Free «The Political Economy» Essay Sample

Above all things, it should be stated that “greed and grievance” are two controversial arguments used by researchers of military conflicts in order to explain the causes of civil war. In addition, it should be noted that the aforesaid argument is being used to other forms of war as well. Hence, only a diligent investigation of both conceptions will make possible to determine what argument is truly dominant.

According to Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler (2000), the biggest part of rebellions is motivated by the sense of purpose in conjunction with a narrative grievance. However, in pursuit of their purposes rebels are considered to be linked to the capture of resources. As the result, grievance may be gradually transformed into greed. As to the authors, grievance as the incentive of an armed conflict may give rise to greed connected with the lack of resources necessary for the warfare.

According to Collier and Hoeffler (2000), the greed model originates from Leninist theory which presumes that the ability of a rebel organization to form subjective grievance has no nexus with objective grounds for grievance. As far as a grievance-rebellion is concerned, it should be ascertained that the major objective of the rebellion lies in mitigating grievance. The aforementioned type of rebellions is not directed towards predating according to the researchers (Collier, & Hoeffler, 2000, p. 11). Furthermore, the greed model of rebellion implies that the cause of initial conflict is “an economic calculus of relative military advantages” as well as the government’s ability to finance defense actions, and the cost of recruitment. To the author’s opinion, in case of a conflict the rebel organization will proclaim subjective grievance in order to attract more supporters and make their struggle efficient (Collier, & Hoeffler, 2000, p. 14).

Contrary to the aforementioned statements, the grievance model predicates that a rebellion is caused not by economic calculus but objective grievance: “ethnic or religious hatreds, inequalities, oppression, or historical vengeance” (Collier, & Hoeffler, 2000, p. 14). In this connection, it should be supposed that rebellions which appear to be revolutions are inconsistent with non-violent means of protesting. In conformity with the authors’ judgements, greed and grievance are reciprocal motivations which may coexist. In view of the above, a group of people initially motivated by grievance may become dependent on particular circumstances converting itself into a greed-rebellion. On the other hand, a rebellion motivated by greed may assuredly generate subjective grievance if particular conditions take place. Further, the aforesaid group may find that objective grievance suits their purposes fairly well (Le Billon, 2001).

Likewise, both rebel groups and groups connected with the government may be involved in expropriation of resources and exploitation of human labour for the purposes of war (Berdal, & Malone, 2000, p. 31). In addition, it should be clarified that the aforesaid groups may be primarily focused on the purpose of exploiting civilians during war. Such wilfulness of actions is unrestricted due to the fact that the war settings may provide a license to take advantage of non-combatants. According to Berdal and Malone (2000), it is possible to underline the significance of grievance and not greed in modern warfare notwithstanding that Paul Collier accentuates on the importance of greed rather than grievance (p. 31).

As to Berdal and Malone (2000), it is necessary to investigate how greed gives birth to grievances and rebellions which legitimize the following greed. In this connection, the researchers argue that the phenomenon of war produces a very comfortable disguise for greed as well as for the elimination or weakening of political opposition which is potent “to remedy grievances” (Berdal, & Malone, 2000, p. 32).

According to Ballentine and Sherman (2003), further escalation of the armed conflict motivated by the purpose to engage in crude resources accumulation assuredly results in continuous warfare rather than winning. Besides, it should be claimed that participation in war may create advantages for some individuals corresponding with their personal economical reasons. Despite the increasing agreement among researchers that economic reasons do affect dynamics of a conflict, the mechanism of such influence has not been interpreted yet. Nevertheless, Ballentine and Sherman (2003) suggest that the precise detection of those participants who aim to gain profit from war may assist in identifying “opponents and spoilers of peace settlement” (p. 5).

According to International Development Committee of the House of Commons (2006), greed as a motivation of war should be depicted as the reflection of economic causes of conflict. As to the Committee, greed is much more significant incentive of the conflict than any type of grievances, either political or social (International Development Committee, 2006, p. 27). Furthermore, it should be conceded that “quest for personal or corporate gain”, to the Committee’s opinion, has already become the major driver for conflict and still remains to be so in respect of the exploitation of natural resources in particular (International Development Committee, 2006, p. 27). Therefore, the Committee considers the correlation of “greed versus grievance” neither helpful nor elucidating.

In view of the above, it should be stated that the Committee’s approach to the matter of grievance is rather specific. The fact is that some incentives apprehended as greed may actually contain grievances. Poverty may be exemplified as grievance. Thus, according to the Committee (2006), the lack of attention in respect of grievances which have contributed to a conflict may cause possible cancellation of peace agreements in the future (p. 27).

Also, Ballentine and Nitzschke (2003) suggest that the economic causes of modern military conflicts are genuinely interpreted in the frames of “greed versus grievance” dichotomy. (p. 2). In this connection, it should be ascertained that all conflicts are divided into “loot-seeking” conflicts driven by economic incentives and “justice-seeking” conflicts motivated by socially political reasons. A wide range of scholars including Porto (2002), Herbst (2000) and Cramer (2002) do emphasize that, in spite of the general consensus that economic factors affect conflict dynamics, there is no apparent agreement as to how they matter and how they relate to political and socio-cultural factors.

According to Ballentine and Nitzschke (2003), there are numbers of theories called “rebel-centric” approaches which are directed towards interpreting the causes of rebellion. In accord with the aforesaid approaches, it should be clarified that the contests over natural resources taken place during conflicts in Angola, Sierra Leone and the DRC may be explained with the help of econometric “greed model” of rebellion. In accordance with the above-mentioned model, the statistical correlation between quantity of resources and the risk of military conflict is explained by the level of rebel endeavours to self-enrichment in possible conjunction with the opportunity for the rebellion which is provided by the access to the resources (Ballentine, & Nitzschke, 2003, p. 3).

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In addition, it should be claimed that there subsists an alternative approach to the aforementioned processes. “State-centric” theoretical approach emphasizes the role of either the weakness or the impotence of the state to maintain order and law. The weakened state may provide favourable opportunities for an armed conflict. Furthermore, it should be explained that the conflict is considered the result of the state inability to monopolize force and produce public goods by means of the properly generated resources which may lead to destruction of legitimate authority and “capacity for effective governance” (Ballentine, & Nitzschke, 2003, p. 4). In this manner, it should be generalized that both natural resources and the state capability to control their generation make an undeniable impact on stability and peace in the country.

Moreover, the correlation of “greed versus grievance” is also investigated by Arvid Ganesan and Alex Vines (2004). In this connection, it should be asserted that internal military conflicts in resource-rich countries have the direct nexus with human rights violations around the world (Ganesan, & Vines, 2004). In accordance with the research conducted by Ganesan and Vines, it should be assumed that the formation of rebel factions who unleash civil wars is principally focused on greed rather than grievance alone. In this connection, it should be purported that the nexus between resources, income and civil war is substantial. Besides, it should be conceded that the role of governments in the dichotomy of “greed versus grievance” is undeniable. According to Ganesan and Vines (2004), government is deemed a missing component in the aforesaid correlation. Governments being controllers of main resources sometimes become corrupted and reluctant to cease the prolonged conflicts. In many undemocratic countries governments attain a strong drive to maintain power and control the state resources for the benefit of a few. Such policies may cause military actions as well. Scientists at the World Bank refer to the aforesaid governments as “Predatory Autocracies” (Ganesan, & Vines, 2004). In view of the above, the government of Angola during years of its war with UNITA should be exemplified as a predatory state as well.

Likewise, the relative merits of grievance-based explanations of civil conflicts are depicted by Indra de Soysa. According to the researcher, effects of “greed” measured by the availability of natural resources should be grasped as a powerful predictor of a conflict (Soysa, 2001, p. 17). On the other hand, the researcher believes that creed-related conflicts are widely spread in highly homogenous religious circumstances, within stringently Islamic and Catholic states. In like manner, it should presumed that densely populated states which are less open to trade may have military conflicts more frequently than the states with the developed trading infrastructure as well as relations. Soysa’s investigations have succeeded in throwing light on the fact that the risk of conflict may be reduced via liberalization of trade, promotion of manufacturing over resource extraction and adoption of the policy directed towards increasing the income (Soysa, 2001, p. 17).

Apart from the above, it should be ascertained that Cristina Bodea and Ibrahim A. Elbadawi (2007) suggest that the concept of war is a very complex phenomenon which should not be interpreted only with help of either greed or grievance. According to the authors, civil war is an embodiment of continuous conflicts within society which may result in the forms of either cooperative, non-cooperative but peaceful consequences or violent non-cooperative outcomes (Bodea, & Elbadawi, 2007, p. 4). The researchers investigating various motivations of war emphasize two reciprocal questions: why are particular societies more likely to conflict with others and what are the factors affecting rise of peculiar sorts of conflicts?

According to Bodea and Elbadawi (2007), the role of political institutions is crucial in understanding the conflicts. As to the authors, socially heterogeneous communities which suffer deficiency of democratic institutions are more prone to be exposed to a violent conflict (Bodea, & Elbadawi, 2007, p. 5). As far as the factors favouring certain types of conflicts are concerned, it should be noticed that the factor of low incomes combined with low standards of democracy is associated with high probability of a violent conflict, disregarding the social structure of the society.

In view of the above, it should be presumed that the factor of low incomes may give rise to either greed or grievance. On the other hand, low standards of democracy may presumably promote either the motivation of greed or the incentive of grievance as well. Taking the researchers’ positions into consideration, it should be asserted that both greed and grievance are opposite sides of the single phenomenon of war.

Similarly, Ballentine and Nitzschke (2005), suppose that some policy-makers are reluctant to believe that civil war is caused primarily by rebel greed. Particular researchers appeal to the fact that most of the conflicts occurred in early 1990s should be characterized as ethnic and religious confrontations. Therefore, the thesis of greed implies different meanings and interpretations. On the one hand, it is possible to blame the authorities and corrupted representatives of governments which are responsible for all their countries’ miseries. On the other hand, it is feasible to assume that rebels are motivated by the incentive of greed while deciding on either to obtain access to the resources of the country or to earn an income from military actions.

In view of the above, it should be conceded that imperfection of the concept of greed is connected with the actors of war. According to Ballentine and Nitzschke (2005), the individual motivations which push persons to war are various and contradictory. For instance, one group of combatants decides to fight in order to participate in predatory economic activities while other militants are driven by the sheer need to survive or protect their land. In this connection, it should be summarized that initially grievance-based conflicts may over time be supplemented by financial motives and vice versa (Ballentine, & Nitzschke, 2005, p. 4). The aforementioned tendency has manifested itself in Colombia and Angola. Furthermore, it should be claimed that the determination of various behaviours may assist in indicating the genuine motivations of military actions.

Besides, it should be admitted that Collier has neglected the role of the state while elaborating his model of “greed versus grievance” (Ballentine, & Nitzschke, 2005, p. 4). In this manner, Collier’s endeavours have been focused on rebels. His assumption has predicated that “rebels – not state actors cause conflict” (Ballentine, & Nitzschke, 2005, p. 4). In conformity with the authors’ writings, “rebel-centric” approach is doomed to partial disclosure of the conflict’s onset.

Furthermore, it should be clarified that Colombian insurgents are frequently overlapped with criminal organizations. As to Ballentine and Nitzschke (2005), the aforementioned confusion is inadmissible. Whereas criminal entities conduct violent actions in order to attain profit, it should be acknowledged that military groups participate in economic activities with the purpose to persevere in achieving military and political success.

Also, Ballentine and Nitzschke (2005) argue that Collier’s greed model of civil war accentuates on the exclusive role of natural resources and clarifies that abundance of the resources rather than deficiency of them should be comprehended as “the permissive cause of armed conflict” (p. 5).

Further, Patrick M. Regan and Daniel Norton (2005) offer their own interpretation of the correlative phenomenon of “greed versus grievance”. According to the scientists, the concepts of greed and grievance have the direct nexus with the notion of mobilization. Three of the concepts are used by the author with the purpose to explain rebellion and civil wars. Also, the writers elaborate their explanations regarding prerequisites to non-violent protest, violent rebellion and civil war. As the case stands, results of the research study imply that the factors which predict anti-state actions at one stage of violence do not always juxtapose with those manifested at other stages (Regan, & Norton, 2005). In addition, it should be claimed that the response by the state makes a significant influence on the following behaviour of the rebels.

Likewise, Cramer and Hanlon (2006) argue that neoclassical economists are primarily preoccupied with the dichotomy between “greed” and “grievance” while investigating the core sources of civil war. The aforementioned terms are considered difficult to be properly differentiated and explained because of their ambivalent essences. In order to interpret the phenomenon the researchers address to such concept as “utility”. In accordance with the authors’ analysis, every human action including behaviour connected with a military conflict is governed by rational choices directed towards maximizing individual utility. According to Cramer and Hanlon (2006), the concepts of “greed” and “grievance” may not be categorically separated because there is no clear explanation of the definite motivation for civil warfare.

Besides, Katharina Rohl (n.d.) exemplifying FARC also makes attempts to elucidate the correlation between “greed” and “grievance”. Her paper contains the diligent analysis of the driven forces behind the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in their incessant violent armed struggle against the governmental forces. Also, Rohl (n.d.) argues that recent economic analysis of rebel movements in civil conflicts illustrates a tendency “to discharge the rebels’ own account of their ‘noble cause’ in favour of adopting explanations focussed on the material benefits of violence”. Colombia is a very specific country with the highest homicide rate (Sweig, 2002, p. 123). Some experts presume that the FARC is the world’s wealthiest guerrilla movement gaining its income chiefly from “taxation” of the drug trade, robbery, kidnapping and extortion (Shearer, 2000, p. 196). Taking the FARC’s activities into consideration, it should be asserted that the motivation of “greed” is dominant in the aforementioned cases. Nevertheless, various “grievances” may be detected in the FARC’s activities as well. According to Giraldo, Roldan and Florez (2003), the FARC convinces that the movement is still purely politically motivated. The organization endeavours to be “an expression of the people”, a politically and military organization whose aim lies in settling the issues that affect thirty million Colombians who reside in poverty (Giraldo et al, 2003, p. 90) Further, according to Cecillia Orozco (2002), members of the FARC distribute Marxist rhetoric claiming that their political and economic interests “are not the interests of the working people nor of the revolutionaries” (p. 92).

In the final analysis, it should be generalized that widespread grievances in Colombia including extreme social injustice and poverty have created favourable conditions for a prolonged civil conflict and they still form the basis of the social and political turmoil. Nonetheless, the FARC has failed to fulfil the proclaimed promises and objectives being seduced by new possibilities occurred due to illegal activities. In the aforementioned case “greed” has been reinforced by the availability of enormous profits from illegal business which plays a decisive role in augmenting “grievances”.

After everything has been given due consideration, it should be claimed that “greed” and “grievance” comprise a complex as well as a ubiquitous phenomenon which manifests itself differently at different stages of a conflict. The motivation of “greed” should be apprehended as follows:

  • Some conflicts may be motivated by greed only if their participants decide to practice military actions with the purpose to achieve some financial or material benefits including resources, exploitation, money, property, land etc.
  • Individual motivation of a single combatant may vary from motivations of other combatants. In this connection, it should be asserted that particular groups of people involved in the armed conflict may have monetary interests as regards war. On the other hand, some participants in war may be driven by the necessity to either survive or protect their families, land and property. Approach to greed as a general incentive means that peculiar motivations of individual persons are levelled.
  • The motivation of greed may not be primary in the conflict. Some wars may be caused by grievance and further fuelled by greed.

The motivation of “grievance” should be grasped as follows:

  • There is a wide range of grievances which may push people to armed conflicts. The essence of grievances lies in unjust and unequal circumstances of life.
  • The poorest as well as the less democratic countries are more prone to be exposed to violent conflicts than democratic states. It means that undemocratic regimes and uncivilized conditions of life serve as the prerequisites to grievances.

It is possible to arrive at the conclusion that a war is caused by either greed or grievances. Therefore, greed and grievance are reciprocal causes of war which may substitute each other at various stages of violence.


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