Posted by: hobbesonafob | May 21, 2009

The Historical Relationship Between States and CCNAs

“Je m’en vais, mais l’État demeurera toujours.”

(I depart, but the State shall always remain.)

– King Louis XIV, 1715


Louis showing us some leg.

Louis showing some leg.

This quote from King Louis XIV reveals that he never imagined a time when there would be social groups (Contentious and Coercive Non-state actors: CCNAs) that could counter the state’s power by engaging in the Tillian characteristics of stateness.

The relationship between the state and the CCNA can be fully explored by utilizing the Tillian idea of statemaking: eliminating or neutralizing the state’s rivals inside the state’s territories. This is the most important characteristic because it presupposes the existence of both the state and CCNAs (1). The relationship between the state and CCNAs will be examined in a historical context so that the current situation between CCNAs and states can be explained.

When a monarch was unable to consolidate power outside of a small city-state, the elimination of internal rivals created a serious problem. Some European powers relied on local magnates to control populations through a type of indirect rule. These local magnates can be classified as CCNAs because they exercised power within their own territories as Junkers, Justices of the Peace, Lords, etc.41 What made these nonstate actors coercive and contentious was their ability to produce armies and their ability to become potential rivals or possible “allies of a rebellious people” (2). The use of indirect rule was, in essence, a type of colonialism within Europe. The dynamic that occurs between the state and the magnate (CCNA) is extremely similar to the indirect governance during colonial times.

Historically, CCNAs have been used for indirect governance during colonial times. Lord Frederick Lugard, the Governor of Hong Kong (1907-1912) and Governor General of Nigeria (1914-1919), outlines indirect rule in a “how-to” manual for colonial administration in his book, The Dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa. Lugard writes that the British Empire’s only mission was to have everyone, “feel that their interests and religion are safe under the British flag” (3). Lugard exhorts that the best way to achieve this was through indirect rule:

Such liberty and self-development can be best secured to the native population by leaving them free to manage their own affairs through their own rulers, proportionately to their degree of advancement, under the guidance of the British staff, and subject to the laws and policy of administration (4).

What follows after the text is a demand/Tillian claim that would benefit the commercial interest of the British:

But apart from the administration of native affairs the local Government has to preserve law and order, to develop the trade and communication of the country, and to protect the interests of the merchants and others who are engaged in the development of its commercial and mineral resources (5).

Although Lugard depicts the relationship between the British and “local Government” as being one-way, such a depiction is inaccurate. Instead, the relationship between the two agents was more interdependent than what a colonial administer would want to reveal to the public. Joel S. Migdal explains the relationship between the state and the CCNA as being more symbiotic. Although the CCNA would become dependent on state resources to corroborate their social control, at the same time, the state would become more dependent on strongmen who would employ the same resources “in a manner inimical to state rules and laws” (6). The dynamic between the state and the CCNAs reflected the “weakness of the colonial power itself,” and how its resources were insufficient to create and support a central authority (7). The problem with this form of administration is that once “local strongmen implemented successful strategies of survival…it became exceedingly difficult to change, in great measure, the overall distribution of social control in the society” (8). This lack of direct control over the population forced colonial administers to deal with the disconnect between the state and the population:


Relationship between the state and CCNA, disconnection between state and population

Relationship between the state and CCNA, disconnection between state and population

This disconnect between the state and the population is highlighted in post-war British commissions that criticized the administrative practices in Africa (9). However, the cost to directly administer the population was far too high.

In the European context, the gap between the state and the population was very similar to that of the colonial administrators in Africa. Philip Bobbit contends that in Europe the King could make demands of its feudal vassals, but the King did not have “direct authority over his vassal’s peasants” (10). The state’s relationship with the population was strengthened when the state eliminated and/or neutralized the CCNAs in their territory. The CCNAs were demilitarized by the following four strategies: eliminating their large personal bands or armed retainers, razing their fortresses, monitoring and taming their penchant for using violence as a form of resolution for disputes, and discouraging cooperation between their dependents and tenants (11). The subduing of the CCNAs created a power vacuum between the state and its population, which was eventually filled by police forces and municipal governance that answered directly to the state. These strategies were effective but expensive, which partially explains why the state was not consolidated in Africa. It was during the nineteenth century that the state was able to subordinate CCNAs by creating a domestic force that represented the state; the creation of a police force ultimately solidified the state’s monopoly on violence through its territory (12). It should be noted, that even police forces had considerable discretion as to how and when the state’s law should be apply (13). It is through this labourious process that the state was able to effectively manage large swathes of territories such as Europe and North America.

Observing the disconnect between the state and the population is interesting when you apply it to counterinsurgency; specifically when counterinsurgents rely on CCNAs to exercise control over a population (perhaps the al Anbar Awakening and the use of warlords in Afghanistan could be examples of this). I think the same dynamics apply. 

Works Cited

1. One would be right to point out that the state then is much like the modern state now (e.g. the use of provincial and municipal government structures). The strength of states can be evaluated by how well their administrative branches, whether they are junkers or mayors, are regulated and controlled. To use Emile Durkheim’s terms, a strong state has a high degree of inorganic solidarity, in which the local administrators are “dependent upon the collective type and follows all of its movements, as the possessed object follows those of its owner.” Applying Durkheim’s notion of solidarity to CCNAs, the degree that an entity in an administration is able to engage in warmaking, statemaking, protection, and resource extraction, and act contentiously towards the state, determines its relationship to the state. See, Emile Durkheim, The Division of Labor In Society (New York: The Free Press,1965), 130

2. Tilly, “Warmaking,” 7.

3 Frederick Lugard, The Dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa, 2nd ed. (London: William Blackwood and Sons, 1923), 94.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Joel S. Migdal, Strong Societies and Weak States (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1988), 141.

7. Ibid., 125-6. 

8, Ibid., 105.

9. Ibid., 114.

10. Philip Bobbit, The Shield of Achilles (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002), 76.

11. Tilly, “Warmaking,” 7.

12. Lawrence Stone, The Crisis of Aristocracy: 1558-1641 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965), 200.

13. One does not have to look far for an example. The North-West Mounted Police during the Klondike Gold Rush were known not just for a flexible interpretation of the law, but were involved in the “actual invention of non-existent law to fit a certain situation.” See, W. R. Morrison, “The North-West Mounted Police and the Klondike Gold Rush,” Journal of Contemporary History 9, no. 2 (April 1974): 100.



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