Economic, Social and Political Globalization and Terrorism

By Lutz, Brenda J.; Lutz, James M. | The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies, Summer 2014 | Go to article overview

Economic, Social and Political Globalization and Terrorism


Lutz, Brenda J., Lutz, James M., The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies


Terrorism is a phenomenon that has spread to all parts of the world in the last part of the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty- first century. Sub-Saharan Africa has been no exception to this trend as the region has suffered from both domestic and international terrorist actions. While it is abundantly clear that there is no single cause of terrorism, it is possible that increasing globalization and modernization have been a factor that has contributed to outbreaks of terrorist attacks. If such is the case, then higher levels of terrorism would be associated with higher levels of globalization. The following analysis will focus on various indices of globalization and their relationship to incidents of terrorism in sub-Saharan Africa.

Globalization

Globalization is a complex process, one that has been defined in a sometimes bewildering variety of ways. There is, however, some general agreement that in the economic sphere it involves "the widening, deepening, and speeding up of international connectedness" (McGrew 2011: 275). Globalization, however, goes beyond simple increases in economic interactions to include cultural, military, political and social aspects (McGrew 2011: 277).

There are a number of factors that can contribute to increased levels of globalization. For example, recent increases have resulted from a conjunction of technological, political, and economic circumstances (Castells 2000: 104). Globalization, moreover, involves the movement of goods, services, people, ideas, and cultures across space (Held et al 1999: 16). Frequently, one of the consequences of the movements of these ideas and materials is that socially dissimilar groups will be brought into closer physical proximity to each other (Lia 2005: 23).

It seems to be quite likely that globalization has been linked to political difficulties in a number of countries. Economic globalization can generate stresses for local societies and economies. The level of inequality present in societies will increase, moreover, as they adapt to external actors, competition in the global economy, and other changes in their situations. The spread of market capitalism that has been associated with globalization in the 19th and 20th centuries has undermined the structure of local economies (Clausen 2010; Mousseau 2002/2003; Nieman 2011). Traditional economic systems, although frequently distinguished by high levels of inequality, also have expectations of reciprocity that include obligations on the part of the well-to-do and the less well-to-do. More modern economic practices can undermine the reciprocity elements while not reducing the inequality, thus increasing societal tensions. Under these circumstances, even though globalization often generates economic growth and increased wealth at a societal or national level, some groups will benefit and other groups will suffer. Greater economic interactions with the outside world can also lead to greater anxiety about the social and cultural changes that come with economic adaptations (Margalit 2012: 485).

Groups that are disadvantaged by the changes that come with globalization may naturally oppose the leaders, groups, or political systems that are associated with these changes. This opposition may take acceptable forms through existing political channels, but it can also take more violent forms if the disadvantaged groups cannot gain satisfaction by peaceful means. Ironically, the violent opposition can in turn weaken governments and make it more difficult for them to manage the changes that are occurring or to meet the resulting challenges (Clausen 2010; Zimmermann 2011: 154). This type of situation can result in a vicious circle of unrest and challenges that continue to reduce the capacities of government, inducing political decay instead of political development (Huntington 1965). The actions of foreign governments and international organizations in conjunction with failures by local political elites has led to state weakness in African countries/ This sets the stage for terrorist outbreaks (Hailu 2010: 42-3). …

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