The European Journal of Development Research

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 81–94 | Cite as

Violent conflict and social transformation: An institutionalist approach to the role of informal economic networks

  • Kathleen Sexsmith
Original Article

Abstract

This article seeks to add to the debate on the role of informal economic networks in violent conflict. It argues that social transformations arising from conflict can be either productive or destructive, depending on the particular institutions embedded in social networks. It also emphasizes how the historical relationship of informal networks to the state shapes the institutional content of informal networks. Two case studies are used to exemplify these contrasting cases. In Somalia, customary institutions of trust and reciprocity were preserved during conflict, and contributed to economic coordination and conflict mediation. In Sierra Leone, the intrusion of patrimonial networks into community life contributed to the development of youth networks based on social misconduct and opportunism, causing social collapse.

Keywords

conflict social networks informal economy Somalia Sierra Leone 

Abstract

Cet article cherche à contribuer à la discussion à propos du rôle des réseaux économiques informels lors de conflits violents. Il soutient que les transformations sociales qui découlent d'un conflit peuvent être soit productives ou destructives, selon la nature des institutions imbriquées au sein des réseaux sociaux. Il souligne en particulier la manière dont la relation historique des réseaux informels avec l'Etat façonne le contenu institutionnel de ces réseaux informels. Deux études de cas contrastées sont présentéés afin d'illustrer ceci. En Somalie, les institutions traditionelles de confiance et de réciprocité furent préservées lors du conflit, et ont contribué à la coordination économique ainsi qu'à la médiation du conflit. Au Sierra Leone, l'intrusion de réseaux patrimoniaux dans la vie communautaire traditionelle suite au conflit a contribué au développement de réseaux de jeunes ayant un comportement anti-social et opportuniste, ce qui causa un effondrement social.

Notes

Acknowledgements

Kathleen Sexsmith is a Project Officer with the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of IISD. I would like to thank Dr Kate Meagher for her supervision at the University of Oxford on a first draft of this essay. I would also like to thank two anonymous referees for comments that helped refine the ideas.

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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathleen Sexsmith
    • 1
  1. 1.International Institute for Sustainable Development

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