Violent Organizations

How violent organizations function in societies, and how they affect peace and conflict.

The organization of violent force is a phenomenon which takes many forms. A focus on political allegiance (e.g. “state” and “non-state”) has masked shared traits between disparate organizations such as: government armies, police forces, militias, vigilantes, rebels, political extremist groups and criminal networks. These have more in common than official political discourse allows. When identifying and analysing similarity and variation among these organizations, rather than sorting violent organizations by their putative political allegiance (or lack of such), research within this group is structured around fundamental organizational traits. These include: how members are recruited, trained, placed within an organizational framework, managed and held accountable according to a set of shared norms and laws. But, also, strategic choices and modus operandi in relation to the use of violence; the dynamic between various groups and organizations (violent or not); how violent organizations are used in the pursuit of political and economic goals.

This research group looks at a broad range of research questions including:

  • What creates the impetus for establishing or reforming violent organizations?
  • How do violent organizations recruit members and mobilise resources?
  • How do violent organizations develop group identity, instil notions of legitimacy and enforce discipline?
  • When do violent organizations use force and how do they seek political influence?
  • What is the effect of coercion and insecurity created by violent organizations?
  • What regulates the relationship between a violent organization and its external environment?
  • To what extent can outside organizations influence and even change violent organization?

The study of violent organizations requires the application of multi-disciplinary approaches from both the social science and the humanities, utilising a broad spectrum of quantitative and qualitative methods. This include, for instance, the study of rebel governance, violent extremism, security force assistance, military sociology, migration and radicalisation, local violence and vigilantism. Researcher within the group focus in particular on case studies of specific localities, countries and organizations, but various comparative approaches are also part of the repertoire. The focus of this research group is closely related to an ongoing realignment within conflict studies where organised violence is increasingly recognised as an overarching concept including all kinds of war related and collective violence. Research dissemination activities within the group is aimed at extensive international academic networks and at interaction with policy-makers and practitioners.

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