Author: Philip Rafalko

Today’s issues of development are vitally linked to security and stability. This is evident both conceptually and empirically through notions such as ‘human development’. This linkage comes to life in another especially intriguing way: through the idea of normality and the changes that occur when it is disrupted.

Normality is fixed and self-perpetuating through the beliefs and actions of people who accept a given state of affairs as normal. Once disrupted, the fabric of society opens up the possibilities for reconstructing relationships, beliefs, and institutions. Some call this process a critical juncture. The struggle spurred by disruptions in normality may end up as a ‘new normality’, solidifying a reshaped society.

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Guards remain vigilant at the 2010 Somaliland presidential inauguration. Credit: Teresa Krug, Creative Commons

Securitization (or the lack thereof) is pivotal to creating new states of normality, and can have a profound impact on developmental trajectories. In Chile, Pinochet regime cracked down on opposition and made sweeping institutional changes to demobilize the left, which entrenched a neoliberal model of development in Chile. Capital investment, for example gentrification, may also lead to disruptions in normality through securitization. Many emerging economies exercise security in the name of private property development, such as Brazil through the use of military force to quell street violence, or South Africa through the eviction and dispossession of the poor.

Securitization (or the lack thereof) is pivotal to creating new states of normality,

and can have a profound impact on developmental trajectories.

However, creating a ‘new normality’ based on securitization is not always possible. In fact, the absence of state capacity to maintain order and security can also lead to a ‘new normal’ by solidifying parallel institutions. For example, this can happen in the event of a state collapse due to violent conflict. If no functioning state exists, organic and informal institutions or networks can evolve into parallel institutions that provide security (physical, social, economic) to their constituents.

Small arms ammunition, DRC. Credit: MONUSCO
Small arms ammunition, DRC.

In the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the war economy has become a normal feature of life for many people. In this context, some marginalized ethnic groups look to organized violence as a means of  ensuring their survival and economic security. By contrast, in Somaliland, the struggle for sovereignty and transcendence from the warlord politics of southern Somalia has led to the rapid development  of infrastructure and robust institutions of democratic governance. In this case, the reconstruction of normality by a new mode of security has led to greater opportunities for meaningful development.

 

Securitization and parallel institutions are often regarded as temporary or exceptional. In practice, they are becoming increasingly ‘normal’ and this has consequences for possibilities of development.

Normality is a powerful thing. The opportunity to renegotiate it can be harnessed by the state to control populations. However, it can also be a tool of resistance. That is why it is important to think about how new normality is constructed, through the lens of development studies. Securitization and parallel institutions are often regarded as temporary or exceptional. In practice, they are becoming increasingly ‘normal’ and this has consequences for possibilities of development.

As states invoke security for the sake of development, dispossessed peoples may paradoxically feel their lives become more insecure. Conversely, a lack of state security may very well drive people to create the organizations they need to secure their own capacity for development. As observers of development, recognizing these new states of normality can lead us to new ways of thinking about important issues in the field.

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