The strong nation-state and violence, UAR Working Paper No. 16
Our world is still massively violent. This is in harsh contrast to Elias’ civilisation process, implying ever more peaceful conduct as modernity manifests. The very organisation he designates for pacifying society, the modern state, is itself central cause for ongoing violence. In fact, most of modernity’s notorious massacres, genocides, and ethnic cleansings could not have been committed by lesser organisations than strong states. I seek to explicate this connection, using an historical institutionalist approach, from a perspective critical of established orders. Modern statehood will be conceptualised as ascribed status, depending on external demands from an ‘international community’. This ascription is based on existence of five sets of institutions, or dimensions of state activity. A state is considered strong when perceived to perform effectively in the dimensions of monopolising the military draft, direct taxation, bureaucratic organisation, promotion of formal economy, and keeping internal order. As meeting these conditions depends on direct rule, strong modern states are necessarily nations. Using an actor-centred concept of violence, I assess the violence necessary in creating and maintaining such orders. I conclude that nation-states have an institutional disposition towards massviolence. Thus one has to think beyond this political order when seeking less violence.
Keywords: Modern statehood, strong state, nation-state, violence, ethnic cleansing, historical-institutionalist, critique of domination.
Place of publication: Duisburg/Bochum
Published: March 2018
Pages: 65 pp.
Series No.: 2016
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