Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

The Problem of Values in Global Society: Insights from the Objective Idealists

Dennis W MacDonald.

The debate over globalization has frequently failed to recognize the distinction between the fact of global relations on the one hand and the principles and/or values now guiding the globalization process and global activity, on the other. As sociologist Erich Ahrens argued in 1950, globalization represents an expansion of human capacities, but is wrongly principled. Recent initiatives aimed at making globalization work for the global common good have argued much the same point, most notably the U.N. sponsored World Summit for Social Development and the U.N. Millennium Summit. There is in the discussion surrounding such initiatives the suggestion that there needs to be a rethinking of the basic values of global society if globalization and global activities are to serve all of humanity rather than the powerful few.

The issue of values, however, is perhaps the most difficult one that ever confronts students of society, as the age old debate over value neutrality suggests. The crux of the difficulty lies in the presumed exclusively subjective nature of all values. Such an assumption precludes the possibility of various nations with different cultures and different interests agreeing to operate on the basis of common principles and values? Is there any possible objective basis for such values and principles? Or is some commonality of “interests” or altruistic feelings of solidarity the only bases?

In this paper we will examine the dimensions of the problem of values and values conflict, focusing on insights of sociologist Erich Ahrens, and American philosophers Elijah Jordan and James Edwin Creighton whose work, grounded in tradition of “objective idealism,” may offer some way out of this thorny issue.


Dennis W MacDonald  (United States)
Assistant Professor
Department of Sociology
Saint Anselm College

  • Global Values
  • Objective Idealism

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)