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Organizing Violence

Robert Bates, Avner Greif () and Smita Singh
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Smita Singh: Center for International Development Harvard University

Journal of Conflict Resolution, 2002, vol. 46, issue 5, 599-628

Abstract: In stateless societies, coercion is privately provided; violence is employed to engage in, and to defend against, predation. At best, violence results in mere redistribution; being destructive, it more often results in a loss of social welfare. When organized, however, violence can be socially productive; it can be employed to defend property rights, thereby strengthening the incentives to engage in productive activity. To explore how violence can be rendered a source of welfare, the authors develop a model of a stateless society in which people's rights to the product of their labor are secure only if they possess coercive capabilities. Using case materials and formal logic, the authors then compare this outcome with that obtained when private agents reward specialists in violence for defending property rights. In doing so, we plumb the role of the state.

Date: 2002
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Handle: RePEc:sae:jocore:v:46:y:2002:i:5:p:599-628