Commoners, Kings, and Subaltern: Political Factionalism and Structured Inequality in Lesotho



Conflict studies continue to focus on ethnicity because violence often arises among culturally heterogeneous populations. Conflicts also occur, however, in culturally homogeneous settings such as Lesotho. In Lesotho, sporadic violence has resulted not from ethnic conflicts, but from contests between interest groups vying to control the state and concomitant perquisites. Particular models for state control are legitimized by global interests seeking to promote formation of labor and commodity markets. As a result, the political system in Lesotho has fractured into multiple parties which struggle to promote specialized interests, while expressions of civil society are commonly suppressed. This article concludes that without freedom to develop institutions of civil society, sporadic violence will remain a problem for Lesotho. The lessons learned from analysis of conflict in a culturally homogenous state such as Lesotho also shed light on the ways that factors other than ethnicity contribute to conflict in culturally heterogeneous populations.