Crime, Law and Social Change

, Volume 69, Issue 4, pp 475–496 | Cite as

Making peace in seas of crime: crimilegal order and armed conflict termination in Colombia

  • Markus Schultze-KraftEmail author


The relationship between organized crime and political order in the contemporary developing world and in transition countries is still little understood. Building on the seminal accounts of political order by Weber, Fukuyama and North, Wallis and Weingast, this article introduces the concept of crimilegality. Crimilegal orders are neither ‘modern’ nor ‘non-modern’ but combine and integrate elements of both types of order. They are characterized by the blurring of the social boundaries between legality and illegality and/or criminality. What is formally illegal and/or criminal may be deemed legitimate, while what is formally legal may be considered to be illegitimate. The resulting crimilegal governance arrangements, which involve coordination between a range of state and non-state actors, serve (illicit) economic interests but are also reflective of broader particularistic concerns about guaranteeing political stability and the de facto exercise of political authority, as well as the physical security of those in power and, somewhat paradoxically, their judicial impunity. In such orders the state’s monopoly on the use of force tends to be replaced by oligopolies of coercion and high levels of violence are not uncommon, though they are also not standard. Using the current Colombian peace process as an example, this article argues that due to eminently political reasons violently contending state and non-state actors, both with notorious criminal pedigrees, can reach agreement on ending armed conflict and decide to cooperate to recover the primacy of legality. However, whether this type of bargaining game can ultimately lead to the positive ‘legalization’ of a crimilegal order, such as the one in Colombia, remains an open question.



I wish to thank Klaus von Lampe, Hans-Jörg Albrecht, Pablo Galain, Wolf Grabendorff, Julia Gorricho, Rodrigo Reyero, Fernando Chinchilla, Marcelo Moriconi and two anonymous reviewers for their useful comments on earlier versions of this article. At Icesi David Alzate helped with the Colombia research. The Max Planck Gesellschaft and the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law in Freiburg im Breisgau kindly provided financial, material and intellectual support, as did Icesi’s Centro de Estudios Interdisciplinarios, Jurídicos, Sociales y Humanistas (CIES). As always, I am solely responsible for any faults in interpretation and errors of fact the reader might encounter.


  1. 1.
    Weber, M. (1922/1978). Economy and Society, edited by Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich. Berkley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Weber, M. (1919/1946). Politics as a vocation. In H. H. Gerth & C. W. Mills (Eds.), Essays in sociology (pp. 26–45). New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Fukuyama, F. (2014). Political order and political decay. From the industrial revolution to the globalisation of democracy. London: Profile Books.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Fukuyama, F. (2011). The origins of political order. From Prehuman times to the French revolution. London: Profile Books.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    North, D., Wallis, J., & Weingast, B. (2009). Violence and social orders. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Schultze-Kraft, M. (2017). Understanding organised violence and crime in political settlements: oil wars, petro-criminality and amnesty in the Niger Delta. Journal of International Development, 29, 613–627.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Benjamin, W. (1996). Selected writings, Vol, 1, 1913–1926. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Schultze-Kraft, M. (2016a). Órdenes crimilegales: repensando el poder político del crimen organizado. Íconos. Revista de Ciencias Sociales, 55, 25–44.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    von Lampe, K. (2016). Organized crime. In Analyzing illegal activities, criminal structures, and extra-legal governance. Los Angeles etc.: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Galeotti, M. (2005). Global crime today. The changing face of organised crime. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Gambetta, D. (1996). The Sicilian mafia: The business of private protection. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Lupsha, P. (1996). Transnational organized crime versus the nation-state. Transnational Organized Crime, 2(1), 21–48.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Paoli, L. (2005). Italian organised crime: Mafia associations and criminal enterprises. Global Crime, 6(1), 19–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Skaperdas, S. (2001). The political economy of organized crime: providing protection where the state does not. Economics of Governance, 2(3), 173–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Garay-Salamanca, L., & Salcedo-Albarán, E. (2012). Institutional impact of criminal networks in Colombia and Mexico. Crime, Law and Social Change, 57, 177–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    López, C. (2010). La Refundación de la patria, de la teoría a la evidencia. In Y refundaron la patria… de cómo mafiosos y políticos reconfiguraron el Estado colombiano, edited by Claudia López, 29–78. Bogotá: Debate.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Kupatadze, A. (2008). Organized crime before and after the tulip revolution: the changing dynamics of underworld-upperworld dynamics. Central Asian Survey, 27(3–4), 279–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Ellis, S., & Shaw, M. (2015). Does organized crime exist in Africa. African Affairs, 114(457), 505–528. Scholar
  19. 19.
    Shaw, M. (2015). Drug-trafficking in Guinea-Bissau, 1998-2014: the evolution of an elite protection network. The Journal of Modern African Studies, 53(3), 339–364. Scholar
  20. 20.
    Schultze-Kraft, M. (2016b). Organised crime, violence and development: Topic guide. Birmingham, UK: GSDRC, University of Birmingham.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Arias, D. (2006). The dynamics of criminal governance: networks and social order in Rio de Janeiro. Journal of Latin American Studies, 38, 293–325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Casas-Zamora, K. (Ed.). (2013). Dangerous liaisons. Organized crime and political finance in Latin America and beyond. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Chambliss, W. (1989). State-organized crime. Criminology, 27(2), 183–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Ruggiero, V., & Welch, M. (2009). Power crime. Crime, Law and Social Change, 51(3-4), 297–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Naím, M. (2012). Mafia States. Foreign Affairs, 91(3), 100–111.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Reno, W. (2009). Illicit commerce in peripheral states. In R. Friman (Ed.), Crime and the global political economy (pp. 67–84). London: Lynne Rienner.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Bayart, J. F., Ellis, S., & Hibou, B. (1999). The criminalization of the state in Africa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Wilson, E. (2009). Deconstructing the shadows. In E. Wilson (Ed.), Government of the shadows: Parapolitics and criminal sovereignty (pp. 13–55). London: Pluto Press.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Cockayne, J. (2013). Chasing shadows. The RUSI Journal, 158(2), 10–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Edwards, A., & Gill, P. (Eds.). (2003). Transnational organised crime. Perspectives on global security. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Godson, R. (2007). Crisis of governance: devising strategy to counter international organized crime. Terrorism and Political Violence, 6(2), 163–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Heine, J., & Thakur, R. (Eds.). (2011). The dark side of globalization. New York: United Nations University Press.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Shelley, L. (1995). Transnational organized crime: an imminent threat to the nation-state? Journal of International Affairs, 48(2), 463–489.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Sterling, C. (1994). Thieves’ world: The threat of the new global network of organized crime. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    UNODC. (2010). Crime and instability: Case studies of transnational threats. Vienna: UNODC.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    UNODC. (2005). Transnational organised crime in the west African region. Vienna: UNODC.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Williams, P., & Baudin-O’Hayon, G. (2002). Global governance, transnational organized crime and money laundering. In D. Held & A. McGrew (Eds), Governing globalization (pp. 127–144).Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    World Bank. (2011). World development report 2011. World Bank: Washington D.C.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Schultze-Kraft, M. (2014). Getting real about an illicit ‘external stressor’: Transnational cocaine trafficking through West Africa. IDS Evidence Report 72. Brighton: Institute of Development Studies.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Kaldor, M. (2012). New and old wars. Organized violence in a global era. Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Schultze-Kraft, M., & Hinkle, S. (2014). Toward effective violence mitigation: Transforming political settlements. IDS evidence report 101. Brighton: Institute of Development Studies.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Smith, D. (1980). Paragons, pariahs, and pirates. A spectrum-based theory of enterprise. Crime & Delinquency, 358–385.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Naylor, R. T. (1995). From cold war to crime war: the search for a new ‘National Security’ threat. Transnational Organized Crime, 1(4), 37–56.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    von Lampe, K. (2001). Not a process of enlightenment: the conceptual history of organized crime in Germany and the United States of America. Forum on Crime and Society, 1(2), 99–116.Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Mayntz, R. (2016). Illegal markets. Boundaries and interfaces between legality and illegality. Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies Discussion Paper 16/4.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Felson, M. (2006). The ecosystem of organized crime. HEUNI 25th Anniversary Lecture, Helsinki.Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Edwards, A., & Levi, M. (2008). Researching the organization of serious crime. Criminology and Criminal Justice, 8(4), 363–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Moriconi, M. (2017). Reframing illegalities: crime, cultural values and ideas of success (in Argentina). Crime, Law & Social Change.
  49. 49.
    Albarracín, J. (2017). Criminalized electoral politics in brazilian urban peripheries. Crime, Law & Social Change.
  50. 50.
    Dudley, S. (2017). Public security in private hands: The case of Guatemala’s Carlos Vielman. Crime, Law & Social Change.
  51. 51.
    Boege, V., Brown, A., Clements, K., & Nolan, A. (2009). On hybrid political orders and emerging states: What is failing – States in the global south or research and politics in the west? Berlin: Berghof Research Centre for Constructive Conflict Management.Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    Brock, L., Holm, H.-H., Sorensen, G., & Stohl, M. (2012). Fragile states. Violence and the failure of intervention. Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    Di John, J. (2008). Conceptualising the causes and consequences of failed states. A critical review of the literature. Crisis states working paper series no. 2. London: LSE.Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    Krauthausen, C. (2013). Moderne Gewalten. Organisierte Kriminalität in Kolumbien und Italien. Frankfurt/New York: Campus Verlag.Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    Moore, M. (2001). Political underdevelopment. What causes ‘bad governance’. Public Management Review, 3(3), 385–418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. 56.
    Carothers, T. (2014). Accountability, transparency, participation, and inclusion: A new development consensus? Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    Luckham, R., & Kirk, T. (2013). The two faces of security in hybrid political orders: a framework for analysis and research. Stability: International Journal of Security and Development, 2(2), p. Art. 44.Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    Risse, T. (2011). Governance in areas of limited statehood: Introduction and overview. In T. Risse (Ed.), Governance without a state? Polices and politics in areas of limited statehood. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    Semana (2017). Nos comió la serpiente. Semana, no. 1812 (29 January-5 February 2017), 18.Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    Watts, M. (2007). Petro-insurgency or criminal syndicate? Conflict & violence in the Niger Delta. Review of African Political Economy, 34(114), 637–660.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. 61.
    Krahmann, E. (2003). National, regional, and global governance: one phenomenon or many? Global Governance, 9, 323–346.Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    Chinchilla, F. (in this issue). A hard-to-escape situation. Informal pacts, kingpin strategies, and collective violence in Mexico. Crime, Law & Social Change.
  63. 63.
    Tilly, C. (1990). Coercion, capital, and European states AD 990–1992. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    Duncan, G. (2014). Drug trafficking and political power: oligopolies of coercion in Colombia and Mexico. Latin American Perspectives, 195(2), 18–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. 65.
    Slater, D. (2010). Ordering power. Contentious politics and authoritarian leviathans in Southeast Asia. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. 66.
    Gutiérrez, F., & Stoller, R. (2001). The courtroom and the bivouac: reflections on law and violence in Colombia. Latin American Perspectives, 28(1), 56–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. 67.
    Deas, M. (2015). Intercambios violentos. Bogota: Taurus.Google Scholar
  68. 68.
    Palacios, M. (2006). Between legitimacy and violence. A history of Colombia, 1875–2002. Durham and London: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. 69.
    Saab, B. Y., & Taylor, A. W. (2009). Criminality and armed groups: a comparative study of FARC and paramilitary groups in Colombia. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 32(6), 455–475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. 70.
    International Crisis Group (2008). Latin American drugs II: Improving policy and reducing harm. Latin America report N°26, Bogotá/Brussels: International Crisis Group.Google Scholar
  71. 71.
    Youngers, C., & Rosin, E. (Eds.). (2005). Drugs and democracy in Latin America: The impact of U.S policy. Boulder and London: Lynne Rienner Publishers.Google Scholar
  72. 72.
    Cawley, M. (2014). FARC, BACRIM dividing gold profits in colombia province: Police. InSightCrime, 14 March. Available at: Accessed 6 July 2017.
  73. 73.
    LaSuza, M. (2016). Shifting criminal alliances could complicate FARC concentration. 19 July; available at: Accessed: 6 July 2017.
  74. 74.
    Ross, T. (1992). Escobar escape humiliates Colombian leaders, The Guardian, 24 July; available at: Accessed 6 July 2017.
  75. 75.
    Treaster, J. (1991). Drug baron gives up in Colombia as end to extradition is approved. The New York Times, 20 June, available at: Accessed 6 July 2017.
  76. 76.
    International Crisis Group. (2006). Colombia: Towards Peace and Justice? Latin America report N°15, Bogotá/Brussels: International Crisis Group.Google Scholar
  77. 77.
    Molano, A. (2014). Los ‘exparas,’ ante la verdad y el perdón. El Espectador, 13 September; available at: Accessed 6 July 2017.
  78. 78.
    Romero, M. (Ed.). (2007). Parapolitica. La ruta de la expansion paramilitar y los acuerdos politicos. Bogota: Corporacion Nuevo Arco Iris.Google Scholar
  79. 79.
    López, C. (Ed.). (2010). Y refundaron la patria. De cómo mafiosos y políticos reconfiguraron el Estado colombiano. Bogotá: Random House Mondadori.Google Scholar
  80. 80.
    Acosta, H. (2016). El hombre clave. Bogotá: Penguin Random House.Google Scholar
  81. 81.
    Lozano, C. (2015). Las FARC-EP si quieren la paz. Intimidades y realidades de un largo proceso. Bogota: Ocean Sur.Google Scholar
  82. 82.
    Lozano, C. (2013). La paz si es posible. Bogota: Ediciones Izquierda Viva.Google Scholar
  83. 83.
    International Crisis Group (2009). Ending Colombia’s FARC conflict: Dealing the right card. Latin America report N°30, Brussels/Bogotá: International Crisis Group.Google Scholar
  84. 84.
    Schultze-Kraft, M. (2012). Security and the rule of law in Colombia and Guatemala: priorities, trade-offs and interdependencies. Hague Journal on the Rule of Law, 4, 135–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. 85.
    Ortiz, R., & Vargas, J. (2013). Government negotiations with the FARC and the future of security in Colombia. Miami: Center for Hemispheric Policy.Google Scholar
  86. 86.
    Restrepo, D., Mora, O. F., Fonseca, B., & Rosen, J. D. (2016). The United States and Colombia. From Security Partners to Global Partners in Peace. Washington, D.C.: Center for American Progress.Google Scholar
  87. 87.
    Santos, E. (2014). Así empezó todo. El primer cara a cara secreto entre el gobierno y las FARC en Habana. Bogotá: Intermedio Editores.Google Scholar
  88. 88.
    General agreement on the termination of the conflict and the building of a stable and durable peace. 26 August 2012; available at: Accessed 6 July 2017.
  89. 89.
    Final agreement on ending the conflict and the building of a stable and durable peace, 12 November 2016; available at: Accessed 6 July 2017.
  90. 90.
    Schultze-Kraft, M. (2016c). Peace in Colombia: So close but so far. The Huffington Post UK; available at: Accessed 23 June 2017).
  91. 91.
    Levitt, J. (2012). Illegal peace in Africa. An inquiry into the legality of power sharing with warlords, rebels, and junta. Cambridge etc.: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. 92.
    Gómez, M. (2017). ‘Sergio Jaramillo, el silencioso arquitecto de la paz con las FARC’, El Tiempo, 6 August; available at: Accessed 8 Aug 2017.
  93. 93.
    Brodzinsky, S. (2017a). Colombia’s armed groups sow seeds of new conflict as war with FARC ends. The Guardian, 15 JuneGoogle Scholar
  94. 94.
    Brodzinsky, S. (2017b). Last march of the FARC: Colombia’s hardened fighters reach for a normal life. The Guardian. 15 February.Google Scholar
  95. 95.
    Kemp, W., Shaw, M., & Boutellis, A. (2013). The elephant in the room: How can peace operations deal with organized crime? New York: International Peace Institute.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political StudiesUniversidad IcesiCaliColombia

Personalised recommendations