IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

more after grading thoughts

Well, this is sort of becoming a regular thing (let me know if you think it is a waste of time).

Anyhow, I just read a number of papers and exams from a course on the “Global South” (or “Third World”, or “Developing Countries’, etc…).  I have tried to get across one or two ideas that my students might not encounter elsewhere.   First, that while there are certainly internal issues that hold back development (I won’t go into what “development” means right now, but that is certainly an important issue)–among which are poor governance, an economic infrastructure which hampers entrepreneurs, etc…., etc….–there are also many structural/international issues that are problematic and make it very challenging indeed for poorer countries to progress.  I am not saying that they can’t progress; however, there are many obstacles in the international political and economic system they have to overcome, and not all have the means to do so.

The purpose of  this post is not to point fingers at the rich and powerful and say how bad they are.  Rather, it is to highlight (once again) that what might look at first glance like something as prosaic as exchange rate policies (ie having an overvalued currency which discourages exports) might be more complex and far reaching, and be related to more fundamental questions of world order:  ie what sort of world do we have as opposed to what sort of world to we want.  And, when you get to this level, you are, I have found, almost always face to face with questions of justice:  what is, and isn’t fair to all the actors concerned.  This is often very complicated because when I say “fair” and I say “actors” I am not just talking about “states”, but also about actors and individuals within states.

An example might help here.  It is true that access to first world markets has often been limited for many exports from developing countries (such as textiles).  How unfair, you say.  True, but at the same time what would be “fair” for domestic textile producers in the first world who cannot compete on price with cheap imports from the Global South.  Again, I don’t want to go into the details here; I’m just, once again, impressed by how complex and nuanced such an apparently straightforward idea as “fair” is when we try to figure out what it might mean in practice in our diverse and “globalizing” world.

At the risk of stating the obvious, peace without fairness, is an empty concept (at least as far as I can see), so sooner or later we will have to consider what is “fair” in all its breadth and complexity.

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October 11, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , ,

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