Cultural diversity

Publications and Studies

"OÙ VONT LES VALEURS ?": Une éthique du futur

M. Jérôme Bindé (sous la direction de), Paris, Unesco/Albin Michel, 510 p. 28 avril 2004 – 2004/04/28

To mark the release of the French version of the anthology The Future of Values, UNESCO invited Paul Ricoeur, Hélé Béji, Axel Kahn, and Gianni Vattimo to speak at a debate held as part of its 21st Century Talks series. The event was chaired by Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, and moderated by series organizer Jérôme Bindé, Deputy Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences and Director of the Division of Foresight, Philosophy and Human Sciences at UNESCO. The anthology addresses a series of important questions: How can the central issue of education find its place in a constantly changing world where consumer values dominate and interchange is fleeting at best? Will the 21st century give rise to new values? How will globalization and technoscience affect values and cultural diversity? Now that we know that our planet, our species, and our civilization are not immortal, how do we answer these challenges, and what values can we propose? To respond, Mr. Bindé asked for contributions from 56 well-known thinkers and scientists (jurists, anthropologists, astrophysicists, historians, sociologists, biologists, writers, psychoanalysts, philosophers), including M. Arkoun, J. Baudrillard, J. Delors, J. Derrida, N. Gordimer, Cl. Hagège, A. Kahn, J. Kristeva, L. Montagnier, Ed. Morin, P. Ricoeur, J. Rifkin, M. Serres, P. Sloterdijk, J. Testart, and G. Vattimo.
Among them, U.S. economist Jeremy Rifkin, author of The End of Work, exposes the consequences of the economic revolution in his contribution entitled “The Age of Access: Network Challenges and Outlooks” by inviting us to a “radically rethink our conception of property: a network and not a market.” In Rifkin’s view, we no longer buy objects, but rather access—to information, goods, and services. Analyzing the positive and negative consequences of this transformation, Rifkin argues that the main threat is the commodification of culture and calls upon civil society to take action. He hopes that Europe will be able to protect cultural diversity—which is “as important as biodiversity”—and expresses his belief that culture is what saves societies. Michel Serres is equally convinced of the importance of cultural exchanges, whereas Jean Baudrillad stresses the fact that “the global—technology, markets, violence—is not universal; liberty and culture are.”
In a text published in the May 27 edition of Le Figaro UNESCO director-general Matsuura declares that it is legitimate for the organization—whose goal is to promote the values of peace—to pose the question of values at a time when the world is in the midst of an unprecedented values crisis. He emphasizes that one of the most significant effects of globalization is to reveal the extraordinary pluralism of human values and cultures. “In an age when images and messages from a multitude of sources fill our TV and movie screens, and global interdependence and global problems grow, what region or community can remain indifferent and impassive when values are called into question, wherever on the planet that might be? All cultures are equal in dignity. Each is a concrete incarnation of the human experience. All cultures must be respected, but by no means must all acts be permitted or all crimes excused in the name of cultural diversity.” He adds that “values evolve; they can be developed jointly, and debated and agreed upon by actors from very different horizons. Herein lies the strength of human cultures in all their creative diversity and their sense of shared humanity. The challenge today is that much ethical work must be conducted on the world stage, and that the new orientation be based on cultural dialog. This dialog must be rooted in the idea of respect for culture, but also in the notion that we can join together to assess values.” To achieve this, he notes that “we must also avoid the twin threats posed by the erosion of cultural diversity and rising inequality.” In a globalized world characterized by an explosion of technology, the new challenge will be to preserve cultural diversity. In this sense, “UNESCO’s role is to promote and welcome debate with a view to redefining and anticipating tomorrow’s values. It was with this in mind that we set out to explore ‘The Future of Values’.” (Available in French)