Academic journal article International Journal of Peace Studies

Globalization, State Failure, and Collective Violence: The Case of Sierra Leone

Academic journal article International Journal of Peace Studies

Globalization, State Failure, and Collective Violence: The Case of Sierra Leone

Article excerpt


The focus of this article is the interaction of negative globalization, state failure, and collective violence (and collapse). The relationship between these is analyzed in the context of long term, intermediate, and precipitating factors to propose a conceptual framework. Sierra Leone is utilized as a case study.


Since the late 1970s, the powerful forces of accelerating globalization have arguably been transforming world politics. The Westphalian state system, as it operates in the poor developing nations, has experienced a reconstitution and transformation regarding the nature of sovereign statehood. For many of the poor developing states, for example, globalization and its reorganization of political space has been a traumatic experience especially for individuals, groups, and entire societies in terms of existential security. Just as globalization appears to have created upheaval in the politico-economic foundations of territorial sovereignty, so also has it diminished the power and stability of many poor states, thereby creating new kinds of loyalties, shattering the legitimacy of incumbent regimes, and eroding the political and economic strength of states that were already weak.

While the international system has often been based on cleavages (East/West, North/South, and so forth), it appears that globalization may be producing a more rigidly bifurcated international system by intensifying global integration and cooperation in developed countries on the one hand, and fragmentation and conflictual situation in poor countries, on the other (Mullard, 2004; Haass and Litan, 1998). In some poor developing countries, with poorly developed statehood and institutions, the socio-economic and political aspects of existence have been particularly jolted to the point of further state weakness, failure, and collective violence

(collapse). The objective of this article is to analyze the nexus of issues of negative globalization, state failure, and collective violence. It is argued that the relationship between state weakness, failure, and collapse can be better analyzed in the context of long-term, short-term, and precipitating factors or causes. To what extent is state collapse and its attendant collective violence related to globalization-induced mass unemployment, increased individual/group, and national insecurity? The effect of economic restructuring served as the catalyst, in countries such as Liberia and Sierra Leone, for violent uprisings targeted at incumbent regimes blamed for increasing immiseration. Using Sierra Leone as a case study, the analysis will: (1) examine the weaknesses of the Westphalian origins of modern African statehood as a long-term factor in Sierra Leone's state failure and collapse; (2) analyze the short-term causes of state failure; and (3) account for the specific globalization-related developments or impositions that triggered violent political attacks in Sierra Leone.

Conceptual Clarification: Globalization, State Failure, and Collective Violence

Economic globalization as a process, could be defined in one sense as the exercise of transnational hegemonic power. This manifestation, organization, and exercise of power is reflected in the decisions, actions, or "impositions" of International Financial Institutions [World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and World Trade Organization (WTO)], as well as the advanced industrial nations. The consequence of this neoliberal international economic organization has had a significant negative impact on individuals, groups, or communities within the nations of the developing world. Structurally, the more peripheral the developing state is in relation to the core of global economic power, the more the negative consequences of globalization are felt. In other words, the consequences of globalization are more severe within the periphery of neoliberal capitalism. Integration within globalization networks and processes are stronger within the core of capitalism producing less inimical consequences than at the periphery of capitalism where the consequence is, at times, social disintegration and decay. …

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