Globalization and Love

By Jean Drze | 2005-10-01 12:00:00

Globalization may not seem to have much to do with love. The connection I have in mind relates to a distinction, emphasized by Anatol Rapoport, between three different modes of social interaction: coercion, exchange and integration.

Before elaborating on this distinction, a brief tribute to Anatol Rapoport himself may be in order, since he has contributed more than almost anyone else in the twentieth century to building greater unity between science and ethics.

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, when most game theorists were working for the military establishment and its offshoots, Rapoport (himself not only a game theorist but also a distinguished psychologist, biologist, philosopher, mathematician, systems theorist and musician) attempted to take the discipline in a completely different direction, oriented towards conflict resolution. His book Strategy and Conscience, published in 1964, still makes illuminating reading today. Later on, Rapoport played a crucial role in building the foundations of peace science, a unique fusion of science and ethics. In his writings, which have had a deep influence on what follows, one tastes the true joy of scientific enquiry oriented towards human progress - not only material but also ethical.

Coming back to the main subject, coercion remains, unfortunately, one of the dominant modes of social control in the contemporary world. One symptom of this is the grim history of war in the twentieth century. At least 250 wars have been fought during the last hundred years, causing more than 100 million deaths. As we enter a new millennium, the destruction continues, much in contrast with earlier hopes that the end of the Cold War would usher in an era of peace and cooperation. In fact, as Noam Chomsky has pointed out, "the disappearance of the Soviet deterrent opened new opportunities for decisive and rapid destruction of much weaker enemies [by the United States]." During the last ten years or so, the United States has invaded Afghanistan, destroyed Iraq, occupied Haiti, policed Somalia, embargoed Cuba, threatened China, bombed various countries (including Serbia and Sudan), and imposed economic sanctions on many more. Though some of these interventions were projected as humanitarian affairs, US interests have been firmly kept in view. The continued hold of coercion as a mode of social control is also evident from the internal conflicts ("civil wars") that have ravaged many countries in recent years.

Exchange may be regarded as a form of social progress, compared with coercion. In fact, some of the early advocates of market exchange considered one of its main advantages to be that people who are busy trading don't tend to fight with each other. More recent research confirms that countries with strong trade ties are less likely to go to war with each other than other countries. There may be a useful lesson here for south Asia, particularly India and Pakistan: More extensive trade between the two countries, aside from being desirable from an economic and social point of view, may also contribute to the prevention of future wars.

Exchange, however, has important limitations as a mode of social interaction, since it is based on give-and-take in a situation where the initial distribution of resources and bargaining power may be far from equitable. Moreover, some of the most valuable things in life, like friendship, are not exchanged but achieved on the basis of unity for a common purpose. That is what "integration" (of which love may be considered the highest form) is all about. Examples of international activities best pursued in the integration mode are the regulation of air traffic, AIDS control and the protection of the ozone layer. In these activities we do not merely exchange, but we "acknowledge humanity as a single people with a common destiny."

Globalization, as it is currently understood (i.e. as a process of so-called "market integration"), is based on a combination of low-intensity coercion and unequal exchange. It consists mainly of browbeating developing countries to make them accept patterns of economic organization that serve corporate interests and private profit, such as unrestricted capital flows, low trade barriers, and western models of "intellectual property rights." This does not imply that globalization is a cause of rising poverty, as some critics have argued: exchange, even unequal, is not a zero-sum game. The growth of world trade and investment does involve major efficiency gains (connected not only with the standard "gains from trade" but also with technology transfer, scale economies and a more efficient allocation of capital) which sometimes help to reduce poverty. Privileged interests, however, loom much larger in this process than the well-being of the poor, to the extent that globalization is sometimes perceived, with some justification, as a new form of imperialism.

From here there are two ways to go, one backward-looking and one forward-looking. The backward-looking road consists of resisting globalization through self-sufficiency. This appears to be the path advocated by some right-wing nationalist organizations in India. It is a recipe for poverty, ignorance and stagnation.

The forward-looking road consists of challenging the dominant mode of globalization in favor of a different approach, based on the spirit of integration. After all, the rapprochement of economies and societies (which is what globalization really ought to be about) can serve human progress no less than corporate profit. This calls, however, for very different goals and priorities.

The first objective should be to eliminate the institution of war, just as other institutions of a similar nature (such as slavery and human sacrifice) have been eliminated. This may sound utopian, but it is even more utopian to think that the human race can survive much longer without achieving on a world-wide basis the "pacification" that has already occurred to a large extent within specific countries. Human beings are way behind most other species in this field: One has to look rather far in the biological scale (e.g. among some species of ants) to find anything resembling the institution of war in the animal world. There is no reason to think that we cannot catch up with monkeys, dogs and rats in this respect. If we don't, our days are numbered.

Beyond this basic goal of world peace, many other tasks present themselves: eliminating poverty, eradicating communicable diseases, protecting the environment, preventing human rights violations, abolishing the arms trade, promoting democracy, among many others. These and related tasks receive extraordinarily little attention today, yet they belong as much to the globalization agenda (broadly understood) as the promotion of world trade and investment. Indeed, the technological, institutional and other developments that have recently facilitated the latter have also opened up many new opportunities for global cooperation.

Not surprisingly, those who gain from the present world order based on coercion and (unequal) exchange tend to resist globalization in the "integration" mode. The United States government, for instance, has been a great champion of the liberalization of capital flows and other aspects of corporate-sponsored globalization; yet it refuses to pay its debts to the United Nations, obstructs international cooperation for environmental protection, ignores countless international conventions, and of course accepts no restraint in the domain of military intervention. Washington has even abstained from ratifying the convention on the rights of the child, accepted by all other countries except Somalia.

The United States is an extreme case in this respect, not because Americans are less caring than other people, but because their country is the most powerful. It is important to note, however, that the inherent limitations of international cooperation based on nation-states apply to other countries as well. The main agenda of a government is always to pursue its "national interests," as interpreted by those in positions of power. From this it follows that the operating principle of international cooperation tends to be that of exchange rather than integration. Even development aid, which appears to be based on higher principles, often turns out on closer examination to have more to do with the commercial and strategic interests of donor countries than with genuine concern for the recipients.

In order to flourish, therefore, the spirit of integration requires a different environment, where the actors are not nation-states but people united by a common purpose across national boundaries. As it happens, one of the positive features of globalization is that it has opened up new horizons for direct, worldwide cooperation between people of good will. It belongs to all of us to build on these initiatives and take globalization in a new direction, where love is centre-stage.

Jean Drèze is Honorary Professor in the Department of Economics, Delhi School of Economics. A version of this paper was presented to a colloquium organized by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of India in New Delhi in November 2000.


1. Background paper to "Science, Religion, and Development" colloquium, New Delhi, November 2000.


Andreski, Stanislav (1992), Wars, Revolutions, Dictatorships (London: Frank Cass).

Drèze, Jean (2000), "Militarism, Development and Democracy", Economic and Political Weekly, 1 April.

Hirschman, Albert (1982), "Rival Interpretations of Market Society: Civilizing, Destructive or Feeble?", Journal of Economic Literature, 20.

Rapoport, Anatol (1964), Strategy and Conscience (New York: Schocken).

RAPOPORT, A. (1992), Peace: An Idea Whose Time has Come (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press).

Peace Magazine Oct-Dec 2005

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