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Get more out of your Kongregate experience. A warlord is a leader able to exercise military, economic, and political control over a subnational territory within a sovereign state because of their ability to mobilize loyal armed forces.
These armed forces, usually considered militias , are loyal to the warlord rather than to the general government. Warlords have existed throughout much of history, albeit in a variety of different capacities within the political, economic, and social structure of states or ungoverned territories.
The first appearance of the word "warlord" dates to , when used by American philosopher and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson in a highly critical essay on the aristocracy in England, "Piracy and war gave place to trade, politics and letters; the war-lord to the law-lord; the privilege was kept, whilst the means of obtaining it were changed.
It was not widely used until the s, when it was used to describe the aftermath of the Revolution , when provincial military leaders launched the period that would come to be known in China as the Warlord Era.
Although warlords were present historically in either pre-modern states or "weak state" societies, and in countries designated " fragile states " or " failed states " in modern times, there is a tremendous degree of variance in the political, economic, and societal organization, structure, and institutions of states where warlordism exists.
There is also a divergence of opinion within the field of political science as to what specifically constitutes warlordism, particularly in the context of the historical setting.
There are two major functional distinctions when considering warlords and their relationship with a state. The first is one in which the warlord functions within the political framework through a degree of bargaining with the state regime so that the warlord, sometimes individually and sometimes in a coalition with other warlords, is acting with the explicit consent of or at least in accord with the regime.
This can be viewed as "cooperative warlord politics". The other is one in which the warlord is operating independently of the state and is viewed as a rebel, insurgent or strategic political competitor of the regime.
This is commonly viewed as "ungoverned warlordism". Warlords can also fall into a hybrid category, temporarily joining a warlord coalition in collusion with the regime or defecting for political expedience—transitioning from one paradigm to the other based upon strategic interests.
The other major consideration in categorizing warlords is through the lens of history. Warlordism was a widespread, dominant political framework that ordered many of the world's societies until the modern state became globally ubiquitous.
Often warlord governance in pre-modern state history was constructed along tribal or kinship lines and was congruent with early perceptions of " nation ".
In colonial empires warlords served in both cooperative political capacities and as leaders of rebellions.
In modern states the presence of warlords is often seen as an indicator of state weakness or failure.
American historian David G. Herrmann noted, "Warlordism is the default condition of humanity. Economist Stergios Skaperdas views warlordism as a default—albeit inefficient—competitive economic model that emerges in states where state capacity is low, but that innately evolves into an institution governing political order that uses violence or the threat of it to secure its access to " rent "-producing resources.
It may actually have a stabilizing effect on a region. In both cases there is an inherent inefficiency in the model, as "resources are wasted on unproductive arming and fighting.
Charles Tilly , an American political scientist and sociologist, theorized that organized crime can function as a means for war and state making.
Political scientist Jesse Driscoll uses the term "redistribution politics" to classify the bargaining process between warlords and the regime in states where cooperative warlord politics prevails, and when that bargaining leads to accords or informal arrangements concerning the extraction of rent—which can refer to natural resources, territory, labor, revenue or privilege.
In his study of warlordism in Georgia and Tajikistan, Driscoll cites " land reform , property ownership and transfers, privatization in non-transparent closed-bid settings, complex credit swaps cemented via marriages, money laundering , price fixing schemes , and bribery", as principal sources of exchange in redistribution politics.
Noted theorist Max Weber suggested that classic feudalism in pre-modern-state Europe was an example of warlordism, as the state regime was unable to "exercise a monopoly on the use of force within its territory"  and the monarch relied on the commitment of loyal knights and other nobility to mobilize their private armies in support of the crown for specific military campaigns.
As noted French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville and political scientists such as E. Under the feudal system of Europe, nobility—whether feudal lords, knights, princes or barons—were warlords in that they served as regional leaders who exercised military, economic and political control over subnational territories and maintained private armies to maintain that status.
While their political power to exercise social order, welfare and regional defense within their territory was derived from hereditary rights or edicts from the monarch, their military strength afforded them independence and strength to negotiate for privileges.
Should the feudal lord or other noble withdraw his support from the king, either in rebellion or to form an alliance with a rival kingdom, that feudal lord or noble was now ascribing to the political order of ungoverned warlordism.
Within political science there is a growing body of research and analysis on warlordism that has emerged within weak states that have gained independence as a result of the collapse of empire.
While warlords are commonly viewed as regional leaders who threaten the sovereignty of a state, there are a number of states where the central government functions in collusion with warlords to achieve its goal of exercising its sovereignty over regions that would otherwise fall outside its control.
In such decentralized states, particularly those where armed groups challenge national sovereignty , warlords can serve as useful allies of a central government that is unable to establish a monopoly over the use of force within its national territory.
As political scientist Dr. Ariel Hernandez documented, one example is the Philippines , where successive presidential administrations—at least since Ferdinand Marcos secured power in —have "franchised violence to regional warlords" to counter the inroads of communist insurgents , Islamic rebels and organized criminal gangs.
This has led to the formation of at least 93 "Partisan Armed Groups", armed militias loyal to regional warlords who, in exchange for their loyalty and willingness to use their private armies to quell the threats from these opposition groups, are granted a degree of autonomy within designated regions, the exclusive right to use violence and the right "to profit from the 'economy of violence' that they establish in their own areas".
Warlordism in Afghanistan—another state where the central government is unable to extend political, military or bureaucratic control over large swaths of territories outside the capital—functions cooperatively within the framework of the state, at times.
The warlords, with their established militias, are able to maintain a monopoly of violence within certain territories. They form coalitions with competing warlords and local tribal leaders to present the central government with a challenge, and often the state will bargain to gain access to resources or " rent ", loyalty from the warlord and peace in the region.
In exchange for peaceful coexistence, the warlord coalitions are granted special status and privileges, including the right to maintain de facto political rule within the agreed-upon territory, exert force to retain their monopoly over violence and extract rent and resources.