Konflikt, Stabilität und und gesellschaftlicher Wandel: Was bringt externe Demokratieförderung?

 

OSCE implemented elections in Kosovo, 2001

Zwei Artikel im SPON führten unlängst zu hitzigen Kommentaren auf einer der Böll-Stiftung nahe stehenden Facebook-Seite:

“Demokratie kann nur innerhalb eines Minimums an staatlicher Ordnung funktionieren. Und sie kann diese Ordnung nicht unbedingt herstellen.”

–> Kommentar zum Sturz von Despoten: Diktatur kann erträglicher sein als Anarchie

“Autoritäre Regime gelten manchen als Hort der Stabilität. Das Gegenteil ist der Fall. Weil Diktaturen Konflikte nicht friedlich lösen können, führen sie nahezu zwangsläufig zu Gewalt und Anarchie”.

–> Kommentar zum Sturz von Despoten: Diktatoren schützen nicht vor Chaos – sie schüren es

Die Kommentatoren waren sich weitgehend darüber einig, dass die erste Position dämlich bis verweflich , die zweite Position hingegen richtig sei, z.B.:

“Hätten die Leute in der Terror-Phase unter Robespierre erkannt, dass die französische Revolution ein Irrweg war, würden wir heute gemütlich unter Louis 27 leben, würden uns den Kopf nicht über Menschenrechte zerbrechen und uns über Artikel von solch bodenloser Dummheit gar nicht aufregen.”

Nun lebt Großbritannien nicht mehr UNTER einem Monarchen, zerbricht sich gelegentlich den Kopf über Menschenrechte und hat auf das Gemetzel der Revolution verzichtet. Auch ohne die Gewaltexzesse der Französischen Revolution hätte sich gesellschaftlicher Wandel vollzogen. Die Ansicht, nach der grundlegender Wandel halt notwendig mit massiver Gewalt einhergeht, ist historisch nicht richtig und im Hinblick auf die Opfer dieser gewaltsamen Umwälzungen deshalb zynisch. Die Gegenposition, die behauptet, dass jede Form von Gewaltherrschaft zu dulden ist weil jede Form von Stabilität besser ist als gewaltsame Veränderung, ist ebenso falsch und zynisch mit Blick auf die Opfer dieser Gewalt. Die Wahrheit liegt fallspezifisch in der Mitte. Letztlich tragen das Gesellschaften mit ihren Eliten aus. Die Frage, ob man von außen immer Gutes tut, wenn man den Aufstand gegen autoritäre Regime unterstützt, ist moralisch und politisch keine einfache und eindeutige.

Der zentrale Begriff, der hier für Verwirrung und verhärtete Positionen sorgt, ist der der Stabilität. Ich setze mich damit in zwei in Kürze erscheinenden Publikationen auseinander. Die Auseinandersetzung zeigt, dass gewaltarmer gesellschaftlicher Wandel voraussetzungsreich im Hinblick auf stabilisierende Kontextbedingungen ist; sie zeigt aber auch, dass Konflikt zwar die Triebkraft von gesellschaftlicher Veränderung, aber keine Garantie für gesellschaftlichen Wandel ist.

“In this paper I understand social order as social rules and structural conditions that reduce contingency in interaction between individual and collective social actors over time. Any concept of social order rests on a notion of stability with regard to human association and interaction, i.e. there is some sameness in terms of those constraints on contingent social action over time. If everything changes all the time according to no recognizable rules there is nothing left to identify as social order. However, on the question of what it is that is constant there is no agreement between what Alan Dawe called the two sociologies: the sociology of social action and the sociology of social systems (Dawe 1970).[1]

One approach relates to sameness of form or structure over time, another to retaining core functions of social order through competition, conflict and resulting adaptive change. Stability by virtue of change is conceptualised either as systemic equilibrium where change is an internal function of the system itself, or as a dynamic historic process, where order keeps emerging and adapting from permanent contest between different ways of interpreting, doing, and justifying actions.

In this latter conflict based model of social processes the machinery of change is provided by (a) authoritative rule (enforcement of individual will and vision against alternatives), (b) conflict over institutions, and (c) communication of and competition between interpretations of the world. This is the train of thought I follow when I develop empirical conflict research into heuristic instrument to assess the diversity and dynamics of social order.

[…]

Lewis Coser’s main finding, drawing on Simmel’s classic work on disputes (Simmel 1992: 284-382), was how conflict can be both functional and dysfunctional for the social relationship in which it occurs. He found that conflict is necessary to establish and maintain social relationships.

“One safeguard against conflict disrupting the consensual basis of the relationship […] is contained in the social structure itself: it is provided by the institutionalization and tolerance of conflict” (Coser 1956: 152).

Hence, social conflict may contribute to the maintenance, adaptation or adjustments of social relations and social structures. According to Coser not all conflicts are, however, functional for the maintenance of social relations even if conflict is institutionalised as a tolerated form of pursuing one’s interests: only those conflicts over interests, norms and values that are not a defining part of the relationship itself qualify. Otherwise socially dysfunctional forms of conflict may occur: withdrawal or destruction.

[…]

His approach does, however, bear some principle limits of functionalism in explaining social processes (of which conflict is a central one): functionalist theory is ahistorical in the sense that it is unable to account for social change other than by functional breakdown or external interference.

This was the main criticism Ralf Dahrendorf raised against the functionalist approach to conflict in particular, and against static structural-functionalist models of society in general (Dahrendorf 1986: 272). It was Dahrendorf, who in his scathing criticism of what he saw as utopian blindness to social change, brought back power, rule and, essentially, the competitive rule-making and rule-breaking human being into a theory of conflict-driven differentiation of social society.

„Wenn organische Systeme aufhören zu funktionieren, hören sie auf organische Systeme zu sein, wenn soziale Systeme aufhören zu funktionieren, werden sie andere soziale Systeme. In diesem Sinn ist Wandel die Essenz der sozialen Realität, Stabilität ihr pathologischer Sonderfall“ (Dahrendorf 1986: 240).

To Dahrendorf the normal state of society was one of dispute over norms, competition for resources and conflict about the best organisational answers to existing problems, all rooted in one universal aspect of the human condition: the fact of uncertainty. To him, sociology that seeks to explain social cohesion in consensus and equilibrium was looking for an imaginary utopia, resembling the stasis of a totalitarian police state. Dahrendorf therefore explicitly disregarded research into what keeps society together; rather, he was concerned with what drives society on (Dahrendorf 1979: 109).

[…]

A number of authors picked up from where Coser and Dahrendorf ended the discussion on the universal function (Coser) or principle constitutive force (Dahrendorf) of conflict for society or, respectively, for the process of social change.

[…]

One line of thought seeks to place conflict firmly in the fabric of a very special type of politically constituted society: modern, complex, rule of law based liberal democracies. Authors like Albert Hirschman, Helmut Dubiel and Marcel Gauchet share, if not explicitly, Dahrendorf’s main concerns by questioning the functionality of normative or moral consensus as social glue of democratic, liberal societies. Rather, they put forward the proposition that through particular ways of institutionalising unavoidable social conflict as constitutive part of the political and economic system, social cohesion is achieved and sustained (cf. Hirschman 1994; Dubiel 1992; Gauchet 1990).

[…]

The relationship between conflict and institutions is plausible but inconsistent: Conflict can disrupt established relations and fragment society; at the same time conflict can form and connect social units and enable the dynamic adaptation of social order. Institutional rules that inform social interaction can be followed or broken, the latter leading to normative conflicts. Sets of institutional rules can contradict each other and cause conflict. Furthermore, institutions and their distributive consequences for actors, social groups and different strata of society can be questioned and contested.

Hence, there is a strong and ambivalent relationship between these two social phenomena: conflicts make and break institutions; institutions cause and contain conflicts.

Institution-centred conflict theory predicts that specialised institutions, processing a wide range of conflicts via procedures, are conducive to dynamic social order, i.e. makes the institutional framework of society more reliable and hence enables selective change that is not disruptive (does not fragment) society as a whole (cf. Eckert 2004; Zürcher 2004; Dubiel 1992).

According to this theoretical assumption it is not the causes of conflict that explain the impact of conflict on social order, stability and change. Rather, it is a question of specialised institutions that are able to process conflicts from alternative confrontations (or: zero sum games) and the denial of the right of the opponent to be party to the conflict, into more predictable, rule based social action (Koehler 2013).

This rule-based mode of conflict processing is what Elwert identified as procedure (Elwert 2004), Luhmann demonstrated how it generates legitimacy (Luhmann 1983) and Hirschman, calling it the more-or-less approach to conflict, argued that it was at the heart of the cohesion observed in democratic liberal modern societies (Hirschman 1994).

[…]

The model of conflict processing I draw on to approach the problem of social cohesion and change predicts that acts of power manifest in conflicts about the institutional order go a long way to explain institutional change (breakdown, transformation and innovation) while the functional output of institutions (the problems they solve) are key to explain institutional continuity.

The expectation from the model of conflict processing is that if a wide range of conflicts is processed via specialised institutions – procedures – social cohesion as well as adaptive change is best provided. As long as the core social process – i.e. dispute about the best, most appropriate social order – follows reliable and accepted rules, non-disruptive and adaptive institutional change is possible. On the other hand the model predicts that dis-embedded conflicts about the institutional setup of social order would tend towards disruption, fragmentation and violence.

The fundamental problem procedures need to solve is to regulate conflict processing within society in a way that reduces the likelihood of the most destructive forms of collective violence and increases social cohesion. If effective conflict processing protects the functionality of other institutions vital for social order then the question arises of what is protecting the specialised institutions from interference by power? It is unlikely that such institutions are self-enforcing by definition. If they are only protected by secondary institutions which they enable to exist in the first place (e.g. power administered through hierarchal arrangements called statehood) they are fragile; and if they are self-enforcing only under very specific social, economic and political environments (e.g. secular modern societies with developed market economies governed by a democratic state enforcing the rules of law) they are rare.

What follows is that external protection is a likely requirement to stabilise this inter-institutional relationship over time and beyond the reach of social control. This highlights the role of operational statehood for effective societal conflict processing.”

 

Eine Schlussfolgerung hieraus für die Debatte über den extern unterstützten oder herbeigeführten Sturz autoritärer Regime als Demokratieförderung ist, dass ein erfolgreiches Umstellen von struktureller Stabilität durch reine Machthandlungen, die Konfliktaustagung unerbinden, auf dynamische Stabilität durch demokratische Verfahren, die Konfliktaustragung institutionalisieren, nur dann gelingen kann, wenn diese Umstellung extern unterstützt und geschützt werden kann (was wiederum nur unter ganz besonderen Voraussetungen möglich ist). Das erklärt zu einem erheblichen Teil die unterschiedlichen Wandlungs-, Zerfalls- und Stagnationsprozesse zwischen autoritärer Herrschaft, Demokratisierung und Bürgerkrieg in Lateinamerika, Europa und der Arabischen Welt der letzten drei Jahrzehnte.

 


[1] For an introduction into the intellectual history of system focused and actor focused social theory see Schimank 1996: 205ff..

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