reading response

profilesultan
reading_response_4_2.pdf

5. War Making and State Making as Organized Crime

Charles Tilly

Warning If protection rackets represent organized crime at its smoothest, then war making and state making - quintessential protection rackets with the ad- vantage of legitimacy - qualify as our largest examples of organized crime. Without branding all generals and statesmen as murderers or thieves, I want to urge the value of that analogy. At least for the European experi- ence of the past few centuries, a portrait of war makers and state makers as coercive and self-seeking entrepreneurs bears a far greater resemblance to the facts than do its chief alternatives: the idea of a social contract, the idea of an open market in which operators of armies and states offer ser- vices to willing consumers, the idea of a society whose shared norms and expectations call forth a certain kind of government.

The reflections that follow merely illustrate the analogy of war making and state making with organized crime from a few hundred years of Eu- ropean experience and offer tentative arguments concerning principles of change and variation underlying the experience. My reflections grow from contemporary concerns: worries about the increasing destructiveness of war, the expanding role of great powers as suppliers of arms and military organization to poor countries, and the growing importance of military rule in those same countries. They spring from the hope that the European experience, properly understood, will help us to grasp what is happening today, perhaps even to do something about it.

The Third World of the twentieth century does not greatly resemble Eu- rope of the sixteenth or seventeenth century. In no simple sense can we read the future of Third World countries from the pasts of European coun- tries. Yet a thoughtful exploration of European experience will serve us well. It will show us that coercive exploitation played a large part in the creation of the European states. It will show us that popular resistance to

170 Charles Tilly coercive exploitation forced would-be power holders to concede protection and constraints on their own action. It will therefore help us to eliminate faulty implicit comparisons between today's Third World and yesterday's Europe. That clarification will make it easier to understand exactly how today's world is different and what we therefore have to explain. It may even help us to explain the current looming presence of military organiza- tion and action throughout the world. Although that result would delight me, I do not promise anything so grand.

This essay, then, concerns the place of organized means of violence in the growth and change of those peculiar forms of government we call na- tional states: relatively centralized, differentiated organizations the officials of which more or less successfully claim control over the chief concentrated means of violence within a population inhabiting a large, contiguous ter- ritory. The argument grows from historical work on the formation of na- tional states in Western Europe, especially on the growth of the French state from 1600 onward. But it takes several deliberate steps away from that work, wheels, and stares hard at it from theoretical ground. The ar- gument brings with it few illustrations and no evidence worthy of the name.

Just as one repacks a hastily filled rucksack after a few days on the trail - throwing out the waste, putting things in order of importance, and bal- ancing the load - I have repacked my theoretical baggage for the climb to come; the real test of the new packing arrives only with the next stretch of the trail. The trimmed-down argument stresses the interdependence of war making and state making and the analogy between both of those processes and what, when less successful and smaller in scale, we call organized crime. War makes states, I shall claim. Banditry, piracy, gangland rivalry, policing, and war making all belong on the same continuum - that I shall claim as well. For the historically limited period in which national states were becoming the dominant organizations in Western countries, I shall also claim that mercantile capitalism and state making reinforced each other.

Double-Edged Protection In contemporary American parlance, the word "protection" sounds two contrasting tones. One is comforting, the other ominous. With one tone, "protection" calls up images of the shelter against danger provided by a powerful friend, a large insurance policy, or a sturdy roof. With the other, it evokes the racket in which a local strong man forces merchants to pay tribute in order to avoid damage - damage the strong man himself threat- ens to deliver. The difference, to be sure, is a matter of degree: A hell-and- damnation priest is likely to collect contributions from his parishioners only to the extent that they believe his predictions of brimstone for infidels; our neighborhood mobster may actually be, as he claims to be, a brothel's best guarantee of operation free of police interference.

Which image the word "protection" brings to mind depends mainly on our assessment of the reality and externality of the threat. Someone who

War Making and State Making as Organized Crime 171 produces both the danger and, at a price, the shield against it is a racketeer. Someone who provides a needed shield but has little control over the dan- ger's appearance qualifies as a legitimate protector, especially if his price is no higher than his competitors'. Someone who supplies reliable, low-priced shielding both from local racketeers and from outside marauders makes the best offer of all.

Apologists for particular governments and for government in general commonly argue, precisely, that they offer protection from local and exter- nal violence. They claim that the prices they charge barely cover the costs of protection. They call people who complain about the price of protection "anarchists," "subversives," or both at once. But consider the definition of a racketeer as someone who creates a threat and then charges for its reduc- tion. Governments' provision of protection, by this standard, often quali- fies as racketeering. To the extent that the threats against which a given government protects its citizens are imaginary or are consequences of its own activities, the government has organized a protection racket. Since governments themselves commonly simulate, stimulate, or even fabricate threats of external war and since the repressive and extractive activities of governments often constitute the largest current threats to the livelihoods of their own citizens, many governments operate in essentially the same ways as racketeers. There is, of course, a difference: Racketeers, by the conventional definition, operate without the sanctity of governments.

How do racketeer governments themselves acquire authority? As a ques- tion of fact and of ethics, that is one of the oldest conundrums of political analysis. Back to Machiavelli and Hobbes, nevertheless, political observers have recognized that, whatever else they do, governments organize and, wherever possible, monopolize violence. It matters little whether we take violence in a narrow sense, such as damage to persons and objects, or in a broad sense, such as violation of people's desires and interests; by either criterion, governments stand out from other organizations by their ten- dency to monopolize the concentrated means of violence. The distinction between "legitimate" and "illegitimate" force, furthermore, makes no dif- ference to the fact. If we take legitimacy to depend on conformity to an abstract principle or on the assent of the governed (or both at once), these conditions may serve to justify, perhaps even to explain, the tendency to monopolize force; they do not contradict the fact.

In any case, Arthur Stinchcombe's agreeably cynical treatment of legiti- macy serves the purposes of political analysis much more efficiently. Le- gitimacy, according to Stinchcombe, depends rather little on abstract prin- ciple or assent of the governed: "The person over whom power is exercised is not usually as important as other power-holders."1 Legitimacy is the proba- bility that other authorities will act to confirm the decisions of a given au- thority. Other authorities, I would add, are, much more likely to confirm the decisions of a challenged authority that controls substantial force; not only fear of retaliation, but also desire to maintain a stable environment recommend that general rule. The rule underscores the importance of the

172 Charles Tilly authority's monopoly of force. A tendency to monopolize the means of violence makes a government's claim to provide protection, in either the comforting or the ominous sense of the word, more credible and more difficult to resist.

Frank recognition of the central place of force in governmental activity does not require us to believe that governmental authority rests "only" or "ultimately" on the threat of violence. Nor does it entail the assumption that a government's only service is protection. Even when a government's use of force imposes a large cost, some people may well decide that the government's other services outbalance the costs of acceding to its monop- oly of violence. Recognition of the centrality of force opens the way to an understanding of the growth and change of governmental forms.

Here is a preview of the most general argument: Power holders' pursuit of war involved them willy-nilly in the extraction of resources for war mak- ing from the populations over which they had control and in the promo- tion of capital accumulation by those who could help them borrow and buy. War making, extraction, and capital accumulation interacted to shape European state making. Power holders did not undertake those three mo- mentous activities with the intention of creating national states - central- ized, differentiated, autonomous, extensive political organizations. Nor did they ordinarily foresee that national states would emerge from war mak- ing, extraction, and capital accumulation.

Instead, the people who controlled European states and states in the making warred in order to check or overcome their competitors and thus to enjoy the advantages of power within a secure or expanding territory. To make more effective war, they attempted to locate more capital. In the short run, they might acquire that capital by conquest, by selling off their assets, or by coercing or dispossessing accumulators of capital. In the long run, the quest inevitably involved them in establishing regular access to capitalists who could supply and arrange credit and in imposing one form of regular taxation or another on the people and activities within their spheres of control.

As the process continued, state makers developed a durable interest in promoting the accumulation of capital, sometimes in the guise of direct return to their own enterprises. Variations in the difficulty of collecting taxes, in the expense of the particular kind of armed force adopted, in the amount of war making required to hold off competitors, and so on resulted in the principal variations in the forms of European states. It all began with the effort to monopolize the means of violence within a delimited territory adjacent to a power holder's base.

Violence and Government What distinguished the violence produced by states from the violence de- livered by anyone else? In the long run, enough to make the division be-

War Making and State Making as Organized Crime 173 tween "legitimate" and "illegitimate" force credible. Eventually, the per- sonnel of states purveyed violence on a larger scale, more effectively, more efficiently, with wider assent from their subject populations, and with readier collaboration from neighboring authorities than did the personnel of other organizations. But it took a long time for that series of distinctions to become established. Early in the state-making process, many parties shared the right to use violence, the practice of using it routinely to accomplish their ends, or both at once. The continuum ran from bandits and pirates to kings via tax collectors, regional power holders, and professional soldiers.

The uncertain, elastic line between "legitimate" and "illegitimate" vio- lence appeared in the upper reaches of power. Early in the state-making process, many parties shared the right to use violence, its actual employ- ment, or both at once. The long love-hate affair between aspiring state makers and pirates or bandits illustrates the division. "Behind piracy on the seas acted cities and city-states," writes Fernand Braudel of the six- teenth century. "Behind banditry, that terrestrial piracy, appeared the con- tinual aid of lords."2 In times of war, indeed, the managers of full-fledged states often commissioned privateers, hired sometime bandits to raid their enemies, and encouraged their regular troops to take booty. In royal ser- vice, soldiers and sailors were often expected to provide for themselves by preying on the civilian population: commandeering, raping, looting, tak- ing prizes. When demobilized, they commonly continued the same prac- tices, but without the same royal protection; demobilized ships became pirate vessels, demobilized troops bandits.

It also worked the other way: A king's best source of armed supporters was sometimes the world of outlaws. Robin Hood's conversion to royal archer may be a myth, but the myth records a practice. The distinctions between "legitimate" and "illegitimate" users of violence came clear only very slowly, in the process during which the state's armed forces became relatively unified and permanent.

Up to that point, as Braudel says, maritime cities and terrestrial lords commonly offered protection, or even sponsorship, to freebooters. Many lords who did not pretend to be kings, furthermore, successfully claimed the right to levy troops and maintain their own armed retainers. Without calling on some of those lords to bring their armies with them, no king could fight a war; yet the same armed lords constituted the king's rivals and opponents, his enemies' potential allies. For that reason, before the seventeenth century, regencies for child sovereigns reliably produced civil wars. For the same reason, disarming the great stood high on the agenda of every would-be state maker.

The Tudors, for example, accomplished that agenda through most of England. "The greatest triumph of the Tudors," writes Lawrence Stone,

was the ultimately successful assertion of a royal monopoly of violence both public and private, an achievement which profoundly altered not only the nature of poli-

174 Charles Tilly

tics but also the quality of daily life. There occurred a change in English habits that can only be compared with the further step taken in the nineteenth century, when the growth of a police force finally consolidated the monopoly and made it effective in the greatest cities and the smallest villages.3

Tudor demilitarization of the great lords entailed four complementary cam- paigns: eliminating their great personal bands of armed retainers, razing their fortresses, taming their habitual resort to violence for the settlement of disputes, and discouraging the cooperation of their dependents and ten- ants. In the Marches of England and Scotland, the task was more delicate, for the Percys and Dacres, who kept armies and castles along the border, threatened the Crown but also provided a buffer against Scottish invaders. Yet they, too, eventually fell into line.

In France, Richelieu began the great disarmament in the 1620s. With Richelieu's advice, Louis XIII systematically destroyed the castles of the great rebel lords, Protestant and Catholic, against whom his forces battled incessantly. He began to condemn dueling, the carrying of lethal weapons, and the maintenance of private armies. By the later 1620s, Richelieu was declaring the royal monopoly of force as doctrine. The doctrine took an- other half-century to become effective: Once more the conflicts of the Fronde had witnessed armies assembled by the "grands." Only the last of the regencies, the one after the death of Louis XIV, did not lead to armed uprisings. By that time Richelieu's principle had become a reality. Likewise in the Empire after the Thirty Years' War only the territorial princes had the right of levying troops and of maintaining fortresses. . . . Everywhere the raz- ing of castles, the high cost of artillery, the attraction of court life, and the ensuing domestication of the nobility had its share in this development.4

By the later eighteenth century, through most of Europe, monarchs con- trolled permanent, professional military forces that rivaled those of their neighbors and far exceeded any other organized armed force within their own territories. The state's monopoly of large-scale violence was turning from theory to reality.

The elimination of local rivals, however, posed a serious problem. Be- yond the scale of a small city-state, no monarch could govern a population with his armed force alone, nor could any monarch afford to create a professional staff large and strong enough to reach from him to the ordi- nary citizen. Before quite recently, no European government approached the completeness of articulation from top to bottom achieved by imperial China. Even the Roman Empire did not come close. In one way or another, every European government before the French Revolution relied on indi- rect rule via local magnates. The magnates collaborated with the govern- ment without becoming officials in any strong sense of the term, had some access to government-backed force, and exercised wide discretion within their own territories: junkers, justices of the peace, lords. Yet the same magnates were potential rivals, possible allies of a rebellious people.

War Making and State Making as Organized Crime 175 Eventually, European governments reduced their reliance on indirect rule

by means of two expensive but effective strategies: (a) extending their of- ficialdom to the local community and (b) encouraging the creation of police forces that were subordinate to the government rather than to individual patrons, distinct from war-making forces, and therefore less useful as the tools of dissident magnates. In between, however, the builders of national power all played a mixed strategy: eliminating, subjugating, dividing, con- quering, cajoling, buying as the occasions presented themselves. The buy- ing manifested itself in exemptions from taxation, creations of honorific offices, the establishment of claims on the national treasury, and a variety of other devices that made a magnate's welfare dependent on the mainte- nance of the existing structure of power. In the long run, it all came down to massive pacification and monopolization of the means of coercion.

Protection as Business In retrospect, the pacification, cooptation, or elimination of fractious rivals to the sovereign seems an awesome, noble, prescient enterprise, destined to bring peace to a people; yet it followed almost ineluctably from the logic of expanding power. If a power holder was to gain from the provision of protection, his competitors had to yield. As economic historian Frederic Lane put it twenty-five years ago, governments are in the business of sell- ing protection . . . whether people want it or not. Lane argued that the very activity of producing and controlling violence favored monopoly, be- cause competition within that realm generally raised costs, instead of low- ering them. The production of violence, he suggested, enjoyed large econ- omies of scale.

Working from there, Lane distinguished between (a) the monopoly profit, or tribute, coming to owners of the means of producing violence as a result of the difference between production costs and the price exacted from "customers" and (b) the protection rent accruing to those customers - for example, merchants - who drew effective protection against outside com- petitors. Lane, a superbly attentive historian of Venice, allowed specifi- cally for the case of a government that generates protection rents for its merchants by deliberately attacking their competitors. In their adaptation of Lane's scheme, furthermore, Edward Ames and Richard Rapp substi- tute the apt word "extortion" for Lane's "tribute." In this model, preda- tion, coercion, piracy, banditry, and racketeering share a home with their upright cousins in responsible government.

This is how Lane's model worked: If a prince could create a sufficient armed force to hold off his and his subjects' external enemies and to keep the subjects in line for 50 megapounds but was able to extract 75 mega- pounds in taxes from those subjects for that purpose, he gained a tribute of (75 - 50 =) 25 megapounds. If the 10-pound share of those taxes paid by one of the prince's merchant-subjects gave him assured access to world

176 Charles Tilly markets at less than the 15-pound shares paid by the merchant's foreign competitors to their princes, the merchant also gained a protection rent of (15 —10 =) 5 pounds by virtue of his prince's greater efficiency. That rea- soning differs only in degree and in scale from the reasoning of violence- wielding criminals and their clients. Labor racketeering (in which, for ex- ample, a ship owner holds off trouble from longshoremen by means of a timely payment to the local union boss) works on exactly the same princi- ple: The union boss receives tribute for his no-strike pressure on the long- shoremen, while the ship owner avoids the strikes and slowdowns long- shoremen impose on his competitors.

Lane pointed out the different behavior we might expect of the managers of a protection-providing government owned by

1. Citizens in general 2. A single self-interested monarch 3. The managers themselves

If citizens in general exercised effective ownership of the government - O distant ideal! - we might expect the managers to minimize protection costs and tribute, thus maximizing protection rent. A single self-interested mon- arch, in contrast, would maximize tribute, set costs so as to accomplish that maximization of tribute, and be indifferent to the level of protection rent. If the managers owned the government, they would tend to keep costs high by maximizing their own wages, to maximize tribute over and above those costs by exacting a high price from their subjects, and likewise to be indifferent to the level of protection rent. The first model approximates a Jeffersonian democracy, the second a petty despotism, and the third a mil- itary junta.

Lane did not discuss the obvious fourth category of owner: a dominant class. If he had, his scheme would have yielded interesting empirical cri- teria for evaluating claims that a given government was "relatively auton- omous" or strictly subordinate to the interests of a dominant class. Pre- sumably, a subordinate government would tend to maximize monopoly profits - returns to the dominant class resulting from the difference be- tween the costs of protection and the price received for it - as well as tuning protection rents nicely to the economic interests of the dominant class. An autonomous government, in contrast, would tend to maximize managers' wages and its own size as well and would be indifferent to pro- tection rents. Lane's analysis immediately suggests fresh propositions and ways of testing them.

Lane also speculated that the logic of the situation produced four succes- sive stages in the general history of capitalism:

1. A period of anarchy and plunder 2. A stage in which tribute takers attracted customers and established

their monopolies by struggling to create exclusive, substantial states

War Making and State Making as Organized Crime 177 3. A stage in which merchants and landlords began to gain more from

protection rents than governors did from tribute 4. A period (fairly recent) in which technological changes surpassed

protection rents as sources of profit for entrepreneurs

In their new economic history of the Western world, Douglass North and Robert Paul Thomas make stages 2 and 3 - those in which state makers created their monopolies of force and established property rights that per- mitted individuals to capture much of the return from their own growth- generating innovations — the pivotal moment for sustained economic growth. Protection, at this point, overwhelms tribute. If we recognize that the pro- tected property rights were mainly those of capital and that the develop- ment of capitalism also facilitated the accumulation of the wherewithal to operate massive states, that extension of Lane's analysis provides a good deal of insight into the coincidence of war making, state making, and cap- ital accumulation.

Unfortunately, Lane did not take full advantage of his own insight. Wanting to contain his analysis neatly within the neoclassical theory of industrial organization, Lane cramped his treatment of protection: treating all taxpayers as "customers" for the "service" provided by protection-man- ufacturing governments, brushing aside the objections to the idea of a forced sale by insisting that the "customer" always had the choice of not paying and taking the consequences of nonpayment, minimizing the problems of divisibility created by the public-goods character of protection, and delib- erately neglecting the distinction between the costs of producing the means of violence in general and the costs of giving "customers" protection by means of that violence. Lane's ideas suffocate inside the neoclassical box and breathe easily outside it. Nevertheless, inside or outside, they prop- erly draw the economic analysis of government back to the chief activities that real governments have carried on historically: war, repression, protec- tion, adjudication.

More recently, Richard Bean has applied a similar logic to the rise of European national states between 1400 and 1600. He appeals to economies of scale in the production of effective force, counteracted by diseconomies of scale in command and control. He then claims that the improvement of artillery in the fifteenth century (cannon made small medieval forts much more vulnerable to an organized force) shifted the curve of economies and diseconomies to make larger armies, standing armies, and centralized gov- ernments advantageous to their masters. Hence, according to Bean, mili- tary innovation promoted the creation of large, expensive, well-armed na- tional states.

History Talks Bean's summary does not stand up to historical scrutiny. As a matter of practice, the shift to infantry-backed artillery sieges of fortified cities oc-

178 Charles Tilly curred only during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Artillery did improve during the fifteenth century, but the invention of new fortifica- tions, especially the trace italienne, rapidly countered the advantage of artil- lery. The arrival of effective artillery came too late to have caused the in- crease in the viable size of states. (However, the increased cost of fortifications to defend against artillery did give an advantage to states enjoying larger fiscal bases.)

Nor is it obvious that changes in land war had the sweeping influence Bean attributes to them. The increasing decisiveness of naval warfare, which occurred simultaneously, could well have shifted the military advantage to small maritime powers such as the Dutch Republic. Furthermore, although many city-states and other microscopic entities disappeared into larger po- litical units before 1600, such events as the fractionation of the Habsburg Empire and such facts as the persistence of large but loosely knit Poland and Russia render ambiguous the claim of a significant increase in geo- graphic scale. In short, both Bean's proposed explanation and his state- ment of what must be explained raise historical doubts.

Stripped of its technological determinism, nevertheless, Bean's logic pro- vides a useful complement to Lane's, for different military formats do cost substantially different amounts to produce and do provide substantially different ranges of control over opponents, domestic and foreign. After 1400 the European pursuit of larger, more permanent, and more costly varieties of military organization did, in fact, drive spectacular increases in princely budgets, taxes, and staffs. After 1500 or so, princes who managed to create the costly varieties of military organization were, indeed, able to conquer new chunks of territory.

The word "territory" should not mislead us. Until the eighteenth cen- tury, the greatest powers were maritime states, and naval warfare re- mained crucial to international position. Consider Fernand Braudel's roll call of successive hegemonic powers within the capitalist world: Venice and its empire, Genoa and its empire, Antwerp-Spain, Amsterdam-Hol- land, London-England, New York-the United States. Although Branden- burg-Prussia offers a partial exception, only in our own time have such essentially landbound states as Russia and China achieved preponderant positions in the world's system of states. Naval warfare was by no means the only reason for that bias toward the sea. Before the later nineteenth century, land transportation was so expensive everywhere in …