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Development, territories, and people: consolidating the external sovereign frontier.

As a liberal relation of governance, development has a long genealogy spanning the colonial and postcolonial periods. This article attempts to uncover these interconnections. Development is first examined in terms of its singular ability to constantly reinvent itself as a "new and improved" formula for sharing the world with others. After discussing the relationship between development, liberal imperialism, and racism, decolonization is considered in relation to the emergence of a global biopolitical divide between "developed" and "underdeveloped" population. That is, life supported by social insurance as opposed to life excepted to be self-reliant. As a technology of security, development policies thus divide. The article argues that the ability of effective states to declare a humanitarian emergency within ineffective ones has played a central role in the post-Cold War reexpansion of the West's external sovereign frontier. Since humanitarianism ignores the state, however, within liberal strategies of governance, consolidating this frontier has fallen to development. While respect for territorial integrity remains, sovereignty over life within ineffective states is now internationalized, negotiable, and contingent. KEYWORDS: development, biopolitics, governance, territory, security


For policy discourse, the relationship between development and security is such that "if we help people who are less fortunate than ourselves, not only is it good for them, it is also good for us." (1) In fostering 'their' development, we improve 'our' security. While such enlightened self-interest is often presented today as an essentially new departure, (2) as a liberal design of power it has a much longer genealogy. As part of his inaugural address in January 1949, for example, US President Harry Truman is credited with making the first call, unconnected with war or postwar reconstruction, for interstate development assistance.
  More than half the people of the world are living in conditions
  approaching misery. Their food is inadequate, they are victims of
  disease. Their economic life is primitive and stagnant. Their poverty
  is a handicap and a threat to both them and to more prosperous areas.
  For the first time in history humanity possesses the knowledge and the
  skill to relieve the suffering of these people. (3)

William Easterly has argued that within this 1949 enunciation, apart from the connection between development and security, one can detect a number of recurrent themes that have continued to define development policy ever since. This includes "the call for a new program, the rationale in terms of poverty, the optimism that foreign aid programs can make a difference." (4) As Easterly argues, since the end of World War II, aid organizations have exhibited an enduring tendency to define outputs in terms of money disbursed rather than services delivered; to produce low-return but observable outcomes such as framework reports, attractive brochures, and high-level meetings rather than less observable but more important independent, ex-post program evaluations; a tendency toward institutional amnesia; and, not least, a willingness to engage in obfuscation and spin control "like always describing aid efforts as 'new and improved.'" (5)

To substantiate his argument, Easterly uses a table containing three columns headed "Stone Age" (roughly 1950s to 1970s), "Iron Age" (1980s to 1990s), and "Silicon Age" (the 2000s). (6) The rows are represented by different aid declarations such as the need to improve donor coordination; the need to increase aid volumes; that aid works in good local policy environments; the need to increase emphasis on poverty; the importance of debt relief; that Africa desperately needs reform; and that Africa is already reforming. The resulting boxes are filled with appropriate Stone, Iron, and Silicon Age quotes from UN reports, US Presidential statements, World Bank documents and G7 briefs. The table reveals that what we take as today's informed policy position (aptly summarized by the row descriptions above) was also cutting-edge thinking during the "Stone Age" of the international aid system. Rather than a steady, experience-based refining and progression of policy, the table suggests an institutional "Groundhog Day" in which every decade or two similar pronouncements are repackaged by a new generation of aid administrators and presented afresh as the way forward. When, since the eighteenth century, for example, has international development not been linked with economic growth and how its benefits can be made to work for the poor? With a few basic tools and a problem it has yet to solve, what is singular about development is its institutional ability to both survive and prosper. Despite periodic crises of confidence, it unfailingly reinvents itself as "new and improved." Development is able to insist on being judged by a yet distant future, rather than a past that has been lived and experienced.

In attempting to understand this phenomenon, Easterly offers an institutional explanation. For example, compared to private companies, official aid bureaucracies exist within a noncompetitive industrial structure and are subject to little customer feedback. Within this industry, moreover, to admit failure risks losing political patronage and its associated public funding. Among its practioners this political economy tends to promote collective spin and obfuscation producing "a cartel of good intentions." (7) Easterly's solution, however, is disappointingly conventional. Through the agency of the UN and NGOs, for example, he makes yet another call to seek flexible alternatives to the bureaucratic delivery of aid. While his description of the aid cartel raises some important issues, for the purposes of this article it is inadequate. In particular, the regularity with which development reinvents both itself and the publics enduring perception of underdevelopment, suggest that we are dealing with something different.

Development represents a liberal strategization of international power, some of the elements of which have already been touched upon: The urge to compensate for the perceived vulnerabilities of others through technologies of betterment whose success, because they require constant renewal and improvement, is always staked against the future. Rather than this strategization of power being the result of institutional determinants, it is more the other way around. In the specific context of post-World War II decolonization and the emergence of a world of independent states, what Easterly describes is the institutional consequences of development configured and functioning as an interstate relation of biopower. Instead of being institutionally determined, as a power design development can be analyzed separately from its current bureaucratic moorings within the aid industry. This enables its much longer genealogy to be examined. In this respect, the relationship between development and liberalism is important.

Liberalism and Empire

Despite shaping our present predicament, the formative connection between nineteenth-century liberalism and imperialism has been neglected in mainstream international relations and development studies. (8) This disregard has helped conceal and hence sustain liberalism's enduring paradox: the ability to support liberty, equality, and democracy as the necessary benchmarks of civilized society while, at the same time, accepting illiberal forms of rule as necessary or sufficient for a barbarian, backward, or underdeveloped one. Robert Cooper, puts a contemporary gloss on this longstanding paradox when he claims that among European states, "We keep the law but when operating in the jungle, we need to also use the laws of the jungle." (9) Liberalism's early architects, for example, James and John Stuart Mill, Lord Macaulay, and Sir Henry Main, apart from many practitioners of Empire, were not only aware of the liberal paradox, they consciously sought to normalize it and interpret the emergence of representative government in Europe as proof of its unlikely occurrence elsewhere and, consequently, justifying varying degrees of despotic, paternalistic, or ameliorative rule abroad. (10) This "liberal imperialism" also informed the emerging social democratic movement. Conscious of the European need for tropical raw materials, the "'Fabian' imperialists," for example, argued that such economic dependence carried a justifiable concern that resources were properly managed and developed, ideally using appropriate industrial technologies and educational measures that stimulated a desire for social progress within the backward country. Given this need to promote rational development, "there can be no inherent natural right in a people to refuse that measure of compulsory education that shall raise it from childhood to manhood in the order of nationalities." (11)

While the terms used to code the civilized/barbarian dichotomy have changed over time, moving from its nineteenth-century variants, through the twentieth-century concern with development/underdevelopment, to today's effective/ineffective state anxieties, this underlying paradox has been continually reproduced. It interconnects, for example, with the widespread left-liberal support for the upsurge of Western humanitarian interventionism following the end of the Cold War. (12) At the same time, in a threatening world the idea of an imperial order, tempered with calls for voluntarism and partnership, has been rehabilitated. (13) As a supporter of such order, Michael Ignatieff argues that such an urge is not "discreditable in itself, provided the empire does more than reproduce itself, provided that it does eventuate in self-rule for nations and peoples." (14)

Reflecting its Enlightenment heritage, liberalism equates culture and government. For John Stuart Mill, the cultural level and moral outlook of a people--its social character--sets the limits and possibilities of its governance. From this culture-government perspective, there is a necessary and intrinsic relationship between civilization and representative government. At the same time, the political expression of barbarism is despotism. Because the social character of a people limits the possibilities for its governance, it follows that the same model of government and its associated legal codes and moral expectations cannot be applied unilaterally across what is, in practice, a human species internally divided according to its potential for political existence. For Mill, articulating the necessary politicocultural discontinuities between nations and peoples represented a major advance over the ideas of many Enlightenment theorists, especially those believing in the universality of European laws and institutions. (15)

Racism and Development

Racism underpins liberalism's acceptance of a dispensation that assigns freedom and representation to "us" while declaring illiberal government as suitable for "them." There is an intimate connection between the civilizational division of humankind into politicocultural stages and its hierarchical ordering into biologically determined races. Following the abolition of slavery and the possibility of a universal humanity that it created, both cultural and biological reclassifications of humankind emerged during the first half of the nineteenth century. (16) While the turn toward an outwardly biological or "scientific racism" has attracted most attention, (17) any attempt to divide the human species according to different modalities and potentialities for existence, including political existence, is ultimately biological in essence. (18) Although cultural and biological approaches to the ordering of humankind are outwardly different, they share the same biopolitical foundation and together constitute an interconnected racist dynamic. (19) While forming separate and often opposed conclusions, both agree that nations and peoples are inherently different: either culturally or biologically. Where a cultural coding informs a liberal developmental logic, a biological one is linked to an exterminatory impulse. Sharing the same foundation, however, they interconnect and move in and out of each other as governance and sovereignty respectively. (20) Although Mill, for example, held that the politicocultural differences between peoples and nations were mutable and thus open to change through education and guidance (and in so doing opposed an outwardly biological determinism), he still found it necessary to describe these differences through such dichotomies as civilized/barbarian, advanced/backward, active/passive, industrious/sensuous, and so on, while assigning the former terms to "all the English and Germans and the latter terms to the Irish, French, Southern Europeans, and the 'Orientals' (more and more so as one moved south and east)." (21)

A culturally coded racism supports the liberal will to govern, ameliorate, or otherwise compensate for the limitations of an inferior politicocultural existence. It constitutes a liberal alternative to extermination, claiming a greater utility and efficiency over violence in managing the disruptive effects of progress. This relationship works not only in the international sphere, but the national as well. (22) While not the same as development, cultural racism informs it. The dichotomies that liberalism establishes between the civilized/barbarian; developed/underdeveloped; effective/ineffective, for example, are accepted as normal and unremarkable because, since the dawn of modernity, they have been experienced as a legitimate developmental challenge. (23) Development is the essence of a specifically liberal imperialism and its associated politicocultural racism. In this respect, rather than extermination, through protection and education, liberalism seeks to compensate and ameliorate the differences and vulnerabilities within the human species that it ceaselessly identifies. Liberalism's distinctive biopolitics is framed through its speaking on behalf of people and their rights, freedoms, and well-being. (24) In championing equality and democracy, liberalism not only justifies the Western genius, it also defines the West's own moral self-identity and its place in the world. (25) Rather than reducing the social and political distance between developed and underdeveloped species-life, development constantly reproduces it.

Compared to Easterly's institutionally determined analysis of development's post-World War II recurrent features, (26) Uday Singh Mehta teases out development as a design of power by addressing three interconnected questions to nineteenth-century liberalism. (27) First, How does a liberal understand life that is unfamiliar by virtue of it existing in a different realm of custom and experience? Understanding the unfamiliar is "to see those experiences, those life-forms, as provisional." (28) The task is then to connect that provisional, incomplete, or even repugnant species-life to a more accurate science, a more consistent morality, a more just politics or a higher social teleology. To judge unfamiliar life as incomplete, and the interventions that this judgment allows "is the conceptual and normative core of the liberal justification of the empire." (29) Second, From what perspective is this provisional life judged to be incomplete? It is a perspective from which experience "is always viewed and assessed from a future point." (30) Because of this forward vantage position, it is possible to claim to know the future history of an incomplete life-form and how it will gestate into a better or more complete existence. Because of this longitudinal perspective, development is given to gradualism, paternalism, and education to achieve the required gestation. Finally, how is such knowledge of the future possible? It is possible to know an a priori future when "the soothsayer himself causes and contrives the events he proclaims in advance." (31) As a strategization of power, development is an interventionary technology of protection and betterment that, over time, seeks to fashion a more complete and meaningful future for an unfamiliar life-form experienced as provisional or incomplete.

For Mehta, it is the developmental response to unfamiliar life, rather than liberalism's endorsement of empire as such, that lies at the heart of the liberal paradox. (32) This is an important observation since it frees our understanding of development from otherwise being permanently attached to its contingent institutional anchor points (for example, nineteenth-century imperialism or the post-World War II aid regime). Development is a liberal strategization of power and tutelage that has a viral ability to reinvent itself, allowing it to leap institutions and act across generations. It was at work, for example, in the colonial practice of indirect rule or "native administration." (33) During the process of decolonization, an adaptive development took on its modern institutional form as an inter-state relationship of "development." In the will to make unfamiliar and hence provisional life more complete, development reappeared as a way of mediating the biopolitical dichotomy at the heart of an emerging world of independent territorial nation-states. That is, the politicocultural distinction between developed and undeveloped worlds.

Decolonization and Containment

While there are some similarities within development over the colonial and postcolonial periods, the nineteenth century and today are very different. In addressing this problem of change within continuity, the idea of a negotiated "sovereign frontier" is useful. (34) Frontiers present themselves in several different forms. (35) For example, there are the fixed and mutually recognized borders of countries. Frontiers, however, can also be fluid and relational: for example, a shifting line of conquest and exchange, capable of advancing and retreating in time as a moving politicocultural "sphere of influence." Samuel Huntington describes such a frontier in the fourteen-hundred-year history of the constant ebbing and flowing over the countries, regions, and peoples of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East of the politicocultural border between Christianity and Islam. (36) From this perspective, the nineteenth-century European distinction between civilization and barbarity also represents a moving politicocultural frontier, this time on a planetary scale. Colonization, decolonization, and today's renewed interventionism can be interpreted as the expansion, contraction, and reexpansion of the West's external sovereign frontier. In relation to this fluid, contested, and negotiated line of demarcation, development functions as a biopolitical security mechanism acting on population. As a liberal design of power, development always acts in the name of protecting and bettering life. It functions as a technology of security, consolidating the West's sovereign frontier by supporting and including that life which is useful and capable of self-organization while excluding the useless and destabilizing. (37)

The so-called New Imperialism of the late nineteenth century, typically associated with the Scramble for Africa, completed the closure of the "global commons." Speaking in the interests of humanity, its authors swallowed whole those largely tropical and subtropical regions of the planet still unclaimed by an external power. With this act of seizure, all geographies have since become relative. (38) Late colonialism embodied a genocidal expansion of the West's external sovereign frontier. (39) The liberal will to govern was rejuvenated in the disgust and horror of this "insane imperialism." (40) At issue however, was not conquest and acquisition as such, it was the manner in which the new territories and peoples acquired were to be properly and effectively governed. In dividing and apportioning the world, late colonialism was a necessary precursor of the territorial nation-state that becoming a universal political architecture following decolonization. While attempting to consolidate the sovereign frontier through the decentralized technologies of indirect rule or native administration, (41) an essentially hegemonic and gradualist developmentalism however, could never complete the nation-state project. This task fell to an insurgent nationalism. While having precedents in the League of Nations, the formation of the United Nations in 1945 heralded a world of independent territorial nation-states that, for the fist time, enjoyed formal equality within international law. Driven by nationalism, independence represented a "pushing back" of the West's relational sovereign frontier. Hitherto limited to civilized peoples, Mill's advice that equality and nonintervention should guide the relations between nations, in theory became applicable to humankind as a whole. However, the immediate redivision of the world into developed and underdeveloped states worked against this possibility from the beginning. The political architecture of the world of states, reinforced by the Cold War, was based upon the principle of territorial integrity and respect for domestic sovereign competence. (42) From the 1950s through the 1970s, through state-led industrialization, centralized health and education initiatives, and rearmament programs, nationalist elites pursed counterhegemonic modernization strategies. Unlike development, modernization aimed at narrowing the differences between the developed and underdeveloped worlds rather than reproducing them. In this respect, while modernizing states are still evolving in Asia, they were not without some success in the field of public welfare even in Africa up to the 1970s. (43) Regarding the negotiated sovereign frontier, this period was synonymous with nationalist elites being able to frame the terms of their engagement with the outside world. (44)

Despite wide support from progressive and social-democratic forces, from the moment of decolonization, state-led modernization and its associated militarization was subject to a liberal critique by international actors speaking on behalf of the peoples and communities in the territories concerned. (45) Modernization's wasteful, urban-biased, "top down" policies, for example, were unfavorably contrasted with the benefits of people-centered "bottom up," community-based sustainable development. (46) As heirs of the liberal tradition, international NGOs played an important role in contesting state-led modernization and shaping the biopolitical technologies to reexpand the external sovereign frontier. Reflecting colonial concerns over social breakdown, a major issue was that modernization, by encouraging urbanization, would undermine community and family bonds. By the end of the 1970s, contrary to third world ideas of convergence as a means of strengthening local self-reliance and thereby containing the effects of poverty, NGO-pioneered "sustainable development" had begun to shape Western policy discourse. (47) Development's unease with independent modernization was also reinforced by another concern.

During the nineteenth century, the liberal experience of unfamiliar life as provisional was sufficient to justify intervention and Empire. Arguments among British liberals based upon right to conquest or immanent external threats "are almost entirely absent or, when invoked, are of a secondary status." (48) This stands in marked contrast to the situation today, in which fears are constantly aroused concerning the vulnerability of mass consumer society to disorder beyond its porous borders. One explanation for this difference concerns the world-historic change in the Western perception of human circulation. In general terms, as part of the expansion of European empires and spheres of influence, for several centuries the broad movement had been North to South, that is, outward to the non-European world. (49) Decolonization, however, altered this dynamic. The emergence of a world of independent states called forth millions of new citizens living for the first time within their own national borders. However, each new state, with its fresh batch of citizens, necessarily increases the number of potential noncitizens, stateless persons, and refugees. (50) Besides a world of states, decolonization also gave rise to a vibrant but threatening "world of peoples." This new world, moreover, in terms of human circulation triggered "the reversal of population movements between old colonies and the old metropolises." (51) Acting as a planetary biopolitical hinge, decolonization swung the direction of migration from South to North, that is, inward toward the metropole. For the first time, growing numbers of non-Europeans, either looking for a better life or fleeing trouble, were able to move legally or illegally across international borders and head toward the West's emerging mass consumer societies. As a consequence, human circulation is no longer associated with opportunity. To the contrary, since the 1960s, unchecked migration has been regarded as a threat to the Western way of life. Decolonization announced a long-term crisis of population containment of planetary proportions. The nineteenth-century liberal urge to protect and better has been supplemented by a contemporary developmental need to secure unfamiliar and incomplete life.

The politicocultural categories of liberalism provide a means of striating, classifying, and managing the circulatory world of peoples. The reversal of international flows marks a shift in racial discourse from a colonial preoccupation with "biological-types in location" to the contemporary concern with "cultural-types in circulation." The immigrant--the embodiment of cultural difference in motion--became its first iconic figure. An initial response to decolonization and the pushing back of the external sovereign frontier was the creation of an "internal border" of immigration controls within Europe's emerging mass consumer societies. In its 1964 manifesto, for example, the Labour Party restricted immigration from Britain's former colonies. To offset this restriction, a raft of legislation, special measures and training schemes followed that created an internal development regime aimed at redressing imbalances, compensating for disadvantage, and promoting tolerance through ameliorating the effects of cultural difference within the home population. (52) Regarding the external development frontier, the manifesto also set out proposals to establish a new Ministry of Overseas Development to tackle world poverty and the "growing danger that the increasing tensions caused over gross inequalities of circumstances between rich and poor nations will be sharply accentuated by differences of race and colour." (53) This ministry centralized previous ad hoc and mainly colonial institutional initiatives in this field. The manifesto argued that the new ministry would work for the expansion of international trade, increase government aid spending, support the UN, and encourage the work of NGOs. The latter's proven enterprise, it was suggested, must be matched "with Government action to give new hope in the current United Nations Development Decade." (54)

Sovereignty and Humanitarian Emergency

With hindsight, the world of independent states seems more a temporary aberration rather than the culmination of a historic world trend. (55) By the 1980s, as if confirming the liberal critique of modernization, the era of "state failure" had begun and with it a huge expansion of the international NGO movement. As a result of increasing apprehension over the violent and regressive character of the "new wars" within ineffective states, (56) the liberal divide between civilized and barbarous peoples has once again been invigorated. Since the end of the end of the Cold War, the cartography of barbarity has been mapped and remapped countless times in terms of the appearance of warlords, militia leaders, criminalized elites, age-old animosities, nonintegrating regions, tribal hatreds, the pre-modern, and so on. (57)

Within policy discourse, sustainable development and internal war both take a self-reliant species life as their reference point. In this respect, however, they are opposites; whereas sustainable development seeks to strengthen self-reliance, internal war is depicted as undermining and eroding it, indeed, "it is development in reverse." (58) The destruction of development and erosion of self-reliance fuels destabilizing forms of global circulation and adds to the crisis of containment. From a Schmittian perspective, sovereignty can be understood as that power able to declare a state of emergency and, in so doing, act without the restraint of law. (59) The ability to declare a humanitarian emergency also has sovereign implications. Rather than an emergency of state, however, with its corresponding program of bans, exclusions, and extralegal detention centers, this is an emergency at the level of people and population. In this case, ruling beyond the law means governing beyond international law, especially the post-World War II settlement that supported nonintervention and de jure sovereign equality. (60) Within post-Cold War development discourse, the civilized/barbarous dichotomy has been realized in terms of the humanitarian differences between effective and ineffective states. This humanitarian division throws into relief the different and opposing capacities of states to protect and better the lives and livelihoods of people. Prompted by the threat of uncontrolled circulation, the ability of effective states to declare a humanitarian emergency within ineffective ones has been instrumental in the reexpansion of the West's external sovereign frontier.

The seventeenth-century solidarist position has once again moved into the foreground of international relations. (61) Since the end of the Cold War, in the shape of the "responsibility to protect," (62) solidarism has increasingly informed the emerging custom and practice of international intervention and the direction of UN reform. (63) The responsibility to protect holds that if an ineffective state is unable or unwilling to protect the human security of its citizens, pursuant of a supreme humanitarian emergency, as a last resort, this responsibility passes to the international community of effective states. For solidarism, moral and ethical considerations trump the restrictions of international law which "can be overridden in cases of supreme humanitarian emergency." (64) The ending of the Cold War eroded the political support among effective states for the principles of nonintervention and international legal restraint. The 1990s, saw a major upsurge in the number of large-scale humanitarian, peace-enforcement, and peacekeeping operations, many of them combined in different ways. (65) As a measure of its success, this interventionism has helped to markedly reduce the number of civil wars in the world. Having climbed steadily since the 1950s to peak at more than fifty in the mid-1990s, their number has declined significantly to less than thirty today. (66) However, as Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq suggest, ending "wars" within ineffective states is relatively easy, far more difficult is securing the "peace" among the people living within them. Whereas during the Cold War an underdeveloped state enjoyed a formal de jure equality with a developed one, since the end of the 1980s effective states have increasingly assumed the moral authority to intervene within ineffective ones. An informal or de facto condition of state inequality now shapes the international arena. (67) Humanitarian intervention, with its concern for protecting life, was the blunt instrument used to demolish the sovereign equality of the world of states. The ineffective state and how it can be reshaped to better discharge its international duties, especially supporting the human security of its citizens, is now centre stage of international security.

There is "a secret solidarity" between humanitarianism and sovereign power. (68) While asserting a radical right of intervention in civil war, in the practical interests of neutrality, humanitarian actors have confined themselves to picking up the pieces and caring for the victims of these wars. In particular, humanitarianism aims to "have as limited an effect on the authority structure of the concerned state as possible." (69) Exposing the divide between effective and ineffective states, humanitarian intervention avoids directly addressing the deficiencies of the latter; for its development critics, it "resists engagement with the state and capacity-building on the grounds that it breaches humanitarian independence and neutrality." (70) As a consequence, humanitarian action on its own has proven incapable of addressing the crisis of containment. Although saving lives, it cannot reconstruct states and govern populations. It therefore creates a space for developmental consolidation. There is also a second and more active sense in which humanitarianism is complicit with sovereignty. It is a relationship that lies at the heart of the sovereign nature of development itself. Humanitarianism and development interconnect in the liberal urge to protect and better life that otherwise lacks the perquisites of a proper or complete existence. Between protection and betterment, there exists a mutual and necessary conditioning, each making the other possible. This formative relationship is continually invoked in the endless necessity of humanitarian intervention. It is typically presented as a moral dilemma attaching to the iconic figure of the hungry child. (71) The onlooker is faced with choosing between feeding the starving child that will die tomorrow, or helping the many more destitute children whose entire lives will be blighted by chronic poverty unless their "conditions are bettered: this is the most painful of tasks." (72) This recurrent moral dilemma, arising from a condition of permanent emergency, is continually resolved in favor of the greater efficiency of development.

This dilemma conceals a biopolitical choice between "the right to make live and let die." (73) To decide the point of exception--the child that can be allowed to die so that others may live--is not only a tough moral choice, it is a sovereign act that unites the humanitarian urge to protect with the developmental will to better. In deciding the exception, aid agencies and NGOs become a nonstate or petty sovereign power able, through routine administrative choice, to decide between supporting life or allowing death. (74) During the 1990s, funded and orchestrated by Western states, the administrative sovereign power of aid agencies and NGOs among the world of peoples has increased. It has fallen to development to consolidate the external frontier and, in a fresh round of "new and improved" programming, to govern it more effectively. This process of consolidation is examined in relation to the idea of human security.

Human Security, Noninsured Life, and Ineffective States

Given the centrality of the responsibility to protect for Western interventionism, we can ask the question--protect what exactly? In providing an answer, the concept of "human security" needs to be considered. It is now accepted by policymakers that international security needs to be understood more widely than the traditional geopolitical register linking state, territory, defense, and alliance. Territories also come with populations, and modern, effective states take care to ensure optimal levels of social fitness and resilience. Human security highlights a range of biopolitical variables associated with underdevelopment that threaten the equilibrium of population--chronic poverty, environmental breakdown, economic marginalization, forced migration, bad government, disease pandemics, social exclusion, and so on. Such factors are not only serious in themselves, in an interdependent world they are capable of threatening international stability.

In biopolitical terms, the developed/underdeveloped dichotomy can be seen as signalling a distinction between "insured" and "noninsured" life respectively. (75) Citizens within mass consumer societies are supported by centralized welfare-technologies-associated social insurance that translate into universal health, education, employment, and pension provision. In contrast, the subjects of underdevelopment are noninsured. That is, under the rubric of sustainable development they are expected to be self-reliant. Since this condition is in a state of permanent emergency, the biopolitics of underdevelopment is an organic combination of self-reliance plus humanitarian assistance as a noncontractual protection of last resort. Faced with the strategic dichotomy between insured and noninsured species-life, human security embraces the hope that sustainable development will secure the latter while, at the same time, drawing attention to those factors that threaten its containment and hence menace global society. Not least, is the prospect of noninsured migrants making asymmetric demands on mass society's welfare systems. While optimistic for the future, human security cautions the West that underdevelopment is dangerous.

Concern over human security emerged following the end of the Cold War and, by the close of the 1990s, had produced a growing number of dedicated networks, research programs and international commissions. (76) One only has to scratch the extensive literature on human security, however, to realize that it encapsulates, indeed, is built upon, the humanitarian distinction between effective and ineffective states; some states are better than others at supporting the human security of their citizens. While the word human in human security might imply a universal or cosmopolitan ethic, policy discourse is unequivocal; the territorial nation-state is, and will remain, the single most important institution for guaranteeing human security. (77) The idea of human security is embodied within the responsibility to protect, indeed, protecting human security has become "one of the fundamental objectives of modern international institutions." (78) However, while speaking on behalf of the security of humans, interventions under this dictum are not really interventions at all, merely a time-limited international substitution for the original state. In other words, the international community is only responsible "until it can find a responsible agent to replace the failed state itself." (79) With the collapse of the small-state Washington Consensus and skepticism over the transforming ability of humanitarian assistance, concern over human security signals that the ineffective state, and its circulatory consequences, has become the focal point of international security.

In a radically interconnected world, ineffective states, with their limited ability to police borders and support population, pose a threat that is no longer captured within a traditional geopolitical register. Indeed, geopolitics is being reframed in biopolitical terms. (80) Magnified by weak and ineffective government, threats to the national interest of effective states now primarily arise from the circulatory political, economic, and security effects of continuing underdevelopment. Such disturbances do not threaten the survival of Western states directly, they menace the fragile livelihood systems, public infrastructures, and centralized food, energy, and transport networks of mass consumer society--the massified and interconnected systems that support the Western way of life. Even in the course of its normal working, however, mass society is prone to recurrent breakdown and chronic system failure impacting millions of people. In relation to this intrinsic vulnerability, the circulatory effects of underdeveloped, that is, noninsured life, is a further identifiable threat. Within the territories covered by ineffective states the world's chronically poor, and with them the ills of underdevelopment, are concentrated. (81) Exacerbated by the neglect and willful acts of bad government, this stubborn concentration is itself questioning whether the UN Millennium Development Goals of halving world poverty by 2015 can be met. (82) Although chronic poverty does not cause conflict, for policymakers it increases the risk of human rights abuse and instability. (83) Indeed, as policymakers are now arguing, (84) while the overall numbers of internal wars and battle deaths have declined since the early 1990s, if human security together with nonbattle deaths due to poverty, health crises, displacement, economic collapse, and so on, are factored into the equation, human insecurity is argued to be a growing factor that will continue to exacerbate the problem of winning the peace.

Apart from making the achievement of foreign policy objectives more difficult, this instability at the level of population affects Britain's way of life in a number of ways. For example, political tensions can "trigger large unmanaged flows of refugees and asylum seekers. In already disadvantaged communities in the UK large inflows of transient populations can be damaging to social cohesion." (85) Although migrants from ineffective states represented only 20 percent of total immigration in 2003, "those states yielded 65% of asylum seekers, and 90% of those granted asylum or leave to stay in the UK." (86) In terms of energy security, the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit points out that those countries regarded as unstable held 60 percent of the world's oil reserves in 2003, a proportion that is projected to rise over the next decade. Britain's vulnerability to price shocks is expected to increase as it becomes a net importer of natural gas in 2006 and oil in 2010. Demonstrated by the case of Afghanistan, ungoverned territories can also provide base areas where international terrorist organizations can train recruits and launch attacks. In such areas, the lack of public oversight makes the extralegal movement of money and commodities easier, while poverty, inequality, and alienation make a good recruiting ground for terrorist organizations. At the same time, there is a danger that "national terrorist and insurgent groups, radicalised by military intervention, may become aligned with international terror groups." (87)

The liberal connection between culture and government is again being restated. Rather than a relationship between barbarism and despotism, it is now between a culture of human insecurity and its corresponding ineffective government that policy discourse now conjures up through terms like failed or fragile states, difficult partnerships, low-income countries under stress, and so on. (88) Non-insured life is incomplete because it has yet to master its own self-reliance. Since decolonization and the emergence of the world of states, however, liberal tutelage can no longer take the form of direct territorial acquisition. Although international respect for territorial integrity remains strong, instead of noninterference, the de facto inequality of states means that in practice sovereignty over the life of people living within ineffective states has become internationalized, negotiable, and contingent. (89) Interventions in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, East Timor, Afghanistan, and so on, did not challenge the principle of territorial integrity, indeed, they upheld it. In the name of people, freedom, and rights, what is more important is how life is supported and maintained, and brought to a more complete and secure existence. In addressing the limitations of humanitarianism, this contingent sovereignty is being enacted through state reconstruction that has spawned a new institutional "Empire Lite" that, depending on location, variously links donor governments, militaries, UN agencies, NGOs, and private companies. (90) In this respect, the disastrous neocon intervention in Iraq is the exception that proves the rule. Liberal governance works through the control of core economic and welfare functions. Market access, meeting basic welfare needs, and supporting self-reliance promises to contain the circulatory effects of a poor and noninsured existence.

Since the state that is being reconstructed is not the independent, modernizing "top down" state that development denounced during the Cold War, this begs the question--In furthering human security, what sort of state is being called forth? Taking a lead from the donor-declared success stories of Africa, the process now underway is that of attempting to transform failed or fragile states into what have been called "governance states." (91) Uganda, Mozambique, Ghana, Tanzania, among others, are now regarded as "functioning" underdeveloped states. They are synonymous with "an internationally managed and regulated society" in which core budgetary and human security functions, through such tools as World Bank-led but jointly agreed Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, are subject to a high degree of international oversight and control. (92) Effectively blurring the national/international dichotomy, donor governments, international financial institutions, and NGOs are so closely involved in the work of key ministries that rather than being external actors "it would be more useful to conceive of donors as part of the state itself." (93) Essential to this process of internalization has been the socialization of a neoliberal technocratic elite into the role of official interlocutor. Rather than a marked improvement in life-chances, "success" in such countries appears more associated with the degree to which core biopolitical functions are controlled by the international community. In other words, the degree to which the West's external sovereign frontier has been consolidated. (94)


Development is the essence of a specifically liberal imperial urge. It embodies the experience of life that is culturally unfamiliar as provisional and incomplete, and consequently in need of external tutelage to induce self-completion. Governing through voluntaristic methods is held to be more effective and lasting than authoritarian or violent means. Because development is always "new and improved," it constantly reproduces this strategization of power. However, while acting in the name of people and their freedom, the experience of the unfamiliar as incomplete means that development denies itself the creative risk of conversing with people not already part of a scripted future. It is this "impoverished conception of experience and communication, and not in its ideals of liberty, equality and community, that one should explain and even judge the long history of liberalism's support of the British Empire." (95) Even the tolerance that liberalism's impoverished experience of the unfamiliar supports is fickle and shallow. If the life concerned fails to make the appropriate choices, tolerance can easily become intolerance. Unfortunately, the dominance of the security mentality today has reinforced a narrow experience of life. (96) The war on terrorism, for example, in overriding civil liberties to protect mass consumer society has curtailed rights to movement, association, and expression. At the same time, development's petty sovereigns within the aid industry have reinvented themselves as a means of reducing conflict among the poor and alienated. (97) This is development at a price however. In helping secure mass society and its need to live and consume beyond its means, the impoverished discourse of development condemns the noninsured to the permanent emergency of self-sufficiency. Rather than striving to find ever more effective means to manage this emergency, more attention should be focused on removing its causes. (98) This would require a new formula for sharing the world with others. By refusing to prejudge unfamiliar life as incomplete, and therefore requiring development, is a small but important beginning.


1. See, Tony Blair, The Guardian, 3 October 2001.

2. OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC). A Development Co-Operation Lens on Terrorism Prevention: Key Entry Points for Action (Paris: DAC, 2003).

3. Arturo Escobar, Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1995), p. 3.

4. William Easterly, "The Cartel of Good Intentions: The Problem of Bureaucracy in Foreign Aid," Journal of Policy Reform 5, no. 4 (2002): 227.

5. Ibid., 288.

6. Ibid., 237.

7. Ibid., 248.

8. Uday Singh Mehta, Liberalism and Empire (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999); Beate Jahn, "Barbarian Thoughts: Imperialism in the Philosophy of John Stuart Mill," Review of International Studies 31 (2005): 599-618; Bill Cooke, "A New Continuity with Colonial Administration: Participation in Development Management," Third World Quarterly 24, no. 1 (2003): 47-61; April Biccum, "Development and the 'New' Imperialism: a Reinvention of Colonial Discourse in DFID Promotional Literature," Third World Quarterly 26, no. 6 (2005): 1005-1020.

9. Robert Cooper, "The Post-Modern State," in Mark Leonard, ed., Re-Ordering the World: The Long-Term Implications of 11 September (London: The Foreign Policy Centre, 2002), p. 15.

10. Mehta, note 8; Jahn, note 8; Jennifer Pitts, "Legislator of the World? A Rereading of Bentham on Colonies," Political Theory 31, no. 2 (2003): 200-234.

11. J. A. Hobson, Imperialism: A Study (London: George Allen and Unwin [1902] 1938), p. 229.

12. Costas Douzinas, "Humanity, Military Humanism and the New Moral Order," Economy and Society 32, no. 2 (2003): 159-183.

13. Cooper, note 9; Niall Ferguson, Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World (London: Allen Lane/Penguin, 2003); Christopher Coker, "Empires in Conflict: The Growing Rift Between Europe and the United States." Whitehall Paper 58 (London: Royal United Services Institute, 2003).

14. Michael Ignatieff, Empire Lite: Nation-Building in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan (London: Vintage, 2003).

15. There is an important nonimperial trend within Enlightenment thinking. Kant's understanding of perpetual peace, for example, allowed that "no man, even though he is not morally good, is forced to be a good citizen." Immanuel Kant, Perpetual Peace and Other Essays (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1983), p. 124. At the same time, Pitts, note 10, and Mehta, note 8, have reevaluated the work of Bentham and Burke respectively in this light.

16. Catherine Hall, Civilising Subjects: Metropole and Colony in the English Imagination 1830-1867 (Cambridge, Mass.: Polity Press, 2002).

17. Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Harcourt, 1994; Michel Foucault, Society Must Be Defended: Lectures at the College De France, 1975-76 (London: Alan Lane/Penguin, 2003).

18. Julian Reid, personal communication.

19. Mark Duffield, "Social Cohesion, Immigration and Fragile States: The Will to Planetary Order," Progress in Development Studies 6, no. 1 (2006): 68-79.

20. Michael Dillon and Julian Reid, "Global Liberal Governance: Biopolitics, Security and War," Millennium 30, no. 1 (2001): 41-66.

21. Pitts, note 10, p. 222.

22. Martin Barker, The New Racism: Conservatives and the Ideology of the Tribe (London: Junction Books, 1981); Etienne Balibar, "Is There a 'Neo-Racism'?" in Etienne Balibar and Immanuel Wallerstein, eds., Race, Nation, Class: Ambiguous Identities (London: Verso, 1991), pp. 17-28; Mark Duffield, "New Racism ... New Realism: Two Sides of the Same Coin." Radical Philosophy 37 (1984): 29-34.

23. Michael Cowen and Robert Shenton, Doctrines of Development (London and New York: Routledge; 1996).

24. Mehta, note 8, p. 198.

25. Biccum, note 8.

26. Easterly, note 4.

27. Mehta, note 8.

28. Ibid., p. 191.

29. Ibid.

30. Ibid., p. 192.

31. Ibid., p. 210.

32. Ibid., pp. 200-201.

33. Mark Duffield, "Getting Savages to Fight Barbarians: Development, Security and the Colonial Present," Conflict, Security and Development 5, no. 2 (2005): 141-160; Cooke, note 8.

34. Graham Harrison, The World Bank and Africa: The Construction of Governance States (London: Routledge, 2004), p. 26.

35. Paul Hirst, Space and Power: Politics, War and Architecture (Cambridge, Mass.: Polity Press, 2005).

36. Samuel P. Huntington, "The Clash of Civilisations." Foreign Affairs 72, no. 3 (1993): 17.

37. Duffield, note 33.

38. Neil Smith, American Empire: Roosevelt's Geographer and the Prelude to Globalization (Berkeley: University of California, 2003).

39. Adam Hochschild, King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa (London: Pan Books, 2002).

40. Hobson, note 11, p. 246; also, Edmund Morel, The Black Man's Burden (Manchester and London: The National Labour Press, 1920).

41. Lord Lugard, The Dual Mandate in Tropical Africa (London: Frank Cass [1925] 1965).

42. Stuart Elden, "Territorial Integrity and the War on Terror," Environment and Planning A, no. 37 (2005): 2083-2104.

43. Gerald Bloom and Hilary Standing. "Pluralism and Marketisation in the Health Sector: Meeting Health Needs in Contexts of Social Change in Low and Middle-Income Countries," IDS Working Paper 136 (University of Sussex, Institute of Development Studies, 2001).

44. Harrison, note 34.

45. Vanessa Pupavac, "Human Security and the Rise of Global Therapeutic Governance," Conflict, Development and Security 5, no. 2 (2005): 161-182.

46. E. F. Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered (London: Abacus, 1974).

47. Duffield, note 33.

48. Mehta, note 8, p. 191.

49. David Held, Anthony McGrew, David Goldblast, and Jonathan Perraton, Global Transformations: Politics, Economics and Culture (Cambridge, Mass.: Polity Press, 1999).

50. Arendt, note 17, pp. 230-231.

51. Balibar, note 22, p. 21.

52. Duffield, note 22.

53. Labour Party, "The New Britain," 1964 Labour Party Manifesto (London: Labour Party, 1964).

54. Ibid.

55. Georgi Derlugian, "The Social Cohesion of the States." in Terence K. Hopkins and Immanuel Wallerstein, eds., The Age of Transition: Trajectory of the World-System, 1945-2025 (London: Zed Books, 1996), pp. 148-177.

56. Mary Kaldor, New and Old Wars: Organised Violence in a Global Era (Cambridge, Mass.: Polity Press, 1999).

57. Robert D. Kaplan, "The Coming Anarchy: How Scarcity, Crime, Overpopulation, and Disease Are Rapidly Destroying the Social Fabric of Our Planet," Atlantic Monthly (1994): 44-76; Francis Fukuyama, "The End of History?" in Patrick O'Meara, Howard D. Mehlinger, and Matthew Krain, eds., Globalization and the Challenges of a New Century (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2002), pp. 161-180; Huntington, note 36.

58. Paul Collier, et al., Breaking the Conflict Trap: Civil War and Development Policy (Washington and Oxford: World Bank/Oxford University Press, 2003), p. ix.

59. Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1998).

60. Douzinas, note 12.

61. Nicholas Wheeler, Saving Strangers: Humanitarian Intervention in International Society (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).

62. International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS), The Responsibility to Protect: Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (Ottawa: International Development Research Centre, 2001).

63. Thomas G. Weiss, "The Sunset of Humanitarian Intervention? The Responsibility to Protect in a Unipolar Era," Security Dialogue 35, (2004): 135-153.

64. Wheeler, note 61, p. 41.

65. Joanna Macrae, "Analysis and Synthesis," in Joanna Macrae, ed., The New Humanitarians: A Review of Trends in Global Humanitarian Action--HPG Report 11 (London: Humanitarian Policy Group, Overseas Development Institute, 2002), pp. 5-17.

66. Human Security Centre (HSC), The Human Security Report 2005: War and Peace in the 21st Century (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Human Security Centre, 2005), p. 23.

67. Vanessa Pupavac, "Therapeutic Governance: Pyscho-Social Intervention and Trauma Risk Management," Disasters 25, no. 4 (2001): 358-372.

68. Agamben, note 59.

69. Riseman and McDougal, 1969, quoted by Wheeler, note 61, pp. 42-43.

70. Nicholas Leader and Peter Colenso. "Aid Instruments in Fragile States," PRDE Working Paper 5 (London: Poverty Reduction in Difficult Environments Team, Department for International Development (DFID), 2005), p. 40.

71. David Campbell, D.J. Clark, and Kate Manzo, curators, Imaging Famine (, an exhibition at the Newsroom (London: Guardian and Observer Archive and Advisor Centre, 5 August-9 September 2005).

72. Mervyn Jones, Two Ears of Corn: Oxfam in Action(London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1965), pp. 43-44.

73. Foucault, note 17, p. 241.

74. Judith Butler, Precarious Lives (New York: Verso, 2004), p. 56.

75. Mark Duffield, forthcoming, Development, Security and Indefinite War: Governing the World of People (Cambridge, Mass.: Polity Press, 2007).

76. Mark Duffield and Nicholas Waddell. "Securing Humans in a Dangerous World," International Politics 43 (2006): 1-23.

77. United Nations (UN), "A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility," Report of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change (New York: UN, General Assembly (A/59/565), 2004), p. 11.

78. ICISS, note 62, p. 6.

79. Daniel Warner, "The Responsibility to Protect and Irresponsible, Cynical Engagement," Millennium 32, no. 1 (2003): 114.

80. Strategy Unit, "Investing in Prevention: an International Strategy to Manage Risks of Instability and Improve Crisis Response," A Strategy Unit Report to the Government (London: Prime Minister's Strategy Unit, Cabinet Office, 2005).

81. Leader and Colenso, note 70, p. 9.

82. Hilary Benn, "The Development Challenge in Crisis States," Speech by the Rt. Hon. Hilary Benn MP., London School of Economics, 4 March 2004.

83. Collier, note 58.

84. Strategy Unit, note 80, pp. 4-9.

85. Ibid., p. 11.

86. Ibid.

87. Ibid., p. 12.

88. Magui Torres and Michael Anderson, "Fragile States: Defining Difficult Environments for Poverty Reduction," PRDE Working Paper 1 (London: Department for International Development, Poverty Reduction in Difficult Environments [PRDE] Team, 2004).

89. Eldon, note 42; Douzinas, note 12.

90. Michael Ignatieff, Empire Lite: Nation-Building in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan (London: Vintage, 2003).

91. Harrison, note 34.

92. John Pender, "Less Interests, More Influence: The Paradox of Poverty Reduction and the Redefinition of Development," paper presented at SAID Workshop, 28 April 2005, p. 15.

93. Graham Harrison, "Post-Conditionality Politics and Administrative Reform: Reflections on the Case of Uganda and Tanzania," Development and Change 32, no. 4 (2001): 669.

94. Harrison, note 34, pp. 30-32.

95. Mehta, note 8, p. 192.

96. Magnus Hornqvist, "The Birth of Public Order Policy," Race and Class 46, no. 1 (2004): 30-52.

97. Oxfam, Beyond the Headlines: An Agenda for Action to Protect Civilians in Neglected Conflicts (Oxford: Oxfam GB, 2003).

98. Giorgio Agamben, "On Security and Terror," Allgemeine Zeitung, 20 September 2001.

Mark Duffield*

*Department of Politics, 10 Priory Road, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1TU, UK. E-mail:
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