Studies in Comparative International Development

, Volume 48, Issue 3, pp 308–330 | Cite as

Business and the Politics of Urban Violence in Colombia

  • Eduardo MoncadaEmail author


What explains variation in local government policy responses to urban violence? Existing research on the politics of urban violence overlooks the pivotal role that private sector interests play in shaping the public provision of security in major developing world cities faced with conditions of intense violence. I argue that business is a pivotal political actor that mobilizes through powerful private sector institutions to shape policy responses to urban violence in ways that advance its economic interests and preserve its privileged status in local political arenas. The security policy preferences of business vary across economic sectors due to variation in relations to urban space and violence. This cross-sectoral variation in security policy preferences generates both opportunities and challenges for political and societal actors that seek to stem and prevent urban violence. Analysis of puzzling variation in policy responses across Colombia's three principal cities—Medellin, Cali, and Bogota—and over time within each shows that a focus on business can strengthen our understanding of the politics of urban violence and, more broadly, its implications for development.


Business Urban violence Global cities Medellin Cali Bogota 



I thank Enrique Desmond Arias, John Bailey, Kent Eaton, Benjamin Goldfrank, Richard Snyder, and the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions on earlier drafts. This paper benefitted from feedback received during workshops at Yale University's Program on Order, Conflict and Violence and New York University's Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. I also gratefully acknowledge the support for this research that was provided by the American Society of Criminology, Brown University's Graduate Program in Development, the Ford Foundation Predoctoral Diversity Fellowship program, the Fulbright-Hays program, the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, and the Latin American Security, Drugs and Democracy Fellowship Program administered by the Social Science Research Council and the Universidad de Los Andes in cooperation with and with funds provided by the Open Society Foundations.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceRutgers UniversityNewarkUSA

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