Fixing the Political Market Place: How Can We Make Peace Without Functioning State Institutions?
Author: Alex de Waal
Size: 38 pages (8 MB)
How can international actors respond to the powerful trend towards intractable low-level conflicts that are part-criminal and part-political? This paper argues that it is important to understand the actual functioning of politics in complex countries (like Afghanistan, Congo and Sudan) that do not have a strong and autonomous state. Such countries must be studied as they really are, rather than as deficient examples of what they 'ought' to be. This involves examining the 'political marketplace' – political bargaining within patronage systems. Patronage systems can be inefficient and corrupt; they can also be inclusive, and a repository of trust and security. While promoting ways of avoiding unchecked corruption and criminalisation, international actors need to recognise the power of patronage to generate stability.
In fragile states, patronage systems are deeply rooted in social and political life and are seen by the public and political leaders as normal and legitimate. By failing to incorporate the role of patronage in political affairs and conflict management, the dominant international approach aims too high and sets timetables too rapidly. It seeks to build institutions before stability has been achieved, rather than first seeking to understand the political preconditions which will make statebuilding viable. Further, Western institutionalised normative standards do not sufficiently distinguish between patronage systems that maintain stability and those that generate instability.
The political marketplace is a model to facilitate understanding of how fragile states function. It is a set of practices conducted between ruler and elites, and consists of political bargaining for loyalty that results in either cash or symbolic/status rewards:
International actors need to learn to distinguish between legitimate patronage and illegitimate corruption – a distinction that must be made in accordance with local political-cultural norms. It is also important to recognise that patronage systems have the power to generate stability. Policymakers need a methodology by which to examine the nature of the political systems in which they are intervening and likely impacts of those interventions. Further:
de Waal, A., 2009, 'Fixing the Political Market Place: How Can We Make Peace Without Functioning State Institutions?', Fifteenth Christen Michelsen Lecture, Bergen, 15 October 2009, Chr. Michelsen Institute
Organisation: Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI), http://www.cmi.no