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 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

U.S.V.I. visit

I was in St. Thomas U.S. virgin islands over the weekend (to play in a golf tournament…but that part does not merit much discussion…ouch).  My wife, who is from Martinique, and therefore “Caribbean” had an interesting exchange with a taxi driver.  She said something about how nice the island was and how he must be proud…small talk..etc…  Well apparently that set the guy off about how he wasn’t proud, about how he could only be proud if the islands (there are three) became independent, how the Americans dominated and ruined everything etc…  One hears some of  the same thing in most overseas territories of major countries.  The feeling exists in Guadeloupe and Martinique, in Puerto Rico and in French New Caledonia.

As a card carrying political scientist I find this interesting, because while one can understand the feeling, it is very hard to see how small island countries can really exist on their own in the way that “independence” and “national sovereignty” seem to imply.  I would go further to say this is a very 19th century feeling, that is really not practical in the 21st century.  Why?  Well to take any Caribbean case, independence would bring with it the almost immediate need to join the regional organization, CARICOM, and to start to “pool sovereignty” by opening borders, sharing currency, etc…A small island cannot stand alone in our globalizing era.  However, if you feel oppressed–ie if you feel you have suffered and are suffering injustice–it seems natural that you would seek “independence”, given all that that condition is supposed to include.

So, these remaining overseas dependencies are sort of caught in a dilemma which seems to be fraught with tension and conflict potential.  Either they remain in what they perceive as a dominated and oppressed condition, but enjoy the benefits of being linked to a much bigger country that has to, to some extent at least, take care of them.  Or, if given the chance, they become independent and are immediately subjected to the rough currents of global economic change, which would almost inevitably have devastating social consequences and give rise to a variety of conflicts.

There may be need here for some creative political imagination to find a modus vivendi for these vestiges of a colonial past.  Certainly, something has to be done to reconcile economic survival with the need for a sense of coherent political identity.

IGBarb says:  “We’re all in this together!”

October 12, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Some more gems found through tag surfing!

I found some interesting blog input right here on WordPress. Starting with the Asrudian Center, where there are some nice articles about Peace Studies. Here is one about John Burton (mentioned a few days ago in this blog); another about using medical analogies in peace studies; and still another about the conflicts of globalization (hmmm…that one looks sort of familiar 🙂 ).

Now for something a bit more esoteric…hop over to Center for Wellbeing blog and catch the physics professor talking about a “science of peace”. Again, I’m passing this on as interesting (I’m not necessarily endorsing).

Let’s get more “peaceniks” on WordPress…IGbarb says: Ya’ll come!

September 11, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Internet and Peace (I)

As a blogger, I wonder about the impact the internet has on peace. I’m sure there are both positive and negative impacts. The first positive thing I can think of is that “we” are getting used to being linked up; being able to communicate with people in many places at the speed of light. In other words, the internet has made a major contribution to burgeoning global interdependence, or what many prefer to call “globalization” (understood more broadly than just expanding world markets). It is an important engine in the process of making the world one and in increasing our awareness of that process. Some have argued that increasing interdependence itself serves as a disincentive to conflict since you can’t really do harm to your “enemy” without running a significant risk of doing harm to yourself….or as cartoonist Walt Kelly wrote many years ago: “we have met the enemy, and he is us” (The “Pogo” strip with this line is actually shown on the Wikipedia page linked here!).

On the negative side rumors spread virally and very fast on the internet; including rumors about ethnic groups, “foreign” powers and other objects of xenophobic paranoia. So the internet can be a propaganda machine on acid, creating a climate of fear and suspicion (or at least greatly reinforcing one that already exists). Does this mean the internet is potentially a “bad” thing? Well, perhaps, to some extent, but then all technological advances have a potential for dangerous misuse.

I’ve got some other ideas, but I’m going to save them for another post.

What do you think?

September 1, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 1 Comment


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