Power, wealth, and the control of violence are mutually reinforcing forces. This directed research program for selected students explores the connections between criminalized political structures and the paths to post-conflict stability and reconciliation in selected cases.

Criminalized Political Structures and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding

David Last, PhD


David Last, PhD

Office: G406; telephone 613 532 3002; email last-d@rmc.ca

Office Hours: as posted, www.davidmlast.org

Course web site for additional information: http://www.davidmlast.org

Course description and intent

POE490 is available for students who wish to pursue in-depth research and study under one-on-one supervision with a faculty member on a topic within the range of expertise of the supervisor, mutually agreed between the supervisor and the student. Both the topic and the evaluation method must be approved by the Department Head. The topic must fall clearly within one of the five standard sub-fields of political science. Some projects undertaken as part of this course may be carried out in coordination with an external agency.


Assuming prior knowledge of terrorism, narco-trafficking, and the Columbian civil war, this course will build on work by Dziedzic (2016) and on peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction theories to address specific questions of interest to the student(s).


One of the themes of new wars is that non-state actors use violence for purposes not traditionally associated with states.   Dziedzic opens his work on criminalized power structures with the observation that, “Peace settlements and stability operations will not prosper in the presence of criminalized 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).


Are established governments significantly different from upstart warlords?  What differentiates legitimate political systems from criminalized political structures? 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 called “hired 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 in controlling and allocating power and wealth and applying violence for political purposes.


With Dziedzic’s sophisticated work on criminalized power structures, and a practical toolkit for approaching criminalized power structures, we can explore national strategies (rather than international interventions) aimed at restoring local control over political economy and reconciling or managing protracted social conflicts. In doing this, we’ll look at critiques of liberal peacebuilding theory, particularly those of market enthusiasts (e.g. Gerson and Coletta, 2001)

Suggested marking scheme (may be negotiated)

Regular check-in (participation)   10 percent (13 weeks)

Book reviews (2 or more)20 percent

Integrated literature reviews30 percent

Analytical papers*40 percent

(*Students may choose to do two or more papers totaling 40 percent. Alternative arrangements may be made for a written or oral exam to replace designated assignments.)

Suggested outline and timeline

A two-credit course concentrated in one semester will involve 20 hours per week. To keep on track, I recommend two distinct parts to the course. The first focuses on the Dziedzic’s concepts of criminalized power structures, and the second combines Dziedzic’s workbook tools with cases

Part I – criminalized power structures (weeks 1-6)

  1. Overview: Dziedzic, ed. (2016) Criminalized Power Structures, the Overlooked Enemies of Peace – first review (5 percent).
  2. The state, power, and criminality (Tilley, Weber, and OECD DAC)
  3. Current work on organized crime and peacebuilding: Security Governance Centre, Contemporary Debates (http://secgovcentre.org/csg-research-projects/contemporary-debates/organize-crime-corruption-peacebuilding/ )  Follow up in discussion with Mike Dziedzic
  4. Integrating ideas about criminalized power structures (integrated review (15 percent)
  5. Applying concepts of criminalized power structures to states – develop an analytical framework and primary data sources
  6. Revise and present analytical paper (20 percent)

Part II – Applied comparative perspectives (weeks 7-13)

7. Overview of peacebuilding in post-conflict societies (Dayton and Kriesberg, 2009) – second review (5 percent)

8. Criminality, self-interest, and politics in post-conflict societies: comparing cases and identifying primary sources to understand political structures and power

9. Dealing with criminalized power structures from an international perspective (review Dziedzic’s toolkit) – critical assessment: are foreign interventions helpful?

10. Framing national strategies to deal with criminalized power structures: bring them in or keep them out? Integrated review (15 percent)

11. Comparison of cases using your developed analytical framework (part I, revised in light of part II)

12. Revise and present analytical paper (20 percent)


This online teaching resource was developed by David Last at RMC as part of a normal teaching load. It is housed on a private web site.  It is neither the property nor the responsibility of RMC.  All content is for teaching purposes and does not necessarily reflect personal opinions or institutional views or policies. Please direct any questions about the site to David Last.

Site updated, August, 2017, contact lastdav@gmail.com