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Does Globalization Breed Ethnic Violence?
Georgi M. Derluguian Assistant professor, Department of Sociology, Northwestern University gderlug@Northwestern.edu
The tragic events like the September 2001 attacks on the monumental embodiments of American superpower or the capture of hostages in a Moscow theater in October 2002 forced wide-ranging public debate on the darker aspects of globalization.1 A direct causal link between globalization and ethnic/religious violence is assumed on all sides, albeit in a highly polemical fashion, as the result of either Western cultural arrogance and capitalist domination or the maladjustment of Third World societies to market discipline and liberal cosmopolitan modernity. The focus on globalization and ethnic violence suggests that, after a hiatus of nearly a quarter century the problems of world underdevelopment and its discontents once again emerge centrally on the agenda. And once again we are confronted with essentially the old question: does modernization breed revolutions and the dangers of totalitarianism? Today, after the market optimism of the nineties has receded, it is phrased like this: does globalization breed violent anti-Enlightenment reactions? Can democracy take a root in non-Western societies? Nasty questions indeed.
2 Alternative Explanation My main proposition is that the violent ethnic politics of recent years did not arise in a direct reaction to globalization. is it the first choice of the people who might get involved in such violence. albeit not the “shallow” democratization limited to the electoral . i. and Ragin 2000).e. in different ways. fight. over what to do about their suddenly delegitimated states and the drastically devalued modern economies that these states have once nurtured and sheltered. Rather. They all fought. the peoples of former Yugoslavia. Greer. To put it differently. the Chechens and Abkhazes in the Caucasus. Moreover the conflicts are fought over the gravely serious issues of who will profit. the fairly rapid equalization of socioeconomic conditions in their countries with those of core capitalist states. these were desperate and particularist attempts to cope with the world-wide wave of dismantling the developmental regimes (see Evans 1995 Ch. My further claim is that ethnic violence is neither an automatic reaction rooted in the historically consecrated collective identities nor. and who will support whom in the new system of capitalist property rights (Stinchcombe forthcoming. in fact. who will bear the costs. 10-11). the warlord factions in the Congo. and its critique by Beck. These states became impossible to sustain because they could no longer deliver on the main legitimating promise of progress and national development. pp. or the Islamist radicals in Algeria went into fighting not over the ancient animosities or in defense of their cultural identities challenged by the new big “MacWorld” (see Barber 1996. and will fight. The likelier first choice would be democratization.10) which in the extreme examples amounted to the collapse of states (Bunce 1998).
found themselves in a position to effectively lay claims on modern states. residential. employees. give voice and ensure the selfmanagement rights of the work. It is rather the “deep” — a hardnosed realist would say utopian — social democratization that seeks to open a broadly equitable access to the flows of power and goods. Nevertheless the shortage economy of rapidly industrializing states also created constant need for worker enthusiasm and micro-group autonomy to overcome anarchy in production (or. Tilly 1997).3 procedure and competition among the elite actors. Arguably for the time of their duration these states remained the evolving post-revolutionary dictatorships that practiced the propagandistic dissimulation of people’s democracy. and cultural communities. from manual workers to the educated wageearning specialists. . for that matter. In the past. Even more than in the core capitalist states. and voting citizens (Rueschemeyer et al. in fighting serious wars). analogous structural conditions for proletarian democratization were created in the Soviet Union and later in many other revolutionary industrializing states. Historically. Steinmetz 1993. Lee 2002). while the party-state apparatus at the point of production rendered transparent the actual exercise of power and class inequalities (Burawoy and Lukács 1992. it could coalesce in some political form in the situations where the wage labor. 1992. This became structurally possible in the late nineteenth century and especially after the depression of the 1930s and the world wars. this has been a predominantly proletarian agenda of democratization in modern Western states (see Tilly 1997). when proletarians came to prevail among the core states’ military recruits.
These are commonly viewed as ethnic conflicts because enterprising patrons.4 It has been a long-standing Trotskyist expectation that socialist proletarians will eventually rebel against the state bureaucracy (Deutscher 1953). advertise their intention to protect a particular community. Woodruff 1999. Solnick 1998. and seek profitable alliances with the global capitalist partners (see Eyal. This did the Serbian communist apparatchik Milosevic at the famous 1987 rally in Kosovo (Glenny 1999). which removes the main object of proletarian claim-making and the key condition of democratization. the rogue Soviet General Dudayev in 1991 in Chechnya (Lieven 1998). the presumably quiescent Chinese. for that matter. This prediction. Still. Algerians or. It is a central message in Al-Qaeda’s propaganda of global jihad. that the less ideologically committed fractions of technocratic managers could dump the defunct ideology. emerging from all ranks of society. willfully overlooked two other possibilities. why are these conflicts ethnic? Few alternatives remain after the agenda of state-bound democratization became pointless because of the evident erosion of state institutions. turned into liability in the face of global markets. The Serbs. and King 2001). though not entirely wrong. State breakdown makes likely lateral struggles among shifting coalitions of locallyembedded contenders. which embedded the existence of proletarian groups. and because structural unemployment now verges on permanent lumpenization. and various rag-tag warlords in Africa (Reno 1998). First. and Townsley 1998. Chechens. because the state-created industrial assets and bureaucracies. that the industrializing state can simply collapse. do not have much in common except that they all live in the world . Secondly. Szelényi. turn the state assets that they administered into privately or corporate owned capital.
Education and urbanization offered to them the best way to 1 The peculiarity of state socialism was that the threat to civilian control was not the traditional military. In such locales they know from daily practice how much one’s life chances depend on the access to various patrons and informal networks (Migdal 1988. It was the paradoxical extension of the two concurrent processes of class formation that have originated with industrialization. they sometimes fight back — given they can find a mobilizing platform. the Soviet industrialization exerted a powerfully homogenizing effect in the fields of gender or inter-ethnic relations.1 The second was the historically rapid emergence of a large and well-educated industrial proletariat including the intellectual specialists. . but rather the secret police. In addition. Marxist-Leninist Developmentalism The Soviet trajectory presents the original and the longest sequence of antisystemic developmentalism. Parish and Michelson 1996). competitive-restrictive set of arrangements. The first was the growth of state-managing bureaucracy and its self-normalization achieved against the terroristic Stalinist regime. and thus where the modern formal institutions are often superficial or downright superfluous (Woodruff 2000). And when these people get convinced that they face the prospect of marginalization in the new. The orphaned children of peasants were not the hapless “human material” of Stalinist industrialization.5 locales that are incompletely industrialized and only partially and recently urbanized. A strong tendency toward democratization first emerged after the death of Stalin.
The ruling communist parties could not afford an open class confrontation with their workers. The surges of Soviet proletarian contention were made possible by the conflicts within the reigning bureaucracy during de-Stalinization in the 1956-68 period or Gorbachev’s perestroika of the late 1980s. Taking the official communist ideology at its word. In effect it was the diffuse struggle of new proletarians against the formation of a new ruling class. "the secular struggle between classes is ultimately resolved at the political — not the economic or cultural — level of society". On this count. p. the diffuse power of the Soviet workers and specialists regularly proved weaker than the bureaucratically concentrated power of nomenklatura. The object of claim- . italics in the original) reminds us. Urban 1997). very broad. 11. Nevertheless this created a durable. expanding industry and state bureaucracies rewarded skilled labor. Thus the Soviet proletarians became an active class despite the harsh ban on independent organizing. the Soviet proletarians obtained a cultural framework for their institutionalization as class and for laying claims on the ruling bureaucracy.6 advance in the new industrial setting. The younger Soviet proletarians sought to keep educational mobility open and material distribution broadly egalitarian. and the cultural and administrative controls on workers’ consumption. and homogenized structure of contention. as Perry Anderson (1974. The ruling class’s major weakness was the scandalous contradiction between the official ideology and its practice. Still. In fact. hypocritical dissimulation of mass politics. Instead they prevented the emergence of politics through symbolic violence (Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992. The process occurred mostly through the micro-initiatives that sprang up during the late 1950s. which consisted of censorship.
p. The nomenklatura felt reluctant to use overt repression which could have re-empowered the secret police. In late 1989 the social-democratizing politics of perestroika . and rational regulation. Therefore they avoided provoking conflicts with proletarians because contentious meetings. letters of complaint. A linear extrapolation of this historical trend suggested the institutionalizion of democracy probably within the lifetime of a generation. let alone in satellite Poland (Zaslavsky 1982. Already in the 1960s both criteria were met most of the time. albeit tacitly. as well as b) protection of citizens from arbitrary state action. Ekiert 1996. In the beginning of Gorbachev’s reform. along with its ability to deliver on its promises and/or threats. strikes against unpopular officials and policies were not uncommon even in the tightly policed USSR. the one that became politically aware and active in the 1960s. the key demand was to live up to the ideological promises of social justice. the state lost its legitimacy. the outcome was the totally unexpected implosion of Soviet state. Instead. Lewin 1988). Thus Stalinist terror and industrialization followed by bureaucratic deStalinization created a broad and relatively equal citizenship (Deutscher 1953. the Soviet state acquiesced to all sorts of demands for social autonomy and tried to defuse them by using the standard tactic of promising an increased flow of material and symbolic benefits to the contentious groups. welfare.7 making was hypocritical bureaucracy. 199) considers the two crucial aspects of democratization: a) binding consultation of citizens in regard to state personnel and policies. whose legitimacy still depended on its redistributive power. But the dramatic escalation of claims from all sides overwhelmed the Soviet state. Urban 1997). As a result. The next step was the emergence of what Tilly (1997. dissidence.
Solnick 1998). but because a possibility appeared to use these national mobilizations to influence the distribution of bureaucratic portfolios and the flow of goods through the state. This process relied heavily on the existing networks of local patronage that had to be reconfigured en marche: extended to include select intelligentsia ideologues and sub-proletarian violent entrepreneurs. The national awakening movements thus far operated only in the cultural fields of Soviet republics where they stayed firmly within the limits prescribed by the communist nationality institutions. . and insulated to bar interventions from Moscow and from the local competitors. The actual destruction was carried out by midranking nomenklatura who sought to escape the looming collapse of the centralized state by grabbing whatever assets lay close to them. Henceforth the contention became not only localized but predominantly ethnic. These movements became political not due to the intrinsic evolution of their discourse or the ambition of national intellectuals. In the USSR.8 lost its relevance. The Soviet Union was not taken apart by the national intelligentsia who only served in the ideological vanguard. such opportunities were pre-structured by the mechanisms of ethnoterritorial affirmative action (Brubaker 1996. Martin 2001). And still it took the breakdown of central governance to void the intra-élite taboo on the use of nationalist politics. whether they were economic enterprises or the ethnic-territorial governments of republics (Bunce 1998. The breakdown of Soviet state suddenly removed the key conditions for waging the class-based politics. Suny 1993.
Therefore. the focus of contention shifted to membership in the polities of successor states. sharing power appeared too dangerous. If this analysis is correct. Since the late 1970s this has been a very active intellectual field dominated by such towering figures as Benedict Anderson. then we may expect that a robust theory of ethnic conflict would emerge from the more general theory of contemporary state-making and. The political survival of dominant patronage networks hinged on their ability to control the flow of power and goods and to dispense privileges to a hierarchy of clients. it will draw on the new understanding of revolutions and mass mobilizations (see Goodwin 2001). in the zones that re-emerged with peripheral status. Tom Nairn or John A. But the theories of nationalism are predominantly concerned with historical lineages and conditions that gave rise to modern national forms. The readers probably noticed that this paper made no reference to the recent theorizing on nationalism. Hall (whose 1998 edited volume provides a good summary of the field). and personal security. Eric Hobsbawm. the existing ruling elites sought to reduce membership in the new polities. For the excluded minorities caught in such struggles. There were no longer central adjudicating authorities and very few traditions of the rule of law. state-breaking. First of all. given the observable trends. and the loss of power amounted to the loss of everything: economic privileges. clients. My focus was on something quite different: the emergence of ethnic conflicts as default option in the struggles over the eroding states whose industrializing achievements have been . These struggles were acute because.9 Once the disintegration of the USSR undermined the all-Soviet economy and citizenship. Ernest Gellner. secession appeared the best way to preserve their status and privileges.
The immediately obvious effect of globalization is to shift the wrath of the masses from their increasingly irrelevant national or local governments to the world’s dominant group construed as “American plutocrats”. anti-Semitism. The connection. But if market globalization was not the cause. Further research on ethnic wars might prove me wrong but this remains to be seen. Future Prospects The overall conclusion should now be clear. due to the enormous social and physical distance. a daring group of conspirators showed how ideological fantasies could materialize. The latter. assume mythical proportions in popular imagination. The second effect of global market restructuring on the character of peripheral contention is perhaps more consequential.10 drastically devalued. Such distance makes the usual forms of contention impossible. however. The common cause of post-Soviet ethnic conflicts was the breakdown of central governance occurring in the state that had historically institutionalized nationality in its affirmative action practices and used to operate through the layers of ethnically-formulated networks of bureaucratic patronage. These generally remain at the level of impotent feelings. 2001. a strongly negative emotional background remains and is expressed in the recent spread of antiAmericanism and. Globalization was not the direct cause of ethnic violence in the newly emergent post-Soviet peripheries. by implication. further down the road it does become the major structural condition for the perpetuation of contention in the ethnic and fundamentalist forms. but on September 11. Nonetheless. seems less evident .
Szelényi. where income disparities are large. 3). In the capitalist core. . petty bourgeoisie. Post-communist transitions were widely assumed to result in democratization by liberating the latent civil societies and creating new property-owning middle classes. Ch. I mean the social and political effects of de-industrialization in the former developmental states. This is one of the central tenets of neo-liberalism (see Eyal. and where the presence of underemployed workers and sub-proletarian masses perennially threatens with social problems and political unpredictability. the hegemonic vision of neo-liberalism imposes 2 Today many educated and well-placed Muscovites who. historical conditions favored the existence of large middle classes in the first place. the dispositions of this group are very “un-proletarian”.11 because of its deeply structural nature. Additionally. in past epochs the middle classes – artisans.2 Not surprisingly. in fact. privileged proletarian clerks employed by banks and other firms directly connected to global capital flows. But since their wages stand far above the low average. The persistent fantasy of post-communist middle classes has been Pinochet rather than Jefferson. 210-211) can attest with the authority of detailed expertise. or autonomous professionals – often were found in the forefront of democratization in Western countries. and Townsley 1998. Yet even there. entrepreneurial farmers. as Tilly (1997. In post-Soviet countries the new middle classes turned out to be not as big and autonomous. on the basis of comfortable wages paid in dollars. So far. it is buried under the weight of ideological clichés. Indeed. they feel very ambiguous about democratization in locales where wealth is linked to political patronage and foreign connections. pp. the success of democratization alliances often depended on the active support of proletarians. claim to be middle class are.
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