Francesco Buscemi - Research School on Peace and Conflict

Francesco Buscemi

Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies

Francesco Buscemi

Circulation Must Be Defended: Armed Groups and Armed Political Order(s) through the Prism of Arms

How does weapons circulation affect the constitution and evolution of (armed) political orders?

Recent developments in the field of Peace and Conflict studies have redefined traditional understandings of internal armed conflicts and non-state armed actors revolving around Weberian paradigms. Abandoning the idea of war-making as synonymous to state-making unfolding through processes aimed to monopolize the means of coercion, the field has gradually shifted away from the study of civil war to the study of broader armed politics. The fluid and heterogeneous nature of the actors involved in internal armed conflicts, the importance of their political (and not only military) interactions and the existence of multiple and overlapping forms of sovereignty in conflict are some of the key coordinates underpinning this shift.

Drawing from the literature on weapons dynamics in intrastate conflict, the research project focuses on the first part of the noun phrases “armed groups” and “armed orders” and reflects on the implications that the adjective “armed” has for the way in which conflict actors interact and consequently shape political orders. From a relational approach to conflict and political violence, armed orders could be understood as the result of mutually constitutive processes - meaning processes in which the actions and narratives of one side contribute to the constitution of the other and vice versa. Throughout mutually constitutive processes, weapons operate not only as resources but also as meta-resources that mould constitutive and distributive functions of violence. Certainly, as it has been noted, orders can emerge, exist and evolve also in the absence of violence. Notwithstanding this, violence cannot be reduced to mono-dimensional understandings, whereby it entails much more than mere physical action: its long-term functions unfold and shape political orders even in its actual absence. 

Hence, understanding arms availability and control over weapons acquisition by conflict actors becomes relevant to obtain a better grasp of the constitution and distribution of armed political orders during and after conflict. Theoretical and practical potential implications blend in across the territories of arms control, disarmament, peace and state-building.

How does weapons circulation affect the constitution and evolution of (armed) political orders?
Recent developments in the field of Peace and Conflict studies have redefined traditional understandings of internal armed conflicts and non-state armed actors revolving around Weberian paradigms. Abandoning the idea of war-making as synonymous to state-making unfolding through processes aimed to monopolize the means of coercion, the field has gradually shifted away from the study of civil war to the study of broader armed politics. The fluid and heterogeneous nature of the actors involved in internal armed conflicts, the importance of their political (and not only military) interactions and the existence of multiple and overlapping forms of sovereignty in conflict are some of the key coordinates underpinning this shift.
Drawing from the literature on weapons dynamics in intrastate conflict, the research project focuses on the first part of the noun phrases “armed groups” and “armed orders” and reflects on the implications that the adjective “armed” has for the way in which conflict actors interact and consequently shape political orders. From a relational approach to conflict and political violence, armed orders could be understood as the result of mutually constitutive processes - meaning processes in which the actions and narratives of one side contribute to the constitution of the other and vice versa. Throughout mutually constitutive processes, weapons operate not only as resources but also as meta-resources that mould constitutive and distributive functions of violence. Certainly, as it has been noted, orders can emerge, exist and evolve also in the absence of violence. Notwithstanding this, violence cannot be reduced to mono-dimensional understandings, whereby it entails much more than mere physical action: its long-term functions unfold and shape political orders even in its actual absence. 
Hence, understanding arms availability and control over weapons acquisition by conflict actors becomes relevant to obtain a better grasp of the constitution and distribution of armed political orders during and after conflict. Theoretical and practical potential implications blend in across the territories of arms control, disarmament, peace and state-building.

Members