“The Response Ulrich Beck Would Have Liked to Hear”

Artistic depiction of New York City. Image: Werner Kunz/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB) in the 297th Edition of Opinión on 20 January, 2015.

The death of Ulrich Beck leaves us bereft of that always lucid, special perspective found in each of his articles or in the new publication that arrived on just the day that, for the umpteenth time, we were doubting our own theories or missing someone to lend a hand and help us understand the world. For Beck, as a sociologist, what happened in the world was what happened between people and groups, making “globalised patchwork generations” of their hopes and dreams, their fears, disappointments and frustrations.

The Missing Doctrine of Economic Warfare

Origami money gun
Origami Money Gun, Image: Dominik Meissner/flickr

This article was originally published by the International Security Observer on December 17, 2014.

The concept of economic warfare has been traditionally used for addressing the complementary economic tactics of armed conflict. In the near future it could represent a way of conducting war per se.

The balance of forces amongst states is no longer only measured by assessing the strength of conventional armed forces. The years since 1990 are often defined as the “geo-economics’ era”. Following the end of the Cold War, the economic domain has become the main criterion of measuring the state’s power, at both the regional and global level.[i] The current trend sees the balance of forces measured by economic indicators rather than by military capabilities. Hence, the confrontation amongst competitors in a certain region is often played by exploiting the points of weakness and dependencies of the opponent/s as well as putting in place financial measures aimed at damaging it or limiting its influence rather than threatening it with military means. In short, geopolitics seem to be experiencing a renaissance, heavily impacting–at times dominating–the realm of international relations due to a decrease in the likelihood of full-scale military escalations.

In effect, without the constraints of a defined world order, risks of local military escalations have become great at the point that full-scale military actions are very few while more limited interventions and/or wars by proxy have increased.

Review – Future States

Globes. Photo: caffeinatedjedi/flickr.

Future States: From International to Global Political Order
By: Stephen Paul Haigh
Ashgate, 2013

In Future States Stephen Paul Haigh addresses the phenomena of globalization. The central argument made is for the resilience, adaptability and centrality of states in the global system, a system which is rendered neo-medieval in form by globalization. For Haigh, states transformed into embedded cosmopolitanism states are an institutional necessity in a global system that has returned to “medieval-style configurations of segmented or cross-cutting authority” (p.3). Clearly, the book deals with some extremely big questions and the author’s arguments are supported by a clear, subtle and reflexive analysis of globalization and states throughout.

Future States provides a comprehensive investigation of the development of modern states as we now know them. Haigh recognises that there is nothing natural about the concepts of sovereignty and the Westphalian state system (p.48), and he explores how they came to be. Haigh argues that with the formation of the Westphalian system “Pope above and Lord below lost influence; in their stead the King” (p.57). Driven by material causes (p.48) as well as and ideational ones (p.50), this political order signalled a shift of identity, power and allegiance from institutions at either extreme of near and far and concentrated them in the middle (p.57).

Review – The Migration Industry

A group of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees arrives in Rameshwaram island of Tamil Nadu after a risky 30-mile boat ride across the Palk Straits. Photo: Climatalk .in/flickr.

Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen & Ninna Nyberg Sørensen have tapped into the business of migration in what no doubt will be an important contribution to this ongoing discussion on the extent and impact of money in the management of migration.

Both editors are senior researchers at the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS) and have expertly brought together 11 case specific chapters by a number of prolific migration scholars. The editors’ agenda-setting introduction provides an extensive overview of the migration industry, the role it plays in the governance of migration, the impact it has on movement, as well how privatisation, the neoliberal state and new public management figure into the growth of this migration industry. The editors have tackled new concepts and theories by providing an interdisciplinary platform for a subject that often remains unspoken; and the case study approach covers a great deal of migrant destinations in Europe, the United States and Asia, as well as migrant-sending regions in Latin America, Asia and Africa.

Business and Finance

Multinationals: Power and Responsibility

With power comes responsibility. Photo: RaghuP/flickr

Operating outside the legal jurisdiction of their home state, some multinationals violate human rights or damage the environment in ways that are illegal in their own countries: selling elsewhere what can’t be sold at home.

Swiss agribusiness firm Syngenta’s code of conduct commits it to acting in accordance with “the highest standards of ethics and integrity.” Yet it also sells the highly toxic herbicide Paraquat – forbidden in Switzerland for more than two decades – to developing countries. The consequences are grave: Plantation workers are suffering from skin diseases, poisoning or blindness, and are at greater risk of developing skin cancer or Parkinson’s disease.

Sadly, Syngenta is just one of many examples. The progression of globalization has led to an immense expansion of multinational corporations around the world. As our alternative map of South America highlighted, corporations these days are often bigger economic entities than states themselves. Multi- and trans-national corporations are on the winning side of globalization – but doesn’t power also bring responsibilities along with it? What about the environment and rights of unskilled workers in developing countries?

Business ethicists have tried to address these issues with the concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR). CSR stresses corporate self-regulation and is a voluntary commitment on the part of companies to contribute to sustainable economic, environmental and social development. Such codes of conduct have added to an increased awareness about the responsibilities of firms in doing business – and helped broaden consumer understanding about the implications of their purchase choice.