War and the Commons

Stephan Hochleithner, 2021


The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC’s) province of North Kivu has been afflicted by armed conflicts among a multitude of differently sized armed groups and actors for decades. The convoluted character of the dynamics has, among a manifold of effects, also led to massive and repeated internal displacement. As a result, local population groups are again and again driven off the land that they use and collectively care. In this chapter, I approach conflict-induced displacement in North Kivu as a separation of the producers from their means of production through restrictions of access, resembling accumulation through the enclosure of commons. My argument is that displacement-enclosures represent an example of how capitalism is able to circumvent structural limitations, such as the lack of guaranteed property rights, how it actually thrives on war and violent conflict. As a result, both material and social production and reproduction in the region are increasingly realized via socio-economic relations of capitalist character, replacing solidary ones, by co-opting the local configuration of spatial configurations, by making use of the local commons-based socio-material land-system. By overwriting structures that facilitate options for solidary and self-organized cooperation, these dynamics strongly contribute to the perpetuation of conflict in the region.

In: Exner, A., S. Kumnig, and S. Hochleithner (eds.). Capitalism and the Commons. Routledge, 2021.

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