Antonio Giustozzi: Double Edged Swords - Armies, Elite Bargaining, and State-Building

March 4, 2011, 2:52 p.m.

In the UKaid working paper, Double Edged Swords - Armies, Elite Bargaining, and State-Building, Antonio Guistozzi has created an overview  looking at the role of armies and the monopoly of violence in state building once a new state has become established and the transition that takes place.  This results in the civilization of coercion and the threat of violence.  He references articles that address this phenomenon, as well as provides case studies to show the different paradigms.

The aim of this paper is to contribute to filling the gap in the literature and to launch a debate on armies and state building from the perspective of political analysis. Our concern is to explain what factors can drive a ruling elite in one direction or the other in their adoption of a particular option in the management of coercive power.

This paper proposes a framework for the study of the role of armies in elite bargaining and state building. The path taken by what are today known as ‘western democracies’ is one of army institutionalisation and subordination of the armed forces to the political elite. The paper accepts that this has been an historically successful path for resolving this dilemma, but also points out that the same path might not be attractive or feasible for ruling elites in every circumstance. In practice, most ruling elites seem to have found such a path unappealing or unworkable. The paper describes a range of alternatives, highlighting the trade-offs implicit in each of them. In particular, it focuses on the incorporation of armies to the elite bargain as the main alternative. The hypothesis which we tested in our series of case studies is that in contexts of state formation and in the early stages of state building, the integration of the army into a country’s elite bargain is a key factor in preventing military interventions.

The paper concludes that rather than being just one of many components in the power elites, the army plays a key role in reducing the fluidity of elite bargains and in steering them towards consolidation, provided that certain key conditions are met.

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