Threat & Violence

Need to appreciate how change occurs in states, ie importance of violence, or threat of it, as a fundamental incentive to change.

"...The shift to larger-scale societies depends......on technological changes and the economic surpluses they permitted, and were facilitated by the physical environment. But economic incentives by themselves do not seem to have been sufficient to bring these transitions about. Just as peasants in today's developing countries frequently refuse to adopt productivity-enhancing technologies, so too these early societies were often subject to institutional rigidities in production methods and social organisations that blocked change.

The archaeological record suggests instead that the dynamic force that induced the major transitions from band to tribe to state to modern state was military competition. It is only the threat of violence that created strong demand for new forms of political organisations to ensure communities' physical survival. The Charles Tilly hypothesis that "the state made war and war made the state" was meant to apply to state formation in early modern Europe. But military competition drove the formation of modern states in ancient China as well......military competition was critical in compelling France, Russia and Japan to build modern bureaucracies under absolutist conditions. Military fiascos played a role in motivating the passage of the Northcote-Trevelyan report on civil service reform in Britain; many of the major expansions of state in the United States were made for reasons of national security during the two world wars, the Cold War and the so-called war on terrorism. Conversely, it was the infrequency of interstate war in Latin America that explains in part the relative weakness of the States there.

The role of violence in producing political order may seem contradictory, since political order exists in the first place to overcome the problems of violence. But no political order has ever permanently eliminated violence; they simply push the organisation of violence to higher levels. In the contemporary world, state power can provide basic peace and security for individuals in societies that encompass more than 1 billion people. Of those states are still capable organising highly destructive violence between themselves, and they are fully capable of maintaining domestic order. External competition is not the only way that violence or the threat of violence has driven political institution building. Violence has regretfully been necessary to overcome institutional rigidity and political decay. Decay occurs when incumbent political actors have transcend cells within the political system and block possibilities from institutional change. Oftentimes these actors are so powerful that they can be eliminated only through violent means. This was true of the venal officeholders of the ancient regime in France, who as a class had to be physically dispossessed during the revolution. Other powerful agrarian oligopolies - the Prussian Junkers and the landowning classes in Russia and China - lost their hold only as a result of war and revolution. The landowning classes in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan were forced to divest their holdings against the backdrop of American military power......commercialisation of agriculture in England under the parliamentary enclosure movement, necessary to create a modern cabalistic land tenure system, required a slow-motion revolution under which peasants were forcibly driven off the land their families had inhabited the generations.

A final respect in which violence or threat of violence. It is important to political development is the formation of national identities, which are often critically to successful State building and political order more generally. The idea territorial boundaries should correspond to cultural units required the redrawing of boundaries or the physical removal of populations, neither of which could be accomplished without substantial violence. Even where national identity was deliberately designed to be inclusive and non-ethnic, as in Tanzania or Indonesia, lingua francas and other coherent stories of nationhood had to be imposed through authoritarian political methods. In Europe, nations which have been successfully liberal democracies in the second half of the 20th century were all the products of violent nation building in the preceding centuries......violence was important in incentivising filial innovation as a historical matter, but it does not remain a mystery condition for reform in cases that come later. Those societies have the option of learning from earlier experiences and adapting other models to their own society......a deeper question is whether true innovation can be sustained in the absence of greater individual freedom.......It is true that like and accidents have played a role in kick-starting political and economic changes historically. But like and accidents may have been more important for the first societies building new institutions and the ones that come later. Today, there is a large body of accumulated experience about institutions, and a growing international community that shares information, knowledge and resources. There are, moreover, model cars and entry points towards development...... all societies, authoritarian and democratic, are subject to decay over time. The real issue is their ability to adapt and eventually fix themselves...... democratic political systems are often slower to respond to mounting problems than authoritarian ones, but when they do, they are often more decisive because the decision to act is based on border buying.

If there has been a single problem facing contemporary democracies......it has been centred in their failure to provide the substance of what people want from government, personal security, economic growth and quality basic public services like education, health, and infrastructure that are needed to achieve individual opportunity. Proponents of democracy focus, for understandable reasons, on limiting the power of tyrannical or predatory states...... while the American economy remains a source of miraculous innovation, American government is hardly a source of inspiration around the world. At the present moment......there is no automatic historical mechanism that makes progress inevitable, or that prevents decay and backsliding. Democracies exist and survive only because people want and are willing to fight for them; leadership, organisational ability, and oftentimes sheer good luck are needed for them to prevail......specific evolution means that no particular political system will be in equilibrium with its environment forever..."

Francis Fukuyama, 2014

 

Search For Answers

designed by: bluetinweb

We use cookies to provide you with a better service.
By continuing to use our site, you are agreeing to the use of cookies as set in our policy. I understand