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Globalization is perceived to mean different things to different people. With a wide-ranging level of success, academicians and practitioners are gradually becoming conversant with globalization.
Researchers of peace and conflict resolution in recent decades joined the bandwagon by attempting to investigate what globalization meant to them and the global peace.
The subject of globalization has multiple discrete processes and multi-dimensional making it a difficult task to explore all its perspectives with regard to global peace and conflict (Tidwell and Lerche 2004, p. 47). The multi-dimensional perspective means that there is a wide range of globalization “discourses”.
A significant percentage of the global population looks at globalization as a source and a contributing factor to global peace. On the other hand, many looks at globalization as a source and a contributing factor to conflict in different world locations.
A large number of case studies regarding globalization and conflict indicate that indeed globalization is not a peaceful process and the results are not peaceful.
Economic, political and cultural forces emanating from the western countries have a threatening effect on local economy, culture and politics in different places such as Indonesia, Libya, Sierra Leone, Iran, among many others. However, this is only a one-dimensional perspective of conflict and globalization.
The actual relationship between the two is more delicate and multifaceted. This study seeks to explore whether globalization is a peaceful process. By examining existing political institutions, cultures and economies, this study explores the probable conflict results originating from globalization.
The investigation is informed by the argument that globalization is an socio-economic and political change accelerator. It may aggravate anxiety, catalyze and accelerate conflict.
Characteristics of Globalization
Globalization materializes to be understood differently by different people as well as schools of thought. Globalization perspectives are fundamental to the interests of many discernible intellectual orders. These disciplines include cultural and economic globalization among others.
The forces associated with globalization and the enabling conditions have gradually led to economic changes in different places are also associated with changes in other spheres of humanity.
Globalization in view of economy is entrenched in manufacturing procedures and scientific changes. In this regard, the products of globalization inherently emerge from the less synchronized global market and the worldwide labor division. From an economics perspective, globalization has two versions.
These are the malevolent and the moderately benign (Milanovic 2003, p. 667). Under the moderately benign, the interdependence and increasing complexity give rise to new centers of production and consumption that are not bound by nation states (Tidwell and Lerche 2004, p. 48).
To illustrate this, there have emerged invention hubs for the information-technology middle range in Sydney, Delhi, Dublin, Singapore and San Francisco.
In these areas, intellectual, human and financial capital from one center to another freely flows. The host countries have minimal or no power over the capital movement. The countries lack the economy control capacity.
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On the contrary, resources utilization and transformation of expertise from the spiteful perspective view globalization as having adverse impacts. Under this version, organizations may take advantage of domestic situations and shift production plants to favorable locations in response to the domestic milieu changes.
This occurs irrespective of the consequences to the local populations (Tidwell and Lerche 2004, p. 48). For example, a manufacturing company in Middle East may be currently profitable but less so in future.
Such an occurrence means that the owner may shift the production to China or India. In most scenarios, this depends on the financial ledger of the company. The development of capitalism is imminent when globalization is viewed from this perspective at this stage.
The free movement of capital operating through multinational companies succeeds in compelling local populations and nation-states to accept the priorities of these companies.
There are other commentators who argue that globalization is a natural hence an inevitable process. Robert Cox is one such commentator. To critiques of this view, globalization is driven both politically as well as economically.
They underestimate the inequality of globalization process to states and players caught up in the process (Hurrell and Ngaire 1995, p. 448). Globalization processes in this context impact some establishments, regions or peoples more than others. Economically, some locations or populations benefit while others are left out.
Inherently, some groups consider themselves attacked by foreign forms of culture. Others will feel unperturbed. The grand separation generated for those hurting and those gaining from the process of globalization heighten the likelihood for disagreement.
New social relations and spatial organizations are created by globalization. An event-taking place in one location thousands of miles away has impacts in another location due to the stretching of economic, political and social activities across borders.
For example, a change in NYSE share prices may result in local population losing employment in an apparel factory in India. Increased interconnectedness results in more people with diverse interests involved. A perceived or actual failure in one connection may result in conflict between and among the rest of the network.
In globalization terms, this may be viewed as sabotage. For example, when an American investor is expelled for whatever reason from India, other investors including those in Europe are likely to refrain from investing in the country.
This may escalate tension not merely between India and US, but will also involve Asian countries and the Western countries. As globalization hasten, local and international contact, activities and control come to play generating novel losers and conquerors.
Globalization and Economic Conflict
There are several ways in which globalization influence conflict. These include the interruption of domestic dealings, the threatening of signs and values held deeply by locals, and the provision of new resource to compete over among others.
One specific example of the interaction of globalization and conflict is the ‘conflict diamonds’ narrative. In this, armed activities are funded using diamonds, which are precious commodities. Unpolished diamonds totaled $7.25 billion globally in 1999 (Goreux 2001, p. 3).
The market is primarily dominated by the DeBeers cartel of South Africa. It I mined in South Africa, Australia, Canada and Russia. It is then polished in Dubai, Bombay London or Antwerp. They are then transported for sale in the United States or Japan.
The globalization of diamond sales results in conflicts between and among warring stakeholders. The diamond trade network has often been used by players to fund rebels and insurgents in locations of interest. In fact, this could enhance chances of gaining access to diamond and other resources.
The globalized network is effectively used by parties to generate various conflicts. Besides, access to the mining fields has been used by insurgents to create disasters.
In Angola, for example, after losing support from the United States administration, the UNITA collected diamonds, sold them to international traders to finance the procurement of weapons.
The Revolutionary United Front (RUF) of Sierra Leone primarily relied on smuggling of diamond to finance its armed campaign against the government. The armed struggle culminated in the death of tens of thousands of people with millions displaced.
According to Farah (2001), al-Qaeda launders its own proceeds from the smuggling of diamonds through the ‘conflict diamonds’. Operatives of the dreaded al-Qaeda network are believed to procure diamonds from Africa.
They then export them and sell them to get the much-needed cash to sustain their operations (Farah 2001, p. A1). For instance, a diamond worn by a victim of the 9/11 attack in the American landmarks may have been mined by the RUF in Sierra Leone.
In addition to funding bloody conflicts facilitated by trade through globalization, it creates inducements for players to ensure locations such as Sierra Leone and Angola are constantly caught up in violence (Tidwell and Lerche 2004, p. 51).
To achieve this objective, the diamonds global market interacts with arms trade globally. This affects the domestic conditions in many locations globally with new perspectives and dynamics being introduced daily.
Globalization and Political and Cultural Conflicts
Since 1999, Ambon in Maluku, Indonesia, has been an epicenter of sectarian conflict. The violence symbolizes societal apprehensions involving Christians and Muslims. The royally masters left Christians in charge of the domestic financial system and system of government.
In recent decades, internal migration facilitated the growth of Muslim population. In 1999, evident interplay between conflict and globalization forces took effect leading to riots. This left hundreds dead. Since then, more than 5,000 people have died from subsequent violence (International Crisis Group 2002, p.1).
There are two outstanding themes advanced by leading military and economic powers including marketization and democratization. In Maluku, these interacted with dynamics of local conflict to result in bloody violence.
The two themes generate the foundation for provocation and heightening of tribal conflict according to Chua (1998, p. 5).
Chua’s perspective is that a number of groups gain more than others in view of marketization. Developing worlds such as Indonesia are characterized by societies divided ethnically. In such settings, one of the groups gains politically by exploiting majority rule. The other group gains economically.
As a result, politically empowered group typically lacks economic power. Consequently, ethnic boundaries are rigidified and competitive relationships are established. According to Chua, tribal separations combined with democratization provide a fertile ground for violence.
The highly fragmented and divided Indonesian society has been striving for years to democratize. This effort was fuelled by the Suharto New-Order administration’s collapse. There has been concerted effort by different quarters to actualize the political democratization program.
The Indonesian government view decentralization of governance as a fundamental constituent of democratic reform. The World Bank in the Indonesian context also prefers decentralization.
By decentralizing significant authorities to the grass-root levels and attaching more value to grass-root elections, the devolution process has been increasing tension, rivalries and consequent violence as ethnic politicians vie for political power (Tidwell and Lerche 2004, p. 52).
It is imperative to highlight that the decentralization was in larger part implemented as a rejoinder to external influences with the effect being felt locally as violent riots. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank have been pushing the administration to embrace marketization.
This includes widespread privatization of entity ownership. When all these factors emerging from globalization are put together in the Indonesian context, they form formula for subtle and volatile ethnic conflict.
It is the nature of humanity to resist approaches perceived detrimental to their well-being. Any form of political administration is often keen to resist globalization that may lead to such regimes not being rendered sovereign.
Since the efforts of globalization seek to have leading economies occupying the largest portion of global market in terms of resources and power, locals view globalization efforts as threats from abroad. They hence endeavor to eliminate such dangers that threaten their economies, culture and disturbances likely to molest them.
Leaders in such societies are likely to advise their subjects to resist globalization efforts violently. Such scenarios have been observed in Somalia where the population is advised to resist any interaction with the West leading to growing resentment. This has led to conflict in the country that has persisted for decades.
With regard to globalization and conflict, the example and illustrations given in this study, albeit not comprehensive, present preliminary evidence of the composite interaction between the two. In a variety and diverse settings, globalization seems to be a catalyst to conflict and violence.
Poor but organized groups may obtain monetary resources in the worldwide markets to procure arms in the same markets. The markets facilitate the destabilization of domestic conditions as actors struggle to exploit resources. This is supported by the situations in Sierra Leone and Angola.
The globalization of trade has led to the escalation of illegal trade of valuable commodities in exchange for weapons.
Religious and ethnic conflict may be elicited by these themes when they are implemented through policy such as democratization or marketization. This has been the case in Mukulu as opposing groups compete for influence and power in the environment influenced by globalization.
With the assumption that the finding in this study are indicative whether globalization escalates or de-escalates conflict more or less evenly or foster conflict than it resolves is an important concern for globalization discourse.
Chua, A L 1998, “Markets, democracy, and ethnicity: toward a new paradigm for law and development,” The Yale Law Journal, vol.108, no.1, pp. 1-108.
Farah, D 2001, “Al-Qaeda cash tied to diamond trade sale of gems from Sierra Leone rebels raised millions, sources say,” Washington Post, vol.3 no.2, pp. A1.
Goreux, L 2001, “Conflict diamonds,” World Bank Africa Region Working Paper Series, vol.16 no.13, pp. 1-23.
Hurrell, A & Ngaire, W 1995. “Globalization and inequality,” Millennium: Journal of International Studies, vol.24 no. 3, pp. 447-471.
International Crisis Group 2002, “Indonesia: the search for peace in Maluku”, ICG Asia Report, vol.5 no.31, pp. 1-26.
Milanovic, B 2003, “The two faces of globalization: against globalization as we know it,” World Development, vol.31 no.4, pp. 667-683.
Tidwell, A & Lerche, C 2004, “Globalization and conflict resolution,” International Journal of Peace Studies, vol.9 no.1, pp. 47- 59.