Updated: 20-Mar-2003 NATO Speeches

Round Table

20 March 2003

Peaceful Life under the Vulcano: New Perspections on Risk, Globalization and Political Unrest

Mr. Pál Tamás
Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest

'Peace is the natural effect of trade' - Montesquieu [1759]
'Remove the secondary causes which have produced the great convulsions of the world, and you will almost always find the principle of inequality at the bottom' -Tocqueville [1835]

The consequences of globalization for the development of a more peaceful world remain highly controversial. The paper [or panel contribution] seeks to clarify the impact that risk models of the information society and globalization of economies may have on political unrest and destabilization of social fabric in industrial societies. Is New Economy and globalization related to it a new kind of social Darwinism- a prescription for the survival of the fittest? And what sort of consequences would have on it the transition from a mosaic of state territories toward a network of interactions within a set of global citiy-regions? Two explanatory models link income inequality and political violence- economic discontent theory [Gurr, 1970] and political opportunity theory [Tilly, 1978]. Liberals argue that countries heavily dependent on global economy and modern technology in it are likely to experience higher growth, therefore greater influence, and in this way more democracy and peaceful local and international environment. Most dependent theorist, in sharp contrast to that argue that higher levels of involvement into the international trade and more foreign investments tend to generate greater economic inequality and it will increase the risk of political instability. From these two broader perspectives, a set of hypotheses is developed and presented using a global dataset for the period 1965-1993. The consequences of the New Economy prove to be quite complex. Inequality emerges as but one of many factors which lead to political instability, but perceived risk -if it processed in the proper way- on the one hand usually is able to stabilize transitional, controversive situations. Risk is understood as inequilibrum and therefore risk communication techniques are tools for co-habitation with that sort of equilibrum. In our undertanding in the system in which national states, non-national players and global city-regions are equally present risk can not be reduced significantly but the actors can learn techniques to process it. Perceptions of growing risk are able in this way on local levels fix the international system.

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