Leadership
"Keeping Up with the Joneses" across National Boundaries

Economists and sociologists have shown that social norms and relative standing are significant factors in the perception of one's well-being. Globalization increasingly extends the scope of the "neighbors" with whom persons compare themselves. Worldwide income inequality currently stands as high as inequality in Brazil, Guatemala, and South Africa. While Christian ethicists can applaud certain dimensions of globalization, we must also develop critiques of those inequalities that obstruct the full participation of persons in their societies. This paper considers how a social-relational anthropology informed by the preferential option for the poor should understand global inequality and deprivation. It offers a constructive account of how relative factors (local, national, and international) should count alongside absolute concerns in our understanding of well-being, and it suggests ways in which leaders, scholars, and citizens can respond to inequality and globalization.