Academic journal article International Journal of Humanities and Peace

The Impact of Globalization upon Prospects for Peace and Cooperation: Evidence from Southeast Asia

Academic journal article International Journal of Humanities and Peace

The Impact of Globalization upon Prospects for Peace and Cooperation: Evidence from Southeast Asia

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION: A crucial issue related to the continued impact of globalization is that of whether it improves or worsens the prospects for cross-border peace and co-operation. This issue is explored within the specific context of the Southeast Asian region. A role is identified for states to attempt to avoid the problems of inequitable distribution of the benefits of development and of the marginalization of people.

"PRINCE. Why, thou globe of sinful continents, what a life dost thou lead! FALSTAFF. A better than thou. I am a gentleman: thou art a drawer." Shakespeare, William, The Second Part of King Henry IV, Act II, Scene IV.

Globalization has been widely described as being a powerful and even inevitable process that will bring unprecedented change upon the world and upon the societies of the world. The recent demonstrations in Seattle concerning setting a governmental agenda for the World Trade Organization helps to illustrate the equivocation with which many people greet this notion. It is clear that there is discontent from a variety of sources about the possible impact on employment, upon labor conditions in countries to which manufacturing operations have been relocated and upon the apparently unfettered power of international capital charging around the world without regard for morality or regulation.

Yet globalization is a multidimensional construct which affects the social, political and cultural spheres of countries just as much as the economic, just as the effect of economic crises also affects society more generally. By examining one particular region of the world, a closer understanding of the nature and impact of globalization is enabled and, hence, the impact upon society more generally. The question that may then be considered, therefore, is whether globalization is likely to increase or decrease the prospects for peace and co-operation in the region.

In this paper, the mainland Southeast Asian region refers to Thailand, Lao PDR, Vietnam, Cambodia, (Union of) Myanmar (formerly Burma) and the Yunnan Province of the People's Republic of China.

On Globalization

Globalization has been taken to refer to a process whereby all regions of the world, under the increasing influence of international capitalism and the driving force of technology, seem set to converge upon a universally recognized model of highest living standards, probably based on somewhere like northern California:

"No-one is exempt and nothing can stop the process. Everywhere everything gets more and more like everything else as the world's preference structure is relentlessly homogenized." (Levitt, 1983).

Yet this is to provide too narrow an understanding of a multidimensional and complex series of phenomena. Jessop provides one description of this complexity:

"Structurally, globalization would exist in so far as co-variation of relevant activities becomes more global in extent and / or the speed of that covariation on a global scale increases. Thus defined, global interdependence typically results from processes on various spatial scales, operates differently in each functional subsystem, involves complex and tangled causal hierarchies rather than a simple, unilinear, bottom-up or top-down movement and often displays an eccentric `nesting' or interpenetration of different scales of social organization (Jessop, 1999)."

It is clear, therefore, that country-specific conditions will be of considerable importance in structuring and determining both the causes and the effects of such interdependence. The prevalence of cross-border links in the Southeast Asian region is of relevance here: for example, many ethnic groups straddle the political boundaries of mainland Southeast Asia and many linguistic and economic systems exist without reference to such boundaries. In other cases, it is possible to locate instruments of change within specific spatial and temporal boundaries: for example, the dispersal of many Laotian Hmong people resulted directly from actions taken during the USA-led war in Vietnam; similarly, capture of power by the Pathet Leo led to the migration of many of the Leo bourgeoisie and intelligentsia, among others. …

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