Monday, August 22, 2011

Nobody Lives in a Failed State

Listening to Jay Bahadur on C-Spsn discuss his new book about Somali Pirates, I picked up a useful, if overlooked, insight. That is: nobody lives in a "failed state." Somalia may fail, may have failed, but the the people are still there, and free-floating anarchy does not ensue. Tribes, warlords, gang capos, whatever--some way or another people organize into "polities" of some sort. Nobody lives in a condition of Hobbesian anarchy, not never. These "statelets" (if you will) may very well be less commodious to human well-being than the states that preceded them--or maybe not, there is no general principle on which we can rely.

I take it that all this is corollary to the well-understood insight about neighborhoods in cities where the police can't go. It's not that these areas are "ungoverned;" rather only that they are "governed" by forces with which the police cannot cope. It is probably also related to the insight that every prison is run, to one degree or another, prisoners; the role of the guards may be subject to negotiation but it is never absolute. And also to the more speculative proposition that a "mafia" is a layer that develops between (say) the peasants and the great landlords who have no interest in their latafundia beyond the collection of tax.

1 comment:

Ebenezer Scrooge said...

The thrust of this post is good, but one of your facts, I believe, is wrong. Japanese prisons are run by the guards. Completely. This is true even though it is much harder to get into a Japanese prison than an American one--especially for a first-time offender short of murder.