This text aims to examine a particularly difficult phenomenon to study — slaughter —, although it is at the center of many wars today and yesterday. Slaughter is defined as a generally collective form of action that aims to destroy non-combatants, usually civilians. Slaughter is viewed as an extremely violent, both rational and irrational practice growing out of an imaginary construct pertaining to someone to be destroyed, whom the torturer perceives as a complete enemy.
The aspiration of this text is to show the relevance of exploring slaughter from a comparative standpoint. It will go beyond the mere case study, or rather it will put the best of these studies (on ex-Yugoslavia, Rwanda, etc.) into perspective.
To better understand the process by which the slaughter is put into action, two main directions guide the analysis:
- historic depth: it is in fact difficult to attempt to understand the slaughters that took place in 1990 without taking into account occurrences in the 20th century, including those termed "genocides."
- transdisciplinary overture: slaughter as a phenomenon is so complex in itself that it requires the eye of the sociologist, anthropologist and psychologist, as can be seen in the following pages.
The concept of "Thermidorian situation" finds itself in the tradition of the "authoritarian situation" (Guy Hermet) and "colonial situation" (Georges Balandier). It accounts for historical experiences of postrevolutionary regimes and their economic liberalization in the context of neo-liberal globalization. Developed from the Cambodian case, the Thermidorian comparative paradigm helps to interpret the economical and political liberalization processes in post-communist states and the establishment of their revolutionary elite into a dominating class. This interpretation does not refer to the normative and teleological terms of "transitology". Nevertheless, understanding the Thermidorian moment implies that it should not be reduced to a mere preservation of power, as an utilitarian reading of the events would imply. Indeed, it has to deal with autonomous social dynamics. Other types of post-revolutionary trajectories that are non-socialist, such as the Islamic Republic of Iran, can serve as good examples of this phenomenon. The Thermidorian paradigm takes into account a plurality of relatively homogeneous trajectories that combine into a revolutionary event, a process of institutionalization and professionalization of the latter, and of a dynamic of integration into the capitalist world economy. This concept cannot stand for an explanation, but emphasizes the specificity of the regimes that stem from a revolution and that are confronted to their own reproduction within the context of the dismantling of the socialist camp and neoliberal globalization. "Thermidorisms" have their own historicity, notably the revolution they arose from. They also have their own political economy that cannot be reduced to the imposition of the neo-liberal model. Thermidorian moments are historical experiences subjected to contingency vagaries and social struggles. As such, they are "situations" (Jean-Paul Sartre) in which the reproduction of power and liberty of actors are simultaneously at stake.
Chinese aid and investment in Cambodia have been soaring for the last ten years thus indicating the rising influence of the People’s Republic of China, especially in countries where the Chinese community is strong. Chinese aid, free of any democratic rhetoric, allows the governments benefiting from it to ignore the requirements generally imposed by lending institutions. As a matter of fact, Cambodia is highly dependent on public aid for development. An analysis in terms of historical contingencies reflects a conjunction of two processes of putting a grip on the economy, both in China and Cambodia. Chinese aid and investment thereby help to consolidate a political economy based on arbitrariness, increased inequalities and violence, as well as the overlapping of positions of power and accumulation. In this regard, the analysis must take into account foreign aid not only because it competes with Chinese aid, but also since the Paris Accords it has participated – indirectly – in reinforcing Prime Minister Hun Sen’s power.