"Cash Violence: The Politics of Power and Peace in Liberia”
Ben Spatz, Kroc Institute Visiting Research Fellow
This paper focuses on and builds from one specific element of Ben’s book project, “Cash Violence: The Politics of Power and Peace in Liberia.” The book traces how members of Liberia’s elite bargain with one another using violence and “cash violence”—the Liberian vernacular term for the ability to give, deprive, or take away material rewards (e.g., bribes, contracts, license to predate in certain areas, etc.). The post-war period (2003 onwards) was characterized by an increasing reliance on cash violence. However, cash violence triggers loyalty cost inflation. Once adversaries know violence is off the table, they are free to demand more and more to stay onside, help pass legislation, or to maintain the peace. Forced to find funds to make these payments, even “democratic” leaders turn to corruption. Thus, peace itself creates political exigencies that incentivize strategies to undermine democratic institutions and governance mechanisms. Using granular qualitative and documentary data, this paper focuses specifically on how and when elite bend formal institutions and co-opt state capacities to further their political projects (and often as part of their intra-elite bargaining processes). This includes systematic manipulation of the very institutions that donors have often spent millions to stand-up as well as broader external engagements, such as mediation efforts, sanctions regimes, and private sector activity.
Discussant: Jaimie Bleck
Open to Ph.D. students, fellows, and faculty who are interested in civil war, violence, crime, peace, conflict management, and conflict resolution. The workshop is an informal gathering to discuss work-in-progress, dissertation chapters and proposals, practice conference talks, etc.
The workshop format assumes that participants come to the workshop having read the paper. A discussant will start the discussion with 5-10 minutes of comments, then the floor is open.