Political violence, as defined by Patrick O’Neil is “violence outside of state control that is politically motivated”(O’Neil 211). He states that revolutions, wars, riots, strikes, and even more peaceful protests, fall under this term of ‘political violence.’ He then explains how scholars separate the causes of political violence into three separate categories: institutional, ideational, and individual. These categories do not always have the clearest boundaries and often cross over one another. However, I believe that the most convincing explanation for political violence is the institutional explanation. O’Neil states that “existing institutions encouraging violence or contracting human action creating a violent backlash” (O’Neil 212) is the reasoning behind the institutional explanation. Take the example of the country of Bangladesh. On January 22nd and 23rd, reports from both CNN and The Guardian were released stating that thirty people had died and over 7,000 were detained due to political violence. Both reports explain, that rallies by both the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the opposition party, and the Awami League, the party holding power, were suppose to occur on January 5th of 2015, a year after Bangladesh’s disputed elections. While the Awami League did not proceed, the BNP continued with their rally calling for reelection, claiming the election of 2014 “was a farce”. In addition, they were also protesting the government’s block of social media apps such as Viber that allowed them to put together these protests.
The example of Bangladesh helps to explain why the institutional explanation is the most convincing. The issues of the elections and the blocking of social media are both institutional problems that then lead to the people speaking out. As O’Neil states this explanation helps to determine the root source of the problem. This perspective helps us to understand why people felt the need to resort to violence. As O’Neil writes “it shows a necessary condition for violence to take place” (O’Neil 211). Without having a full understanding of the main issue, we cannot proceed to determine why opposing ideas exist or why individuals feel the need to then speak out against the government. The institutional explanation is the building block for both the ideational and individual explanations.
Ahmed, Farid, and Tim Hume. “31 Dead, 7,000 Arrested in Bangladesh Political Unrest – CNN.com.” CNN. Cable News Network, 22 Jan. 2015. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.
Burke, Jason, and Saad Hammadi. “30 Dead as Bangladesh Political Violence Escalates.” The Guardian. N.p., 23 Jan. 2015. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.
O’Neil, Patrick H. 2015. Essentials of Comparative Politics, 5th Edition. Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.