Challenging the Weak States Hypothesis: Vigilantism in South Africa and Brazil
Journal of Peace, Conflict & Development, No 20, 38-51
14 Pages Posted: 19 Aug 2015
Date Written: 2013
The aim of this article is to reveal the underlying processes and factors which facilitate the emergence of vigilante groups as informal providers of social control within neglected urban settings in Brazil and South Africa. As both countries are strong and viable modern states, this approach challenges the common belief that the occurrence of informal security structures can best be explained with state weakness. The evolution of vigilante groups is not presented as the inevitable product of given conditions, but rather as the direct and indirect outcome of deliberate policy choices. It is argued that Brazilian and South African societies are polarized, that the black lower class is marginalized, that poverty is criminalized by the white upper class and that lower class crime is securitized. As a result of these processes, the black lower class has to rely on vigilantism as an informal local mechanism of social control. Moreover, it is shown that Vigilante groups, partly initiated and sustained by the government, often develop their own political agenda and turn into lawless organizations terrorizing citizens and the state itself.
Keywords: Brazil, South Africa, Vigilantism, Non-state Armed Groups, Gangs, Militias, Weak States, Fragile States, State Weakness, State Fragility
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