Social Science / Politics Essay

The Monopoly of Violence in Industrialized Nations

Max Weber (1864-1920), German economist, philosopher, and sociologist wrote on the subject of human societies and institutions. By the time his research began, the concept of a state was already established. The people saw the state as a body of individuals charged with the responsibility of maintaining and enforcing rules for the common good.

This definition was mostly tailored to the goals and ends of the purpose of a state. However, the modern state, as explained by Weber, was not defined in relation to its goals or ends. It was described in terms of its means, particularly on the subject of violence. In his words as published in his 1918 work “Politics as a Vocation”, the modern state is a ‘’…human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory’’.

This channeled the theory of how government institutions monopolize violence to further the state’s ideals. With the advent of industry and technology, the theory is taken up a notch and considered in terms of industrialization. This essay interrogates the monopoly of violence in industrialized nations.

In the feudalism system, there was the operation of lords and serfs and the prioritization of the ownership of lands by these lords, which the vassals would earn their living and pay remuneration to the owners. When there was a default in the payment of such monies, punishments ranged from the seizure of property and family members to flogging.

Yet, no lord, including the king, could claim a monopoly over the application of violence, since their vassals promised to serve them on the land but withheld the privilege to exercise power within their fiefdoms. Additionally, the king and the owners of land reserved the rights to share power or compete with the Roman Catholic Church.

The modern state, according to Weber, emerged by taking possession of the means of political organization and domination, including violence, and by establishing the legitimacy of its rule.

For the sake of clarity, the use of ‘legitimacy’, does not mean that the state is the only entity using violence but rather that it is the only body charged by law to use violence for the sake of furthering the country’s needs.

Notwithstanding, the state can delegate another party the right to use violence for its own sake, so far it remains within the scope of the power given by the source of the right to use violence and that it maintains the ability to enforce this monopoly.

Furthermore, when the illegitimate use of violence is met with its counterpart, it does not refute the monopoly of the state. This might occur in the case of when a security agency, who has already been delegated the use of violence in the state, is met with a person seeking to inflict harm on civilians or themselves.

Criminal organizations, for instance, might undermine the law through their acts, yet they are not able to challenge the state’s monopoly and establish themselves as a parallel source of legitimate rule, irrespective of the scope of their rule.

An industrialized nation is a sovereign state with a highly developed economy and advanced technological infrastructure when compared with its other less industrialized nations. The criteria used to measure this is a comparison of factors such as the degree of economic development, as well as a gross domestic product, the per capita income, level of industrialization, amount of widespread infrastructure, and general standard of living. (Educaligo, 2020).

Asides good living and advancement, one thing that is common among these nations is the supremacy of the rule of law. Kofi Annan, the 7th secretary-general of the United Nations, was quoted to have said that “Good, healthy democratic societies are built on three pillars: there are peace and stability, economic development, and respect for rule of law and human rights”. This implies that when a pillar is missing, the wobbling of the other two is imminent.

Applying this to the monopoly of violence in industrialized nations, the very concept is built on legitimacy — the law —, which, while drawing from the relations between economic development and the rule of law, is a catalyst for the furtherance of industry.

Concurrently, security plays a huge part in a nation. The reason for this is not farfetched considering the impact of insecurity on the progress of industry and labor alongside the probability of investment reflected through import and export. If security were not maintained, the economy would suffer.

In fact, how much a country has advanced economically is judged, in part, by how the people feel safe in that country. If this is so, it will become imperative for the state to have absolute jurisdiction over the enforcement of the law through violence, especially where it is deemed necessary by rational thinking.

Besides, the idea of a modern state — the foundation of the state’s monopoly of violence — speaks of a time when it is necessary to innovate means to achieve a set ideology. This monopoly exists when armed groups from a specific conflict are disarmed, demobilized, and reintegrated into society, and a military and police force is vetted, retrained, and monitored on human rights principles.

Realizing this usually involves two major processes: disarming, demobilizing, and reintegrating armed groups (known as DDR), and reforming the security sector (known as SSR) — the system of actors and institutions that provide for the state security and population of the host nation. Both processes could be achieved extremely based on time and resources that are always challenging the state and making the polity volatile.

Finally, in war-torn countries where security and security oversight institutions are weak, thereby affecting the growth of industrialization, the citizens become a victim to intimidation; arbitrary arrest; serious criminal activity, and general fear of violence, oppression, and injustice. These threats disproportionately affect vulnerable and marginalized populations, including women and children. Nevertheless, with the states’ control over violenceThe Monopoly of Violence in Industrialized Nations, such news would become increasingly unpopular.

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