Diffuse Violence As a Road to Social Exclusion: The Recent African Experience
Diffuse violence is a reality in many regions throughout the world, in particular in unstable political circumstances and weak states. It may be a result of the presence of powerful organizations producing and trading illegal commodities (such a drugs), multiple party civil war, warlords, and other contexts with multiple parties introducing violence to exert control. In sociology, the bearing upon the development of democratic institutions is oft debated and well-grounded in historical sociological theories of state development.
The detrimental effects of diffuse violence on human development seem less studied. Frequent violence by multiple actors incentivizes stronger parties to invest in violent means themselves, instead of using formally peaceful exchanges, which may create a ‘vicious cycle’. The associated failure of states or other polities to enforce an effective violence monopoly, decreases the attractiveness for agents to engage oneself in peaceful exchanges and the formal economy (paying taxes, enjoying contract enforcement and other public goods). Finally, the investment of resources in protection and the use of violence diverts resources from more productive investments, e.g. in public goods. In short, the existence of warlike circumstances between multiple parties and systematic violence for direct gain, is expected to have serious detrimental effects on the access of people to human development and welfare.
We make use of the Afrobarometer, a particularly rich dataset of repeated cross-sections during two decades. We investigate whether human development and welfare levels are influenced by diffuse violence.