Political Marketplace

abstract illustration representing peace

The ‘political marketplace’ framework is a lens for understanding everyday political transactions. In a country where kleptocratic transactional politics trump institutions and laws, outcomes are driven by discretionary ‘political budgets’ that politicians have at their disposal, along with the going rate for buying political loyalties, services and offices. This is the lens used by political entrepreneurs and security operatives themselves across much of the world. It is relevant to conflict and peacemaking, to corruption and efforts to suppress it, to democratic uprisings and counter-revolutions, and to starvation and humanitarianism. It also allows for analysis of what happens when political funds, notably from oil revenues, run low. Decarbonization may raise hopes of democracy and peace, but ruling elites try to find other sources of political money and turn to repression.

Alex de Waal’s book, The Real Politics of the Horn of Africa, laid out the political marketplace framework. As well as ongoing research on political markets in Africa and the Middle East, we have applied the framework to humanitarian action. In forthcoming papers and essays, we focus on the intersection of political markets with political finance, corruption, and peacebuilding.

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