Relation between globalization and terrorism

BY: Rajkumar Singh

In this age of increasing globalization and interdependence, the national and international dimension of terrorism in fact, constitutes two facets of the same social phenomenon which infringes upon the interest of all states, not only as an assault against their public order and institutions that protect the liberty and security of their citizens but, also at the same time as a serious danger to peaceful international relations and cooperation, which is clearly understood as encompassing human rights and values as well as the principles of equal rights and self–determination of people. It is, therefore, that the transnational character of contemporary terrorist events has prompted international efforts to suppress them at the global regional and bilateral levels.

Background of the concept

 The concept and phenomenon of globalisation, in its first phase, dated back between 1840 and 1914 when it reached its height and ended shortly before the World War I. During the height of globalisation, tariff barriers were reduced and prices of goods travelling between continents came down because with bigger ships being used to carry good, transportation costs were lowered. There was also the huge migration of Europeans, about 60 million, for various destinations across the Atlantic. It swelled America’s labour force and reduced Ireland’s working population leading to a convergence of wage levels across the Atlantic. There was a greater volatility of funds travelling across the continents and those losing out from globalisation triggered a political backlash against it.52 American wheat imports for instance hurt the interests of European farmers who protested and continental Europe closed its agricultural markets and imposed high import tariffs. The United States too raised tariffs to protect its infant manufacturing industry and migration was clamped because it threatened American workers, living standards. Other rich countries followed in becoming protectionist and the stage of globalisation came to an end.

            In between the years the world in general made achievements in all the spheres of human life and in the sixties the concept of global village was given by Marshall Mcluhan which is realising in the current phase of globalisation. There are several things in the concept of global village–an ideal, a destination to be reached and a conceptualisation of the ongoing transformation in the community. The earth in which we live is an integrated, interpenetrated and interconnected unit. The advances of communications and information technology have made the global village a virtual reality and this has paved the way for evolving frameworks of global governance. A major impact of the globalising world is that security can no longer be compartmentalised regionally or nationally and any analysis of the security environment of a region or area has to take into consideration global issues that have a direct or indirect impact on the region. In broader context the genesis of terrorism can be attributed to the development of exclusive instead of inclusive societies. Terrorism draws its strength from one of three sources: militant religious fundamentalism, ethnic intolerance or deprivation. Religion sans frontiers, therefore religious militancy, has to be addressed globally. Ethnic intolerance and deprivation are region specific, with the common thread of economies running through them, and are best dealt with regionally or nationally.

            The current position and dark side of globalisation has reminded us the capitalist mode of production which always maintained a global reach whether in the form of colonies or as trading partners across the continents. The inherent logic of capitalist economic system pushes it towards borderless economic transactions and is characterised as ‘centralisation–cum–globalisation of finance capital’. This is the epoch of finance capital and of monopolies and we are in a phase of imperialism-led-globalisation. The finance capital operates in the context of unity among the finance exporting leading capitalist countries in which every recipient country of this finance capital operates under a common sword of democles wherein foreign investments can be withdrawn without a moment notice to the recipient of such a finance. It proves the volatility of movement of finance capital and its most disastrous implication is that capital market of any country of the South can be destabilised by the investors who want quick and immediate profits and returns on investments. Joseph Stiglitz, an insider of the World Bank, published a seminal work on Globalisation and its Discontents (2002) in which he warned about the disastrous consequences of the present stage of capitalist globalisation. His brief description clearly indicated that national economy which is controlled and guided by a national state has been replaced and displaced by united globalisation capitalism. Even in normal circumstances state systems of the peripheral developing countries are weak while dealing with the centre of capitalism, in the new context of highly mobile and volatile operations of finance capital the nation states have been completely marginalised under the impact of these new trends in global capitalist system. Marginalisation of the state and unity of the capitalist bloc is the reality of present phase of global capitalism.

Even before the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), many developing countries were worried that globalisation would impinge adversely on economic sovereignty, cultural integrity and social stability. “Interdependence” among unequals translates into the dependence of some on international markets that function under the dominance of others. The deepening of poverty and inequality–prosperity for a few countries and people, marginalisation and exclusion for the many–has implications for social and political stability among and within states. The rapid growth of global markets has not seen the parallel development of social and economic institutions to ensure balanced, inclusive and sustainable growth. Labour rights have been less sedulously protected than capital and property rights, and global rules on trade and finance are inequitable. This has asymmetric effects on rich and poor countries.

With globalisation terrorism became transnational

Globalisation has let loose the forces of uncivil society and accelerated the transnational flows of terrorism, human and drug trafficking, organised crime, piracy, and pandemic diseases. Terrorism continues to be to be generated by recurrent social crises, arising from the increasing fear of marginalisation of some sections of society caused by the indiscriminate spread of capitalism and the free economy, through much publicised globalisation which may be perceived another dimension of religious fanaticism. Despair caused by social marginalisation, economic deprivation, and political defeat is another cause of this modern phenomenon.63 When the situation is thus monopolises by global power, when one deals with this formidable condensation of all functions through technocratic machinery and absolute ideological hegemony, what other way is there than a terrorist reversal of the situation. It is the system itself that has created the objective conditions for this brutal distortion. By taking all the cards to itself it forces the other to change the rules of the game. And the new rules are ferocious, because the stakes are ferocious. The terrorist groups are not ordinary civilians or some misguided youth but the paramilitary organs of militant extremism such as LeT, Naxalites, and the like who believe in the culture of extreme violence and whose objective is destruction of the established social system and structures, that is, the whole way of life of free societies. This virus does not take long to infect homegrown products and soon enough local criminal gangs get drawn into the terrorist’s web.

            Globalisation also cast a dark shadow on the governing pattern and civil society of the nation state system. The growth in transnational flows has not been matched by an equivalent growth in global governance mechanisms to regulate them. And yet the very nature of the structure of globalised network, which intertwine global actors and interests, ensures that no single power is able to maintain its position within the newly emerging global disorder without making compromises with other global players. The transfer of state functions to supranational forms of regional governance could enhance the capacity of individual states to combat uncivil society. The sharing of expertise, institutions, policy tools, personnel and other resources can go a long way in stemming the tide of unwanted activities. In this context justice is one of the strongest pillars for the Parliamentary democracy. Justice is truth in practice. Rule of law provides citizens a sense of protection and self–confidence. We should not forget that denial of justice breeds terrorism.64 It is not terrorist or terrorism who divided Ireland nor caused Israel-Palestinian problem. Terrorists did not separate India and Pakistan neither they carved out Bangladesh. As a result of the injustices and inequalities, a different kind of challenge is faced by countries of the world in general especially the developing and underdeveloped.

Economic disparity and terrorism

            In the circumstances, the outright rejection of globalisation and a retreat into autarky is neither practical nor desirable. Opposing globalisation is like opposing the sun coming up every morning and about as fruitful. A country cannot ignore an absolute majority of its population which is poor and dissatisfied. A society cannot be peaceful if the majority of its poor population is socially alienated. Even a highly developed modern coercive apparatus of the state will not be able to deal with popular anger and the ruling classes will have to find some answers to meet the challenge of angry and alienated mass of society.65 Jurgen Habermas, the German Philosopher, clearly brings out the ‘Real Assumptions Underlying Globalisation’ by mentioning i. that social inequality is a fate; or ii. a necessary market outcome; that iii. the state is no more than a corporation providing services; and iv. citizens are primarily entrepreneurs and customers. Thus the message of globalisation is loud and clear that the poor should not expect anything from their society and state because market would create its own equilibrium.66 The Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee also acknowledged that the experiment that began in 1991 has increased inequalities and his government has decided to give a new pro-poor, pro–village, and pro–employment orientation to the Indian economy.

            The big gap which appeared due to globalisation and its offshoot social inequality turned the poor masses look toward the pre–capitalist system of the past for some security and succour. Tribal or caste or religious solidarities of the past attract the vulnerable and helpless poor of the present. In other words the Western capitalist mode of production has not been able to shake the Asiatic social system based on caste or tribe, or religious loyalties and belief system. Religion is a common binding factor for the whole society in Hindu India, or Buddhist East Asia or Islam in the Arab world and other Muslim majority countries. Since religion exercises great influence over the whole societies of Asian countries, it plays significant role in the present crisis–ridden social order of these societies. However, at large, terrorism is motivated by a variety of inner drives ranging from financial gains to revenge, from fundamentalism to deprivation, political frustration, regional disparities, marginalization of subnational groups, extremism, despair, injustice, discrimination, resentment against the existing regime, feeling of insignificance, intervention into personal freedom, weak government, separatism and oppression and inequality.

The author is Professor and Head of P.G.Dept. of Political Science, BNMU, west Campus, Bihar, India

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