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Cody Valdes Political Violence in State and Society Consuelo Cruz Spring 2010
It is an astounding fact that anywhere one looks, it is possible to find individuals with extremely disproportionate power to exact extreme violence on large populations. These individuals constitute a society of global elites who, whether by democratic or autocratic means, have gained access to the one of humankind¶s most powerful inventions: the sovereign state. The production and incitement of violence on a mass scale is rarely their dominion alone, however, for they are perpetually and unfailingly contested by a truculent collection of guerillas, terrorists, revolutionaries, mobs, and more, all of whom routinely turn to various forms of collective violence to achieve their political objectives. Whether these organized subversives direct their violence towards the state or each other, their mere existence blemishes the clean ideal of sovereignty on which these elites base their claims to authority. The process by which states, ethnic groups, and civil society groups attempt to obtain or abolish sovereignty ± a process that is closely linked to the formation of the territorially inclusive, politically exclusive, and force-monopolizing state1± the Vaberian state ± is both an impetus and an outcome of collective violence. Moreover, the over-consolidation of sovereignty, normally because particular groups and their leaders view it as a necessity for their political survival, often produces counter outbursts of violence by excluded groups, contradicting endemic wisdom among ruling elites thata firm grip makes a stable grip on power.2Whether revolution, terrorism, civil war, ethnic clashes, or popular rebellion against state expansion, the concept of sovereignty is central to afull understanding of collective violent struggles. Clearly, there are more claims to the right to use violence to achieve some political objective than the modern state is willing to grant patents for. To set parameters for
Charles Tilly defines ³force´ as the legitimate infliction of ³short-run damage and seizure,´ contrasting it with violence, which is its illegal cousin. Charles Tilly, The Politics of Collective Violence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 27. 2 This is not unlike Newton¶s Third Law of Motion, which states that every action produces an equal and opposite reaction
this paper, we will use Charles Tilly¶s capacious definition of collective violence as ³episodic social interaction that immediately inflicts physical damage on persons and/or objects« involves at least two perpetrators« and results at least in part from coordination among persons who perform the damaging acts.´3 Collective violence resides within contentious politics, and Tilly claims that relational mechanisms ± interactions among and within groups that are colored by ideational and behavioral impulses ± activate collective violence to varying degrees that also correlate with regime type and state capacity.4Hidden in his definition is the role of sovereignty. Since the modern notion of the sovereign state was laid down in the Treaty of Westphalia in 1608,sovereignty has come to be understood as the supreme and non-negotiable authority ± vis-à-vis other states and internal competitors - to govern a given territory and its people. While this understanding of sovereignty has become rigidified and globally accepted over the past four centuries, a coeval process of industrialization and modernization has made the means of violence exponentially more effective and concentrated in the hands of a few. Defining sovereignty as having achieved supreme authority over a finite territory and population must still allow for some degree of flexibility, as when anarchist, terrorist, criminal, or external actors create islands of subversive resistance, privately-motivated violence, or minor forms of incursions into the state. Nevertheless, as long as the private right to wage war is surrendered to the state by a majority of a population so great as to render nonaligners inconsequential, we can consider that state a territorial and political sovereign. Thus, to claim sovereignty is to merely claim consummate control over the legitimate use of
While this definition excludes important forms of systemic deprivation sometimes described as µstructural violence,¶ Tilly notes as well that ³nongovernmental inequality´ in the form of ³exploitation and opportunity hoarding´ plays a central role in the deployment of state force, as it often explains the frequent collusion between governments and elites during periods of collective struggle. Tilly, Politics of Collective Violence, 3-11. 4 Ibid., 7-9 & 41-50.
violence; it does not require, for example, ideological conformity from a population. If ideological opponents of the state choose to ignore their own grievances en masse, and the state takes efforts to avoid provoking its population, this fragile contract between state and population can still sustain itself under the fickle banner of sovereignty. In addition, when speaking of sovereignty, one must distinguish between certain violent outcomes arising from the process of acquiring sovereignty and the collective violence that occurs once a state has consolidated its writ. Important questions to ask include: is the extent of a state¶s sovereignty coterminous with its level of capacity? Is sovereignty a function of state capacity and vice versa? Drawing on previous scholarship on the causes of terrorism, revolution, ethnic clashes, popular rebellions against the state, and civil war, I will argue that different forms of collective violence in which the state is a central component, either as target, perpetrator, or instigator, are all propelled in part by the misuse of sovereignty. Moreover, these problems rarely vanish once a state has established its supreme authority; they merely become more dangerous for non-state actors to act upon. In this way, I will conclude that the only useful form of sovereignty for reducing collective violence in the long term is one that is detached from state capacity, pursued and realized on the basis of popular will and not military might. For new states, this is a tall order,for the track record shows that the struggle preceding and accompanying democratization often increases violence before the participatory nature of liberal democracy allows discontents to channel their grievances in the mainstream. 5 How fledging democracies can obviate the need for overextending state capacity while still pacifying their populations is beyond this paper. However, on the question of why collective violence decreases under liberal democracies ± through a process of devolving and
µsharing¶ sovereignty among the population or attempting to increase state control ± the
former seems most potent. Scholarship by Tilly, Samuel Huntington, Youssef Cohen, and Mark Mazower has emphasized the paradoxically constructive role of war, which itself is a struggle for expanding, maintaining, and reclaiming sovereignty, in the emergence of modern states. Cohen in particular has argued that the exigencies of combating foreign powers and expanding the state¶s ability to control its population produce violence during the ³primitive accumulation of power´ and check violence during the ³consolidation of power.´6 This distinction generally reflects the increased costs one expects to bear as a subversive in a highcapacity state, but Huntington¶s perspective leans too heavily on the crutch of repressive power for explaining the check in violence during the consolidation of sovereignty. Collective violence, whether initiated by states, terrorists, or civil society groups, is but a step in a historically contiguous process of aggravation, threat-making, and politically motivated calculations by groups and the individuals within those groups. Tilly similarly tends to view brawls, opportunism, coordinated destruction, violent rituals, and broken negotiations as different manifestations of the same relational causes and circumstances.7 If all collective violence takes place in the context of ongoing contentious politics, then force alone can hardly be its remedy, as the frequency and severity of collective violence in a society correlates directly with the degree to which actors view and manage sovereignty as a non-negotiable entity.
He attributes the first revelation to Tilly and the second to Huntington, but places them in sequential order along the continuum of establishing sovereignty, noting that the key independent variable is the level of state power prior to expansion. Youssef Cohen, Brian R. Brown, and A.F.K. Organski, ³The Paradoxical Nature of State Making: the Violent Creation of Order,´ The American Political Science Review, 75, no. 4 (Dec., 1981), 905. 7 Tilly, Politics of Collective Violence, 22-23.
If force is not the singular answer to creating peaceful societies, then a crucial question remains: Can a low-capacity state achieve sovereignty over a given territory, and if so, does one ascribe a happy convergence of civic apathy, complacency, and/or public satisfaction with the status quo, in addition to the inaction of predatory neighboring states? Tilly hardly entertains the idea:³The tendency of low-capacity undemocratic regimes to repress forbidden performances incompletely and unpredictably, for instance, increases the salience of violence in their contentious interactions.´8 For these regimes, the state and its delinquents clash more immediately and severely than their counterparts under more democratized or higher capacity regimes. This has implications for our understanding of sovereignty¶s role in collective violence, as low-capacity regimes are also most likely to face emboldened and viable threats to their sovereignty from within as they establish and consolidate their rule.However, Tilly also asserts that one can expect to find a higher share of violence in high-capacity regimes to involve government agents, forcing one to question why the apparent establishment of sovereignty would continue to produce violent outcomes directly involving the state. Perhaps establishing a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence is most efficiently done without the use of violence at all. Terrorism One violent challenge to sovereignty that has gripped the world¶s conscience is terrorism. O¶Neil defines terrorism simply as ³the use of violence by non-state actors against civilians in order to achieve a political goal.´9 O¶Neil approaches the connection between terrorism and sovereignty by theorizing terrorism with an emphasis on its institutional causes,
Ibid., 51-52. This definition attempts to exclude non-state combatants in guerrilla war who target the state and everyday criminals who lack a political objective. Patrick O¶Neil, ³Political Violence,´ Essentials of Comparative Politics (2010), 273.
ranking states with a higher proclivity for domestic terrorism by their regime type.10 According to O¶Neil, illiberal and/or transitional regimes characterized by weak state capacity, instability, and a tenuous claim to sovereignty are most at risk for domestic terrorism; democratic regimes, due to their open and participatory institutions, have a lesser risk of domestic terrorism but a greater risk for international terrorism ³generated in nondemocratic regimes;´ and authoritarian regimes, due to their high state capacity to repress domestic threats, have the lowest risk of terrorism of all. Tilly, however, directly challenges this last assertion, arguing that high-capacity regimes push dissidents towards clandestine terrorism precisely because of their tendency to repress other forms of dissent.11 Nevertheless, in the emerging states where sovereignty is contested, we find the greatest incidence of indiscriminate, politically motivated killings of civilians by terrorist groups. In the optimistic calculation he gives for established liberal democracies, however, O¶Neil illuminates a crucial distinction regarding the nature of the sovereign¶s rule and its incentives or disincentives for other forms of collective violence.12 Democratic regimes are willing to uphold civil liberties if the tradeoff is higher vulnerability to terrorism, but in doing so they theoretically reduce the risk of civil war, revolution, and popular uprisings against state expansion, all of which appear to be the inevitable or eventual outcomes of non-inclusive, non-participatory, totalitarian rule. Moreover, if Tilly¶s logic is correct, and terrorism is in fact most likely in totalitarian regimes, then there may be very little tradeoff to speak of for liberal democracies after all. Popular Rebellion
By giving an institutional explanation for terrorism, O¶Neil implicates the problems associated with sovereignty as its causal elements. 11 These include such forms of dissent considered µlegitimate¶ in the Western world, including access to a free press, the ability to gather in groups, and the ability to gather in public to protest or strike. Tilly, Politics of Collective Violence, 43-44. 12 O¶Neil, ³Political Violence,´ 277.
Cohen, Brown, and Organski note that during the mid-20th century, newly decolonized states in Asia and Africa undertook series of sweeping attempts to expand and deepen their reach within their own territories, using nationalism and ex-colonial state institutions as levers,and were often met with fierce resistance at the local level.13 The authors have illuminated what they term the ³paradoxical nature of state making,´showing that the
³aggressive expansionism of the state,´ particularly newly-formed states ³involved in the
primitive accumulation and centralization of power resources,´ evinces a counterproductive, winner-takes-all, violent struggle for sovereignty:
The result [of this aggressive expansionism] is that these states and their domestic opponents are locked into a vicious circle of increasing violence. Until these states accumulate the amount of power resources that will make the costs of antistate action prohibitive, their opponents will fiercely resist their extractive claims. Since state-makers are unlikely to give up their claims to sovereignty, they will tend to confront their opponents violently to ensure their control over the resources necessary for the effective territorial domination. It is only if and when they achieve such domination that the level of violent interactions between the state and its opponents will significantly decline. Only at this point, if the state ever reaches it, will antistate mobilization become extremely costly and ineffective. It will then be much easier for the state to co-opt or disregard its opponents¶ claims. But, of course, this point cannot be reached without the state and its opponents passing through the violent phase of primitive accumulation of power.14
Because of the central state¶s unwillingness to accommodate local sensibilities, as in the case of post-colonial India when the Nehru-Congress government faced regional revolts stemming fromlocal claims to linguistic, cultural, and political autonomy, it risks popular rebellion by exercising its sovereignty too forcefully and rapidly. Tilly would categorize popular rebellion against state expansion as a manifestation of ³broken negotiations,´15 but in many cases, we see popular uprising because no negotiations take place at all. Civil War Stathis Kalyvas defines civil war as ³armed combat within the boundaries of a recognized sovereign entity between parties subject to a common authority at the outset of the
Cohen, Brown, and Organski ³The Paradoxical Nature of State Making,´ 902-903. Ibid,, 904. 15 Tilly, Politics of Collective Violence, 15-16.
hostilities.´1617Civil wars are often studied as neatly defined and polarized conflicts,giving overwhelming emphasis to what Kalyvas calls the ³master conflict´ ± that narrative which is articulated and fueled by elites at the macro level.18 While this approach offers a tempting level of simplicity, civil wars are in fact ³complex, dense, multi-level, interactive, shifting phenomena´ that betray scholarship focused on the meta-conflict only. 19During a civil war, the state may have the legitimate, if contested, control over the use of force in a given territory, but the dynamic and manipulative relationship between civilians and the state¶s specialists in violence often leaves us with complicated philosophical questions regarding the application of this sovereignty. For example,³the reliance of political actors [at the macro level] on local information,´ which is intended to allow the state to selectively inflict violence on local competitors, opens the doors for local grievances to significantly alter the course of violence during civil war, as the state becomes a proxy weapon for competing local actors. Kalyvas gives the case of one local actor for whom the state forces were co-opted by her neighbors:³A Basque peasant woman, whose family suffered at the hands of the nationalists during the Spanish Civil War, summarizes it best:µIt wasn¶t Franco who harmed us, but people from here ± the village.¶´20 When local actors manipulatively and maliciously supply information to the state in order to punish their enemies, who then wields the powers endowed to the sovereign state, the legitimate regime or non-state actors? With such ³ joint´ production of action, as Kalyvas calls it, the inadequacy of the sovereignty exercised by
Stathis Kalyvas, The Logic of Violence in Civil War (Cambridge University Press, 2006), 17. Kalyvas introduces the concept of irregular war as the segmentation and fragmentation of sovereignty: sovereignty is segmented when different rival actors establish monopolies of control over different areas, creating a pixilated map of local, de facto µmicro-states¶ within a given territory; it becomes fragmented when those sovereignties overlap at a point of contestation, leading to rapid and intense violence or a negotiated sharing of power.Consuelo Cruz, Lecture, Session 7. 18 Stathis Kalyvas, ³The Ontology of Political Violence: Action and Identity in Civil Wars,´ 1:3 (September 2003), 479. 19 Consuelo Cruz, Lecture, Session 7. 20 Kalyvas, ³The Ontology of Political Violence,´ 483.
political actors who are disconnected from their populations evinces a potential frenzy of collective violence fueled by an unlimited supply of local grievances. Revolution Revolution is distinct from civil war or popular rebellion because it requires the wholesale overthrow of a regime and the seizure of the state by a dissatisfied collectivity of politically motivated actors.21Sovereignty is thus pre-established during a revolutionary struggle, for there must be an incumbent regime to overthrow. While non-state militias in a civil war might be fighting to ³secure a seat´ at the proverbial ³table,´ revolutionaries, it is said, pursue the more cynical objective of knocking the table over.22 More often than not, however, as successful revolutionaries consolidate their power in the ashes of the old regime, they stop short of uprooting the table after all; the appeal of absolute sovereignty proves far too compelling, and a new coat of paint is applied to the old table instead. O¶Neil insightfully notes that for all the ³new and radical alternatives´ past revolutions have evinced,³Revolutionary leaders who once condemned the state quickly come to see it as a necessary tool to consolidate their victory, and they often centralize power to an even greater extent than before.´23This is because the fundamental impetus and end-goal of revolutionaries is the prospect of a monolithic sovereignty, a concept that has currency among groups of all ideological stripes. Scholars such as O¶Neil, who attempt to disaggregate theoretical explanations for collective violence, would recognize this depiction of sovereignty as the ultimate confluence of all three ideological, institutional, and individual motivators: it is the most universally subscribed to political ideology among men; it establishes a uniquely universal, zero-sum set of norms under which competing political actors clash; and it rewards
O¶Neil, 268. O¶Neil, 281. 23 O¶Neil, 271.
the victor of these struggles with unchallenged and non-negotiable power, prestige, and security. As an impetus for organized contestation from within the state, sovereignty satisfies the theoretical sensibilities of the ideological, institutional, and individualistictheories for political violence. For India¶s revolutionary leaders circa independence, their pursuit of a monolithic, non-negotiable, centralized Indian sovereignty, which they took verbatim from the British pantheon of thought, was exactly the colonial system that anti-colonialists were ostensibly rejecting. After nearly two hundred years of highly regimented colonial rule, the British bequeathed the Indian Congress Party a high-capacity state (certainly for post-colonial standards) that would immediately face regional secessionist movements and violent challenges to its sovereignty. The eventual success of the Quit India movement, which drew millions of Indians into an arduous attempt to eject the colonial regime from its perch and reclaim the Indian state, merely represented the transfer of the claim to absolute sovereignty from one group to another.24The combustible nature of this newly assumed sovereignty ensured that tremendous ethnic violence, communal riots, and popular regional rebellions would suppurate in the coming decades. Ethnic Clashes For multi-national states, the failure to devise a creative system of shared sovereignty has been a salient impetus for collective violence at the community level.This is different
I would consider the activities of the Quit India Movement and the larger anti-colonial agitation that accompanied it an example of revolutionary violence, for the goals of the anti-colonialists satisfied the characteristics of revolution given by O¶Neil: 1) some element of public participation; 2) the seizure of the state; and 3) the overthrow of the existing regime. While O¶Neil notes that all revolutions need not be violent, the Indian agitation was frequently marred by violence, despite the image it projected with Gandhi at its helm, and for our purposes, we are only concerned with revolutionary violence as it relates to the process of transferring and acquiring sovereignty. Claiming that India¶s anti-colonial leaders attempted to completely overthrow the regime is perhaps the most difficult of the three arguments to sustain, especially because the Congress party would eventually adopt a constitution with sections copied verbatim from the British constitution. In the end, however, I believe the system of appointments, decision-making, public participation, and resource allocation was overhauled during the transition from colonial to home-rule to substantiate my claim.
from the phenomenon of the parallel government, such as that established by the Shiv Sena, a militant right-wing Hindu party in the Indian state of Maharashtra, to fuel their anti-Muslim conquests. Over-flexed claims to sovereignty create zero-sum games in which minority groups of all types, whether ethnic, religious, racial, either capitulate or respond with violence through any means possible. During the de-colonization of British India, competing demands by elites claiming to speak on behalf of the Muslim and Hindu communities led to the largest and most violent migration in modern human history, claiming the lives of over one million people in communal killings that had genocidal features. India¶s partition was thus a failure of imagination; a failure to accommodate difference, to share power among competing nationalisms within the context of a post-colonial India, and to reject the sacrosanct reverence of national sovereignty which unleashed the devastating ethnic cleansing that followed 1947. Conclusion The question one might pose, then, is whether sovereignty has any alternative ± whether, for example, the failure of revolutionaries to re-conceptualize their use of the state into one that accommodates difference and nullifies future discontent is ever avoidable. Furthermore, can such a pessimistic view of sovereignty, a concept that has underpinned the struggles and triumphs of modern society for centuries but whose misuse appears to underpin collective violence, stop short of an eventual call for anarchy? The pursuit, manipulation, and overextension of sovereignty will continue to produce collective violence for regimes of all types. However, with the possible exception of fanatical terrorism, all of the above scenarios of collective violence are rooted firmly in ± and thus expressions of ± contentious politics, indicating that their remedies lie in new, inclusive, and dexterous applications of governance rather than cyclical and cynical applications of force.
Cohen, Youssef, Brian R. Brown, and A.F.K. Organski. ³The Paradoxical Nature of State Making: the Violent Creation of Order.´ The American Political Science Review 75, no. 4 (Dec., 1981). 901-910. Cruz, Consuelo. Lecture. Session 7. Kalyvas, Stathis. The Logic of Violence in Civil War.Cambridge University Press, 2006. ---- ³The Ontology of Political Violence: Action and Identity in Civil Wars.´ 1:3 (September 2003). 475-486. O¶Neil, Patrick. ³Political Violence.´ Essentials of Comparative Politics. 2010. 261-289. Tilly, Charles. The Politics of Collective Violence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.