War in the Era of Economic Globalization

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SCHNEIDER, GERALD. "War in the Era of Economic Globalization." The Blackwell Companion to Globalization. Ritzer, George (ed). Blackwell Publishing, 2007. Blackwell Reference Online. 20 November 2015

The debate on the pros and cons of globalization has revived the debate on whether or not increased economic, political and social linkages between nation-states influ-ence the risk of war both within and between states. As this chapter shows, the globalization debate has mainly focused on the economic preconditions of war and peace. Within this discussion, two positions are at loggerheads with each other; each of them has a distinguished track record in the history of political thinking. Commercial liberalism, the globalization friendly perspective, mainly relates to the pacifying effect that the exchange of goods and services across states allegedly has. A statement, which Vernon Smith (2004: 638) attributes to the French journalist Fredric Bastiat, succinctly summarizes the peace-through-trade hypothesis of commercial liberalism: ‘If goods don’t cross borders, soldiers will'. In a masterful treatise on the liberal sources of peace, Russett and Oneal (2001) trace this belief back to Kant and expect in line with the Königsberg philosopher that a tripod of forces –democracy, economic interdependence and membership in international organizations – are key causes of peace. As I have outlined elsewhere (Schneider et al. 2003), the author ofPerpetual Peace had a predecessor in other enlightenment philosophers like Montesquieu as well as medieval and ancient writers.

A current popular version of commercial liberalism is traceable to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman (1996, 1999). In a notorious commentary he paraphrased the main tenet of the literature on the Kantian democratic peace hypothesis. According to this important theoretical and empirical perspective, democracies do not engage in massive armed violence against each other. In Fried-man's revised view, no two countries that possess a McDonald's ever fought a war against each other. As Wheen (2004: 241) points out in an entertaining polemic, Friedman's prophecy already experienced its death blow during the Kosovo war when US-led forces bombarded Belgrade, a capital ‘with no fewer than seven branches of McDonald's’. Interestingly, Friedman tried to save face through the argument that what he considered to be weak Serbian resistance proved his ‘Golden Arches Theory of conflict Prevention’ to be correct after all: ‘It turns out in the end the Serbs wanted to wait in line for burgers, not for Kosovo’ (cited in Wheen 2004: 241). There is no sign that this intellectual volte-face diminished the political influ-ence of the NYT columnist.

It seems like an odd coincidence that another bold prediction by a proponent of commercial liberalism endured a similar fate.Angell (1910), winner of the 1933 Nobel Peace Prize, forecast just 4 years before the outbreak of World War I that engaging in armed conflict amounts to an illusion that would only seem attractive to a foolish and irrational government. Retrospectively,Keynes (1919) described the period during which ‘The Great Illusion’ was written as an ‘extraordinary episode’ of economic globalization.

The sceptical viewpoint has some of its intellectual roots in anti-capitalist religious writing and especially the various traditions of Marxist thinking. Marx and Engels had advanced the perspective that the contradictions of capitalism and thus also of one of its key components, free trade, would result in class warfare. Marx (1848) welcomed free trade because of its alleged destructive nature that pushes the antagonism between capitalists and workers to the extreme. The Leninist theory of imperialism developed this argument further and argued that the search for new markets would result in global tensions that ultimately culminate in an armed struggle between the oppressors and the oppressed around the world. Economic globalization would thus result in global war (Lenin 1921 [1917]).

Dependency theories qualified this view, pointing out that class interests are not uniform in the north and the south of the world economy (e.g. Amin 1976; Cardoso and Falleto 1969). Galtung's (1971) theory of ‘structural’ imperialism, for instance, perceived a global revolution as unlikely because of conflicting interests between the workers in the industrialized world and their counterparts in the developing world. In the 1970s and early 1980s the debate on the role of global economic integration took an empirical turn, when political sociologists started to examine the effects of trade and investment on developing countries (e.g. Bornschier et al. 1978). One of their main fears was that increased foreign direct investment mainly profits the owners of those firms that do not produce for the internal market. This ‘penetration’ of fragile markets by multinational corporations aggravates, in the dependencia view, economic imbalances and social inequality as the northern profiteers of globalization do not reinvest their earnings in the developing world. The resulting misery makes civil strife almost inevitable.

Interestingly, politically conservative authors like Waltz (1979) and Gowa (1994) offered similarly gloomy predictions about the impact of economic integration on the likelihood of interstate war. In the view of these so-called neo-realists, growing economic exchanges make an economy more efficient. This has the perverse effect that, by engaging in increased trade, one unwillingly arms a potential opponent.

Sceptical arguments popped up again in the 1990s, a period during which, according to Rodrik (1994), an extraordinary ‘rush to free trade’ shattered the developing world. The capitalist trend invited the accusation that global economic integration destabilizes the open countries (e.g. Chua 2002). Brennan (2003: 50) wrote in this vein that ‘globalization … visits terrors on the South and on the future, directly through war, starvation and exploitation, and indirectly through the destruction of the atmosphere’. A more nuanced perspective is offered by Stiglitz 2002: 67). He believes that the uniform application of globalization precepts by the International Monetary Fund has undermined fragile societies in the developing world. In his view, ‘liberalization – especially when undertaken prematurely, before strong financial institutions are in place – increased instability … one fact remains clear: instability is not only bad for economic growth, but the costs of the instability are disproportionately borne by the poor’.

This chapter will first provide a theoretical rationale for the two competing perspectives and argue that they are reconcilable with what the author calls the distributional theory of liberal peace. This approach maintains that for the international level globalization can increase the risk of war in societies in which a praetorian sector is sufficiently strong. In order to maintain its influence at home and to channel tax money into its own pocket, the military is interested in increased hostilities with the outside world (Schneider and Schultze 2003, 2005).

Domestically, the distributional version of commercial liberalism expects that the integration of a society into the world market reduces the income of the less competitive parts of the economy. This effect of globalization creates a short-run risk of war as long as the costs of foreign economic liberalization are larger than the growing benefits that globalization has for the whole population in the long run (Bussmann et al. 2003, 2005; Bussmann and Schneider 2007).

These qualifications do not amount to a rejection of commercial liberalism. On the contrary, the most recent research on the impact of globalization on the risk of both international and domestic conflict stresses that the increased costs of conflict in times of growing economic bonds are a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for both domestic and international peace. This chapter will first outline the causal mechanism through which globalization acts as a source of cooperation and conflict. I will start out the discussion with a summary of the main explanations and move then to the empirical research on this topic. The chapter concludes with a critical survey of the challenges that the revised liberal theory of peace faces. I will also discuss how other, but unfortunately less researched, facets of globalization – a growing number of states, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, expanding social ties between states and increasing cultural homogeneity – influence the risk of war.

The Classical Arguments and Their Qualification

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The theoretical basis of commercial liberalism is a simple opportunity cost argument. In Polachek's (1980) classic statement, globalization lowers the likelihood of armed violence between states because growing interdependence renders warfare more costly. His formal conclusion on the pacifying effect of global economic integration has its theoretical basis in Ricardo's theorem on comparative advantage. As this standard argument of globalization advocates goes, states should have a unilateral incentive to open up their economies to free trade. Specialization in the production of those goods in which a nation possesses a comparative advantage increases imports and exports; the income of the average citizen should in return grow (Fisher 2003). Yet, as the political economy literature maintains, the economic well-being of their population is not necessarily the top priority of political leaders (e.g. Hillman 1989). If globalization induces political changes such as democratization or a strengthening of the political opposition, both elected and non-elected leaders might opt against it. The remainder of this section shows how such political considerations qualify the unconditional peace-through-globalization hypothesis that can be derived from classical economics.

Interstate war

Most studies on the impact of globalization on the likelihood of violent conflict address interstate war as the outcome variable. Only a few studies have, however, devoted some energy to the question of how the opportunism of politicians disrupts the optimism of commercial liberalism. Recent theoretical developments advance a more strategic version of Polachek's expectation that serves as a deterrent against the usage of armed force (Gartzke et al. 2001). Yet the argument boils down to the conviction that governments of states that are highly integrated are better able to ‘signal’ their true intentions than leaders of closed economies. This advantage arises because the foreign policy a government pursues gains in credibility with the size of the opportunity costs that political violence would create. The model of Gartzke et al. is similar to an argument that Morrow (1999)sketches. In his view, trade is a variable that potential belligerents can easily observe. Although leaders might use trade flows as an instrument to signal their resolve in a dispute, economic interactions always also reflect the level of hostility between states. If economic leaders of one state anticipate conflict with another state, they will thus automatically reduce their exchanges with their economic partner. Although trade might thus be negatively correlated with conflict, the ‘true’ explanation of peace or conflict lies in some other attribute that characterizes the relations between two states. In other words, globalization might just be a manifestation, but not necessarily a cause, of peace. Gowa (1994) and other neo-realists have accordingly maintained the traditional ‘trade follows the flag’ argument. She argued in a further development of the structural realist view of Waltz (1979)that alliance configurations and especially multipolar world systems are more prone to conflict than bipolar ones and that these patterns determine who trades with whom. Globalization would thus be nothing else than the outflow of security considerations.Morrow (1997) has shown, against this realist determinism, that bilateral economic exchanges are also possible between adversaries.

A convincing version of the liberalist cause should motivate both war and economic openness as policy instruments that governments can simultaneously manipulate. One possibility is to move away from ‘states’ as the ultimate arbiter in trade policy-making and to also consider those actors whose interaction affects government trade orientations: employers and employees. Ironically, proponents of the peace-through-trade nexus often advocate in other contexts the wish that theoretical analyses should look at the real motivation for politicians to engage in peaceful or conflictual relations with other states. Most studies on this relationship, however, are implicitly mercantilist and assume that governments are simply aggregating the welfare of their citizens. To overcome this outmoded hypothesis, Schneider and Schultze (2003, 2005) have disaggregated the state and analysed the trade–conflict nexus in a more complex trade policy model. Their refinement of commercial liberalism stresses the redistributive aspects of foreign economic liberalization and distinguishes between the export, the import-competing and the military sector as the crucial actors within a society. Hence, this political economy re-statement of the classical argument assumes that the ‘military–industrial complex’ is just living on the taxes that the two productive sectors within the economy provide. Because globalization increases the tax base of a state, the military is in favour of both foreign economic liberalization and increased violence since only military tensions can justify increases in the defence budget. If the government wants to keep the military happy, it will thus become more hostile in its interactions with other states even in times of growing economic interdependence. Yet there are limitations to belligerence in an era of globalization. The costs of heavy fighting might outweigh the benefits of growing economic ties, turning the export sector away from its tacit alliance with the military. In the event that war becomes, in return, too costly for the governments because both the export and the import-competing sector suffer under it, leaders will move towards a more peaceful course of interaction. We can thus expect that opportunistic governments that take the wishes of the military into account will rather fight short conflicts that do not hurt the economy too much and that are not directed against main trading partners. Furthermore, if the military is politically weak, the opportunity cost model of Polachek is confirmed: states are more peaceful in times of expanding economic ties.

Civil war

According to neoclassical economics, the precepts of commercial liberalism should also hold domestically. Nations that embark on a course of foreign economic liberalization should, on average, be more peaceful because economic openness creates growth and jobs, rendering distributive conflicts less severe. Yet the way to economic openness is not a smooth one; it redistributes income from the losers to the winners of globalization. In the industrialized world, the winners are largely well-educated and capital owners. This is at least what we can expect from the Heckscher–Ohlin and the related Stolper–Samuelson models of trade policy-making (e.g. Deardorff 1994). This standard analytical framework distinguishes between the different factors of production and argues that the abundant factor within an economy will profit from increasing trade. The abundant factor in the ‘North’ of the world is capital; labour, especially unskilled workers, will, conversely, lose jobs because capital can easily be transferred to another country with lower wage costs. However, as labour rather than capital is abundant in the developing world, globalization has opened up another cleavage according to this theory. Unskilled workers are thus the potential winners of globalization, and it is no surprise in this light that especially governments from the Southern hemisphere have called for another world trade round and thus an intensification of globalization. Some studies that assessed the dependencia arguments point out that the developing world is the main profiteer of globalization (e.g. Firebaugh 1992; de Soysa and Oneal 1999).

A further conflict arises at least in the short run between the export and the import-competing sectors of the economy. The Ricardo–Viner model, also dubbed the sector-specific model, maintains that factors are not completely mobile between industries. While both workers and employers will call for a further liberalization of the economy, their counterparts in the less competitive import-competing sectors will oppose such a move towards more globalization. As the short-run costs of liberalization clearly outweigh the benefits, the potential losers in the import-competing industries will counter the demands of the beneficiaries of increasing economic bonds with other states. The risk that the dispute over globalization escalates into violence will be especially severe for countries in which the government does not compensate the victims of globalization (Bussmann et al. 2005).

A related hypothesis attributes the source of instability to the uniform application of the ‘Washington consensus’ and thus the precepts that the International Monetary Fund and other international actors have sold throughout the past decades to the governments of developing countries in exchange for foreign economic assistance. In the meantime, the Bretton Woods institutions and, among them, especially the World Bank have distanced themselves from the precepts of the ‘Washington consensus’ to some extent. During the 1980s and 1990s globalization à la IMF entailed a retrenchment of state activities and a turn away from protectionist policies. As a radical austerity programme or foreign economic liberalization undoubtedly meet public resistance, public protests and eruptions of political violence should have accompanied the implementation of the IMF programmes. Yet, up to now, no clear evidence links IMF programmes to political instability and civil unrest (Bussmann et al. 2005). This might, however, also be a consequence of a lack of a sound database on the structural adjustment programmes and the negotiations that the IMF and other institutions have held with debtor countries. Bussmann et al. (2005) report a contemporaneous relationship between IMF programmes and domestic instability but caution about the causality behind this correlation. Be that as it may, it seems quite indicative that policy-makers, civil servants and the public know so little about how globalization was implemented throughout the past decades around the world and what kind of social impact these programmes had.

The Empirical Record

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The companion argument to commercial liberalism, the democratic peace hypothesis, according to which democracy reduces the likelihood of conflict in jointly democratic pairs of states, has survived many challenges by outstanding theorists and methodologists. The track record of the related ‘peace through globalization’ literature is more ambiguous. One of the problems with the empirical studies is simply measurement. conflict researchers have not yet come up with a definition of globalization that is completely satisfactory. The typical indicator for economic openness, the trade-through-GDP ratio, suffers from two limitations. First, it covers only one dimension of globalization and, by some accounts, not the most problematic one (Stiglitz 2004). Second, trade is an outcome variable and only indirectly reflects the political decision of whether or not a country should open itself to global competition; indicators that take the policies into account should be a more precise manifestation of the degree to which a country has embarked on a course of foreign economic liberalization (Martin 2005). Similar measurement problems exist for the dependent variable. Although earlier studies also looked at the impact of war on a continuous scale of cooperative and conflictive events (Gasiorowski and Polachek 1982; Gasiorowski 1986; Pevehouse 2004), most of the recent studies conceive of war as an event that can be separated clearly from peace. The resulting dummy variable is, however, not innocuous, as the number of wars a country experiences really depends on the fatality threshold that one uses to qualify interstate or intrastate relations. Large-scale wars are also – fortunately – rare events, rendering the application of standard statistical techniques highly problematic (King and Zeng 2001).

This section will survey the empirical findings that have been put forward during the past few years, often simply by using the trade-through-GDP ratio. Most of these studies are quantitative by nature; Ripsman and Blanchard (2003) summarize the state of art in qualitative studies.

International war

The publication in 1996 of two articles in Journal of Peace Research relaunched the debate on whether increasing economic exchanges between states decrease the likelihood of conflict between states. Oneal et al. (1996: 23) presented results that strongly supported the position of commercial liberalism. These liberalist authors examined a selection of all pairs of states from 1950 to 1985 and concluded based on their statistical analysis that ‘the pacific benefits of interdependence have not been sufficiently appreciated’. Barbieri (1996), by contrast, claimed in a similarly designed empirical study that the impact of growing trade bonds on conflict is positive. Globalization should thus render states more belligerent rather than more peaceful, as liberalists claim.

Barbieri's monograph The Liberal Illusion qualified this argument somewhat, but still maintained: ‘the evidence indicates that interdependent dyads are more likely to experience the most extreme form of conflict’ (Barbieri 2002: 121). Oneal and Russett (1999) have responded to this challenge with a thorough reanalysis of their own and Barbieri's data. They show that the latter's usage of several highly inter-correlated explanatory variables might have rendered her analysis unreliable. The author does not know of any published study that was able to replicate the negative association between economic interdependence and peace that Barbieri found. Most other studies support the liberalist cause. Dorussen (2004) particularly demonstrates that the strategic nature of the traded goods matters considerably in the trade–conflict nexus. Exchanges in goods for which production needs particular expertise have particularly peaceful effects, while the impact of trade in goods like primary commodities that could also be appropriated by force is less strong. Keshk et al. (2004) furthermore show with the help of a simultaneous equation model that the influence of trade on war is not significant, but that conflict in return inhibits trade. This latter result probably also solves the dispute on the effects of war on global economic interactions. Barbieri and Levy (1999) first claimed, in an examination of a limited number of dyads, that the effect of war is negligible. Based on a larger sample of pairs of states,Anderton and Carter (2001a, b) came, however, to the opposite conclusion.

Another problem in the empirical study of the trade–conflict interrelationship is the choice of the appropriate unit of analysis.Domke (1988) examines the conflict-propensity of states and not dyads and finds considerable support for the thesis ofRosecrance (1986) that trading states are more peaceful than more autarkic nations. Barbieri (2002), relying on a more convincing methodology, corroborates these findings. This makes it mandatory to figure out why she comes to the opposite result in the analysis of pairs of states. One possibility might be that dyadic analyses allow a researcher to account for ‘asymmetric interdependence’ between countries much better than examinations that focus on the state as the unit of analysis. In the perspective of dependencia theorists, pairs of states that face such ‘unequal’ trade relationships should face a particularly high risk of conflict. The results of Oneal and Russett (1999), however, cast doubt on the finding of Barbieri (1996) that unbalanced exchanges are particularly risky. It might be more worthwhile, therefore, to look at the overall inclusion of a state into the multilateral trading system as a possible source of conflict in the future.

These controversies show that the debate on commercial liberalism is far from being over. Although most results seem to support or at least not contradict the tenets of commercial liberalism, there is still a need for studies that use other indicators than trade to gauge the impact of globalization on interstate relations. Only a few studies have started to look at the pacific effect of foreign direct investment, confirming (up to now) the optimism of the liberal viewpoint (Bussmann and Wild 2004).

One problem of these statistical studies is reversed causality and thus the possibility that war is the real explanatory variable and the facets of globalization are what should be explained. This is especially the case with studies on the impact of investment on armed conflict because one could easily theorize that a rational investor will move money only to countries for which no armed conflict is foreseeable. Some studies such as the paper by Keshk et al. (2004) deal with the issue, but applications of this or similar methodologies to the role of financial flows on war are lacking.

Civil war

Empirical studies on the impact of globalization on the likelihood of conflict within states are rare. Some studies on this topic were published in the 1970s and 1980s when the dependencia arguments enjoyed widespread support in academia and government circles. According to the conventional wisdom of this period, foreign direct investment and other manifestations of global economic interdependence destabilize emerging economies. The reasons for this hypothesis largely rest on the implicit assumption that the benefits of global economic exchanges are unequal and reach mainly those who are already in a privileged position within society. Yet the empirical evidence for these hypotheses is rather limited, as Hegre et al. (2003) show that globalization indeed pacifies intrastate relations. Harff (2003) reports that governments of open economies are less likely to initiate genocides. These results are in accordance with the findings of Bussmann et al. (2005) as well as Bussmann and Schneider (2007).

The suspicion of some globalization sceptics that capital account rather than trade openness increases the likelihood of domestic conflict seems a more promising research hypothesis. As Stiglitz (2004: 60) writes, ‘Most of the critics of capital-market liberalization are not as concerned about foreign direct investment (FDI) as they are about short-term financial flows. It is the latter which many fear as particularly destabilizing.’ In this view, capital-account liberalization unnecessarily exposes countries to the risk of economic shocks which in return renders violent forms of protest more likely. Bussmann and Schneider (2007) cannot find support for this thesis, noting, however, the limitations of the currently available data.

Yet the lack of statistical significance does not imply that domestic effects of globalization are always positive. Bussmann et al. (2005) offer considerable support for the thesis that foreign economic liberalization increases the short-run risk of conflict while its long-term impact might be positive. This double-edged tendency is particularly pronounced in sub-Saharan Africa which endured in the 1980s and 1990s both increased globalization and a high incidence of civil war. Obviously, revolts against foreign economic liberalization aggravate the development problems of these states, as the World Bank report on civil war sadly shows (Collier et al. 2003). Bayer and Rupert (2004) estimate that civil wars destroyed around one-third of all bilateral trade between states in the post-World War II era. This all supports the contention of Stiglitz and other sceptics that foreign economic liberalization has to be carefully implemented in order to avoid the negative side-effects of globalization.

The Way Ahead in the Liberal Theory of Peace

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The main challenge for commercial liberalism is still theoretical. We do not know how exactly politicians react to the demands by exporters, importers and other social forces. A politician who faces a re-election challenge will probably heed such voices and carefully balance the interests of the competing sectors against each other. As we have long known, globalization can act as a deterrent against the use of force because it increases the opportunity costs of war. One of the main problems of this important proposition is that it lacks a motivation for both trade and war. This deficiency renders the hypothesis almost tautological. As liberalists associate with globalization a diminishing attractiveness of waging war, raising the level of hostility is purely irrational or, to use Angell's word, a ‘Great Illusion’.

Convincing theories of how globalization affects armed conflict need to refrain from defining the cause for war away by simply assuming that it becomes increasingly costly. They rather need to motivate the conditions under which leaders are simultaneously interested in commercial bonds and in waging war. As I have argued in this chapter, an analysis of the redistributive effects of global economic integration can serve as an analytical basis for non-tautological theories of globalization and peace. Another possibility is to look at the efficiency gains that increasing commercial ties have for a society and its military sector. No clear model has yet been developed for the assessment of these countervailing influences of growing cost of war and the efficiency gains in the usage of armed force. Future restatements of commercial liberalism have to take into account how the pacifying effect of globalization interacts with the war-mongering effects of the very same process. This work will be particularly relevant for the analysis of those states in which the military plays an important role.

Globalization similarly makes armament cheaper and, due to technological progress, increases the threat that emanates from isolated states or marginalized terrorist groups. In other words, the costs of fighting a war decrease in times of globalization although the very same process makes governments more vulnerable by increasing the opportunity costs of warfare. We do not know how rebel leaders, politicians and governments evaluate the incentives and disincentives to wage war against each other. It is, however, easily conceivable that globalization increases for some the attractiveness of using armed force. In a time of shrinking distances, disgruntled actors that only posed local or regional risks in the pre-globalization period increasingly enter the centre stage in world politics and create truly global security problems. The most striking example is obviously the Al-Qaeda terrorist network which attacked some of the symbols of global capitalism like the World Trade Center to declare its war on the United States and the Western world on 11 Sep-tember 2001. In the view of one observer, ‘this episode defies globalization kitsch and the comfortable illusion that all is well in the world of Ronald McDonald’ (Pieterse 2002: 24). Although anarchists and other revolutionaries engaged in what is nowadays called ‘transnational terrorism’ at the end of the nineteenth century, their killing spree was, by and large, restricted to monarchs and highly ranked politicians. One hundred years later, the killing has become so random that Beck's (1999) phrase of a ‘world risk society’ seems certainly justified for the domain of human security.

Globalization is thus no panacea for peace, as some liberalists might claim. It rather is an ambiguous force of change that ‘simultaneously creates friends and enemies, wealth and poverty, and growing divisions between “haves” and “have-nots”’ (Kellner 2002: 291). Admittedly, most published studies show that the direct impact of globalization on the likelihood of war is negative. Increasing interactions between states render political leaders, on average, apparently more cautious about using force. Political violence endangers what they cherish the most – their tenure. Yet globalization has some side effects which may increase the likelihood of conflict in some instances.

The growing social bonds between people created by globalization can have a further double-sided effect. Karl Deutsch and his co-authors (1957) proposed in an influential monograph the thesis that economic linkages and social interactions between different populations foster the development of a ‘sense of community’ according to which the resolution of conflict through the usage of political violence becomes unthinkable. Ample evidence against this liberalist vision indicates that growing social integration is not a necessary cause for peace. The emergence of anti-immigration parties, racial abuse and other forms of nearly violent reactions to multiculturalism indicate that the relationship between social integration and peace is not linearly positive. On the contrary, the growing heterogeneity of the population that immigration brings about decreases the effectiveness of the state in providing public goods. Some even show that the likelihood of conflict is higher in ethnically or religiously diverse countries (Reynal-Querol 2002). Others demonstrate that globalization may ease these tensions somehow. As Alesina and Spolaore (2003) argue, economic globalization causes political disintegration, leading to a larger number of nation-states. As the average size of the state decreases, public goods are provided more efficiently. Because citizens no longer have to fear that they subsidize people with another background through their taxes, the functioning of welfare states and the redistribution of income are, in this view, also easier in these small, ethnically homogeneous countries.

If this growing uniformity at the national level decreases social envy and racism, we could expect that global integration makes the world more peaceful by way of political disintegration and increasing cultural uniformity within ethnically or religiously defined states. Yet this regionalization coincides with the trend towards cultural homogeneity at the global level. Various developments like the end of the Cold War and the internationalization of mass media as well as the globalization of the entertainment industry have reinforced this parallel process. At least since the breakdown of the Berlin Wall, the United States is the only nation-state that militarily and culturally has a global reach. This precarious position has predictably met considerable resistance. Huntington (1993, 2000) has especially warned that the trend towards cultural homogeneity within nation-states and civilizations increases the risk of conflict as other cultures question the legitimacy of the United States as the sole superpower: ‘… the leaders of countries with at least two-thirds or more of the world's people – Chinese, Russians, Indians, Arabs, Muslims, Africans – see the United States as the single greatest external threat to their societies’ (Huntington 2000: 7). It is pure speculation to forecast which one of the two trends will be more influential in the future – the peace-fostering homogenization at the state or the conflict-inducing homogenization of culture at the global level of interaction. Yet these countervailing trends indicate that globalization is an ambiguous phenomenon. If we want to understand the effect of economic and other forms of integration around the globe, we need to move beyond naive optimism as well as cynical pessimism that have shaped the debate on globalization for too long.


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I would like to thank my co-authors over the past few years on this topic, especially Katherine Barbieri, Margit Bussmann, Nils Petter Gleditsch and Günther Schulze. This chapter summarizes our joint work and other contemporary thinking on globalization and war. I have also profited from comments by John Oneal on an early draft of this chapter. It is part of the Polarization and conflict Project CIT-2-CT-2004-506084 funded by the European Commission-DG Research Sixth Framework Programme. This chapter reflects only the author's views and the Community is not liable for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.


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