LINEBURG


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that Gellner decried.

c on c lu s i on
This chapter has argued for Locke™s broad conception of
civil society. Civil society can develop without the aid of
a sovereign or centralised state. People can come together
Self-interest and social evolution 91
to co-ordinate the peaceful pursuit of their own ˜projects™
(Gouldner 1980) without the intervention of a higher author-
ity. As Locke argued, self-interest can itself create social order.
Locke™s state of nature is an ideal and there are many limited
forms of sovereignty. The state may willingly delegate or pas-
sively acquiesce in the transfer of limited sovereignty to local
communities. The Hobbesian notion that the state alone pre-
vents local communities from dissolving into a war of every
man against every other man is inaccurate, although con-
tested sovereignty relies on a visible threat of violence and
war may begin if mutual trust breaks down. Where the state
or local civil society does fragment, the reasons are therefore
likely to be found either in the dynamics of structuration, as
the consequences of past social interaction in¬‚uence future
behaviour, or in changes in the social and economic environ-
ment. There is no doubt that our ability to keep track of social
relationships and assess others™ trustworthiness is genetically
determined, but human social behaviour is ¬‚exible. We can
change our social strategies according to circumstances, and
those circumstances can be represented as a socio-economic
environment whose evolutionary trajectory is the emergent
outcome of enacting strategies. An increase in free-riding or
scrounging can undermine co-operation and reciprocity. The
causes of breakdown in the social order are discussed in the
next chapter.
c h a pt e r 3
The breakdown of social order



This chapter addresses two questions: what turns civil soci-
ety against the state? What causes co-operation and reci-
procity within civil society to give way to competition and
con¬‚ict? The analysis is based on a combination of two the-
oretical approaches, the social theory of Pierre Bourdieu and
Anthony Giddens, and the applications of game theory devel-
oped by behavioural ecologists. Bourdieu and Giddens, whose
ideas are mentioned in chapter 2, were critical of two preced-
ing schools of thought in social science. They argued for a
synthesis that would acknowledge the strengths of both, but
overcome the weaknesses of each school. On one hand there
was a sociological tradition that considered individuals to be
embedded in a social system, not free agents (classically rep-
resented in anthropology by Durkheim 1938 and Radcliffe-
Brown 1952). According to this school, we are born into a
society that allocates us to pre-determined social roles, so
that everyone plays their part in sustaining the social order.
Bourdieu and Giddens objected to this school™s tendency to
imply that social systems were inherently stable, and that indi-
viduals™ interests were subordinated to the needs of society
(Bourdieu 1977: 5, Giddens 1984: 25). Such ˜structural™ analy-
sis also tended to render variation in individual performances
as deviations from an unwritten score (the roles that individ-
uals play on behalf of society), but Bourdieu argued that these
92
The breakdown of social order 93
roles are in fact sociological constructs built by the analyst.
Both Bourdieu and Giddens argued that social order emerges
spontaneously through interaction. The existence of a social
system is not evidence that actors are striving to achieve it,
nor is it evidence there is a supra-organic entity, ˜society™, that
tries to maintain its own structure.
At the other extreme, the game theorists treated individ-
uals as strategists acting solely in their own self-interest and
constructing social relationships where none had previously
existed (Blau 1964, von Neumann and Morgenstern 1944).
Bourdieu and Giddens were opposed to treating actors as
completely rational, playing the pure strategies of game the-
ory. Instead, they argued, people should be viewed as agents
seeking to shape their own future, but playing culturally spe-
ci¬c strategies they have learned as children and reproduce
(or modify) as adults. Each social tradition has its own distinc-
tive strategies, which have been shaped by trial and error so
that they converge on ˜objective conditions™ (Bourdieu 1977:
109). Bourdieu used the word ˜habitus™ to describe the social
practices we learn as children and act out as adults.
The middle way advocated by Giddens and Bourdieu con-
tended that social systems are created by the interaction of
agents using cultural strategies that have been negotiated over
successive generations. Participants in social exchange expe-
rience social life as a sequence of transactions, each of which
is prompted by the previous offering and seeks to in¬‚uence
subsequent exchanges (Bourdieu 1977: 25). Agents make sense
of what is happening through what Giddens called their prac-
tical consciousness, but they are unlikely to be fully aware of
the rami¬cations of their own decisions upon others in the
community. Agents™ activities frequently reproduce the con-
ditions that continue to make those activities possible. ˜Each
of the various forms of constraint are thus also, in varying
Order and anarchy
94
ways, forms of enablement™ (Giddens 1984: 173). Sometimes,
however, agents™ strategies undermine the preconditions that
enabled them, making social change unavoidable (Giddens
1984: 170).
While I ¬nd Bourdieu™s and Giddens™s approach helpful, I
consider their rejection of evolutionary theory unnecessary.
Behavioural ecology can help to identify the circumstances
that bring about social change; speci¬cally, the conditions
under which the existing social order of the nation state is
weakened suf¬ciently to allow competing organisations in
civil society to gain greater prominence. Game theory and
the Prisoner™s Dilemma can explain why agents sometimes
change strategies, and how the new strategies transform the
wider social system through the often unintended effects of
structuration. Agents™ strategies are directed toward manag-
ing or controlling resources in the social environment, and the
model of the ¬tness landscape provides a way of representing
how particular strategies can sometimes provide stable solu-
tions to social living, yet at other times be undermined by shifts
in the distribution of resources. The neo-Darwinian approach
investigates the relative advantage of alternative behaviours
for the reproductive success of an individual within a given
environment. Just as any population contains genetic variabil-
ity, so there are likely to be competing social strategies in play
in any human community. There may, for example, always
be some cheating in a system of reciprocal altruism (Vickery
et al. 1991, Winterhalder 1996). Changes in the distribution
of resources in the social environment may undermine the
previously dominant strategy and allow subordinate ones to
prosper.
Chapter 2 identi¬ed two simple and well-established mod-
els for explaining the breakdown of co-operation: ¬rstly the
transition from a non-zero-sum game to a zero-sum game, and
The breakdown of social order 95
secondly the inability to generate mutual trust when faced with
the Prisoner™s Dilemma. Both models underline the fact that
human agency is expressed in a social environment, where
the availability of information and material resources deter-
mine the most effective strategy to adopt in particular circum-
stances. They help explain what turns civil society against the
state, and why co-operation within civil society may give way
to competition and con¬‚ict.
Chapter 2 showed that people normally value social rela-
tionships and do not readily repudiate them. Even in the most
elementary and seemingly anarchic social situations, people
negotiate ways of upholding social interaction. When Alex de
Waal studied the impact of famine on the peasant farmers of the
Darfur region of the Sudan, he was surprised to ¬nd that people
were more afraid that famine would erode the social relation-
ships on which everyone depended for mutual aid than they
were of suffering physical hunger (de Waal 1989). If the exist-
ing social order is to persist, however, it must be economically
sustainable. Locally adaptive strategies can be undermined by
transformations in the ˜¬tness landscape™ brought about
by neighbouring agents following competing strategies, and
by outside intervention. If humans attach so much importance
to social relations, why do people connive in disrupting and
destroying the existing social order? I argue that the exist-
ing social order breaks down when changes in the economic
and social ¬tness landscape undermine the effectiveness of
previously dominant social organisations and empower other
strategies, often ones that already exist as subordinate parts
of the cultural repertoire. The distribution of force may drift
away from the state and become concentrated in competing
organisations within civil society.
In the ¬rst part of chapter 3, several causes of social insta-
bility are identi¬ed. Given the level of income created in
Order and anarchy
96
their market economy and the state™s limited ability to col-
lect tax revenue, some African states cannot afford to sustain
the bureaucratic government they inherited from the colo-
nial era. Internal dif¬culties are exacerbated by international
politics and economics. Many recent ethnographic studies of
social disorder implicate globalisation and structural adjust-
ment programmes in the erosion of the nation state™s ability
to ful¬l its social contract with citizens. Even in impoverished
societies,however,controlofthestatemaystillbeaprizeworth
winning, particularly if foreign aid is channelled through the
government, encouraging civil war in the scramble to gain
control of government resources. Privatisation of common
land held by local communities or lineages enables the rise of
a landowning elite and, more importantly, destroys the local
traditional civil society, as it did in England. Shifts in the local
distribution of power also occur where foreign agents seek to
gain control of valuable mineral resources. All these condi-
tions make it increasingly dif¬cult to sustain existing social
networks.
The second part of the chapter exempli¬es the two ways
of analysing the breakdown of mutual trust that were iden-
ti¬ed in chapter 2. Robert Axelrod described how, if an end
to mutual dependence can be foreseen, partners in reciprocal
exchange will succumb to the temptation to defect from the
relationship. Game theory predicts that, if players perceive
that they have moved from a non-zero-sum game where co-
operation increases the players™ gains, to a zero-sum game
where resources are ¬xed, co-operation will give way to com-
petition. ˜Loose molecules™, young men who have lost work
as a result of structural adjustment or the destruction of rural
civil society, can be harnessed to new social movements that
increase the power of aspiring leaders. Following Bourdieu
and Giddens, however, the actual strategies available to agents
The breakdown of social order 97
are part of the local cultural repertoire. The trajectory of social
process will depend to some extent on the character of those
strategies. Case studies from Indonesia, India, Yugoslavia,
Albania and Somalia show how, in particular cultural tradi-
tions, ethnicity and kinship provide the basis for excluding
former partners in citizenship through the construction of a
more restricted network of social relations, often violently
enacted.
Revolutions never completely destroy existing social insti-
tutions. Examination of actual cases of radical social change
suggests there is in fact always some degree of continuity
in social practice, even where local communities face acute
dispossession. The breakdown of social order rarely if ever
results in total anarchy or asociality, but rather precipitates a
shift between existing strategies, or the harnessing of current
strategies to new ends (see, for example, the analysis of the
French Revolution in McAdam, Tarrow and Tilly 2001: 53“8).
Social change may be peaceful, but violence is likely when
change threatens the position of social groups who have the
power to resist, particularly where armed force is relatively
evenly distributed between competing factions.


c au s e s o f b r e a k d ow n o f s o c i a l o r d e r
The cost of government
Bureaucracy has the potential to dissolve local allegiances and
build up loyalty to the state. From the perspective of a colonis-
ing power, bureaucratisation provides a rational strategy to
erode pre-colonial loyalties. Local leaders whose authority
derives from an ethnic or kin-based constituency can be
replaced by state appointees. Wealth extracted by local leaders
as tribute is redirected to the state as taxation. Such changes
Order and anarchy
98
not only empower central government, they provide a way of
satisfying citizens that the state is honouring its social contract
to represent all sections of the community.
The cost of government can, however, contribute to the
vulnerability of social systems. Bureaucracy is more expensive
than traditional government. Charles Tilly calculated that in
1600 the average Frenchman worked 50 hours per year to
generate revenue for the state, but in 1966 he worked 650 hours
(Tilly 1981: 203“4, cited in Migdal 1988: 16). Many states lack
the means to extract this level of taxation, even if suf¬cient
were available in the market economy.
In his book The theory of social and economic organisation
the sociologist Max Weber contrasts bureaucratic and what
he calls ˜traditional™ (feudal) government. Weber was more
familiar with bureaucracy than with traditional government,
and uncompromisingly regarded bureaucracy as the rational
alternative. He relied on a theory of evolution as universal
progress rather than local adaptation, akin to the approach
of Herbert Spencer reviewed in chapter 2. The irrationality
of traditional government lay, for Weber, in the chief™s free-
dom to confer ˜grace™ on his subjects according to his personal
pleasure or displeasure, quite arbitrarily (Weber 1947: 342).
The chief™s of¬cials may be rewarded with rights in land, or
portions of the taxes they collect, or payment from the chief™s
personal treasury. Traditional government has no regular sys-
tem of appointments and promotions, and no regular technical
training is required before assuming of¬ce. In a bureaucratic
system, on the other hand, the rights and duties of of¬ce are
explicitly spelt out through a rational legal system. Staff are
appointed solely for their personal ability, and are profession-
ally trained. Of¬ce holders owe their loyalty to the system,
not to individual superiors. The income needed to pay salaries
is raised through universal taxation.
The breakdown of social order 99
The cost of implementing bureaucracy in the colonial states
of Africa reveals that traditional government can also be ratio-
nal, in circumstances where insuf¬cient income is available to
fund bureaucracy. Traditional government is associated with
peasant-based societies where the majority of production is
for subsistence and there is limited development of the mar-
ket required to generate money for taxes. The two forms of
government can therefore be interpreted as adaptations to
different social circumstances, rather than steps on a ladder
of progress toward complete rationality. In colonial Africa
a complex bureaucracy was superimposed on societies based
largely on subsistence farming. Commercial farming and min-
ing were introduced to supply the colonising countries with
raw materials and generate cash to ¬nance colonial govern-
ment, but such exports are vulnerable to international prices.
The salaries paid to expatriate government of¬cials were com-
parable to those paid in the home countries (Britain, France or
Belgium) and when African of¬cials took over they received
the same salaries, without the productive base needed to sus-
tain them. The disparity with the income of ordinary peasants
was immense, making access to post-colonial government jobs
a prize worth ¬ghting for.
The British colonial administration began to bureaucratise
government in southern Uganda in 1905, imposing a tax to
¬nance British administrative activities (Fallers 1956). Local
kings were restyled ˜county chiefs™. In 1938, the British began
to move county chiefs around, to break their traditional ties
with followers. Because this also destroyed the traditional con-
straint on a chief™s power “ his reliance on popular support “
a new system of advisory councils had to be introduced but,
according to Beattie (1961), commoners were unable to accept
the idea of advising their superiors and the councils were inef-
fective. Village headmen in Uganda also suffered. They were
Order and anarchy
100
traditionally more dependent on personal contacts to maintain
their authority than were higher chiefs. The British deprived
village headmen of the right to collect tribute but could not
provide them with an adequate alternative source of income,
because the colony™s economy was unable to generate a suf¬-
cient surplus to be taken in taxes.
If the state cannot deliver security and services, then local
allegiances can be more effective, provoking the rise of small-
scale patronage and the resurgence of kin-based or ethnic
identities. Elizabeth Eames, discussing government in Nigeria,
notes that in a traditional rural economy based on swidden
agriculture, in which junior members of a local lineage could
readily move on to open new ¬elds in the forest, the use
of patronage to retain their loyalty was widespread (Eames
1990: 41). Patronage is therefore part of the habitus that
informs politics in many parts of Africa. Paul Richards argues
that patrimonialism (localised patronage) is also compatible
with various Western institutions, including the informal net-
working and brokerage activities of multinational companies,
and therefore likely to continue in urban contexts (Richards
1996: 35).
For a social order to persist, it must be economically sustain-
able. In the post-colonial state of Chad, however, the govern-
ment has ¬ve times ˜had its domination unravel as taxes were
not paid, of¬cials went unpaid, roads crumbled, schools closed,
and legal cases went unheard™ (Reyna 2003: 270, my empha-
sis). The history of Chad is hence one of governments unable
to control rebel movements. Nobody in Chad, Stephen Reyna
reports, desired this instability. Richards similarly argues that
the state controls insuf¬cient resources to implement democ-
racy and bureaucracy in Sierra Leone. Richards links the out-
break of civil war in Sierra Leone to the decline in state revenue
during the 1990s. Not only had world recession reduced the
The breakdown of social order 101
price of many raw materials, countries such as Sierra Leone
had exhausted some of their best supplies of minerals, partic-
ularly diamonds (Richards 1996: 36). The government there-
fore attempted to bolster support through patronage of rural,
often educationally disadvantaged groups (Richards 1996: 40).
However, given the shortage of resources in Sierra Leone,
even patronage can never bene¬t everyone. The losers can see
the inequity of the existing system. In Sierra Leone, alterna-
tive parties in the civil war struggle to implement an equitable
system but lack the resources to do so; they only have the
resources to erode the existing order, pushing society toward
anarchy. Power remains personalised rather than organised
into stable, hierarchical government because the forest envi-
ronment restricts communication and the movement of armies
(Little 1966: 65“6, Richards 1996: 80). Subsistence production
depends heavily on groups of young men who perform vari-
ous labour-intensive tasks in self-regulating gangs under the
patronage of elders. But the traditional networks of patronage
in civil society are unstable, partly because leaders compete
to recruit a workforce.

Globalisation
The instability of bureaucratic government is not solely due
to a shortage of local revenue. Using the model of ¬tness land-
scapes, chapter 2 illustrated how locally sustainable social sys-
tems can be undermined by competition from more powerful
societies. Mark Duf¬eld similarly argues that the increasing
frequency of large-scale, complex disasters since the 1980s
is not due to local conditions but a consequence of emerg-
ing global interdependence, exempli¬ed by globalisation of
the economy (Duf¬eld 1994: 50“1). When resources are redi-
rected away from local society to service the global economy,
Order and anarchy
102
local social interaction begins to look like a zero-sum game.
The risk of a scramble to gain a slice of what remains locally
available increases, bringing different strategies to the fore.
Western-imposed ˜structural adjustment™ policies that limit
the amount of money a state can spend on services to its citizens
are repeatedly implicated in the recent breakdown of state gov-
ernment. Liberal economic reform has destroyed bureaucratic
governments and reduced the competence of the nation state
(Duf¬eld 2001: 9). The disintegration of Yugoslavia, for exam-
ple, was precipitated by the country™s increasing economic
dependence on foreign banks. The ˜oil crisis™ of the 1970s led
Western banks to extend large-scale credit to Yugoslavia, as to
other East European and Third World countries. By the late
1970s, 85 per cent of Yugoslavian investment depended on for-
eign loans (Denich 2003). This dependency was revealed in
the early 1980s, when Western banks began demanding repay-
ment on their investments. The International Monetary Fund
obliged Yugoslavia to meet repayments by reducing domestic
spending and instead earning money from exports. Free to
travel, Yugoslavs had been aware that their standard of living
was only slightly below that of Western Europe, but that stan-
dard now began visibly to fall (Vucho 2002: 55). Aleksander
Vucho argues that the failure of the ruling oligarchy to resolve
the economic crisis of the mid-1980s made people willing to
accept the craziest person as leader, because he offered a sim-
ple and quick solution. Milosevic exploited ethnic tensions in
the countryside to further his sectarian goals (see chapter 1).
NATO sanctions, imposed in 1992 to punish Milosevic, had

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