Globalization and Conflict: Welfare, Distribution, and Political Unrest

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Gleditsch, Nils Petter & Ranveig Gissinger (1999) Globalization and Conflict: Welfare, Distribution, and Political Unrest, Journal of World-Systems Research 5(2): 274–300.

The consequences of globalization for the development of a more peaceful world remain highly controversial. This article seeks to clarify the impact that the globalization of the economy may have on civil war and political instability. Liberals argue that countries heavily dependent on the global economy (whether measured by trade or investment) are likely to experience higher economic growth, greater affluence, more democracy, and increasingly peaceful conditions at home and abroad. In stark contrast, most dependency theorists argue that high levels of trade and investment tend to generate greater economic inequality. Relative deprivation theory suggests that such inequality will increase the risk of political instability. From these two broad perspectives, a set of hypotheses is developed and tested on a global dataset for the period 1965–93. The consequences of an open economy prove to be quite complex. A high level of trade does generate more domestic peace; at the same time, direct foreign investment also creates conditions conducive to political instability. However, the consequences of trade are dependent on what is being exported. Exports of manufactured goods create high levels of welfare and equality, while exports of agricultural products promote poverty and inequality. Inequality emerges as but one of many factors which lead to political instability.

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Nils Petter Gleditsch

Nils Petter Gleditsch

Research Professor; Professor Emeritus of Political Science, NTNU