Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Globalisation and the Phenomenon of Boredom in Labour and Consumption. A Cultural Philosophical Analysis

Prof. Hendrik Opdebeeck.

A new wave of publications is appearing that considers the profound social consequences of globalisation e.g. the phenomenon of boredom in labour and consumption. Authors like R. Butterwordth, B.Schwartz and G. Soden call into question the primacy of globalisation. State and culture, it is argued, are too subservient to the globalisation process so that ecological, syndical, social-democratic and fiscal regulations are in danger of becoming of secondary importance. One express the fear that the world may be threatened with ecological and social destruction by the hubris of our culture, especially if we fail to contemplate on our common global responsibility. According to R. Safranski, on the other hand, it is self-deceit to believe that the profound social consequences of globalisation could lead to a worldwide solidarity. Our extremely communicative global community appears to be losing its ability to function as a subject. All power lies with States and alliances between States, while ‘humanity’ is left utterly impotent. We continue to dream about an urgently required humanity that is capable of acting, but time and again strife on a small or large scale stands in the way of unity between people. As a consequence, it has become almost inappropriate in the face of these challenges to recall the meaning of the individual. Nevertheless, we can only cope with the consequences of globalisation if we take due account of the shaping of the human person. Essential in this respect is the strength to restrict ourselves as human beings in order that we could process the innumerable stimuli that come our way daily and thus avoid being paralysed by them. Wherever we go, we inevitably end up in situations where, disquietingly, we come to realise that the scope of familiarity with globality and the scope of possible action are driven apart dramatically. As this is untenable, we try to secure our own private future at all costs, without allowing ourselves to be led by a global ethics that aims to prevent a catastrophe.

As we are increasingly moving through a self-made universe, man is in danger of losing sight of whatever transcends life. In the impenetrability of an all-too-often degenerated natural world, for example, man was nevertheless offered an opportunity to come into touch with this secret. This contemporary inability to cope with the social consequences of globalisation is the superlative case of what has been described as social alienation since the writings of J.J. Rousseau and K. Marx. What, then, is the path in between Rousseau and Marx, between getting lost in the past and in the future? This is where the significance becomes clear of standing in the here and now without allowing oneself to be fragmented by either the past or the future. This is the positive equanimity of ‘keeping a distance’; of cherishing manners of behaviour and thought that keep at bay the ‘global hysteria’. This can only be achieved if one knows what one wants and needs. This delimitation implies an awareness of the point where one stops allowing oneself to be formatted and informed. Like Nietzsche, one then becomes good neighbours again with the closest things around oneself. Only in this way can man become a whole in miniature. Only then will we succeed in averting the profound social consequences of globalisation like the phenomenon of boredom in labour and consumption.


Prof. Hendrik Opdebeeck  (Belgium)
Department of Philosophy University of Antwerp Belgium
University of Antwerp Belgium

Prof.dr.Hendrik OPDEBEECK studied philosophy and economics at the Universities of Ghent and Louvain. He lectures 'Personnel Management and Ethics' at the University of Antwerp Management School(UAMS). He is a staff member of the 'Centrum voor Ethiek' (UFSIA) and member of the European Ethics Network. One of his recent publications is The Problem of the Foundations of Ethics. Ricoeurs Ethical Order, Peeters, 2000 and Building Towers, Perspectives on Globalisation. Peeters, 2002.

  • Globalisation and localism
  • Ethical and social consequences
  • solidarity
  • To function as a subject
Person as Subject
  • Norberg,J., In Defence of Global Capitalism Safranski, R., Wieviel Globalisierung verträgt der Mensch? Achterhuis, H., Werelden van Tijd Cioran, E., Histoire et Utopie

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)