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The Sociology of New Wars? Assessing the Causes and Objectives of Contemporary Violent Conflicts



The recent accounts of the new war paradigm have been thoroughly scrutinized in a variety of disciplines from security studies and international relations to political economy. The general trend is to focus on the scope, methods, tactics, strategies, forms of war, and/or the level of atrocity. However, there has been little sustained attempt to assess structural causes and the arguments about the changing aims of contemporary warfare. This paper provides a critical analysis of the macro sociological accounts of the new war paradigm with a spotlight on the purpose and causes of the recent wars. The author argues that despite the development of elaborate models, the sociology of contemporary warfare rests on shaky foundations and hence fails to convince. Rather than witnessing a dramatic shift in the causes and objectives of contemporary violent conflict, one encounters a significant transformation in the social and historical context in which these wars are waged.
The Sociology of New Wars? Assessing the
Causes and Objectives of Contemporary
Violent Conflicts
National University of Ireland
The recent accounts of the new war paradigm have been thoroughly
scrutinized in a variety of disciplines from security studies and interna-
tional relations to political economy. The general trend is to focus on
the scope, methods, tactics, strategies, forms of war, and or the level of
atrocity. However, there has been little sustained attempt to assess struc-
tural causes and the arguments about the changing aims of contempo-
rary warfare. This paper provides a critical analysis of the macro
sociological accounts of the new war paradigm with a spotlight on the
purpose and causes of the recent wars. The author argues that despite
the development of elaborate models, the sociology of contemporary
warfare rests on shaky foundations and hence fails to convince. Rather
than witnessing a dramatic shift in the causes and objectives of contem-
porary violent conflict, one encounters a significant transformation in
the social and historical context in which these wars are waged.
Any dramatic historical change is bound to challenge the existing sociological
comprehension of reality. Ultimately this can lead to the articulation of new ana-
lytical models and new conceptual apparatuses devised to come to terms with
these unprecedented changes.
Social transformations of any magnitude necessi-
tate new interpretative horizons and new explanatory paradigms. However,
macro sociologists rarely encounter such unique, earth-shattering historical
moments of rupture. As most longue duree research clearly shows, the trajectories
of human development are usually shaped by and measured in centuries and
millennia rather than decades and years. Hence it is hard to assess whether the
times we live in constitute such a rare and historically transformative episode.
Although the collapse of communism, the end of a bipolar world, economic
globalization and the spectacular rise of religiously framed violence are obviously
good candidates, there is no certainty that 24th century historical sociology will
judge them as momentous events and processes in the way we are prone to do
now. Not only that we tend toward chrono-centrism (Fowles 1974), and what
Peel (1989) calls ‘‘blocking presentism,’’ that is, an overemphasis on the present
events and our own depiction of the past, but we are not immune to the present-
ist interpretation of the future either. This paper attempts to critically engage
with one such research paradigm that claims fundamental historical novelty—the
theory of new wars. More specifically, my focus is on the highly influential but
rarely scrutinized macro sociological accounts of the new war paradigm and their
I am thankful to Kevin Ryan and the two anonymous referees for their helpful comments on the earlier draft
of this paper.
2008 International Studies Association.
Published by Blackwell Publishing, 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA, and 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ , UK .
International Political Sociology (2008) 2, 97–112
claims about (1) the unprecedented causes of recent violent conflicts, and (2)
the qualitative transformation in the objectives and goals of these wars.
First, I briefly summarize the central tenants and the existing criticisms of the
new war paradigm. Second, I explore the sociological theories of new wars by
identifying their distinctive features and commonalities. The focus is in particu-
lar on the causes and changing objectives of contemporary warfare. Finally, I
assess the explanatory strength of the new wars paradigm in sociology, arguing
that the paradigm fails on both accounts as current wars exhibit more similarity
than difference with conventional 19th and 20th century warfare. Instead of his-
torically novel forms of violence, one encounters processes that have been devel-
oping since the birth of the modern era. However, this is not to argue that
nothing has changed in the relationship between contemporary warfare and
society. What has significantly changed is the social reliance on technology and,
most of all, the social, geo-political and ideological context in which recent wars
are fought.
The New Wars Paradigm
A variety of influential scholars from across a range of disciplines as diverse as
security studies (Snow 1996; Duffield 2001), political economy (Collier 2000;
Jung 2003), international relations (Gray 1997; Keen 1998) and political theory
(Munkler 2004) have embraced the new wars paradigm. They all argue that vio-
lent conflicts since the end of the 20th century are utterly different from their
predecessors. The argument is that these new wars differ in terms of scope (civil
rather than inter-state conflicts), methods, models of financing (external rather
than internal), and are characterized by low intensity coupled with high levels of
brutality and with the deliberate targeting of civilians. These wars are seen to be
on the increase, less restrained and more atrocious, hence dramatically increas-
ing the number of civilians both killed and displaced. Furthermore, unlike the
‘‘old wars’’ these new violent conflicts are premised on different fighting tactics
(terror and guerrilla actions instead of conventional battlefields), different mili-
tary strategies (population control rather than capturing new territory), utilize
different combatants (private armies, criminal gangs and warlords instead of pro-
fessional soldiers or conscripts), and are highly decentralized. The new wars are
also seen as chaotic since they blur traditional distinctions (legal vs. illegal, pri-
vate vs. public, civilian vs. military, internal vs. external, and local vs. global).
While the research emanating from the new wars paradigm has proved highly
beneficial in highlighting some distinctive features of civil wars during the 1990s,
the subsequent cross-disciplinary empirical research has seriously challenged
many of its claims. First, although in recent times intra-state warfare has been
more frequent than inter-state warfare, there is no causal relationship between
the two. Not only do some wars start off as civil wars and, if successful for the
warring side claiming independence, quickly become redefined as inter-state
(from the American war of independence to the wars of Yugoslav succes-
sion), but also many wars have elements of both, as most civil wars are fought
with direct economic, political and military support from neighboring states and
global powers. A typical example here is the so-called Second Congo War of
1998–2003, which involved regional confrontation of eight states and over 25
armed groups. However, much more damaging to the new war paradigm is the
well-documented fact that both civil and inter-state wars have been in decline
since the early 1990s (Gleditsch, Wallensteen, Eriksson, Sollenberg, and Strand
As Kalyvas (2006:17) points out this semantic conflict of how to term particular wars is part of the war itself, as
the use of terms such as civil or inter-state war are deeply contested by the parties involved as they confer or deny
legitimacy to their actions.
98 The Sociology of New Wars
2002; Newman 2004; Harbom and Wallensteen 2005; Mack 2005). Thus, there is
no evidence for the claimed proliferation of the ‘‘new’’ wars.
Second, there is no empirical foundation for the claim that recent conflicts
are more violent either in terms of human casualties or levels of atrocity. As Laci-
na and Gleditsch (2005) demonstrate, there has been a significant decline in the
number of deaths in battle in recent wars. The post-WWII conflicts reached their
peak in the early 1950s, with almost 700,000 deaths per year, while the 1990s
and the beginning of this century have rarely witnessed wars accounting for
more than 100,000 human casualties. Furthermore, the ratio of military and civil-
ian deaths has not significantly changed in recent conflicts. The research of Me-
lander, Oberg, and Hall (2007) and Sollenberg (2007) clearly shows that in most
recent wars, as has also been the case historically, the civilian military death ratio
rarely exceeds 50 50.
As for the intensity of atrocities, Melander et al. (2007:33)
have calculated that ‘‘the post-Cold War era [is] significantly less atrocious than
the Cold War era.’’ Although there was some increase in population displace-
ment during the early 1990s, the magnitude of violence against civilians is signifi-
cantly lower then in previous periods.
Third, the uniqueness of the deliberate targeting of civilians and the use of
terrorist and guerrilla tactics is also questioned. Newman (2004:182) points out
that earlier civil conflicts such as those of the Mexican Revolution (1910–1920)
and the Congo Free State (1886–1908) were typical examples of wars where civil-
ians were the primary target of violence. With the exception of the Rwandan
the ‘‘new wars’’ have never reached the enormity of civilian blood-
shed registered in genocides of Herreros, Native Americans, Armenians or Jews
in the Holocaust. Similarly there is nothing new and exceptional in the reliance
on terror threats and guerrilla warfare, as this was and remains an essential tactic
of all civil wars—old and new (Kalyvas 2001, 2006:83).
What is evident from this brief summary is that cross-disciplinary research
has demonstrated serious weaknesses in the new wars paradigm. The critics
have successfully challenged claims about the novelty of means, methods, strate-
gies, tactics and the level of brutality of the ‘‘new wars.’’ They have also con-
vincingly demonstrated that recent conflicts do not significantly differ from
conventional warfare in terms of human casualties or the civilian involvement
ratio. However, what has rarely been challenged or carefully explored are the
macro-structural causes and the alleged transformation of the central goals of
the ‘‘new’’ warfare.
Even if specialist studies are able to demonstrate empirical
untenablilty of the new wars paradigm through meticulous quantitative
research, this still would not be enough to undermine the heuristic and inter-
pretative potential of the paradigm. As Kuhn (1962) rightly argues, paradigms
are conceptual worlds which allow us to think differently about the same
research problem. They are non-cumulative and as such often incommensura-
ble with previous or existing knowledge claims. Rather than complementing or
falsifying each other paradigms provide competing understandings of reality,
which if successful reduce the old paradigms to a special case of a new para-
digm. Replacing one paradigm by another often requires a scientific revolution.
For example the Bosnian war of 1992–1995 is singled out as a standard of the new war where civilian deaths
were highly disproportional to those of military. However, as the most recent data collection indicates (Tokaca
2007) the human casualties were not far off the standard 50 50 ratio with a slight majority of casualties on the mili-
tary side (59% vs. 41%).
It is also highly debatable whether the Rwandan genocide of 1994 took place within or outside of war condi-
S. Kalyvas (2001) is a partial exception here as his analysis is also focused on the causes and motivation of
‘‘new wars.’’ However, he only explores the arguments about the civil wars and does not engage with the high-tech
warfare. Furthermore, his study is distinctly oriented toward the micro level and largely ignores the analysis of the
macro structural causes and goals.
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New paradigms are valuable as they open novel avenues of thinking, research
and analysis and question the established canons. Moreover, conceptual models
and theoretical approaches cannot be rebuffed simply on how well they meet
the criteria of positivist science (Giddens 1976). All of this suggests that in
order to explore the causes and the central objectives of the ‘‘new’’ wars, one
has to engage with the stronger theoretical and explanatory models, that is,
with the sociological articulations of the new wars paradigm. The focus of an
analysis should include both: how well the new wars paradigm works as a novel
interpretative frame and also how sound the empirical claims are on which this
new interpretative frame is built.
The Sociology of New Warfare
Although war has been and remains a largely neglected topic of sociological
research (Shaw 1984; Joas 2003; Wimmer and Min 2006), there have been a few
recent conceptual, theoretical and empirical analyses most of which problematize
the nature of contemporary conflicts. Political sociologists such as Martin Shaw
(2002, 2003, 2005) and Mary Kaldor (2001, 2007) and social theorists such as
Zygmunt Bauman (2001, 2002a,b) have been at the forefront of the new war par-
They too see these violent conflicts as historically novel in terms of
methods, strategies, tactics, and level of human sacrifice. However, their studies
also differ from typical representatives of the new war paradigm in their focus on
the broader macro-sociological picture whereby the transformation in warfare is
seen as a symptom of larger societal changes. The underlining causal factor in
most of these accounts is the transformative power of economic globalization.
They distinguish between two typical forms that the new warfare takes: the para-
sitic or predatory wars and the technologically advanced western forms of war-
fare. Predatory wars emerge in the context of rampant economic liberalization
which undermines already weakened states, thus resulting in their virtual col-
lapse. It is on the ruins of these failed states that the new parasitic wars emerge.
In other words, inability to compete at the global level weakens the state’s econ-
omy and simultaneously its capacity to extract revenue, thus opening the door to
systematic corruption, criminality and consequently for the general privatization
of violence. State failure creates a new Hobbesian environment where armed
warlords control the remnants of state structures, and relying on foreign remit-
tances and international aid invoke identity politics to spread terror among those
deemed a threat to their religious or ethnic group.
The new technological advanced western wars have developed gradually but
most of all through the recent revolution in military affairs (RMA), with the mat-
uration of new technologies and novel military systems relying heavily on air
power, the routinization of precision, and the ability to fight an adversary from a
distance without suffering significant causalities. These wars too are seen as
being principally linked to global forces of economic liberalization as they are
used for opening up global markets and coercing opponents of the neo-liberal
model of development.
Hence Zygmunt Bauman’s (2000, 2002a,b) analysis of ‘‘new’’ wars is situated
in the context of a transition from the stable, solid, and for the most part regu-
lated modern order, toward an unregulated and principally chaotic ‘‘liquid
modernity.’’ In his view, modernity was built on the Enlightenment’s ideas of an
Obviously Bauman, Kaldor and Shaw are not the only ‘‘new war’’ theorists but their ideas have proved to be
the most influential in the contemporary sociological understandings of violent macro conflicts.
While much of the non-sociological literature on the ‘‘new wars’’ tends to treat these two forms of violent con-
flict (i.e., ‘‘the predatory wars’’ and ‘‘high tech warfare’’) as highly distinct and even unrelated phenomena most
macro sociologists, including the authors discussed here, start from the proposition that they are deeply interlinked,
being a part of the same processes of globalization.
100 The Sociology of New Wars
ordered totality, favoring the elimination of randomness and ambivalence, and
the privileging of compact territorial administrative organization. In contrast to
this, liquid modernity is extraterritorial, with the speed and mobility of global
capital dissolving state borders as power shifts from the nation-state to global cor-
porations. In this highly fluid world, as Bauman argues, most human beings
operate as individualized consumers rather than citizens of their respective poli-
ties. Such structural alteration generates two distinct but deeply interlinked
forms of new warfare: globalizing wars fought at a distance through technologi-
cally advanced weaponry, and globalization-induced wars conducted in the void
left by the collapse of the old state structures (Bauman 2001). These two types of
war erupt in the empty space that separates the coordinated machinery of global
markets from the incoherent and disconnected forms of localized politics. As the
era of liquid modernity advantages mobility over spatial control, the new wars
are, in Bauman’s view, not aimed at territorial conquest or ideological conver-
sion, as was the case with the conflicts of 19th and early 20th century. Instead
their goals stem from the economic logic of liquid modernity. The central goal
for globalizing wars becomes ‘‘the abolition of state sovereignty or neutralizing
its resistance potential’’ to accommodate the integration and coordination of the
accelerated flow of global markets, whereas for the globalization-induced warfare
the aim is to reactively ‘‘reassert the lost meaning of space’’ (Bauman 2001:11).
The central argument is that liquid modernity generates new forms of insecu-
rity, fear and treat that are extraterritorial and which cannot be contained or
resolved within the framework of nation-states (Bauman 2000, 2006). Rather the
space within which conflict is staged is open and fluid, with adversaries in a state
of permanent mobility and with military coalitions floating and provisional. In
Bauman’s (2002a:88, 2002b:94–98) view the most common forms of fighting in
this unregulated environment of the global frontier-land are the reconnaissance
battles where soldiers are not ordered to capture the adversary’s territory but ‘‘to
explore the enemy’s determination and endurance, the resources the enemy can
command and the speed with which such resources may be brought to the
battlefield.’’ In other words the new wars are a hit and run affair. Furthermore,
the new globalizing wars rely solely on the professional, well-trained armies
of technical experts whose individualized service is treated similarly to other
paid occupations and who perform their tasks with detached professionalism.
For Bauman (2001:27) ‘‘the times of mass conscript armies are over and so
is the time of ideological mobilization, patriotic ecstasies and ‘dedication to the
Martin Shaw (2000, 2005) shares the view that globalization has changed the
nature of warfare for good. He also links the two forms of war by seeing them
not as separate types but as asymmetrical products of the same globalizing ten-
dencies, together transforming the entire mode of warfare from the industrial-
ized total war of early 20th century into a global surveillance mode of warfare.
As with Bauman, he argues that these new wars no longer require mass armies
or direct mass mobilization. Whereas ‘‘total warfare had the capacity to domi-
nate society: it could override market relations, suppress democratic politics
and capture media,’’ global surveillance warfare is ‘‘generally subordinate to
economy, polity and culture’’ (Shaw 2005:55). Although there are remnants of
the industrialized total warfare in all of this, such as ‘‘national-militarist’’ (i.e.,
Russia, China or India) and ‘‘ethnic-nationalist’’ states (i.e., some Balkan and
African states), with conscript armies and mass produced weapons, their actions
are nonetheless constrained by global forces and local elites committed to
‘‘integration into global markets and institutions’’ (Shaw 2005:64). Shaw sees
the new mode of western warfare developing in reaction to ‘‘degeneracy of the
20th century Western way of war’’ with its systematic killing of civilians and its
genocidal projects (Shaw 2003). The new wars emerge as the logic of nuclear
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proliferation weakened ‘‘war-induced statism’’ and economic liberalization
spread around the globe.
In this context, he concentrates primarily on the ‘‘new western way of warfare’’
where the central issue is the transfer of risk. Drawing in part on Ulrich Beck’s
(1992, 1999) concept of risk society as ‘‘an inescapable structural condition of
advanced industrialization’’ (Shaw 2005:97), he argues that risk exposure has
replaced class as a central form of inequality in the late modern era and that this
has profound implications on the theory and practice of contemporary warfare.
According to Shaw, these new risk transfer wars are waged by the most techno-
logically advanced states which have undergone successful RMA such as the Uni-
ted States and the United Kingdom. Here the key war aim seems to be to
minimize life-risks to western military personnel and consequently minimizing
electoral and political risks to the state leadership, which is accomplished by
transferring these risks directly to the weaker enemy.
From the Falklands war, to
the Gulf, Kosovo, Afghanistan and the ongoing Iraq war, the reliance on techno-
logically sophisticated weapons helps create the systematic transfer of risks from
elected politicians to the military personnel and from them to the enemy com-
batants and their civilians. When the choice is between (foreign) civilian lives
and the lives of Western soldiers, the lives of soldiers are always prioritized. The
militarism of new wars does not require direct popular mobilization, rather it
aims to indirectly acquire passive support by relying on media as a neutralizer of
electoral surveillance. In his view, the goals of new wars are rarely ideological or
nationalist but are principally policy driven and instrumental, ‘‘war is justified
only as a response to a manifest threat,’’ that is when there is a ‘‘plausible per-
ceptions of risk to Western interests, norms and values’’ (Shaw 2003:71–72). As
such new wars acquire electoral legitimacy only when they are limited, sanitized,
quick fix affairs taking place in distant parts of the world.
Similarly to Bauman and Shaw, Mary Kaldor (2001, 2004, 2007) posits global-
ization as a key cause of new wars. In her understanding ‘‘globalization of the
1980s and 1990s is a qualitatively new phenomenon’’ that emerged as ‘‘a conse-
quence of the revolution in information technologies and dramatic improve-
ments in communication and data-processing.’’ This has revolutionized military
technology but even more importantly has produced ‘‘a revolution in the social
relations of warfare’’ (Kaldor 2001:3). Although Kaldor also shares Bauman’s
and Shaw’s belief that there are two dominant forms of new warfare, the focal
point of her analysis are predatory wars rather than what she calls ‘‘American
high tech wars.’’ These new wars arise as the autonomy of the state, especially its
economy, is eroded by the global forces of economic neo-liberalism. As the reve-
nues of the weakened states decline so they experience gradual or total erosion
of the monopoly of the legitimate use of coercion, with the result that the means
of violence is privatized and acquired by criminal warlords. Employing paramil-
itaries and the remnants of collapsing state structures, they politicize cultural dif-
ference and wage genocidal wars on civilians while at the same time acquiring
personal wealth and maintaining a hold on power. As one of the pioneers of this
paradigm Kaldor articulates an exceptionally strong version of the new war thesis
whereby the recent violent conflicts differ in every respect from conventional
warfare—from their strategy, tactics, methods of fighting, the increased levels of
bloodshed, the chaotic nature of conflicts to rampant asymmetry in the civil
military ratio of human casualties. She also emphasizes that new wars are highly
Y. Heng (2006) develops a similar argument by linking Beck’s concept of ‘‘world risk society’’ with the recent
international relations literature on the ‘‘new wars.’’ He contends that the new ‘‘high tech’’ wars are primarily con-
cerned with the management of globalized systematic risks. Seeing globalization as a key driver of global economic
and security developments Heng argues that recent ‘‘Anglo-American’’ wars, from Kosovo to Afghanistan and Iraq,
were all ‘‘driven by a perceived globalization of risks’’ (p. 70–72).
102 The Sociology of New Wars
decentralized, thrive on the availability of cheap light weaponry and are heavily
dependent on the external financial resources such as Diaspora remittances and
international humanitarian aid which often help create or reinforce the new
globalized war economy. Nevertheless, what is central to her argument is the
view that new wars are fought for very different reasons than pervious conflicts.
As she puts it: ‘‘the goals of the new wars are about identity politics in contrast
to the geo-political or ideological goals of earlier wars’’ (Kaldor 2001:6). Accord-
ing to Kaldor, ‘‘identity politics’’ differs from ideology as it makes power claims
on the basis of mutually exclusive group labels rather than coherent systems of
ideas. She views these label claims as parasitic and fragmentary, ‘‘unlike the poli-
tics of ideas which are open to all and therefore tend to be integrative, this type
of identity politics is inherently exclusive and therefore tends to fragmentation’’
(Kaldor 2001:7). Just as Bauman she argues that geo-political motives play no
part as territory loses its previous significance. Instead the new wars tend toward
the expulsion of the civilian population: ‘‘the aim is to control the population
by getting rid of everyone of a different identity’’ (Kaldor 2001:8).
Between the Nation-State and Globalization
Sociological accounts of new wars provide a more potent and theoretically coher-
ent understanding and interpretation of recent violent conflicts. Instead of
adopting a narrow and particularist view, abstracting recent wars from the
broader social and historical context, the sociological analyses successfully situate
these conflicts within macro structural changes. New wars do not emerge in a
social and historical vacuum but are integral to the wider transformations of
modernity, and in particular to the worldwide expansion of globalization. What
one encounters here is truly an attempt of paradigm shift in a classical Kuhnian
sense: to understand recent conflicts it is not enough to account for the precise
factual variations. Rather this paradigm shift entails new understandings of social
reality. In this context Bauman, Shaw and Kaldor engage more thoroughly with
central questions such as: What are the social causes of new wars? And why and
how have the central goals of warfare changed? It is primarily in the answers to
these questions that one can assess the explanatory strength and weaknesses of
the new war paradigm.
However, even if the earlier criticisms that center on tactics, strategy, human
casualties, financing or methods of fighting are completely discounted in favor
of assessing the paradigm as a heuristic model on its own terms, the theory of
new wars fails to convince.
First, linking recent wars so tightly to the forces of economic globalization is a
form of structuralist economic reductionism which attributes too much power to
market forces. Historically wars were initiated and fought for a variety of rea-
sons—ideological, geo-political, economic or ecological—and have had origins
in both human agency and social structure (Howard 1977; McNeill 1984; Keegan
1993). This is as much the case with contemporary wars which are also depen-
dent on historical contingencies and a confluence of different factors. Not all
groups, organizations and individuals involved directly or indirectly in these vio-
lent conflicts are motivated by the maximization of economic resources (Smith
2005; Gat 2006). Similarly the structural transformations in the world economy
do not affect all states equally, some even not at all. This economistic argument
cannot explain why some states such as Somalia, Bosnia or Haiti found them-
selves on the verge of collapse in the context of brutal civil wars, while others
economically much more undermined by global trade such as Argentina, Roma-
nia or numerous African states have avoided excessive violent conflicts.
Furthermore, the perception that the expansion of liberalized markets auto-
matically means less regulation and more chaotic arrangements is a common
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misperception. As Steven Vogel (1996) documents well in his study of the eco-
nomic reform patterns in telecommunications, finance, broadcasting, transport
and utilities in the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, France and Germany,
freer markets have actually led to more administrative regulation. Liberalization
does not mean the loss of state autonomy. On the contrary most states combine
the opening up of markets with tighter re-regulation, in other words ‘‘there is
no logical contradiction between more competition and greater government
control’’ (Vogel 1996:5). Hence we may live in liquid modernity but this is a
highly regulated environment. Consequently the milieu of contemporary wars is
no more chaotic than that of their predecessors. Second, to establish a causal
link between contemporary wars and growing economic liberalization one would
have to prove that the patterns and dynamics of world trade have dramatically
changed, and that this change has affected transformations in warfare. However,
both of these claims are untenable.
The argument that economic globalization is historically unprecedented phe-
nomenon has been challenged by many historical sociologists. For example Paul
Hirst and Grahame Thompson (1999), Michael Mann (1997, 2003) and John A.
Hall (2000, 2002) among others have demonstrated that the existing levels of
trade for North America, Japan and the European Union of 12% of their GDP
are almost the same as the levels reached before World War I. Over 80% of the
world’s total production remains traded within the borders of nation-states
(Mann 2001). Most so-called transnational corporations are really national com-
panies whose ownership, assets, sales, and profits remain within their own nation
states. They chiefly rely on the domestic human capital generated through their
own educational systems, existing national communications infrastructure and a
substantial deal of state protectionism for the externally vulnerable economic
sectors (Carnoy 1993; Wade 1996). The technology is also mostly produced on
the national level while the overwhelming majority of companies remain traded
solely on national stock markets. Rather than being global, world trade is
distinctly ‘‘trilateral’’ with the United States, Japan and Europe producing and
consuming more than 85% of world trade (Mann 1997; Hall 2000). In other
words, contrary to the arguments of the new war paradigm, economic globaliza-
tion does not diminish the influence of the nation-states. Instead it is the most
powerful nation-states that are the backbone of world trade. As Mann (1997:48)
puts it: ‘‘capitalism retains a geo-economic order, dominated by the economies
of the advanced nation-states. Clusters of nation-states provide the stratification
order of globalism.’’ In addition nation-states remain in full control of their
population as human beings are much less mobile than goods, money and
services and despite expansion of international law the nation-state preserves the
monopoly of law over its territory
(Hirst and Thompson 1999).
The second claim is yet more problematic. Even if one disregards the fact that
there is no direct evidence that economic globalization causes an increase in vio-
lent intra-state conflicts, (thus concentrating solely on the indirect influence), it
is not difficult to show the obvious flaws in this argument. Not only does the
research prove warfare in general (including civil wars) to be in decline, so that
if globalization has any effect this could only be interpreted as a factor that
diminishes violence, but more importantly the privatization of violence has
existed as much in the pre-global era as it does now. As Kalyvas (2006:333) and
Newman (2004:183–184) rightly point out, a similar pattern of chaotic warlord-
ism, criminality and privatized violence was witnessed long before the current
era in, for example, the Greek civil war of 1943–1949, the Nigeria-Biafra civil
As Hirst and Thompson (1999:277) conclude: ‘‘nation-states as sources of the rule of law are essential prerequi-
sites for regulation through international law, and as overarching public powers they are essential to the survival of
pluralistic ‘‘national’’ societies with diversified forms of administration and community standards.’’
104 The Sociology of New Wars
war, or the Congo Civil War of the early 1960s. Not only is it that the ‘‘globalized
war economy’’ cannot explain more protracted conflicts such as those in Chech-
nya, Sri Lanka, the Basque country or Indonesia, but even the conflicts that are
seen to epitomize the new wars such as those in the Balkans, Horn of Africa or
Caucasus in many respects predate or have developed outside of the forces of
economic liberalism. The origins of the Yugoslav wars of succession had very lit-
tle if anything to do with the macro economic globalization. They started off not
as economic, but as political conflicts, created in part by party elites attempting
to avoid genuine democratization through decentralization, and in part by the
idiosyncratic federal structure of the communist state (Malesˇevic´ 2002, 2006:157–
The view expressed by Bauman and Kaldor, that the new wars have lost geopo-
litical significance as ‘‘the era of space’’ is over, and that territory has little mean-
ing in the new globalized wars, is equally untenable. First, this argument is
built on an overstretched and stark comparison between early modern nation-
states and latemodern postmodern polities, where the former are depicted as
tightly bound, highly centralized and bureaucratic, in full control of their terri-
tory, economy and population, whereas the latter are presented as the exact
opposite. According to these authors, early modernity is associated exclusively
with the economically and politically autarchic nation-states obsessed with territo-
rial expansion, while the contemporary era is seen as one of global economic
interdependence and integration. However, as Tilly (1975), Downing (1992),
Ertman (1997) and many other historical sociologists have shown, the post-West-
phalian nation-states have emerged and developed in the context of two rival
forces: international trade and political and military competition. Rather than
being isolated autarchies, nation-states have grown in response to the changing
geo-political environment by tightening fiscal control and by extending citizen-
ship rights. Commercial developments and increased trade have strengthened
the state capacity making it in this process a more powerful military machine. In
other words, transnational economic space is neither novel nor unconnected to
the birth of the nation-state. The administrative and territorial boundedness of
early nation states had always more to do with the rulers projected ideal than
actual reality. In most respects the rise in infrastructural and surveillance powers
is something more akin to contemporary nation-states as they have only recently
been able to fully police their borders, tax at sources, gather intelligence on all
of its citizens, and successfully control their territories.
Furthermore, military might still remains the only reliable guarantor of
economic wellbeing in the long term as all three economic powerhouses—the
United States, the European Union and Japan—have developed and continue
to economically prosper on the back of American military supremacy, which pro-
vides geopolitical stability and security in the North. Although most northern
states have moved away from what Mann (1997) calls ‘‘hard geopolitics’’ to ‘‘soft
geopolitics,’’ this is not the case for the rest of the world. Universal conscription
is still the order of the day in the great majority of states with most of Africa,
Latin America, Eastern Europe and Asia (including the two super powers: China
and Russia) having compulsory military draft.
Indeed it would be highly prema-
ture, as the proponents of the new war paradigm claim, to see it as a thing of
the past in the West either. Nearly all states reserve the right to reintroduce con-
scription in the case of major war. Historically speaking we have been here
before: the so-called long peace of 1870–1914 witnessed the dominance of simi-
lar pacifist theories that saw economics replacing geo-politics. However, even if
the militaries of most western and westernizing states have been reduced in size,
Although the abolition of military draft has dramatically increased in the last two decades there are still only
32 states in the world without mandatory military service.
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the state’s monopoly on the legitimate use of violence has been strengthened
even further with the continuous expansion of police forces, surveillance appara-
tuses and a variety of private and state controlled security agencies (Dandeker
1990; Lyon 2001).
What has changed in the postcolonial era is not the alleged unimportance of
space but the illegitimacy of territorial conquest. In fact space is now more
important than ever before as it is institutionalized and taken for granted by
nearly everybody that state borders cannot be changed at will. As American sol-
diers quickly realized when they initially placed the Star Spangled Banner on
Saddam Hussein’s statue, and then had to promptly replace it with the Iraqi flag,
one cannot legitimately capture the territory of another sovereign nation-state.
This is a poignant reminder that the sovereignty of state territory remains sacred
even more than it was in the last two centuries. If late, or in Bauman’s words,
liquid modernity is an era where one can transcend space—a view deeply con-
tested here—this cannot happen through simplified globalist formulas of ‘‘geog-
raphy becoming history’’ but only when territorial sovereignty becomes so
institutionalized, routinized and taken for granted that it becomes a matter of
habitual practice as an unalienable right that few would dare to challenge. The
obvious sacredness of state territory is clearly evident from the Falkland episode
when Britain went easily to war over some far away depopulated island, to the
Gulf war or Chechen wars and from still unresolved disputes between Russia and
Japan over the Kuril Islands, Britain and Spain over Gibraltar, Greece and Tur-
key over Cyprus and many uninhabited rocks of Aegean sea, etc. No state, demo-
cratic or autocratic, huge or small, developed or underdeveloped will ever give
up lightly even a tiny stretch of its territory. And this leads us directly to the sec-
ond issue of the supposedly changed goals of contemporary warfare.
The Objectives of Contemporary Wars
The proponents of the new wars paradigm are adamant that what sets contem-
porary wars apart from their predecessors is the unequivocal transformation of
objectives and goals. The new violent conflicts are no longer about ideology, or
nationalism in particular, but about identity (Kaldor), the economic logic of
globalization (Bauman) or perceptions of risk to Western interests and norms
(Shaw). In their own words: ‘‘nation-building coupled with patriotic mobiliza-
tion has ceased to be the principal instrument of social integration and states’
self-assertion’’ (Bauman 2002a:84); ‘‘in the context of globalization, ideological
and or territorial cleavages of an earlier era have increasingly been supplanted
by an emerging cleavage betweencosmopolitanism, based on inclusive, univer-
salist multicultural values, and the politics of particularist identities’’ (Kaldor
2001:6); and [it is] ‘‘a specifically late-modern, Western perception’’ that ‘‘war
is justified only as a response to a manifest threat’’ (Shaw 2005:71–72).
Kaldor’s stringent distinction between identity and ideology is untenable as
the discourse of identity is nearly always embedded in the rhetoric of a specific
ideology. In other words, claims to a particular or universal identity such as
Danish, Muslim, manual worker, Pashtun or cosmopolitan are premised on the
distinctive political projects of what it means to be a particular Danish, Muslim,
manual worker, Pashtun or a cosmopolitan individual. As there is never one way
of how somebody can be a member of a particular group, the identitarian lan-
guage of collective solidarity is inherently political: it speaks in terms of cultural
authenticity but it acts through political projects (Brubaker 2004; Malesˇevic´
2006). The argument that, unlike ideology which espouses systematic ideas,
identity is only about group labels does not stand. From Barthes (1993) and
Althusser (1994), we know too well that ideology works best through the hailing
or interpolation of group labels, by caging individuals in particular ‘‘identities.’’
106 The Sociology of New Wars
More importantly, group labels can have popular resonance only if seen as inte-
gral to a specific political project. There is no significant difference here
between depicting citizens of today’s Iraq as mutually exclusive Shia, Sunni and
Kurds and yesteryears’ socialist rhetoric of proletariat and bourgeoisie clinched
in an uncompromising class war. They both invoke group labels as a part of a
concrete ideological project to justify a specific political course of action,
including warfare, and to mobilize popular support. Ethnic, religious, or nation-
alist ideologies are grounded in systematic programmes just as much as the
‘‘old’’ ideologies of socialism, liberalism or conservatism. There is no
substantial ontological difference between those political projects that aim at
implementing a blueprint of classless social order and those bent on setting up
an ethno-nationally pure society. In other words there is no identity without
ideology and no ideology can successfully mobilize mass support without
constructing meaningful group labels.
The problem is that in Kaldor’s economistic view nationalism is never seen as
an original generator of social action, but always a second order reality, a reac-
tive force to some other supposedly primary cause such as globalization (Kaldor
2001:76, 78–79). Analyzing the Bosnian war of 1992–1995 as the epitome of new
war, she argues that the central aims were not ideological or geo-political but
identity based—to ethnically cleanse a population of ‘‘other identity.’’ This view
confuses means and ends since ethnic cleansing and genocide are rarely if ever
an end in themselves, but rather a means through which a particular ideological
project is implemented. The ethnic cleansing in Bosnia was never a chaotic,
decentralized and spontaneous reaction of local warlords. Instead as recent
research clearly shows (Cekic´ et al. 1999; Oberschall 2000; Ron 2003) it was a
highly structured, well-organized, meticulously documented process that relied
on existing centralized state structures from the top political and military leader-
ship in Serbia and Croatia to the municipal executive committees, the mayor’s
office, local police and so-called crisis committees that acted as the principal tool
of a euphemistically termed ‘‘population exchange.’’ In the Bosnian case just as
in other recent wars, the ‘‘old,’’ geo-political and ideological motives predomi-
nated, that is, the key goals were the capture of a particular territory in order to
implement distinct political goals by establishing a Greater Serbia and Croatia.
The fact that the post World War II international order does not tolerate territo-
rial conquests any more was one of the principal reasons that Yugoslav conflict
was externally seen as a throwback from the past, an irrational attachment to the
primordial ‘‘labels’’ rather than what it actually was—a seizing of land in order
to fulfill a specific ideological project. In this context as Kalyvas (2001), Newman
(2004) and Berdal (2003) rightly argue what has changed is not the nature of
warfare itself but the Western perception of war.
Similarly, Bauman’s view of liquid modernity as an era that transcends
bounded space, where global capital dominates nation-states, and where consum-
erism overpowers nationalism is misplaced. The interests of global corporations
can sometimes overlap with the ideology and geo-political motives of powerful
states but the two are not causally linked. The so-called ‘‘globalizing’’ wars are
almost exclusively fought by a single state, the United States of America, which
as any nation-state in modern history pursues its own geo-political and ideologi-
cal goals. As Mann (2001, 2003) rightly emphasizes, unlike its military might
American economic power is not hegemonic over its European and Japanese riv-
als, as they are all ‘‘backseat drivers’’ of the contingencies and fluctuations
rooted in worldwide capitalist development. While the Gulf War of 1991 was
fought to restore the status quo, and thus potentially benefiting the further
spread or dominance of Western based global corporations, all other ‘‘globali-
zing’’ wars such as Kosovo, Afghanistan or Iraq were initiated and fought much
more for ideological and geopolitical reasons than arising from the global
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economic logic. Obviously neither the small and remote Serbia nor impover-
ished and desolate Afghanistan were the ideal new markets worth fighting over.
In both cases a central motive for war originated in the sense of wounded
national pride (hence nationalism) that a superpower was attacked on its own
soil (9 11) or that some petit autocrat dares to resist the will of the powerful
Western states. Both of these wars were motivated and in fact have succeeded in
achieving ideological conversion by managing to replace the rigid Taliban Isla-
mists and the autocratic nationalists around Milosˇevic´ with more moderate politi-
cal regimes. The motivation behind the Iraq war is perhaps more complicated as
it also involved economic motives (the control of oil reserves) which could have
benefited global corporations, but even this motive had more to do with the
requirements of a particular nation-state rooted in its ambition of geo-political
control of resources (and security) rather than in opening up new markets for
the global economy. Furthermore, the ideological motives loomed large as the
war was in part an attempt to implement a specific neo-conservative blueprint
(including ‘‘Rebuilding America’s Defenses’’ and other proposals developed by
the highly influential think-tank the Project for the New American Century)
(Mann 2003:3; Smith 2005:164). In all three cases the wars relied on strong pop-
ular support. While in Kosovo and Afghanistan nationalism was supplemented
with the broader international ‘‘humanitarian’’ and ‘‘just cause’’ rhetoric, thus
extending its national support base, the war in Iraq was politically divisive in the
international arena, thus reinforcing, and having to rely almost exclusively on,
U.S. nationalism. To put it simply, the aims of ‘‘globalizing’’ wars have not sub-
stantially changed as ideology and geo-politics remain as important as ever.
Although Shaw provides a more compelling account that recognizes the
importance of territory and geo-politics, he too sees new wars as being subordi-
nated to the economic and other global forces. In his account of risk transfer
the distinction between the western and non-western worlds and the correspond-
ing forms of warfare is overstretched. Albeit that technological sophistication
and the dependence on precision targeting and air power are obviously histori-
cal novelties, these are not global developments but rather something that sym-
bolizes the strength of a particular nation-state—the United States of America.
In his analysis of recent ‘‘global surveillance wars’’ nearly all conflicts, with the
exception of the short, small and rather atypical Falklands war, were fought prin-
cipally if not exclusively by the American military. In other words the transfer of
risks is not that much of a western phenomenon (although it has some reso-
nance in the United Kingdom and a few other European states) as it is a phe-
nomenon of a distinct nation-state—the United States of America. In this sense
the United States is a true military empire as it is the only state that has a mili-
tary presence in 153 countries of the world, that has the technical know-how,
refueling facilities, laser guided missiles, carrier ships, etc. to impose its military
hegemony throughout the world. As Mann (2001:6) puts it: ‘‘No state would
rationally seek war with the United States, and few could survive itthis is
American, not Northern, military hegemony. It is not at the service of Northern
economic imperialism. It is only at the service of interests defined by American
governments.’’ This is important in the context of popular support, as Shaw
argues that Western global warfare no longer requires direct mass mobilization,
preferring instead a media induced mobilization of passivity. However, this is
another case of ‘‘chronocentrism’’ as it attempts to generalize on the basis of a
very short historical period. Whereas an enormous superpower such as the
United States can rely on a professional army to fight small wars with relatively
few casualties, paying little attention to internal dissent, the major wars with
substantial casualties still require the same level of direct mobilization as before.
Both Vietnam and the Iraq war illustrate this only all too well. To fight a
protracted large conflict even most powerful states would have to contemplate
108 The Sociology of New Wars
reintroducing conscription and if necessary override economics, domestic
politics and cultural life. The so-called ‘‘war on terror’’ clearly indicates how
economy, polity and culture can easily become subordinated to war aims and
how nationalism can quickly transform into a virulent battle cry and crusade
against the other. The speed and congressional unanimity with which the Patriot
Act was passed, with little if any popular dissent in the aftermath of 9 11, is a
potent reminder of how quickly the nation-state can assume firm control over
society. Hence it is not the perception of threat to ‘‘western interests and values’’
that motivates public support, it is primarily the ideology of nationalism in all its
guises that secures popular mobilization and it is a geo-political logic that
dictates conduct of nation-states. The United States is no exception here; it is
just the largest and more powerful nation-state the world has known.
What Is Old and What Is New?
Despite its explanatory pitfalls, the sociology of ‘‘new wars’’ has opened up an
important area of research and has raised novel questions about the nature of
recent violent conflicts. Most of all, these sociological accounts have placed the
new wars debate in the wider social and historical context thus attempting to link
the changing forms of violence with the transformation of modernity. To argue
that the causes and objectives of contemporary warfare do not significantly differ
from their pre-global era predecessors does not automatically imply that nothing
has changed. On the contrary the historical setting of the post-World War II
world has substantially transformed as the traditional geopolitical goals of nation-
states such as territorial expansion, colonial domination, or imperial conquest
have lost their legitimacy, both at the national and especially at the international
level. This is even more the case with some of the principal normative ideologies
of the 20th century, such as state socialism, eugenics and scientific racism, fascist
corporatism or imperial civilizing mission. Contemporary warfare clearly emerges
in a different historical milieu and as such its goals and aims are shaped and
restricted by these macro structural forces. Regardless of its military or economic
might, no state can legitimately invade territories of other states or treat the citi-
zens of those states as culturally or racially inferior species. Furthermore, the rev-
olution in military affairs is a novel development that allows a military
superpower such as the United States to rely extensively on the sophisticated
technology to put coercive pressure on some uncooperative governments and to
fight small and medium range ‘‘hit and run’’ wars. However, neither one of
these two new developments has substantially changed the causes and objectives
of warfare. While new technology has to some extent transformed the means of
fighting, such as minimizing military casualties by relying on the relative preci-
sion of airpower and missile navigation in short and limited wars, it has not chan-
ged the ends of warfare. Similarly the new social and historical context has
constrained the actions of, particularly northern, nation-states by forcing them to
adopt soft geo-politics of bargaining, enticement and occasional coercive pres-
sure over hard geo-politics of spatial conquest, but it has not dented the ‘‘old’’
multiple causes of violent conflicts. Just as in the 19th and 20th centuries, wars
are initiated and fought for economic, political but most of all for ideological
and geopolitical reasons. An acceleration of economic globalization perhaps adds
another layer of complexity and constraint to the ‘‘old’’ ideological and geopolit-
ical motives of nation-states, but it could not possible obliterate either these
motives or the nation-states themselves. Not only is it that more extensive
economic integration requires more administrative state regulation, but also with-
out the powerful nation-states that provide geopolitical stability, global economic
expansion and incorporation would evaporate in a Hobbesian Darwinian world
of anarchic brutality.
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Finally, the popular support on which modern conflicts have to build if they
are to have any chance of success is still largely derived from the same nationalist
sources as before. Since the birth of modernity, in the French and American rev-
olutions, the Enlightenment and Romanticism, nationalism became and remains
the principal glue of legitimate rule (Gellner 1983; Smith 2003; Malesˇevic´ 2006,
2007). Having powerful protean capacity nationalism is able to accommodate
modern political formations as diverse as liberal democracies, state socialist
orders, contemporary monarchies, military juntas as well as the theocratic states.
No state authority is likely to generate a significant support base without invok-
ing the solidaristic images of ‘‘our glorious nation.’’ Even though nationalism
has become less virulent in the North when compared to the early 20th century,
no political leader or political party can survive long in office if deemed to be
insufficiently patriotic. The fact that the aggressive, militarist and jingoistic
nationalisms of the two World Wars have given way to their softer counterparts
does not suggest, as proponents of the new war paradigm argue, that nationalism
as such is on the wane. Rather as the infrastructural capacities of modern nation-
states expand further the habitual character and routinized nature of its repro-
duction make sure that the nation-centric view of the world is perpetually nor-
malized and naturalized in the mass media, educational systems, the institutions
of ‘‘high’’ culture, the state administration systems, through outlets of popular
culture, youth organizations, civil society groups and even Internet Web sites. All
of these make nationalism a powerful ideological force of everyday life, a force
available for swift mobilization in times of major conflict. As Billig (1995) poi-
gnantly observes, banality does not equal lenience. On the contrary, in reproduc-
ing state structures and institutions that possess immense armaments which can
be rapidly utilized, banal nationalism can easily and quickly be transformed into
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112 The Sociology of New Wars
... The reliance of rebels on illicit economies in general and commodity smuggling in particular is anything but new. This is despite the oft-heard notion that many rebel groups were less reliant on illicit economies during the Cold War because they received financial support from one or the other superpower (e.g., Kaldor 2012;Malešević 2008). Despite Cold War alliances, rebel groups often sought financial self-reliance. ...
... 2-18). To be sure, there has been substantial critique against simplistic accounts that reduces human motivation to take up arms to mere economic profiteering (e.g., Cramer 2002;Keen 2008;Malešević 2008). The spectre of economism haunts scholarship on and policy responses to armed conflict up until today, effectively depoliticising the actors, drivers, and the very nature of conflict itself. ...
Full-text available
Smuggling economies make for ideal sources of revenue for rebel movements. Their clandestine and peripatetic nature and borderland geographies are often compatible with the requirements of guerrilla war. To weaken armed resistance and pacify conflict, state actors seek to undercut lucrative smuggling operations by restricting illicit trade flows, or reduce their profit margins by liberalising trade regimes. This chapter explores both such strategies through the lens of two empirical cases: US sanctions on so-called ‘conflict minerals’ in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo; and the liberalisation of border trade in Myanmar, by which the country’s generals sought to dry up smuggling revenues of rebel groups. Its findings suggest that, counterintuitively, attempts at economic pacification can increase rather than decrease violence, conflict and insecurity. This is not only because economic interventions in contexts of conflict can shift the incentives of warring factions in unforeseen ways, but also – and more fundamentally – economistic approaches to conflict operate on limited assumptions about the nature of political violence. They consequently fail at addressing the underlying political drivers of conflict.
... The reliance of rebels on illicit economies in general and commodity smuggling in particular is anything but new. This is despite the oft-heard notion that many rebel groups were less reliant on illicit economies during the Cold War because they received financial support from one or the other superpower (e.g., Kaldor 2012;Malešević 2008). Despite Cold War alliances, rebel groups often sought financial self-reliance. ...
... 2-18). To be sure, there has been substantial critique against simplistic accounts that reduces human motivation to take up arms to mere economic profiteering (e.g., Cramer 2002;Keen 2008;Malešević 2008). The spectre of economism haunts scholarship on and policy responses to armed conflict up until today, effectively depoliticising the actors, drivers, and the very nature of conflict itself. ...
The Routledge Handbook of Smuggling offers a comprehensive survey of interdisciplinary research related to smuggling, reflecting on key themes, and charting current and future trends. Divided into six parts and spanning over 30 chapters, the volume covers themes such as mobility, borders, violent conflict, and state politics, as well as looks at the smuggling of specific goods – from rice and gasoline to wildlife, weapons, and cocaine. Chapters engage with some of the most contentious academic and policy debates of the twenty-first century, including the historical creation of borders, re-bordering, the criminalisation of migration, and the politics of selective toleration of smuggling. As it maps a field that contains unique methodological, ethical, and risk-related challenges, the book takes stock not only of the state of our shared knowledge, but also reflects on how this has been produced, pointing to blind spots and providing an informed vision of the future of the field. Bringing together established and emerging scholars from around the world, The Routledge Handbook of Smuggling is an indispensable resource for students and researchers of conflict studies, borderland studies, criminology, political science, global development, anthropology, sociology, and geography.
... The notion that something is qualitatively new about organized violence after the end of the Cold War has become one of the most important research paradigms in the study of civil wars (Malešević 2008;Kaldor 2012). Often forgotten is that the study emerged in a certain place and time: Bosnia-Herzegovina of the 1990s. ...
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Security studies privileges the study of civil wars in some contexts over others. The field's leading journals mostly publish studies of armed conflicts in Africa, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East. Armed conflicts in Asia receive comparatively little attention, despite their prevalence and protracted nature. Against the background of our own empirical archive—the decades-old but largely ignored civil war in Myanmar—we ask why some conflicts draw more scholarly interest than others and why this uneven attention matters. In doing so, we argue that the empirical selectivity bias in the study of civil war and armed conflict reflects (1) institutional entanglements between the field of security studies and Western foreign policy; and (2) sociological factors that shape the formation of scholarly subjectivities and pertain to methodological challenges. This uneven empirical landscape shapes our conceptual understanding of civil wars. In fact, prominent debates within leading security studies journals surrounding the nature of civil war and armed conflict are inseparable from the empirical contexts in which they emerged. Leveling such an uneven empirical landscape thus generates opportunities for discussing conflict, insecurity, and violence in a different light. In shedding light on this issue, we urge closer attention to questions of place, time, and power in the scholarly production of knowledge and ignorance.
... The 'new wars' literature (Chinkin & Kaldor 2013;Kaldor 2012;Kalyvas 2001;Malešević 2008;Mello 2010;Shaw 2000) does much to supplement the focus on rebel governance by tallying just how many interests can be present and organized to engage in conflict, complicating both the trajectories of conflict and prospects for peace. 'New wars' scholars focus on coalitions of non-state actors that may additionally challenge the state (Kaldor 2013), the activated identities of groups (Chinkin & Kaldor 2013), the globalization of the war economy (Kaldor 2012), and the role of terrorism in these multi-faceted conflicts (Münkler 2010, cited in Mello 2010. ...
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Our article explores the economic activities of households operating in Yemen’s protracted conflict. We examine the growth and maturation of what we call the ‘Functional Economy’ in Yemen, in which Yemenis engage in economic transactions away from standard regulatory bodies through agreements of ‘how to do business’ with a range of authorities that are not internationally recognised. We distinguish this from ‘black markets’ and ‘illicit’ economic behaviours because most of the transactions would take place in a controlled environment in normal times or under peacetime governance, but the civil war has displaced them. In Yemen, the functional economy has come to serve Yemeni households providing essential goods and income, and for some activities, such as currency exchange, are preferred to any official regulated markets. On the other hand, alternatively regulated markets may be less functional as they also present opportunities for rent-seeking and, more importantly, can reinforce the political and economic bonds between Yemenis and non-recognised authorities, weakening the internationally recognised central state. Further, such activity has an impact on the potential for peaceful resolution of the conflict. The paper proposes that the ‘good’ of such activity, and hence the extent to which it is ‘functional’, should be judged by whether it provides access to essential goods and income, and whether it helps promote peaceful resolution. This evaluation framework enables better international policy responses to the economic situation that arises in protracted conflict. We use household surveys, focus group discussions, and key informant interviews to explore these developments from several angles.
The majority of the literature on causes and sustenance of the Kashmir conflict has disregarded a vital factor—that the conflict is multi-layered, meaning it is both internal and external in nature. Contemporary conflicts are often explained by the dominating theories of international relations or the new wars theories that deal with internal conflicts. The dominating theories of international Relations, that is, realism and liberalism, assign significance to state-centrism and external threats by overshadowing internal and domestic causal factors of the conflict. On the other hand, prominent new wars theories such as the greed and grievance theories focus on domestic and internal factors of the conflict while shelving the external causal factors. On their own, both theories fail to explain multi-layered conflicts. This article intends to provide a synchronous explanation of the external and domestic causes of the multi-layered conflict in Kashmir by using the theory of ontological security, that is, security of self-identity.
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In this paper, we outline four key sociological processes that shape the character of rebel governance. Firstly, we review the complex relationships between rebel rule and state power and look at the ways social order is generated and maintained in the context of rebel governance. Secondly, we explore relational mechanisms of control and the capacity of rebel governance to penetrate the micro social world under its rule. Thirdly, we analyze the social mechanisms through which legitimacy is attained and maintained in a rebelocracy. Finally, we examine the organizational, ideological, and micro-interactional similarities between state-and rebel governance in order to understand how and why some forms of rebel rule transform into the established governmental structures while others fragment or collapse. We argue that in order to further develop our understanding of power relations in civil wars, we need to look at the details of concrete interactions and patterns of relationships at the local level, in which orders of violence, legitimacy and control manifest themselves in everyday life, the lived experiences of those who rule and are ruled, the practices and institutions that emerge from them, and the processes in which they are negotiated.
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This paper presents findings of a comparative study carried out in Poland and the Czech Republic, which analysed the societal attitudes towards migration and migrants in Europe. Our research shows that the reaction to migration in Poland and the Czech Republic constitutes a reversed (bottom up) securitisation. Moreover, contrary to the majority of security challenges where the immediate threats are understood to be more dangerous than those placed in a distant future, when it comes to securitised migration, the threat projection increases the further into the future it is cast, and immediacy loses its potency as a catalyst. This counter-intuitive securitisation of the future is extremely peculiar rendering migration very interesting if not unique in this regard.
Althusser extends Marx's notion of reproduction of the means of production beyond the production system to the Ideological State Apparatues and the Repressive State Apparatuses. The Ideologocial State Apparatuses, especially education, ensure that we are reproduced as subjects of the ruling ideology. "Ideology represents the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence...Ideology has a material existence...always exists in an apparatus, and its practice, or practices" (Althusser developing the notion of ideology)
The experience of war in our Northern industrial civilisation is a strange phenomenon. After two world wars, the nature and effects of which were unprecedented in human history, we have lived through nearly four decades without global conflict. This period, usually described as one of peace, has been overhung by the fear of warfare of unimaginable horror, and accompanied by the ‘noises off of an unending series of lesser but still very bloody wars, almost all of them in the South. The ‘peaceful’ North has been the site of preparations for a Third World War, as well as sending forth its armies or its weapons and (important for our psychological participation) its television cameras to each phase of Third World war.
Introduction We live in an age which abhors violence. Grounded in the spirit of Enlightenment rationalism and humanism, most modern-day individuals, as with a majority of international organisations, value the principles of dialogue and toleration over those of hereditary inequality and collective brutality. When compared to the ethical world of early medieval Europe our moral standards seem so greatly superior: we do not dismember the bodies of executed convicts at the carnivals to play football with their heads and limbs (Youngs 2006: 89), and neither do we burn people alive or force them to sit on iron-spiked chairs. Nevertheless, our age has surpassed all others when it comes to killing. As Charles Tilly (2003: 55) emphasises, the twentieth century alone produced 250 new wars with over a million deaths per year, which makes it by far the most violent century in recorded history. Moreover, as both Zygmunt Bauman (1989) and Michael Mann (2005) convincingly argue, systematic genocidal mass murder is largely an invention of the modern era, whether as an unintended consequence of modernity's obsession with the ordering of difference, or as a perverted attempt towards democratisation. Even though modernity loathes violence, it is, as the French Revolution and the Jacobin Reign of Terror illustrate only too well, created through violence, and violence has proved essential to its worldwide proliferation. © Cambridge University Press 2007 and Cambridge University Press, 2009.
The persistence and brutality of contemporary civil wars have left many analysts puzzled. Traditional interpretations describe civil wars as simple confrontations between two sides, as explosions of mindless violence, or as disrupting apparently benevolent development processes within countries. These approaches do not fully take into account the rational economic calculations that drive many civil conflicts in the late twentieth century. This paper argues that, to understand violence in civil wars, we need to understand the economic dimensions underpinning it. Economic activities arising from war fall into seven categories: pillage; extorting protection money; controlling or monopolising trade; exploiting labour; gaining access to land, water and mineral resources; stealing aid supplies; and advantages for the military. If these short-term benefits suggest that there is more to civil wars than simply winning, so too does the prevalence and persistence of behaviour that is, in military terms, counter-productive. This can take two forms: cooperating with the ‘enemy’; and mounting attacks that increase, rather than reduce, political and military opposition. This paper describes two forms of economic violence: ‘top-down’, which is incited by political leaders and entrepreneurs; and ‘bottom-up’, where violence is actively embraced by ‘ordinary’ people, either civilians or low-ranking soldiers. Seven conditions can encourage top-down economic violence: a weak state; rebel movements that lack strong external finance or support; an undemocratic or ‘exclusive’ regime under threat; economic crisis; ethnic divisions that cut across class lines; the existence of valuable commodities; and prolonged conflict. Three conditions are particularly conducive to bottom-up violence: deep social and economic exclusion; the absence of a strong revolutionary organisation; and impunity for violent acts. To achieve more lasting solutions to civil conflicts, it needs to be acknowledged that violence can present economic opportunities. This paper concludes that outside intervention must take into account the political and economic interests of the violent. Intervention must provide realistic economic alternatives to violence, and must handle democratic transitions and the introduction of free markets with sensitivity. This is likely to mean strengthening and improving the institutions of the state, such as schools, social-security systems and establishing a more accountable police force and Army.