Markets of Violence and Perpetrators of Violence
The ethnologist Georg Elwert, who coined the term “markets of violence” in the 1990s, defines it “as a conflict, in the form of a civil war, a warlord system or marauding, which is dominated by the economic motive of material profit.“ In fragile or failed states, warlords, multinational corporations, and private military and security agencies appear on the scene as economic players, and introduce calculated and premeditated violence to enrich themselves – such as by trade in weapons, fuel, drugs, women, and children, by kidnapping, extortion, and protection money, or by illegal or semi-legal exploitation of resources – for example, in the mines of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Often these strategies of violence are masked as ethnic conflict, such as in Afghanistan’s Pashtun areas. Their true cause, though, is frequently not a conflict between “tribes,“ one over “ethnicity” or between “clans,“ but one taking place in a totally deregulated economy, in societies permeated with violence, and where there are few or no job opportunities in the peaceful sectors of the economy. It is not uncommon for Western countries and even aid agencies to become involved in this war economy, e.g., if they pay protection money to warlords in order to transport relief supplies to a war-torn area. Since these perpetrators or merchants of violence profit enormously from the conflicts, they have no interest whatsoever in peace agreements and torpedo them wherever they can. This makes ending such conflicts highly difficult. A good example is the war Congo’s resource rich areas that was re-kindled in the fall of 2008.
- Georg Elwert, Gewaltmärkte, in Trutz von Trotha (ed.), Soziologie der Gewalt (Opladen: 1997)
- Georg Elwert, Wie ethnisch sind Bürgerkriege? E+Z, No.10, October 1998, pp.265-267.