Structural Violence & Csi

Topics: United Nations, Human rights, Poverty Pages: 8 (2333 words) Published: September 9, 2010
Zubeida Shaik – 27 August 2010
Submitted to University of the Free State – BML Programme


“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

This classic phrase penned by George Orwell in his novel Animal Farm, signified a heartrending moment in the tale of farm animals becoming corrupted by power, as they destroy the utopian world of equality that they originally set out to create. When using this analogy to reflect on the human condition, the reality is that the truth is sadly stranger (or more damning!) than fiction.

Notwithstanding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’, recognition of the “inalienable rights” of equality of “all members of the human family”, large scale inequality between people across the world is more embedded than ever before (UN, 1948: 1). While explanations for such persistent inequality abound, this essay will focus on the concept of structural violence, its explanation of the problems of world hunger and pollution, and the role of corporate social responsibility in contributing to solving these dilemmas.


According to Kathleen Ho (2007: 1) the concept of structural violence was coined by the peace researcher Johan Galtung in the mid-1970s. The concept denotes “the avoidable disparity between the potential ability to fulfill basic needs and their actual fulfillment”. Ho further points out that the “theory (of structural violence) further locates the unequal share of power to decide over the distribution of resources as the pivotal causal factor of these avoidable structural inequalities”. This structural power was defined by Susan Strange (1998: 18) as “the power to shape and determine the structure of the global political economy within which other states, their political institutions, their economic enterprises and people have to operate”.

This power to determine the “rules of the game” according to which all humanity have to live (or die) was traditionally exercised by powerful states, but today it is wielded more and more by private companies, especially multinational corporations (MNCs). According to David Korten (1995: 26) the 10 largest MNCs today, have annual sales of more than the Gross National Products (GNPs) of the 100 poorest countries in the world.

This reality seriously impairs the ability of the governments of such countries to determine their own fates. Coupled with MNCs’ ability to shift resources and production across borders, these firms have the ability to drive down costs, including the cost of labour and regulations, to the detriment of local communities who are at the mercy of their “investments” (Hart, 2010: 13-14).

Research conducted by the World Bank found that by the year 2000 MNCs accounted for a quarter of global economic activity, while they employed less than 1 percent of the global labour force (World Bank, 2000: 4). The resultant impact of the structural power of MNCs is that over the past 50 years the gap between the richest and poorest segments of the world’s population increased dramatically. Where in 1960 the richest 20 percent of the world population accounted for 70.2 percent of global GDP and the poorest 20 percent accounted for 2.3 percent of global GDP, by 2000 the richest 20 percent controlled 85 percent of global GDP, while the poorest 20 percent accounted for only 1.1 percent – this represents a shift in ratio of economic dominance from 30:1 to 80:1! (World Bank, 2000: 82).

This domination due to structural violence does not only manifest in terms of economic power, but impacts virtually all aspects of human existence. To illustrate the pervasive impact of structural violence on other aspects of life, closer focus will now be placed on its impact on world hunger (or food security) and pollution.


3.1. World Hunger

The World Food Programme estimates that 100 million people...

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