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126
primordialbutbecausetheprocedures hadtacitly beenallowed
to continue. Kanun was revived and, perhaps, reinterpreted
after the socialist government collapsed. Traditionally pow-
erful families set out to recover their status, and reverse the
socialist redistribution of land. Because they had not joined
the Communist Party, the honour of traditionally powerful
families was uncompromised (139).
The status of a family now again depends on its ability to
defend itself and kill others. Violent interactions are driven
by a family™s estimation of its own status and integrity, the
aim to be respected by others, and actual village opinion.
˜People . . . want to legitimize political violence and killing
and to claim self-regulation and the monopoly of violence in
opposition to the State™ (Schwandner-Sievers 1999: 134). High
status families once again guarantee the safety of others, their
clients. The protected family accepts a lower status.

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 i ) et h n i c i t y
Seligman (1992) and Gellner (1994) regarded ethnicity and
kinship as two irredeemably ˜primordial™ and irrational types
of social allegiance that undermined modern civil society.
Chapter 1 argued this view arises from a particular vision
of civil society as something that crystallised at a particular
point in ˜human progress™; something associated with a market
economy, in which civil society should support the state if the
state allows free trade and private property, but oppose it if
the state is antagonistic to these traits. Chapter 1 went on to
argue for a broader de¬nition of civil society, and criticised
the supposition that social behaviour associated with Western
society since the eighteenth century is unique in its rationality.
Like kinship, ethnicity is ¬‚exible. Fredrik Barth, who intro-
duced use of game theory to anthropology (Barth 1959), also
The breakdown of social order 127
transformed anthropologists™ understanding of ethnic iden-
tity. Barth (1969) argued against the primordial character of
ethnicity. He noted that people can join or leave ethnic groups,
and ethnic groups are often interdependent rather than iso-
lates, de¬ned in opposition to each other. Barth characteris-
tically advocated a generative approach to ethnicity, asking
why participants found ethnic identity useful in social inter-
action and why, therefore, ethnic boundaries persisted. He
argued that sharing a common culture is a result, rather than a
cause, of individuals™ decisions. Case studies showed that some
cultural features are used by actors as signals of identity and
difference, while other potential markers are ignored, demon-
strating that strategic decisions are being made. Identifying
someone else as a member of one™s ethnic group implies an
assumption that ˜the two are fundamentally “playing the same
game”™ (Barth 1969: 15), while treating the other as a stranger
from another ethnic group assumes fewer shared understand-
ings and different value judgements. Barth advocated treating
each ethnic group as part of other such groups™ environment,
leading to separation, interdependence or competition. Peo-
ple will join, and identify with, an ethnic group if they need
to do so to obtain essential resources.1
If ethnic identity is only one option, yet is advocated as
the most reliable source of mutual aid, what gives ethnic his-
tory contemporary salience (Turton 1997: 11)? ˜Constructed,
manipulated histories must be true enough to the known past,
and responsive enough to present anxieties, to be believable ™
(Ferguson 2003: 21). During con¬‚ict between ethnic groups,
opposing sides often start and stop history at different points,
often starting where their ancestors were victims of unjusti¬ed


Song (2003) points out that movement between ethnic groups is more
1

dif¬cult where ethnicity is associated with physical difference.
Order and anarchy
128
aggression. Intellectuals can thus play a crucial role in retelling
history so as to justify ethnic exclusiveness and the persecution
of less powerful communities. Eric Hobsbawm wrote that ˜his-
torians are to nationalists what poppy-growers in Pakistan are
to heroin addicts™ (Hobsbawm 1992: 3, cited in Turton 1997:
14). This point is reiterated by Gallagher (1997: 59), writ-
ing on Yugoslavia. The role of intellectuals and mass media
in promoting the Rwandan genocide is a pervasive theme in
Taylor™s account (Taylor 1999, particularly 55“8). Like the
campaigns against immigration mounted by the tabloid press
in the United Kingdom, mass media can promote discourses
that legitimate subversive strategies at moments of potentially
catastrophic change. Local perceptions may not be realistic,
but unscrupulous political leaders may argue unfairly for their
constituency. Hindu nationalists disregard the fact that Indian
Muslims are generally poorer than Hindus, less polygamous,
own less land, have a lower life expectancy and higher unem-
ployment, and instead allege that Muslims have an unfair
advantage in competition for apparently limited resources
(Rao and Reddy 2001). They advocate, in other words, a view
of inter-ethnic relations as a zero-sum game. Nandini Rao and
C. Rammanohar Reddy (2001) look at the role of the media
in shaping the discourse of Hindu nationalism. Marcus Banks
(1999) analyses the way that Western mass media provided
outsiders with over-simpli¬ed understandings of the Bosnian
con¬‚ict, legitimising claims for ethnic identity.
The following paragraphs look at the role of ethnic alle-
giance in the breakdown of social order in Indonesia, north-
ern India and Yugoslavia, arguing that ethnic identity is not
primordial but is used strategically to promote competition
for resources, when these are perceived to be ¬xed, and to
break down the trust upon which wider social networks of co-
operation and reciprocity depend. The aim is not to determine
The breakdown of social order 129
whether or not civil society is a ˜good thing™, merely to explain
why people behave in certain ways “ why they adopt partic-
ular social strategies “ in certain circumstances; to examine,
in other words, which familiar strategies in the actor™s habi-
tus best advance his or her interests in the local social and
economic environment.

Indonesia
Keebet von Benda-Beckmann™s study (2004) of recent violence
on the Indonesian island of Ambon illustrates the situational
relevance of ethnic identity, and the historical contingency of
its construction. The violence began on 19 January 1999, when
an Ambonese motor taxi driver got into a ¬ght with a Buginese
tricycle taxi rider. While this type of ¬ght had often occurred
before in the multi-ethnic neighbourhood, such ¬ghts were
usually transient. This time, however, the ¬ght led to a long
period of rioting that has approached civil war. Christian and
Muslimreligiousleaders,localleaders,in¬‚uentialintellectuals,
high politicians and even the president tried to create peace
and reconciliation, but in vain. Why had society reached a
critical point, where catastrophic social change was possible?
Christianity and Islam were both introduced to the region
in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, during a
time of colonial competition between Dutch and Portuguese.
Those who supported the Dutch adopted Christianity, while
those who supported Moluccan leaders and the Portuguese
adopted Islam. Further fault lines were introduced during the
colonial period, when the Dutch halted development of
the inter-village political structures that were the ¬rst steps
toward indigenous state formation. Adat (traditional law) can
therefore now only be used to resolve disputes within, not
between, villages. During the nineteenth century Butonese
Order and anarchy
130
migrants were encouraged to settle between existing villages,
to act as a buffer zone between competing parties. The Dutch
favoured Christians, creating a Christian state administrative
system. This caused a very biased pattern of access to higher
education until a campaign was launched during the 1980s
for the appointment of Muslim of¬cials in provincial admin-
istration. While the admission of Muslims increased the sense
of insecurity among Christians, Christians and Muslims are
united against Butonese immigrants in defending the principle
that only native ethnic Ambonese are eligible for appointment.
Contemporary ethnicity in Indonesia is therefore far from
˜primeval™; it has repeatedly been reconstructed and given
contemporary salience by colonial and post-colonial govern-
ment policies.
The region had attempted to achieve independence from
Indonesia immediately after the colonial period. In response,
the Indonesian government turned Ambon into an important
naval base. Indonesia™s ruler Suharto granted one of his sons
a monopoly on the lucrative trade in cloves and ownership of
one of the largest factories locally producing clove cigarettes.
One of the greatest problems for the state is therefore the
failure of the implicit social contract between people and gov-
ernment.
Benda-Beckmann argues that although the taxi driver was
Christian and the becak (tricycle taxi) driver Muslim, reli-
gion was at ¬rst only marginally signi¬cant. The dispute
was between a local population and a population of recent
migrants, and was concerned with access to jobs in the
private economy. Becak driving had until then been dom-
inated by immigrant Buginese and Macassarese. Suffering
from the effects of the economic depression, local Ambonese
tried to break down this ethnic segmentation and move into
The breakdown of social order 131
pedal-powered taxi operation. Ethnic identity was more sig-
ni¬cant than the Christian/Muslim divide. Soon, however,
disloyal high of¬cers were reported to be using semi-militia
and groups of militant youths to provoke unrest and hence
enhance their position. The police were reported to side with
Christians and the army with Muslims, while the navy appears
to have remained neutral. As in Paris during the 1790 revo-
lution, the state was losing its monopoly over the control of
force.

India
Violence is not inevitable or primordial in India. Hindus and
Muslims have lived together peacefully, even fruitfully, for
long periods. Rao and Reddy (2001) explain the Hindu Nation-
alist Party™s campaign to demolish the mosque at Ayodhya
that provided one of the starting points for the present study
as an opportunist exploitation of the ruling Congress Party™s
weakness during the early 1990s. The Congress Party was
in decline, but none of the competing parties was powerful
enough to replace it. The Congress government was bound
to defend India™s secular constitution but, in opposing the
destruction of the mosque, it could be made to appear to sup-
port the Muslim minority against the Hindu majority.
Lessinger (2003) argues that religion is an effective means
of mobilising violence in India because religious communities
are not localised. Muslims and Christians can be constructed
as ubiquitous enemies of Hinduism, and Hinduism identi¬ed
with Indian nationalism. McAdam, Tarrow and Tilly (2001),
drawing on the anthropological work of Beth Roy, similarly
argue that religion is not necessarily an effective way of de¬n-
ing factions at the village level. However, the higher a local
Order and anarchy
132
dispute goes the more it can be rede¬ned as a dispute between
Muslims and Hindus, not one between neighbours. Caste is
locally relevant but ineffective as an organising principle for
political dispute at the national level because castes are too
diverse. Religion provides a simpler, more pervasive set of
oppositions. As Fredrik Barth predicted, during any dispute a
particular subset of identities emerges as their political poten-
tial in the current con¬‚ict becomes apparent. Thus, during
the violence that followed the destruction of the mosque at
Ayodhya by Hindu extremists, a killing in Hyderabad was
highlighted at the time as the Hindu murder of a Muslim,
although it later proved actually to be linked to a dispute
between two local gangs over land.

Former Yugoslavia
After the Yugoslav Communist Party was disbanded in
January 1990, nationalism came to the fore. Serbs recalled
the wartime atrocities of the Ustashe, pointing to the fact
that Tudjman, the Croatian leader, had revived the chequer-
board Croatian ¬‚ag last ¬‚own by the Second World War
Fascist Ustashe. Croatians countered by recalling massacres
and forced relocations of Croats perpetrated by the wartime
Serb Chetniks, and the killing of tens of thousands of anti-
communist refugees turned back at the Austrian border by the
British army (Denich 1994: 379, Tanner 1997: 160). As Denich
writes, ˜Con¬‚icts over various issues in shifting localities were
symbolically manipulated to polarize public opinion along the
lines of resurgent ethnic identities.™ Nationalists seized upon
˜the random constellations that create opportunities for those
who lurk off-stage with alternate scripts™ (Denich 1994: 369).
TaylordescribesasimilarprocessinRwanda(Taylor 1999:86).
The breakdown of social order 133
As Yugoslavian unity broke down, however, many found
it increasingly expedient not only to secure a new national
identity, but to increase that nation™s share of the limited area
oflandwithinformerYugoslavia™sborders.Chasingpeopleoff
land they had occupied for centuries was a particular problem
in Bosnia, where Serbs made up nearly three-fourths of the
farmers but only a third of the total population (Verderey 1999:
102). ˜If the state was to be rede¬ned, average citizens needed to
rede¬ne their way of accessing it and had reason to fear being
“left out in the cold” in the prospective power allocation along
ethnic lines™ (Denich 2003: 191). During the Serb invasion of
Croatia, Catholic churches were burnt down, birth and death
registers destroyed and local museums ransacked, in attempts
to destroy evidence of long-term Croatian residence. Denich
quotes a Croatian Serb:
So long as Yugoslavia™s federal structure was emphasized, we didn™t
raise questions about national [Serb or Croatian] consciousness and
national institutions. We considered Yugoslavia to be our state . . . But
now that there are fewer and fewer Yugoslavs and more and more
Croats, Slovenians, Serbs, Albanians and so on, we realized that we
Serbs in Croatia need to return to our own national identity. (Denich
1994: 377)

Other authors describe the same experience. Jansen has
already been cited. Edward Vulliamy quotes a Bosnian who
told him:
I never thought of myself as a Muslim. I don™t know how to pray. I
never went to a mosque. I™m European like you. I don™t want the Arab
world to help us; I want Europe to help us. But now I have to think
of myself as a Muslim, not in a religious way, but as a member of a
people. Now we are faced with obliteration, I have to understand what
it is about me and my people they wish to obliterate. (Vulliamy 1994:
65, quoted in Gallagher 1997: 63)
Order and anarchy
134

c on c lu s i on
The existing social order breaks down when changes in
the economic and social ˜¬tness landscape ™ undermine the
effectiveness of previously dominant social organisations and
empower other, competing strategies. Civil institutions in the
existing cultural repertoire may be promoted in place of the
state, and may be used in novel ways. Transformation of
the shape of the ¬tness landscape renders previously dominant
strategies and institutions less adaptive than their alternatives,
in the sense that they are no longer most effective at advancing
the individual™s survival.
Like Bourdieu and Giddens, Schlee argues that game the-
ory must be combined with sociological analysis to under-
stand why particular social identities are selected to promote
con¬‚ict or alliance. Game theory is ˜culture free™, but in prac-
tice ˜social identities cannot be made up at will, because they
have to be plausible to others™ (Schlee 2004: 137). Schlee, too,
aims to strike a balance between the economic approach of
game theory, in which individuals are considered separately
to calculate the costs and bene¬ts of engaging in con¬‚ict,
and the sociological approach that focuses on social struc-
tures and their cognitive representations. Identities such as
ethnic groups and nations are not, as Eric Hobsbawm and
Terrence Ranger (1983) argued, ˜inventions™, but construc-
tions built upon local materials and having an internal logic
or coherence. Recent constructions may use old materials.
L´ vi-Strauss (1966) called this intellectual restructuring of
e
existing cultural themes bricolage. Bricolage gives new social
constructions familiarity, plausibility and a seeming natural-
ness. Applying this approach to the recent con¬‚ict in Somalia,
Schlee argues that ethnicity and clanship are not immutable,
but nor are warlords completely free to reorganise society.
The breakdown of social order 135
They must follow cultural patterns when they construct new
alliances. Giddens (1984: 170) pointed out that social structures
are both enabling and constraining. As far as Somali warlords
are concerned, ˜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).
David Turton follows Glazier and Moynihan (1979), argu-
ing that where the state holds ¬nite resources (a zero-sum
game) the best strategy is to make claims as a group which
is small enough for its members to make signi¬cant gains.
Ethnicity satis¬es this need better than class. Ethnic identities
can rapidly come and go but history can be selectively called
upon to give them plausibility. Both ethnicity and kinship are
cultural constructs whose salience depends on their political
usefulness. When current conditions are unstable, people are
vulnerable to claims by aspiring leaders that those currently
in power cannot protect them, and that they would do better
to fall back on local networks based on kinship, clientage or
sect (Ferguson 2003: 29).
Since ethnicity and kinship both depend on exclusion, they
are likely to precipitate violence. The trick performed by
ethnic or nationalist extremists is to convince members of
a multi-ethnic community that they can dispense with each
other™s help in future (the Prisoner™s Dilemma) and instead
¬ght for the largest share of limited resources by claiming an
inalienable entitlement (a zero-sum game). Inter-ethnic vio-
lence is often started by small groups of armed men, but the
terror they generate encourages a single axis of identity that
overrides the previous complex of cross-cutting ties. Actors
lose trust in those on whom they previously relied in a wider
social network. The evolutionary landscape is transformed.
Civil society provides alternative social groupings, which can
Order and anarchy
136
compete for dominance in the state or withdraw into autarky,
as society bifurcates along different trajectories.
Inrecentdecades,thebreakdownofsocialorderisoftenpre-
cipitated by international economic intervention that diverts
state income into repaying Western debts, or reduces the
value of a country™s principal exports. Privatisation of land
may destroy the traditional civil society of rural communi-
ties and lineages, creating ˜loose molecules™, while the unsus-
tainable cost of bureaucratic government can cause a return
to patronage. The structure of the state, and the presence
of complementary or competing social organisations in civil
society, determine the course of social change once the existing
social order gives way. The adoption of new strategies may
have unforeseen consequences. Competing social strategies
for control of resources may complement or con¬‚ict with one
another, while the presence of agents of violence in the armed
forces or unemployed young men can erode trust in the exist-
ing order and compel the adoption of strategies of exclusion.
Ethnicity and kinship may capture people ™s trust and loyalty
when the state can no longer be relied upon.
The West is profoundly implicated in the breakdown
of social order in Africa. Our refusal to acknowledge that
role is symptomatic of continuing Western racism. Robert
Kaplan (1994) attributes African disorder entirely to indige-
nous causes: animist beliefs based on irrational spirit power,
loose family structures responsible for high birth rates and
the rapid spread of HIV and other diseases, reliance on the
˜arti¬cially™ high price of cocoa and so forth. Kaplan™s ˜New
Barbarism™ carefully diverts attention away from the slavers
and ivory traders of colonial times and their modern equiv-
alents, the diamond smugglers, drug pushers and arms deal-
ers who are implicated in the contemporary breakdown of
order (Richards 1996: 87). The centre of the world economic
The breakdown of social order 137
system sucks resources out of the periphery to sustain its demo-
cratic, bureaucratic social system. As one moves outward to
the periphery, a point is passed beyond which there are insuf-
¬cient resources in local circulation to sustain democracy or
bureaucracy, and patronage takes over. The transition may
be sudden, catastrophic. It may be violent, but the changing
environment that renders innovative strategies effective is not
shaped by local agents alone.
c h a pt e r 4
Warfare, biology and culture



As chapter 3 has shown, there have been many violent con-
¬‚icts in Europe, Africa and Asia during the 1990s. Society
seems increasingly vulnerable to apparently mindless acts of
destruction. Some authors have concluded that humans are
genetically disposed to violence and that culture provides
an inadequate safeguard. Robert Kaplan argues that where
there is mass poverty, people ¬nd liberation in violence. ˜Only
when people attain a certain economic, educational and cul-
tural standard is this trait tranquilized™ (Kaplan 1994: 73).

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