Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States
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Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States

Edited by Graham K. Brown and Arnim Langer

The Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States brings together contributions from a multidisciplinary group of internationally renowned scholars on such important issues as the causes of violent conflicts and state fragility, the challenges of conflict resolution and mediation, and the obstacles to post-conflict reconstruction and durable peace-building.
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Chapter 12: Rebel recruitment

Yvan Guichaoua


Recruitment within irregular armed groups is commonly understood as the process through which non-combatants abandon–at least partially, and for some time–their civilian life to pledge loyalty to social groupings whose direct or indirect aim is to carry out violent actions against their perceived enemies, whether governmental or not. By definition then, recruitment involves two sides, a person breaking some pre-existing social routines and a violent, not necessarily formal, organization accepting her–and most probably, him–in its ranks. Rebel recruitment is the encounter of at least two agencies. Being willing to enlist is an important step towards individual inclusion in an armed group but may not suffice to become a combatant. Likewise, hiring new fighters is a trickier operation than just tapping into a reserve army of serviceable and obeying soldiers. Rebel recruitment intersects with two logics, ordinarily studied separately by theories of participation and organizations, respectively. A useful way to reconcile these subfields of research conceptually consists in portraying recruitment as a matching process whereby the strategic needs of the combat organization are met with the aspirations of would-be fighters. What further complicates this process though is that it generally happens in highly volatile contexts, in which the decisions of protagonists are subjected to myopia, stress, fear or physical threats. Under such circumstances, people adapt and transform constantly, hence pushing analysts of participation in collective political violence to do away with static one-dimensional approaches and produce modest explanations with only temporary and local validity.

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