Globalisation and Democracy

Concerns with social inclusion extend well beyond the purely economic account of justice, since economic inequality affects social cohesion and political stability. Moreover, economic inequality can have negative implications for economic growth and democratic institutions. As a welcome contribution to the literature on the subject, Eric Hobsbawm´s book,  Globalisation, Democracy and Terrorism, fosters further reflection and discussion on the complexity of the interactions among individuals, society and nation states in the context of globalisation.

Hobsbawm analyses three intertwined themes: the challenges to the continuity of American imperialism, the role of the territorial states and the future of citizenship. Throughout the book, the author provides a detailed comparison between the US empire and the British one. The worldwide historian believes, in truth, that the British Empire could only teach one lesson: the rejection of the attempt to maintain an eroding global position by relying on politico-military force. Deeply critical of the current American project of lasting global imperial hegemony, unprecedented in history, Hobsbawm expresses his hostility to imperialism and particularly to the recent record of armed interventions aimed to give support to the continuity of the American empire in an era of growing global violence and disorder.

As a matter of fact, it is not possible to establish a clear distinction between the times of “war” and “peace” at the start of the new century. Looking back to the 20th century, there has been no global authority able to control or settle armed disputes since the end of the Cold War. Although the territorial states remain the only effective authority, they have lost their traditional monopoly of armed force. Although resisting to express opinions on the future, Hobsbawm 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.”

In the context of a multifaceted analysis of globalization, Hobsbawm explores the contemporary threatens related to individual freedom, control on individuals and insecurity in social interrelations. According to him, the transformations of political violence and the “war against terror”, since September 2001, are expressions of the recent overall changes in society. At the beginning of the 21st century, public security requires special efforts since current political institutions do not cope with the main task to maintain  public order.

The challenges to overcome the contemporary scenario of instability and inequalities reveal that the world increasingly seems to require supranational solutions to supranational or transnational problems. Nevertheless, there is no global authority to assume these political decisions. Recalling Hobsbawm, “The only effective actors are states”.

Indeed, all these questions reflect issues of current power, politics and economics in a social context where democratic institutions are being threatened. The actuality of the debate is undeniable.

 

References

Eric Hobsbawm. Globalisation, Democracy and Terrorism. London,  Abacus, 2007

Book Review, Eric Hobsbawm. Globalisation, Democracy and Terrorism, wirtten by Gonçalves, J. R. B.  an Madi, M. A. C , published in the International Journal of Green Economics.

 

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8 comments
  1. Hobsbawm seems on target except for one thing. What’s going on is not a debate; it’s a war. Most of the enemies of democratic institutions are well known. That’s not an issue. Rather, the issue is the failures of senior officials (some elected, others appointed) in those institutions to defend them and the societies they support. For some this failure is the result of a dislike for and distrust of democracy. For others, it’s just a matter of cash – there’s more money to be made in democracy’s failure than success. A Knights Templar for democracy might help.

  2. Maria Alejandra Madi said:

    Dear Ken,

    Thanks for your comments on Hobsbawm’s ideas. Considering the specific interests that command policymaking, Michael Hudson (2015) states that “The financial sector has the same objective as military conquest: to gain control of land and basic infrastructure, and collect tribute. To update von Clausewitz, finance has become war by other means”. Actually, public debt crises suggest the possibility that the objective of main creditors is to raise rent by forcing governments to borrow, and forcing them to pay by relinquishing public property or people’s income. In Hudson’s words, “debt-strapped nations permit bankers and bondholders to dictate their laws and control their planning and politics”. Indeed, the power of wealthholders to drive the economy and to impose deleterious effects on the working conditions must be seriously considered.

    See Hudson, M., “Finance as warfare”. WEA Books, 2015
    http://www.worldeconomicsassociation.org/books/

    • Hudson does a good job, as far as he goes. In my view, however he doesn’t go far enough. Today there are over 200 “private armies” in the world. Omitting the sectarian and political militias there remain over 50 “private military companies” (PMC). As of 2008 PMCs were 10% of the military forces working for state intelligence services, providing security and “firepower” as needed. The PMCs also provide security services for protection of interest of companies in emerging markets, and even in some older markets. Their clients include banks, financial services companies, and drug and smuggling cartels. Many of these clients are indeed working to gain control of land and basic infrastructure, and collect tribute. Sometimes even control governments. This is becoming quickly more than a pen and paper coup. It is becoming an actual military coup. Democracy is, even in the major democratic nations at grave risk.

  3. Maria Alejandra Madi said:

    Indeed, this is a worrisome scenario. Could you sugest some readings on the subject?

    Thanks

    Maria

  4. Try these. In his Democracy in America, De Tocqueville presents basic background on the relationships between democracy and the army in Book Three – Chapter Chapter XXIII: Which Is The Most Warlike And Most Revolutionary Class In Democratic Armies? A good place to begin. On the current debates you might check out the article “The Mercenary Debate,Three Views” in the Summer (May/June) 2009 issue of “The American Interest.” Finally, if you really want to be frightened read Jeremy Scahill’s “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.”

    Best. Ken.

    • Maria Alejandra Madi said:

      Ken,

      Thanks for the suggestions.

      Maria

    • Read your post. My question, who benefits from globalization, from regionalization? My contention is both in their present form are constructed to support American style capitalism, the elites of the world (the famous 1%), and control over any push back about encroachments on democracy, its functioning, or the ways of life it supports. In other words, globalization and regionalization are anti-democratic revolutions intended to entrench an autocratic capitalism, with the military firepower to enforce its will. We are on the edge of the end of democracy as we’ve know it since the end of World War II.

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