Structural Violence Framework in International Assessment

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Whenever a group or sector of society is prevented from meeting basic needs, there is opportunity for conflict, and often for violence. The relationship between structural violence and actual or direct violence is robust. Like most attributes of social systems, structural violence occurs along a continuum. At the lowest end, is domestic violence; at the highest, war. Importantly, the unit of analysis for structural violence varies depending on the type of structural violence being investigated. Research on structural violence can focus on an individual, as in an ethnographic case study, or it can examine the society of a nation.

Not all structural violence occurs directly. Much structural violence is insidious, happening subtly, but to entire classes or groups of people. As James Gillian (1983) argues, people on the lower levels of society experience higher death and disability rates -- not because of intrinsic differences between these classes or groups -- but because of differences in their life experiences and treatment. The nexus at which status inequalities turn into structural violence is cultural. The term cultural violence refers to the legitimizing process that occurs when violence, whether direct or indirect, is viewed by particular members of society as normative.

The roots of structural violence are historical, psychological, sociological, and economic. Historical and psychological roots contribute strongly to cultural violence. Very real struggles occur between individual and classes in a society driven by a belief in the immutable nature, or historical rightness, of a particular conflict. An equally strong driver of cultural violence is the sense of psychological rightness, which is largely based on individual perspectives of superiority or inferiority. Certainly, economic and sociological influences establish cultural conflict, which may be conjoint with cultural violence. The clash of supply and demand inequities can result in economically-based struggles as people attempt to get basic needs met when there does not appear -- or actually are not -- enough of fundamental commodities to go around. If one couples economic inequities with sociological justifications for maintaining those inequalities, the potential for flash fires of violence becomes very real.

Gilman (1997) notes that these examples of structural violence -- poverty and hunger, particularly -- could not exist without the permission of the people on earth at the present time. Further, he argues, an obstacle to peace is the human tendency to easily look the other way, to "acquiesce in injustice...and disclaim "response ability" (Gilman, 1997).

Burton draws a firm line in his work (2001) by insisting that that "peace begins at home," and that domestic or "family violence" must be considered a form of structural violence that occurs within a private sphere. His argument takes strength from the construct of family as one of the "main institutions of society" (Burton, 2001).

The Influence of Globalization on Structural Violence

In this section, the concepts developed by Galtung, Gillian, and Gilman, as well as the typology presented by Barak, will be applied to an exploration of the relation of globalization to structural violence. Globalization is presented here as the macro context for against which the micro level conflict of nations is examined.

Today, a structural violence framework applied to international conflict must consider the influence of globalization. According to Lerche & Tidwell (2004), globalization "is an accelerator of social change, and as such, may act as a catalyst for conflict, aggravating the tensions in any given society and even creating new ones. At the same time, it may catalyze and accelerate conflict resolution" (2004, p. 47-48). Inarguably, interpersonal connections are influenced when technology-enhanced communication promotes a sense of interconnectedness. In the same manner, globalization brings about 'intensifying interconnectedness" which can have both purposeful and accidental impact on international peace and conflict (Lerche & Tidwell, 2004, p. 13). Consideration of the interplay between 'marketization and democratization" in developing countries is useful for examining the impact of globalization. When a country engages in processes that lead to the development of democratic governance and also fixes an eye on competing in the global marketplace, the underlying goals are generally to "empower local populations" (Lerche & Tidwell, 2004, p. 57) but unintended negative outcomes may instead be the result. As Lerche & Tidwell emphasize, "[The actual] problematic area is not democratization or marketization per se, but rather their interactions with local circumstances" (2004, p.57).

Conflict diamonds. The disturbing events associated with "conflict diamonds' provides a solid example for evaluating the utility of a structural violence framework to examine conflict. Although direct violence typically occurs within the boundaries of the countries where the mines are located, the market for the conflict diamonds is global. The South African DeBeers cartel dominates the market with ownership in about 40% of the world's diamond mines (Goreux, 2001). Diamond mines are located in Australia, Canada, Russia, and South Africa. Extensive diamond polishing enterprises exist in Antwerp, Bombay, Dubai, and London. The primary markets for cut diamonds are Japan and the U.S. (Goreux, 2001).

The integrative theory posited by Barak, in which conflict theory is based on the "reciprocal integration of interpersonal, institutional, and structural violence" (2003, paragraph 1) fits well with this brief analysis of the impact of globalization on the dynamics surrounding conflict diamonds, particularly when the diamonds are the source of funds for military operations. About a decade ago, the trade in raw diamonds amounted to approximately $7.25 billion (Goreux, 2001, p. 3). Of this figure, trade in conflict diamonds is estimated to about $250 million, or 3.5% of the total diamond trade (Goreux, 2001, p. 3). This valuable commodity is traded on global markets and provides substantive funding for conflict in Angola and Sierra Leone.

The effect of several troublesome dynamics can be seen in the conflict diamond sector, all of which are related either directly or indirectly to globalization. There is tremendous global demand for diamonds which originate in areas fraught with extreme violence. Historically, insurgency campaigns have not been checked by an ineffective, failed central government (Goreux, 2001). Access to the mines is a given in these African regions and with no other sources of external funding available to the paramilitary troops, the military turns easily to a position from which mining activities can be controlled and funds will be assured. UNITA, the rebel force in Angola turned to diamond mining after the Cold War ended and the U.S. withdrew funding (Goreux, 2001). Diamonds were stockpiled by UNITA, basically in order to control the market, and as diamonds were sold, the money was used to buy weapons in order to continue attempts to overthrow the government in Luanda (Goreux, 2001). In Sierra Leone, a war has been going on between the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and the central government since 1991. This RUF military campaign is funded by proceeds from diamond smuggling. More than 20,000 people have been killed in this war, with nearly 2 million people displaced from their homes, and countless horribly maimed and disfigured.

Also, al-Qaeda is suspected of using money from smuggled conflict diamonds to fund terrorism. The allegation is that al-Qaeda operatives in Africa purchase conflict diamonds, have them exported, and then covert them into laundered cash (Farah, 2001, A-1). Ostensibly, "A diamond on the finger of a casualty of the attack on the World Trade Center may well have once been traded by al-Qaeda and mined by those working with the RUF" (Goreux, 2001, p. 51).

Conflict diamonds are central to the exploitation of people in Angola and Sierra Leone. The importance of culture and a hierarchical society are evident in this struggle. In addition, the impact of militarization and enduring conflict that has become a way of life (normalization) determine the nature of the struggle. Further, there is an embedded incentive to maintain the violent and chaotic situation in Sierra Leone. To the strength of the global diamond market has been added the lucrative global arms trade. As long as the mining continues, there will be funds available for weapons and a market for diamonds. As long as the war continues, there will be a market for guns. Absent the strong global markets, might the internal struggle in Angola and Sierra Leone be quite different from what it currently is?

A type of perfect storm has taken shape in Angola and Sierra Leone where the vectors all come together in a way that is sure, all things remaining the same, to result in violence. Cuesta and Murshed argue that while "factors such as inequality, poverty, polarization, exclusion, ethnic tensions, natural resource appropriation all contribute to the risk of conflict, yet some societies having such conditions do not descend into conflict" (2008, p. 6). Cuesta and Murshed posit that, in addition to the presence of abhorrent conditions such as those listed above, "for greed and grievance to take the form of large-scale violence" (2008, p.6) some breach of social contract must have occurred. A social contract is an established set of conditional rules to which the parties widely agree and that, formally or informally, govern the way resources… [END OF PREVIEW]

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