Is the prospect of a century of peace remote?

It is undeniable the actuality of Eric Hobsbawm’s Globalisation, Democracy and Terrorism, published in 2008. Throughout the book, the reader faces the inner tensions that overwhelm the outcomes of the social reality of the free markets and the current challenges to national-states in order to cope with public order.

Taking into account the collapse of the international balance of power since the Second World War, Hobsbawm emphasizes some trends that have not been generally recognized: although the number of international wars between sovereign states has declined since the mid-1960s, the number of conflicts within state frontiers became more common. The constant presence of arms and violence is an expression of the growing complexity of the objectives, actors and actions involved in the inter-state and civil conflicts.

Hobsbawm is sharp when he states that it is not possible to establish a clear distinction between the times of “war” and “peace” at the start of the new century, such as those related to Middle East and Iraq. Indeed, these conflicts have become endemic and can continue for decades. He points out a general crisis of state power and state legitimacy, that is to say, the crisis of the “so called sovereign nation-state to carry out its basic functions of maintaining control over what happened on its territory.”

His purpose is to show that public security requires special efforts at the beginning of the twenty first century since the current institutions do not cope with the main task to maintain the public order. In his multifaceted and complex analysis of the current features of the process of barbarization, Hobsbawm explores the contemporary threatens related to individual freedom, control on individuals and insecurity in social interrelations. In his opinion, the “war against terror”, since September 2001, and the transformations of political violence are also expressions of the recent overall changes in economy and society where a lengthy process of deregulation has been privileged.

Hobsbawm highlights that recent detailed evidences reinforced the menaces to social cohesion and justice in current capitalist societies. It is worth reading his own words: “They seem to reflect the profound social dislocations brought about at all levels of society by the most rapid and dramatic transformation in human life and society experienced within single lifetimes. They also seem to reflect both a crisis in traditional systems of authority, hegemony and legitimacy in the west and their breakdown in the east and the south, as well as a crisis in the traditional movements that claimed to provide an alternative to these.”

Indeed, contemporary political and social challenges are analyzed in a broader context and in a longer perspective. In his conclusions, an “age” of fear, insecurity and barbarization emerges as the characterization of his comprehensive reflection on the human condition at the beginning of the twenty first century. Although resisting to express opinions on the future, Hobsbawm presents a pessimistic view of the world’s future when he affirms: “A tentative forecast: war in the twenty- first century is not likely to be as murderous as it was in the twentieth. But armed violence, creating disproportionate suffering and loss, will remain omnipresent and endemic – occasionally epidemic- in a large part of the world. The prospect of a century of peace is remote.”


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