Is legible space peaceful space? Bureaucratic order and civil war onset
Armed conflict in the post-Cold War world has taken place overwhelmingly at the intra-state level. The precipitous decline in instances of war between states has led some scholars to posit a prolonged era of international peace. This internalization of conflict has resulted in a new interest in counterinsurgency and state-building operations, in both academic and policy circles, as states seek to consolidate sovereign control over their territory and population. The rise of an intellectual soldier class in the United States, led by David Petreaus, John Nagl and others, is emblematic of this trend. This paper examines the causes of civil war, the dominant form of armed conflict since 1990 and the ultimate proof of unrealized state sovereignty. Controlling for traditional explanatory variables for civil war, such as economic prosperity, regime type, ethnic fractionalization and access to state power, it evaluates the causal effects of legibility on civil war onset. I conceive of legibility in a manner similar to James C. Scott in his seminal work, Seeing like a State. Scott asserts that modern state have sought above all to create order out of apparent chaos by imposing centralized, bureaucratic order on dynamic, peripheral space. He argues that these efforts are doomed to fail because the center is unable to capture social complexity on the periphery. Using binomial logit and ordinary least squares regressions, this paper demonstrates that legibility, while imperfect, may mitigate the threat of civil war.
0630: Public policy