Globalization is perhaps the central concept of our age. Yet, a single definition of globalization does not--exist either among academics  or in everyday conversation. There is also a lack of consensus as to whether or not globalization is a useful concept to portray current events. While most conceptions focus on different aspects of growing interdependence be it economic, cultural, technological, and the like, at a basic level globalization refers to growing interconnectedness.
Some certainly do reject the notion that we have entered a fundamentally new era. There are many, however, who see globalization as a genuine restructuring of social organization. Most definitions incorporate a notion of a growing magnitude of global flows such that one can truly speak of A global society. They find evidence that human activity has become interregional or intercontinental in scale. Although the globalization process is a long, historically rooted one, it is not without fits and starts and is not teleological. In short, globalization is a highly complex interaction of forces producing integration and disintegration, cooperation and conflict, order and disorder.
There is much debate and little consensus on whether globalization is a positive development. Recent popular titles on globalization, "Lexus and the Olive Tree" and "Jihad Vs. McWorld," attest to the seemingly contradictory unifying and divisive forces inherent in globalization. For some, globalization processes, on balance, represent a tremendous opportunity for prosperity, peace, and democracy. Others, by contrast, see greater potential for conflict, extreme self-interest, unbridled corporate power, and disregard for people and entire civilizations. The attacks of September 11 are perhaps the most dramatic evidence that people feel great unease about the forces of globalization and modernity. As a microcosm of the complexity of globalization, the motivation of the attackers may have been anti-modern and anti-globalization, the preparation and the attack itself were facilitated by globalizing processes. In reality, globalization has sparked unease and discontentment in a range of groups from all parts of the world.
This essay will provide a brief, and necessarily incomplete, overview of debates surrounding globalization as a source of and an antidote for conflict. The discussion will focus on economics, political authority, cultural impacts, and discontentment. These categorizations are clearly arbitrary, but given the interconnectedness central to globalization, fully disentangling different forces and processes is impossible.
For many, globalization is equated with economic interdependence. At the dawn of the 21st century, the scale and magnitude of global economic interaction appears to be unprecedented. The volume of capital flows far exceeds that of the past. The developing world, too, have increasingly become a part of global trade and capital flows. Contemporary patterns of economic globalization suggest the emergence of a new international division of labor. In short, the world has reached a stage in which one can meaningfully refer to one global economy.
Others present a more limited view. Current trends suggest economic and financial integration has proceeded only in a limited manner. Economic flows remain highly concentrated amongst the wealthiest countries. Within North America, Europe, and East Asia, contrary to the thesis that unfettered global capital will induce homogenization in policy, important differences in the structuring of economic life persist. Even multinational corporations, seen by many as the prime agents of globalization, remain tied in significant ways to their country of origin.
Debate has waged as to whether economic globalization will