Violence, Security and Democracy: Perverse Interfaces and their Implications for States and Citizens in the Global South

Authors

  • Jenny Pearce,

    1. Professor of Latin American Politics and Director of the International Centre for Participation Studies in the Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford.
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  • Rosemary McGee,

    1. Fellow in the Participation, Power and Social Change Team at IDS since 1999.
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  • Joanna Wheeler

    1. Professor of Latin American Politics and Director of the International Centre for Participation Studies in the Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford.
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Summary

How does violence affect the everyday lives of citizens in the global South? Researching this theme under the aegis of the Violence, Participation and Citizenship group of the Citizenship DRC coordinated by IDS, we generated some answers, but also more questions, which this paper starts to explore. Why have democratisation processes failed to fulfil expectations of violence reduction in the global South? How does violence affect democracy and vice versa? Why does security practice in much of the global South not build secure environments? When examined empirically from the perspectives of poor Southern citizens, the interfaces between violence, security and democracy – assumed in conventional state and democratisation theory to be positive or benign – are often, in fact, perverse.

Empirically-based reflection on these questions leads us to two propositions, which the paper then explores through the use of secondary literature. In essence:

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

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

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

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