IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

Globaliz(s)ation and Peace

I am preparing a course that will consider North-South relations, understood broadly (ie not just politics and economics), and I have decided that the best way to organize this material is against the background of globalization.  This has led me to revisit a number of the (very interesting) topics associated with this contemporary buzzword.  One of the most interesting, is, in fact, the very diverse views on whether the “big G” is, fundamentally, good or bad for us; and more specifically in regard to the concerns of this blog, does it promote peace or something else.  You too can have fun with this:  go to Mr. Google and search “globalization and peace”, or “globalisation and peace” if you are in the more British tradition.

I suspect what you will find will be something like the following.  First there are those who draw on some now rather conventional economic reasoning that globalization promotes trade links and trade links are inversely proportional to conflict between/among countries.   This is valid, I think, as far as it goes…but it probably doesn’t go far enough.  After all, there has been a lot of talk about “free trade” vs. “fair trade”.  While globalization might be seen to be promoting the former, it is only indirectly, at best, promoting the latter; meaning that concern about fair trade emerges in reaction to the social, political and economic concerns arising from the excesses of unregulated (ie “free”) trade.  Consider in this regard, coffee.  As I understand it, the dynamics of the global coffee market have created a situation where there are only a handful of firms that actually buy raw coffee beans from growers.  This is what is called an oligopsony–many sellers/few buyers.  As you can imagine these buyers can more or less dictate the price they pay.  In many cases the price is too low for peasant farmers to make much of a living (and hence we have the “fair trade” movement in regard to coffee–Max Havelaar and others), and they have an incentive to grow other crops, which would not be a problem except that the best alternative for them in places like Colombia and elsewhere is coca….which feeds the cartels, undermines governments, etc…etc…. The dynamics are not always that simple, but I think you can see what I’m getting at.  One could multiply examples here, from culture to the environment.

Basically, globalization brings us closer to together and changes, thereby, the ways we think about and deal with our problems.  In itself, it does not foster peace.  Consider, if you are closely linked with a trading partner, this may either cause you to be wary of getting into conflict with that partner, or to be more inclined to intervene (through various means) and try to make sure the “right” decisions are made by that partner (“right” meaning those more closely aligned with your own interests).  It can go either way.

So, what am I saying?  Globalization certainly makes peace more urgent since in a small(er) space more damage is created by conflict.  It therefore creates more possibilities for moving toward peace.  One might even argue that such movement becomes increasingly likely, since its opposite will create more and more problems (not to say tragedies and disasters).  So, once again we come down to the ever present “learning curve”.  How steep is it?  That is exactly what we are finding out every day!

IGbarb says:  “Get out your thinking caps…there is a lot of learning to do (in a hurry)!”


February 1, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , ,

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