The biggest source of conflict among human societies has been the nation-state due to its clearly defined laws and boundaries. In an increasingly globalized world, the question that arises is whether national boundaries are worth preserving. In the wake of cosmopolitanism and triple convergence of globalization, the more barriers and friction are reduced, the more challenges it will pose to the nation-state and its inherent cultures, values and democratic traditions that have historically cushioned communities from global effects. The dilemma is to identify which values to discard and which to keep in enabling us collaborate more easily.
For the largest part of human history, people were born into small societies made up of farmers and hunters and gatherers who lived harmoniously. Everything that was eaten and worn was made within that society group using knowledge passed down from ancestors or gained through years of experience. This is the world that shaped the current population and the world in human nature was formed. It was not until the past few centuries that different communities sprang up which interconnected by information and trade networks that facilitated the sharing of medicine, technologies and other valuable resources.
How conflicts within our nation are dealt with ethically and unethically
Unfortunately, human societies got malicious and started making things that would cause harm to other societies in the form of viruses and air pollutants. The possibilities of good and evil were multiplied beyond measure through government policies that saw farmers’ subsidized produce dumped into the market, industries crippled through exaggerated tariffs, and the mass production of weapons that threatened to wipe out populations. Ethical and unethical policies interplay in the modern society where standards of living are raised through new policies on trade even as rational individuals encourage resistance against climate change and promote the sharing of vaccines to needy and ailing populations.
Can these ideas help populations both home and abroad in handling conflicts in an ethical manner or help prevent conflicts?
The challenge for human society is to equip its population with ideas and institutions that allow them to live harmoniously as the global tribe we are. According to a research conducted by Appiah (13), the global proliferation of information means that we can impact lives anywhere. Appiah suggests that we can no longer be governed by globalization, a marketing concept that seems to encompass nothing and everything all at once (13). Instead, he introduces the concept of cosmopolitanism which advocates for superiority towards the presumed provincial. This concept was first coined in the 4th century B.C and was paradoxical and skeptic towards tradition and culture. It advocated for a rejection of the traditional view that all civilized individuals belonged to a single community.
At the same time, the idea of cosmopolitanism is underpinned by two different principles. On the one hand, cosmopolitanism suggests holds that we owe obligations to others that go beyond kin relationships and formal ties of citizenship that bind us. On the other hand, the concept holds that we should take human lives seriously by taking part in beliefs and practices that add significance to their lives. The cosmopolitan concept acknowledges that human beings are different and that there is much to learn from these differences. Accordingly, Appiah acknowledges that due to the existence of so much many human possibilities, the human society should not necessarily converge on a single mode of life (15).
In a research conducted by Friedman, he postulated that globalization has made the world flat in three convergences. In this new flat world, the third convergence holds there are new tools which make it easy for humans to collaborate and compete against each other. The idea of understanding each other without conflict started with the first convergence characterized by the fall of the Berlin Wall, increased offshoring and outsourcing activities and supply chaining all of which complemented each other. The result of this convergence was the formation of a global internet enabled playing field that transcended geographical and language barriers. This convergence has in turn created a new global playing field that has facilitated collaboration on new ways to solve conflicts at the national and global level.
What role do universal values in this collaboration play in eliminating conflicts?
In this new world, a more streamlined playing field was created whereby billions of people that were previously isolated suddenly found themselves interconnected with everyone else. Previously, these societies were not capable of collaborating with each other because they were restricted to vertical and hierarchical economic models. In the past three decades however, world economies and political economies have opened up and enabled their people to join the free market system. With the rise of new forms of collaboration, winners will be those who learn to adapt to the processes, skills and habits fast enough.
Previously, national and global conflicts were fuelled by global institutions such as the IMF, WTO and World Bank through a series of restrictive trade policies and treaties. However, Friedman’s research suggests that increased globalization will make these institutions less important in global matters. Instead, globalization will be fueled by individuals that are able to adapt fast to its associated technologies and processes. However, globalization has not necessarily prevented the occurrence of conflicts. This movement was clouded by various shocking events notably the 9/11 terrorist attack and the subsequent invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. In the same period, corporate governance scandals became widespread notably the Enron and Tyco scandals which further fuelled scandals nationally and globally.
In chapter four of his analysis, Friedman noted that the triple convergence of globalization is going to reshape political identities and how human societies define themselves and balance their different identities as individuals. The main source of conflict in this new world will be a multiple identity disorder which will fuel the growth off political science. A flattened world is good for business due to reduced market inefficiencies but it could also threaten the distinctive communities that make us unique as societies. A frictionless global marketplace could lead to lost opportunities because the purported frictions and barriers are sources of identity for some societies that are worth protecting.
The main source of political conflict between the nation-state and the flat world is deciding what internal values to keep and what to away in the wake of increasing globalization. In a global world, a society’s economic liberation could be another’s source of misery. In the previous economic mode, value was created vertically and it was easy to identify who was exploiting who. The old political ideologies no longer apply and it is no longer possible to identify who gets exploited and who exploits the other. In an increasingly global world, trust between companies and societies will have to be sorted out in determining whose values will govern the interests of the community they are operating in.
In the current paradigm, corporations are no longer restricted to nation-state boundaries. The main issue for nation-states and societies therein is how to deal with corporations that are no longer bound by the nation-state. The question is to what nation-state these corporations are loyal to because increased globalization allows them to operate a low cost model efficiently in any nation-state. Capitalism allows corporations to buy any innovation, develop and distribute it and hire the best labor. Since foreign direct investors started scouting the world for market and labor resources, their interests have transcended those of the nation state in which they are hosted. Accordingly, it is still unclear what these developments mean for the long term relationship between these corporations and the nation-states in which they are headquartered.
The cold hard truth in the current world economic model is that corporate organizational stakeholders are indifferent to where their profits are generated or where jobs are created. Their main goal is maximizing profits and maintaining a sustainable business model. On the other hand, the main concern of communities is whether good jobs are maintained closer home. Appiah argued that in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, a lot of discussion has been on what separates the West from the rest of the world (20). In addition, he argues that what is often taken for granted are conflicts between values between societies.
Appiah, Kwame A. Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a world of strangers. New York: W.W Norton & Company, 2006. Print.
Friedman, Thomas. The World is Flat. NewYork: FSG Books, n.d. pdf