Alexia Stainer, Grenoble, July 2010
Hybrid political orders
A Hybrid political institution is one that combines customary forms of governance with institutional forms that are more often associated with the Western state model. This concept offers a way forward from seeing this kind of political organisation as one that is dysfunctional.
The Weberian and Western model of the state is the one generally seen in state-building policy to be the strongest and most stable form of state, and therefore actual states that deviate from this model are considered to be fragile or incomplete. The idea of the hybrid political order departs from a very different standpoint, one whereby: “Instead of assuming that the complete adoption of Western models is the most appropriate avenue for conflict prevention, security, development, and good governance, we should focus more attention on models of governance that draw on the strengths of social order and resilience embedded in community life of the societies in question and work with the grain of actually existing institutions on the ground.” (1)
In a hybrid political order governance is carried out by more than one different actor or agencies; which can include actors from the local, national and international levels. These can include customary institutions, NGOs (both local or international), religious institutions and of course state actors. “We use the term ‘‘hybrid’’ to characterize the following political orders: because it is broad enough to encompass a variety of non-state forms of order and governance on the customary side (from neo-patrimonial to acephalous); because it focuses on the combination of elements that stem from genuinely different societal sources that follow different logics; and because it affirms that these spheres do not exist in isolation from each other, but permeate each other and, consequently, give rise to different and genuine political orders that are characterized by the closely interwoven texture of their separate sources of origin.” (2)
A hybrid political order has no clear delineation between ‘state’ and ‘informal’ institutions, they combine and borrow elements from each other. Therefore a customary institution that works within a hybrid state will adopt the language of the state and certain functions of the state. In this context it is not appropriate to talk about a ‘weak’ or ‘fragile’ state as these terms carry with them the implication that there is another actor present that is stronger than the state, whereas it is more accurate to regard the state as one actor among others that is providing services and regulation. (3) A more constructive take on the hybrid political order would be to see it as an ‘emerging state’ (4); and as such rather than seeing its hybridity as a marker of dysfunction it could be regarded as the potential basis for a stable, legitimate and contextually specific form of state system. This would need analysis of the relations between state and society in a hybrid model: to identify their complementarities and where they can be articulated together; and the dynamics that can cause contradictions and incompatibilities. The contention is that this analysis of the role of different actors in governance and service provisions would allow for re-assessment of approaches to ideas of the state and state-building (5). Ignoring the importance of hybridity in ensuring the legitimacy and functioning of certain states would lead to deficient Weberian states: “Hybrid models which genuinely blend or combine traditional and modern norms and practices are more likely to deliver effective, functioning and legitimate outcomes, precisely because they build on the hybridity and multiplicities of existing political orders.” (6)
Examples of hybrid political orders can be found in more than one country of the Pacific, for example Vanuatu, East Timor and the Solomon Islands, as well as Somaliland.
In East Timor at the local level there is a strong presence of customary mechanisms that have survived both Portuguese and Indonesian colonial rule, especially in rural areas. These mechanisms are related to resource management as well as having a central role in dealing with the legacy of the conflict. The greatest crossover between the state and customary institutions has come in the justice sector. As already mentioned customary mechanisms for resource management, the tarabandus are used and negotiations can now include NGOs, local businesses and even national government officials; due to the weakness of the national justice system traditional mechanisms of conflict regulation are also fairly widespread, though much experimentation around this is informal.
This does not necessarily mean that there is a perfect hybrid system here, there is a certain tension between the liberal democracy that is supposed to be at work on the state level in East Timor and the status of women and young people in customary systems, but overriding and ignoring customary forms can also have a negative effect. For example there is traditionally a grouping of violent speech with physical violence; and encountering of this norm with free speech has led to liberal norms and democracy being associated with conflict and violence. What is at stake here is not so much the need to remove hybridity, but to recognise and manage it: “Customary governance and formal government are inevitably entangled – the challenge is how to identify and encourage constructive interaction, open to forms of scrutiny and accountability that are intelligible to people.” (7)
A second example of hybrid institutions, and one where customary forms have been given much more explicit recognition at a national level is in Somaliland with its Guurti, or House of Elders. The Guurti is a council of traditional authorities, which was instituted in 1993 as the upper house of the parliament in order to ensure the stability of the newly independent Somaliland as the traditional authorities enjoy legitimacy and support at a local level. The role of this house is to monitor government and oversee legislation on cultural and religious values. This house is chosen on the same principle as clan representatives, through consensus; as such it provides a counter-balance to the party politics of the lower house.
This system does have certain limitations: over time the Guurti have started to inherited rather than earn their positions, and have become close to the executive leading to accusations of lack of accountability. What is interesting is that despite this the Guurti is still perceived to bring legitimacy to the state, whilst its inclusion in state in the state structure has compromised that of the Guurti. (8)
The concept of state heterogeneity is close to that of hybridity, the distinction in this case seeming to be that in a heterogeneous state ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ systems remain isolated from each other.
Another related concept is that of the mediated state, again this type of state does not have any hybrid institutions but state influence in certain areas is exerted through a process of mediation with strong local governance in whatever form this latter might take.
Brown (2010) ‘Trajectories of State Transformation – political community in East Timor’ in Rethinking the state: Understanding the processes of post-crisis state transformation Bruylant: Brussels.
Boege,V., Brown, A., & K. Clements (2009) ‘Hybrid Political Orders, Not Fragile States’ in Peace Review 21:1 13-21.
Clements, K., Boege, V., Brown, A., Foley, W., and A. Nolan (2007) ‘State Building Reconsidered: The Role of Hybridity in the formation of Political Order’ in Political Science 59:1 45-56.
Menkhaus, K. (2010) Local Security Arrangement in Somali-Inhabited Areas of the Horn of Africa in Rethinking the state: Understanding the processes of post-crisis state transformation Bruylant: Brussels.
Santos, B. (2006) ‘The Heterogeneous State and Legal Pluralism in Mozambique’ in Law and Society Review 40:1.
Wiuff Moe, L (2010) ‘The Role of Traditional Authorities in State and Governance Building in Somaliland’ in Rethinking the state: Understanding the processes of post-crisis state transformation Bruylant: Brussels.
(1) : p14, Boege, Brown & Clements (2009) Hybrid Political Orders, Not Fragile States
(2) : p17, Boege, Brown & Clements (2009) Hybrid Political Orders, Not Fragile States
(3) : p48 Clements et al (2007) State Building Reconsidered: The Role of Hybridity in the formation of Political Order
(4) : p50 Clements et al (2007) State Building Reconsidered: The Role of Hybridity in the formation of Political Order
(5) : p54 Clements et al (2007) State Building Reconsidered: The Role of Hybridity in the formation of Political Order
(6) : p48Clements et al (2007) State Building Reconsidered: The Role of Hybridity in the formation of Political Order
(7) : Brown (2010) Trajectories of State Transformation – political community in East Timor
(8) : Wiuff Moe, L (2010) The Role of Traditional Authorities in State and Governance Building in Somaliland
This concept definition was developed as a result of the work carried out in the international conference Post-crisis state transformation: Rethinking the foundations of the state in Linköping, Sweden held 1-5 May 2009. This conference was run by Modus Operandi in collaboration with the Université Pierre Mendès France (Grenoble, France) and the European Science Foundation.