ABSTRACT

This chapter explores how we understand militarism in the South in the contem­ porary moment. As Ron Smith has pointed out, there is no consensus on what the term ‘militarism’ means (Smith, 1983: 18). Definitions, frequently accompan ied with that caveat, tend to be broad: ‘militarism is a condition in which war, or the preparation of the means of war, are major social concerns, commanding a significant proportion of resources and enjoying a substantial degree of legitimacy’ (MacKenzie, 1983: 35), or ‘the propensity to use military power, or the threat of it, for political settlements’ (Dreze, 2000: 171). In the Marxian tradition, the question of militarism has been associated with an exami­ nation of the role of imperialism in the logic of capitalist accumulation (classi­ cally Lenin, 1972 (1916); Luxemburg, 2003 (1913)) and of the role of military spending in mitigating capitalist crises (cf. Baran and Sweezy, 1968; general reviews can be found in Coulomb and Bellais, 2008 and Mandel, 1975). In the liberal tradition, the concept of militarism is associated with the disruption of the proper relationship between military and civilian authorities such that the former dominates the latter (IC, 2009). To many observers, the concept of militarism seemed to decline in signifi­ cance with the end of the Cold War and authoritarian-democratic transitions in several regions of the world (Klare, 2001). Some would continue to use the term with reference to what were understood as distinctively post-Cold War condi­ tions, including regional nuclear rivalries, the persistent role of militaries in spe­ cific national governments, and for ‘the reproduction of many aspects of classical militarism at the sub-state level, as reflected in the rise of ethnic militias, separa­ tist forces, and local warlords’ (Klare, 2001). More often, though, conflict of this latter kind came to be discussed under the rubric of the ‘new wars’, a concept that focused on perceived changes in the nature of war with respect to the bases of antagonism (ethnicity and identity rather than ideology), the nature of protag­ onists (private rather than state actors), and the political economy of warfare (private accumulation rather than financing subordinated to collective political goals). While broader definitions of militarism would appear to accommodate the claims of the new war thesis, the general impression established through the shift to new terminology has been that there is something qualitatively different about conflict in the post-Cold War world that merits such a change. This

potential antagonism might also be read in debates about how new the new wars indeed are. As discussed below, critics have convincingly challenged the ‘newness’ of the ‘new wars’ thesis, in particular with regard to claims of the qualitative differences between the nature of ‘old’ and ‘new’ wars and empirical claims such as the civilian/military composition of deaths rates. Yet, though gen­ erally correct, these critiques have not taken up the question posed (but inad­ equately answered) by the new wars literature regarding the relationship between conflict, identity and the global political economy. Understanding the articula­ tion between these elements is in fact central to understanding militarism in the South and the dimensions of continuity and transformation that characterize its reproduction in the transition from the Cold War to the post-Cold War historical moments. The discussion that follows aspires to contribute to our understanding of con­ temporary militarism in the global South through a critique of the new wars thesis from the perspective of Gramscian political theory, with particular refer­ ence to the question of counterinsurgency. This analysis questions the novelty of the new wars literature while addressing the question of the relationship between conflict, identity and global political economy, arguing that these connections can indeed be analysed but only in properly historical materialist context. Coun­ terinsurgent warfare puts population, and by extension identity (particularly under conditions of racialized class and labour structures, discussed below), at the centre of its logic (Rid, 2010), challenging the ‘novelty’ of the role claimed for identity in the new wars literature, a dimension missed by many critics. At the same time, most theories of counterinsurgency (often constructed by strate­ gists) have neglected the relationship between identity and the political­ economic, which the new wars literature gestures towards, to its credit. A Gramscian analysis provides a framework for unifying these legitimate concerns analytically in historical, global political­ economic context. The discussion is organized as follows. Mary Kaldor’s conception of the new wars as an exemplar of the thesis is examined, as are some of the criti­ cisms that have been made of it. The question of why, given her past historical-material analysis of capitalism and militarism, her work on the new wars ascribes such novelty to intrastate warfare of the post-Cold War period of globalized capitalism is then considered. Critics have suggested that the normative inflection of Kaldor’s work risks reproducing the conditions it aspires to critique, a problem to which Mark Duffield’s analysis of the new wars seems more sensitive in its focus on the relationship between the new wars and global governance in the neo-liberal period. Duffield’s argument about the new wars is thus considered, yet this work also unhelpfully posits a radical break in the post-Cold War period that rejects the more fundamental capitalist logic of the kinds of violence and militarism observed both during and after the Cold War. In a Gramscian account, outlined in the final section, the linking of development and security is not merely a symptom of neoliberal, post-Cold War governmentality, but an on-going problem of liberal capitalist modernization and uneven development.