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Government as a resource
Ferguson (2003) is critical of the ˜weak state™ concept. He
points out that where poverty is pervasive even ˜weak™ gov-
ernments may be relatively wealthy, making access to gov-
ernment the source of the con¬‚ict. This point, while not (in
my assessment) undermining the general concept of weak
states, is substantiated by a number of African case studies.
Where NGOs bypass the state, replacing the state™s hierar-
chical structures with horizontal cross-national connections,
they also weaken the state. Where NGOs depend on existing
elites or state structures, however, they increase the resources
available to those in power. If the elite™s hold on power is weak,
control of the state may be challenged by rivals.
Duf¬eld (1994) argues the key to understanding the sur-
vival of the state in countries such as the Sudan is to recognise
that disasters have winners as well as losers. During the 1980s,
the Sudanese government captured large sums intended as
The breakdown of social order 115
local aid by overvaluing its currency, and requiring of¬ce
rents, salaries of national employees etc. to be paid in the
local currency. In this way, Sudan gained a sum equivalent to
half its annual military expenditure. Reyna (2003), however,
argues that the civil wars fought in Chad since independence
have been driven by competition for high of¬ce, for control
of the state. Probably 80 per cent of Chadians are subsistence
farmers. The only occupation that allows the accumulation of
wealth is that of high government of¬cial. Such wealth was
typically invested in local land and business, and in interna-
tional business deals.
G¨ nter Schlee (2002) reports a similar pattern in Somalia.
u
During the United Nations™ intervention in Somalia during
the early 1990s the numerous UN of¬cials living in a select
quarter of Mogadishu earned on average forty-¬ve times more
than a Somali minister. As Schlee suggests, it is not surprising
Somali bureaucrats made the food aid industry and other char-
itable institutions pay for allowing them to help the country.
Aid agency representatives, keen to complete their project
and move on to the next one, were often very willing to
pay bribes. Goods disappeared, along with posts allocated
to projects. Hence, as in the Sudan, ˜the state rapidly turned
into an instrument for accessing help from the outside and for
creaming off external resources™ (Schlee 2002: 256). While he
controlled the port of Mogadishu, General Aideed was able
to levy exorbitant taxes and take a direct cut of 10“20 per cent
of the incoming food. It is therefore not surprising that rival
groups challenged him for control of the Somali state.

Loose molecules
A revolutionary transition is likely to be triggered by a shift
in the balance of power between proponents of alternative
strategies. Robert Kaplan argued that social order in Africa is
Order and anarchy
116
being undermined by young men ¬‚ocking to cities ˜like loose
molecules in a very unstable social ¬‚uid, a ¬‚uid . . . on the
verge of igniting™ (Kaplan 1994: 46). Kaplan attributes their
¬‚ight from the countryside to over-population, the spread
of disease, deforestation and soil erosion; all in his opinion
brought about by local mismanagement. Duf¬eld (2001: 27)
traces the origin of the approach advocated by Kaplan to a UN
report published in 1981. The author, Sadruddin Aga Khan,
attributed the global rise in refugees during the 1970s to the
ready supply of arms to unstable governments, high popula-
tion growth, unemployment, deserti¬cation and rapid urban-
isation in the developing world. The counter view advocated
by developing states, that political instability was caused by
global inequality and balance of trade problems (i.e. underde-
velopment), made less impact. Sadruddin Aga Khan™s expla-
nation was attractive because it shifted blame from the West
to the victims of global change.
Richards (1996) challenges Kaplan™s argument, which he
terms the ˜New Barbarism thesis™. The war in Sierra Leone
grew out of the war in Liberia, the most sparsely populated and
densely forested country in the region. The war in Liberia can-
not therefore have been caused by land shortage. Sierra Leone
is more densely populated and has suffered more deforesta-
tion, but Kaplan™s data are erroneous (Richards 1996: 117“
24). In Sierra Leone rural population densities are declining
and there is under-used agricultural land. Richards contends
the war in Sierra Leone was caused by political collapse and
state recession, not overpopulation and land degradation (see
above).
Nonetheless, young unemployed or under-employed men
frequently ¬gure in accounts of recent social disorder in Africa.
Reyna (2003) reports that many of the soldiers powering the
civil wars in Chad are young men who have some schooling,
The breakdown of social order 117
but have been unable to complete secondary school. Many
dream of becoming government of¬cials, but in practice join
the urban unemployed, or return to rural villages. Many of
the Hutu extremist militias in Rwanda were also unemployed
or under-employed adolescent males armed only with clubs
and machetes (Taylor 1999: 5). Rwanda is the most densely
populated country in sub-Saharan Africa. Christopher Taylor
concedes that lack of land contributed to the genocide, but the
land is fertile and intensively cultivated, and two acres can
support a family of nine. However, coffee is virtually the only
export. Drought, combined with the decrease in world coffee
prices and a World Bank structural adjustment programme,
caused thousands in southwestern Rwanda to ¬‚ee to neigh-
bouring countries. Young unemployed or under-employed
men could ¬nd work by participating in the genocide. ˜Just
by becoming an Interahamwe and executing Tutsi, one could
elevate oneself to the status of “state employee”. One could
even expect eventual compensation from the state for one™s
services and indeed this was sometimes given and much more
frequently promised™ (Taylor 1999: 141).
Nor are ˜loose molecules™ only found in Africa. Johanna
Lessinger notes that modernising capitalist development often
tends, if incomplete, to produce large numbers of semi-
educated, under-employed young men. In India, the Hindu
Nationalist Party, the VHP, ˜has now added a youth wing to tap
the frustrations of young, unemployed urban men who enjoy
marching about, armed with spears™ (Lessinger 2003: 162).
Bette Denich describes how, during the months before war
in the Balkans, ˜A panoply of previously banned ¬‚ags, songs,
insignia and uniforms provided a made-to-order “anti-hero”
image, massively attracting the same young people who had
found themselves “super¬‚uous” during the years of economic
crisis™ (Denich 2003: 192). A former Bosnian Serb camp guard
Order and anarchy
118
told Denich that many people under twenty-¬ve had never
had a job. Once Muslim and Serb nationalists offered them
a hundred marks, they could then do what they liked with
them.
The ˜loose molecules™ metaphor stands for a real phe-
nomenon, but socially volatile young men are not produced
by some anarchy inherent in society; they are a product of the
global economy.

Game theory, and the Prisoner™s Dilemma
Is it possible to quantify the point at which a catastrophic shift
between incompatible strategies will occur? Chapter 2 dis-
cussed two ways of analysing the breakdown of mutual trust.
Axelrod™s (1990) experiments with the Prisoner™s Dilemma
demonstrated that, for reciprocity to persist, people must not
only have experience of each other as trustworthy partners in
previous social exchanges, but must also anticipate that they
will remain dependent on one another inde¬nitely. Axelrod
discovered that, if partners in mutual aid know they are par-
ticipating for the last time, and will not depend on each other
for further co-operation, they will have no incentive to give
their time and resources to help others and will withdraw into
sel¬shness (Axelrod 1990: 10“13). McAdam, Tarrow and Tilly
(2001: 251) describe the situation in Russia under Gorbachev™s
reforms in these terms: ˜Time horizons contracted rapidly. On
the large scale and the small, people could no longer count on
payoffs from long-term investment in the existing system;
they reoriented to short-term gains and exit strategies.™ Like
the two prisoners caught in the dilemma, they switched to
mutual defection. Stef Jansen analyses the published accounts
of three women (two Croat, one Serb) of the dissolution of the
Yugoslavian state. One (Dubravka Ugreˇic) wrote, ˜suddenly
s
The breakdown of social order 119
everything had to change: address books, the language and
our names, our identity . . . Everything changed with aston-
ishing speed into old garbage™ (Jansen 1998: 95). People who
had not discarded their Yugoslav identities became known as
˜Yugozombies™.
The breakdown of mutual trust can also be interpreted as
the consequence of moving from a non-zero-sum game to a
zero-sum game. If everyone™s wellbeing can be enhanced by
co-operation, they have a strong motive to work together (a
non-zero sum game). If resources are perceived to be ¬xed,
then con¬‚ict will break out in the scramble to secure the largest
portion for oneself. Ethnicity and kinship provide appropriate
organisations within civil society through which to realise that
goal. Schlee (2004) analyses the dynamics of the coalitions that
strove to control government during the civil war in Somalia
in these terms.
Terrorism is an effective way of eroding trust in the social
order. Renos Papadopoulos (2002) describes his therapeutic
work at the Tavistock Clinic, with Bosnian ex-camp pris-
oners freed by the Red Cross. He records that survivors
of atrocities not only lose their identi¬able material posses-
sions and human relationships; they also lose the reality of
belonging to a language group, and to a geographical and
built landscape. When neighbours attack each other, the vic-
tims lose even their personal identity and the ability to trust
in social relationships. Alfred Garwood draws on his own
experiences as a child survivor of the Holocaust, arguing that
Nazi behaviour toward enforced ghettos and concentration
camps was designed to make the Jews feel inadequate. ˜In
Germany and Austria increasingly anti-Jewish laws and pub-
lic humiliation were intended to disempower, impoverish and
terrorise . . . In the camps, infantilisation, humiliation, star-
vation, torture and murder were the daily fare™ (Garwood
Order and anarchy
120
2002: 363). The anthropologist Claude L´ vi-Strauss™s autobi-
e
ographical Tristes tropiques contains a moving account of the
motley collection of passengers on a ship escaping Europe
at the start of the Second World War. Many were severely
affected by the spitefulness and stupidity they had encoun-
tered from the crew, who knew the refugees had been stripped
of their social identity to become nonentities (L´ vi-Strauss
e
1973: 29).
In India, Hindu extremist violence was intended to paralyse
theexistingstateapparatusbycreatingchaos,terrorandbreak-
down of community, until particular localities were ungovern-
able. This is ˜a serious threat in a country with an enormous,
impoverished population and a poorly funded, rather fragile
state mechanism™ (Lessinger 2003: 172). Richards challenges
Kaplan™s attribution of violence in recent African civil wars
to irrational religious beliefs. Richards responds that while
it may be indefensible, terror is not irrational; it is sup-
posed to unsettle its victims. Terror tactics aim to demor-
alise better-armed soldiers and control villagers (Richards
1996: xx). Women™s hands were cut off in Sierra Leone to pre-
vent them harvesting crops. With no harvest accessible, young
recruits had no incentive to desert the rebels and return to their
villages.
Unlike ordinary criminals, terrorists aim to provoke an
over-reaction by the state. ˜If it began to appear to the civilian
populations that the liberal democratic nature of the society
was being damaged by the reaction of the government, then
the authorities would be blamed for the loss of freedom in the
long-term, not the terrorists™ (Alderdice 2002: 9). Terrorist
organisations regularly claim responsibility for their actions.
Such organisations aim to violate social norms and hence
provoke outrage, so that they cannot be ignored. Terrorists
aim to destroy faith in others™ willingness to reciprocate, and
hence to confront people with the lack of trust that leads to
The breakdown of social order 121
mutual defection in the Prisoner™s Dilemma, and retreat into
the security of one™s own ethnic or kin group.

s t r at e g i e s f o r r e d r aw i n g t h e l i m i ts o f
c i vi l s o c i et y: ( i ) k i n s h i p
Chapter 1 argued that kinship is not a ˜primordial™ basis for
social relationships, but a rational way of sustaining social
organisation. In his classic anthropological analysis of the
cattle-herding Nuer of the southern Sudan, Edward Evans-
Pritchard (1940) showed how a politically uncentralised soci-
ety can sustain social order. Evans-Pritchard argued that the
unity of each Nuer ˜tribe™ had an ecological basis: each tribe
united to defend grazing and water for livestock. As Dyson-
Hudson and Smith later clari¬ed (1978), pasture and water are
too sparse and unpredictable to justify smaller social groups
defending particular patches. In Evans-Pritchard™s time, the
Nuer had no chiefs, but within the tribe Nuer recognised medi-
ators who could intervene to resolve feuds, because everyone
shared a joint interest in guaranteeing freedom of movement.
Cattle were, on the other hand, owned by lineages (groups
reputedly descended from a common male ancestor) within
the tribe. Households managed their own herds but could
borrow cattle from others in their own lineage if they lost
livestock through raiding, disease or drought. The lineage
provided mutual insurance for its members (cf. Spencer 1965
on the related Samburu). Disputes were therefore most likely
to break out between different lineages in the same tribe.
Marriage took place between lineages within the tribe, creat-
ing alliances between households.
In Northern Albania and Somalia, the traditional social
organisation of peasant farmers and herders was also based on
autonomous lineages, linked by marriage alliances or opposed
through feuding. The anthropologists who described these
Order and anarchy
122
cases noted that both societies resembled the Nuer. In the
absence of a reliable state organisation, local allegiances were
important. The breakdown of the state resulted in the resur-
gence of lineage organisation as a more effective strategy
for ensuring personal survival. Lineage organisation persisted
because it continued to meet local social needs and was even
supported by weak state government as a means of indirectly
extending government power to the local level.

Somalia
PriortoEuropeancolonisationtherewasnocentralisedstatein
Somalia. Somalis belonged to autonomous lineages and were
only united by a common language (Lewis 1997: 181). Somalia
is the sole country in Africa where the majority still practise
nomadic pastoralism. Pastoral politics is based on coalitions
of kin, as among the Nuer. Larger groups have an advantage
in disputes, because their strength discourages smaller groups
from taking vengeance, and each member has to contribute less
when compensation for murder is paid. Schlee (2002) argues
that force underlies rather than bends the rules.
Somalia was colonised after the opening of the Suez Canal
in 1869 but became an independent nation state in 1960.
After independence, the state fell apart. The erroneous notion
that pastoralism is backward and unproductive, held by both
the Somali state and external development agencies, led to
increasing neglect of the pastoral economy. Lack of alter-
native exports limited the income available to the state. Civil
servants were paid the same rate throughout the 1960s, despite
hyperin¬‚ation.
In response to the bankruptcy of the state, General
Mohamad Siad Barre staged a successful coup in 1969. His
own clan provided the core of his power base, supported by
The breakdown of social order 123
his mother™s clan. His son-in-law™s clan controlled the national
security service (Lewis 1997: 183n). Lineage organisation had
taken control of the state. Siad Barre assumed sole right to allo-
cate rights to land and water, eradicating customary tenure and
therefore the authority of local leaders. But Siad Barre under-
mined his own attempts to eliminate the power base of clans by
also using the clan system to his own advantage. He pitted clan
against clan, sub-clan against sub-clan, in order to maximise
his power. His ˜distribution of rewards and punishments was
carefully calculated to ensure a network of loyal supporters
spread throughout all clans™ (Besteman 2003: 292).
In 1977 Barre launched a failed attack on the Ogaden region
of southern Ethiopia, peopled by clans related to the Somalis.
Barre™s defeat in Ethiopia weakened his army. Clans in the
north of Somalia rebelled against his rule. Human rights
organisations eventually persuaded foreign governments to
stop providing aid. Barre™s reach dwindled to members of his
own clan, the Marehan. Even parts of his mother™s clan and
son-in-law™s clan defected (Schlee 2002: 257). Siad Barre was
overthrown in 1991 by the Hawiye group of clans, led by
General Aideed. The north reacted by declaring itself inde-
pendent within the borders of Somaliland, the former British
colony (Lewis 1997: 184). Ioan Lewis cited the experience of a
Somali friend, a former Minister of the Interior, who decided
to return to his clan in the north. He and a group of friends
and relatives formed a convoy of seventy vehicles, which took
two months to complete a journey that in peacetime would
have taken twenty-four hours. The convoy had its own armed
escorts, and was forced to hire local guides and protectors
for each of the clan territories they crossed. Four vehicles
were looted, one by its armed escort. Eighteen people died
on the journey and thirty were injured, but nine babies were
born.
Order and anarchy
124
In the remainder of Somalia, leaders of rival clans contin-
ued to battle for power. By 1990 there were no courts and no
university: academics and lawyers were out of work (Bowden
1999: 114). In the four months between November 1991 and
February 1992, it is estimated that 14,000 people were killed.
Each side attacked the agricultural region between the two
southern rivers that provides much of Somalia™s food. Approx-
imately 11,000 southerners ¬‚ed to Kenya and other countries
(Declich 2001). With farming devastated, famine spread and
30,000 more died from starvation.
Schlee argues that Somali lineage society is not immutable,
but Somali warlords must nonetheless follow cultural patterns
when they build up alliances. As Giddens (1984: 170) pointed
out, social structures are both enabling and constraining. ˜The
clan organisation provides them with the tools and the material
of military recruitment while, at the same time, it limits their
freedom of choice in recruiting who they want™ (Schlee 2004:
151). Opting for a particular rhetoric, such as brotherhood with
another Somali group, forecloses the possibility of marriage
with that group. The logic of alliance may also mean that one™s
brother™s brothers also demand hospitality. One may become
entangled in more relationships than one can oversee oneself,
while some people™s decisions about which identity to adopt
affect others who were left out of that decision.

Albania
Albania is inhabited by two major ethnic groups, the Ghegs in
the north, the Tosks in the south. Ian Whitaker describes the
Ghegs as ˜the only true example of a tribal system surviving in
Europe until the mid-twentieth century™ (Whitaker 1968: 254).
The clan (¬s) was a group of people claiming descent from a
common male ancestor over fourteen to ¬fteen generations,
The breakdown of social order 125
although many links may be ¬ctitious. The living members of
the lineage consisted of a number of extended family house-
holds, some containing as many as sixty to ninety people, who
owned property in common (Whitaker 1968: 256). A tradi-
tional ˜territory™ in northern Albania contained a conquering
clan, previous inhabitants and newer arrivals (Doja 1999).
The traditional Albanian law code of kanun insists, among
other things, upon absolute loyalty to one™s kin group and
hence encourages treachery toward others. Adherence to
kanun promotes feuding (Boehm 1992), but also provides pro-
cedures for ending a feud. ˜People are divided into friend
and foe through employing “tradition” as a moral code that
justi¬es categories of inclusion and exclusion™ (Schwandner-
Sievers 1999: 135). Blood feuds are brought to an end by
creating classi¬catory brotherhood between the groups. Both
parties must agree that honour has been satis¬ed (138). Clan
leaders (bajraktars) acted as judges, who arbitrated in dis-
putes. The Ottoman Turks, unable to reach individuals except
through the mediating structures of civil society, relied on
them heavily (Whitaker 1968: 259).
After the Second World War, the Communist Party made
a point of attacking what it called the ˜traditional patriarchal
family™. Powerful families were the most subject to perse-
cution, poverty and humiliation (Schwandner-Sievers 1999:
148). Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers argues the communist
state™s weak hold over local communities nonetheless led it
covertly to continue to rely upon traditional local leaders
(1999: 135; cf. Zubaida 2001: 243 on the Middle East). She also
writes, ˜The concepts of honour and humiliation, of alter-
nating appeasement and violence, were reproduced by the
ideology and actions of the highest communist of¬cials™ (136).
The collapse of communism created a ˜law vacuum™, causing
a reversion to earlier social procedures, not because they were
Order and anarchy

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