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The monopoly on the use of force and paradoxes of security – discrepancies between objective and subjective security in the Central African Republic and Lebanon

Central African soldier bars the road for a MINUSCA convoy

Central African soldier bars the road for a MINUSCA convoy

| © © Tim Glawion

Reinstating the state monopoly on the legitimate use of force continues to be the key strategy used to pacify conflict zones and rebuild so-called ‘fragile states’. At the same time, the empirically measurable effects of state armed forces extending their reach throughout their country on people’s security are at best ambivalent. In many countries deemed fragile and of need of intervention, such as South Sudan, Syria or the Democratic Republic of the Congo, state forces are themselves contributing more to people’s insecurity than to their security. In other countries, such as the CAR and Lebanon, state institutions generally aim to contribute to people’s security. However, even in those cases where the state’s extension of its reach does lead to factual security increases, it can nevertheless lead to perceived security decreases. There is often a paradoxical relationship between the processes of security production in the local security arena and inhabitants’ perceptions of their own security. 

This project thus asks: Why do states’ attempts to monopolize the use of force at times create divergent objective and subjective levels of security? Paradoxes of security describe instances where improvements in measurable security are paralleled by decreasing subjective security, or decreasing objective security parallels increasing subjective security. I argue that under certain conditions, the extension of the monopoly on the use of force has paradoxical security effects: even when it increases factual security it can negatively impact subjective security by threatening people’s identity and security routines. 

I analyse this paradox through the concept of a security arena, which is composed of actors who interact on the issue of physical integrity around a selected centre of study. While the CAR’s and Lebanon’s national security institutions have never held a monopoly on the use of force, they are nevertheless seen by many members of society and international state-building advocates as potential bridges across societal divides. For others, however, the state is identified with repression and historical marginalization. Army deployment into pluralized local security arenas impacts subjective security positively for some and negatively for others. Second, military deployment to local security arenas often detaches security processes from chains of local accountability. Thus, even when state forces can rein in observable incidences of insecurity, local inhabitants might feel less secure because their sovereignty is reduced.

Further information on Tim Glawion's research project can be found here.

The research project is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) (German Research Foundation).

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Project staff at ABI:
Duration of the project:
2020 - 2025