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greatest impact on the urban citizens who were closest to the
West, turning them from opponents of Milosevic into his sup-
porters in the competition to secure the largest slice of visibly
diminishing resources in what had become a zero-sum game
(Vucho 2002: 67“8; cf. Jansen 2000).
The breakdown of social order 103
Johanna Lessinger argues that recent con¬‚ict between
Hindus and Muslims in India is less about religion than about
class con¬‚ict that has been generated by the strains of globalisa-
tion (Lessinger 2003: 168). Repayment of foreign debts caused
a balance of payments crisis and in¬‚ation. As the government
abandoned support for textile and other local industries, male
employment declined and female employment, often in the
informal sector, grew. Gender relations were transformed.
Economic liberalisation threatened to dismantle many forms
of government social security (Rao and Reddy 2001). India™s
petty bourgeoisie and rural landowners also felt they had been
excluded from the rise of consumer culture. The caste hierar-
chy was breaking down, and this was perceived as a threat by
members of higher castes. In the early 1980s, a group of low-
caste people from one village in south India tried to break free
by converting to Islam. Hindu organisations used this event to
mobilise the Hindutva movement, which campaigns to replace
India™s secular constitution with a Hindu-based state that
will support the traditional order (cf. McAdam, Tarrow and
Tilly 2001: 148).

Privatisation and the destruction of local civil society
The original privatisation movement, the English enclosures,
was justi¬ed by the claim that private property is better man-
aged than collective property (see chapter 1). Since the debate
prompted by Garrett Hardin™s Tragedy of the commons (Hardin
1968, McCay and Acheson 1987, Ostrom 1990) some writers
now accept that local control of the commons is sustainable
and that local communities may be better equipped than other
organisations to manage water or forest (Benda-Beckmann
2001: 296). Yet, despite this evidence, the economic property
rights school continues to assume that only private ownership
Order and anarchy
104
and freely transferable use-rights give security of tenure and
therefore contribute to economic pro¬tability (Duf¬eld 2001:
101), creating the particular kind of civil society extolled by
Ernest Gellner and Adam Seligman.
In the traditional kingdom of Bunyoro, the British
attempted soon after colonisation to replace the feudal hier-
archy of rights to land with private smallholdings for each
household (Beattie 1961). Traditional administrative of¬cials,
better informed about the new legislation than householders,
registered their bene¬ces as private property. Peasants sud-
denly discovered that they had become tenants, just as hap-
pened in parts of France during the 1790 revolution, where
peasants complained that they had lost a seigneur but gained
a landlord (Hampson 1963: 129, 261).
Why does the ideology of privatisation persist, when it
demonstrably undermines traditional forms of civil society?
Chapter 1 noted how the competing discourses about the
English enclosures have persisted into modern political
debate. Franz von Benda-Beckmann (2001) argues that,
because economic development in Europe and the United
States has been based on individual property ownership, com-
munal property can unjustly be represented as diagnostic of
archaic and economically undeveloped societies. If, as was
argued during the enclosures debate, ownership were freed
from communal constraints this would allow land to be mort-
gaged against bank loans for investment in better methods of
production. Innovative individuals would no longer be con-
strained by collective practices, and the wealthy could pur-
chase land once it became a marketable commodity.
Joel Migdal documents how, despite claiming to follow
Adam Smith™s ideology of the ˜invisible hand™, colonial pow-
ers visibly intervened to ensure the market™s penetration into
subsistence production and local trade (1988: 56). Communal
The breakdown of social order 105
landholding was abolished in states from Mexico to the
Ottoman Empire. Migdal argues that privatisation of land
was ¬rstly intended to secure the state™s hegemonic rule, an
argument complemented by Ester Kingston-Mann™s (2003)
account of Soviet hostility to the Russian mir or commune (see
above, chapter 1). The second goal was to exploit the greatly
increased demand in Europe and the United States for cotton,
sugar, coffee, jute, indigo etc., bene¬ting elite landholders and
potentially increasing the state™s income from taxation, but at
the cost of removing land from subsistence production.
Yet communal landholding is not necessarily irrational.
Benda-Beckmann (2001) argues that the dominant function
of lineage property among peasant cultivators is to provide
the material basis for the continuity of the descent group and
its future members. This imposes severe restrictions on per-
manent or temporary transfers to persons outside the group
(Benda-Beckmann 2001: 307, cf. Benda-Beckmann 1990, cited
in chapter 2). From the perspective of William Hamilton™s the-
ory of kin-selection, where people are con¬dent their children
will inherit rights to the land they have worked, responsi-
ble custodianship of the land becomes a way of increasing
parents™ ˜inclusive ¬tness™, that is, of ensuring their genes are
transmitted through future generations. If privatised land falls
into the hands of decision-makers such as state of¬cials who
do not themselves depend entirely on the resource and do
not live in its environment, but do seek to maximise revenue
from that resource, they are more likely to in¬‚ict degrada-
tion. ˜The tragedy of the commons seems more a problem
of free raiders than of free riders™ (Benda-Beckmann 2001:
305). The market, combined with state redistribution of title
to land, allows unrestrained access to natural resources and
destroys the trust and con¬dence on which local civil society is
based (Benda-Beckmann and Benda-Beckmann 1999: 39). The
Order and anarchy
106
opportunity to gain individual ownership is an invitation to
defect from long-term co-operation. Kojo Sebastian Amanor
(1999) argues that, in Ghana, high costs and insecurity have
caused many farmers to sign contracts with agribusinesses
to produce speci¬ed crops in speci¬ed quantities. This gives
some guarantee of prices, but prevents farmers seeking higher
prices on the open market (cf. Rosenberg 1988: 163 on Nestl´ ™s e
exploitation of dairy farming in the French Alps). Such con-
tracts allow agribusiness to treat African farmers as employees
without having to provide social security or welfare (Amanor
1999: 27“8), but they suffer a high level of free-riding, as crops
are raided and illegally processed by women and young men
who have been displaced from formal, legal areas of activity
(Amanor 1999: 141).
In his study of the small Sudanese town of Maiurno, Mark
Duf¬eld (1981) shows how peasants and the local elite pursue
different strategies. By rotating crops, peasant households
can preserve the fertility of the soil for twenty to thirty years,
before allowing it to return to fallow. Because they depend on
the land for their subsistence it is in their interests to maintain
its fertility. The rich, however, see farming primarily as a
short-term means of raising cash to invest in commerce. The
long-term fate of the land is not of interest to them because it is
not their only form of capital. They treat land as a consumable
resource and will reinvest their pro¬ts from cash crops in other
activities such as transport or shop-keeping when the land is
exhausted. The traditional peasantry of Maiurno is squeezed
between local capitalists and a growing body of landless wage-
labourers.
The discourse of enclosure has therefore continued because
the goals remain the same. Enclosure ˜worked™ in England
because the Industrial Revolution created more or less enough
jobs to absorb the displaced rural population, and there was
The breakdown of social order 107
high demand for the staple agricultural products produced on
enclosed land. Where agricultural markets are more volatile,
and where cities offer insuf¬cient employment, the risk of
social unrest foreseen by critics of enclosure is higher. We
witness the same strategy played out in diverse social envi-
ronments.
The expansion of mechanised agriculture in northern
Sudan prompted the state to appropriate nomads™ grazing land
for cultivation (Duf¬eld 1994). Peasant producers bene¬ted
but nomads, including Baggara Arabs, suffered. By the 1980s,
the process of ˜asset transfer™ had acquired a violent, sectarian
and inter-ethnic character, which rekindled civil war between
Arab and African Sudanese. The Baggara (Muslim Arabs),
for example, turned on the Nilotic cattle-herding Dinka and
Nuer whose land lies further south in their search for graz-
ing land, asserting that Pagan/Christian Nilotes were not ˜¬t™
to own such wealth in cattle. This made the Baggara ˜ready
tools in the government™s strategy of arming irregular mili-
tias™ (Duf¬eld 1994: 54); a strategy currently (2005) directed
against the Fur of the southwest Sudan.

Competition for natural resources
Ifthestateistobene¬tfromprivatisation,itmustbesuf¬ciently
powerful to prevent rival groups capturing the pro¬ts. Since
private property can be mortgaged and sold, increasingly pow-
erful entrepreneurs can use privatisation to gain control of vast
areas of land and organise the cultivation of export crops for
personal pro¬t. Success in breaking down local civil society
can undermine the goal of securing undivided allegiance to the
state. Privatisation of land in Latin America had allowed the
appearance of a new class of landlords hostile to state central-
isation, while formerly independent peasants were reduced to
Order and anarchy
108
poverty as tenants. Far from abolishing haciendas, Mexican
privatisation laws made it easier for big landlords to seize land
that had not been properly registered. By 1910, less than 1 per
cent of the families in Mexico owned 85 per cent of the land
(Migdal 1988: 63). In Russia, privatisation was carried out dur-
ing the early 1990s with little regard for its empowering effect
upon criminal organisations who could afford to purchase
state enterprises. The Russian ˜ma¬ya™ was not created by pri-
vatisation, but the shift in distribution of resources caused by
privatisation made organised crime a more ˜adaptive ™ strategy
(see Handelman 1994).
Corporations form a crucial part of civil society in a cap-
italist market economy. Where the state lacks the means to
collect taxes, that wealth can be appropriated to empower
other social organisations. Duf¬eld estimates that in Kenya
and Russia only 40 per cent of the gross national product
is gained through legal and publicly regulated activities; in
Angola it may be no more than 10 per cent (Duf¬eld 2001:
141). Even where trade of oil and timber is legal, multina-
tional corporations increasingly protect their enclaves with
corporate mercenaries, while illegal drug dealers are even
more likely to resort to violence.
James Fairhead (2000) has written a hard-hitting paper on
the war on the borders of Rwanda and the Congo. Following
the same line as Duf¬eld and Richards, he criticises the pop-
ular supposition that humanitarian crises are caused by local
over-exploitation of the environment and ensuing poverty.
International intervention can exacerbate local tensions by
favouring one side, especially where access to vital minerals
(cobalt, diamonds etc.) is the prize, and a secondary prize
is control over the labour needed to exploit them. Richards
similarly writes that ˜the violence of the Sierra Leone con-
¬‚ict is . . . moored, culturally, in the hybrid Atlantic world of
The breakdown of social order 109
internationalcommerceinwhich,overmany years,Europeans
and Americans have played a prominent and often violent
part™ (Richards 1996: xvii). Brian Ferguson (2003: 6) describes
how ˜extra-of¬cial products™ such as diamonds and drugs
enter international trade. Extra-governmental and often ille-
gal organisations increase in wealth and power so as to under-
mine the state, while the state™s revenue decreases (Ferguson
2003: 7).
The examples given above demonstrate repeatedly that
Third World states live in an evolutionary economic envi-
ronment that is shaped by the West. The Indian government
was pushed to liberalise its economy by foreign investors who
wanted access to India™s cheap labour and its untapped con-
sumer markets (Lessinger 2003: 169). Western economic pol-
icy in¬‚uences social stability in the Third World, and the
breakdown of civil society in such states cannot simply be
attributed to their inherent anarchy. Rather, contemporary
nation states are embedded in an economic ¬tness landscape
where each state in¬‚uences the stability of others and shapes
the strategies of local groups who ¬nd themselves compet-
ing for resources. The groups exercising social control in
civil society may be heterogeneous in form (family versus
tribe), and in the rules they apply (personal loyalty versus
pro¬t maximization). The distribution of social control may
be fragmented or concentrated. Weak states are threatened by
strong organisations below the level of state, such as clans,
ethnic and religious organisations “ elements of civil soci-
ety. Providing they have persisted as alternative strategies for
social organisation, ethnicity, kinship and selective patronage
are therefore likely to come to the fore where resources have
declined to such an extent that the existing state structure is
unsustainable. Such organisations may advocate competing
rules for access to and management of resources. If these rules
Order and anarchy
110
are contested, violent con¬‚ict may break out. Reyna argues
that the distribution of force in a ¬eld depends on how much
and what kind of force is available to the groups participat-
ing. In a strong state, violent force is effectively con¬ned to
government institutions; it is highly concentrated, and has low
dispersion. But force may be ˜both dispersed and concentrated
into the institutions of civil society. This makes it possible
for these institutions to be downright uncivil™ (Reyna 2003:
265). Apparently anarchic social strategies can be explained
as locally rational responses to changes in the economic envi-
ronment that undermine the power of the nation state, or its
ability to satisfy citizens™ needs.


vi o l e n c e an d c atas t ro p h i c c h an g e
Alternative strategies and complex systems
Chapter 2 argued that two or more alternative strategies for
organising access to, and the exploitation of resources may
co-exist in the same ¬tness landscape (Mormons in capi-
talist America, producer co-operatives and entrepreneurs in
Europe). The presence of alternative strategies does not neces-
sarily cause social disorder. Violent disorder can be explained
through the concept of ˜catastrophic™ change, when a sys-
tem moves rapidly from one state to another. Since politics is
underpinned by force, catastrophic change is often triggered
by a redistribution of the means to exercise force. Whether or
not violence results depends largely on whether the alterna-
tives are mutually compatible or in con¬‚ict with one another.
In rural Hungary co-operatives and private family pro-
duction were compatible, but this was no longer the case
when family enterprise was permitted in towns. Entrepreneurs
undermined, and eventually destroyed, the command
The breakdown of social order 111
economy. The anthropologist Edmund Leach (1954) famously
found that among the Kachin of highland northern Burma
prior to the Second World War, some Kachin villages were
autonomous and egalitarian, others under the authority of
local Kachin chiefs. Historical evidence implied that particular
villages had oscillated between the two forms. Ray Abrahams
(1990) suggests the process identi¬ed by Leach in highland
Burma could be accounted for by the theory of complex sys-
tems, whose behaviour is unpredictable and verges on the
chaotic. Leach concluded that two ideal but con¬‚icting forms
of political organisation were recognised by the Kachin, the
egalitarian gumlao, and the hierarchical gumsa. Valley prince-
doms were based on irrigated rice cultivation, while the Kachin
living in the intervening highlands grew dry rice by means of
swidden agriculture. Kachin crops provided less taxable sur-
plus than irrigated rice and also obliged people to move every
few years, giving them greater opportunities to travel beyond
the boundaries of overbearing leaders, and rendering petty
chiefship unstable. Leach argued that gumsa chiefs among
the highland Kachin tended to accrue power until, seeking
to emulate the princes of neighbouring valleys, they fell foul
of contradictions in the use of highland resources, causing
rebellious subjects to re-establish gumlao and regain auton-
omy over the control of their crops and women. Jack Goody
(2001: 161“3) would interpret this as a case of civil society
rebelling against the state. (David Nugent (1982) has argued
that Kachin chiefs owed their power to the opium trade, and
that the rebellions documented by Leach occurred when the
British blocked opium trading.)
Fitness landscapes represent a type of complex system,
described by Stuart Kauffman as ˜order on the edge of chaos™
(Kauffman 1993: 181). Abrahams drew a parallel between
Leach™s analysis and the archaeologist Colin Renfrew™s
Order and anarchy
112
explanation for the sudden origin of agriculture in western
Asia about ten thousand years ago. Renfrew suggested catas-
trophe theory could explain the divergence of ways of life
based on alternative subsistence strategies (in this case, forag-
ing and cultivation). Under certain conditions, the costs and
bene¬ts for both may be equal, and a single community can
follow a mixed economy, in this instance combining foraging
with low-level husbandry. As conditions steadily change, their
relative costs and bene¬ts may shift. This occurred when the
dual economy in socialist Hungary, combining private and
co-operative production, was transferred to cities. Changing
conditions may render alternatives such as foraging and cul-
tivation incompatible but equally satisfactory solutions to the
costs and bene¬ts of subsistence. In the latter case, a bifur-
cation occurs in which some populations pursue a forager
trajectory while others move into cultivation (Renfrew 1978:
207“10), or some pursue private enterprise while others join
producer co-operatives or Mormon communities. If the two
are incompatible, however, there may be a sudden (˜catas-
trophic™) abandonment of one strategy and a switch to exclu-
sive dependence on the other (as is illustrated by the Kachin
and by urban Hungary).
The same approach can be taken to analysis of violent
social change in the twentieth century. The existing social
order breaks down when competing strategies gain ascen-
dancy. Ethnic and clan loyalties, for example, become more
viable when trust in the state is undermined. If communities
suspect that the state is favouring another sector of society, or
if the state fails to provide physical protection, legal redress
and a stable economy, people may suddenly reallocate their
resources to support alternative leaders. As Migdal puts it,
organisations such as states, ethnic groups, institutions based
on social class, villages etc. offer individuals ˜the components
for survival strategies™ (Migdal 1988: 29). These strategies are
The breakdown of social order 113
not ˜primordial™, in the sense of welling up from some original
stratum of human society, but active, and of contemporary
relevance. Political contests arise over which social strategies
to implement.
A revolution is therefore a contest with an uncertain out-
come (cf. Bailey 1969). Unstable social systems may provide
people with realisable options; each pathway transforming
the social system in different ways. When a complex system
enters an unstable state, individual action can have a notice-
able impact; this is the so-called ˜butter¬‚y effect™, where the
course of a storm can supposedly be altered by the ¬‚uttering of
a butter¬‚y™s wings (see Stewart 1997 and Layton 2000: 358“9).
The social order is vulnerable to partisan leaders who offer
quick solutions to growing hardship.
Migdal explains the spread of the nation state as a kind of
arms race, similar to the ˜Red Queen™ phenomenon in biologi-
cal evolution that drives the spiralling co-evolution of predator
and prey. New states come into being in response to existing
states that are transforming the social environment. If exist-
ing states are to be resisted, then new ones must be created to
counter them. Migdal argues that getting people to obey the
rules of the state rather than those of the manor or clan was
pursued less out of a desire for universal justice than with the
aim of ensuring the state™s leaders™ survival by drawing power
around them. There is, however, an implicit social contract,
in the sense used by Hobbes and Rousseau, between the state
and the people it governs. No state governs entirely by force.
A government that fails to honour the social contract becomes
vulnerable to other centres of power, in civil society.
The sudden abandonment of one strategy and a switch to
exclusive dependence on another is exempli¬ed by the over-
whelming pressure for change that came from nationalist lead-
ers as the Soviet Union disintegrated. As in the Yugoslavian
federation, they rushed to gain assets and autonomy to assure
Order and anarchy
114
their position in the new regime. Popular demands for liber-
ties outside the Soviet system could be suppressed as long as
regional leaders received powerful support from the centre,
but not once the centre was weakened. Regional leaders and
their rivals now had strong incentives to recruit popular sup-
port by presenting themselves as authentic representatives of
the local people. As occurred during gumlao revolt in highland
Burma, a ˜catastrophic™ switch to a new, autonomous political
strategy took place. Douglas McAdam, Sidney Tarrow and
Charles Tilly (2001) argue that one of the most important vari-
ables in the trajectory of violent social change is the defection
of members of the armed forces from the ruling coalition,
while others have shown that large numbers of unemployed
young men can readily be recruited as armed supporters of
aspiring leaders.

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