Dr. Peter Lock
European Association for Research on Transformation e.V.

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Dr. Peter Lock
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letzte Änderung:03.01.2011
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Oil and Peace: What future for Sudan?

(Seminar on Sudan in Brussels, June 12th, 2002, first session, commentary)

The recent ICG-report on Sudan conveys an urgent and somewhat optimistic message: The international community should act immediately using all possible leverage to press for peace and democracy in Sudan because it is assumed that the current juncture offers a unique window of opportunity likely to remain open for a short period only according to this report. The report presents a political history of the country and links it with topics currently dominating the American foreign policy and hence the international agenda. Combating terrorism and steam rolling Sudan into a democracy are portrayed as a dynamic symbiosis possible to achieve provided external actors can agree to join forces and use all their leverage on Sudan.

Contrary to the author of the IGC-report I believe that terrorism always reflects a specific (historical) social embeddedness of the actors. Without analysing and addressing the respective embeddedness the combat against terrorists will not succeed except at a very cursory level for a limited period of time. I therefore can not share the conclusions of the IGC-report as long as the social content of the democracy to be imposed is carefully laid out and checked for its realism in medium term. What next, once "democracy" is instituted by external pressure? What will be the model of development, what has it to offer to the people, particularly to the younger generations? Since I am not a specialist on Sudan I will approach the issue of peace or at least of a reduction of armed violence from a somewhat broader perspective.
The aid industry depending on the presentation of poverty, social scientists making their living on development studies, politicians selling the current world order jointly point at corruption, neo-patrimonial networks, organised crime in failing states and war lords as evil forces impeding development. It keeps these communities busy, self-possessed and on safe ground, because these features are in rich supply. Their industrious activities save them from looking beyond these searing failures and embarking upon more basic issues like questioning the potential of the present world order of liberal globalism to overcome growing violence and poverty.

Left without alternative visions and ideological certainties at the end of the Cold War, a confusing debate over the causes of continued (mostly) internal wars ensued among social scientists. It saturated social science journals and trickled eventually into rhetoric of the agenda of the United Nations (Agenda for Peace among others). The apparent helplessness and unwillingness of the international community to at least mitigate the most flagrant violations of human rights in the course of what came to be labelled "the new wars" led to an intensified search for the major causes of these armed conflicts which afflict mostly the backyards of the global economy . After various temptations to attribute this violence to supposedly ascribed features like ethnicity or to qualify it simply as absolute chaos beyond repair (Kaplan) among others, the economic patterns sustaining these wars recently turned into a major focus of the debate on the causes of war (I do not address the purely ideological attempts intended to instigate a self-fulfilling political configuration which pit Islam against so-called western values embedded in the concept of democracy.).

It is somewhat surprising how long it took the general debate to understand that the economies of these wars have little in common with what were known as war economies in the context of major interstate wars in the past century, which were focusing on maximising the use of all existing productive resources. Since it is obvious that in the absence of foreign patronage certain economic features must prevail in order to make war fighting sustainable in the context of weak or even failed states, particularly at the side of non-state actors in armed conflict.

In the footsteps of the pioneering publication Jean/Rufin "L'économie de guerres civiles" (1996) an intensive scrutiny into the economic patterns sustaining on-going wars resulted in a stream of "war economy" studies. The academic community studying the causes of "new wars" continues to engage in the search for common features of current war economies. This particular "mode of production" necessarily interacts with the global shadow economy and lacks transparency. In addition ideologies of identity provide a dynamic leverage to regulate social exclusion. The ultimate arbiter in the market is violence and the threat thereof.

However, it is necessary in this debate to emphasise that such patterns are at best the necessary conditions for sustained armed conflict to be carried out. Many countries not engaged in armed violence classified as internal war also display dynamic interactions within the sprawling networks of shadow globalisation, harbour ideologies of identity and are plagued with violence replacing a regulated market. Relying on findings based on macro-quantitative comparative analysis Collier and others emphasise the importance of "greed" in making war economies rather dynamic processes.
In this context it is surprising that all these studies accept a more or less formal definition of war as a meaningful category to analyse the role of violence in the current world order. It can be argued, however, that violence is equally prevalent in many societies which do not qualify as being at war according to criteria originally defined by David Singer and only marginally qualified since by other political scientists. But at least at the lower end internal wars display features of amorphous violence, not unlike the pervasive violence in many suburbs of the world's mega-cities.
For example a rough calculation of gun-related deaths in the region of Greater São Paulo shows that 20 000 persons are killed per year. In some so-called post-conflict countries the number of persons murdered or shot at exceeds the war-time casualties. It is probably safe to assume that only a fraction of these casualties can be attributed to spontaneous and/or emotional killings. Most gun-related violence can be attributed to one or the other form of "market regulation". Due to the availability of automatic weapons the violence associated with cattle rustling has escalated in terms of casualties into war-like dimensions in some parts of Africa. But since such situations do not qualify as war, social scientists pay less attention and rarely relate these phenomena to the global order or a specific socio-economic configuration resembling war economies.

Could it be that we analytically miss some dramatic social transformation of the dominant mode of violence from what we recognise as warfare towards less organised, but still rational forms of violence at the level of fragmented social layers along both horizontal and vertical lines? Many agents of this violence operate globally, their spheres of operation are not bounded by the nation-state, while others focus on carving out small territories where they wield the monopoly of violence.

Thus, my first query seeks to explore the transformation of violence from warfare towards seemingly more anarchic forms of violence which reflect the structure and fragmentation of societies in the context of the current liberal globalism. Arguably the apparent transformation of the "war against terror" towards a totalitarian political design aiming at cementing the current distribution of power both internally and externally epitomizes this on-going subtle transformation. Formal democracy and elections, the code of arms of liberal globalism, remain manageable and have demonstrated their capacity to sustain high levels of violence and fragmentation through a pervasive privatisation and commodificaton of security.

My second query departs from the suspicion that the specificity regularly ascribed to war economies may actually be a myth. Every operational aspect of war economies can be found in non-war economies, sometimes even the configuration is similar. Hence, we may observe in war economies only the tip of an iceberg representing the current global economic pattern we tend or possibly prefer to overlook because it would force us to ask more fundamental "systemic" questions, the current political leaders (our employers) might not want to confront.
The currently dominant economic paradigm decrees open economies and democratic governance, the latter only optionally though. Stubbornly resisting regimes are prone to be added to the axis of evil whose single common feature are their closed economies. (If for example "source of terrorism" were the common feature, among others Saudi Arabia would form a link in this axis). The political rhetoric and the main stream in social sciences do not fully account for the distinct economic spheres in which process of globalisation manifests itself. A fuller understanding of the dynamics of globalisation requires a balanced analysis of the three spheres in which globalisation articulates itself.
For heuristical purposes it is convenient to distinguish between the regular, the informal and the criminal economic spheres, all of which are characterised by rapidly growing global networks. By implication not only weak or failed states comprise large informal and criminal economic spheres, developed industrial economies have assimilated large informal as well as criminal networks. (In Germany the presence of these largely invisible networks is reflected in posters decorating the entrance of post offices and many chain stores which inform the "invisible actors" in ten carefully selected languages that 'the safe can not be opened by the personnel'.).
The reproduction of the state depends on taxes which can only be extracted from the regular economy. The meagre growth rates of the latter suggest that in terms of employment the informal sphere necessarily grows faster, while the criminal sphere enjoys the fastest expansion in terms of turnover. The modes of interaction between the three spheres is both antagonistic and symbiotic at the same time. Furthermore the interaction is characterised by often asymmetric power relationships. I must leave this at this rather general level, not having the time to elaborate this alternative view of the social and economic impact of liberal globalism in its current phase.
I will instead turn to my third query. It is concerned with the availability of economic models suited to fulfil the legitimate aspirations of the population in a given context. The most pressing task for virtually every large nation in the South (and not only there) is to provide productive jobs for young adults in the regular sphere of the economy. Thus, we should conceptualise the economy of Sudan without war, but with oil in the context of liberal globalism and test whether the priority mentioned above can possibly be met in a timeframe meaningful for the masses of young adults desperately seeking a productive role in society.
It might for example be useful to study the failures of Ecuador and Algeria to convert oil revenue into a consistent development strategy and build a cohesive society. Ecuador experiences ever increasing levels of "violence without war" and a dramatically deteriorating economic balance sheet operating at the brink of bankruptcy. Algeria has slipped into an internal war and displays disastrous social conditions Getting positive grades from the IMF while young people have little chances to find a job in the regular economy without patrimonial support.
Rushing elections (in Sudan) without having a clear strategy of development in place is likely to rapidly delegitimise the concept of democracy. In the process of conceptualising a viable development strategy for Sudan it might be necessary to look beyond the constraints of liberal globalism and envision new spaces for national development and employment. Given the insecure ground we are treading in explaining armed violence it is indispensable that we dare to question the seemingly established wisdom and re-examine the our conceptual framework and eventually explore systemic alternatives.