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Capitalism and its Colonies:
Nation-States, Third World Nations, Development and Failing States

Bill Geddes

7th May 2010

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By 1914, 84.4 % of the world's terrestrial area had been colonized by the Europeans. With colonization there came a new paradigm of development. Cecil Rhodes expressed this paradigm eloquently:

We must find new lands from which we can easily obtain raw materials and at the same time exploit the cheap slave labour that is available from the natives of the colonies…

(UNESCO (2002) International Symposium on Post-Development)

They were overpowered by force of arms. Thereafter, each tribe was faced with a choice of one of two roads leading to subjection: defeat or surrender…

There are various national or ethnical groups in the country [Nigeria]. Ten main groups were recorded during the 1931 census as follows: (1) Hausa, (2) lbo, (3) Yoruba, (4) Fulani, (5) Kanuri, (6) Ibibio, (7) Munshi or Tiv, (8) Edo, (9) Nupe, and (10) Ijaw.… 'there are also a great number of other small tribes too numerous to enumerate separately…'

It is a mistake to designate them 'tribes'. Each of them is a nation by itself with many tribes and clans. There is as much difference between them as there is between Germans, English, Russians and Turks for instance. The fact that they have a common overlord does not destroy this fundamental difference…

All these incompatibilities among the various peoples in the country militate against unification…. It is evident from the experiences of other nations that incompatibilities such as we have enumerated are barriers which cannot be overcome by glossing over them.
(Awolowo 1947, pp. 24,48-9)

We define weak states as countries that lack the essential capacity and/or will to fulfil four sets of critical government responsibilities:

  • fostering an environment conducive to sustainable and equitable economic growth;
  • establishing and maintaining legitimate, transparent, and accountable political institutions;
  • securing their populations from violent conflict and controlling their territory;
  • and meeting the basic human needs of their population…

We term countries in the bottom quintile “critically weak states” and deem the 3 weakest states in the world “failed states.” Failed states perform markedly worse than all others — even those in their critically weak cohort…

Bottom Quintile:
Somalia; Congo, Dem. Rep.; Burundi; Sudan; Central African Rep.; Zimbabwe; Liberia; Cote D’Ivoire; Angola; Haiti; Sierra Leone; Eritrea; North Korea; Chad; Burma; Guinea-Bissau; Ethiopia; Congo, Rep.; Niger; Nepal; Guinea; Rwanda; Equatorial Guinea; Togo; Uganda; Nigeria
(Rice and Patrick 2008, pp. 3, 9-11)

Given the wide range of tensions, contradictory demands and confrontations to which Third world nations have been subjected by Western capitalist nations over the past 60 years, it is a testament to human resilience that there are any which still escape being classified "critically weak states".

Western people have, over the past three centuries, confidently applied their own understandings and forms of organisation to the rest of the world. They have done this in the sure knowledge that these represent the most advanced, developed and sophisticated of all forms of understanding and organisation available to human beings.

To introduce those forms to non-Western people has been to start them on the road to capitalist development. It has been assumed that this enables them to by-pass the historically long and thorny route taken by Western Europeans in achieving their advanced state of organisation and understanding.1 Chief amongst the forms of organisation, thought to be most important in moving into the modern world, have been the political and economic forms of the industrialised West.

To understand the problems encountered in Third World nations over the past sixty years, we need, first, to examine a few of the presumptions underpinning Western political organisation and activity as they have been shaped in concert with capitalism over the past four centuries.


From the 16th to the early 20th century, Western Europe experienced widespread, drastic economic reorganisation. Capitalism became the ideological frame of life for the middle-classes of Western Europe. From the 17th century this capitalist reorganisation coincided with a revolutionary, middle-class driven, political reorganisation of the region 2.

The nation-state was presumed to be comprised of citizens who, individually, first and foremost, identified with the nation rather than with regions within the nation. They saw the nation's achievements as their own; the nation's problems as personal problems; and they so committed themselves to the nation that when it became threatened, if necessary, they were prepared to die for it. Thomas Hobbes set out the requirements of such a 'Commonwealth' in his Leviathan (1651 Chapter 17, 'Of The Causes, Generation, And Definition Of A Commonwealth') 3.

Capitalism is based on individual independence, not on interdependence 4. Its political frame has echoed the motivations of the middle ranking individuals who were at the heart of the revolutionary changes of the period. It requires 'democracy'. But this was, always, a 'democracy' of 'responsible' people — a democracy of the middle-classes. The history of voting rights in Western democracies reflects the changing fortunes of sub-populations as they have become accepted by the middle-class base which still largely controls Western democracies.

The new political entities, nation-states, represented the interests of the middle-classes. In almost every ethnic community in Western Europe, one could find these people — 'middle sorts' — who socialised and identified with each other across community boundaries and shared common interests both through the state territory in which they were living, and throughout Western Europe. These people, in the communities incorporated into each nation-state, were presumed to be not only able, but willing to subordinate their ethnic and regional interests and commitments to the interests and requirements of the larger political whole within which they were placed.

So, what was it that bound middle ranking people together in this way?

Nations as enclaves of common-interest migrants

An important feature of Western European nationhood has been the 'nationalism' of its people, their apparent identification with the nation-state and its political and bureaucratic organisations, and acceptance of the state's directive legitimacy. Because most Third World national governments have great difficulty in gaining and maintaining acceptance from their populations, we need to understand how European nation-states 5 attained and maintain legitimacy.

‘Nation’ was a term which originally referred to administrative regions of the medieval Western-Orthodox Church. These western European Orthodox Church regions were governed through bureaucratic organisations controlled by regional ecclesiastical administrators. The representatives of those regions in Rome lived in a set of enclaves known as ‘nations’. As Thomas Dandelet (1997) has explained,

it was in medieval Rome that the numerous local identities of Europe were commonly grouped under the five major "nations" of France, England, Spain, Italy, and Germany.

A rag-bag of regions not included in those named was referred to as the ‘Netherlands’ (the lands beyond the recognised regions).

People who lived in these regions not only thought of themselves as members of their local communities but also knew the names of the administrative regions of the Church within which they lived. Their rulers, on their accession to power, were annointed to their positions by the regional ecclesiastical administrators 6. So, almost inevitably, over a thousand years, political aspirations became identified with the regions and with the names they bore.

The medieval use of the term 'nation', following the western European Orthodox Church's usage of the term in Rome, referred to enclaves of middle-ranking people, migrants from the same region, who shared some common interest or focus in life. These were the nascent middle-classes of Western Europe, those who, by the 19th century, would espouse 'democratic capitalism'.

During this discussion, we need to remember that the term 'nation' was applied to two quite distinct ideas. The first was to administrative regions of the medieval Church; the second was to enclaves of people living outside their own administrative regions, who banded together, formed cooperative relationships and friendships and were referred to by the name of the administrative region from which they came.

More emphasis was given to 'region of origin' than to 'ethnic identity' in gaining entry and acceptance into a nation (an enclave of migrants), so that nations could consist of people who spoke different dialects or languages (the lingua franca was, of course, Latin), were of different ethnic ancestry, and possibly of very different skin shadings. This would prove important in the intermeshing of middle-class interests across culturally diverse regions of interconnected territories 7 as 'nation-states' emerged in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Nations (as enclaves) were medieval common-interest, fraternal groups 8. Members accepted responsibility for each other and assumed support and co-operation from anyone who was identified as a group member. They developed friendships which over time expanded into extensive networks of support and acquaintanceship. The families of people connected in these ways entertained and accommodated visitors from other areas and regions, and assumed similar support if they travelled outside of their home area. The principle of mutual support and acceptance was of central importance in claiming membership of a nation (Hobsbawm 1990, p. 16).

'Nations' of scholars existed at university centres. Each nation was comprised of people from a particular geographical/ecclesiastical area who supported one another and provided hospitality and security to visitors and new arrivals. The members of such nations maintained their links after graduating and moving to other places. One could move from a 'nation' at one university centre, to its counterpart at another university centre and be accepted because others in the new centre already had connections in the centre from which one had come.

Similar nations of merchants and traders existed, which shared identity with scholars and others identified as belonging to the same region as themselves. Networks of such groups developed throughout western Europe. A feeling of affinity emerged between those who identified with each other through membership in common networks of nations (as enclaves). It was these networked people from particular regions who would become the future electorates of emerging nation-states.

Not until the 18th and 19th centuries did the term come to include both the inter-linked people of a particular territory, and the political and bureaucratic state organisation of that territory. When it did, this usually resulted from concerted political and/ or revolutionary action involving those who already saw themselves as interconnected and as belonging to the same nation.9

By the 18th century everyone in western Europe knew the name of the region within which they lived and identified themselves in some way as belonging to the region that bore that name. The regions which were metamorphosing into nation-states were, largely, nascent capitalist regions which had been involved in the Reformation. Most of them had renounced or greatly loosened their ties with Rome.

People living in the old medieval Western-Orthodox ecclesiastical districts seem to have had little difficulty in transferring their recognition of those districts to the emerging states and their bureaucratic structures. So, national identity (that is, nationalism) preceded the establishment of nation-states 10.

By the late nineteenth century, as a consequence of the historical connection between membership of 'nations' and education, trade and other productive and 'cultured' activities, middle-class Western Europeans had become convinced that

As the individual chiefly obtains by means of the nation and in the nation mental culture, power of production, security, and prosperity, so is the civilisation of the human race only conceivable and possible by means of the civilisation and development of the individual nations.
(List (1885, Ch.15))

Not only was membership of a nation a prerequisite for each individual human being's 'civilisation', 'mental culture' and 'power of production', the aggregation of small ethnic groupings into large nation-states was assumed to be an evolutionary inevitability 11. As List (1885) explained:

Between each individual and entire humanity, however, stands THE NATION, with its special language and literature, with its peculiar origin and history, with its special manners and customs, laws and institutions, with the claims of all these for existence, independence, perfection, and continuance for the future, and with its separate territory; a society which, united by a thousand ties of mind and of interests, combines itself into one independent whole, which recognises the law of right for and within itself, and in its united character is still opposed to other societies of a similar kind in their national liberty, and consequently can only under the existing conditions of the world maintain self-existence and independence by its own power and resources. …

A large population, and an extensive territory endowed with manifold national resources, are essential requirements of the normal nationality; they are the fundamental conditions of mental cultivation as well as of material development and political power. A nation restricted in the number of its population and in territory, especially if it has a separate language, can only possess a crippled literature, crippled institutions for promoting art and science. A small State can never bring to complete perfection within its territory the various branches of production. In it all protection becomes mere private monopoly. Only through alliances with more powerful nations, by partly sacrificing the advantages of nationality, and by excessive energy, can it maintain with difficulty its independence.
(Chapter 15)

Eric Hobsbawm put it well. For Western Europeans,

nations were therefore, as it were, in tune with historical evolution only insofar as they extended the scale of human society, other things being equal.
(1990, p. 33)

To quote the British philosopher, economist, employee of the British East India Company and, subsequently, member of parliament, J. S. Mill (1861):

The most united country in Europe, France, is far from being homogeneous: independently of the fragments of foreign nationalities at its remote extremities, it consists, as language and history prove, of two portions, one occupied almost exclusively by a Gallo-Roman population, while in the other the Frankish, Burgundian, and other Teutonic races form a considerable ingredient.

When proper allowance has been made for geographical exigencies, another more purely moral and social consideration offers itself. Experience proves that it is possible for one nationality to merge and be absorbed in another: and when it was originally an inferior and more backward portion of the human race the absorption is greatly to its advantage.

Nobody can suppose that it is not more beneficial to a Breton, or a Basque of French Navarre, to be brought into the current of the ideas and feelings of a highly civilised and cultivated people — to be a member of the French nationality, admitted on equal terms to all the privileges of French citizenship, sharing the advantages of French protection, and the dignity and prestige of French power — than to sulk on his own rocks, the half-savage relic of past times, revolving in his own little mental orbit, without participation or interest in the general movement of the world. The same remark applies to the Welshman or the Scottish Highlander as members of the British nation.
(Mill (1861) 1862 Ch. 16)

Hobsbawm has suggested that the minorities incorporated into the expanding nation-states of Western Europe accepted their incorporation as both positive and inevitable (one needs to remember that we are speaking of the interconnected middle ranking people, not of all those inhabitants in these regions who were excluded from middle-class networks):

… small nationalities or even nation-states which accepted their integration into the larger nation as something positive — or, if one prefers, which accepted the laws of progress — did not recognise any irreconcilable differences between micro-culture and macro-culture either, or were even reconciled to the loss of what could not be adapted to the modern age.

It was the Scots and not the English who invented the concept of the 'North Briton' after the Union of 1707. It was the speakers and champions of Welsh in nineteenth-century Wales who doubted whether their own language, so powerful a medium for religion and poetry, could serve as an all-purpose language of culture in the nineteenth-century world — i.e. who assumed the necessity and advantages of bilingualism.

(1990, p. 35)

Middle-class Western Europeans, convinced that the social, economic, and political world was evolving towards ever increasing size and complexity,12 accepted that small ethnic communities must, inevitably, be absorbed into larger political structures, into nation-states.

Those states, it was believed, should be of sufficient territory, population and resources to enable involvement in the emerging international forms of trade and diplomacy developing amongst Western European nation-states and between them and the United States of America. Bigger was better! And, as ethnic and regional communities became incorporated, they inherited the rights of 'citizens' within the nation-state. So, the government could legitimately claim to represent them, as it did all other people who lived within its territory.

In speaking of nations we are speaking of the coalescence of the old medieval common-interest groups which came from a particular territory. People only identified themselves as members of 'nations' because they were distinguishing themselves from people of other regions of western Europe who shared similar interests and with whom they regularly interacted. The middle-classes of Western Europe were co-operatively interconnected with each other not only within their own national regions, but also across national boundaries. There was a great deal of intellectual, business and social movement between the various 'national' territories 13.

In most Western European territories, the sense of national identity, of mutual support and co-operation among the middle-classes, long preceded the recognition of the 'nation-state' as a political and bureaucratic organisation which represented the interests of people who belonged to the nation.

It was not that a government was established which claimed authority within a territory, and that people who did not already identify themselves as belonging to a common nation were required to swear allegiance to it. Rather, nationalism preceded the nation-state, which received its legitimation from the already interconnected people of the territory. Representative government came from national revolution and the establishment of political and bureaucratic systems which represented the middle-class interests of those involved in the revolution.14

The nations of Western Europe included a range of middle-class people from ethnic and regional communities which saw their interests as coinciding with, or complementing those of other middle-class people with whom they identified in national government. National government could act in the interests of the whole territory, assuming support from the 'responsible' people in its various regions.

The focuses of government, its bureaucratic institutions and concerns, inevitably reflected the various interests and concerns of middle ranking people. They had become identified with the interests of the enclaves in which the sense of national identity had been forged. As nation-states emerged, middle ranking people could see their interests and concerns mirrored in government organisation and policy making.

Since those people saw the government as representing their interests, they saw, in a truly Hobbesian sense, their interests as coinciding with the interests of the government. They could feel a sense of personal fulfilment in its achievements, and a sense of personal difficulty in its difficulties.

They took these understandings and commitments with them as they determinedly set out to reorganise the rest of the world in the late 19th and 20th centuries.

Colonies as the Globalisation of the Nation-State

European nation-states during the nineteenth century expanded into the rest of the world 15. Wherever they went they extended their political authority through the establishment of protectorates and colonies. As they did in Europe, so they did in the rest of the world. They focused on territory, and assumed the integration of 'responsible' people within the boundaries of the territories they controlled.

Initially, Western European governments did not see their colonial territories as independently evolving nascent nation-states. They saw them as extensions of their own nation-state 16. The 'colonies' were a part of the evolution of the Western European nation-state, its geographical extension into the world.

Like the Bretons, Basques, Welsh, Scottish, Irish and countless other minorities in Western Europe, so with the peoples of Western Europe's colonies. They would soon realise, as List (1885) had explained, the wonderful advantages of 'mental culture, power of production, security, and prosperity' which would be their inheritance. After all, it was obvious that 'the civilisation of the human race' is 'only conceivable and possible by means of the civilisation and development of the individual nations' 17.

Colonial populations were identified with 'The Poor' of Western Europe and designated 'natives'. A few, usually considered to be 'aristocratic' in some way, were identified as nascently middle-class and sent to the Home Land to be educated and incorporated into the ranks of the nation-state's middle-classes: "by special favour and grudgingly made, citizens" (Houènou (1924)). It was this select Western educated elite which would be handed control as the colonies gained independence in the post 2nd World War era.

The 'responsible' people (middle-classes) in colonial territories, whether of local or European origin, were small in number and could access political processes through the institutions at the centre of empire. There seemed no reason to replicate political processes in the colonies. Colonies merely required a subset of the bureaucratic administrative structures of the 'home land' which would ensure their smooth functioning and integration into the political and bureaucratic systems of the colonising nation-state 18.

Most colonial authorities established administrative machinery throughout their territories and assumed its acceptance by the people who inhabited the governed regions 19. The colonial administrations became the governments of colonial territories. The head of government in the colony was, in British colonies, the 'Governor', representative of the monarch, and ceremonial head of the administration. Beneath him a hierarchy of administrative officials existed, which preserved and accentuated the social order of the Home Land. Similar authority structures were developed in most Western European colonies.

Houènou (1924), speaking of the administrators he had dealings with in Dahomey (Benin), described:

… the daily abuses of the Colonial Policy, and in particular, of the Policy called Native Policy. This Policy is a source of perpetual vexations.

Let me illustrate: A European passing along the highways can arrest a native and condemn him to 15 days imprisonment for the sole reason that he did not take off his hat to a white man. You will say to me that these are insignificant matters; but the arbitrariness goes much farther.

The power of the Administrator is enormous. Contrary to that which happens in Europe, it is the accumulation of all powers; it is the accumulation of legislative and executive powers; it is the accumulation of judicial and administrative powers, — it is despotic power without control.

As the writer Somerset Maugham described them, colonial administrators, taken out of their European milieu, often appeared almost ludicrously self-important caricatures of their counterparts at the centres of empire.

In establishing administrative bureaucracies in colonies, colonial authorities believed they were involved in the historical evolution of those territories by linking them, through the colonising state, into world-wide political and economic networks. It was believed that, given the evolutionary process of constantly increasing size and complexity, colonised populations could only benefit from (and should be grateful for) the establishment of colonial administration and reorganisation of their communities.

As J. S. Mill, erstwhile resident in India and employee of the British East India Company, had put it,

Experience proves that it is possible for one nationality to merge and be absorbed in another: and when it was originally an inferior and more backward portion of the human race the absorption is greatly to its advantage.
(1861, Ch. 16)

To understand the political problems faced by Third World nations in the second-half of the twentieth century, we need to realise how unanticipated was their emancipation from Western European colonial status. It was simply not presumed that they were in the process of moving toward 'independence' of any kind. As Winston Churchill said in a speech before the British House of Commons on 18th June 1940,

If we can stand up to [Hitler] all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad and sunlit uplands.

If we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, and all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister and perhaps more prolonged by the light of a perverted science.

Let us therefore, do our duty and so bear ourselves that if the British Commonwealth and the Empire lasts a thousand years men will say, “This was their finest hour”.

The idea of grooming colonies for independence was an afterthought (in most cases post-2nd World War) of a dawning realisation that, like it or not, most colonial territories were going to gain independence from their European schoolmasters. Most European governments were reluctant to relinquish control of their colonial territories but found themselves with few options.

Unravelling Empires

The 2nd World War proved a watershed for colonial empires. The European powers were unable, during the war, to closely maintain supervision of their colonies and many colonial administrations had unravelled through neglect. The costs of re-establishing control in the face of increasingly organised resistance from colonial populations were prohibitive. Colonial peoples had been co-opted into fighting for their European masters and had received both military training and counter-insurgency training which would serve them well as they returned home and asserted their right to independence.

Most European states found themselves with huge debts to the United States, which had bankrolled the war effort and then presented European governments with the bill. For the USA, war had proved good business. The US would use the leverage it gained to reshape the world in the ways which best suited its own interests.

The United States became banker to the world, holding the mortgages of all those states which had gone into debt to fight 'The War'. It became leader of, and a major supplier of armaments of all kinds to the 'Free World' — i.e. the world which accepted and followed its ideological understandings and leadership. For the next fifty years it would live on income generated by those mortgages and new mortgages negotiated with all those Third World countries which came into its orbit as European empires crumbled 20.

The internal infrastructures of Western European colonial powers had all but collapsed through the war years and they simply did not have the financial means to reassert control of their colonies. The real winners in the aftermath of the war proved to be the two emergent superpowers: the USA and the USSR.

There were new kids on the block, and they were going to take over the world. Neither had been involved in the 19th Century acquisition of colonial empires. They saw no reason why the weakened European states should retain the advantages which privileged access to their colonial empires gave them.

Through the post-war years, the USSR would champion the 'right' of colonial people to independence and back this up with military training and weapons support. The USA, realising that it was in their interest to ensure they had unfettered access to the colonies, very strongly pressured Western European governments into granting independence to colonial territories.

Western European colonial powers faced the joint pressures of a 'Cold War' between the two superpowers (as they arm-wrestled for international dominance) and US insistence on free access to their colonies. With the combined problems of national indebtedness, costs of taking sides in the developing superpower confrontation, and re-establishing their own faltering infrastructures and economies, their empires became a mill-stone which most Colonial powers could do without.

Much as they might have wanted to retain them, and however strongly they attempted to assert the right to control, one after another, colonial territories gained independence. European colonial empires crumbled over about forty years between 1945 and the 1980s.

I was involved in research aimed at grooming a British colony — The Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony — for independence as late as the early 1970s. As a preliminary to my research I investigated the administrative structures of the colony and found that trainee ministers from the indigenous population had been appointed to each of the colonial administrative departments by the British administration. I was told that the aim was that they should learn how everything worked before taking over (some 3-4 years later).

Assuming that they would have departmental information at their disposal, and interested in their views of where things were going, I interviewed relevant ministers (there were, of course, no British counterparts in the colony since it was an administrative outpost of the British governmental bureaucracy).

They seemed genuinely surprised that I should want to talk with them. Once I began questioning them they quickly explained that they had no access to any ongoing activity or policy making in their departments. Their opinions were simply not sought by the administrative staff who generally thought them something of a nuisance. They had been given offices and titles but there was little or no 'grooming' going on!

Given the British Westminster system of parliamentary democracy, this was not surprising. In the Westminster System, there is a clearly established and carefully maintained separation between the political and administrative arms of government. Few administrative personnel knew how to 'train' future politicians — or felt that it was important to do so!

There was little long-term education or planning engaged in by any of the Western European powers as they handed governmental reins over to indigenous leaders 21. Territories which went from colonial to post-colonial status, simply inherited the colonial bureaucratic machinery and had political processes and institutions appended to them, often less than two years prior to gaining independence.

Taking over alien political and administrative structures

Colonies moved from being bureaucratic dictatorships to 'parliamentary democracies' with almost no education of the population in democratic ideas or procedures, and often with only a single election of political leaders prior to independence.

It could be claimed that this was because their European masters had simply lost interest, or were genuinely aggrieved at losing control. However, while those might have been considerations, it was also rather naïvely believed that democracy of the Western European kind was 'natural' to human beings. Freed from the dictatorial and capricious control of 'chiefs' and 'warlords', it was believed that people would revel in the new found freedom which Western forms of governmental organisation gave them 22.

Many of the problems of Third World countries seem to centre on attempts to recreate, in alien environments, Western-style 'nations' and Western-style 'nationalism' amongst their peoples. In attempting to emulate Western nations, they have introduced expectations and understandings which appear to fit very poorly into the cultural understandings and expectations indigenous to the peoples of post-colonial territories.

To understand the presumptions and expectations of those responsible for establishing new nations in the post-War period, we need to understand why they assumed the viability of such nation-states, and why they presumed that strong national sentiments amongst the people incorporated in such states would automatically follow the establishment of new nations. We also need to understand the nature of the political expectations and presumptions of the populations which have, in large measure, shaped the post-War experience of Third World nations.

A growing chorus of Third World writers has insisted on the inappropriateness of such presumptions for the government of post-colonial countries. Julius Ihonvbere is among the clearer of such voices, claiming that:

… the masses in Africa, relate to the state as an exploitative, coercive and alien structure [whose] custodians lack credibility and legitimacy and are thus incapable of mobilising or leading the people.
(Ihonvbere 1994, p. 43)

More recently, Kamilu Fage has claimed of Nigeria 23

… Nigerian experience leaves much to be desired. After several attempts at democratization (involving constitutional reforms, elections etc), the country is yet to evolve a viable, virile and stable democracy that will elicit popular support and or even have direct bearing on the lives of the generality of the ordinary people.

… the subtle re-emergence of the ugly signs of the past (violence, bickering and fracas in the state and national assemblies, feuds between the executive and legislative arms of the government, electoral malpractices, corruption, oppression etc) raise the fear that Nigerian democracy is still on shaky grounds.
(Fage 2007)

Richard Joseph of the Brookings Institute has given a sombre description of Nigeria in 2010:

In 2005, the U.S. National Intelligence Council predicted the “outright collapse of Nigeria as a nation-state within the next 15 years.” Five years later, Nigerians themselves often refer to their country as a “failed state”. What most characterizes life for its citizens is insecurity. Armed robbery has recently become more terrifying with kidnapping conducted to extract ransoms. On the eve of Nigeria’s 50th anniversary in October 2010, basic needs in electricity, water, and public health are unmet. Even fuel for cars is often scarce in this major petroleum exporter.

Nigeria is today a bruised and disoriented nation.
(Joseph 2010)

After the Colonies

Following the Second World War, Western imperial powers, with varying degrees of reluctance, moved out of their colonies. As they did so, they created 'new nations', with responsibility for government usually inherited by Western-educated elites. Their training, based on Western European understandings of the world, led them to believe that Western forms of political and administrative organisation were essential to the ongoing well-being of their people.

Most European commentators simply assumed that where there was a nation-state one would soon find an emerging sense of nationalism. The viability of the nation-state was assumed and political failure could only result from political and economic ineptitude and/ or from a failure to provide properly representative government. The subsequent histories of post-colonial states, in large part, reflect attempts to adapt Western nation-state organisation to their territorial and ethnic realities.

Obafemi Awolowo's (1947) description/explanation of Nigerian realities was indeed prescient (and applicable to many other post-colonial nation-states):

There are various national or ethnical groups in the country. Ten main groups were recorded during the 1931 census as follows: (1) Hausa, (2) lbo, (3) Yoruba, (4) Fulani, (5) Kanuri, (6) Ibibio, (7) Munshi or Tiv, (8) Edo, (9) Nupe, and (10) Ijaw. According to Nigeria Handbook, eleventh edition, 'there are also a great number of other small tribes too numerous to enumerate separately…'

It is a mistake to designate them 'tribes'. Each of them is a nation by itself with many tribes and clans. There is as much difference between them as there is between Germans, English, Russians and Turks for instance. The fact that they have a common overlord does not destroy this fundamental difference…

All these incompatibilities among the various peoples in the country militate against unification…. It is evident from the experiences of other nations that incompatibilities such as we have enumerated are barriers which cannot be overcome by glossing over them.
(Awolowo 1947, pp. 48-9)

Amongst the important influences on governments and people in Third World countries have been the reification of 'the state' and 'the people' in most discussion of Third World nations and peoples and the formulation of governmental policies based on that reification. Instead of squarely facing and taking into account the ethnic diversities of post-colonial nation-states, there has been a belief in their inherent unity and ability to be treated as unified wholes.

Their post-colonial reorganisation has usually been undertaken as an exercise in 'modernising' inherently homogeneous nation-states. The modernisation thesis,24 espoused in various forms and with various emphases by most development specialists over the past fifty years, has been an optimistic one. It has assumed that, for those nations which genuinely and consistently implement the necessary social, political and economic changes, transformation into modern industrialised nation-states is inevitable.

A Few Assumptions underpinning Post-Colonial 'Development'

The state has been assumed to be a self-existent entity, separate from the communities which it controls, and able to impose necessary changes, however radical, on its populace 25. Important responsibilities placed on new nation-states by these specialists have included establishing those institutions necessary to economic development, and providing the social and political climate necessary to stimulate self-interested, competitive material accumulation, leading, it is assumed, to an inevitable 'take-off into self-sustained economic growth' (cf Rostow 1956, 1961).

Because most political and economic theorists and practitioners believe that 'traditional' societies are being transformed into modern societies, with traditional features destined for oblivion, Third World communities have been regarded as transient. Problems encountered by 'traditionally orientated' individuals and communities are assumed to be, in large measure, consequences of this shift to modernity. So, rather than focusing on the social problems of such communities, one needs to step up the pace of modernisation.

Third World governments, it has been believed 26 should, therefore, in the face of the breakdown of law and order and social cohesion in traditional communities, more rigorously implement those measures which will transform them into industrialised nation-states, with all the advantages of such a transformation.

The dissolution of the old is a necessary precursor and concomitant of modernisation and the state should keep its eyes firmly fixed on that goal, not deviating to attend to problems which are inevitable, but transient consequences of moving toward it. As Sangmpam put it:

… modernisation theory assumes an imaginary society because the real society in the Third World is perceived as 'transient'

… Various solutions have been proposed to combat underdevelopment. Central to these solutions is the role assigned to the state as the 'engine of development'. Until recently, it was thought that an authoritarian state could better perform 'developmentalist' tasks.

In recent years, the state has been invested with the capacity to move toward democracy, which presumably will lead to socioeconomic development. The belief in the state is reinforced by the call to 'bring-the-state-back-in', according to which the state and its policies reflect almost autonomous institutions and the actions of those occupying these institutions.
(Sangmpam 1994, p. 1)

This assumes a 'government' separate from the people it governs, with political leaders somehow separate from and able to impose their policies on the populace (echoing colonial administrative practice). All this is based, of course, on a reification of 'government' and the separation of a 'political environment' from other 'environments' such as the 'economic' and the 'social'. It also assumes the depersonalization of government and a clear separation between its political and administrative arms, that is institutional, routinised Western-style government (see Max Weber (1968)).

Politicians are identified with their parties and platforms. The people they represent assume that they will support their party in parliament and only secondarily focus on the local needs and interests of the electorate. Members of parliament are insulated from the impersonal institutional bureaucracies through which government policies are carried out.

In the Third World, these presumptions are usually difficult to sustain. Political activity is commonly not separate from other forms of activity, and those with political power exercise it personally. Political parties often find it difficult to pursue a coherent set of policies since members of parliament are focused on their own electorates' concerns. That is, government, both in formulating policy and in the delivery of services is personalised 27.

For people who live in communities where it is both natural and proper for leaders to be personally connected with their followers, this personalisation is unexceptional. Government is not separate from the people, and politicians access the administrative departments of government through networks of patron-client relationships which link not only the administrative bureaucracy and politicians, but also politicians and their constituents.

International forces

From 1945 to 1990, post-colonial nations were subjected to a forty-five year period of 'cold war' between the two 'superpowers' which emerged from the Second World War. Both superpowers held contradictory, but nonetheless equally Western ideologies, which they each attempted to impose on the rest of the world.

This, in turn, split the world into three camps:

  • those who supported capitalism and saw in Marxism, communism and socialism the anti-Christ which denied individual human rights and enslaved subjects to the state (The First World);
  • those who saw in capitalism the rapacious greed of a few, subjecting the many to work for their individual and private gain (The Second World);
  • and a third, 'non-aligned' group, with many shadings, which sought to remain neutral, claiming to hold neither ideology, but some other political rationale suitable to their particular circumstances. It was in reference to this 'non-aligned' movement that the term 'Third World' first emerged.

Development Agencies, Human Rights and Structural Adjustment Programs

As new Third World nations emerged from the late 1940s onwards, confronted by enormous political and economic problems, the industrialised world became increasingly aware of the need to 'develop' 'undeveloped', 'under developed' and 'less developed' regions. It was strongly believed in 'Third World Development' circles, that, unless Third World communities were 'developed', they would fall prey to Soviet propaganda.

Over the next forty years, a wide range of national, international and voluntary 'development' organisations were established. Chief amongst these have been international organisations with charters which require them to fund and organise Third World development programs and plans.28

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have had responsibility for advising governments on economic, welfare and development matters, for funding major projects, and for overseeing economic development in the new nations. In the process, they have widely been accused of imposing their own Western priorities and ideological interests on those governments most in need of assistance.

Fantu Cheru discussed this:

In the words of former President Nyerere of Tanzania, the IMF has become 'the International Ministry of Finance', with enormous leverage to dictate the national policies of Third World governments …

As in the case of IMF loans, the [World] Bank grants credit only after a borrower-government signs a letter of intent in which it undertakes to comply with certain conditions. These conditions, however, go beyond the traditional IMF recipe and require major institutional reforms …

The critics of the IMF and the World Bank charge that these institutions represent the interests of Western countries and that their orthodox prescriptions are not appropriate to the circumstances of African countries as they fail to address the root causes of underdevelopment and unequal exchange.

(Cheru 1989, pp. 35-6, 38-9)

The United Nations has provided a forum for interchanges between developed and developing countries. It has also often been accused of being a vehicle for the imposition of First World demands on Third World governments, including the imposition of sets of 'universal principles' relating to the rights of individuals and the responsibilities of governments.

Following the Second World War, with the ideological confrontation of capitalism and communism, Western nations became increasingly concerned with 'human rights', particularly with the right of individuals to freedom of movement and self-expression. No government should have the right to control movement. The United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) spelt this out clearly.

Of course, only 30 years earlier, Western European colonial powers had no difficulty in imposing severe restrictions on the movement of indigenous peoples within and from their colonies 29.

Western nations, claiming such freedom of movement to be a crucial distinction between themselves and those aligned with the Eastern Bloc, put pressure on Third World governments to comply with the United Nations covenants. These, over the years, have consistently addressed current social, political and economic concerns of First World countries.

Article 12 of the above Covenant reads:

  1. Everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his [sic] residence.
  2. Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own.
  3. The above-mentioned rights shall not be subject to any restrictions except those which are provided by law, are necessary to protect national security, public order (ordre public), public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others, and are consistent with the other rights recognized in the present Covenant.
  4. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country. 30

Not only were Third World governments pressured to implement such resolutions, the United Nations organisations formed to provide development assistance provided means of leverage to donor countries.

Where First World governments disapproved of political processes and developments within the new nations, they very often used these international organisations as forums within which they could voice their concerns and through which they could pressure Third World governments for reform.

Accusations made against the activities of many of these organisations have been that the priorities which have been set, and the programs and projects which have been funded, have reflected First World rather than Third World concerns; and that these programs and the activities of international organisations have very often been motivated by 'human rights' issues which reflect the political concerns of First World nations.

The Indonesian Government, in 1993, spelt out its attitude to such First World pressures:

Human rights questions are essentially ethical and moral in nature. Hence, any approach to human rights questions which is not motivated by a sincere desire to protect these rights but by disguised political or, worse, to serve as a pretext to wage a political campaign against another country, cannot be justified 31.

Given the international tensions of the 'Cold War' period, it is small wonder that the international political concerns of donor nations strongly influenced their development priorities. This led them to use development funding as a means of pressuring governments into endorsing their interests and concerns.

Much of the pressure exerted on post-colonial governments during this period was concerned, not with the material well-being of Third World peoples so much as with ensuring the commitment of governments and people to the ideological biases of the donor nations.

With the demise of the Soviet Union, 'non-alignment' has become anachronistic. Now there is only one highly successful and very dominant ideology (with its variants) in the West, with socialism and communism in disrepute. Those who, in the past, sought to remain nonaligned, now have little option but to accept the ascendancy of capitalism and attempt to reorganise their communities to participate in the rapidly expanding international capitalist system.

Many of them, in the 1980s and 1990s, at World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) instigation, implemented structural adjustment programs (SAPs) to reorientate their political and economic organisation and activity to neoliberal, free-market requirements. As Jason Oringer and Carol Welch (1998) claimed,

SAPs share a common objective: to move countries away from self-directed models of national development that focus on the domestic market and toward outward-looking development models that stress the importance of complete integration into the dominant global structures of trade, finance, and production. 32.

In the new international climate, no nation could escape involvement in the emerging global communications, financial, enterprise, information and entertainment networks. Nor could they insulate themselves from the deregulative forces which exposed populations to the vagaries of the international marketplace. These gave transnational corporations and organisations increasing influence within Third World national boundaries.

Confusing Third World intra-national tensions with international confrontations

As colonial territories gained independence, they entered a world threatened by the confrontation of two world industrial powers, armed with weapons of mass destruction. No country was immune from the resulting tensions and from the demands made upon them to support or oppose the Western and Eastern blocs.

While there was no Third World War during this period, there were innumerable 'brush fires' or small wars.

Third World countries, fraught with internal tensions and challenges to central authority, became the target of Cold War rivalries. As regional interests in Third world nations challenged central governments they looked for external support and ways of obtaining weaponry and military expertise. They soon learned the language of international Cold War confrontation and used it very effectively in appealing for backing for their insurrections.

First, convince a Cold War bloc that they were committed to its ideological position. Second, convince them that their opponent was on the side of the opposing bloc. Once done, this would quickly be followed by funding for their activities by the major world players and their allies. This 'funding' was, of course, not 'free'. The costs of the wars were borne by the Third World countries, not by those international players who 'supported' them.

Inevitably, once one side in an internal Third World national conflict received international support of this kind, the other side found itself the recipient of 'military aid' from the opposing bloc. In this way, superpower tensions spilt over into the rest of the world, reclassifying local disputes in Cold War terms and financially crippling the Third world nations involved in the disputes.

During the Cold War period, these reclassified wars were fought in colonial and post-colonial countries, with opponents armed and supported by the two superpowers or their allies. Each conflict was recast as an ideological confrontation between capitalism and communism, proxies for direct conflict between First and Second World players (the superpowers and their allies were only directly involved in three of these wars). Only two of them (in Northern Ireland and Turkey) were not fought on Third World soil.

Because they were insulated from the conflict, this period of worldwide turmoil and bloodshed has often been described by people in Western nations as a prolonged period of peace. That peace has usually been attributed to the balanced build-up of nuclear weapons, which guaranteed the 'mutually assured destruction' (with the appropriate acronym 'MAD') of the two superpowers should they enter into war with each other.

In Third world nations, however, during this period millions of people were killed in wars which were bankrolled and armed by the superpowers and their allies in the name of the ideological confrontation of capitalism and communism.33

This was not a period when newly independent countries could concentrate on their 'development' equitably aided by 'developed' nations and development organisations whose interests in their affairs were wholly benign and positive. This was a period when countries which wished to receive 'aid' from the 'developed' 'First' (capitalist) or 'Second' (communist) worlds had to demonstrate their ideological commitment to the bloc which provided the aid.34

It was a period in which the bloc which did not provide the aid almost certainly attempted to develop and/or maintain festering discontent and rebellion within the country. The aim of this interference in the internal affairs of Third World countries was, through successfully fuelling insurrection, to replace the leadership with people committed to the ideology of the ideological bloc promoting the confrontation.

Throughout the Third World, governments, faced with the enormous task (inherited from colonial powers) of developing the infrastructures of 'modern' 'industrialised' countries, found themselves fighting 'insurgents' or 'rebels' or 'guerrilla movements', spending a great deal of their time, energy and resources on these conflicts.

Kick and Kiefer described the scene in the late 1980s:

In the last few years, developing countries have spent nearly [US] $20 billion per annum on the importation of armaments …

Militarisation of the Third World coincides with a marked post-war change in the global theatres of war from the developed to the developing countries. In the first half of this century major wars involved direct contention between the prevailing world powers, but since 1945 the structure of international warfare has shifted.

Sivard (1982) identifies 65 major wars and 10,700,000 civilian and battle deaths during 1960-1982, and with only two exceptions (Northern Ireland and Turkey) these wars were entirely fought on the territory of developing countries …

The rivalry between the capitalist and eastern socialist power blocs has … been played out in the Third World by the provision of military equipment to local combatants, and less often by direct intervention either by the sponsors themselves or by their proxies.

(Kick & Kiefer 1987, pp. 34, 44)

As Michael Renner described, 'more than $1.2 trillion worth of military equipment has been transferred [to Third World countries] during the past three decades' (1994, p.23).35 It was small wonder that 'development' activities were less than successful, and that Third World governments, by the 1980s, faced bankruptcy and economic ruin.

Dan Connell spelt out some of the consequences:

In 1991, of the 25 largest Third World debtors, 12 were at war, and many were on a war footing …

From 1970 to 1989, according to UN reports, Third World debt skyrocketed from $68.4 billion to $1,262.8 billion, leaving several nations owing more than they produce in annual income. Today, many countries have been forced to restructure their economies to keep up interest payments, while living standards plunge, urban squalor and rural poverty deepen, and infant and maternal mortality rates climb toward pre-independence levels.

With the best land reserved for export crops and natural resources sold off at discount rates, their ability to feed themselves declines further while environmental degradation proceeds apace. And more money is borrowed to stave off imminent catastrophe.

(Connell 1993, p. 1)

As James Speth, Administrator of the United Nations Development Program, said of Africa in 1994:

We conveniently forget Africa's history. We forget that the transatlantic slave trade robbed Africa of about 12 million of its able-bodied men and women. We forget that colonialism which followed the slave trade introduced a system of exploitation of Africa's natural resources to feed the industries of the West.

We forget the 1884/1885 Colonial Conferences of Berlin which crudely Balkanised and divided Africa into geographic areas of control by the West, with scant regard for ethnic groupings. We even forget that during the period of the cold war's geopolitical fight for spheres of influence, Africa became a focal point for the ideology and the arms that today contribute to the havoc we find in Rwanda and Burundi, in Zaire and Angola and Somalia

… Conflict and wars claim resources that would otherwise be spent on education and health and housing and other areas of development.

… A large part of the blame for this trading in death rests with the industrial countries who, while giving aid in the order of $60 billion a year, earn much more in arms sales and otherwise from the estimated $125 billion per year in military expenditures of the developing world.

(Speth 1994)

At the very time when post-colonial governments were attempting to establish viable political and administrative institutions in their countries, legitimised by popular acceptance and participation, they were required to develop sophisticated international policies and interactions. They had to balance the geo-political demands of the superpowers with an increasing range of 'development' requirements placed on them by an emerging set of international institutions. The conflicting and contradictory demands to which Third World governments were subjected made long-term, rational planning extremely difficult.

Problems of nation-building

The 'nations' created by colonial powers usually directly reflected the geographical territories which they had ruled. They usually incorporated a variety of ethnic groupings, sometimes traditionally opposed to one another, sometimes more closely tied to other communities not included within the national boundaries, and sometimes opposed through the activities of the colonial powers themselves 36.

In almost all colonial territories, a small Western educated minority, very often representatives of a number of separate ethnic groupings in the colony, had been groomed to consider themselves members of the middle-classes of the colonising powers. As Houènou (1924) described of his own attachment to France:

To begin with, I must completely absolve France from the policies of some of her children. We who have been reared in the Motherland—we know her, we love her, and we have unshakeable confidence in her.

But, I regret to say, though I say it fearlessly, that the representatives whom she sends to her colonies fail to perform their duties. More than that, they betray the interests of France and compromise her future. They betray the interests of Africa, and thereby compromise the future of a people who has the right to exist.

My sympathy, my affection, my love for France cannot be doubted; for in the critical hours of 1914, without compulsion of any sort, I assumed spontaneously the duty of all citizens and exposed my life like all Frenchmen.

As we've seen, the sense of inclusive, co-operative identity between middle ranking people preceded the establishment of most Western European nation-states. The small educated minority from the colonies were educated to identify with those middle ranking people.

However, as Houènou claimed, they often felt they had been tolerated rather than whole-heartedly included in middle class company, "by special favour and grudgingly made, citizens" of the colonising power. In many ways they were neither fully accepted as citizens of the 'Motherland', nor, any longer, closely identified in their own minds with people in the colonies from which they had been taken.

The nationalism of most Third World nations consisted in the desire of these Western educated individuals to validate themselves by taking over the reins of government from colonial administrators. This was coupled with a strong desire on the part of the populace to be freed from foreign domination.

In most new nations, the post-colonial nation-state preceded the emergence of nationalism amongst the vast majority of the population. Those who inherited government, inherited a responsibility which few colonial administrations had accepted — they would have to find ways in which to develop and maintain a sense of nationalism amongst the diverse peoples of their national territories.

The unity of a colony was, to the colonial power, a consequence of its administration, and did not require the active endorsement of the indigenous populations. The post-colonial nation-state, however, as a result of very strong international pressures and a presumption of the universal applicability of Western democratic forms, needed to receive its legitimation from the population.

Post-colonial governments, unlike the colonial administrations which preceded them, needed to be ratified through the identification of their populations with them as legitimate and unifying authorities within national territories.

Colonial powers had provided administration, and administrative representatives down to the local village and household levels in the form of magistrates, police, wardens, and council officers. They had imposed these structures and authorities on the colonial populations. They had assumed, but had not felt any need to engender, the commitment of villagers to their supervision.

In contrast, post-colonial governments needed to engender in their populations a sense of 'belonging' to the nation, rather than to a particular region, ethnic group or clan. Governments, therefore, had to intrude into the lives of their constituents in ways not contemplated by most colonial authorities.

Bice Maiguashca explained it well:

As for the Third World, during the 1950s and 1960s most of the newly created states concentrated their attention on establishing political centralisation and fostering national integration. As a consequence, most indigenous peoples, who had enjoyed a relative degree of autonomy during the colonial period, now found themselves under the authority of local elites who were driven by the imperative of 'nation-building' and who sought to consolidate their precarious hold on power through any means available to them …

(Maiguashca 1994, p. 361)

National governments, handed control by colonial authorities, had to intrude into the identities and self-definitions of relatively insular regions, ethnic groups and clans. They had to attempt to inculcate new perceptions and understandings, through which people would primarily define themselves as members of the nation, so as to weld them into a coherent whole.

They had to begin 'nation-building' in a way not confronted by their colonial predecessors.

Those who inherited the reins of governmental power usually saw their task as one of establishing a European-style 'nation-state' 37. The motives for support by the majority of the population however, usually had less to do with the establishment of a nation-state than with the displacement of those who had imposed such ideas upon them.

This new, and often very intrusive, involvement of national political and governmental activity in local and regional affairs created mounting tension in many regions. In many countries the resentment generated by such intrusion led to independence claims by regions and ethnic groups.

Decentralisation of Political and Governmental Organisation

Most colonial authorities, though claiming to be aware of the strong divisive forces which existed within the territories they were handing over to indigenous elites, counselled new governments to devolve political and administrative authority to regions. This decentralisation of political and governmental organisation and activity, it was hoped, would dampen demands for secession from the new nation.

This emphasis on devolution echoed conventional wisdom in political and economic development circles, which held that, in order to ensure grassroots involvement in political and economic development, it was necessary to involve people as directly as possible in the responsibilities of government 38.

Premdas and Steeves (1984) spelt out the rationale clearly:

If decolonisation means anything, it would at least entail the dismantling and re-orienting of the inherited bureaucracy rendering government administrative behaviour subservient to community will. In essence, decolonisation at the grassroots becomes more of a reality where decision making and execution do not remain the monopoly or preserve of civil servants but rather are controlled by elected local councils.

The overdeveloped centre must be deconcentrated to the periphery; a meaningful measure of autonomy in political decision making should be devolved to the vast majority of citizens who are rural dwellers …

(Premdas & Steeves 1984, p. 2)

However, the problems confronting new nations could not be so easily overcome. In most countries, devolution of governmental responsibilities to provincial and regional governments simply multiplied the problems associated with governing through poorly legitimised political structures. A further level of inefficient, ineffective bureaucracy and political office was added to a structure which was quickly to come under real strain 39.

Further, once regions gained political voice of their own, it became easier for regional interests to argue for secession, centred on the existing political and bureaucratic structures. Many post-independence separation movements focused their rebellions through taking control of provincial and regional governments in their areas.

Post-colonial governments faced challenges to their autonomy from several directions:

  • international organisations and major international political powers placed strong demands on them to accept and act on their priorities and interests;
  • the deregulation demanded by those involved in the emerging international economic order made governments less and less able to control economic and welfare activity within their territories;
  • and regional forces challenged the legitimacy of the nation-state.

Benjamin Barber and Regine Temam (1992) claimed that internationalisation and tribalism in the 1990s were still, and perhaps even more successfully, undermining the traditional political institutions of the nation-state.

On the one hand, global economic and ecological forces were requiring increasing integration and uniformity in the world, with deregulation making national borders permeable. On the other hand, nations were being threatened by 'resurgent, conflicting nationalities and tribal enmities' (Barber & Temam 1992, p. 13).

The leadership and internal organisation of regional and ethnic groups and clans incorporated within the new nations had very often been warped, disrupted and weakened during the colonial period. Those (primarily Western educated elites) who sought power in the new nations found in those groups fertile soil for their own ambitions. They often attempted to subvert and/ or displace 'traditional' leadership in order to establish personal support-bases within their own ethnic and regional communities through which they could gain control of the national government 40.

Ikejiani described the scene in Nigeria in 1964, three years after gaining independence:

It is glaringly evident that the distinguishing mark in Nigerian public life presently is not a man's political philosophy, or religion, or party, or education, or wealth, or personal qualities, but in the last analysis his tribe or origin. Nigerians carry these tribal thoughts into all aspects of their daily life. They carry them into their friendships, into their occupations, into their loyalties and into their prejudices. Politics in Nigeria not only has a regional cleavage, subtle and most grossly evident, but also clan connotation. There is a deep struggle for tribal superiority as well.

… It is certainly beyond dispute that in our factories and shops, in government offices, in corporations and in our various institutions, appointments and promotions are made, in many cases, on tribal and clan calculations.

(Ikejiani 1964, p. 122)

Rather than a shared 'nationalism' amongst the populace, the leaders of new nations found that colonial administration had done little to weaken ethnic and clan loyalties and identities. It had been just as ineffective in establishing any sense of shared identity between the disparate communities within national territorial boundaries.

Most colonial people interacted with the colonial structures at the local level and seldom needed to think in terms of an over arching 'national' bureaucracy. In consequence, for most people, pre-colonial political allegiances, while distorted by colonial experience, were still potent. Chukwudum Okolo put it well:

Perhaps the best description of the African reality is tribalism, which is Africa's foremost social evil. Tribal wars have long been part of the continent's chequered history, and a source of social, political, and economic distress since independence. The identifiable cause of coups in Africa lies in tribal struggles for power.

(Okolo 1989, p. 33)

Indigenous Nations have the right of self-determination

During the 1990s, with Third World governments assumed to be firmly in control of their national territories, an international emphasis emerged on minorities, on 'the Fourth World' or 'Indigenous Nations' (see Hughes 1997). The International Covenant on the Rights of Indigenous Nations, presented to the Geneva headquarters of the United Nations in 1994, provided a clear statement of the focus:

The Charter of the United Nations, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and resolutions and declarations of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples, the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, the International Indian Treaty Council and other international bodies related to these organs affirm the fundamental importance of the right of self-determination of all peoples, by virtue of which they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

Paradoxically, as emphasis was increasingly placed on the globalisation of economies and the emergence of supra-national political, social and economic integration, the rights of minority groups within national boundaries were increasingly emphasised in international debate. Representatives of such groups found receptive audiences in international forums and in First World nations in pressing claims for the recognition of:

… the urgent need to respect and promote the inherent rights and characteristics of Indigenous Nations, especially the right to lands, territories and resources, which derive from each Nation's culture; aspects of which include spiritual traditions, histories and philosophies, as well as political, economic and social customs and structures.
(UN 1994)

While continuing to treat the state as separate from and able to direct the activities of 'its people', international organisations and First World leaders 41 increasingly required Third World governments to recognise the rights of minorities within their boundaries. As the Covenant said:

Indigenous Nations have the right of self-determination, in accordance with international law, and by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development without external interference;

… Indigenous Nations may freely choose to participate fully in the political, economic, social and cultural life of a State while maintaining their distinct political, economic, social and cultural characteristics, and not relinquishing the inherent right of sovereignty.

(UN 1994)

By placing these demands in the context of Awolowo's description of colonial Nigeria, it becomes apparent that post-colonial authorities were going to face enormous problems if they accepted such demands and attempted to act on them:

There are various national or ethnical groups in the country [Nigeria]. Ten main groups were recorded during the 1931 census as follows: (1) Hausa, (2) lbo, (3) Yoruba, (4) Fulani, (5) Kanuri, (6) Ibibio, (7) Munshi or Tiv, (8) Edo, (9) Nupe, and (10) Ijaw.… 'there are also a great number of other small tribes too numerous to enumerate separately…'

It is a mistake to designate them 'tribes'. Each of them is a nation by itself with many tribes and clans. There is as much difference between them as there is between Germans, English, Russians and Turks for instance.
(Awolowo 1947, pp. 48-9)

In part, these apparently contradictory emphases signalled the decreasing importance being placed upon nation-states in the world of the late 1990s. In part, however, the emphasis on the rights of minorities also reflected the realities of the ethnic conflict which has been present in Third World nations since their inception, and which was becoming a major concern in the First World.

As a 1995 Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) report described:

More and more small states are emerging, requiring new forms of extra-national arrangements and development assistance. Conflicts such as those in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Chechnya are recent and dramatic manifestations of an emergent nationalism that created new, and exacerbated old, political, economic, religious, and ethnic problems. Violence and war have continued unabated in various parts of the developing world.

(UN 1996)

Third World nations were being challenged by forces both inside and outside state boundaries 42.

Since September 11th 2001, with the West re-oriented to seeking out and destroying 'terrorists' wherever they might be found (or imagined!), those minorities which have not already secured rights (and many who have) find themselves categorised as 'terrorists' by central governments.

A new language has emerged to legitimise harsh reaction to minority demands. Branding a minority movement a 'separatist terrorist organisation' seems to mute condemnation of any action against them from most Western governments. Adopting the policies and justificatory language of George W. Bush's United States, central governments have readily asserted, in the words of Henry Hyde, Chairman of the US House of Representatives Committee on International Relations (October 3 2001), that:

We must be prepared not only to protect ourselves from new assaults, not only to intercept and frustrate them, but to eliminate new threats at their source. This must be a permanent campaign, similar to the ancient one humanity has waged against disease and its never-ending assault upon our defenses
(Hyde 2001)

With Western governments committed to similar reaction to those who oppose them around the world, it has become increasingly difficult for disadvantaged minorities to gain support or even a hearing in international forums. Movements which were supported during the 1990s are now cut adrift, to fend for themselves.

The consequences can be seen in the increasing flows of displaced persons, no longer welcome in Western countries which now see them — whatever their age or gender — as a looming threat to national security.

The World is Awash in Weapon Systems

From the outset, most Third World governments have had to contend with the competing interests of powerful ethnic and regional groups, more intent on furthering their own interests than in ensuring workable national government. This, in many countries, has led to long-term civil unrest, insurrection, and civil war.

In the climate of the Cold War, such difficulties were compounded by international powers confounding tribal, regional and clan conflict with ideological confrontation between capitalism and communism. The protagonists were, as we've seen, often armed and funded by competing international forces.

In the post-Cold War period, the flow of arms did not diminish. With huge stockpiles of weapons no longer required by Western and Eastern bloc countries, arms merchants were able to offer sophisticated weaponry at bargain basement prices with little or no check on the credentials or intentions of purchasers.

James Woolsey, Director of Central Intelligence, in testimony to the US Senate Select Intelligence Committee on 10 January 1995, claimed that:

… the proliferation of advanced conventional weapons and technology [is] a growing military threat as unprecedented numbers of sophisticated weapons systems are offered for sale on the world market.

Especially troubling is the proliferation of technologies and expertise in areas such as sensors, materials, and propulsion in supporting the development and modernisation of weapons systems.

Apart from the capability of some advanced conventional weapons to deliver weapons of mass destruction, such weapons have the potential to significantly alter military balances, and disrupt U.S. military operations and cause significant U.S. casualties.

And Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper, Jr., Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, before the same committee:

[W]hile we tend to focus on current and future high technology big-ticket items, it's important to remember that the world is already awash in weapon systems. These range from the relatively simple small arms and mines, to more advanced hand held surface to air missiles, to increasingly advanced anti-ship cruise missiles.

Any country with hard currency can and will get these systems. And while they won't lead to military defeat of U.S. forces, they certainly hold out the prospect of casualties. As we have seen in the past, this can have both a major impact on force planning for peacekeeping operations and a significant domestic political impact on their conduct.
(Arms Sales Monitor February 1995, p. 3)

As Rachel Stohl has described, the 21st century has seen little change in the flow of weaponry to Third World territories:

In the last six years, Washington has stepped up its sales and transfers of high-technology weapons, military training, and other military assistance to governments regardless of their respect for human rights, democratic principles, or nonproliferation. All that matters is that they have pledged their assistance in the global war on terrorism.
(Rachel Stohl (2008))

Parliamentary democracy, one-party states, military coups

Destructive as the weapons build-up and regional and ethnic challenges have been within Third World countries, there were other equally disruptive forces involved in challenging the viability of new nation-states. Where post-colonial governments were established through the electoral processes of democracy, those who entered parliament were supposed to conform to Western European parliamentary and governmental practices.

Parliamentary democracy, particularly of the Westminster form, depends on those elected seeing themselves as representatives, not of people in particular residential regions within the nation, but of particular 'parties' which represent the interests of particular social 'classes' and pressure groups, each with its distinctive ideology. Ethnic and clan differences are assumed to have been overridden by economically-based class distinctions which cut across group boundaries.

People are presumed to be committed to particular ideological positions espoused by the parties for which they vote.

Parliamentary democracy of Western European varieties philosophically presupposes a commitment by the majority of the population to the nation, with individuals vicariously sharing in the achievements of the nation as though they were their own achievements. Thomas Hobbes, in the seventeenth century, provided the philosophical underpinnings for this form of nationalism. The commitment of individuals to the nation creates:

… a real unity of them all in one and the same person, made by covenant of every man with every man, in such manner as if every man should say to every man: I authorise and give up my right of governing myself to this man, or to this assembly of men, on this condition; that thou give up thy right to him and authorise all his actions in like manner. This done, the multitude so united in one person is called a COMMONWEALTH.

(Hobbes 1909 [1651], ch. 17)

The government becomes the individual writ large, and individuals effectively enter into contract with the government to support it as long as all other individuals in the nation do so, too. However, as we have seen, this form of commitment presupposes an existing unity or nationalism amongst the populace. Government is aimed at balancing the competing interests of classes and pressure groups, fulfilling their aspirations at the national level.

Neither the 'classes'43 nor widely endorsed 'parties'44 and ideologies existed in most newly independent countries.

The Nigerian Head of State, General Murtala Mohammed, speaking to the Nigerian Constitution Drafting Committee in 1976, spelt out the problem:

Since the inception of this Administration, and particularly since the announcement of your appointment as members of the Constitution Drafting Committee, there has been a lively debate in the press urging the introduction of one form of political ideology or another. Past events have, however, shown that we cannot build a future for this country on a rigid political ideology. Such an approach would be unrealistic.

The evolution of a doctrinal concept is usually predicated upon the general acceptance by the people of a national political philosophy and, consequently, until all our people, or a large majority of them, have acknowledged a common ideological motivation, it would be fruitless to proclaim any particular philosophy or ideology in our constitution.

(Murtala Mohammed 1976, pp. 12-15)

As Murtala Mohammed argued, variant political ideologies within a nation detail alternative biases in organisation and activity, based on a common underlying understanding of the world and commitment to national government. Where that common understanding and commitment do not exist, it is difficult, if not impossible, to gain widespread, long-term support for the particular ideology of a political party. Rather, people define themselves in terms of ethnic and regional identity.45

In Third World nations, those elected to office sometimes publicly endorsed particular political ideologies 46 which spelt out alternative forms of centralised government of the nation. However, most of them already knew, or soon found, that their constituents were not committed to the articulated ideology and many of them simply did not understand its rationale.

Instead, people presumed members of parliament to be committed to the communities which they represented. The communities did not see central government as an important institution through which the national economy might be safeguarded and nurtured or through which the nation might achieve 'stability' or 'economic well-being' or 'greatness'. Rather, they saw it as the source of jobs, wealth and goods which could flow to themselves if their representative was astute.

Okwudiba Nnoli described this problem in post-colonial Nigeria:

Nigerianisation involved efforts by the ethnically based ruling parties in the regions to secure the complete domination of the regional public service positions by the relevant regional functionaries, or, in their absence, to prevent rival ethnic groups from filling the relevant posts. This same strategy was evident in the inter ethnic struggle for positions in the federal public service.

(Nnoli 1980, p. 196)

Paula Brown spelt out a similar scene in her study of leadership in the New Guinea Highlands:

… achievement of a high elective position has the greatest prestige and rewards … The competition and ambitions of Simbu are demonstrated in the large number of nominees, the lavish expenditure of candidates on their campaigns, the significance of success and expectations of rewards by their followers.

Support of a candidate is an important rural social activity. Provincial and national political office are the counters in Simbu intergroup and interpersonal competition of the 1980s.

(Brown 1987, p. 102)

This direct relationship between the politician and his or her constituency is, of course, closer to the Athenian ideal of democracy than is the party system of Western democracy. But, in the absence of a sense of unity amongst all those whose representatives formed government, it resulted in political and governmental chaos.

When parliamentarians are intent on ensuring that as much of the national wealth as possible is siphoned off to themselves and to their regions, government becomes a process of dividing up the spoils of office, not of focused 'national development'. As Brown said:

With the continued concentration of financial resources in government, politics is the way to wealth …

Power and prestige in the province focus upon the town; a multi ethnic elite runs the affairs of the province and has connections with the national government, business, and sports activities. The rural communities are its dependents and the source of votes, customers, clients, and parishioners.

… these leaders are not detached from their rural relatives for two reasons.

First, the selected officials represent rural constituencies where they must be nominated, campaign, receive votes, and serve rural supporters. In their distribution of benefits they reward their supporters and constituents with jobs and services.

Second, the upper and urban segment is not independent of a rural base. Although they may live and work outside the rural area they contribute to rural affairs of their kinsmen, clan, and constituents and participate in some rural activities.

(Brown 1987, p. 103)

Nnoli described the situation as it developed in Nigeria:

Most Nigerians have come to believe that unless their 'own men' are in government they are unable to secure those socio-economic amenities that are disbursed by the government. Hence, governmental decisions about the siting of industries, the building of roads, award of scholarships, and appointments to positions in the public services, are closely examined in terms of their benefits to the various ethnic groups in the country.

In fact, there has emerged a crop of 'ethnic watchers' who devote much of their time and energy to assessing the differential benefits of the various groups from any government project.

(Nnoli 1978, p. 176)

During the 1980s, while living on the island of Tabiteuea in the Republic of Kiribati in the central Pacific during national elections, I canvassed the views of people as to the right kind of parliamentarian for their community. Every person with whom I spoke said that it was the responsibility of the elected person to gain as much for their community as possible from the central government.

People also focused on the cash income and other benefits flowing to the holder of the office. It was felt that the position of member of parliament was something of a sinecure, and the salary and 'perks' which went with the job belonged not only to the member but also to the community to which he or she belonged. It was, therefore, reasonable to 'share the job around', so that a number of communities might benefit from this cash flow.

The candidates all similarly claimed that they would only be elected if they could show that they could obtain more for the community than others before them and that their own income would be more widely distributed. Re-election depended on this perception of the performance of the member of parliament.

The man who was finally re-elected for a second term had developed a strategy through which his income was shared beyond his own community. In fact, he insisted, and it seemed correct, that he spent more of his money in helping marginal groups than in helping those who strongly supported him and considered him a member of their community.

Both the candidates and people in the electorate were able to name those in the previous parliament who had been most successful. In all cases their success was judged by what they had managed to obtain for their electorates.

When I asked people how they knew who were most successful, they answered that they knew through listening to the parliamentary broadcasts. People in the community who had radios (and many who lived nearby) often listened to parliament. The aim was not to find out about the country's external relations, or to judge the effectiveness with which the nation was being governed. Rather, they wanted to hear who were most forceful and effective in representing their electorates and which electorates were being favoured in any 'development' exercises or in infrastructure maintenance and upgrading.

If the community felt that their representative was inadequate, that person was most unlikely to be re-elected. So, each new parliament comprises large numbers of new members, with little or no experience of parliamentary procedures, and far more commitment to their own electorates than to centralised government.

Papua New Guinean parliamentary experience 47, during the 1980s and 1990s, demonstrated a similar problem. Some sixty per cent of those elected in national elections were first timers, elected because they were perceived to be capable of better representing the interests of their communities and regions.

Not only are members of national and regional parties considered to be conduits of wealth and goods to their electorates, local-level politics is similarly competitive. Peter Weil (1971) explained this well for local council activity in the Gambia:

Within any given electoral ward, various villages have particular demands. Inevitably some villages do not get the well or other project they have been demanding during their councillor's tenure, and the interests of these villages will then probably be in opposition to those of other villages.

If a group of villages tends to unite around an issue, that group tends to be opposed by another group of villages with another issue. Thus, a type of opposition over specific issues operates at the local level in Area Council elections.

(Weil 1971, p. 110)

This orientation, of course, makes it extremely difficult to govern nationally, regionally or locally. Parliamentarians and councillors are far more interested in gaining resources for themselves and their constituents than they are in regional government and development planning.

It is more important to obtain these resources than to observe the niceties of Western concepts of 'honesty' and 'integrity'. These are based on a presumption of the separation of politics and administration, of political activity and government spending. Third World governments, therefore, at whatever level, seem, almost inevitably, to be riddled with 'corruption'.48

Politics becomes reduced to patron-clientism, with those in power concentrating wealth and influence in their own hands, maintaining their support bases through providing privileged access to the jobs, wealth and influence they control. As Awazurike has claimed:

The evidence in the last decade continues to point to a dismal outlook for third-world democracies … The twin forces of economic woes and the opportunism of powerful oligarches ensure that from India and Pakistan to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, the fate of fledgling attempts at democratisation continues to raise more questions than answers — not least of which is the seeming ambivalence of the advanced industrial nations to the spread and deepening of genuine democratic movements since the late 1950s.

(Awazurike 1990, p. 56)

One-party states

In many post-colonial nations, leaders, in the face of such pressures, did away with democratic multi-party politics, declaring 'one-party' states with strong leaders who appointed the representatives from each region of the country, or who ensured that the candidates in any election all accepted their leadership.

The ways in which this shift to single-party rule were effected varied from country to country.

The movement to one-party rule was, of course, often not entirely internally determined. In the international climate of ideological battle, the intelligence services of major Cold War countries attempted to ensure that Third World governments remained ideologically committed to their bias.

In Indonesia, the overthrow of President Sukarno and the installation of Suharto as President of the country in 1967 seems to have been a consequence of just such activity 49. This reorganisation of political activity placed the ruling party (Golkar) in the powerful position of claiming the allegiance of the armed forces and members of the civil service, scrutinising and approving the constitutions and platforms of the other parties and of controlling their electoral activities in rural areas. (See Kathy Kadane (1990))

The President was given the right to dissolve any political party whose policies were not 'in the interests of the state' or whose membership comprised less than one quarter of the population. Indonesia became, and effectively remains a 'one-party' state, despite its apparent multi-party organisation.50

Indonesia was not alone in reorganising its political landscape. In Africa, by 1969, ninety per cent of the post-colonial nations were governed through single-party systems or by military regimes, many of which justified their seizure of power by claiming that the elected governments had become irredeemably corrupt (Young 1970, p.460). In former Asian colonies effective one-party states quickly emerged in most countries, and military coups occurred in many of the new nations. Sangmpam claimed that:

Third World countries are characterised by a specific form of political competition marked by violent eruption of conflicts. From 1958 to 1965, about 70 percent of Third World countries experienced violent conflicts ranging from secession to open warfare, and 68 military coups were successful. From 1965 to 1985, about 130 coups occurred in Third World countries; of about 10 million violent, conflict-related deaths in the world, 99.94 percent were in Third World countries …

(Sangmpam 1994, p. 4)

Where one-party government was imposed, or governments were deposed by military leaders, this frequently seemed to provide strong central government, though such governments have been widely condemned for their 'human rights' records. Fred Riggs claimed that:

… data from a 1985 survey of Third World regimes reveal correlations between breakdowns and regime type. The high survival level of single-party regimes reflects the ability of ruling parties to control the elected assembly (and hence to govern arbitrarily), and to dominate the bureaucracy (and hence to prevent a coup). By contrast, since all presidentialist regimes in the Third World have experienced catastrophic breakdowns, it is concluded that the ability of divided government to control its bureaucracy and to provide coherent policy direction is so flawed that coups are virtually unavoidable.

(Riggs 1993, p. 199)

Military coups

Throughout the Third World multi-party democracies have, as Riggs suggested, 'experienced catastrophic breakdowns', usually followed by military coups. Arthur Nwankwo spelt out his view of the situation in Nigeria in 1966 when a multi-party, democratically elected parliament was overthrown by a military coup:

On 15 January 1966 Nigeria's post-colonial experiment with democracy ended when soldiers struck, killing some politicians, sacking the civilian government, and imposing military rule. Several factors were responsible for the collapse of Nigeria's First Republic, but among the most crucial was Regionalism, with its attendant ethnic dominance of each of the three regional governments.

The regions constituted the political base for the contenders of power at the Federal level, and tribal or ethnic sentiments were used by these politicians to whip up support for their equally regionally and ethnically-based parties … In the struggle, the powerful regional governments overwhelmed and incapacitated the Federal Government, regardless of the central government's constitutional superiority.

Thus, it was not the Constitution that failed, but the politicians who operated it, for they were too narrow-minded, too reckless and intellectually and emotionally unprepared for the functions the Constitution placed on them. It was the violent rivalry for power among the politicians, coupled with massive corruption, brazen injustice and political and religious intolerance which brought about the demise of the First Republic.

(Nwankwo 1984, pp. 6-7)

Where military coups were avoided, multi-party democracy has usually been displaced by single-party systems. Since countries which opted for one-party rule or which were ruled by military juntas were often already experiencing inter-group tension and confrontation, in many cases the imposition of military or one-party rule masked continuing conflict within the nation. In Nigeria, as in many other countries ruled militarily, military rule has been punctuated by coups and counter-coups.

In both militarily ruled and one-party states, those holding power have intruded ever more directly and forcefully into those areas of activity which Western people are strongly convinced should be outside the realm of politics. Sangmpam has argued that the state, in many Third World countries, has become 'over politicised'. As he said:

By over politicisation I mean

  1. the use of overt compulsion by those holding power to organise political representation, participation, and competition for … goods and services … ;
  2. the fluidity of state power and constant insecurity characterising holders of state power in their relations with other social actors;
  3. political participation and competition outside established institutions;
  4. the lack of compromise over the outcome of political competition; and
  5. the general use of open violence and confrontation in such participation and competition.

(Sangmpam 1994, p. 5)

Political, Eonomic and Social Integration: A Patron-Client World

Rather than government providing a stable backdrop to the self-interested activities of people competing within the marketplace, political power holders have become direct players in the economic sphere, using their positions and power to advantage themselves and their supporters.

This has effectively reorientated many Third World communities toward patron-client forms of political, economic and social organisation. The activities of political, business, traditional, military and other leaders become interfused as networks of mutual support and promotion develop. In such patron-client orientated systems, political and economic spheres are intermeshed. To succeed economically, one needs a political patron.

Richard Robison (1990) provided an interesting description of a variety of forms of this kind of political / economic activity in Indonesia. The most important of these in Third World countries is undoubtedly what he called 'bureaucratic capitalism'. As he explained,

bureaucratic capitalism is a product of patrimonial bureaucratic authority in which the demarcation between public service and private interest is at best blurred.
(1990, p. 14)

Many of those involved in this kind of political activity develop 'joint ventures' with overseas companies and transnational corporations. The politician, or person who has strong links with political authority, obtains licences, concessions, finance, and favourable terms of business for the overseas partner and, in return, holds stock in the company formed within the country or is rewarded in other ways. As Robison explained,

The central feature of the joint venture is the exchange of politically controlled economic concessions for financial reward.
(1990, p. 17)

While Robison's study focused on such activity in Indonesia, very similar arrangements can be found in almost every Third World country.

For businesses involved in this kind of activity it is very important that the political leaders be secure and hold power over a long period. Every political upheaval becomes a business upheaval as new political patrons have to be secured.

For this reason, many multinational and transnational businesses have been accused of supporting dictatorial, repressive regimes, securing their own interests by ensuring the long-term survival of their patrons.51

Where this cannot be arranged, businesses have to hedge their bets, securing the commitment not only of key political figures of the present, but also likely future players. The game becomes much more complex and certainly more costly.

It is, therefore, less likely that foreign businesses will be attracted to countries where the political leadership is likely to be displaced in a short period, whether by electoral or any other means. Economic 'development', therefore, seems to favour stable regimes, as the East and South-East Asian countries have demonstrated.

Political support is not only available to foreign companies (though these are usually the most lucrative source of income). Similar arrangements are made with business people within Third world countries. As Sklar and Whitaker described of Nigeria two decades ago:

In every region, the party waxed fat in its house of patronage. It had money, favours, jobs, and honours to distribute among those who would support it. To a large extent, these regional patronage systems were based on regional marketing boards …

Invariably, the vast majority of those who receive or hope to receive loans from the boards or the banks are attracted by powerful inducements to join or support the regional government party; insofar as they prosper, they may be expected to support the party financially. The same may be said of commercial contractors who work for the regional governments and their statutory corporations ….

Who are the masters of the regional governments? High-ranking politicians, senior administrators, major chiefs, lords of the economy, distinguished members of the learned professions …

(Sklar & Whitaker 1991, p. 79)

As key economic, political, professional, military and traditional leaders support one another, avenues to wealth are increasingly controlled by them, to be made available, at their discretion, to those who support them. The result is what is commonly seen in Third World countries: a marked division between the 'haves' and 'have nots', with those who do not have access to the wealth of the region increasingly dependent on those who have, tied to them in bonds of clientage.

In the climate of ethnic and clan rivalry which exists in many Third World countries, patrons and clients see their interests as separate from those of opposing groups which are also competing for the spoils of political and economic power. The consequences, as both Sangmpam (1994) and Weil (1971) have suggested, are increasing tension and eruptions of violence which cannot easily be countered.

In the worldwide political climate of the 1950s-1980s, this usually meant that one or other of the internationally dominant ideological blocs readily financed and armed opposing groups, leading to continued unrest and rebellion. Opposing leaders, each intent on establishing their patronage and power, soon learned to speak the language of international ideological tension, and so ensured funding of military requirements in either resisting or instigating rebellion and armed insurrection.

Over the last decade, the language employed to gain support has changed, but the consequences have not. Now, support is given to bolster regimes or favoured insurgents in combating 'international terror' rather than 'Communism', but the results are very similar 52. Third World politicians and their economic counter-parts have learned a new language and are becoming increasingly fluent in its use.

From 'Soldiers of Fortune' to 'International Security Companies'

In the 1990s, privatisation became the name of the game. It was argued that the reason why Third world governments had failed to 'develop' their countries was that they had incompetently interfered in economic activity. This was much better left to the 'market-place'. The new emphasis was introduced to Third world peoples through a variety of structural adjustment programs (SAPs) imposed by the World Bank and the IMF.

Not only was private enterprise the new key to development, it was also argued that if security was left in the hands of Third world governments, politicians would use this as a means of leveraging international businesses operating in the country. It became increasingly acceptable for transnational companies to hire 'security firms' to ensure the safety of their operations in areas of political instability and lawlessness. This was justified by corporations as being very similar to their use of such private security agencies in Western countries. If the scale of security operations was greater, this was simply because security problems in many Third World countries are more acute.

The use of mercenaries is, of course, not new. As Gilbert Murray described of British practice in the late 19th century,

In military operations, again, we of the British Empire depend to a quite enormous extent upon soldiers of alien race, more, possibly, than any State since Carthage. Nearly all our African fighting before the present war, and most of our Indian fighting, has been done for us by natives. The great victories of Clive over the French, which we are accustomed to regard as proofs of British strength or valour, were almost entirely victories of Sepoys over Sepoys.

The economic situation is really the same as in the other cases. We cannot spare more of the ruling race to fight. We take instead some naturally warlike savages, train them, officer them, and make them do the fighting for us.
(Gilbert Murray 1900 p. 144)

However, in the first decade of the 21st Century, the use of private security firms has become very wide-spread, fuelled by the employment of these organisations by the U. S. military and by major corporations and organisations operating in danger zones in non-Western countries. Hundreds of 'privatised military firms' now exist, operating in over fifty countries, with annual revenues well in excess of a hundred billion dollars 53.

The effect of these developments has been to reintroduce mercenary soldiers into non-Western countries in the guise of security personnel. The mercenaries which plagued African communities during the 1970s were funded as expatriate soldiers who were supporting regimes fighting 'communist insurgency'. The new mercenaries, in the spirit of the times, are seen to be fighting 'international terror', the enemies of democracy and capitalism.

They are ensuring the stability of regimes (or the successful insurgency of an opposing group if a regime proves unreliable) and the profitability of transnational corporations. As such, they no longer come in the crude guise of soldiers of fortune, now they come as 'security consultants', providing security services and helping to 'privatise' yet another arm of government activity, forming an even closer alliance between transnational corporations and their political patrons.

Civil/military rule

In many countries, long-term 'civil-military' regimes have emerged, in which the leadership, while 'civil' (that is, not holding military rank or position), is closely allied with the military leadership. As Hassan Gardezi described, there has emerged, in Pakistan, a 'strong bureaucratic-military oligarchy at the helm of the state which uses its regulatory powers to mediate the mutually competing and at times conflicting interests' (1985, p. 1) of the country.

Arthur Nwankwo, writing of Nigeria, suggested that this form of rule should be called 'cimilicy' and should be based on:

… civilianising the military and militarising the civilians in a new arrangement for a new dispensation. Government being the authoritative allocator of national resources in response to articulated and organised group interests, it is necessary that people who participate in government articulate and organise their views and work together, each being fully conscious of the strength, weaknesses and rights of others in a new social compact where the artificial lines of demarcation between the military and the civilians is eradicated. For in theory and in deed, all civilians and all military persons of Nigerian extraction are Nigerians and are entitled to equal rights, privileges and dispensations and equally endowed for the onerous task of building a New Nigeria.

(Nwanko 1984, p. xii)

To date, Nigeria has not managed to establish a stable coalition of such interests. Other post-colonial states, however, have been much more successful in pursuing such policies. In nations as diverse as Egypt and Indonesia, this kind of civilian-military alliance has been effectively pursued over some thirty to forty years.

The degree to which such alliances have disenfranchised communities and populations has been a matter of vigorous debate over the past fifteen years. It has commonly been claimed that such 'dictatorships' ride roughshod over individual human rights, as expressed in various United Nations declarations. Some of the more stable of these regimes have replied, as Indonesian authorities have, that:

It is now generally accepted that all categories of human rights — civil, political, economic, social and cultural, the rights of the individual and the rights of the community, the society and the nation — are interrelated and indivisible. The promotion and protection of all these rights should therefore be undertaken in an integrated and balanced manner. Inordinate emphasis on one category of human rights over another should be eschewed.

Likewise, in assessing the human rights conditions of countries, particularly developing countries, the international community should take into account the situation in relation to all categories of human rights — following the principles contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 29 of that Declaration addresses two aspects that balance each other: On the one hand, there are principles that respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual; on the other, there are stipulations regarding the obligations of the individual toward the society and the state.

(Alatas 1993)

United Nations emphasis on the rights of individuals, at the expense of community and nation are considered unbalanced and in need of correction. However, such statements have been vigorously rejected by prodemocracy groups throughout the world. As Jeremy Hobbs of Community Aid Abroad (CAA) claimed:

Australia's special relationship with Indonesia is viewed with bitter cynicism by Indonesian non-government organisations. For them it is supremely ironic that Australia, arguably the most democratic country in the region, is not prepared to take a tougher line on free speech, human rights, democracy and labour issues. Worse, we have been happy to fill the breach when the [US] Clinton administration withdrew military support because of its concerns over human rights.

(Hobbs 1995, p. 1)

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Western powers have increasingly insisted on a return by Third World governments to multiparty political systems based on Western democratic ideals. As Andrew Purvis claimed:

As recently as five years ago, sub-Saharan Africa seemed poised on the verge of a new democratic era. The end of the cold war and mounting pressure from Western donors for political reform as a condition for ongoing aid led to a flurry of multiparty elections, and millions of voters eager for a change trekked to the polls … [However] Africa's veteran rulers know what they are up to. Many of them have been denied foreign aid because of their autocratic regimes. But once elections have been held, or in some cases merely promised, Western aid dollars begin flowing again

… This is not the first time Africa has wrestled with multiparty governance. Immediately after many countries gained independence in the 1960s, political parties flourished, elections were called, and voters rejoiced. But then many of independent Africa's founding fathers convinced their people that the single-party state was the only way. The result was the lost years of the '70s and the economic disarray of the '80s. The only hope is that Western donors, together with Africa's more reform-minded leaders, will not stand for such backsliding again.

(Purvis 1996)

Like Purvis, many Western commentators believe that most of the Third World's woes can be traced to the forms of government which have emerged over the past forty years. Autocratic governments, dominated by corrupt, self-serving politicians, have mismanaged economies and increased their own wealth and power at the expense of their electorates. In order to overcome these problems, it is considered necessary to return to Western governmental practices, to multi-party, democratic government.

However, it can be argued, as Nef (1991, pp. 16ff.) did for Latin America, that, in part, the emergence and dominance of repressive regimes has been a requirement and a consequence of the kinds of 'economic development' pursued in those countries since the late 1960s. As Nef argued:

The 1970's was a period of drastic de-democratisation and demobilisation. It was also an era when the old 'structuralist' policies of import substitution industrialisation (with its corollary, the welfare state) were replaced by the new monetarist policy of deindustrialisation, denationalisation, shrinkage of government services, the early phase of structural adjustments and a profound vertical expansion of the police function of the state (and repression) throughout the hemisphere. The events are too oft repeated to require discussion here.

What is important, however, is to highlight the decline of developmentalism as a desired strategy and discourse for conflict-management by both Latin American and U. S. elites. In fact, new 'reactionary coalitions' were forged, leading to a new type of dependency resulting from a growing process of transnationalisation of the Latin American state

… As time went by and the illusion of economic miracles became ever more distant, development along orthodox Keynesian, liberal lines moved ever further and further to the background. To make prices and wages 'competitive', in the context of neoliberal, free market strategies, labour was repressed and purposely atomised, working class organisations were persecuted, left wing parties disbanded … as the foreign-induced economic miracles failed to materialise, all that was left was a repressive state keeping a very large marginal sector at bay.

(Nef 1991, pp. 17-18)

The developmentalist models of Third World development experts, which placed emphasis on the role of government in stimulating and guiding economic development, came into disrepute during the 1970s. At about the same time, the Keynesian economic models of the West came under siege from neoliberal alternatives. In their place the neoliberal monetarist policies of Margaret Thatcher in Britain and of conservative politics throughout most of the Western world during the late 1970s and the 1980s and 1990s, became the stuff of development specialist advice in the Third World through the 1970s and since that time.54

This shift coincided with a rapid increase in Third World indebtedness following a sharp increase in oil prices in the early 1970s. From the late 1970s, lenders became increasingly concerned at the mounting debt of Third World countries. As Dan Connell has said, 'From 1970 to 1989, according to UN reports, Third World debt skyrocketed from $68.4 billion to $1,262.8 billion, leaving several nations owing more than they produce in annual income' (1993, p. 1).

This came to a head in the early 1980s, when international creditors decided it was time to act to protect their investments. For most, the central consideration in ensuring the economic viability of Third World nations was the 'downsizing' of government and the deregulation of all economic, financial and fiscal activity.

Effectively, this meant a complete reorganisation of government, a determined swing away from 'left-wing' politics to the politics of the marketplace. As Friedson spelt out for Latin America:

… for neo liberals developmentalism had hampered development, and only a free-market economy guaranteed the road to prosperity. For them, the main problem of Latin America was not dependency but the burden of an inefficient and corrupt state that prevented growth and modernisation …

With the worsening of the economic situation in the early 1980s, newly established civilian governments found themselves with few resources to confront a powerful community of international creditors determined to collect their debts. Thus, military governments as well as their civilian successors endorsed versions of the IMF adjustment program, which stressed domestic mismanagement as the cause of payment problems and domestic adjustment (reduction of government expenditures, curtailment of public subsidies, devaluations and trade liberalization) as a way out of the crisis …

Many of the IMF measures curtailed state power, which carried obvious political costs. In the first half of the 1980s, many Latin American governments found themselves signing agreements that were, for the most part, not to their liking …

Instead of prosperity, Latin America witnessed further economic decline and impoverishment as a result of the externally-enforced adjustment programs implemented in the early 1980s …

This no doubt represented a major blow for the technocratic approach to the debt crisis promoted by the IMF, which assumed that all it took to overcome the economic crisis was the decisive action of governments to liberalise their economies.

(Friedson 1983, pp. 33-5)

Cheru spelt out some of the demands of such programs:

a) liberalization of import controls;

b) devaluation of the country's exchange rate;

c) a domestic anti-inflationary program which will control bank credits and [exercise] control over government deficit by curbing spending, increased taxation, abolition of consumer subsidies;

d) a program of greater hospitality to multinational companies (MNCs) .

… As President Kaunda of Zambia put it, 'The IMF does not care whether you are suffering economic malaria, bilharzia or broken legs. They will always give you quinine'. The policy prescriptions listed above reflect the Fund's political and economic ideology rather than the interests of the developing countries.

(Cheru 1989, p. 37)

In order to ensure that the necessary 'structural adjustments' were made to Third World economies so that they might benefit from the increased competitive advantages that it was assumed would accrue from an unfettered 'enterprise economy', governments needed to be firmly in control, able to apply the 'pain' which would, necessarily, precede the economic 'gain' of this radical shift from welfare economics to free market economics.

As Mark Moberg described for Chile, one of the first Latin American countries to experience these changes:

After overthrowing the elected Allende government in 1973, the Chilean military crushed leftist parties, unions, and peasant associations. Then, in an unwelcome surprise to some elites that had initially invited the coup, the military disbanded right wing and centrist parties as well …

Such measures were necessary, the military claimed, to enable it to impose harsh deflationary policies 'in the national interest' without organised opposition.

(Moberg 1994, p. 216)

The need for this degree of control resulted, in many countries, in an increased emphasis on 'law and order', and increased expenditures to bolster both police and paramilitary strength to support government in its determination to set in place the necessary changes to ensure long-term economic growth. As Ihonvbere claimed:

The political tensions that have accompanied monetarism have furthered repression, human rights abuses, riots and national disintegration …

The very high degree of human suffering, disillusionment, anger, alienation, rural decay, urban dislocation, suicides, marital crises, prostitution and crime which have accompanied monetarist responses to the African economic crisis, hold major implications for the potency of ethnicity and the subversion of the goals of nationhood.

(Ihonvbere 1994, p. 51)

The appearance of democracy

As tensions have mounted in many countries, governments have felt compelled to increase their coercive authority. Most Third World governments, in the past thirty years, have found themselves on the horns of a dilemma. They are being pressured by First World governments and organisations into both deregulation of economic activity, which requires increased coercive authority, and the ratification and implementation of human rights programs and principles.

As Purvis suggested, this has led to a rhetoric in favour of multi-party democracy 55 and implementation of human rights programs, accompanied by further politicisation of the directive agencies of government.

This increasing politicisation of both the police forces and court systems has delegitimised both sets of institutions in the eyes of many people in Third World countries, leading to increasing fear and tension within Third World nations and to further political repression.

The politicisation of police forces and courts has been accompanied by the politicisation of law, establishing statutes which can be used to legitimise government repression and make it increasingly difficult for individuals and groups to defend themselves against politically motivated criminal charges. As Amnesty International spelt out for the African continent:

There is a developing pattern of human rights violations in parts of Africa in which governments publicly committed to political pluralism adopt methods of curbing domestic opposition and criticism which are designed to minimise the likelihood of international disapproval and to keep their democratic credentials intact. Certain types of legal charge are proving increasingly attractive to governments seeking to criminalise peaceful political activity or dissent in this new context. These charges include sedition, contempt of court, subversion, defamation, possession of classified documents, and holding meetings or demonstrations without an official permit.

(Amnesty International 1995)

The reality in many Third World nations since the mid 1990s is that while governments are being pressured to reinstitute multi-party democratic political processes, contradictory pressures coming from the First World, in fact, produce multi-party democratic rhetoric, coupled with the entrenchment of coercive, autocratic government. This has resulted in continuing unrest and rebellion in many Third World countries.

A Time report spelt out the realities of the first decade of the 21st century,

President Bush is fond of saying that "democracy is on the march" around the world. That's been largely true for the last couple decades, but a new report from the Economist Intelligence Unit says that over the last two years the global trend toward democratization has been stopped in its tracks. Even further, the report suggests the global financial crisis has the potential to start the march moving in the opposite direction:

The results of the Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index 2008 confirm that, following a decades-long global trend in democratisation, the spread of democracy has come to a halt. Comparing the results for 2008 with those from the first edition of the index, which covered 2006, shows that the dominant pattern in the past two years has been stagnation. Although there is no recent trend of outright regression, there are few instances of significant improvement. However, the global financial crisis, resulting in a sharp and possibly protracted recession, could threaten democracy in some parts of the world.

The report also classifies only 30 of the world's countries as being "full democracies," with another 50 countries deemed "flawed democracies." Only 14% of the world's population lives within those countries considered "full democracies."

(Real Clear Politics October 22nd 2008)

Of the last 30 years:


Inevitably, when personalised systems of government and leadership, like those found in most Third world nations, are judged against the standards assumed to be commonplace in Western systems of Government 56, they are found to be 'riddled with corruption'. In order to conduct business on a 'level playing field', Western governments and corporations consider it essential to police corrupt practices. At the instigation of Western nations and agencies the United Nations Convention Against Corruption has been negotiated, coming into force in 2005. As the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime explains,

Corruption undermines democratic institutions, slows economic development and contributes to governmental instability. Corruption attacks the foundation of democratic institutions by distorting electoral processes, perverting the rule of law and creating bureaucratic quagmires whose only reason for existing is the soliciting of bribes. Economic development is stunted because foreign direct investment is discouraged and small businesses within the country often find it impossible to overcome the "start-up costs" required because of corruption.
(UNODC 2010 — accessed 12 April 2010)

Unsurprisingly, corruption appears to be endemic in non-Western nations, but remarkably infrequent in Western nations 57.

In order to appreciate the experiences of Third World nations in the post-Second World War period, we need to remember that depersonalised government of the Western kind is unusual and requires understandings of the world which are distinctively Western.58 Where Western understandings don't exist, the forms of government which they require are also unlikely to exist; and where people are required to behave as though Western understandings do exist, there will be many inconsistencies in governmental organisation and practice.


In the last twenty years there have been a number of important changes in international and regional politics around the world. Most obviously, the ideologically fuelled 'Cold War' has ended, with communism and socialism in disarray and capitalism firmly established in the international arena. In the world of the 1990s there was a marked increase in conflicts which were pronounced to be 'ethnically' inspired, in contrast to those of earlier post-Second World War years, which were usually considered to be driven by commitment to First and Second World ideologies.

The 'ethnic' focus (which largely side-lined Western countries) has, since 2001, been displaced by a diffuse concern with 'terror'. This has led to the United States' promoted 'war on terror' around the world.

Non-Western governments, confronted with ethnic and other challenges inside their territories, could once again trigger military aid from Western countries. All they had to do was to label those with whom they were having difficulty 'separatist terrorist organisations' or claim that they had been 'infiltrated by terrorists' and accuse them of links with 'international terrorism'.

They have been quick to take advantage of Western paranoia, receiving weaponry and military training from Western countries which have largely seen them as the 'front line' in the 'war on terror' 59. As Rachel Stohl has described,

… the United States has made the “global war on terror” its priority in determining arms transfers and military assistance. In the last six years, Washington has stepped up its sales and transfers of high-technology weapons, military training, and other military assistance to governments regardless of their respect for human rights, democratic principles, or nonproliferation. All that matters is that they have pledged their assistance in the global war on terrorism.
(Rachel Stohl (2008))


There has also been a technological revolution in worldwide telecommunications networks, with transactions of all sorts now flowing through those networks which governments are decreasingly able to effectively monitor and/ or control. This has been accompanied by a victory for neoliberal economic reformers 60 as advisers to governments and international organisations.

These advisers have managed to convince governments everywhere of the need for the privatisation of government assets and activities and deregulation of financial markets and currencies, progressively moving control of national fiscal and financial matters from national governments into the international marketplace.

As Rosario Espinal claimed of Latin America during the 1980s, there was a dramatic shift away from developmentalism 61 and towards neoliberal economic and political policies:

… pro-market statements came from different quarters: agencies like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), foreign governments, a growing number of Latin American economists and intellectuals and some segments of the business class …

In addition to pressure from international agencies to privatise and liberalise the Latin American economies, think tanks and research groups flourished throughout the region in an effort to publicise neoliberal views.
(Espinal 1992, p. 32)

This coincided with a change in the dominant way of 'making money' in the world — through currency, bond and stock trading and financial manipulations rather than through long-term investment in primary and secondary production. This has resulted in primary production, the most important means of income generation for new nations, becoming less and less attractive to investors, since returns on primary production are usually lower and slower — and often far more uncertain — than those resulting from financial manipulations. So, Third World nations are finding it increasingly difficult to attract and retain investment income, making their economies increasingly volatile.

The volatility of international capital investment, focused on short-term gains, means that, in their efforts to retain investment capital, governments must offer a range of financial inducements, competing with each other to minimise capital flight. Thus, over time, the cost of investment capital increases for those countries least able to afford such costs.

Far from there being true financial deregulation, governments find themselves having constantly to interfere, to prop up their currencies and induce capital to stay. As Gerald Meier presciently described of the financial crises which assailed both Latin American and East and South-East Asian countries in the late 1990s (and which, of course, have threatened the rest of the world during the last years of the first decade of the 21st century):

The Mexican crisis was caused by the volatility of short term capital flows, produced by the unfulfilled market expectations of investors. Today capital flows are dominated by international markets, to the point that domestic autonomy and sovereignty is subordinated to the markets …

The Mexican crisis or something similar will happen again because it is impossible to keep exchange rates fixed.
(in Morles 1996)

Governments, as a result of these influences, are now faced both by regional and ethnic challenges from within and by international challenges to their authority, independence and economic viability. There is a strong demand for internationalisation of economies, allowing the now dominant forces of capitalism increasing entry into, and influence over internal economic activities. This, if and as it is successful, reduces the ability of governments to control economic activity and therefore to plan and implement economic, infrastructural, service, and welfare programs.

On the one hand, governments are increasingly finding themselves at the mercy of international financial and fiscal forces, and on the other, the integrity of the nation-state is being challenged from within. During the first half of 1996, an unremarkable year for ethnic conflicts, there were ethnically or religiously inspired revolts in more than sixty countries around the world. In 2009, though the focus of revolt is claimed to have changed, the frequency of internal challenges to central government authority increased, with more and more non-Western countries teetering on the brink of being declared 'fragile' or 'failed' states 62.


The tensions we have examined in this discussion have not lessened in the first decade of the 21st century. In many cases they have become stronger and more challenging to the viability of Third World national governments.

Governments are being subjected to:

  • international pressures from First World governments and non-government organisations;
  • demands of the international marketplace and of international organisations and enterprises;
  • the demands of electorates which see central, regional and local government as resources to be mined;
  • and the tensions associated with competing regional, ethnic and clan-based patron-client networks.
  • They are also being pressured by demands from First world countries to control incipient terrorism within their borders and, simultaneously, to prevent refugee flows to Western countries which, in the minds of Western populations, might include individuals and groups seeking to pursue terrorist agendas within First World countries.

These problems, compounded by a range of environmental and economic problems of equal magnitude, make the future of many Third World governments highly problematic. As Rice and Patrick have concluded:

On balance, poorer countries tend to be weaker ones. Poverty fuels and perpetuates civil conflict, which swiftly and dramatically reduces state capacity…

The vast majority of [failed and critically weak] states… have experienced conflict within the past decade and a half. Their security deficits are typically accompanied by weaknesses across the three other core areas of state performance. This is logical, because conflict destroys both formal economies and political institutions. It can also exacerbate poor health conditions, including by facilitating the spread of infectious diseases.

Given a nearly 50 percent risk that postconflict countries will return to war within 5 years, unsuccessful postconflict, peace-building and peacekeeping/stabilization efforts risk condemning countries to renewed conflict or nearly perpetual insecurity and poverty.
(Rice and Patrick 2008)

The world of the 21st century reminds one of Britain in the 5th century AD.

As we saw in the last post (The Decay of Western Influence) Britain, in the 5th century, experienced just such turmoil as rival 'kings' battled for ascendancy and neighbouring groups, taking advantage of the chaos, invaded the region.

Gildas, a century after the exodus of the Roman legions, provided a graphic description of the chaos which ensued with the waning of Roman influence in Britain,

…neither to this day are the cities of our country inhabited as before, but being forsaken and overthrown, still lie desolate; our foreign wars having ceased, but our civil troubles still remaining.
(Chapter 26)

As the empires of Western Europe have crumbled, the institutions in their post-colonial territories, established by them to ensure continuity with the colonial past, have become decreasingly effective. The 21st century has produced its own examples of post-colonial territories suffering turmoil and chaos in the increasing numbers of 'fragile' and 'failed' states which are a growing concern for Western people.

Many post-colonial territories are in various stages of change. They are slowly, but inevitably, metamorphosing into communities which exhibit similarities with the pre-colonial communities from which they came. Any reassertion of pre-colonial principles of categorisation and classification will inevitably be slow and difficult. Over time, forms of organisation and interaction will emerge which echo those of the past though they will, of course, not simply replicate past forms.

First, any form which emerges is simply one of a range of possible forms, any or all of which might be generated from the same fundamental categorical principles. So, even if the same principles were in operation one would find different surface forms over time.

Secondly, the principles themselves are not static, they change through time and the forms of interaction and organisation which emerge will reflect such changes.

This has been demonstrated time and again in Third World communities as Western influence has become less dominant.


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Weil, P.M. 1971. 'Tradition and opposition in area council elections in the Gambia', Journal of Asian and African Studies, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 108-17.

Wijeyewardene, G. (ed.) 1990. Ethnic Groups Across National Boundaries in Mainland Southeast Asia, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore ..

Young, C. 1970. 'African political system types, independence and after', in The African Experience, eds J.N. Paden & E.J. Soja, vol. 1, Northwestern University Press, Evanston, Ill.

End Notes

1 This developmental project is based on a millennial belief in the existence of an evolutionary process in which all cultures and all peoples are involved. Human beings have a common evolutionary direction.

(The assumed process inverts the biological model of evolution: The biological model assumes increasing diversity; the social evolutionary model assumes increasing convergence.)

The process has been explained in many ways and takes many forms, as Blaut (1992, pp. 1-2) has described, his own explanation being one of them:

… the date 1492 represents the breakpoint between two fundamentally different evolutionary epochs. The conquest of America begins, and explains, the rise of Europe

… Before 1492, cultural evolution in the Eastern Hemisphere was proceeding evenly across the landscape; in Africa, Asia, and Europe a multitude of centres were evolving out of (broadly) feudalism and toward (broadly) capitalism.

This remarkably naïve belief in a universal evolutionary direction is a feature of the particular historical experiences of Western Europeans (see From the subversion of tradition to plotting the future). Blaut's schema is no less Eurocentric than all those others which he condemns for this 'evil'.

Social evolutionary models presume that all cultural communities hold similar primary ideological models and presumptions and live within fundamentally similar 'objective realities' (see Primary and Secondary Ideologies for more on this).

Capitalism, of course, is no more advanced or retrograde than any other cultural form underpinning systems of status and ranking in communities. It is required by the particular social templates which govern behaviour in Western societies. And, it requires the historical antecedents of Western Europe.

It can no more successfully be grafted onto other cultural communities than the Potlatch could successfully be grafted onto Western communities. Hence the catalogue of failures amassed by those most deeply involved in this enterprise. And hence, also, the disorientation and disruption of communities, and cultural and material poverty of so many people in the world affected by those intent on global modernisation.

2 It has, subsequently, imposed similar reorganisation on the rest of the world.

3 The historical context of the book was the English Civil War, the beheading of the English monarch and the subsequent Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell (1642-1658).

…the agreement of… men is by covenant only, which is artificial: and therefore it is no wonder if there be somewhat else required, besides covenant, to make their agreement constant and lasting; which is a common power to keep them in awe and to direct their actions to the common benefit.

The only way to erect such a common power, as may be able to defend them from the invasion of foreigners, and the injuries of one another, and thereby to secure them in such sort as that by their own industry and by the fruits of the earth they may nourish themselves and live contentedly, is to confer all their power and strength upon one man, or upon one assembly of men, that may reduce all their wills, by plurality of voices, unto one will: which is as much as to say, to appoint one man, or assembly of men, to bear their person; and every one to own and acknowledge himself to be author of whatsoever he that so beareth their person shall act, or cause to be acted, in those things which concern the common peace and safety; and therein to submit their wills, every one to his will, and their judgements to his judgement.

This is more than consent, or concord; it is a real unity of them all in one and the same person, made by covenant of every man with every man, in such manner as if every man should say to every man: I authorise and give up my right of governing myself to this man, or to this assembly of men, on this condition; that thou give up, thy right to him, and authorise all his actions in like manner.

This done, the multitude so united in one person is called a COMMONWEALTH; in Latin, CIVITAS. This is the generation of that great LEVIATHAN, or rather, to speak more reverently, of that mortal god to which we owe, under the immortal God, our peace and defence.

For by this authority, given him by every particular man in the Commonwealth, he hath the use of so much power and strength conferred on him that, by terror thereof, he is enabled to form the wills of them all, to peace at home, and mutual aid against their enemies abroad.

And in him consisteth the essence of the Commonwealth; which, to define it, is: one person, of whose acts a great multitude, by mutual covenants one with another, have made themselves every one the author, to the end he may use the strength and means of them all as he shall think expedient for their peace and common defence.

And he that carryeth this person is called sovereign, and said to have sovereign power; and every one besides, his subject.

The attaining to this sovereign power is by two ways.

One, by natural force: as when a man maketh his children to submit themselves, and their children, to his government, as being able to destroy them if they refuse; or by war subdueth his enemies to his will, giving them their lives on that condition.

The other, is when men agree amongst themselves to submit to some man, or assembly of men, voluntarily, on confidence to be protected by him against all others. This latter may be called a political Commonwealth, or Commonwealth by Institution; and the former, a Commonwealth by acquisition. And first, I shall speak of a Commonwealth by institution.

(Hobbes 1651, Chapter xvii, 'Of The Causes, Generation, And Definition Of A Commonwealth')

4 See From Interdependence to Independence for more on this.

5 A brief selection of texts on the nature and emergence of Western nations and nationhood includes: Gellner (1994); Goddard, Llobera & Shore (1994); Hobsbawm (1990); Kedourie (1993); and Norbu (1992).

6 Kings were established in their kingdoms through the Church's administration of the ritual of Unction. It was, therefore, assumed that religious authority was superior to secular authority. As Ullman (1965, p. 86) says, 'It was that act alone which made the king'.

7 such as shires, counties, principalities and similar sub-divisions within the borders of recognised regions associated with nations (as administrative regions of the medieval Church)

8 See Medieval Common-Interest Groups for more on this.

9 England experienced its revolution in the second half of the seventeenth century; France in the late-eighteenth century; Germany in the mid-nineteenth century; and other Western European nation-states experienced similar revolutions during the same period.

10 In stark contrast, the names and identities of Third World nations were, in large measure, inventions of 100 years (or less) of colonial rule, through which colonial powers identified regions they controlled. The colonised peoples identified the names and the administrative organisations through which they were controlled as ‘foreign’ colonial impositions. Yet, over the past sixty years, Western nations have insisted that people living in those artificially contrived nation-states would, with little difficulty, identify themselves with, and commit themselves to the nations within which they lived.

11 At the risk of belabouring the point, it needs to be remembered that, through the medieval period, 'successful' members of small ethnic groups, included within the Church's administrative regions, became connected to similar individuals in other groups in the territory through either travelling beyond their own group's area or through social interaction with others who did travel.

One became recognised as 'cultured' through acceptance into these wider networks of 'cultured' people. One was also interlinked with the influence, wealth and information held and generated by members of such networks.

12 See Herbert Spencer (1857, p. 153 'Progress: Its Law And Cause') for a succinct nineteenth-century 'theoretical' statement of this principle for the social sciences:

… the series of changes gone through during the development of a seed into a tree, or an ovum into an animal, constitute an advance from homogeneity of structure to heterogeneity of structure.

In its primary stage, every germ consists of a substance that is uniform throughout, both in texture and chemical composition. The first step is the appearance of a difference between two parts of this substance; or, as the phenomenon is called in physiological language, a differentiation.

Each of these differentiated divisions presently begins itself to exhibit some contrast of parts: and by and by these secondary differentiations become as definite as the original one. This process is continuously repeated — is simultaneously going on in all parts of the growing embryo; and by endless such differentiations there is finally produced that complex combination of tissues and organs constituting the adult animal or plant.

This is the history of all organisms whatever. It is settled beyond dispute that organic progress consists in a change from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous.

Now, we propose in the first place to show, that this law of organic progress is the law of all progress. Whether it be in the development of the Earth, in the development of Life upon its surface, in the development of Society, of Government, of Manufactures, of Commerce, of Language, Literature, Science, Art, this same evolution of the simple into the complex, through successive differentiations, holds throughout.

From the earliest traceable cosmical changes down to the latest results of civilization, we shall find that the transformation of the homogeneous into the heterogeneous, is that in which progress essentially consists.
(Spencer 1857, p.10)

This belief, of course, still holds in many 'evolutionary' theoretical constructs of the present.

13 For examples of this kind of interconnection one need look no further than the many novels of the period which simply assume networks and friendships between middle-class people not only within national territories but internationally.

14 Those who identified with each other as belonging to the same nation were usually those who had reason to travel or to associate with others who travelled. In Western Europe there was a strong sense of unity amongst merchants, traders, landed gentry, and educated people which resulted, in Britain as elsewhere, in a revolution of these 'middle sorts' (Manning 1976) against feudally-based aristocracies and governments.

While political revolution usually required the overthrow of feudal leaders, there was much less need for revolution within the administrative bureaucracies of western Europe. These were, very largely, already staffed by educated, middle ranking people who supported political revolution.

Through such revolution, in which, very usually, these 'middle sorts' managed to obtain the commitment of peasant and labouring people, they established new forms of government which reflected and enhanced their particular interests (see From Subversion of Tradition to Plotting the Future).

15 See The White Man's Burden for more on this.

16 France has perpetuated this version of the nation-state in its incorporation of 'overseas departments' — previously colonial territories — which have been given the status of metropolitan departments and are argued to be integral to France as a nation. As the French Embassy in the U.S.A. (and most other French Embassy web-sites) explains:

Thanks to her overseas departments and territories, France extends far beyond the boundaries of Europe and into the four corners of the earth. Outside the borders of metropolitan France, she has coasts washed by the Indian, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and land borders from the icy wastes of Antarctica to the great Amazonian rainforest.
(Overseas France)

17 Western Europeans have, over several centuries, demonstrated a remarkable nescience in dealing with the rest of the world. Their perspective is the universal perspective; the only valid understandings, theirs.

18 The middle-classes of Western Europe were thoroughly schooled in 'classical studies' and saw those 'civilisations' as providing models for their own empires and civilisations. The 18th and 19th century political institutions and practices of Western European nation-states borrowed a great deal from the 'classical civilisations' and empires of Rome and Greece.

The integration of colonies into the identities of Western European nation-states and designation of inhabitants as 'citizens' echoed Roman practice. Rome had employed similar strategies throughout its empire. Regions which Roman officials considered merited the 'honour' were declared 'Provinces' of Rome and the responsible people of those regions were declared to be 'Roman Citizens'.

19 see Crick (1997) for discussion of colonial practices and influences.

20 In the post 2nd World War period it used the existence of those debts as leverage in influencing foreign policy in nations around the world.

Over the past 50 years the US has been able to live well beyond the income generated by its own productive activities through drawing on debts owed to it by both Western European and Third World countries. Like so many 'Credit Card' holders, it seems to have unwittingly gone on spending after its credit had been dissipated. Only recently has there been a dawning realisation that it has created huge debts of its own.

It seems likely that, in the 21st century, it will find itself (if it has not already) in long-term debt to places which have financed its consequent over-consumption. It would scarcely be surprising if such countries used their financial muscle to influence US allegiances/behaviour — in the same way as the US did to its debtors during the latter half of the 20th century.

21 See Preparing for Independence for Nigeria's experiences in moving toward independence from Britain. As Paul Beckett (1987, p. 87) put it,

Nigeria's Westminster-like parliamentary system was developed hurriedly, seemingly with little consideration given to possible alternative forms.

22 See The Breakdown of Communities for more on this.

23 See Political experiences in Nigeria for a brief sketch of post-colonial political experiences in Nigeria.

24 For discussion see Banuri (1990); Levy (1988); Leys (1992); Peet (1990); Philip (1990); Seligson & Passe-Smith (1993); So (1989); Sutton et al. (1989), etcetera.

25 An odd belief in the continuing existence of the colonial administrative apparatus and powers persisted well into the post-colonial period. It was largely taken for granted by 'development specialists' that administrations could simply decree and implement changes in their territories.

26 And still is believed by many of those most directly involved in advising Third World governments.

27 See Personalised Relationships and Politics and Indigenous Leadership in Papua New Guinea for more on this.

28 Including: United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF); Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO); United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); World Health Organisation (WHO); United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO); International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO); United Nations Development Program (UNDP); United Nations Environment Program (UNEP); United Nations Centre for Human Rights (UNCHR); World Food Program (WFP); International Labour Organisation (ILO); International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); International Maritime Organisation (IMO); International Telecommunications Union (ITU); International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (The World Bank); International Monetary Fund (IMF); United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA); and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

29 See Teaching 'The Natives' to Work for more on this.

30 Such pressures have not lessened in the post-Cold War years. The following is a brief excerpt from a much longer and more detailed commitment by all the nations of the world to 'human rights' and 'social development' on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations (UN 1995):

We heads of State and Government are committed to a political, economic, ethical and spiritual vision for social development that is based on human dignity, human rights, equality, respect, peace, democracy, mutual responsibility and co-operation, and full respect for the various religious and ethical values and cultural backgrounds of people. Accordingly, we will give the highest priority in national, regional and international policies and actions to the promotion of social progress, justice and the betterment of the human condition, based on full participation by all.

The resolutions of the World Summit for Social Development list, in detail, the concerns of First World governments during the 1990s, transferred onto the rest of the world as the concerns of all nations.

31 In a statement before the Second World Conference on Human Rights, Vienna, 14 June 1993, Ali Alatas, Indonesia's foreign minister, explained:

Human rights questions are essentially ethical and moral in nature. Hence, any approach to human rights questions which is not motivated by a sincere desire to protect these rights but by disguised political or, worse, to serve as a pretext to wage a political campaign against another country, cannot be justified.

Human rights are vital and important by and for themselves. So are efforts at accelerated national development, especially of the developing countries. Both should be vigorously pursued and promoted.

Indonesia, therefore cannot accept linking questions of human rights to economic and development cooperation, by attaching human rights implementation as political conditionalities to such cooperation. Such a linkage will only detract from the value of both.

On such conditionalities, the Leaders of the Non-aligned Movement, during their Tenth Summit in Jakarta last year, emphasized that:

…any attempt to use human rights as a condition for social-economical assistance, thus sidelining the relevance of economic, social and cultural human rights must be rejected. No country should use its power to dictate its concept on human rights or to impose conditionalities on others.

It is now generally accepted that all categories of human rights — civil, political, economic, social and cultural, the rights of the individual and the rights of the community, the society and the nation — are interrelated and indivisible.

This implies that the promotion and protection of all these rights should be undertaken in an integral and balanced manner and that inordinate emphasis on one category of human rights over another cannot be justified. Likewise, in assessing the human rights conditions of countries, and of developing countries in particular, the international community should take into account the situation in relation to aft categories of human rights.

(Alatas 1993)

32 Jason Oringer and Carol Welch (1998), in a well written critique, have claimed that the key points are:

  • The U.S. leverages its dominant role in the global economy and in the IFIs to impose SAPs on developing countries and open their markets to competition from U.S. companies.
  • SAPs are based on a short-term, profit-maximization model that perpetuates poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation.
  • Social safety nets and good governance reforms do not compensate for the serious flaws that SAPs introduce by deregulating laws and diminishing the state’s capacity to protect the welfare of its citizens.

33 With the demise of the Soviet Union, the wars and rebellions of the Third World continued. However, they were no longer cast in the ideological frames of capitalism and communism, so the perception was that in the 1990s the world became increasingly Balkanised and 'ethnicised'. In fact, of course, this process began with the breakdown of empires — it was simply mis-diagnosed, warped and enthusiastically promoted to reflect international interests in the era of Cold War politics.

In 1996, serious internal fighting continued within more than thirty post-colonial countries, including Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Colombia, Guatemala, Iraq, Kashmir, Lebanon, Liberia, Myanmar, Philippines, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan and many others.

In 2009, with the same tensions and confrontations now claimed to be part of the 'war on terror' by Western countries, serious conflict continued in many non-Western countries including Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Mali, Mauritania, Nepal, Niger, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Yemen, Colombia, Sudan, Afghanistan, and many other countries around the world.

34 As Nef says (1991, p. 13):

… development — along neo-Keynesian and social democratic lines — was perceived as an explicit antidote to Soviet-type regimes. This fundamental 'orthodoxy' which conceived development as an alternative to revolution affected most of the subsequent development aid schemes, whether multilateral or bilateral. The Colombo Plan, President Truman's Point Four, or later the UN First Development Decade, were imbued with a reformist, missionary zeal.

35 In comparison with the literature on 'Third World development', writings on the involvement of the 'superpowers' in fomenting and sustaining Third World conflict in the post-Second World War period are sparse. A selection of them includes: Renner (1994); Chubin (1991); Economist (1994); Elguea (1990); Gareau (1994); Kick & Kiefer (1987); Makhijani (1992); Neuman (1994); Penny (1992); De Roux & Chelala (1993); and Nelson, Taylor & Kruger (1983).

36 As the Encyclopedia Britannica describes:

By the turn of the 20th century, the map of Africa looked like a huge jigsaw puzzle, with most of the boundary lines having been drawn in a sort of game of give-and-take played in the foreign offices of the leading European powers. The division of Africa, the last continent to be so carved up, was essentially a product of the new imperialism, vividly highlighting its essential features.

In this respect, the timing and the pace of the scramble for Africa are especially noteworthy. Before 1880 colonial possessions in Africa were relatively few and limited to coastal areas, with large sections of the coastline and almost all the interior still independent.

By 1900 Africa was almost entirely divided into separate territories that were under the administration of European nations.

The only exceptions were Liberia, generally regarded as being under the special protection of the United States; Morocco, conquered by France a few years later; Libya, later taken over by Italy; and Ethiopia.
(colonialism, Western. (2010). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved April 30, 2010, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/126237/colonialism)

As Anene (1970) explained it:

In the successive phases of the European partitioning of Africa, the lines demarcating spheres of interest were often haphazard and precipitately arranged. The European agents and diplomats were primarily interested in grabbing as much African territory as possible, and were not unduly concerned about the consequences of disrupting ethnic groups and undermining the indigenous political order…

The manner in which these boundaries were made was often a subject for after-dinner jokes among European statesmen.
(Anene 1970, p. 3)

37 A brief selection of texts which address these issues is: Anderson (1991); Arnason (1990); Brass (1991); Cohen (1991); Cole, Clay & Hill (1990); Eriksen (1993); Featherstone (1990); Feinberg (1990); Gellner (1983); Hassall (1991); Held & McGrew (1993); Ihonvbere (1994); James (1994); Lee (1990); Olwig (1993); Parker, Russo, Sommer & Yaeger (1992); Schiller, Basch & Szanton (1992); and Wijeyewardene (1990).

38 Only a naïve belief in the pre-existing identity of people with the nation-state in which they found themselves could have allowed them to suggest this kind of empowering of local communities and regions.

39 See Parliamentary Democracy in PNG for a description of the problems associated with the devolution of authority in a Third world country.

40 See Nnoli 1980, p. 218ff for a discussion of such activities within Nigeria; also Political Experiences in Nigeria for a discussion of these problems

41 Particularly First World leaders of the 'New World' who were coming to grips with the demands of indigenous minorities within their own borders

42 Yet, most governments were as committed as ever to implementing the modernisation agenda of the previous forty years. From the 1980s, Western nations increasingly required them to modify their focuses and activities to fit a growing emphasis on neoliberal governmental 'downsizing' and reliance on 'market forces'. Western nations, themselves, abandoned the developmental focuses of the post-war period and increasingly insisted on the deregulation of economic activity and privatisation of governmental responsibilities.

43 Many researchers have consciously set out to identify 'classes' in Third World nations, and a variety of studies have sought the emergence of the kinds of classes identified in Western nations. Many more have simply assumed the relevance of 'class' to the examination of Third World communities. However, classes in Western nations are a consequence of particular historical experiences which have not been repeated in these non-Western countries. One needs to be very cautious in applying the concept of 'class' to non-Western communities.

44 Where such parties existed they usually symbolised the struggle for independence and received their legitimacy from that recognition, not from their representation of the interests of particular 'classes' or espousal of a particular ideology.

45 This has proved a problem for many new nations. Indonesia, attempting to do what Murtala Mohammed (1976, pp. 12-15) claimed was not possible, has tried to deal with the problem by spelling out a single ideology to which all political parties must adhere. The Government's aim is to have all Indonesians commit themselves to these ideals and accept them as fundamental to all public and political life. It has described its philosophy in the following way:

Pancasila Democracy is a system of life for the state and society on the basis of people's sovereignty. It is inspired by the noble values of the Indonesian nation. Pancasila itself, which means the five principles, is the name given to the foundation of the Indonesian Republic. The five principles of Pancasila are

  • Belief in the One and Only God;
  • A Just and civilised humanity;
  • the Unity of Indonesia;
  • Democracy guided by the inner wisdom of deliberations of representatives;
  • and Social Justice for all the Indonesian people.

(Soetjipto (1995))

46 Which usually came from First or Second World sources, based on those, not indigenous, conceptualisations of the world (see History of the Emergence of Capitalism).

47 See Politics and indigenous leaders in PNG for more on this.

48 The issue of corruption relates, of course, not only to pressures placed on government departments and personnel to favour particular regions and politicians, but also to the personalisation of government. Western democratic government emphasises impersonal and impartial bureaucratic delivery of government services and administration of expenditure. In most patron-client orientated communities such impartial and impersonal administration is considered distinctly odd. Government is inevitably personalised and Western commentators inevitably view that personalisation as corruption.

49 As a Baobab Press article described of Indonesia's move to this form of government:

By the early 1960s, tensions between Washington and Jakarta were at an all time high, in large part because of Sukarno's 'growing resistance to foreign aid from Western countries,' explains a States News Service report that appeared in the Washington Post on May 21, 1990 [Kathy Kadane, US OFFICIALS' LISTS AIDED INDONESIAN BLOODBATH IN '60S, Washington Post, Monday, May 21st, 1990, p.A5, State News Service].

It was then that U.S. diplomats and intelligence officials decided to consummate the results of years of painstaking espionage. Over a period of several months beginning in October of 1965, high-ranking officials of the State Department turned over the names of more than 5,000 key members of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) to Sukarno's opponent, Gen. T. N. J. Suharto, says the States News Service report.

The story adds that the Indonesian communist group was at the time the largest in the world after the U.S.S.R. and China, and that American diplomats, after supplying the list of names, 'later checked off the names of those who had been killed or captured.'

The report describes the list of names turned over to the Indonesian general as 'a detailed who's who of the leadership of PKI,' that identified committee members and organisers of labour and youth groups at the national, provincial and municipal levels

… It is unknown how many people were killed in the bloodbath that followed

… The CIA estimated in 1968 that at least 250,000 people were rounded up and slaughtered, and called the incident 'one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century.' A 1966 Washington Post report estimated deaths at closer to half a million. But all accounts agreed that the Indonesian communist movement had been wiped out.

The disclosure of the names and the subsequent massacre were not isolated events. They took place against a backdrop of psychological warfare which helped set the stage for Sukarno's eventual removal from office.

A 1975 Congressional investigation into CIA covert activities uncovered evidence, for example, of a clandestine U.S.-sponsored propaganda campaign designed to discredit Sukarno by circulating accusations of sexual improprieties to news media throughout the world. By the time of the bloody anticommunist purge, Sukarno was on his way out. Gen. Suharto was installed in March of 1967 as interim president.

(Baobab Press 1993)

The following was the official Suharto Indonesian Government explanation of the precursors to, and rationale for, its political reorganisation of the country from 1967, following the period of political turmoil described above (see Cribb 1990 for a detailed examination of the period):

The Government Manifesto of November 3, 1945, opened the way to a rapid growth of political parties. Soon a multi-party system emerged with parties of different ideologies, ranging from nationalism to socialism, religion and even Marxism/Leninism. Hence, the political structure developed into a liberal democracy that was a complete departure from the type of democracy envisaged by Pancasila.

With sharply conflicting ideologies, political rivalry was the order of the day and a stable Government was out of the question. With a total of 23 political parties and their factions, cabinets could only be formed on the basis of a shaky compromise between the strongest parties. In point of fact, coalition cabinets were formed and dissolved very often. The administration was a complete shambles and development was a far cry.

The first and only general election ever held during the rule of the Old Order took place in 1955. Even that election did not produce a strong cabinet with a solid back-up in Parliament. On the contrary, because political conditions continued to deteriorate, the President ordered the formation of a Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution. However, as mentioned earlier, this only ended up in a total deadlock which led the President to take all the power of the state into his own hands under the pretext of guided democracy.

Having learned from the experience of the unlimited multiparty system of the past, the New Order Government, which came into office in 1967, decided to Simplify the political system along the following lines:

1. In order to minimise ideological conflicts between political organisations, all political organisations shall adopt Pancasila as their sole basis principle.

2. To simplify the political system, particularly for the purpose of choosing a political organisation by the people in general elections it was felt that the number of these organisations should be reduced.

3. In the past, villages were made the bases of political activities and manoeuvres, most notably in the heyday of the Indonesian Communist Party. This adversely affected the social and economic life of the village populations. Hence, it would be desirable to free villages from the activities of political organisations.

Furthermore, the large number of organisations has been reduced by the fusion of parties and their affiliated organisations into two political parties — Partai Persatuan Pembangunan (The United Development Party or Partai Persatuan) and Partai Demokrasi Indonesia (the Indonesian Democracy Party or PDI), and one Functional Group or Golongan Karya (Golkar).

Partai Persatuan is a fusion of Nahdlatul Ulama (the Moslem Scholars Party), Parmusi (the Moslem Party), PSII (the Islamic Confederation) and PERIl (the Islamic Union).

PDI is a fusion of the former PNI (the Nationalist Party), the Catholic Party, the Christian (Protestant) Party, the Indonesian Independence Party, and Partai Murba (the People's Party).

Golkar accommodates the aspirations and political rights and duties of functional groups that are not affiliated with either party, namely civil servants, retired members of the Armed Forces, women's organisations, professional groups, farmers, students, etc.

By virtue of the 1983 Guidelines of State Policy and on the basis of Act No.3 of 1985, Pancasila has finally been adopted as the one and only ideological principle upon which all political organisations base their activities.

(Soetjipto 1995)

50 The following snippets from discussions reported by the on-line service of Kompas (Kompas 1996), one the largest circulation newspapers in Indonesia, provides some insight into the actual relationships between the armed forces, Golkar (the ruling party) and the other two parties under Suharto's rule. Key terms and acronyms to understand the following excerpts are:

  • ABRI: Indonesian armed forces
  • Golkar: ruling party in Indonesia
  • KIPP: The Independent Election Monitoring Committee (suggested by PDI and PPP as a replacement for Panwaslak)
  • OPP: The three General Elections Participants Organisation (PPP, PDI, Golkar)
  • Panwaslak: The Election Monitoring Committee
  • PDI: The Indonesian Democratic Party
  • PPP: The United Development Party.

Chief of Staff of the Army General Hartono said it was clear that each member of the armed forces (ABRI) was a Golkar cadre and therefore persistent questions broaching the issue, themselves need to be queried. Hartono conveyed his sentiments at the Sabilil Muttaqien Pesantren (Islamic school) in Magetan, East Java on Thursday (14/3 [1996]) …

In a meeting with Golkar officials in the Matesih Square, Central Java, Hartono said ABRI exists behind Golkar. Historically ABRI has never been separate from Golkar. Every ABRI member is a Golkar cadre and therefore there is no need for them to be dubious about stating their allegiance to Golkar (Kompas, 14/3 [1996]) …

Hassan explained, it is not true that the existence of KIPP is the expression of all Indonesians. Golkar with 35 million card-holding members and its 1.5 million cadres can actually be called as the voice of the majority. 'So the refusal of KIPP is actually the majority desire. But Golkar does not claim that the people refuses KIPP, Golkar alone is enough to refuse KIPP,' he said. Regarding to the Initiative Rights Bill on the Amendment of the General Elections Law proposed by United Development Party Faction in the House of Representatives, Hassan said, Golkar refused it not because the present Election Law brings benefit to Golkar. 'No, the Election Law brings benefit to all OPP. The law has been approved by the three General Elections Participants Organisation (OPP), so if there should be any changes in the law, it must be on the approval from the three OPP,' he said …

The theme for the working meeting which will be held March 26-28, 1996 is: 'Strengthening the Security Stability of Regions to ensure the Success of the 1997 General Elections'. The meeting is aimed at uniting perceptions in the effort to increase development and preparations for the upcoming elections. Besides all the governors, this meeting will be attended by the Chairpersons of the Regional House of Representatives, the First Assistant Secretaries of the Regional Government, the Heads of the Regional Social Politics Directorate, and the Heads of Regional Bureau of Governmental Affairs. Soebrata who is also the Secretary of the General Election Commission said that although governors are the Chairpersons of the Consultative Board of Golkar and the bureaucratic officials in the regions are Golkar functionaries, it does not mean that the meeting will discuss efforts to win Golkar, rather it is an effort by the governors as the Heads of the Regional Election Committee to execute the General Election successfully, safely, and orderly.

Asked why the governors' perceptions have to be unified, the Secretary General said that at present, there are many disturbing reports that disrupt the preparations of the General Election, for example, the matter of an independent election monitor al').d other matters related to the preparation of the General Election. 'Therefore the unifying of perception among government officials as the administrator of the General Election concerning the problems that arose,' he said … Soebrata also reminded the governors as the officials in charge of the administration of the General Election in their respective region to implement their functions well while on duty, meaning that they should not mix up between their functions as the administrator of the General Election and their role as a Golkar functionary. 'I think this has been stressed enough, do not mix between the duties of an administrator of the election and Golkar functionary. While on duty as the election administrator, he should not campaign. Aside of that, please campaign,' he said. Soebrata said, until now there are no policies that forbid the governors to become campaign managers, as it was done in the 1992 General Election since the period of Minister of Home Affairs Rudini

51 The 1972 American Telephone & Telegraph (AT&T)/CIA conspiracy in Chile, resulting in the overthrow of an elected but antagonistic government and the emplacement of a friendly dictatorship is one instance of such activity (see Moberg 1992). However, similar support for autocratic governments can be found throughout Central and South America, East and South-East Asia and Africa since the post-Second World War era.

52 As Rachel Stohl (2008) describes,

there have been important changes since the September 11 attacks, with the United States finessing its arms export policies to support its war on terrorism. The most significant changes have involved the lifting of sanctions, the increase of arms and military training provided to perceived anti-terrorist allies, and the development of new programs focused and based on the global anti-terrorist crusade.

To understand and document this trend, the Center for Defense Information has analyzed military assistance data (using U.S. government data solely) for 25 countries that have been identified by the United States as having a strategic role in the war on terrorism. These countries include those that reflect the counterterrorism priorities of the United States — 17 are “frontline” states identified by the Bush administration as “countries that cooperate with the United States in the war on terrorism or face terrorist threats themselves” — and others strategically located near Afghanistan and Iraq.. Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Mali, Mauritania, Nepal, Niger, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Yemen

53 See Singer (2003) for an exploration of the issue. As James Hider described of the situation in Iraq in 2004,

The US military has created much of the demand for security guards. It has outsourced many formerly military functions to private contractors, who, in turn, need protection.

"The military doesn't have the means to look after hundreds of government workers and contractors. What they're looking for is an intelligent solution," said James Blount, whose Control Risk Group guards British officials here.

That solution is expensive -an estimated 10 per cent of the vast reconstruction contracts are going towards security, with companies charging up to Pounds 5,000 a day for a four-man armed escort with two armoured vehicles to make sure that investors arrive at meetings alive.

For some, the costs are too high: cheaper solutions can mean travelling in vulnerable "soft-skin" vehicles, such as the one in which Colour Sergeant McDonald was riding when gunmen killed him and a Canadian colleague on Monday. Last week two Finnish businessmen were shot dead in their car in Baghdad, apparently travelling without an armed escort.

Some British companies operate on a small scale with elite British forces. Others, such as the newly founded Erinys, have built up a vast force of 14,000 British-trained Iraqi guards to protect Iraq's oil infrastructure.

Many of the 5,000 or so private security contractors estimated to be operating in Iraq use former soldiers from the Third World, in particular retired Gurkhas, to stand for long hours in front of coalition bases or contractors' hotels in blazing temperatures. The London-based Global Risk Strategy brought in an entire battalion of Fijian soldiers to provide security for the distribution of Iraq's new currency last year

Like the coalition troops who regularly fight insurgents, the Western security contractors are largely above the law. It is unlikely that a guard would face legal proceedings if he accidentally shot an Iraqi civilian, one contractor said.

(Iraq: Soldiers of Fortune Rush to Cash in on Unrest, Times (London) April 1st, 2004)

54 See Ahene & Katz (1992); Bienen & Waterbury (1989); Gamble (1994); Jessop (1988); and Letwin (1993).

55 Many commentators seem to have accepted the rhetoric at face value, characterising the last thirty years as a remarkable period in which many formerly authoritarian Third World governments have turned to democracy.

Superficially, the change from authoritarian to democratic government has been very marked over the past twenty years. As an FAO report summarised: 'The United Nations reports that in 1993, elections were held in 45 countries and nearly three quarters of the world's population now live in countries with democratic and relatively pluralistic regimes' (UN 1996).

56 "More honour'd in the breach than the observance" (to misquote Shakespeare's Hamlet.)

57 The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index provides graphic illustration of the blatantly ethnocentric judgements made, assuming that Western forms of governmental organisation and practice are the standards against which all the world should be judged.

Of course corruption exists everywhere and where communities are unravelling and law and order are less effective one will find practices which, in the eyes of inhabitants, are corrupt (see The Breakdown and Revitalisation of Communities; Living within the Environmental Means). However, what constitutes corruption must always be judged against the forms and processes of leadership and communal organisation found in a community and country.

To do otherwise is to engage in social-engineering, re-fashioning non-Western systems of government and leadership to mimic Western forms. This produces the very conditions that 'development' enthusiasts and Western moralists are attempting to reform (see Imposition of Western Secondary Models: The Breakdown and Revitalisation of Communities).

58 See History of the Emergence of Capitalism for a discussion of the historical underpinnings of Western forms.

59 See Rachel Stohl (2008) for a discussion of changed US military assistance focuses.

The internet is replete with examples of the ways in which funding follows 'anti-terror' rhetoric:

Philippine Marines on Front Line in War on Terror
Reconstruction Team Serves on Front Line of War on Terror
The Front Line in the War on Terror: It's Israel now, not Afghanistan

60 There seems to have been little challenge to the expertise and focuses of these advisors, despite the recent (2007 — ) financial crises.

Neoliberalism places the market at the centre of 'development'. The presumption is that if the state privatises as much of its activity as possible, making it directly answerable to 'market forces', and deregulates fiscal and financial activity, market forces will ensure rational, efficient economic organisation and activity which will, in the long-run, result in a more rational organisation of society, to the benefit of its members.

A fundamental presumption underpinning neoliberalism is that all cultural and social forms are derivatives of individual, competitive, acquisitive behaviour, which is fundamental to human nature. So, social change is driven by competitive individual exchange.

Uninhibited market exchange most directly expresses that human nature. Therefore, by subjecting communities to 'market forces', one introduces rational social change (see Social Exchange Theory for more on this).

Of course, these presumptions are highly questionable and open to challenge. However, even accepting the premises, the presumption that uninhibited individualistic competitive activity as expressed in the marketplace will result in social good requires a remarkable leap of faith. There seems to be no evidence from history that this is so (see The Working Poor).

61 This placed the state at the centre of development planning and implementation, usually mapped out in five-year development plans.

62 see Mair, Stefan, 2008, 'The Need to Focus on Failing States' in
Failed States, Vol. 29 (4) — Winter Issue for a balanced discussion of the nature of failed states and reality of their threat to 'international security'.