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Shared Societies and Armed Conflict: Costs, Inequality and the Benefits of Peace

  • Patricia Justino

    (Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, UK)

Processes of conflict and violence are central to how shared societies are built and sustained. Very few countries in the world have supported systems of justice, equality and democracy without some amount of bloodshed. At the same time, violence and conflict threaten the principles and values underlying the concept of shared societies. Today, 1.5 billion people are affected by armed conflict. Conflict-affected countries contain one-third of those living in extreme poverty, and are responsible for over half of all child mortality in the world. Kaldor (1999) and Kaplan (1994) have famously discussed the wave of new brutal civil wars that have erupted after the Cold War. The view that modern civil wars are more brutal and senseless than ever before has been contested (Kalyvas 2001), while the incidence of internal armed conflict has decreased in recent years (Harbom and Wallensteen 2009). However, the legacy of violence persists in many countries, affecting the sustainability of global development, international peace and democracy-building processes worldwide, as well as disrupting the living conditions of millions of women, men and children. Armed conflict remains one of the most important challenges facing the world today. This paper examines how the interplay between economic exclusion, inequality, conflict and violence shape the goal of establishing shared societies. I argue that this impact is largely determined by the emergence and organisation of social and political institutions in areas of violent conflict. In particular, violence will persist as a means to solve social conflicts when institutional processes that promote exclusion, dysfunctional inequalities and injustice remain entrenched in societies. Two particular areas of institutional change are central to understanding the relationship between armed conflict and shared societies, defined as ‘socially cohesive societies’. The first is the change caused by armed conflict on social interactions and norms of trust and cooperation. The second is the influence exercised by informal mediators, informal service providers and, in some cases, informal systems of governance that emerge from uneven development processes and are particularly prevalent in areas of armed conflict. These forms of institutional transformation that emerge from armed conflict, and in turn determine its sustainability, have remained unexplored in the literature. Yet they are central to understanding how societies are able to restrict the use of violence as a strategic way of resolving social conflicts. This paper attempts to disentangle these important institutional mechanisms that shape the transition from conflict-ridden to shared societies.

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Paper provided by Maastricht School of Management in its series Working Papers with number 2012/35.

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Length: 18 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2012
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Handle: RePEc:msm:wpaper:2012/35
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