Violence, Security and Democracy

June 14, 2011, 8:41 p.m.

Violence, Security and Democracy: Perverse Interfaces and their Implications for States and Citizens in the Global South by Jenny Pearce and Rosemary McGee with Joanna Wheeler is a paper that looks at the relationships between violence, security and democracy.  After conducting secondary research, the authors have come to two main propositions which are listed below.  A prevailing question throughout the paper is whether or not an increase in democracy causes an increase in insecurity and violence.  This paper focused on four democratic countries, Brazil, Jamaica, Mexico, and Nigeria.  In each country violence appears to be increasing with citizens moving out of public spaces to avoid violence.  High levels of insecurity cause the populace to seek out stability in differing methods when the state does not provide adequate security.  The authors took into account the importance of the definitions of violence, security, and development and the implications these definitions have in their research.  A summary provided by the authors is found below:

 Why have democratisation processes failed to fulfill expectations of violence reduction in the global South? How does violence affect democracy and vice versa? Why does security practice in much of the global South not build secure environments? When examined empirically from the perspectives of poor Southern citizens, the interfaces between violence, security and democracy – assumed in conventional state and democratisation theory to be positive or benign – are often, in fact, perverse. Empirically-based reflection on these questions leads us to two propositions, which the paper then explores through the use of secondary literature. In essence:

Proposition 1: Violence interacts perversely with democratic institutions, eroding their legitimacy and effectiveness. Democracy fails to deliver its promise of replacing the violence with accommodation and compromise, and democratic process is compromised, with citizens reacting by withdrawing from public spaces, accepting the authority of non-state actors, or supporting hard-line responses.

Proposition 2: Security provision is not making people feel more secure. State responses to rising violence can strengthen state and non-state security actors committed to reproducing violence, disproportionately affecting the poorest communities.

These ‘perverse interfaces’, we argue, warrant research in themselves, rather than minimal or tangential consideration in research on democracy, as tends to be the case. Further research needs to adopt fresh epistemological, methodological and analytical perspectives and seek to re-think and re-frame categories and concepts, rather than working within the received wisdoms of state and democratisation theory.


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