1 Globalization and Violence: The Challenge to Ethics

Article excerpt

DESPITE its many benefits, globalization has proven to harbor a good deal of violence. This is not only a matter of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction inaugurated by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, but includes many forms of indirect or "structural violence" resulting from the routine of economic and political institutions on the global scale. In this essay, the multifaceted phenomena of violence are approached from the standpoint of ethics. The prevailing political thinking associated with "realism" fails to address the problems of militarism and of hegemonic unilateralism. In contrast, many philosophers are critically rethinking the problem of global violence from different ethical perspectives. Despite sharing similar concerns, philosophers nevertheless differ over the role of philosophical reflection and the potentials of reason. These differences appear in two contrasting approaches associated with postmodern philosophy and discourse ethics. In the analysis of discourse ethics, attention is paid to Karl-Otto Apel's attempt of philosophically grounding a macroethics of planetary co-responsibility. At the heart of the essay is the analysis of the problem of violence, including terrorism, by Jurgen Habermas, who explains the phenomenon of violence in terms of the theory of communicative action as the breakdown of communication. Jacques Derrida's deconstruction of the notion of "terrorism" also is analyzed. According to the principle of discourse ethics, all conflicts between human beings ought to be settled in a way free of violence, through discourses and negotiations. These philosophers conclude that the reliance on force does not solve social and global problems, including those that are the source of violence. The only viable alternative is the "dialogical" multilateral relations of peaceful coexistence and cooperation among the nations for solving social and global problems. They emphasize the necessity of strengthening the international rule of law and institutions, such as a reformed United Nations.

I

Globalization of Structural Violence

THE IMPORTANCE OF the global dimension has emerged on almost every level of social experience, from the economic and political to the cultural and psychological. One can view globalizing phenomena and the problems they raise through a variety of lenses, including those of social justice. These reveal questions of inequality, power, and recognition. Closely related to each is an issue that can become a distinctive lens of historical perception on its own--the question of violence. Indeed, the question of violence is inescapable once one attends to the actual conflicts that the many aspects of globalization and issues of justice have brought to the fore. In a nuclear age ushered in by the bombing of Hiroshima, war has become a global danger. The toll taken by the many regional wars and neocolonial conflicts during the Cold War itself show, further, that the nuclear stalemate was no solution to this recurring danger facing human society.

The problem of violence is itself extremely difficult to untangle, in part because what some thinkers treat as a matter of human nature has been shown by others not to be a constant of human societies, and by still others to be something that evolves dramatically with historical change. (1) Nevertheless, within this multifaceted problem, two aspects are becoming more obvious and disturbing: one is the globalization of violence; the other is the spread of structural violence.

First, the complex of change associated with the idea of globalization, despite all its benefits and promise, is itself frequently a very violent business. One may think, indeed, that the underside of globalization is itself a host of old and new kinds of violence. We can see this in the new kinds of wars that accompany structural change pushed forward by global economic pressures, (2) in the new weapons of destruction that flow through global networks that often mix together the movement of arms and illegal drugs, (3) as well as in the new kinds of terrorist violence associated with the idea of a global network. …

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.