Chapter 32

War in the Era of Economic Globalization



The debate on the pros and cons of globalization has revived the debate on whether or not increased economic, political and social linkages between nation-states influence the risk of war both within and between states. As this chapter shows, the globalization debate has mainly focused on the economic preconditions of war and peace. Within this discussion, two positions are at loggerheads with each other; each of them has a distinguished track record in the history of political thinking. Commercial liberalism, the globalization friendly perspective, mainly relates to the pacifying effect that the exchange of goods and services across states allegedly has. A statement, which Vernon Smith (2004: 638) attributes to the French journalist Fredric Bastiat, succinctly summarizes the peace-through-trade hypothesis of commercial liberalism: ‘If goods don’t cross borders, soldiers will’. In a masterful treatise on the liberal sources of peace, Russett and Oneal (2001) trace this belief back to Kant and expect in line with the Königsberg philosopher that a tripod of forces – democracy, economic interdependence and membership in international organizations – are key causes of peace. As I have outlined elsewhere (Schneider et al. 2003), the author of Perpetual Peace had a predecessor in other enlightenment philosophers like Montesquieu as well as medieval and ancient writers.

A current popular version of commercial ...

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