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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
Article

Abstract

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.

Notes

Acknowledgements

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.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political StudiesUniversidad IcesiCaliColombia

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