Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)

Marginalized Violent Internal Conflict in the Age of Globalization: Mexico and Egypt

Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)

Marginalized Violent Internal Conflict in the Age of Globalization: Mexico and Egypt

Article excerpt

Marginalization . . . is a condition resulting from prolonged functional superfluousness. [Marginals] are deprived of virtually all the roles of which functioning society is composed. . . . Considered by the rest of the population as pariahs, morally and even perhaps biologically distinctive, they . . . remain more or less permanently on the perimeters of society. . . .(1)

"Globalization" is here taken to mean the process through which economics, politics and technology unleash forces that increasingly make the societies of our world not only more interconnected but also more susceptible to similar experiences. Among such experiences is violent conflict in the context of rapid socio-economic-political change. Neoliberal economic strategies, which figure so prominently in globalizing trends, are frequently blamed for much of today's violence in developing areas. Indeed, some would agree with Pierre Bourdieu's characterization of neoliberalism as an "infernal machine" whose tentacles must produce structural violence wherever they reach.(2)

This sweeping stand is unsatisfactory, begging the questions of how and why neo-liberal globalization may generate conflicts and ignoring the patently obvious fact that neo-liberal policies have not invariably led to social violence. Nonetheless, substantial evidence indicates that globalization's neoliberal dimension has been associated with the eruption of major domestic violence in developing areas. The real problem is to identify the circumstances and dynamics that may lead to this outcome.

Unfortunately, no generally accepted comprehensive typology of political violence exists. Still, it seems clear that such conflicts fall into broad categories that are essentially different. For example, a compelling distinction exists between international and internal conflicts involving developing states. In ram, the latter category is equally not all of one piece. Conflicts between the state and separatist movements as well as inter-ethnic conflicts in relation to which governments stand as involved - but nonetheless third - parties are also forms of sustained confrontations in developing countries

There also occur violent conflicts between governments and rebellious protagonists who neither seek separation from the state, nor challenge the state's essential validity, nor find their basic objectives in particularistic ethnic, tribal or regional demands. Insurrection is mounted in the name of the state itself and of its entire population. The polity's "true" values are claimed to be those of the insurrectionists. The existing government, or the existing political system in its entirety, is charged with betrayal of those values. Ethnicity, while possibly a practical factor in insurrectionary mobilization, is overshadowed by insurrectionary invocations of broader values within the state. Yet, in contrast to civil wars, conflicts of this sort do not produce relatively balanced warring parties who share the perception that a critical and decisive military straggle has been joined. Instead, the armed challenge to state authority emanates almost exclusively from mobilized elements of the most marginalized sectors of national society. The imbalance of power so overwhelmingly favors state authorities that the rebels' armed crusade fails to present a credible military threat. Authorities can therefore characterize the marginals' struggle as an irritating and misguided aberration of little consequence to the normal functioning of the state. Thus, the conflict is doubly linked to "marginality," pitting elements of the "functionally superfluous" against national governments in a struggle that is itself officially marginalized. There is, however, an important caveat to this: although the insurrectionary marginals have opted to reject the existing political process, their objectives are largely shared and supported - at least morally - by important dissenting actors within the political system. …

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