Spoilers and Criminalized Power Structures



One of the themes of new wars is that non-state actors use violence for purposes not traditionally associated with states.   Dziedzic opens his excellent study with the observation that, “Peace settlements and stability operatios will not prosper in the presence of criminlized power structures (CPS) capable of enriching themselves from transactions in gray and black markets, criminalizing state institutions, and perpetuating a culture of impunity.” (Dziedzic, 2016).


I’m tempted to cite an old joke here: “don’t steal; the government hates competition!” Are established governments significantly different from upstart warlords?  Dziedzic is a retired US officer with experience of several post-Cold War conflicts. Are military officers in the service of Western states (particularly the US) what USMC General Smedley Butler would call muscle for the racket of capitalism? Tilly (1985) described the process of state-building as a protection racket, in which the most efficient organized criminals or biggest thugs wrote the rules which kept them in power and allocated them the most resources (Easton’s definition of politics – the authoritative allocation of values – combined with Weber’s definition of the state – the monopoly of the legitimate use of violence). In another work, Tilly (2003) described the mutually reinforcing roles of political entrepreneurs and violent specialists.

Learning Objectives

On completion of this week’s materials, students will understand the impact of criminalized power structures on protracted social conflicts, and appreciate the mixed motives of major powers and corporations in privatization and opening markets

Required Reading

A note about the textbooks and additional reading

There is scope to expand this subject within module 3 (management) depending on the interests of the class.  Additional instructions will be found on Moodle.

Weekly Activities (on-line and in-class)

These will be determined by the class in consultation with the professor.

Additional reading and resources

Butler, S. (1935) War is a Racket

Duffield, M.  (2007) Development, Security, and Unending War, Preface

Tilly (1985) War Making and State Making as Organized Crime

Tilly (2003) The Politics of Collective Violence

David Last, lastdav(at)gmail.com,  updated December 2016