Globalisation cannot succeed without the willingness and ability of people and organisations to cooperate. It is thus also dependent on moral resources for which a shared emotional and cognitive foundation must exist.
Transculturalism represents the idea that there are perceptions and ideas of moral values and principles, such as humanitarianism, justice or fairness that are common to all cultures. These perceptions and ideas build a moral bond of humanity, yet their contents don’t necessarily. Individual and collective cultural interpretations of these values are possible, as are differences in importance. An Anglo-Saxon culture will probably place a greater importance on individual freedom whereas continental European cultures might strive more towards social justice. This does not mean that the values themselves are contested, but rather their local meaning, relevance and importance. This is the reason why moral orders are the result of social interaction, or more precisely the experiences that are made and evaluated as part of it.
As such, »fuzzy logic« is characteristic of values: It is relatively clear what they represent yet their exact meaning and the concrete action they might require is experienced, evaluated and encoded within the given economic and cultural situation. Production and trade, that is to say commerce, is a fundamental sphere of social interaction and the emergence and shaping of moral values.
The same is true for the development of a global moral order. While a number of suggestions for common standards, such as the UN Global Compact, Caux Principles, ISO 26000 SR or the Manifesto for a Global Economic Ethic exist, the common experience, or more precisely the requisite social interaction, remains in its infancy. To foster and realise new opportunities in this area is one aim of the Transcultural Caravan.
Why a caravan?
The idea came to me in Xi’an in central China, the starting point of the Silk Road and the ensuing exchange of economic and cultural goods. Xi’an, in the following, blossomed into a place of trade and cultural exchange. The caravan was the medium of this growth. Caravans are processes: they begin, they develop, they connect an ever greater number of areas and actors, and they establish and follow fixed routes as well as moral standards of behaviour, necessary components of their stability and continuity. After all, the Greek term »ethos« means to follow the rules as they apply in a particular place and is itself a product of a nomadic culture. To follow the rules and moral understanding of a caravan was not merely economically sensible, it was also the ex-ante shared purpose of achieving mutual gain as well as an ex-post experience of successful cooperation and emotional encounter.
Nomadism, transculturally accepted rules and values, places of shared economic and moral experience, cosmopolitanism – these have always been the main facets in the process of civilisation development and the current globalisation of human cooperation has once more placed them at the top of today’s agenda. This is what the caravan represents: it is a medium of cooperation, of economic and intellectual exchange, and human experience. Caravans are a process of transcultural interaction and a source of common moral standards.
Transcultural values exist only in the form of a process, the enabling and intellectual ordering of shared local experiences with ethical principles, which are shared by all civilisations as without them civilisation is not possible.
I hope that this platform, along with this blog, becomes one of these globally reachable places where this shared moral bond can be woven: A virtual caravan fostering personal encounters.
Our caravan moves on! On Wednesday the 27th of March, we invite interested ZU students of all programmes to join our kick-off event for our TSRG Brazil. At this event we will announce detailed information about the fieldtrip to Brazil, the research project and participation possibilities.
In our Uganda fieldtrip we will visit the Hope Development Initiative in Kampala, in their rural communities and various of its stakeholders. We will conduct many interesting interviews to advance the individual research projects of the group members that will together answer our overarching question about transculturality and the Hope Development Initiative.
The Transcultural Caravan is initiated and executed by
»There can be no culture except where there is some consensus. Consensus is a matter of understanding. It is transmitted through communication, through example and through participation in a common life.«