Researching the politics of development
Managing coercion and striving for dominance in Bangladesh
Working paper 129
Managing coercion is often central to the pursuit of political dominance, and yet also a neglected field of study. The sources of coercive capacity within a political regime differ markedly, and include the formal apparatus of the state, political parties, and an array of more ambiguous actors often connected to both. Underlying how such actors are managed are strategic choices, which shape the character of governance and politics, and come with trade-offs and risks. This article examines the management of coercion in Bangladesh, a context where the ruling party has seen an unprecedented decade in office, yet serious questions have been raised about the means by which this has been achieved. Our analysis highlights the intensification of long-established practices, including the politicisation and empowerment of domestic security agencies, and the use of the law to repress. The way in which coercion is now organised in Bangladesh, more closely reflects the first few decades of the country’s history.